Friday, February 22, 2008

Delores

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound...” I was leading this song during a devotional time when I heard, in the far corner of the room, someone weeping uncontrollably. As I quickly made my way to see who was crying the crowd separated. And there, as I knelt on the floor, I saw Delores, her body twisted and curled. As I wrapped my comforting arms around her I asked, “why the tears Delores?” She simply said, “The songs all remind me of my mother and how she used to sing them to me.” We went and sat to the side and had a special time sharing our experiences of how our mothers influenced and impacted on our lives.

It’s now 10 months later and I’m once again kneeling at the bed of Delores and this time singing alone with her, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound.” She is now on her death bed, and she struggled to open her eyes. He body is thin and fail, yet through that tired body she gave me a gentle smile, however, this time with only one tear in the corner of her eye. That sign of recognition and gratitude took all her strength…

I wet her lips with a cool minty swab, and she mustered what strength was left to absorb the water from the gauze. Her body lay helpless, totally dependent on me to give her the necessary water to survive. The chorus came immediately to my heart, “Touch my lips with the coal from Thine altar Lord, send a new touch of power on my soul.” The power in Delores’ dehydrated body left in the minutes that I sat with her, singing and comforting her with cool water.

Are you dependant on someone giving you that life changing refreshment? Do you thirst for the cool water that only Christ can give? It was my “job” that day to sit with Delores and apply fresh, cool water to her lips but, I was “honored” to sing and share Jesus with Delores as she slipped out of my hands. The soft strains of; “Amazing grace how sweet the sound...” gently carried her into the arms of Jesus.

Continuing to be His "Joyful Evangelist."
Sharon L. Gulley
USA East

When I was fed...

My friend Maggie.


Following 27 years of joyful active service as Salvation Army Officers, my husband and I left the ranks allowing God to continue to fulfill our calling outside the Army.

I currently serve as the "Life Enrichment Coordinator" at an assisted Living Facility for people living with dementia. I have the privilege to serve, and in Jesus’ words; Feed my Sheep. (it's in my job description to add "spiritual" to my activities). How awesome is that!!!

Although I have many stories to share, one for each of the unique residents, one stands out that I want, or better said, "need" to share.

Let's call my resident "Maggie." Maggie was quite a sophisticated woman. At 97 years of age, Maggie still wore her high heels, a business suit that could be found in any Wall Street boardroom, and carried her designer handbag. Maggie was also an artist. The walls in her room were covered with beautiful paintings, gifts to share with visitors that God had inspired her to paint. Maggie reminded me on each visit to her room that her painting skills were a gift from God.

One day I was sitting with Maggie just chatting about "life" in general She asked me about my husband, children and grandchild. Giving me motherly, no, better said, grandmotherly advise; wanted me to ponder, and realize how blessed "I" was to have a loving husband, children and a granddaughter.

As we spoke she proceeded to take a wallet out of her handbag and began to remove a few photos. How proud Maggie was to show me pictures of her two handsome sons and to tell me details on the accomplishments of her children. She drew me into the lives of her two sons. She shared how heartbroken she was to have had one son taken away from her so early in life, dying in a tragic accident. But she added that she was comforted in knowing that one day she would see him in heaven and how proud she was of her only living son. Maggie then took out one more picture. It was a aged, and by now somewhat faded picture of Jesus, no doubt a having been kept in that wallet for many years. Her look changed and she became quite serious and she said to me, "This is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." I sat there awe struck recognizing how honored she was to show me this picture. But what struck me most were her next words to me when she asked, "Do YOU know Him?!"

I always saw it as my privilege, indeed, my role to share Jesus with my residents, my responsibility to feed His sheep. But not on this day, Maggie shared Jesus with me!

The story doesn't end there, because less than a month later, Maggie died. I had the privilege to attend her funeral and the pastor gave an opportunity for anyone to share something about Maggie. I stood and shared the story of my very special and private time when Maggie and had sat and shared on that couch in her room… Maggie’s faith and witness was heard clearly by all in attendance at her funeral. There was a hush in that room. Following the funeral service there was a time of refreshments and her son and daughter-in-law came up to me and thanked me for sharing "mom's story" with all those there, celebrating Maggie's life. You see, they were concerned about "mom's" salvation and were comforted to know that she had a personal relationship with Jesus and that she was under someone's ministry, mine.

It is our responsibility to feed His sheep no matter what pasture they may be grazing in. But on this day, I was grazing in Maggie's pasture as she fed me spiritually that day.

Continuing to be His "Joyful Evangelist."
Sharon L. Gulley
USA East

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A fellow former officer needs our prayers...

This is the first time a scheduled article has been superceded. Yet, I believe all visitors will agree that it's in the spirit of this fellowship. And, it's very much in the thread of all that's been written to date.

One in our fellowship is struggling through a very difficult family issue, Saying that "we know your pain" will not make it disappear, and saying "Things will get better" or "You'll get past this" is trite and even uncaring and dismissive. But what we do know is that hurt will not stay with you forever. Most of us have been through similar if not the exact same issues.

Is there any lesson learned in your pain? Yes, at least two; your love for that family member is deeper than you ever realized before, and, you are now able to realize the suffering of others as perhaps never before. You are a different person because of this day and your current sense of hopelessness. But know this, there are a great many who share in what you are going through, even without knowing the details. And like you, when days are bright, but perhaps especially when clouds roll in, we come together in that singularly unique fellowship as the Father's children.

There is a wonderful Swedish children's song entitled; Children of the Heavenly Father:

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.

Lo, their very hairs He numbers,
And no daily care encumbers
Them that share His ev’ry blessing
And His help in woes distressing.

Praise the Lord in joyful numbers:
Your Protector never slumbers.
At the will of your Defender
Ev’ry foeman must surrender.

The song is used in almost every SA dedication of children in The SA in Sweden, including my own (though I don't remember being there...) And in that same sacred ceremony soldiers of the corps swore a promise to lift the child up in prayer. I'm certain that was the case with yours as well.

I have often wondered what the words in the scripture mean that say, "when we forget to pray, Jesus lifts us to the Father". Perhaps I now understand... our tears blind us when we are in pain, and only He can see through them and know our heart... our pleading pain to the Father -

Pain is a human factor that comes to all. Soulful pain comes to those who know what true love means, seeking and connecting with the Father. Take heart - He hears your cry and His son's plea...

"So where is God when it hurts? We know where God is because he came to earth and showed us his face. You need only follow Jesus around and note how he responded... with compassion—which simply means "to suffer with"—and with comfort and healing." (Phillip Yancey)

Dear friend, take these simple words from The SA song book; you've sung them believing, as we all have;

I believe God answers prayer,
I believe God answers prayer,
I believe God answers prayer,
He's answered mine before'

Many blessings from all in this fellowship and we pray, in Jesus' name.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Feed My Sheep (2)

My Session Flag...‘Messenger of Hope’


I have a few hours spare before visiting Jack’s wife and family and then on to conduct yet another funeral; three in the space of one week...

I want to share about my work and home situation.

One reader shared that they were jealous that I have a ministry again. I can understand their envy as that is how I felt for many years, useless, not worthy, a misfit and yes, even jealous of those fulfilling the calling I wasn’t allowed to have. Single-spouse Officers were not thought of then, and even if they had been, how would I have coped with four children under the age of 10!! That wasn’t the point, but it was a massive loss in my life, having to resign as an officer.

Today is very different in that I am fulfilling my calling, but not with The Salvation Army. I work as Spiritual Care Team Leader at the local hospice, and I am there for people regardless of their faith and belief. This working environment is a challenge in itself in that I am a non-practising ordained minister, and I feel I am often viewed by the local clergy with scepticism. They cannot understand how I can work in a multi-faith environment. All I can say is that the last 2 ½ years have seen a remarkable development in my faith and spirituality and it’s amazing how God has sustained me recently, as I go through my second marriage break-up.

There’s a beautiful song and the words say this;

When I think I’m going under,
part the waters Lord,
When I feel the waves around me;
part the sea.
When I cry for help,
Oh hear me Lord,
and put out your hand.
Touch my life,
still the raging storm in me.

Those words have supported and helped me through the past 6 months, when I hit rock bottom and cried ‘Why Lord’?!

I’ve often thought what possible good can come out of all of this, and just two weeks ago my eldest Son became a Christian. You can imagine how overjoyed I was and even more so when it was my daughter who led him to Christ.

As this goes to print, we are all taking a journey back! My two eldest children were 5 and 2 when we entered the Training College, and this weekend we have gone back to visit friends and maybe I’ll take them for a walk down “memory lane”. My two youngest have never been to Denmark Hill, although they were conceived there and so this will be a new experience for them.I will go into the assembly hall and ‘touch’ my sessional flag; ‘Messenger of Hope’, and know that I am continuing to fulfill what I was called to do.

Jeremiah 29:11 ‘I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord’. Yes, I know what He wants me to do in the future and it will mean a change for me.

‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you’. This is biggy for me; I have to trust God completely.

‘Plans to bring a hope and a future’. Yes, I know that’s what I have now in my current role in the Hospice, but I know God has something else planned for my life, and when that plan is revealed fully I have to say YES and step forward and say, “Lord here am I, send me”!

Blessings !

Tracey Oliver
Former Officer, UK
(part two)