Monday, December 29, 2008

FREEDOM IN CHRIST - VAPAUS KRISTUKSESSA

I was born into a Salvation Army family as a child of Finnish officers and brought up to believe in God and the power of prayer. I was present with my parents in many of the activities they were involved in as officers. Those days were difficult financially and the premises in which to conduct the work was far from what it is today. Yet, I can recall the happiness my dad and mum shared in fulfilling their calling. I remember the joy they had as God blessed their work in the corps with a great revival. I suppose all officers hope and pray for a similar experience due to their commitment to God's great plan of salvation.

At the same time as seeing my parents labour in witnessing to, and serving others, we three children were brought up by what can best be described as a list of what's allowed and what's forbidden. Not that I fault my parents for this, it has followed and served me well to this day. I recall that while still in my teens, and very active in the Army, I felt I wasn't able to live like other youngsters, even those in the Army. If I did or said something which wasn't allowed I soon heard; "You are the daughter of officers”! In a small territory like ours is, I heard it much too often. I would have liked to shout out;l “I'm not the officer, my parents are!” I didn't do it thought as I was afraid of the reaction it would bring.

When I grew older I had an opportunity to move to London on my own. Even then, though I tried my own way, all of the things instilled in me from my childhood and teens affected my life to a great extent. I soon realized that the Army was my Church, my home, and I ended up in International Training College. Some of most treasured memories are from those days, yet I sensed something troubling my spirit, deep inside me, though I did't know where the pain emanated from.... Only now, years and years later, when decades have passed do I realize it was a type of psychological bondage resulting from the early years of my officers' child life. I know other OK's (officer's kid) who share and speak of a similar angst.

I resigned my rank, got married and had my three lovely children, and tried to make my list of 'do's' and 'don'ts' a bit less stringent and foreboding. I remained active in the SA Sunday school, Home League until in that tiny corps of ours something very bad happened due to our CO. At the same time my divorce was granted and ever since I haven't been active in the Army.

I feel I've paid a very high prize for leaving my officership. My calling was to to be an officer; it has never left me! My calling was to proclaim the good news of the gospel, and to do so in the Army. I soon learned, as a young officer, that my work was to filled with other things, I hardly had time to prepare for the the meetings. I suppose because of this I turned my back on my calling; I felt inadequate for the task and expectations. More training and support might have made all the difference.

Today, as I'm on my own I have had time to pray, to ask my God to show what is wrong deep down in my heart. Yes, I learned it was those 'do's' and 'don'ts'. I've prayed for a release through the freedom of Christ, to fill my heart in a way I have never known. I've leaned into the promises of God, and He hasn't let down. I've come to know that the words of the Sunday School chorus my mother taught me are true; 'Every promise in the book is true, I believe them - Do you?' The childhood bondage, the rules and imposed laws, have been cut, and I'm free, free to listen and obey where He wants to lead me.

I don't have negative memories of my parents, that was the way to bring up kids those days. They did what they felt was the best for us. I thank them as they taught me the power of prayer, and faith in God.

Now I know how so many people around me are in bondage, the bondage of making Christ in their lives suitable for SA meetings. How can I help them to know Christ is the Lord of every moment of the day? How can I help people to let Jesus brake the bondage to allow them to live in the full freedom that is Christ, in here and now?

May God give me a wisdom to perhaps not to speak so much, but to radiate, and witness through my living the Christ who has liberated me- He Who set me free

My family celebrated my graduation from College
Marja-Terttu Talvisalmi
Former Officer
Finland



VAPAUS KRISTUKSESSA
Synnyin Pelastusarmeijalais perheeseen. Minut kasvatettiin uskomaan Jumalaan ja rukoukseen. Olin vanhempieni mukana monissa upseerin arkisissa tehtävissä. Noihin aikoihin olosuhteet olivat erittäin vaikeita verrattuna tähän päivään. Kuitenkin muistan sen ilon jolla vanhempani suorittivat kutsumustehtäväänsä. Ilo jonka he kokivat. Kun erääseen osastoon tuli herätyksen aalto. Sitä varmaan jokainen upseeri toivoisi saavansa kokea.

Samaan aikaan meidät lapset kasvatettiin melkeinpä listan kanssa siitä mikä oli oikein mikä väärin. En soimaa vanhempiani sanoessani tuon kahleen seuranneen minua lähes tähän päivään asti. Teininä, aktiivina Armeijassa ei todellakaan ollut mahdollisuutta elää nuoren elämää, edes sellaista kun Armeijaan kuuluvilla nuorilla oli. Jos sanoin tai tein jotain epäkorrektia, pian kuulin “upseerin tytär ja toimit noin!” Tällaisessa pienessä terrotoriassa, jossa kaikki tuntevat kaikki, tuon toteajuksen kuuli aivan liian usein.

Nuorena aikuisena minulla oli mahdollisuus muuttaa Lontooseen yksin. Vaikka kokeilinkin omien jalkojeni kantavuutta, nuo lapsuuden ja teini-iän kokemukset kulkivat mukanani. Pian kuitenkin tajusin Armeijan olevan kirkkoni ja kotini. Päädyin Kansainväliseen Upseerikouluun ja monet ihanat muistot kumpuaa noilta ajoilta. Kuitenkin silloinkin tuo sama Asia kulki mukanani, vaikken silloin kyennytkään osoittamaan kipeää kohtaa sisälläni. Vasta NYT vuosien ja vuosien jälkeen tiedän sen olleen tuon kahleen lapsuudestani.

Erosin upseerin tehtävästäni, menin naimisiin ja sain kolme ihanaa lasta. Kovin yritin olla laittamatta heille liian jyrkkiä käskyjä ja kieltoja. Lähes koko ajan Olin aktiivinen ensin Pyhäkoulussa, myöhemmin Kotiliiton parissa.. Kunnes pienessä osastossamme tapahtui jotain pahaa upseeriimme liittyen. Se ja avioeroni erotti minuy Armeijasta, enkä sen jälkeen ole ollut aktiivi Armeijassa.

Tunnen maksaneeni kovan hinnan upseerintehtävästäni luopumisesta. Kutsumukseni oli Upseeri, julistaa Sanaa, tehdä se Arneijan riveissä. Hyvin pian nuorena upseerina huomasin muiden arkisten töiden viecän aikaani niin ettei tahtonut löytyä sitä kokouksien valmistelua varten, Pitkälti tämän tähden käänsin selkäni kutsumukselleni.

Kun jälleen asun yksin minulla on ollut aikaa viipyä rukouksessa ja pyytää Jumalaa osoittamaan mikä todella on tuon sisäisen pahoinvoinnin syy.Hän näytti minulle nuo kiellot ja käskyt. Olen pyytänyt saada kokea Kristuksen antaman vapauden sellaisella tavalla jota en aikaisemmin ole kokenut. Olen nojautunut Hänen lupauksiinsa, eikä Hän ole pettänyt. Kahleet ovat katkaistut ja olen vapaa, vapaa kuuntelemaan minne Hän haluaa minut johtaa.Standing

En soimaa vanhempia. Noihin aikaan tapa kasvattaa uskovassa kodissa oli tuollainen. Vanhempani tekivät sen minkä kokivat parhaimmaksi tavaksi. Kiitän heitä siitä, että he opettivat uskomaan Jumalaan, uskomaan rukoukseen.

Nyt tiedän ympärilläni elävän ihmisiä joilla on kahleita. Kahle jolla he yrittävät tehdä uskostaan salonkikelpoista kokouksiin. Kuinka voisin auttaa heitä huomaamaan kuinka Kristus on joka hetken Herra. Kuinka voisin osoittaa heille Kristusta joka katkaisee kahleen joka sitoo elämästä Jeesusta arjessa. Antakoon Jumala minulle viisautta, ei ehkä puhua niin paljon, mutta elää ja kirkastaa Vapahtajaa joka on tehnyt minusta vapaan.

Friday, December 26, 2008

PILGRIMAGE TOWARD INTIMACY

By Joe Stowell

"I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." Psalm 16:2

Several years ago, as I passed the fifty mark on the calendar of my life, I discovered a new and distinct desire to go deeper and pursue God more intentionally than ever before. I had dreamed a lot of dreams and seen many of them materialize. God, for reasons best known to Him, had been abundantly good to me. But after all those years of fast-paced busyness for Him and of conquering frontiers that loomed large in front of me, I found that beyond and under it all I still had a yearning in the core of my being that kept drawing my attention back to God. I had given God my best years and maximized my energies for Him, but busyness had not drawn me closer to Him. I discovered that, in some ways, busyness creates a false and treacherous sense of spirituality that leads to the assumption that spirituality is a performance and that intimacy with God is a business arrangement. It creates a flat and dull sort of Christianity that can begin to turn our hearts cold and even sour if we’re not careful.

I am awakening to the reality that we do ourselves no favors when we act and live as though Christianity were a stage on which we perform as if there were no deep need for an intimate relationship with the One who is the focus of our activity.

I have begun to sense as well that in the abundance of God’s goodness to me, I am prone to lose touch with the reality of how much I need Him. I know I need Him—my problem is that I find it easy to lose touch with the reality and ramifications of that knowledge. Early on in my life and ministry, my sense of need was apparent. I earned less than needed to meet my family’s expenses. Without God’s gracious, over-and-above financial provision, my family would not have made it. We needed Him. My insecurities as a minister and public figure also kept me very much aware of how much I needed Him. Each new church I shepherded challenged my sense of self-sufficiency.

When we forget that we need Him, our Christianity becomes little more than a task maintained by responsibilities and requirements. God really doesn’t need to do much for us. We are pretty well set. While we count on Him for the big things—redemption, bailing us out if life goes in the ditch—we miss the pleasure and wonder of needing Him and being in touch with His presence and power that alone can satisfy, sustain, and secure us as an ongoing experience of life.

While my life has not been without God in some ways, it has been a life that has yet to cultivate the kind of adoring dependency that is required to experience Him most fully and to be most powerfully used of Him.

It’s not that I haven’t felt His touch. I have—in some very special ways. In fact, those periodic brushes with His wonderful reality are part of what drives me to live in the constancy of His touch. And it’s not that I haven’t loved Him. I do. It’s that I stand ready and wanting to know Him in a more personal and intimate way. I am hearing the longing of my soul for more of Him.

I want to go deeper with God. Want to come along?

A former officer’s thoughts…

Total dependency is what we need in order to cultivate a deeper relationship with Him. I think for me this has to be my number one resolution for 2009. I need to depend, not just say it, but do it, act on it, trust Him!

The calendar of my life in 2009 is a new beginning, God has given me one more chance to work out His perfect plan. I have to remain focused, not be distracted, not be taken or diverted from His path as I have done in the past; remain faithful to His leading and all He has in store for my future.

A decade ago I was in a similar position to what I am now, but the difference being I am not the same person! I face the future with certainty that He will 'never leave me nor forsake me'. Through the grace of God 'I am a new creation'; there has been much refining needed and I praise and thank Him for making me who I am today, but I know God hasn't finished with me yet!

God maps out our life; I would love to see the past 20 years and compare my wandering and His perfect plan and see where I strayed and what I've missed because of it!! Deep down I know what I did wrong and consequently, deserved to have missed out! I can't turn back the clock or say 'what if': the past is the past. The present is here and now and all the tomorrows are in His hands, the One who knows our hopes, forms our vision and shapes our dreams. Unique blessings will come my way and yours if we open up to Him and believe…

I yearn “to cultivate the kind of adoring dependency that is required to experience Him more fully and to be powerfully used by Him” in 2009!

Want to come along ?

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!

Former Officer
UK

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

HELP UNWRAP THE GIFT TODAY !

The Sunday Christmas worship service had concluded and we rushed upstairs to our quarters, grabbed our luggage and set off for JFK airport in New York. Nine hours later our family of six landed in a dark and snowy Stockholm, Sweden. It was then into a rented car and a four hour drive north to our little family farm purchased five years earlier. The main house had sat empty for many months so the heating was turned up full and both fireplaces set ablaze.

Family tradition demanded that on Christmas Eve we find a few lonely persons and invite them to join us at the Christmas table. This year was no different, and here it was, mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve, already dark at 3.00pm and bitterly cold. Where might I find some lonely soul to share a meal with us? Last year it was easy, we had 19 homeless persons living with us in our ‘home’. Our quarters was on the building and the homeless lived in the HL room. The year before was a matter of going to Grand Central Station and bringing home a handful of people. In the years before Officership it was inviting one or two of the poor families my children knew from school but this year would be different. (as this is being typed on Dec 23, 2008, a homeless person is sharing tea with Glad in our living room; it’s not our private home, it’s the army’s !)

I returned to the car and brushed off the fast accumulating snow, and with my high beams on began the drive down a lonely snowy and very empty road. I drove through our village and all the doors of the homes were closed tight against the cold. Candles were lit in the windows with wax canisters burning bright to highlight the boundaries of people's driveway. I sensed it was hopeless in this, the world’s most developed country boasting the highest standard of living anywhere to find someone needing an invite to dinner. Yet, I continued my drive and was soon in the country on another deserted road when I spotted a figure leaning into the windblown flurries. I slowed down, stopped and lowered my window to see who it might be. To my surprise it was Sweden’s most celebrated artist, the painter Bengt Engman, a man whose biography I had read just hours ago in the Scandinavian Airline’s in-flight magazine. He peered in the window and wished me ‘GLAD JUL’; ‘Happy Christmas’ in Swedish He was several kilometers from his home, by now a well known landmark and tourist attraction and far from the nearest farm. I asked him where he was headed and he said ‘just out for a stroll’. I thought for certain that he’d have Christmas Eve plans but decided to ask anyway, ‘Are you going anywhere for Christmas Eve dinner tonight?’ He repled that ‘No I’ve not been invited by anyone’. ‘Well you are now’, I said; ‘Get in and let’s go to our home’. He got in and that’s when I noticed he wasn’t wearing any socks, only a pair of shoes now filled with snow. He said he’d like to change into something more proper and asked if we could call at his house. We did so and he returned within minutes now wearing socks and a colorful bow tie. It occurred to me that he’d not been invited to share dinner with anyone because someone as famous as he would probably be dining at the Royal Palace with HRH the King!

On arriving back at the farm, candles were lit and the house aglow with the familiar sights and sounds of Christmas. My wife and four children were thrilled to have such a celebrated person joining us for our Christmas Eve smorgasbord.

After a brief prayer we asked Bengt to tell us a bit about himself. He was in his 50’s now but shared that he had grown up in the village of Vansbro and there, been active in the Corps and enrolled as a Junior Soldier. His love for the Army remained strong throughout the years and the spiritual lessons he learned there remained with him throughout life. Most of his paintings depicted religious scenes including one that hangs in the Corps hall in Vansbro. It depicts a Salvationist entering heaven, and when presented with his robes of white, he asks St. Peter, after removing his tunic, if he might keep his Guernsey on, ‘it’s stained from tears shed at the mercy seat praying with lost souls and also soiled while worn in doing the Master’s work on earth. It’s a symbol of my life’s devotion and I’d like to keep it if I may…” The masthead on the painting reads; ‘WILL THERE BE ANY STARS IN THE CROWN I RECEIVE WHEN ENTERING HEAVEN’S GATE…

Following our meal it was time to exchange presents. In that we never knew in advance who our Christmas guest might be we always purchased generic gifts that would be appropriate for either male or female. Bengt apparently didn’t expect anything at all and was particularly gleeful when he was handed four neatly gift-wrapped presents. He opened them excitedly and shared effusive thanks with us all. He then carefully re-wrapped each present, using the creases already in the wrapping paper and re-tying the ribbons on each. I was confused. Was he intending to return the presents to us? I asked Bengt why he had re-wrapped the presents so carefully. He said it was a family tradition and that the presents would be re-opeened on Christmas day and again re-wrapped. He would repeat the process each day until New Year’s day. He said ‘this way I can relive the excitement of Christmas each day for a full week.'

I thought to myself what an appropriate analogy Bengt’s actions represented. We who know the true reason for Christmas giving ought to take to heart the lesson, opening the gift of God’s love anew each and every day of the year.

There is someone waiting for you to present and unwrap God’s precious gift today. Go ahead; share the excitement! Happy Christmas!

Sven Ljungholm
Former Officer
USA East
SA soldier
Exeter, UK

Saturday, December 20, 2008

ERRONEOUS LEADERSHIP

I served as an officer for 25 years along side my wife who served for 31 years. I am a third generation Salvationist with deep roots in the Army. I lay that foundation to provide a broad frame of reference.

During my service as an officer, I worked diligently to fulfill the mission of the Army I love and thought I would die for. The Army was gracious enough to enable me to obtain a BS and MA degree at their expense. Both those degrees focused on leadership. I sought permission to pursue doctoral studies in Organizational Leadership (I became deeply interested in leadership studies because of the educational experiences) but was denied as I was told officers did not need doctoral degrees in Army ministry (all the while I observed a number of other officers working toward and accomplishing that same goal- The SA paying tuition, books, etc.). I was also told – verbally by a friend who was privy to written correspondence on the matter –I was not leadership material, which was a factor in the decision to deny my request for Army support of a doctoral degree. I am presently working on my dissertation toward an EdD in Organizational Leadership.

Gretchen and I resigned in April of 2008 when I was offered a position to teach at a local university. I am teaching management and leadership courses, a course in faith and worldviews, and personal and business ethics. Many factors contributed to our decision to leave the work, but will reserve for another time, as I choose to discuss the tremendous debauchery of leadership that permeates the Army. Making such a broad statement seems to indict all leadership in the Army, which I realize is an unfair assumption. I do know of some very good and well-meaning leaders in the Army.
However, a leadership culture permeates the Army that is counter productive to Christ’s Kingdom growth and is far afield from a Biblical perspective of leadership. Contemporary leadership theory contends that autocratic self-serving leadership model is out of date and destructive. The vertical top-down model gives way to power struggles and is generally concerned with the personal desires and wishes of a few top leaders. The new models emerging in corporate directing is a lateral leadership structure involving teams and shared leadership to accomplish mission and goals.

1965, Robert Greenleaf proposed a new Servant Leadership model. In recent years, I have heard a number of high profile people in the Army speak of servant leadership. However, the actions of leadership do not match that model. Essentially servant leadership is as Greenleaf suggests, “The servant-leader is servant first…to make sure other people’s highest priority needs are being served…do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants” (from The Servant as Leader). This type of leadership, while not exclusively Biblical, has Scriptural foundation as exemplified in the life of Christ. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…” (Philippians 2:6-7 – see also Matthew 20:26). Perhaps a simpler definition of servant leadership is “Servant leadership is an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader” (Dr. James Laub).

The leadership practices of this contemporary Army, especially in the United States, are quite contrary to the servant leadership model. For an organization highly motivated by service, this provides a huge conundrum. Several experiences in my career supported the premise that the talk about servant leadership by senior officers was merely lip service. One recent conversation with a general secretary confirms that assertion when he stated we must protect our assets. This demonstrated a long time assumption that the organization is more concerned with its own interests relegating the care and concern of its personnel, which is a distinctive premise of servant leadership, to the lowest priority. Essentially, the human resources that are the most valuable asset to any organization are disposable to the Army.

The unfortunate result of an organization that places a high value on positional leadership is self-aggrandizement and disregard for personnel. A warning by the Apostle Paul places this in proper perspective, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” (Romans 12:3 - NIV). The grace of God demonstrates the equality of human beings. Regrettably, man creates a hierarchal structure with a view that some individuals are more important than others creating a caste level culture.

The resulting cultural mindset in the Army implies power is control. The fear in the organization is that advanced degrees in leadership suggest knowledge is power, which creates a knowledge-based organization contrary to an autocratic power and control form of leadership. The more knowledge one gains is a direct threat to current organizational culture opposed to increased knowledge for all members (officers). Clearly, a high degree of practical and spiritual knowledge is intimidating to Army leadership, which often results in threats, unrealistic transfers, and pressure to resign. An officer of lower rank and position is viewed as inexperienced in all areas, even though there may be a high degree of functional and spiritual knowledge. A fallacy exists when the organization views experience or tenure as wisdom.

The Army does not provide realistic and immediate (extrinsic) reward, albeit the intrinsic reward should be the expectation of “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23 - NIV). Therefore, appointment and position are a determined and strived for reward. This creates a deeper leadership issue since many individuals striving for those positions are unqualified in leadership ability. Many leadership lessons learned in the organizational structure are contrary and counterproductive as suggested above. The basis of those leadership lessons come from antiquated models focused on authority, control, and power. Void in those lessons is any specific integration of the Scriptural model of leadership. Early in my officer career, a general secretary acknowledged that spiritual or Biblical considerations are not regarded in Finance Council (Board) meetings. They are merely business meetings viewing business decisions from a secular perspective. Many of the comments on the discussion board support this theory.

My heart says that the leadership culture will remain unchanged in the Army. Change takes courage and a deep trust in our sovereign Lord. It requires a decisiveness that places Christ on the throne and allows His leadership to reign. Change demands an uncompromising commitment to the purpose and plan of God. It requires the organization to surrender to the authority and leadership of God.

My sense is many of us 'formers' captured the need to be released from a leadership culture that increasingly ignores the supremacy of Christ is all areas of Army tradition. A freedom exists now for me, and clearly in many of those writing for and in this fellowship, allowing God to use all the gifts, abilities, talents, desires, passion, and skill He designed in me.

Randy Savage
Former Officer
USA

Friday, December 19, 2008

ADVENT IN SOUTHERN CAL.

Advent: The Heart of the Christian Tradition

Sunday, November 30, 2008
by ELENA GRAY-BLANC

Most secular holidays are limited to one day only — or if we’re lucky, we get an entire weekend. But religious holidays, on the other hand, are often days or even weeks long: the 40 days of Lent, the month of Ramadan, or the eight days of Hanukkah are all examples.

In the United States, the more secular observances of Christmas take two days: one for Christmas Eve, and one for Christmas Day. But Christmas is actually a more extended holiday in religious observance: the Season of Advent. Today, November 30, is the First Sunday of Advent, the day on which Christian worshippers all over the world will begin a month-long contemplation of what the birth of Christ means in their lives, and what the anticipated Second Advent (or second coming of Christ) will mean to their futures.

While it’s hardly groundbreaking to comment that Christianity is at base a break-off sect of Judaism — with the Jewish Torah incorporated more or less intact into Christian worship as the Old Testament of the Bible — it’s important to keep that fact in mind when considering the celebration of the Season of Advent. Half of the meaning of Advent is the anticipated return of Christ, but the other half is a remembrance of the early Jews, and their long wait for the promised Messiah. An interesting contradiction within the meaning of Advent arises when one considers that Jews who remained Jews after the birth of Christ did not, by definition, recognize him as a Messiah — hence, Advent remembers the patience of a group of people who still don’t believe that their patience has been rewarded.

Advent is, therefore, a fascinating example of the way in which Jews and Christians — who share so much in terms of philosophical and moral tradition — were irrevocably split into two completely separate religious groups by the birth of one man, 2,000 years ago. This puts Advent into a social, rather than a spiritual, context, but it also illustrates how powerful the idea of Christ must be, to exert so much influence after so long a time.

And that power is at the heart of the Christian celebration of the Season of Advent, which is in turn at the heart of what sets Christianity apart from other major religions. The recognition of Christ as the Messiah is the unique, inescapable definition of Christian belief — and the belief that Christ will come again makes Advent the time of anticipation and hope that it is for Christian worshippers.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's Pick for Invocation Under Fire

ASSOCIATED PRESS
(Dec. 18) - In a move that's infuriated some rights activists and other supporters, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen an evangelical minister opposed to same-sex marriage to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
The controversy over the selection of Pastor Rick Warren, reported by Politico.com, threatens to put something of a damper on the inauguration festivities. Warren is the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, and he supported a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Liberal groups and gay rights activists have expressed outrage over President-elect Barack Obama's decision to have Rick Warren, a popular evangelical minister, deliver the invocation at Obama's inauguration Jan. 20. Here, Obama appears with Warren on Aug. 16 at the pastor's Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, Calif.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Of Whom Then Shall I Be Afraid ?! My Shepherd? (PART TWO)

-part two-

This went on for some time, with everything short of allegations made. In the end, my Regional Commander informed me that London had decided to “forgive me”.
Maybe they finally understood that with banks going belly up left and right, inflation running at 20-30% a month, doling out small bundles of Rubles here and there in aid, and paying bribes to goverrnment officials just to be allowed to operate wasn't real conducive to keeping the Army's "books". It was not as though one was stationed at Regent Hall, in London or N.Y.'s Temple Corps with ready assistance a phone call away, or inviting a fellow officer to stay behind the Sunday meeting for a few minutes.

Whether it was pride or just a sense of righteous indignation, I disdainfully accepted this “forgiveness” after repeatedly showing the Finance Board that all my accounting (bookkeeping) records were correct. I couldn’t help but think that a couple of hundred bucks could not be worth this kind of time and worry, although I do believe we should be good stewards and all that.

And also Commander, what the heck about all the times I asked for help?!!? As my mama would say, it seemed like I was talking to a wall.

Here is where the story takes the typical turn toward the “relationship” plot. I was involved with someone back in the states, in the Army, but not yet an officer. She was going to be and the 'march' through the SFOT gates was imminent. I told everyone in leadership, those who needed to know, that we were 'involved'. As that was happening, I was becoming more and more overwhelmed.

Either I couldn’t be re-assigned or wouldn’t be, but it seemed more and more that my requests were falling on deaf ears. The intensity of the situation was increasing and was exacerbated by the absurd financial situation and allegations, which still ticked me off.

I wanted to stay in the Army and wanted to be with this girl I was seeing. She and I discussed, trans-globally, me being transferred back to the States to pursue our relationship. When I asked command about it, they referred it to London and I was flatly refused. I got a telephone call from the USA Eastern Territory personnel secretary (I forget what it is called) and lamented to him about my situation. He said he would talk to London and see about working things out. He called back a few days later and said that they weren’t budging. I said that I was at the point that I would come back anyway, regardless if I had an assignment waiting for me or not. Then he said something which I will never forget and also was not the straw, but the barn full of hay which broke the proverbial camel’s back. He said that if I were to come back, the girl would probably not be able to see me; would be stationed away from where I was, etc. Basically, the Army would do what they could to keep us apart. He also mentioned that I really didn’t have anything else I could do. I wasn’t independently wealthy (I was independently impoverished) and had no real vocation to fall back on. I was basically being coerced, manipulated, or as they say where I come from: trapped. Due to the way I was raised and a fiercely independent (albeit impoverished) spirit, I immediately decided to leave the SA and never come back. I entrusted myself to an institution, which was a huge mistake and then knew that as was true for all of my life, I would have to sacrifice and make sure I was okay because no one or no church was to have that responsibility.

God had given me enough smarts and ability to make my way in the world and I grew up poor and wasn’t afraid of it so I ventured out, came back to the States, found a job, lived weeks on end on canned spaghetti, got a better job, etc.

I have never regretted taking the step to leave the Army; I vividly remember knowing, after much prayer, that God would bless me either way. I do still have a real sense of loss in leaving Russia, though. I still have dreams that I’ve gone back and for the longest time I would wake up in America filled with regret that I left the place which was more like home than any other place I’d been. All in all, the entire experience helped make me the person I am for better and for worse, I suppose. I would not change becoming an officer and going to Russia although I would change decisions I made (I think this is called the learning process) and am blessed to have met such unbelievably gifted, funny, beautiful, and great people along the way.

Things I’ve learned being an officer in Russia, in no particular order:
1. Cannot take myself too seriously, or at all. Hardly anything I was concerned about really mattered.
2. I control very little in life, especially other peoples’ decision making processes.
3. Russians have a magic ability to make you believe ANY lie.
4. Curse words in a different language are more funny than they are offensive to one’s soul (but probably the opposite to people around you)
5. God is infinitely more gracious than most of us who claim that same grace…go figure.
6. God has no political affiliation (despite those socialists in the book of Acts)
7. Christianity and religion in general has societal, traditional, and cultural influence ad nauseam which have nothing to do with God.
8. That whole vodka stereotype is true, but in the way you may think.

Scott Colombo
Former officer
USA East

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Of Whom Then Shall I Be Afraid ?! My Shepherd? (PART ONE)

I've been reticent to write up something for this blog. Mostly because I didn't think that I really had an intriguing and compelling story. Well, I've since been inspired and here goes a boring and insipid blogo-missive....

Background: My Gram was Jewish and my Mom was raised Catholic (Granddad was Catholic, I'm guessing). Most of the family was Italian except Granddad whom hailed from Eastern Europe somewhere (pick a date and search for a moved border). That combination left me and my recalcitrant siblings being raised officially "nothing". We were told God loved us and went to an occasional VBS (sort of like PBS but with the Bible...not really, it was vacation bible school). So.....................

First Army Exposure: After setting out on my own at the ripe age of 16 (my dotage, it turns out), a teacher at my high school got me a job at Star Lake Camp in New Jersey, run by the Salvation Army (he told me it was a basketball camp and then denied ever saying that, just a long list of lies I’ve had to deal with.☺). I guess it was a combination of my rearing and the influence of strong evangelizing Christians which planted the seed for me to turn to Christ in my subsequent university years. I’ll never forget um, “feeling” or “sensing” or whatever it was that made me realize God’s presence from that day up to and including, let me check, yep…this very moment. It was the year after that I became a soldier at the Canandaigua Corps located in the town where I was attending university. At that very time, the corps officer had me fill out a form to do missions work overseas (summer service corps or something like that). For some reason I was accepted, packaged in a tunic, and sent via air freight for the summer to Moscow, Russia.

I remember meeting Captain Ljungholm just before we left for Russia; he was ebullient and verbose; a true laugh a minute…no wait, that was me. Just kidding Dr. L, you I got nothing but love for you.

Okay, so that summer was incredible. It had been less than a year since the Soviet Union was officially dissolved and so much was happening all around. I was such a rookie but we were under the incomparable leadership skills of Capts. Sven and Kathie Ljungholm. I would use this perception consciously many times in the future, blatantly and shamelessly plagiarizing their technique as I lacked any myself; it worked for the most part.

After that summer I was visiting a friend in Sydney, Australia and attended a Salvation Army congress there. It became clear that service as an officer was something I believe God was leading me to. Upon my return, my CO in Montclair, some guy named Tillsley-something-or-other talked with me and put events into motion. I was accepted into SFOT in autumn of 93 (1993, whipper-snappers) after spending summer under the further auspices of the late and magnificently great Al and Normajean Honsberger.

SFOT was cool. Again, I was raw and not exactly orthodox Salvation Army stock so I had a lot to learn and spurn…my mates were simply fabulous and I remember each of them with great fondness. Most of us were restless, waiting for the opportunity to get out and work in the harvest fields. I felt a strong calling to Russia and spent my summer assignment in Moscow and Volgograd. My “feeling” (the word is woefully inaccurate and misleading, but I lack proper English education) was confirmed upon graduating as I was assigned to the Russian command with an appointment to Volgograd. After sojourning most of the summer I made it to Russia on the first day of winter (sometime in late September it turns out).

I was to 'open fire'; a new corps in the Soviet district (that’s how they name parts of cities) in south Volgograd. We had a soup kitchen set up already, with a budget and everything. (Captains Sven and Kathie Ljungholm were the first salvationists to visit there in conjunction with his work with the more than 200 HIV positive toddlers in 1992-94)

My intent was to minister, to help, and to be used by God in service as an officer. I had no idea what I would doing, frankly, and put a lot of pressure on myself to do it… what I perceived more than anything was that God was working on me personally, developing me, shaping me, getting rid of a LOT of ridiculous ideas I had about Him and what it meant to follow Him. Russia was a crucible used by God to do this. I don’t think another place would have been so maddeningly frustrating and beautifully captivating conterminously as Russia was for me. On one hand, I felt more at home in Russia and more “myself” than anywhere before or since. To that extent, Russia lives within me in profound ways.

I would say that despite myself, a corps got started and began to flourish in our ministry (soup kitchen, train station feeding programme, which consisted of huge thermoses with soup in the trunk of my Zhiguli car, very similar to this thing, Bible study, Corps Cadets, worship services, and other stuff, I think...

One of the good things about serving in Russia was that there weren’t very many SA leaders in place yet, and a corps officer, me, 1000 kilometres from Moscow wasn’t exactly micromanaged. Conversely, one of the bad things was that I was 1,000 kilometres from Moscow and really struggling. I needed pastoral care and needed someone to tell me that I was doing a horrible job and should instead do this: _____________ or say, okay, things are going well; thank God and move forward. I actively petitioned for this and probably because of the shortage of people, really never got an adequate response as my anxiety and doubt built up. I really thought I was over my head (which I probably was) and wanted to assist at a Corps to steal more ideas and claim them as my own, but nothing happened. It didn’t really bother me until an audit was done on the finances of Volgograd and the budget I inherited was off by a couple of hundred dollars (I promise I wasn’t trying to be all things to all men by spending it at Russian discos and casinos, honest). But, that seemed to get a huge amount of attention from Moscow and London; disproportionately, in my mind, than the “care” of one of their alleged shepherds. So, as they say in some parts, that stuck in my craw.

Scott (David) Colombo
Former Officer
USA East

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Calling - Your Calling - Our CALLING (part -2-)

This is the coward’s way out. And living a life of example? Sharing a kind word or hug? Hello, I hope so. Even the unsaved do that. I’m talking about really witnessing. Seriously, let’s get down to business, witnessing.

Really, what the Army is all about and why we belong witnessing. I’m talking about revival and renewal. Words we use but don’t see in action. I’m talking about seeing people (and excuse me Carmen) radically saved. As a business major I have to save the cost/benefit is poor. Buildings, utilities, instruments, uniforms, staff, DHQ, THQ, NHQ...we have become a monolith unto ourselves. Not to say none of those things are necessary. Only to say perhaps we should realize our maintenance exceeds our purpose, at least for now !

RESULTS OF MY RECENT SURVEY - QUESTIONAIRE

My sampling was small but the results follow.

Former Salvationist, non officer - I witnessed (or tried to) with a lady at work last Dec or Jan...she's Jewish, and her son and brother both had cancer. Anyway, as I spoke with her, I learned she converted from Christianity to Judaism! (So what do you say to that??)

Actually, it seems that when one starts talking about religion or spiritual things at work, a lot of people are Christians, and are supportive & receptive. A lot of times we're talking about someone dying, or death, and it leads to a more spiritual conversation.

M’s nephew, J, has been living with us since Aug. He came down to help M with his work. This young man was raised with no moral or spiritual foundation whatsoever. So M and I have both witnessed to him, and M is now having a Bible study with him. But like M C used to say, "yardline by yardline."

I've also witnessed to a casual acquaintance I know from S. I wrote something to her via email, and she was receptive.
M witnessed to a truck driver several months ago. Kinda gave him the basic gospel message. Then when he met him a couple months later, the guy was attending church and carrying the Bible. So while M didn't lead him to Christ, there was definitely a seed that was planted, watered and grew!

Former Salvationist, non officer - no reply.

Current Salvationist, TSA employee, former officer - I was so honored about 3 months ago to lead one of my employees to Christ at A’s.

Current Salvationist, TSA employee, former officer - Led to Christ ... last April, Helped someone make a decision to actually walk the talk and start working on growth - a few weeks ago.

Witness outside the SA or Family ... I like to think in small ways often ...

Overtly to a waitress at A's not all that long ago; maybe 3 month, and in less overt ways and more a testimony to the life and joy in me - in the way I treat fellow employees (most not SA) and the very few people I see outside of work and the corps daily ... of course there are also the times I really fail at that - mostly when I am driving!

Current Salvationist, active officer – no reply.

Current Salvationist, active officer – no reply.

Current Salvationist, active officer - You have to know that The Army is my life and while I do talk to people outside of "The Army" all the time, I can't say that I've led someone to Christ outside of Army circles.

Of course, we never know what a kind word or a hug or our example will do for someone, only God knows the outcome.

Current Salvationist, active officer - Her name is J....she was our waitress at a place we ate. Still discipling her.

Current Salvationist, active officer – Hey! I was able to lead a few people to Christ in A, but that would be considered inside the Army. It's funny...C and I set a goal of trying to develop relationships with our neighbors to share Christ with them...but before we got past "hello...my name is..." they both moved! We got new neighbors on both sides, and then WE moved!

I'm proud of K, though. (our youngest...she's 15) She's the real witness in the family. She's made new friends here and openly shares her faith with them!.

Current Salvationist, TSA employee, non officer: Interesting question. If you mean when is the last time I specifically prayed the sinner's prayer with someone and they gave their life to Christ for the first time, then I have to say I don't know that I've ever had that experience with an adult. My ministry over the years has pretty much been with children and teens, although I have been leading a women's Bible Study for the last 2 years.

I do have many opportunities to pray with co-workers, but mostly that is when they are going through trials. Most of them have already made a profession of faith.

I'm currently doing a Bible study on the book of Acts and have been reading about the excitement and enthusiasm of the early church which lead to the gospel quickly spreading. It has certainly given me much food for thought

Former OfficeEmail contact supplied on request.

Monday, December 8, 2008

OUR FIRST AND FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS STORY...

The only staff we had in our first appointment small corps was a secretary who had faithfully served in that position for almost thirty years. The day of our Christmas toy shop our secretary handled the client check-in and my husband and I did all the “footwork”. At the end of that very long demanding, tiring day we began the chore of cleaning up in order that the building would be pristine and ready for Sunday School and church service the next day. My husband was taking the last box of toys to the attic for storage until next year when we saw car lights slowly coming down the driveway. It was a family that had not signed up for the annual toy and food give-a-way because they had not had any need for army assistance. The doctor's visit they had made earlier that day changed everything !

At a doctor appointment for their youngest of three children that afternoon they were told their daughter would need very expensive orthopedic shoes and the sooner the better or the corrections to her gait may be prolonged and become ever more difficult.They came to us not to ask for toys, but for help with this unexpected and costly expense.

As we listened to their story my husband and I knew there was not much we could do for them or anyone for that matter in need of extraordinary costly medical care. Our hearts naturally went out to them, but being a small corps with limited funds the most we could do for them at that moment was to offer them a bag of groceries. As we sought for words to make the news a bit less disappointing to them we spied another car's headlight's arch coming down the driveway. It was a husband and wife coming to ask if we knew of a family they could help for Christmas. Although they were members of another church, the Lord had laid a burden on their hearts and they got in their car and drove straight to The SA, not knowing if anyone would even be there so late on an early Saturday evening.

We decided to introduce the families to each other and prayed for the Lord to intervene. The newly arrived couple met with the family and immediately gave assurance that they would help with their current medical expenses.

But that is not the end of the story…

Six months later our secretary retired after many years of service to The Salvation Army. We reviewed all the applications for her replacement and one seemed to be particularly well qualified. We invited her in for an interview. She offered the position but it was only some time after she had started working as our new secretary that we realized who she was. You see, on that Saturday before Christmas six months earlier when the husband and wife with a burden to serve God by helping others, never identified themselves. And we'd had no reason to ask their names. The fact that my husband picked that kind hearted lady's application out of all the others was purely a “divine appointment”.

Roberta (Verner) Sandy
Former
USA South

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Yep, it's music and lights and trees. It's wreaths and Chrismons* and eggnog. It's cookies and parties and friends and family and lists and baking and shopping and wrapping and cards and pictures. It's pine candles and incense. They carry frankinsence and myrhh at my local health food market. How cool is that? !

(*Chrismons™ are handmade Christmas tree ornaments with various symbols of Christianity. The name Chrismon™ comes from a combination of CHRISt and MONogram)

It is about all things spiritual and all things secular.

Where does this all lead? For me, it leads to Advent; year after year. Somehow always the same and yet different each time. It oddly draws me to great lengths of time in self introspection and contemplation. Don't get me wrong. This isn't all about Jesus. Or God. Or even religion. In fact, it's mostly about questioning all those things as it leads me past Christmas and on to New Years.

Don't write me off as heretical yet because it is truly my time of searching; ever again, each year. In a way it prepares me for New Years and New Year's Eve.

Long, long ago, during the officership years, I heard a sermon or teaching (don't remember exactly) by someone (don't remember that either) but I do remember this. Luke 2:53 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man. Whomever it was lecturing talked about how this verse was an example for us to grow in the same ways. I took that as my verse then and there and each year during Advent I've set 'goals' to grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. Those goals have served me well through the years past.

1) Wisdom has gotten me through college as an older, non-traditional student. It has pushed me to try ballet and tap dancing, Greek cooking, new authors and topics, and kayaking among other things. It's allowed me to learn that I am not 'one with the clay' when I tried pottery. And that I'm a klutz when I tried juggling. It's been reading and watching film and theater that pushed me to think outside of my usual areas of enjoyment. It has brought new friends, some for life, some more fleeting. It has been a veritable encyclopedia of new experiences. Oft experiences I shall not undertake again but many that have become standard parts of life for years now. None, though, looked back on with regret.

2) Stature can be a stumper since I'm not moved to physical activity by design. Those steps at Devil's Millhopper still call my name. Sometimes it's more time on the bike paths. Maybe a year of vegetarianism. Or avoiding sugar or fries. Twice it was new knees. I’ve tried bowling and running and weight machines. And stair steppers and Jazzercise. There have been better and worse years for hitting the gym regularly. Better and worse years for hanging in there working on stature. Ever trying to remember the body is a temple. This year – golf.

3) In favor with God, wow, what a long list from which to select. More prayer, fasting, meditation, memorization? Reading old favorites and finding new ones. Being aware of opportunities to counsel and witness to those so far away from my beliefs I wonder how they made it my life at all. Learning to be quiet. That's tough for me. By nature I'm outgoing so quieting is tough for me. The mountains or woods or river help me considerably. And weddings. What an honor that my friends allow me to be the celebrant of their commitments. We come together with a mutual respect for each other though having vastly differing backgrounds. When spiritual matters prevail, spirit prevails.

4) And finally, in favor with man. There were times when I felt like my few years of officership were all the favor with man I ever needed to curry. It was like my time had been banked and now I could withdraw from the balance on hand. For better or worse, I got over it. There have been adventures into service with Florida Trail Association, Gainesville Area AIDS Network, Business and Professional Women, American Business Womens Association, Zonta, churches and others long lost in memory. For some it was fundraising for community needs, for others time as President and other board positions. Choirs? Done it. Children? Done it. Currently I manage websites and produce newsletters for two local groups. Service comes where is comes. I stay open.

So there you have it; my recipe for growing into Christ-like-ness. Not that I’ll ever be 'complete' this side of heaven, but the discipline of each year is recorded where I see it daily and the effort has always been worth it. Because of it I am more loving, more accepting, and more fun. I grow closer to God and closer to man (in service anyway) and my wisdom and stature have definitely increased.

Yes, it is the MOST wonderful time of the year. How does your check list look ?

Deborah Taube
Former Officer
USA South