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
USA East

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The SA was my life...

Part 3


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)