Friday, October 31, 2008


I heard some very sad news recently. I don't know if it is true, but nevertheless the possibility of it being true deeply saddened me. I was told that General John Gowans, through illness, can no longer recall the songs he has written. In one breath my reaction was 'how very, very sad' and in the next 'thank God he wrote them down for so many of us to be able to identify with and pray for ourselves.' I thought of just one of the phrases I know I quote often on a Sunday: 'Ours is not a distant God, remote, unfeeling,' and that wonderful realisation 'Someone Cares'. (Song no. 238 SASB)

This got me to thinking about prayer and wondering, what are your first recollections of praying?

I think for me it is the memory of my Mum kneeling at the side of my bed, singing, praying and encouraging me to thank God for the day and to ask Him to bless those I knew and loved. I don't think I can have been three at the time but am left with memories of a happy time shared together at the end of the day.

I remember my Nan almost constantly singing or humming to herself as she went around doing ordinary, every day things. The songs she sang more often than not were prayer choruses from the back of our SA song book. 'Prayer gently lifts me to highest Heaven' seemed to be one of her favourites and she always seemed to sing it with a beautiful, gentle expression on her face and I soon realised she was communing with her God and almost being transported to highest Heaven in those moments. Nan would also leave little notes she had written all over her flat. Very often those notes would be a prayer chorus she had written out and put a date on the note. One of the things I treasure of my Nan's is one such note as she had written: 'All my days and all my hours ... shall be Thine dear Lord' There was nothing special about my Nan in the world's terms. But her simple, childlike faith still challenges and encourages me today. Never in a milion years would she have done anything publically, prayed or testified ... but she certainly prayed and lived her testimony!

Many of you will know I was about five when I was first taken to the Salvation Army by my Nan and a few years later I remember being in 'the big Sunday School' so I must have been more than seven years old, it was Decision Sunday, we had been singing the chorus: 'Teach me how to love Thee. Teach me how to pray' and the brother-in-law (David Raynor) of our YPSM (David Harlow - person in charge of our Sunday School) came in that day and talked to us about how to pray. He used the letters of the word PRAY and gave them to us as a guideline.
P - Praise
R - Repent
A - Ask (for others)
Y - Ask (for yourself)

Since then, others have shared with me the concept of ACTS
A - Adoration
C - Confession
T - Thanksgiving
S - Supplication
But if I am honest, more often than not in my own personal devotions I return to the model I was given as a very young child.

As I grew older, a teenager, still living at home. I can think back to a few occasions when I had knelt at the mercy seat in our hall at Southport, returning home and almost continuing the prayer as I knelt beside my bed. Mum, once came in and asked if I wanted her to pray with me ... I did ... and she did. As we knelt together and prayed we sang too, almost like the old days when she had sung prayers with me as a child. It was almost as if we didn't quite know how to put into words our thoughts and feelings but singing the songs others had penned, helped us to express our heartfelt prayers.

In recent years my understanding and expression of prayer has somewhat changed. There are times when my prayer is nothing more than simply allowing myself to 'Be still' in the presence of God and consciously sense His nearness. It is then I discover 'It's in the stillness that You touch me and show me just how much You care and as my heart fills with Your wonder, I know that You are always there.'

I have also discovered the joys of journalling and I am delighted to know that the young people in our Sunday School are encouraged to journal and write their own prayers. As I look back on my journals over the last ten years or so it is amazing to see just how God has answered prayer ... how He has been to me all that I have ever needed ... how He really has constantly revealed Himself to be a faithful God of love.

Prayer for me is that secret place where I can commune as friend with Friend. No mask ... no pretence ... God knows everything there is to know about me and whether I tell Him or not, He knows ... He loves ... He understands. He knows everything that concerns me ... my deepest joys and woes and as a lover He wants me to share them with Him. Those issues that weigh heavy on my heart and mind in relation to others God constantly invites me to bring them to Him and reminds me:

'Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring.
For His grace and power are such
One can never ask too much.' (SASB 563)

If I am totally honest there are times when I find myself rebuked ... when I choose to carry the weight of the whole world on my shoulders and don't think to pray. But I thank God that I also have Jesus, a Great High Priest who prays for me. (John 17)

And so today I thank God for those who taught me to pray ... for those who pray for me ... for those who challenge me to pray, for those who have left an enormous legacy of prayer filled lives behind them and for those who have written their prayers that help me to pray today.

What will I leave behind me?
What will you leave behind you?

Do those closest to you know you are a person of prayer?
Do they know you love them enough to pray for them and at times maybe with them?

If you had prayer journalled the last ten years how would you see the hand of God on your life?
If others had the privilege of reading your journal what encouraging things might they learn.

Do you think to pray?
Should you think of journalling / writing your prayers, something to encourage you as you look back on your prayers. And maybe like General John Gowans we too could leave an enormous legacy for others...even if it is only our closest friends and family that may ever read our prayers.

Do you think to pray?

'O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!' (SASB 645)

Praying for you just now and as I do ... singing:

'O Lord hear my prayer
O Lord hear my prayer
When I call answer me.
O Lord hear my prayer
O Lord hear my prayer
Come and listen to me.'

Thank You Father God because You do just that!

Major Glad Ljungholm
(spouse of Former)
CO Exeter Temple Corps UKT

Thursday, October 30, 2008

There is Pleasure in His Service - More Than All..

At times I feel I’ve almost hijacked this site, sharing my personal journey and experiences. But then Sven posted a request on the Facebook page asking for articles, and even though I said to Sven, " I’m up to my eyes in work, home and study and wouldn’t be able to contribute for a number of weeks", these thoughts started to swirl around in my mind and I had to put pen to paper.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of sharing with a family a very special moment as I blessed the union of a dying man’s daughter and her partner. They plan to marry Easter Saturday next year and when Bill (name changed) found out his cancer was terminal he wanted everything to continue as normal, nothing changed. Linda (name changed) and Karl (name changed) so wanted to share their commitment to each other in front of their dear Father, that I read through the marriage vows and as I did they committed themselves to each other. A very moving and wonderful moment; Dad very peaceful and I am sure very aware of what was happening, as they say the hearing is the last sense to go. Exactly an hour after the ceremony this wonderful man died with his loving family around him.

I had the privilege of conducting Bill’s funeral and the family requested that this be a time of celebration and thanksgiving. The following day I led another funeral service for a 39 year old Mum of three. I had the special joy of sharing with her beautiful 16 year old daughter who had completely organised everything and planned all that she wanted to happen at the service. She is an amazing girl and her Mum would be so very very proud of her.

That week was set aside to be a week’s annual leave and it didn’t work out quite that way, and I’m so glad I hadn’t booked to go away. I still managed to get some me time though and went away with my family at the end of August and spent much needed quality time together.

I feel richly blessed in my ministry and though costly at times, from a family perspective, I thank God for his sustaining power in my life to tface every situation with the power of His love and strength in me. As I reflect these beautiful words come to mind:

Songs of Fellowship 895

Lord, I come to you,
Let my heart be changed, renewed,
Flowing from the grace that I found in You.
And Lord, I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of your love.

Hold me close,
Let your love surround me.
Bring me near, draw me to Your side.
And as I wait I’ll rise up like the eagle,
And I will soar with You,
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of your love.

Lord, unveil my eyes,
Let me see You face to face,
The knowledge of Your love
As you live in me. Lord renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life,
In living every day
By the power of your love.

This is a prayer I pray today, tomorrow and the days that lie ahead of me. I so often want the Lord to reveal His plans now, believe it or not I am quite an inpatient person. I am learning the art of patience and am so grateful to God for being patient with me.

Tracey Denise Oliver
Active soldier
Hull Citadel Corps

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


A picture began circulating in November. It should be 'The Picture of the Year,' or perhaps, 'Picture of the Decade.' It won't be. In fact, unless you obtained a copy of the US paper which published it, you probably would never have seen it.

The picture is that of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samue Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner.

The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville , he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr.Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger. DrBruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity.

The editors titled the picture, 'Hand of Hope.' The text explaining the picture begins, 'The tiny hand of 21-week- old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.'

Little Samuel's mother said they 'wept for days' when they saw the picture. She said, 'The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person.' Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.

A THANKFUL OK COMING HOME ! (officer's kid)


Just returning from reading the blog of an old friend. Sometimes you have to grow up before you know who your friends were from your lifetime. I highly recommend taking care of yourself physically when you are young so when you begin to get older, you can rejoice in the knowledge that comes to you in your later years instead of spending all your time complaining of getting old. Of course, things can happen no matter what shape you are in when you arrive in your senior years, did I really just admit to that?, So eliminate as much of the odds of not being able to enjoy those years as possible.

I think I am supposed to say at this point in this post, that this current celebration of wisdom is not necessarily brought on by age, but by Christ and allowing Him to take full hold to my life.

Let me tell you a few things about me if you are not a regular. I'm 52. I was adopted by Salvation Army officers in Buffalo NY at the age of two. Snatched from the jaws of the NY State Foster Care system by the love of God and Bob and Jean and sister Robin. After being bounced around from foster home to foster home for whatever crisis that may have taken place in one of those homes that caused me to not "take" to the man figure of each home until the Strain's showed up. My adopting dad, Bob, was the first man to win my trust in my first 2 years as the story was told to me.

My biological parents were respectively a surgeon and nurse. Nurse mom was from England. Surgeon dad, origin unknown. I'm just glad he was either pro life or in the 1950's middle class it was uncommon of to be any other way.

So the point of this little synopsis is to tell you why I love Jesus so. And why at this age, I seem to be falling in love with the organization of my now deceased parents: The Salvation Army. Yes, I said that also.

Oh, it's not going to be a long story. Just a reason why I am beginning to say the things I will say in the posts to come perhaps.

I was thinking earlier tonight in a comment made on the blog of the before mentioned friend, that I can still smell the smells of my youth. The old Salvation Army meetings. I remember bowed over in my seat as if praying staring at the red/maroon carpets of the old corps halls. A corps hall was what we called a chapel or sanctuary or whatever you call the main gathering place where you may or may not worship.

Here are some of the smells that I can summon up today as if they are still here. The smell of the old red songbook filled with words that told of what would happen should you lay down your sin of "strong drink" or tobacco and give your life to the "Lord" And if you quit your "fornicatin" and lived a pure life. I think what was maybe lost on me way back when, and to many today is the notion that you had to lay those things down to get to Jesus. In my mind, I may have had the cart before the horse as they used to say. I think my generation may be the last generation to be able to use the euphemisms to get a point across, so enjoy them while they last. 50 cent and puff daddy gonna be tellin the stories to come. What I came to find out later is that first you come to some idea or willingness about Jesus making your life what it was supposed to be first, then letting Him help you out of your "evil ways" after. Lots have this idea that they have to become something they are not to come to God. But in fact as you've heard many times, you only have to come as you are. And be willing from there to let Jesus lead you along. The strong thing is to be willing to allow the change to happen. Most likely God was the one that came to you as I'm interpreting these days.

But back to the smell. I can still smell them old song books. I can smell the people off the street. I can smell the musty smell of an old cornet. We put those old mouthpieces up to our lips thinking a good wiping with our white shirts was going to remove the germs of the aged saints that blew the horns before us. We're still here, so I guess there was something to those not so bright white wrinkled dirty collared shirts of an 8 year old boy. I can only say dirty collared cause my mom went to be with the Lord about a year ago. No one best say that Jean Strain's boy had a dirty collar. But I did and all the time and it didn't have nothing to do with her laws of cleanliness. Which were legion. I was, as she affectionately used to call me, "pig pen" from the Charlie Brown cartoons.

OK, so maybe now as I think of it, all I can still really smell of the old hall was thE red songbooks. There is something profound in that smell to me now as I think about how I want to spend the rest of my life helping out the cause of the Salvation Army. Maybe its time to sit down and read that red book of my childhood. Back then I was more busy learning to read the music notes of the tune book we used to accompany the singing with on our dented silver or brass horns.

Maybe in that book is the secret of my now joyful happiness brought on by laying down my "evil ways." Maybe 'cause Jesus did indeed take me as I am and now puts my not good for me (a better way to say 'bad') habits behind His back to be 'remembered no more'. do I now spend my present days asking Him what He'd like me to do with the rest of my day? The old chorus, "How can I better serve Thee Lord, comes to mind" as does, "All my days and all my hours, Shall be Thine, O Lord...".

Maybe I'm just recapitulating 'cause my time is short? I really hope not, cause I want to live out many more quality days doing just what he made me to do in the first place. To be here for those that can't get on with their lives because they made a mess of them. And I can tell them that no matter what caused the despair they now drag around with them from day to day, they can lay it down at the feet of the spiritual friend and creator of their lives and experience the joy that they never dreamed possible this side of heaven. And best of all, better than just experiencing it for themselves, they can lead others to the well of deep satisfaction from which joy springs forth. And that is a joy on a level you can't even imagine until you see someone rediscover the first Love of their life.

It's a crazy notion, this Jesus is. It don't make no sense in a world of touch and feel and grab and go. But when you discover the truth of it, its the only Thing that does make sense. And its something like Glory.

What do I mean when I say in the title 'something new may be something old'?

My dad used to tell stories and I witnessed a couple of them when he was the corps officer. (the pastor or minister of a Salvation Army church). Stories of drunken men stumbling to the altar at the front of the corps hall, and there,kneeling to receive Jesus and on standing to their feet, sober! Once a sinister looking fellow went forward to give his life to Christ and when he got up and walked away, he left his handgun behind. I remember walking the streets of Chicago at the age of 10 with my dad in his uniform and a homeless hollow eyed destitute man came up and ask him for change for a meal, and my dad would walk him to the diner to be sure it was a sandwich his money bought and not a pint of "the hot sauce" as my dad was fond of calling it.

Well, the Salvation Army, like any determined, healthy institution is reanalyzing its mission, and going through some re-thinking exercises these past several years. People trying to decide what the mission of the organization is in this present age. Well, to me the answer is as clear as it ever was! Save the lost. Feed the hungry. Love the unlovable. Clothe the naked. Whatever it takes. Just like coming to Jesus is the same as it ever was. What turns your night into day? Your weeping into laughing? Your pain into peace? Your sorrow into joy? It's the same old story. Jesus does.

It's not a popular notion. I guess it never was. But its simple enough for a child to get his head around and simple enough to make one feel young, alive, and vibrant again or perhaps for the first time. And that I think is the point.

Jeff Strain
Maine, USA

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vote Fairly and Vote Often

They say politics and religion don't mix. I say this campaign has relentlessly mixed religion and politics. In fact politicians use religion far more than religion uses politics. They say "separation of church and state." What I've seen is Obama's Jeremiah Wright and Palin's Assembly of God association used negatively to define the candidates. Doesn't sound like separation to me. You might be able to separate the state from the church but you sure can't separate the politician from religion. I think in the end what some people are afraid of is having religious values placed in the fore front, in the middle of the market place of ideas. They say, "I'm not going to force my values on others. So they shouldn't force there's on me." I say, what is a society without values? It's anarchy. And the values that are found within religion, and for us, within Christianity, have been the very values that have shaped the world for hundreds of years.

And so I ask you: What is the state without the church? What is a politician without visible values? What is life without faith? To borrow the words of Paul, "It is nothing. It is a resounding gong, a clanging symbol." Zacchaeus recognized this. He could not be in the presence of Jesus and not be moved. Moved to right the wrong in his life. He was a tax collector, part of the government, who had taken advantage of many people. Lied to them. Swindled them. Skimmed off the top of his collections. And beyond all this, he had ignored the poor.

Now it's Tuesday morning for old Zacchaeus and he has to walk in the election booth and pull the lever. He is either going to vote for the state or for the faith. He is either going to vote for himself of for those he has defrauded. He will either cast his vote for Rome or for Christ. Come Election Day, who is he gonna' vote for?

1. He could vote for the Tax Collectors.
2. He could vote for the poor.
3. He could vote for Christ.

From Preaching Sermon Resources

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Most pastors can point to a specific time or setting in which they received a call to pastoral ministry. Often they pursued the calling despite the warnings of others. They believed this calling was from God, and they chose to follow it. Their preparation typically has involved years of education and continued development. The journey began as a response to a personal call.

As I reflect on 35 years of ministry, I realize that many of my former colleagues are no longer pastors. Somewhere along the line, they left their "calling" and undertook a different path for their lives. Reflecting on my friends who used to be pastors, I realize that they are now a majority. Those, like me, who have stayed in ministry are actually the minority. The attrition rate has been high and the cost to souls is astronomical.

For some pastors, leaving the pastorate was the result of assuming that their calling was permanent and they were therefore protected. They neglected the spiritual disciplines or spiritual integrity needed to continue in ministry. They now realize that they should have given more attention to their own Christian development. They know now that ministry depends on moral purity.

The majority of my acquaintances, however, simply encountered such turmoil and situational conflict that they felt they could not continue to pastor. Too often, they had no friend or accountability group to share their pain or provide emotional or spiritual support. Many well-meaning Christians in their congregations ignored the signs of "battle fatigue." Instead, congregations overwhelmed my pastor friends with unrealistic expectations, negative criticism and misplaced anger. Some congregations even assumed the perfect pastor was "out there," so their fallible pastor was terminated.

Could these tragic results have been avoided? If the answer is "yes," then both clergy and laity share the responsibility. The results might have been different if someone named Barnabas had cared enough to voice a few words of encouragement or provided some spiritual mentoring.


I am visiting Sunbury Court and writing an article on the Healing Waters I found here... I'm convinced they will flow out to many visitor friends of the blog as well.
Blessings, Sven

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Step out in Faith !

I overheard two nurses say, 6 months ago today on the evening of my stroke, when whispering about my prognosis, "he'll never walk again"! Interesting as in just a moment I'll be walking to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and then to the lounge to read the morning paper, admittedly turning pages with the use of only one arm/hand.

I plan to attend my first band rehearsal in many months next week, but probably not playing my favorite instrument, trombone or march with band for some months. So be it - just do it!

Sven Ljungholm
Exeter, UK

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Over 20,000 Mormon faithful gather in the Conference Center for the fourth session of the 178th Semiannual General Conference of the church in Salt Lake City, Utah, Oct. 5. Members of the 13-million-member church gather every six months in Salt Lake City to receive instruction from the top leadership of the Mormon Church.

A Former Officer 'Friend'

I was an officer for eleven years (Messenger of the Faith)

My earliest memory is of climbing up a very steep staircase (I've been back since and it is not steep at all) in the Salvation Army Hall in Sacriston, Co. Durham. I must have been three or four years old at the time. I also remember moving to Maltby in Yorkshire when I was seven and soon after becoming a Junior Soldier, a Singing Company (Junior Choir) member and learning a string of different brass instruments in the Young People's Band. In my teens I left (The SA) for a while, but by sixteen I was a Senior Soldier and bandsman and by the age of eighteen, or a least a few months after my eighteenth birthday, I was a Cadet training to be a Salvation Army Officer in the International Training College in London. It was there that I met my wife to be, who was also training as a Salvation Army Officer. In 1971 we married and continued at a number of appointments together. There was a growing dissatisfaction with what we were doing and, to cut a long story short, by 1977 I had resigned and become a local authority social worker.

I continued as a soldier (member) of the Salvation Army, a youth group leader, bandsman etc. But I found a growing questioning of, not only the practices, but the basic doctrines of the Army. This came to a head when the Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, hit the headlines with his less than conventional views on the authority of the Bible. I began to realise that there was much of the Army Doctrines that I was unhappy about, including the bigotry shown against David Jenkins, not to mention that against homosexuality and other matters that some Salvationists classed as 'sinful'. I was ready to withdraw from the Army but did not feel that I could 'go nowhere'.

I remembered, whilst I was an officer, going with my family on holiday to my wife's relatives in the Lake District. I had accepted the invitation to visit my first meeting for worship at the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and found that much of what I read about them made sense and, as they would say, 'spoke to my condition'. Now some years on, I started going to the Quakers meeting at Grimsby. Over a relatively short time I changed from a Salvationist who attended Quakers in the morning and the Army at night, to a Quaker who attended the Army at night, through joint membership of both the Salvation Army and Quakers, to finally making a full commitment to the religious Society of Friends.

There are a number of reasons why I felt at home with Friends; Quakers do not have a creed, they respect each individual, they have a peace 'testimony' and a non-condemning attitude to most other people's beliefs, whether they are the same as Quakers or not. In short, I found the opportunity to make my own spiritual journey and follow God as I believed that He wanted me to, rather than having to submit to a set of doctrines which I was not sure that believed in anymore, and were more than a bit dated in their language and ideas. Suffice to say that I am really at home with Quakers now and much more involved than I had been with the Salvation Army for years. The only fly in the ointment, there has to be one, is that the rest of my family are still active soldiers (members) of the Salvation Army. My wife is a Songster (senior choir member), a bandswoman and a Corps Secretary. One son is now an officer and the other attends Army meetings regularly. However, I believe I am exactly where I ought to be.

Melvyn Hamilton

Thursday, October 16, 2008


A month ago our little Chihuahua-Rat Terrier mix dog was lost. The townhouse office called me to give me the news that they had opened the door and she ran out. They sounded helpful but made clear that while they would help, they and wanted us to come and look for her. By the time I got home there were several from the maintenance crew searching for her. After three hours of searching had passed by, and still no signs of our little dog, they offered to create a poster. Copies were made and we and proceeded to hang them EVERYWHERE. Even the Hilltown Police were on the lookout for Leia. For the next couple of days, I walked through neighborhoods with Leia’s favorite toy squeaking and calling out her name.

Following 5 days of futile searching, I had given up. Our family was devastated. Morning and evening routines were difficult without our dog, silly as it sounds, we were missing a “member” of our family and it was heart wrenching.

After a week of awful weather, lots of rain (which we had none of all summer), no sleep, completely given up on ever finding my dog. I heard it said that if a dog’s lost for more than 48 hours there’s an 11% chance that the dog will ever be found.

Poster in a Tokyo subway station

Harold got a phone call from a “stranger” saying she was in the post office and saw a poster saying “Found...little dog etc...” Well the lady who saw the poster had seen the posters that our town house office had put up matching the description. Yes, a stranger had taken my dog in and cared for her until her home was found and even went to the trouble of placing notices around town.

I thought how desperately I had searched for my little dog. How strangers; kids in the neighborhood etc were all looking for this lost lovable creature.

As a Christian, do I as desperately seek out my own neighbors, people at work, family members, and others who are lost and haven’t found a home in Christ. My neighbors, my friends at work, family members, even facebook friends were sending me messages saying how happy they were for me that I found my dog. How I rejoiced when my dog was found and returned safe and sound.

We, “I”, need to be more diligent in seeking those who are lost. As I sit in the back of the church I attend, I wonder, “how many of them are searching for a deeper relationship in Christ.?” I love worshipping there with my family but have never heard the Pastor give an invitation. What?! Are they all saved, are they all walking the road which leads to Christ? As a Corps Officer, the altar call was always a very important part of the service. We never wanted to loose an opportunity to ask the question...”are you lost, lost in sin? If so, we invite you to come forward and kneel here… The Saviour is waiting just now…”

Among the questions I remember answering at our Annual Reviews in the Army many people were led to Christ in the year 1996? First time seekers, etc.

Do we diligently “Seek those who are lost?” As earnestly as I searched for my dog - praise God we found her- may I be even more diligent in seeking out those who are lost in sin and needing Christ.

Sharon Gulley
USA East