Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Memories – “One of the Boys"

The days were long at the Hartford Holiday Store, where The Salvation Army collected and distributed food and toys donated through a local radio station and United Technologies Corp.

I was to be on duty for two weeks, Monday through Saturday, from 6:45 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. With little or no donations coming in, the days dragged by, and I began to think that this was a waste of my ‘valuable time.’ Then, one day, everything changed.

It was midmorning when two gentlemen walked in. They were disheveled, filthy, and reeking of alcohol. When I asked if I could help them, they replied, “No, just looking.” Funny, I was never afraid of them. I asked if they might like some coffee and something to eat. They took no time in responding, “Yes.” But to my surprise, they rejected the fresh bagels we had on hand for the volunteers. I soon learned why - they had no teeth and could not manage such chewy bread. George and Leo quickly learned that I was a captain in The Salvation Army, and I learned that they were both homeless and sleeping at the shelter. During the day, they walked the streets.

Word was soon out on those streets that a captain from The Salvation Army was giving out coffee and food to “the boys.” Most who stopped by – some several times a day – had been drinking and needed a warm place to hang out. Suddenly, I knew why I was at the holiday store. My mission was not to collect toys, money and food, but to listen, to be a friend, to let these men know that God loved them, no matter what state they were in.

From the beginning, I sensed something was different about George. We often talked about his life and how he had reached this low point. Even when he was so drunk that he couldn’t walk straight, I could see in his eyes that he was crying out for help.

One night, George agreed to go into detox the next morning. That thrilled me…until he didn’t show up. I waited and waited…no George. I even went out and walked the streets – I now knew where the boys hung out. But there was no sign of George, and no one would tell me where he was.

Later that afternoon, a very drunk, very embarrassed George finally showed up. I acted as if nothing were wrong and offered him coffee. He kept spilling it; when he fell asleep with the cup in his hand, I could see that he needed a place to sleep this off. So I gathered some donated coats, placed them on the floor behind a counter, and led George to his makeshift bed. He woke up a couple of hours later and asked if I could get him into a detox program. I found him a placement at a center called Blue Hills, called a taxi for him, and paid the driver to take him there.

That night, George called me at home three times. On the final call, at 11:00 p.m., he asked if I could bring him some cigarettes. I pulled on my sweats, went to a convenience store, and I bought three packs of Newports. I knew enough about addictions to realize that George could not kick two habits at once.) I drove to Blue Hills and walked into the detox area. The guard said, “You must be the captain.” How he knew from my lounging clothes I don’t know.

I can still see George shuffling down the hall toward me. With tears in his eyes he gave me a big hug, and I assured him he was going to beat this thing if he put his trust in God.

That was December 22, 1997. George’s first day of sobriety, the next day, was my 41st birthday. In 1999, I visited George on “our day.” As I looked around his room, I said, “George, whose stuff is this?” “Mine,” he said. I said, “Do you realize that two years ago, you brought me your life’s possessions in a small brown bag?” We both laughed.

He has come a long way, and so have I. George spent several months at the Springfield, MA Adult Rehabilitation Center, run by The Salvation Army. He became resident manager there; he is in a similar position now with the Honor Court, a program run by the Sherriff’s Department in Springfield.

As for me, I learned an important lesson about my part in Kingdom building. What happened at the holiday store wasn’t about my being “the captain,” but about my openness to God’s leading. Those two weeks at the holiday store changed my life forever. I have learned that my ministry is complete when I totally surrender to God’s will, whatever that is.

Lauren Garell
Manchester Citadel Corps
USA East

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Part three
I believe in the mission of The Salvation Army. If you and I are to have daily victory over Satan, we too, like Peter and John in Acts 4, must speak boldly for Jesus. And we must do this out of a deep sense of urgency because of the terrible consequence of sin.

We must speak because the of the joy of our own salvation. We must speak because the salvation of others depends upon it. Because when we truly belong to God, and when we diligently strive to live out the gospel imperative we become aware of that divine command that becomes the very focus of our compulsion...Jesus said, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me."

During this holiday season I've become keenly aware that there are people everywhere without Christ. Lost, broken, confused people who need the touch of Christ. Think of it...they live in our neighborhoods, they live around the corps building, they come to the Army doors for assistance every day, they even participate in Army programs. God sends people to you and me in abundance, and He asks that we feel a sense of urgency, an inner compulsion and conviction about sharing the good news of the gospel that can set the sinner free.

Not only must we have that compulsion to speak for Jesus..but if we're going to have victory in our lives, we've got to show others the evidence of the redeemed life. Peter and John had preached that Jesus who had been crucified had also been raised from the dead, that He was in fact the living God through whom there was forgiveness of sin and eternal life. During my SFOT days I decided that if I'm going to live a victorious life I must give evidence...the evidence of being made whole, of being Christlike, of being a new creature in Christ Jesus. I wanted to be the kind of officer who gave evidence that the power of God can and does transform. That the power of God can keep the vilest and the worst, and that the power of God can keep me from sin and keep me from sinning every day giving me victory.

I mentioned in my previous blog..."although no longer an officer, the words printed on my covenant card still rings true for my life after officership...to win souls and to make soul-winning the first priority in my life," (but somehow/someway all that "other stuff" got in the way). Some of the "other stuff" included petty,mean-spiritied and difficult colleagues who were more of a problem than a blessing. But as a child of God (post officership) I continue to covenant the great commission as outlined in Matthew 25 -giving evidence of God's redeeming power while engaged in the business of bringing men and women to Christ.

Further, in order to live victoriously I must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. God wants His people to be Holy, to be pure, to be filled with his Holy Spirit in order that we be empowered for Christ-like living. It will make all the difference for me to daily invite God's Spirit to take my will, to take my mind, to take my heart and to form them into His likeness.

With thy Spirit fill me,
With thy Spirit fill me,
Make me holy thine I pray,
With thy spirit fill me.

Andre Burton
Times Square Corps
New York

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Victory !

As a young person I was cradled and nurtured in the Army. I always had a special fascination with the war songs that spoke of the battle of the Christian soldier...that battle one was called to fight, and the certainty of victory if one trusted in God and kept steady.

As a former officer I still get a sense of that early wonder when I hear a congregation sing, "March on Salvation Soldier, march forward to the fight, with Jesus as our leader, we'll put the foe to flight. In spite of men and devils, we'll raise the banner high, for the day Victory's coming by and by." Or when they sing, "Ever is the War Cry victory, victory, ever is the War Cry victory! Write on your banners get it on your knees, victory,victory, victory!"

I don't know about you...but doesn't that stir your blood? Surely it did at one time. Think of it...the possibility of victory in the life of the believer (officer or not)? Victory in Christ!

It was the watch-word of the early church. It must be the watch-word of those former officers who find themselves struggling with feelings of abandonment and mistrust with the Army today.

The story from the book of Acts is proof of it. Peter and John had, in the name of Jesus, healed a man crippled from birth, and then preached with great power and authority to the crowd that had gathered. As a result, they were seized and taken before the Sanhedrin and admonished. They were told not to preach and teach about Jesus. There was enormous, intense opposition and pressure on Peter and John. All of the political and religious powers were against them. But notice it was the disciples who won the battle and were victorious, not the Sadducees!

There are three lesson that I derived from this story from Acts 4...

1. In order for the Christian to be victorious, one must be gripped with a keen sense of urgency, with a compulsion to win people to Christ. Notice from Acts 4 the tremendous motivation Peter and John had? They were told very pointedly in verse 18 not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus. Their reply was very directly in verse 20 "We cannot but speak" or "we cannot stop telling." You see, there was that within them which made it impossible for them to do otherwise. It was a compulsion to speak, to tell, to witness. A compulsion that stemmed out a deep sense of urgency...from an inner conviction. "We cannot speak about the things we have seen and heard." Peter and John put it in even plainer terms...they said, "We must obey God! Why? They had been with Jesus. They had listened to his teachings, they saw his miracles, they had been through the events of the Crucifixion, they had seen the risen Christ, they had experienced Pentecost in the upper room. "and you ask us to keep quiet?" they said.

Part Two

Andrew L. Burton
Times Square Corps
New York, NY

Saturday, November 17, 2007

201 Lafayette Avenue






I share this blog article with sincerest former officer greetings from NYC (Brooklyn) where I have lived since my resignation as an officer in June 2003. Life at the SFOT was great...which is to say that my training experience was a very positive one. If I could go back and do it all over again I would, but with one stipulation...I’d liked to have taken what I know now with me to the SFOT; who knows where I'd be appointed ?

I'm led by the Spirit to write about a place that I called home for just under two years. I visited the SFOT this past summer 07. I attended the wedding of an officer-friend. As soon as I stepped foot on the grounds, I got a sense of that early wonder that I experienced ten years ago. Many treasured memories came alive ! And I was reminded of how that training experience impacted me then, and how it affects my life today.

There were three training officers in particular whose exemplary Christian witness spoke to this then, impressionable young African American cadet. The classes conducted by them included; Salvationism, SA Leadership, and Sermon Preparation. A common characteristic found in all three teachers was their absolute preparedness and thoroughness in sharing their knowledge. All three were scholars and would have been at home in any theological seminary. I took from each a lesson in how to model my life.

My job responsibility today is one that requires a great deal of detail and a fair of amount of day to day pressure. I’m responsible to process insurance claims for a major NY hospital. The practical experience gained in the SFOT, and indeed as an officer, serves to provide me with a seemingly serendipitous work experience. I approach each task with confidence, the result of a strict meditative life, and absolute work ethic. I believe one leads naturally to the next. At the end of each day, and work week, I can honestly say that I have lived up to the demands of my employer, and the expectations of our Lord.

I soldier in the Times Square Corps, located steps from the world's busiest corner. It’s what I would term a transitional corps; many come and go, including those from the street and former officers. For me though, it became my new church “home”. My separation from officership came as it does for many. In June 2003 I resigned in lieu of filing an immediate divorce. The first year I soldiered there I kept a low profile, praying simply that God lead me and show me a new path for my life. I wanted to be faceless- take in what God wanted me to receive, and it was a year later the corps officers learned I was a former officer.

The Sunday morning attendance averages between 75-100, and it was about a year subsequent to my having begun regular Sunday morning worship that the CO sensed my need to become more active. I readily took it on myself to counsel and pray with people at the Mercy Seat; my greatest joy while a Cadet and officer. The CO however, began asking me to participate in other ways, including bringing the morning message. His entrusting me with that holy responsibility was God's affirmation that I was living out my call in a new and blessed way.

When I reflect and reminisce upon my officership I often do so by opening my wallet and looking at my covenant card. I signed it in reverence and complete devotion on June 11, 1995. Although no longer an officer, the words ring as true for me today as they did then..."to win souls and to make the salvation of others the first priority of my life.” As an active officer that is all i wanted to do (but somehow/someway all that "other stuff" got in the way).

My testimony today is that I'm glad I'm a salvation soldier. Moreover, I'm glad I'm a Christian seeking daily to live out the gospel imperative...'Be holy because I am holy."

Thank you 201 Lafayette Avenue.

Andre L. Burton
captainalb@yahoo.com
USA East

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The SA was my life...




Part 3



(conclusion)

Well, on Monday morning I took the train back into Manhattan and went to the New York Telephone Company and applied for a job. It was there, by fate, that I met my future husband. He was in the same building waiting for his mandatory military conscript physical for the Vietnam War but failed it. We began chatting while at the coffee wagon. I had no intention of getting married; I wanted to be free. He shared that his father was a New York City Police Officer and I was impressed. And I thought, what a coincidence that two people came together in a city of 8 million people and immediately “hit it off”. Did God have His hand in this?

We began dating and some months later we were married, in June 1970 after just two weeks of planning our wedding. My husband to be, was a devout Catholic and I felt compelled to sign a form agreeing to raise our children in the Catholic faith and tradition (the trombone and timbrels were laid to the side). The Priest informed us that the only date available on his schedule to perform the ceremony was Friday, June 12th. It seemed not so incidental that on the very same date, exactly five years earlier, I had signed another covenant, as a commissioned Salvation Army Officer.

I've been a homemaker now for 37 years and as I look back on my life and I would have made the very same decision. I was dedicated to the mission of the army but I didn't have the encouragement, support, and opportunities others enjoyed. In my first appointment, the CO's went on vacation and the Major said simply, “You do Vacation Bible School.: Although I had some help we soon had more than 100 children registered. The Major, rather than complementing me complained about all the noise and the “type” of children coming to his corps. I was flabbergasted and hurt, and asked for an immediate change of appointments.

In my next appointment (New York) while returning from the store in my Salvation Army uniform I was mugged. Single officers did not have use of a vehicle for personal use. And, as a single officer I was provided just one dormitory type room in which to live with the bathroom one floor up! Couples had a much better life. In one of my social service appointments we were served dinner according to rank. Of course, being the new Lieutenant I got served last.

In another appointment I was working in an unwed mothers home and one of the girls got out of hand and verbally attacked me. I simply couldn't handle it.... we were in temporary Quarters till the new building was constructed and with no Certificate of Occupancy. I was alone on the fourth floor with the girls with no backup or support. The Brigadier lived on the second floor, distant from the “real” action, and the other senior officer comfortably settled in an adjacent building. It was another instance of little to no support… There is more, but it’s all water under the bridge now, but I came away damaged; psychologically and spiritually. It made me question the validity of my “call”. I realize now that it was my love for the army and its mission that prompted me to remain “true” for as long as I did.

My husband and I have been married 37 years. We've put two daughters through college. The youngest is in graduate school studying for her Masters and Doctorate in Psychology. Clearly, God has been with me all these years. He is still blessing me for all I did growing up in the army; knocking on doors as a young child handing out War Crys and asking for donations, kettles and open air meetings. I did it for His army and His Kingdom. Although I felt the army had “left me by the side of the road”, I knew then and now that God blessed me and was watching over my family and me.

As my life comes to its winter years , and I look back , I have no regrets. As I sit in the sun on my front porch after I've completed my housework or my shopping, I meditate and say my prayers, I say to myself and God. “I did the best I could as Your servant, Lord… Jesus, I used the experience of those early corps’ years and the Training School throughout my life, raising my three children taking care of my home and my husband."

I am more grateful the older I get for my upbringing in The Salvation Army. I thank God for that influence on my life. I told my youngest daughter that I went off to College at age sixteen and that I went to a Military School. She looked at me with confusion; then I proudly showed her my Session Year Book.

When the time came for me to go out and seek a job, once the children were grown, the arthritis set in; probably from all those street corners I stood on in the cold, during open-air meetings, and playing my Christmas Carols on my cornet or trombone during the kettle season.

Everyday is a challenge to get through, but I trust in and rely on God. Whatever is ahead, this Cadet is prepared and I draw strength from my favorite scripture verse, Phillipians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

USA East
(name on file)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The SA was my life...



Part two

I entered the Training College at 1771 Andrews Avenue, NY, at the age of 18. To say I did so with trepidation would be very much an understatement. Frankly, I couldn't believe I had made it. My memory is fading but I remember that it was some experience. If one made it through “training” physically, you were a survivor. The schedule and regiment were strenuous to say the least. My experience as a single woman cadet was not easy. Married couples had each other for support. And once in the field, the challenges, demands and difficulties only increased. Almost all of the single women in my session resigned their commission in due course. I was dedicated to the Army's mission, however, I don't believe “training” prepared me enough for the challenges I would face in the “field”. One needs to remember that “training” consisted of basically 18 months of class room learning, a summer appointment, two “spring assignments", followed by commissioning. I was young, inexperienced, but I knew the army. I was dedicated, healthy and willing. However, those characteristics alone weren’t enough. I needed the support of other officers, and it simply wasn’t there. I, along with others, developed a survival mentality. I didn't realize it right away, but recognized it as the months rolled by. And it was this same mentality and lack of support that caused so many of my session comrades to leave the ranks. I read my “Reunion news” at ten, twenty five and forty years, and few single, and married couples for that matter, were faithful to the call. There had to be reasons...

I had six appointments in five years. I was asked and expected to perform tasks for which I was both ill prepared and untrained. Nonetheless, I did whatever was asked of me willingly. However, I also came to realize that not only was I expected to carry out the duties assigned to me, but those of others as well. The single woman officer was the equivalent of what we termed nuns to be; slaves of the Catholic Church. As an example, there was a city code in New York City that stated if a building didn't have air-conditioning, and the temperature reached a certain degree, then the employees could be excused and go home. However, the rule didn’t apply to officers. It simply meant that the officers had to pick up the slack and fill in for the non-officer employees. There were other such “rights”, and I witnessed employees being treated better than officers; they were treated with more dignity than we as officers were.

It was during my five-year review that I was put on probation.

I left on a Saturday morning. My brother picked me up and took me to his quarters. I had a job lined up working at a SA residence but received a call from the Major in charge two weeks before my starting date and was informed that an officer was being sent to fill that position. That weekend was the worst three days of my life. I walked out the door of The SA and my calling, mission and passion closed behind me. I entered a very different world; all I knew since the age of three was The Salvation Army. Our family’s and my life revolved around the Army. I wanted desperately to remain involved, a part of the only life I knew, and thought I could find a corps and become a local officer but was told instead to burn my bridges. I found myself very much alone in New York City.

Part Two

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The SA Was My Life...


I am a former officer having served in the US Eastern Territory. I was made aware of the FSAOF blog by a former officer and have thought about sharing my experience for several weeks, and now feel led to do so. As I think back on my experience many things are running through my head and I will do my best to put it all together. There are things that I want to forget; too personal. I would term myself a survivor…

I love The Salvation Army; it was my life and while growing up, my second home. We lived just a block from the corps and walked many times down the steep hill and back up several times a week, and of course, each Sunday. My mother learned to drive in her late thirties and she and “Pop” would drive down just before the Sunday service began, but we made it a habit to walk home, up the long steep hill.

I was three years old when The SA came to our post WWII housing project and conducted an open-air meeting to promote the new outpost Sunday School. My older brother took me by the hand and down we went to Sunday School; that's how it started. At five I stood to my feet with other children in Sunday School and asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. I still remember the first day my parents were welcomed to Sunday School at the corps. We gradually got involved in all the activities and programs. The fellowship was like one big Christian family; I remember standing in a circle one Watch Night Service on New Years Eve. It was midnight, and we were holding hands singing in closing. “God Be with you till we meet again”. We would “wish” the New Year in at the corps in the same fashion each year…

Well, I “grew up”, along with others in the corps through all the different activities and programs and it seemed only natural to eventually join the Future Officers Fellowship. It was expected and accepted as one’s next step. I did this in spite of being told, “You'll never get accepted to Training…. You'll never make it through Training.”

I was very shy as a child and a labeled a “wall flower” as a teenager. I was also raised in a very strict home. There was a tough disciplinary code both at home and at school; parents supported the teachers and school administrators. My mother would remind me that, “if you get the paddle in school you’re going to get it again when you get home”. It was during that period in time when kids were sent to reform school if parents couldn't control their children.

Then there was the teasing we all had to endure from our peers. The army in those days was seen as a radical Christian group. My two brothers and I should have received “community service awards” for all the work we performed! I can't speak for my brothers’ experiences, but as for me, I was often jeered, mostly by the Catholic friends from school. The town, even though founded by the Moravians for Religious Freedom, was predominantly Catholic. We would conduct our “open air” meetings on shopping night in town and everyone from school would see me in my "Sally" uniform playing my trombone. I would go home and read the Beatitude's. “Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil falsely against you for my name's sake. Great is your reward in Heaven for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you".

I was committed to The Salvation Army; it was in my blood. I didn't have any outstanding talents to offer the Lord. My older brother could do everything better. I was a “B and C” grade student, always trying to keep up with my brother. I grew up in his shadow. My brother was Valedictorian in his graduating class of the Technical High School. While I took college prep courses he was offered a scholarship to a school in a large east coast city. But he turned it down and instead entered the Training College. I think it was the “Soldiers of Christ” session. He and his wife recently retired as officers.

Well, I had to leave home when I was 18 due some family problems. My father slapped the heck out of me because I came home from work on a Tuesday night and said I didn't feel well enough to go down to the church that night. They were having Revival meetings all week at the corps; the annual “Hell and Damnation” sermons. Well, my mother was arguing with him in the kitchen and I said, “I'm 18 now I'll do what I want, and stormed up to my room.”

My brother was by this time stationed in a nearby city and spoke to the DC and they secured a job for me at a SA Day Care and Community Center, on the condition that I agree to enter the Training College the following September. They wanted 100 Cadets for the 100th year session. Well, I was taught to forgive and three months later I finally forgave my parents for what happened. I'm just relating this to let you know how strict I was brought up. I returned home for a relative’s funeral and also to attend my brother’s wedding. I worked hard all summer and saved my money for Training College and at age 18 I entered the gates at 1771 Andrews Avenue.

Name on file

(Part One)

Friday, October 12, 2007

PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY? (part two)


So, may I ask it again? “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

Has it not become obvious? The lost sheep is essentially kept from the “gathering together”, and thus becomes an amputated member of the body. Being careful of my use of Paul’s brilliant thesis, if a finger is amputated from the body and is not reconnected, it will die! The finger cannot survive without the flow of life sustaining blood. Someone has to find the finger and bring it to the skilled hands of a surgeon who is able to accomplish the reconnection of the finger to the rest of the body. There it is, that mending we spoke of earlier. The person who lost the finger, no matter how hard he tries to reapply it to his hand, simply CANNOT DO IT BY HIMSELF!

So, the sheep has wandered off, or, perhaps, willingly and with forethought, has escaped the fold. If the shepherd, as some have suggested, takes the modern commercial attitude of simply securing his ninety nine and foregoing the one as normal acceptable loss, he has destined the one to loss of the protection and nurture of the fold, or the whole. There can be no mending for that one, no edifying of the body. The loss of the one leaves the body as a whole less than it once was. The man who lost his finger can learn to adapt to the loss of the finger, but he will find even simple tasks harder to perform because of the loss. So it is with the church, the loss of even one sends ripple effect through the whole. A unique role or talent is now lost. And, in the end, the one lost, as Paul suggests in Ephesians, remains as children tossed to and fro.

Ah, and here is the rub! Jesus himself gave a strong admonition against the temptation to simply write the one off as a normal and acceptable loss. In Matthew the 18th chapter, vs 5-6 we read:

“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

I don’t know, maybe I am just over reacting, but to me I think Jesus is telling us that the shepherd has the responsibility of caring for the flock and seeking those who have left, and restoring them to the safety and nurture of the whole flock, or, to him falls the responsibility of the sheep’s loss.

Personal accountability? Yes, we all have that, but to the lost, there is an implied external responsibility that falls on the shepherd. Oh, and before we are tempted to point the finger at those we think are the shepherds, take another look at the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In it Jesus answered the question of “who is my neighbor” by explaining anyone in whom we find need is our neighbor.

In a similar way I think we can deduce that anyone we find in need is part of our own personal flock. A parent may have a child, or a child may have a parent, for whom they are the shepherds. At work we have our co-workers; students have their teachers and fellow students, and teachers have their classes. Keep looking and you will soon see sheep all around you. Perhaps the most intriguing of all is the understanding that we are shepherds to many that we don’t even know, but who follow us for examples every day!

Go and be Good Shepherds!


Ron Pettys

Church of The Nazarene

PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY?
















Ron Pettys (part one)

It began, simply enough, as a question following numerous encounters with the subject of “The Lost Sheep”. No, on second thought, it wasn’t a question at all, it was more of an epiphany in the form of a question: “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

First of all, we have the near admonition, not once, but three times, within the single chapter of Luke from which we get the story of the ”Lost Sheep”. Jesus is telling his hearers that they already know that a diligent shepherd would look for the lost sheep, and the poor woman would never just brush off the lost coin, and no loving father would give up his wayward son as if he were dead, never to return. The obvious implication and lesson is that anyone who recognizes a loss has an obligation to seek it out and be ready to restore it to the whole.

Therefore, I again come back to the question: “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

Let’s consider something else Jesus said in the context of the Shepherd. I love watching the numeric patterns in Scripture, and on another occasion in John 21, Jesus again used a series of three to get an important message across to one of His more favored disciples. After asking Peter three times if he, (Peter), loved Him, He told Peter to “feed my lambs” (vs 15), “feed my sheep” (vs 16), and again, “feed my sheep”, (vs 17). John 21: 15-17

Jesus was telling Peter that he was to take on the role of shepherd to Christ’s flock. Indeed, He was actually telling all of the disciples that they were to become shepherds of His flock. He was about to leave them for good, in the earthly bodily form, and send to them the Spirit, but it was to fall on them to become the shepherds of the flock, and as shepherds, they had to tend and feed the flock.

Therefore, as diligent shepherds, they were to assure the safety and protection of those in the flock, and go out and seek the ones that were lost. Of this I think there is no argument, but, again, and forgive my redundancy; “What if the shepherd doesn’t go seek and find the one that is lost?”

What does the sheep miss by not being in the fold? Spiritual maturity! Here, I think, we should start realizing that the “fold” is the “church” and the writer to the Hebrews instructs us emphatically that we should, “Not (forsake) the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:25).

Why should we not forsake the assembling together? Paul puts it best in Ephesians 4:11-14:

“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”

In the NASB version, in verse 12, it uses the phrase, “for the equipping of the saints”. I am no Greek scholar, but I have been told, and have read that the word translated “equipping” is, in the original, “katatismos”, and can be translated as the idea of fishermen who are mending nets.

Think of it then, the “gathering together” is for the task of repairing damage done to the members of the flock who are wounded, both spiritually and physically, or have become discouraged, or are in any need of “mending”. One could even suggest that the “gathering together” may further prepare the mended to reach out to others in need of mending.

The Scripture quoted above also says that the gathering together is for the “edifying of the body of Christ”. In 1 Corinthians 12 we find Paul’s great lesson on what has been described as the “Body Life Concept”, in which he equates the “Body of Believers” to the human body. He reminds us that the human body is made up of various parts, with very specific tasks, and so likewise is the church. Look back at the text from Ephesians 4:11-14, and see that he points out that some are to be apostles, and some evangelists and some pastors, etc, the list showing the variety of roles and functions in the church, but all for the united task of building up each other in Christ. (Part One)

Ron Pettys
(USA Central Territory)

Church of The Nazarene

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's in my blood...


It was 29 years ago that this, then 21 year-old, walked through the doors of 201 Lafayette Avenue in Suffern, NY, the Eastern Territory's School for Officer Training. I was nervous, excited and convinced that I was stepping into my "forever" future. I have to admit, I thoroughly enjoyed my two years of training. Looking back, I was naive and a mere babe in my faith and holiness experience, nonetheless I was eager to get on with it.

Getting on with “it” consisted of being moved, or as we say in the Army, given marching orders 11 times in 19 years. As a single officer this was not uncommon - actually more like the norm. All was not doom and gloom. I enjoyed officership. For eleven years I had the privilege of playing in the New York Staff Band - actually, I was one of the first of 2 women to be appointed to the band. That was a blast! I made playing in the band part of my ministry. But the moving continued and I became more and more restless every June wondering if my time was up again. (Did I mention, I am an officer’s kid so the moving just kept going and going?)

In spite of the moves, I made the best of my appointments. My reviews were always positive, receiving high marks and, more times than not, the interview concluded with this promise from Army leadership (usually from THQ), “we are grooming you to be one of the Army’s future leaders.” The first time I heard it I was pretty pleased and proud of myself as I never expected to hear that. After all, single women leaders were few and far between. I thought, “WOW, me a DC?!” I worked hard, did all the right things, I was known on our staff as "the doer". After being told the same thing for several years with nothing to show for it I began to think, “well, they must tell everyone that they are being groomed for leadership.” So, I was content to sit back and forget about my chances of leadership in this married man’s Army. I felt then, as I do now, that single officer leadership was given out in tokenism portions. The Army’s mission in ministry is based solely around a pair of officers with a few single officers thrown in to break up the monotony. (But, that is fodder for another epistle)

So, after 19 years of officership I was faced with wanting to take root some place. I had become very comfortable in the Hartford, CT area and enjoyed attending the Manchester Citadel Corps. So, I took literally the verse ,’being firmly planted’ to heart - spiritually and physically. I chose to make Manchester, CT my permanent home. At that time, I was serving with a Divisional Commander who understood my situation. I did not want to leave the Army, I loved the Army, I loved my work however, I needed to take root and call this place my home and he knew it. He (my DC) managed to plead my case with Territorial Headquarters and I was able to make the transition from officer to employee with ease. This was something that was unheard of in years past. The regulation stated that an officer could not work for the Army for at least 1 year after leaving officership. As an officer I was the Director of Planned Giving and retained the position as an employee. Odd as it was, I went home from work on a Friday afternoon in uniform and returned to work on Monday in civilian clothes.

The entire process took one year, so in 2000 when I would have been promoted to the rank of Major I left officership (I always said there was only one Major Garell and that was my dad!) But I have not left the Army. Sadly, due to some unfortunate events I am no longer employed by the Army - but it was a great 25 years!

I still attend the Manchester Citadel Corps in CT and play in the band and sing in the songsters! It’s in my blood! Officership may not have been my "forever" future but, the Army is!!

Lauren (Lorry) Garell
Manchester Citadel Corps
Connecticut, USA (East)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Shepherd; the verb


I have been out of the Army family for 22 years and no one really knows what happened to my husband and me. It was very difficult to experience what my girls and I did, going through it without any support. It was as though, once we resigned, that we no longer existed.

I have not lost my faith in God and how I feel about serving in the Army, I just don't understand when things happen to you and your family, why we, as Shepherds who ministered to those in our flock, could not expect and receive the same from our Leaders. After all, they were the very same people who taught us to care and sent us out to love in Jesus’ name.

I have had 22 years to reflect back on my life with and in The SA and I loved what I did in the time I served. And I reflect often on what that experience did in forming me as a person.

I harbor no ill will towards anyone, I have learned to move on and continue to faithfully serve God.

My life has changed a lot in the past 22 years however, I have never forgotten Whom and why I serve. I have had all this bottled up for all these years and I have never shared any of it until now. Incidentally, I have only mentioned the tip of the iceberg. It would have been good to talk through the many issues 22 years ago, at the time when the turmoil was its worst, and to do so with someone who had been through some of what I and my family suffered.

I’m grateful I found this forum. God sent me to it at the very time I was reflecting on my life as an officer, a very special period in my life. I hope and pray that the sharing of my experience is helpful to others. We do share something very special don't we?

Blessings!

USA Central Territory
(name on file with FSAOF)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Please look after me too!


I had quite a conversation with my daughter recently, and she shared with me what were the happiest moments of her life. She said that the most treasured and memorable time was when she was growing up and we were living at the Training College at Denmark Hill. I enquired why she felt this way. She said it was because she felt very secure; she could play safely outside with her friends, had access to the kids club and loved the school she attended.

As we spoke though, she reminded me that by the age of 10 years old she had attended 6 different schools and 9 by the time she reached the age of 18. I often think that this is possibly the reason she doesn’t seem to settle at anything, but wants instead to be on with the next thing. I found myself apologizing for the upheavals that she has lived through in the short 19 years of her life. She reflected on our chat and said that she looks on them as the experiences that have made her into the person she is today! Her reflections were far from positive; she spoke specifically to me about the lack of support given to ‘officers children’ when their parents leave the work, for whatever reason. It’s painful recalling how the seemingly secure life of that officer’s child, my precious daughter, was thrown into such turbulence in an instant…

She said she would have appreciated the opportunity to talk with someone about what was happening in her life; the innocent victim in the separation from service process. When she talks about our ‘officership days’ she says instead, ‘When we were officers’. She feels that she was just as involved in church ministry as her father and I were. Sadly for her, she experienced four separations and bereavements concurrently; her parents were separating, she lost her home, she had to move to another town, she left all her friends behind. And one can add to that list; left the “home” corps, left the familiar corps’ youth groups and leaders; her spiritual mainstay. I wonder if in the busyness of doing God's work amongst the masses we somehow neglect the needs of those few closest and most dear to us, the OKs, believing God will see to their unique needs.

It wasn’t until she became a teenager that we found a supportive counseling program for her. She was provided access to the ‘relateen’, a national UK organization providing guidance and counseling service for children whose parents separate or divorce. It was through this counseling service that she was able to talk and work through the many painful and confusing issues. She shared though, that while the counselor was helpful and supportive, “the person never really fully understood my pain and frustration. She didn’t understand “the Army” part of it, the commitment that we as a family had shared prior to our abrupt departure and separation."

I would be interested to hear if anyone else’s children have experienced similar difficulties. Also, if anyone knows if the Army now offers support to children whose parents are leaving officership? I understand that establishing such a support program might be difficult, but I am sure that in every Division there could be a team of officer or soldier volunteers who would be willing to give of their time to support any young person who is faced with these unique upheavals in their far from ordinary life. In my professional life today I see clearly just how important counseling can be in healing the psyche (spirit). I would add though, that I don’t believe it would be a good idea for the support to be in the same Corps where the young person was active, as this could prove difficult for both the young person and the supporting adult(s).

I would be very interested, as I’m certain others would be as well, to receive comments on your experience and what we might do to initiate change.

Tracey Oliver
Hull Citadel Corps
(UK Territory)

Friday, August 24, 2007

CALLED TO SERVE



Oswald Chambers captures what I consider the healthiest of all views on the subject of calling when he says, “… we are called to God and we choose a service.” To him and obviously to me, calling is less about specific life-long tasks divvied out by God to a select group of special agents called officers than it is about a relationship with Him.

Many individuals will fight to the death over the issue of the reality of their individual calling to officership, or to The Army. I have little time or interest in arguing about anyone else’s experience or dogma, and I gladly grant that whatever it is that they feel is sacred to their sense of ministry is, indeed, just that. What I offer, however, is another acceptable view supported by a preponderance of Biblical evidence.

After years of struggle with the inconsistencies found in the traditional sense of calling, I had come to believe, even before reading Chambers, that our primary calling is to a relationship with God, nothing else. When the concept of calling is used in the Bible, especially the New Testament, it invariably, but not always relates to a universal calling to a spiritual state of being, not a physical place of doing.

After a very tedious computer word search, I discovered that in The Old Testament, the word “called or calling” relates to the naming or summoning of something or someone, calling out to God in prayer or specific callings to a very select few by angels, or occasionally, by God Himself. The prophets were called to perform occasional truth bearing tasks, which they did. Moses was called to give all of his last forty years to a specific calling, but if I am not mistaken, most had other jobs as well.

Jesus called people, especially children, to himself to hear His message, to be appointed to perform specific tasks and always to “follow” Him. That command is not always associated with full-time professional ministry. The restored mad man of Gerasa wanted to tag along with Jesus but his calling was to go home and witness. There are far more examples of this “calling” than there were Apostles. In fact, it was only after Christ’s resurrection and the Pentecost experience that the Apostles fully understood their ministry was vocational, until death. The call to follow Him is certainly a lifelong spiritual commitment, but not everyone is charged and anointed, as were the Apostles, to literally leave all and follow into the unknown. However, Jesus certainly expects His followers to be willing to do so, if necessary.

To justify the concept of specific callings, many look to the familiar examples of individuals recorded in the Scripture who received a personal tap on the shoulder from God to play special or particular roles. There is no doubt that Abraham, Jonah, Moses, Elijah, Samuel, Elisha, Saul, Elizabeth, Mary and even the likes of Samson and some others were specifically called by God to serve Him in a given moment. A few heard His voice directly, but most received their assignments through His messengers, the prophets, or angels.

In the New Testament, God or His messenger mysteriously visited the Virgin Mary, Elisabeth and Saul of Tarsus asking them to serve Him in unique ways. Even Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah, said He was “anointed” by the Spirit to preach, heal, release and model the Kingdom of God. (Luke 4:18-19)

There is no argument or doubt about the veracity of such divine interventions, but when normal folks like most of us try to claim such unique experiences like those of the prophets and Apostles, it does not stand up well. In fact, other than those handful of Biblical examples called specifically by God to perform specific dispensational tasks, there is no other evidence or need for such career specific callings coming from God, and to me, any such doctrine speaks more to dogma than doctrine.

Our Service Still Matters
Certainly, our role need not be as spectacular as Peter’s, or as powerful as Paul’s to be effective and pleasing to God. He wants to empower us, however, with the same resurrection power He gave to them. Also, He will one day judge all of us according to what we did with what we were given. For power to be what He expects us to be, we can depend upon the promises of God: “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” Philippians 3:10a(NIV), and “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)

Saying that, many individuals do feel “led” or “called” to follow a spiritual instinct or leading, and use their gifts and sanctified desires. Usually, however, I suspect these “callings” come more from the context of something they know - a family heritage, following a spouse’s conviction, a compelling need or opportunity to help, or something with which they are familiar - or to which they have been exposed. For example, those who visit Africa are often so moved by what they experience they are far more prone to feel called there, than to Russia. In most cases, the opposite would also be true.

Similarly, teachers do not often claim that God miraculously expects them to be surgeons, nor is the illiterate’s calling to be a scholar taken seriously by ecclesiastical sponsors. Certainly, we cannot shorten the arm of God, and with Him, all things are possible, but such aberrant anointings are, to our knowledge, very rare. It should be clear, however, that there is no less integrity associated with service or ministry that originates in one’s personal desire or conviction than in another’s mystical “private experience.”

The message of the scriptures is clear: all believers – even former officers - are called first to relationship with God, and then to live out their faith through a demonstrative relationship with Christ - all day, every day, full-time, through an appropriate vocational service.

One need not wait for a special calling or ordination from a denomination to be a full-time servant of God. Some folks hide behind such dogma, but there is no kidding anyone; God wants us all to be active in serving Him, in our unique way. Certainly, our service is unique, but I believe our calling is universal. Being called to relationship with Him will, by His natural design, yield its own sense of individual purpose and vocation for every believer.

Dr. David Benner writes about several general callings to all believers. One is a calling to be human beings that Jean Vanier describes as, “ a journey from loneliness to a love that grows in and through belonging”, a love that “liberates us from self-centered compulsions and inner hurts …that finds its fulfillment in forgiveness and in loving those who are our enemies” The Gift Of Being Yourself (page 96). The second calling Benner mentions is our calling to be Christians (Italics mine). “Genuine Christ-following will always make us more, not less, human” (page 96). He goes on to identify a number of what I call general callings common to all believers. We are all called to:

Mission – The use of gifts and abilities, not jobs or roles
Vocation – A way that is best for us and best for the world
Community – Our united loving service of God and neighbor

In one sense, we cannot hope to bring any kind of valuable or credible service to God without a spiritual calling from Him and a specific response to Him. It comes in the form of relationship that begins with truth and extends through the process described as our “reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1) To forge ahead for any reason outside of our worshipful response to His love and grace is a direct and tragic road to failure and frustration.

Blessings!

Jack C. Getz
Atlanta, GA - USA

August 24, 2007
Fsaof.blogspot.com