Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Here Comes Lent - Part Two -

They agreed and an interesting project began. Young and old alike would come running in about 5:30 in the afternoon with stories of SEVERE hunger. One would tell me her dad had carbo loaded on an enormous bowl of cereal right before the midnight hour. A teenager called to say she had a potato chip in her mouth before she even realized what she had done. My phone rang all day long with questions galore. Did diet pop count? Did gum? Juice? Or could they only have water. What about just a little something if they were really, really hungry? Could we hurry up the praying? Honest, I’ll die if I don’t get something to eat RIGHT NOW. Hyperbole reigned.

The first few weeks were trial and error. I explained that last minute carbo loading and gum and juice were all choices they would make on their own; only they could determine for themselves what constituted a fast in their own lives. Some weeks were more successful than others as they navigated the territory of hunger. The penny counting grew to substantial checks not based on saved food money but on the realization that hunger hurt.

The favorite corps cook contributed the fast breaking meal as her donation and we ate light but well with lots of fruit and other healthy items. Then we went about the business of our lives until Sunday morning and again on Wednesday evening but the concept of self denial became real and an understanding of the world beyond the walls of this beautiful little corps changed lives forever; both ours and our young man in Haiti. Rosemarie Hafeli kept us updated on the progress of our new friend via letters and pictures.

Easter morning arrived in all its splendid glory. As they had for years they loaded our organ onto the thrift store truck to haul it over to the sunrise service on the inter-coastal. Colonel Fred Smith spoke to the local crowd that assembled. Back we went with our truck and organ for a grand breakfast and with that Lent ended.

But, and this is a big but, self denial did not. That dedicated soldiery decided to continue to fast from Tuesday midnight until Wednesday prayer time; to continue to send money until their student. I moved onto other appointments (and had the chance to visit Haiti, the Fond des Negres school, and Rosemarie) but they stayed loyal to their decision until he became a young man and graduated. Then they went a step further with a decision to continue his support through teacher training.

God blesses every one of those soldiers daily because of what they did. He blesses them through young man in Haiti who now teaches others because they were willing to listen to a young Lieutenant with an Episcopalian heritage and a restrictive idea of self denial.

Deb Taube
Former
USA SOUTH

Here Comes Lent - Part One -

Having grown up Episcopalian the Lenten season was a quite a deal in our house. My earliest memories were of deciding what I would give up all week long. I learned quickly that Sunday, being a day of celebration, was a free day that superseded all fasts. The usual ‘give up’ in our house was sweets. We each had a tin cookie container that we would stash our treats in all week long. A lollipop here, a cupcake there, and a piece of gum or two added up to a little gold mine by Sunday afternoon. After church and dinner it was a rush to the couch with the long awaited for treasures.

As I got older and worked in my Dad’s fast food place French fries were my ‘drug’ of choice. In solidarity with my Catholic, Episcopalian, and other like-minded colleagues we stood strong against the ever leering potato as we scrubbed, peeled, rinsed, and blanched. It was six long weeks of temptation but we emerged, for the most part, victorious. By this time I had grown out of my childhood understanding of ’giving up’ and realized that what mattered was the discipline and prayer that came from the observance.

When I first came to the Army self denial was mostly the Sunday School penny march. Somewhere along the line the name was changed to World Services. I suppose that made sense since that was what the money supported but I think we lost something as well in that change. Personally I continued to observe Lent as I had since my childhood.

My first appointment from training was June to January so they escaped my Lenten practices but when I arrived in Lake Worth the tide began to turn. The first year snuck up on me a little too quickly after arrival but by year two a plan had hatched in my brain. And so began our communal journey of the rediscovery of self denial.

Lake Worth is a typical small corps with a nucleus of regular supporters and semi-regular attendees. That nucleus group rocked. Though their depth and width of their spiritual journeys were varied they were pretty much united in most schemes I tossed their way. For that I will be forever thankful. During a Wednesday evening prayer time I proposed we consider observing Lent in a traditional sense. They were willing to listen. I explained my plan.

SA HAITI
Part one, we would fast from midnight on Tuesday until we met to pray on Wednesday evening. After we prayed we would share a meal together to break the fast.

Part two, each person would determine the amount of money they had saved on food that day for their offering.

Part three, the money would be used to support a student at the Army school in Fond des Negres, Haiti where a day without food was a lifestyle instead of a choice.



Deb Taube
Former
USA South

Sunday, March 22, 2009

THE CROSSBEAM -2-

The one outlaw hears all this and lifts his faint head to look at the man from whose lips these tender words came. And when his eyes meet the Savior's, for a moment all time stands still. In those eyes he sees no hatred, no scorn, no judgment. He sees only one thing--forgiveness. Then he knows. He is face to face with a dying God. That thief didn't know much theology. He only knew three things:

1. That Jesus was a king.
2. That his kingdom was not of this world.
3. And that this king had the power to bring even the most unworthy into his kingdom.

But that was enough. And, in an intimate moment with the Savior, a lifetime of moral debt is cancelled.

Incredible, when you think of it. Amidst the humiliating abuse of the crowd and the excruciating pain of the cross, Jesus was still about his Father's business. Even with his eyes sinkingon the feverish horizon of death, he was telling a common thief about the uncommon riches of heaven.

During this time of Lent I pray that Jesus would help me look at him through the eyes of that thief on the cross. And grant me the grace to see in his eyes the forgiveness that he saw.

For, I too, have stolen much. When I have gossiped, I have taken from another's reputation, and in the process, robbed from my own. When I have raised my voice in anger, I have taken something away from peace. When I have aided and abetted immoral thoughts, I have stolen from another's dignity, depreciating that person from a sacred object of his love to a common object of my own lust. When I have hurt someone's feelings, I have taken something from that person's self-worth--something which might never be replaced, something for which I might never be able to make restitution. When I have spoken the truth, but not in love, I have stolen from his kingdom by pushing a soul, not closer, but farther away from the borders of paradise.

Remember me, O King, a common thief. I stand before you naked in the shame of a squandered life--and I ask you to clothe me. I stand before you with a gnawing hunger in my soul--and I ask you to feed me. I stand before you thirsting for forgiveness--and I ask you to touch but a drop of your tender mercies to my parched lips.

May he grant me the grace to live such a life that when he does remember me in his kingdom, he may remember me with a smile, and look forward to the day when I, too, will be with him in paradise. . . .

Andre L. Burton
Former, USA East
Greater New York

Saturday, March 21, 2009

THE CROSSBEAM; Where love and justice merge... -1-

Scripture Luke 23: 32-43

The cross stands like a set of scales silhouetted against the Jerusalem sky. Its upraised stanchion balances a crossbeam where love and justice meet, where all humanity has been weighed--and found wanting.

There Jesus hangs with outstretched arms, aching for a prodigal world's return.

On either side hang two thieves, teetering between life and death, between heaven and hell. Teetering until one, at last, reaches out in faith, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."

It is the last kind word said to Jesus before he dies, spoken not by a religious leader, nor by the disciple whom he loved, nor even by his mother standing at his feet, but by a common thief.

And with the words, "Today you will be with me in paradise," that thief is lifted off those weighted scales and into the waiting arms of the Savior.

We know nothing about that criminal on the cross next to Christ. We don't know how much he stole or how often. From whom or why. We know only that he was a thief--a wayward son over whom some mother's heart has been broken; over whom some father's hopes have been dashed.

But we know one other thing...from Matthew's account, we know that he joined with the crowd in mocking Jesus:(Matthew 27:42-44) "He saved others, but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' "

In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. "In the same way the robbers"--plural. they both joined in the sneering and taunting.

Question: What happened to change that one thief's heart--to give him the heroism to stand up for Jesus and the humility to submit to him?

Answer: He hears at arm's distance what Peter hears from afar and would write about years later:
"When they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23).

In the midst of the spears of abuse thrust into Jesus' side, this thief hears him appeal to a court higher than Caesar's. The appeal is not for justice but for mercy. And not mercy for himself but for his accusers. The spears are sharp and relentless, but Jesus does not throw them back. He bears them in his heart.

Andre L. Burton
Former, USA East
Greater New York Division

Friday, March 20, 2009

CLING TO HIM

Love the Lord your God, . . . obey His voice, and . . . cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days. —Deuteronomy 30:20

These words were given me this morning and prompted my writing. So often we hope our lives will change through a giant leap of faith, a profound decision, or a significant act of service. In reality, the only way we can change is one step at a time and every step counts!

I am in a period of transition and coming to terms with the loss of one ministry and moving on into another. It is a time of reflection in which I am thanking God for what is past as I move on into the present and trust him for all that’s to come. Through this time of change I am taking one step at a time as I know how every step counts.

Upon reflection, I think back to where I was 21 months ago, going through another period of transition as my marriage came to a painful end. I thank and praise God for this blog where many have supported me through their painful experiences and as I have walked with them they too have journeyed with me – Thank you.

I want to thank Sven personally, for his innovative idea of commencing such a place of refuge where freedom is given to personally express our experiences as ‘formersofficers’, and also encourage one another in the faith. This site is unique and long may it continue with the blessing of those within our ranks, with the spirit of why it was initiated and with the focus of always honouring God.

I have of today, the 17th March, 2009, only 8 days left as a ‘former’, I will still be a frequent visitor if I may and will continue to encourage and pray for you all.

Many blessings,

Tracey Oliver
In transition from ‘Former to active’
UKT

Monday, March 16, 2009

THE CROSS OF CHRIST -3-

More perplexing than these examples from the life of individuals, family and church is the administration of justice by the state. Can God's revelation in the cross be applied to this area too? More particularly, may the state use force, or would this be incompatible with the cross? Of course the cross was itself a conspicuous act of violence by the authorities, involving a gross violation of justice and a brutal execution. Yet it was an equally conspicuous act of non-violence by Jesus, who allowed himself to be unjustly condemned, tortured and executed without resistance, let alone retaliation. Moreover, his behaviour is set forth in the New Testament as the model of ours: `if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps' (1 Pet. 2:20-21). Yet this text provokes many questions. Does the cross commit us to a non-violent accept-ance of all violence? Does it invalidate the process of criminal justice and the so-called `just war'? Does it prohibit the use of every kind of force, so that it would be incompatible for a Christian to be a soldier, policeman, magistrate or prison officer?

Christian attitudes to evil

The best way to seek answers to these questions is to look carefully at the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of Paul's letter to the Romans. They are part of the apostle's plea to his Christian readers to respond adequately to `the mercies of God'. For eleven chapters he has been unfolding God's mercy both in giving his Son to die for us and in bestowing on us the full salvation he thus obtained for us. How should we respond to the divine mercy? We are (1) to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, and with renewed minds to discern and to do his will (12:1-2); (2) to think of ourselves with sober judgment, neither flattering nor despising ourselves (v. 3); (3) to love each other, using our gifts to serve each other, and living together in harmony and humility (vv. 4-13, 15-16); and (4) we are to bless our persecutors and do good to our enemies (vv. 14, 17-21). In other words, when the mercies of God lay hold of us, all our relationships are radically transformed: we obey God, understand ourselves, love one another and serve our enemies.

It is the fourth of these relationships which particularly concerns us now. The opposition of unbelievers is assumed. The stumbling-block of the cross (which offers salvation as a free and unmerited gift), the love and purity of Jesus (which shame human selfishness), the priority commands to love God and neighbour (which leave no room for self-love) and the call to take up our cross (which is too threatening) - these things arouse opposition to us because they arouse opposition to our Lord and his gospel. This, then, is the background to our study of Romans 12. There are people who `persecute' us (v. 14), who do `evil' to us (v. 17), who may even be described as our `enemies' (v. 20). How should we react to our persecutors and enemies? What do the mercies of God require of us? How should the cross, in which God's mercy shines at its brightest, affect our conduct? Specially instructive, in the following section of Romans 12 and 13, are Paul's four references to good and evil:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good ...
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: `It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary:
`If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this; you will heap burning coals on his head.'
Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good.
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour (Rom. 12:9, 14 - 13:7).

This passage seems to be a self-conscious meditation on the theme of good and evil. Here are the apostle's four allusions to them:
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good (12:9).
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody (12:17).
Do not be overcome by evil; but overcome evil with good (12:21).
He is God's servant to do you good ... He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the evildoer (13:4).

In particular, these verses define what our Christian attitude to evil should be.

JOHN H. W. STOTT
LONDON

THE CROSS OF CHRIST -2-

What form might the cost take? Often it will begin with sustained, painstaking listening to both sides, the distress of witnessing the mutual bitterness and recriminations, the struggle to sympathize with each position, and the effort to understand the misunderstandings which have caused the communication break-down. Honest listening may uncover unsuspected faults, which will in their turn necessitate their acknowledgment, without resorting to face-saving subterfuges. If we are ourselves to blame, there will be the humiliation of apologizing, the deeper humiliation of making restitution where this is possible, and the deepest humiliation of all, which is to confess that the wounds we have caused will take time to heal and cannot light-heartedly be forgotten. If, on the other hand, the wrong has not been done by us, then we may have to bear the embarrassment of reproving or rebuking the other person, and thereby risk forfeiting his or her friendship. Although the followers of Jesus never have the right to refuse forgiveness, let alone to take revenge, we are not permitted to cheapen forgiveness by offering it prematurely when there has been no repentance. `If your brother sins,' Jesus said, `rebuke him', and only then `if he repents, forgive him' (Lk. 17:3).

The incentive to peace-making is love, but it degenerates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are both costly exercises. All authentic Christian peace-making exhibits the love and justice - and so the pain - of the cross.

Turning from social relationships in general to family life in particular, Christian parents will want their attitude to their chil-dren to be marked by the cross. Love is the indispensable atmos-phere within which children grow into emotional maturity. Yet this is not the soft, unprincipled love which spoils the children, but the `holy love' which seeks their highest welfare, whatever the cost. Indeed, since the very concept of human fatherhood is derived from the eternal fatherhood of God (Eph. 3:14-15), Christian parents will naturally model their love on his. Consequently, true parental love does not eliminate discipline, since `the Lord disciplines those whom he loves'. Indeed, it is when God disciplines us that he is treating us as his sons and daughters. If he did not discipline us, it might show us to be his illegitimate, not his authentic, children (Heb. 12:5-8). Genuine love gets angry too, being hostile to everything in the children which is inimical to their highest good. Justice without mercy is too strict, and mercy without justice too lenient. Besides, children know this instinctively. They have an inborn sense of both. If they have done something which they know is wrong, they also know that they deserve punishment, and they both expect and want to receive it. They also know at once if the punishment is being administered either without love or contrary to justice. The two most poignant cries of a child are `Nobody loves me' and `It isn't fair'. Their sense of love and justice comes from God, who made them in his image, and who revealed himself as holy love at the cross.

The same principle applies to the church family as to the human family. Both kinds of family need discipline, and for the same reason. Yet nowadays church discipline is rare, and where it does take place, it is often administered clumsily. Churches tend to oscillate between the extreme severity which excommunicates members for the most trivial offences and the extreme laxity which never even remonstrates with offenders. Yet the New Testament gives clear instructions about discipline, on the one hand its necessity for the sake of the church's holiness, and on the other its constructive purpose, namely, if possible, to `win over' and `restore' the offending member. Jesus himself made it abundantly plain that the object of discipline was not to humiliate, let alone to alienate, the person concerned, but rather to reclaim him. He laid down a procedure which would develop by stages. Stage one is a private, one-to-one confrontation with the offender, `just between the two of you', during which, if he listens, he will be won over. If he refuses, stage two is to take several others along in order to establish the rebuke. If he still refuses to listen, the church is to be told, so that he may have a third chance to repent. If he still obstinately refuses to listen, only then is he to be excommunicated (Mt. 18:15-17). Paul's teaching was similar. A church member `caught in a sin' is to be `restored' in a spirit of gentleness and humility; this would be an example of bearing each other's burdens and so fulfilling Christ's law of love (Gal. 6:1-2). Even a `handing over to Satan', by which presumably Paul was referring to the excommunication of a flagrant offender, had a positive purpose, either that he might be `taught not to blaspheme' (1 Tim. 1:20), or at least that `his spirit (might be) saved on the day of the Lord' (1 Cor. 5:5). Thus all disciplinary action was to exhibit the love and justice of the cross.

JOHN H. W. STOTT
LONDON

MOVING TO RECONCILIATION AND BEYOND

I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross’. In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after awhile I have had to turn away. And in imagination, I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through his hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us.

Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ … is God’s only self justification in such a world’ as ours.1 (John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 335-336)

1 P.T. Forsyth, Justification of God, p. 32.
--------------------------------------------------------------

Over the course of the next 4 weeks we will be sharing insights, thoughts and meditations on the Cross of Christ. Many would agree that John Stott's THE CROSS OF CHRIST would head the list of insightful studies. My own treasured and autographed copy of the book was gifted to a young Christian in Hull, UK some 18 moths ago. I pray it's new owner was brought to the foot of the Cross each time the pages of the book were opened..

Excerpts will be shared in the week ahead. However, we invite all visitors, former or active officer, soldier or adherent, and those with no SA affiliation to share your reflection. Please send it to selmoscow@aol.com . Should you wish us to post it anonymously, please let us know.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is the Printed Word Relevant Today? -Part Two-

Being raised as a child of Salvation Army officers (ministers) meant moving around from church to church, house to house, school to school... When I entered my teenaged years, it became more difficult for me to make friends.

Books became my constant companions and reading them allowed me to escape into a world that was not only accepting of who I was but imaginative – even today books remain loyal and non-judgmental friends to me. When I got bored in school, I would open a novel inside my open textbook and read while the teacher was lecturing! In my twenties and thirties, as I was discovering my place in this world, I read many, many books on a range of subjects – religion, psychology, history, philosophy and other non-fiction. These books eventually led me back to the Bible’s teachings as I was able to read them with a hungry and renewed spirit. Now, as I continue to grow spiritually with God, I treasure the quiet moments as I read, meditate and pray with my Bible on the table and a candle lit along side the pages. I feel a closeness to God that I do not feel in any other way.

Technology today has opened up a whole new way reading and gathering information. Just the other day I was trying to remember the words to a childhood song, so what did I do? I Googled the song title on the World Wide Web and thousands of internet sites appeared displaying the lyrics. Twenty years ago, I would have had to take the time to drive to a public library and using a 3 x 5 card catalog, search for the answer myself.

Many people today do everything electronically – from using their cell phones for checking email to downloading songs to a variety of electronic devices. People speak to friends by texting them rather than speaking to them on the phone or in person. If something can be heard, read or seen electronically, that seems to be the preferred method of communication. I, on the other hand, do not have text messaging in my cell phone package and fall short of the skill needed to text message. I prefer to email or speak to someone on the phone or in person!

Today, my employer - The Courier-Journal - is striving quickly to adapt to the new electronic mediums available and encouraging advertisers to adapt to them as well. As I think back to my former employer – The Salvation Army – I wonder if it, too, is making those strides. One thing I found amazing was that more Salvation Army people – young and old - have connected through Facebook than any other medium provided by The Salvation Army of which I am aware. As a former Salvation Army officer (minister), it was a lonely time when I was on my own and no one from the Army contacted me to see how I was doing. Facebook became the only way for me to reconnect to my old Salvation Army friends. I think it would be fantastic if the Army would invest in becoming an integral part of this revolutionary way of communicating with and connecting to people from the past, present and future.

AUDIO BOOKS-

My heart still belongs to The Salvation Army, and although I do not currently attend its church, I would love to participate with the Army in other ways. I think it would be great to have Bible lessons on a Salvation Army website where people could share comments, thoughts, and questions to which others could respond as well. Perhaps an officer or soldier (church member) could monitor and contribute responses. This would be an awesome way for the Army to feel the pulse of what is on the hearts and minds of people today.

I predict it will be a long time before all reading materials will only be available in electronic format. Schools will still have textbooks; churches will still have songbooks and Bibles in the pews; libraries will continue to have books on the shelves; book stores will still sell magazines and books. There is something comforting about being able to snuggle up in bed with a book and cup of hot chocolate that neither a computer nor a cell phone can provide.

Personally, I still enjoy holding a newspaper in my hand as I read it on the bus ride to work; I enjoy curling up by a fire reading a good book; I even print out electronic PDF files to read later when I’m ready. However, I also enjoy participating in a service held at an Army Adult Rehab Center where the very old unfamiliar Army songbook has been replaced by a video projector casting praise and worship chorus lyrics on a screen. I like participating on friends’ blogs. I enjoy reading on Facebook about what my friends have been up to.

So, what do you think? Do you think that the printed word is still relevant today?

Melanie Collins-Owens
Former
USA South

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Is the Printed Word Relevant Today? -Part One-

When I was a teenager, I dreamt of working for a newspaper. I don’t know if the dream arose from watching too many Superman movies or observing the excitement of reporters attempting to be the first to share breaking stories. There was just something fascinating about the whole process of getting the story, typesetting the articles and advertisements by the deadline, printing the newspapers, and distributing the news to as many people who wanted to read it. “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” still rings in my mind today.

After I left the full-time ministry of The Salvation Army and earned my college degree, my dream of working for a newspaper came true. For the past fourteen months, I have been working as the Accounting Manager at The Courier-Journal – the major local newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky. I was at first apprehensive. After all, my parents had raised me in The Salvation Army and I had worked for and pastored with the Army for so long that I had become comfortable with this close alliance. I had been fearful to venture outside that comfortable world, but was excited to learn something new; I was beginning with a “clean slate” – those I would now work with would know me as me with no predispositions.

The first item on my boss’s agenda when I arrived for my first day of work was to take me on a tour of the whole facility. As he took me through the press room, I was amazed at the impressive computerized technology that was used to print the newspaper – and in color at that! I watched in fascination as the four-story-high mailroom machines inserted the advertisements into the papers and bundled everything for distribution. The newsroom was a flurry of activity as stories were being researched and developed. Even our finance department of 40 people was constantly busy – this was the biggest finance department I had ever worked in! And believe it or not, in 2008 our newspaper was number 7 in readership statistics in the country.

Then the real estate market plummeted and a big chunk of the nations’ newspaper advertising revenue plummeted with it. The newspaper business is a For-Profit industry and The Courier-Journal – along with the nation’s whole newspaper business – quickly began to feel the effects of a failing economy. It was apparent that as revenue declined, it was necessary to cut costs quickly. Newspapers across the country had already decreased in size – they are not as wide as they once were nor as thick. In the midst of the layoffs that were inevitable, I began to question if the printed word – whether in newspapers, Bibles, songbooks, books, magazines or anything else printed – is relevant today. Do we really need anything printed anymore?

My parents are avid readers and their love of reading became a love of mine as well. I grew up in an environment where my unlimited imagination could abound in stories that I read. I still have the Bedtime Stories book my parents bought me to read while I was ill with the chickenpox. As I open the yellowing pages today, I am taken back to the time I was a child and am able to relive the feelings that reading those stories bestowed upon my heart so many years ago.

Melanie Collins-Owens
Former Officer
USA South

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Call within a Call... Part Two

Then I think of some of those of our own Session’s Missionary Officers who returned from the Mission Field. Some returned because of pressing health needs of them and/or family, others because of tragedy which occurred while serving. Some fled countries where Civil War had erupted, and their families had no word from them for a long while, not even knowing if they were safe or alive. So they too became unable to do exactly what God wanted, though still serving as Officers. So then I wonder why did the God who called them allow it to happen?

Another has gone overseas for her last Appointment, in fulfilment of an early call which she had put to the back of her mind, but now decided she must fulfil, and being in the frame of mind and spirit where she wanted to. I can empathise with that, too.

As to my own situation, however my life is, is a consequence of the decisions that I made. Some things we can put right, but we can’t turn the clock back, so there are some things that we can’t put right. I had come to the conclusion that I could know forgiveness, but not peace, entirely - not so much for leaving officership, as that was partly beyond my control, but for not doing the specific thing which God called me to do. However, reading the opening section of Tracey’s most recent article has led me to re-consider. So God continues to speak to us, if we are open to listen to Him.

“If we were still Officers, not going to that country probably wouldn’t have bothered me. It would have been OK with me, as I would still be an Officer, but would it be OK with God? Would I really have been doing what he wanted me to then, any more than I am now? (Probably, to a certain extent, even though not doing his full & perfect will.) Also, as Officers, there were times when I felt I wasn’t able to do what I really should have been doing, so in those times, I just WAS something – an Officer – rather than BEING what I was called to be. So if time pressures, red tape, Officialdom, etc., prevents us doing what we feel we are really meant to be doing, is that still OK with God?”

When we were in College, in our 1st. Sectional Meeting (single lads and married Cadets without children) the Field Training Officer told us to remember that it’s easy to satisfy yourself, and relatively easy to satisfy the College, but you should always ask yourself, are you God-satisfied – are you doing what He wants you to do? It seems to me to be a good principle to apply in life, whether Officer or not, whatever Church you attend, and whatever you are doing with your life now.

FORMER UKT

“A Call within a Call.”

An abandoned railway car is transformed into a chapel; a hunger for the Word !


Some thoughts on “a Call within a Call.”

I don’t presume to answer any of the questions I pose in this article, because only God knows the answers!

Just as background for new readers: as a single girl, I felt called by God to become an Officer, and to work in a country where the Army hadn’t yet been able to re-open its work - that would take another 12 years or so. Subsequently, I married, and we served as Officers together for a few years in the UKT, until, mainly for health reasons, we had to resign, and our circumstances now are such that I/we will never be able to return to Officership. Not being an Officer didn’t bother me too much while we worked in Caring jobs, and not going to the country to which God had called me didn’t bother me while we were Officers. So it was OK by me, but was it OK with God (?) , because I still wasn’t doing what He had called me to do. By the time the work re-commenced in that country, I had already begun to be troubled about not being an Officer, which became even more acute to me when the Army recommenced work in that country.

I can console myself with 2 things:

1) God’s Will will still be done, in spite of us – Sven and others who have written went and did the work I was called to do. His Plans won’t be frustrated, although other people won’t do exactly the same things in exactly the same ways as we would have done
.
2) Having read about the work in that country from those who did it, I realise that I had no idea at all of what working there would involve, and how it would be, and to be honest, I really don’t think I would have coped. However, maybe by then, after years of being within the perfect will of God, I would have been enabled, by perfect trust in Him, to do so.

That leads me to another thought. Commissioner Dudley Coles in his recently released book, “Leap of Faith” – which I thoroughly recommend – tells of a Canadian couple who answered the call of God to serve in an Asian country, but changed their minds en route while staying overnight in England. They had become increasingly fearful about going, but once the wheels of administration started turning, were too afraid to say so. I can’t imagine how that would be – all the Farewells, etc., having told everyone you’d answered the call of God to a specific country, then you change your mind/ don’t feel able to go, for whatever reason. I can empathise with that, and to say they couldn’t go now, must have taken courage. They were repatriated, and he - rightly – doesn’t identify them, or tell what happened after that. The inference is that they returned to an Appointment in Canada. I wonder where they are now, and what they’re doing, and are they still Officers?

Earlier in the book he tells how missionary Officers early in their term can feel tempted to get the next boat or plane home, but lack of money, pride, and logistical/geographical concerns prevent it – plus trust in God, and a sense of His specific Call to them. I remember that a previous writer on the “Formers” site who went to Russia said something similar.


Former
UKT

Why the British Aren’t Boarding the Atheist Bus

J. Lee Grady Newsletters - Fire In My Bones
British atheist Richard Dawkins wants to stamp out Christian faith in England. But that faith is still very much alive.

When I arrived in London last week I fully expected to see one of the city's celebrated "atheist buses" racing past Gatwick Airport on its way to Victoria Station. I had read about how Oxford University professor Richard Dawkins, author of the book The God Delusion, helped raise more than 140,000 British pounds from donors in January to plaster the city's famous double-decker buses with signs that read: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Dawkins, who has publicly compared religion with the smallpox virus, is quite evangelistic when it comes to his doubts. But his London bus experiment was a dud, if you ask me. Early 2009 was not a good time to mount an atheist campaign. With British banks in crisis and companies laying off workers all over the U.K., most people would prefer to believe divine help is a possibility. "There's probably no God" is a depressing message to share with anxious Londoners who are weathering the Great Recession.

"During my visit I found many encouraging signs that faith is still very much alive in the land that gave us John Wesley, John Bunyan and C.S. Lewis."

Although I boarded several buses in downtown London last Saturday, I never saw Dawkins' offensive advertisements. (I later learned that his campaign ended Feb. 1.) I did, however, see a bus plastered with a competing message, placed by Christian politician George Hargreaves. It said: "There definitely is a God. So join the Christian Party and enjoy your life."

A British Bible society has since joined this battle of the buses. It spent $50,000 to put up signs that quote Psalm 53:1: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.' " And a Russian TV channel is partnering with the Russian Orthodox Church to post messages on London buses that say: "There is God. Enjoy your life."

This ruckus prompted the atheists to rethink their strategy. Now they plan to post more of their signs in April—just in time for Easter. Who knows—before this is over maybe the queen will step out of Buckingham Palace and weigh in on the matter.

I'll admit I tend to think of England as a godless country. We've all heard the stories of British churches being turned into mosques. But during my visit I found many encouraging signs that faith is still very much alive in the land that gave us John Wesley, John Bunyan and C.S. Lewis. I am sure Richard Dawkins is not alone in his atheism, but he has a lot of work to do if he thinks he can wipe out Christianity in England with a few billboards.

When faith is challenged here, British believers are known to fight back. Just recently a born-again nurse, Caroline Petrie, was fired from her job because she asked a patient if she could pray for her. At first her employer, the North Somerset Primary Care Trust, said that Petrie acted unprofessionally. But when the Christian Legal Center got involved and challenged the decision, Petrie was quickly reinstated.

When I arrived in England I spent three days ministering to a group of Pentecostal pastors from various parts of the U.K. Among them were immigrant church leaders who moved to England from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Ivory Coast and Congo. One young minister from Ghana lives in a town near Oxford (where Dawkins taught evolutionary theory) that has become a stronghold of New Age occultism. The young Ghanaian believes God sent him to the U.K. to help dismantle the spiritual darkness that has settled over this nation.

On Sunday morning I preached in a church in the east London suburb of Leytonstone. The pastor of the church is from Ghana, his wife is from Guyana, and his church members are from 15 nations. This is the new face of British Christianity. These immigrants, most of them now British citizens, are passionate in worship and aggressive in evangelism. Their vibrant faith is something Dawkins and his atheist friends never imagined they would contend with on British soil.

Also over the weekend I spoke to a group of Christian men in Littlehampton, a city on the southern coast of England not far from Brighton. After the meeting I learned that one of the guys in the audience was Martin Smith, lead singer of the Christian band Delirious. Smith is the author of the popular praise chorus "I Could Sing of Your Love Forever." He says he wrote the song in five minutes while on a vacation with his wife at a farmhouse in Devon.

Meeting Smith reminded me what a valuable contribution British Christians are still making to the global Christian scene. There is definitely a battle raging here for the hearts and minds of people, and evangelical believers are a minority facing a looming threat from both secularism and Islam. But in pockets of this country, Christian faith is strong, worship is passionate and many are eager to take the gospel into a hostile environment. If their fervor keeps building, they could become Richard Dawkins' worst nightmare.



J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. He is ministering this week in Blackpool, England.