Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Iran 1979 – 2009


Editor, International Affairs, Världen idag (THE WORLD TODAY)
2009-06-24

The Ayatollah Khomeini led the Islamic revolution in Iran. It was promised – and most people believed – that if the country was governed by the Koran and the Sharia law, a good and just society would emerge. In 1979 Iran started to be ruled by Islam through Islamic leaders.

1. Iran has become an active supporter of terrorism around the world, like Hezbollah and Hamas.
2. Iran has perhaps the highest proportion of drug users in the world.
3. Due to economic failures and Islamic laws of “temporary marriages” hundreds of thousands of women have been forced into prostitution.
4. Iran is one of the worst Human Trafficking countries in the world.
5. Iran is among the biggest threats to world peace: nuclear weapons and Shia beliefs in the 12th Imam is really a bad and dangerous synergy.
6. Mullahs are detested and people have turned against Islam.
7. Hundreds of thousands have left Islam and have become followers of Isa / Jesus.
8. Christians are being persecuted.
9. Women are being treated as 2nd class citizens.
10. Iran is a world leader when it comes violating human rights


The list can be made longer. The Islamic revolution has brought about rampant unemployment, world pariah status, lack of freedoms, persecution of dissidents and other miseries.

But it has also brought about one of the biggest Christian revivals in the world – in a Muslim country.

This is what the 1979 revolution has brought. What will come out of the 2009 uprising? It is too early to tell. But we do know that all dictatorships fall – it is just a matter of time. But we also know that some revolutions and changes of governments fail because they replace one oppressive system with another.

Poland, for example, went from Nazi oppression to a Communist oppression. But when and where there have been leaders with democratic ideals and personal integrity, changes of governments have been benefited the people, like South Africa & Nelson Mandela and Czechoslovakia & Vaclav Havel.

We need to pray for the people of Iran and that freedom may come, freedom which respects human dignity and human rights.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I LOVE A CONGRESS ! Part -2-

The Leaders would have to be carefully chosen so that they would not be seen to trying to ‘get us back’ or ‘telling us that we have all been naughty’. They would have to have qualities of diplomacy and dignity and tact, to match us formers, with a sprinkling of irreverence to give some of us something tangible to complain about. There could be a ‘Question and Answer’ session where the focus for some would be getting the right answer and for others it would be the focus would be on asking a better question almost like going to a Hebrew Shul where every question engenders another question rather than a simple answer. The personal Testimony time would be a sacred time where we would be encouraged to tell our story and irrespective of what that story is would be given encouragement and support, rather than being told ‘you are wrong, my friend’. It would be a time of binding us together rather than a ‘goats and sheep’ exercise. If the attendees at this mythical Congress require we could provide Carnevalé style masks for those who wish to remain anonymous, they would all be the same except for the size to match the individuals ego and those that are pro army could have them colored accordingly and the rest would be either black or white according to their choice. We would be encouraged to wear the uniform of our choice; possibly bearing the rank that we were when we made the transition, or the times that we enjoyed most or even bearing the rank that we feel we should have had. But maybe not; that would overwhelm even our group with Commissioners and Generals, and we would have so many DC’s that we would tip the scales in the favor of ‘chiefs’ rather than having a good balance with the indians’.

The bands would be an interesting collection of groups from the ‘Genuine Staff Bands’, made up of just officers with guitars groups and even mouth organ bands. There could be singing groups of all varieties and the musical festival could really be called a ‘competition’ with groups winning and losing an option and not just say that we are not competing with each other.
So many possibilities, so many options, such differences, so much hurt, but ‘together’ we still have the opportunity to change the world. Despite the variety of emotions from overwhelming pain to almost, it seems from some an overwhelming feeling of relief, there is an energy and enthusiasm within this group to actually continue to fulfill our covenant as well as we are able.

We still have a powerful role to play in our Army no matter what our feelings towards how we feel that we have been treated. The commitment that is still evident among us can inform future officers and the disaffection that some feel can also be used as a learning tool for the development of future officers. I would dare to dream that this congress would be open to all officers, former and active, and there would be an equal number of ‘actives’ who would want to come and share with us and stand alongside us and say thank you for what you did for the Kingdom, for all the people that you ministered to and for making the Army an organisation more in line with its roots and mission. From this gathering there may even be some of our number who could get invited back to Spiritual Days at ‘The College’, to talk to the cadets, we would certainly be far more informative to the cadets than the myriad of retired officers who were trotted out in their retirement to narrate the story that always began ‘When I sat where you sat…..’

I know! I am dreaming, but every world changing organisation started with a dream, where in heaven’s name do we think the Salvation Army came from in the first place?

Do you want to keep dreaming? Then talk to someone in your territory and begin a new adventure.

Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia
Peter Fletcher

Born in Birmingham (but that does not make me a Brummy) and as a young lad migrated to Melbourne as a £10 tourist with his Mum, and became a ‘dinky di’ Aussie. Entered the Training College in ’69 from South Melbourne Corps into the ‘Undaunted’ Session. (someone is supposed to say Hallelujah). After serving in Australia with a short stint in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, he became a 'former'. A new career loomed in fundraising and he has worked for over 20 years with a variety of Charities. Sitting in a Starbucks cafe in San Hose for three days after Sept 11 it was time to evaluate everything that made up his life and so a lot of things fell off the agenda so that things that could make a more significant difference could be supported. Then he took to wandering the world. With a British passport he found himself back in the UK working as a Fundraiser at a Hospital in Birmingham. This turned into nearly 6 years but has now returned to the Promised Land. He is very committed to his profession and has worked as a volunteer for its professional bodies for many years.. Passionate about anything to do with people, fundraising and education and doing all that he can to help people to just simply ‘grow’. He has been a regular presenter around the UK and Australia. Although English by birth he claims his 'spiritual' heritage is as Australian it is possible to be and he still bleeds red, yellow and blue.. Now working as a life coach specializing in retirement coaching and also as the fundraiser for an internet based charity that uses the latest internet technology to support people with mild to moderate depression. The use by date is still blurry and has an active involvement in mentoring and supporting people from all areas of life. Futurefletch is the tag line and he lives it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I LOVE A CONGRESS ! Part -1-

One of the significant activities of The Salvation Army around the world has always been Congress.

As soon as the word is mentioned it will evoke memories; some good and some not so good. When I finally was appointed to a Corps that had a full hall every Sunday, with a Band and a large Songster Brigade it was almost like being at Congress every Sunday. That’s how I felt about Congress; I just loved it. Like most of the readers of this we will all have already, simply by reading the title, begun to waffle on for ages about stories of Congress, Congress with young Children and the various challenges that were presented, the Officers Councils where we had three on the Friday and the ‘Retired’s, who all had to leave half way through the afternoon session so that they could use their senior bus passes that expired at 4.00. There were the precious memories of the Musical Festivals and the times when as an Army we worshipped in strength from all Corps in the particular state that we were in at the time. The meeting of the old sessional mates and the March of Witness when we all strode out in style, the Youth Crush at the end of the Sunday night meeting. I have memories of my daughter taking hold of my arm after the meetings to get me back to the car because ‘you just want to talk to everyone’

For me I could reminisce for ages and fill up many volumes of journals about Congress’s that I have been to and involved in, and just love doing it. However in a moment of levity I speculated what it would be like if we, the ‘formers’ had our own Congress.

Now what would we call it? A long time ago a Congress that I attended was called ‘Plus Ultra!’ No one seemed to know why except the Commissioner who chose it but it was Congress and we did have a good time. Possibly we could call it ‘The Could Have Been Congress’ or ‘The We Could Do It Right Congress’, I am sure that you could think of so many more names. The majority of the readers of this blog reside in the UK and North America but could I suggest we hold it in a territory where there are just 1 person who logs on to this site and possibly I would suggest Zambia, Iceland or Moldovia, what a witness we could be to for the Army world. We could have sessions that vary from evangelistic sessions to human rights discussions, from a series on Brengle to a series on Zen Spirituality; we could have sessions on biblical fundamentalism to biblical criticism with Darwin and Wesley sitting on the side to keep the discussion on track. We could have sessions on motivation and inspiration with a side deal of single person sessions for those who absolutely know that no one wants to be with them. We could have Prayer and Bible study in a ‘Solstice mood’ for those who feel that it is the best way to be. When I arrived at one Corps I found that there was a Bible Study Group and a Prayer group. The ‘Bible Studiers’ complained that the “Prayers’ did not read the Bible and; you guessed it the ‘Prayers’ complained that the Bible Studiers’ did not pray, and yes I was asked what I was going to do about it. Where was Solomon when I wanted him? Our Congress could have all these things and the complaints, if there were any would be an accepted part of the whole event.

The March of witness could be a cross between a traditional Army March of witness with banners flying, a Mary Whitehouse Rally and a Mardi Gras, with all the colour and energy that each of them represent, and we could even have a few protests between the groups… how exciting and passionate would that be?!



Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia
Peter Fletcher

Born in Birmingham (but that does not make me a Brummy) and as a young lad migrated to Melbourne as a £10 tourist with his Mum, and became a ‘dinky di’ Aussie. Entered the Training College in ’69 from South Melbourne Corps into the ‘Undaunted’ Session. (someone is supposed to say Hallelujah). After serving in Australia with a short stint in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, he became a 'former'. A new career loomed in fundraising and he has worked for over 20 years with a variety of Charities. Sitting in a Starbucks cafe in San Hose for three days after Sept 11 it was time to evaluate everything that made up his life and so a lot of things fell off the agenda so that things that could make a more significant difference could be supported. Then he took to wandering the world. With a British passport he found himself back in the UK working as a Fundraiser at a Hospital in Birmingham. This turned into nearly 6 years but has now returned to the Promised Land. He is very committed to his profession and has worked as a volunteer for its professional bodies for many years.. Passionate about anything to do with people, fundraising and education and doing all that he can to help people to just simply ‘grow’. He has been a regular presenter around the UK and Australia. Although English by birth he claims his 'spiritual' heritage is as Australian it is possible to be and he still bleeds red, yellow and blue.. Now working as a life coach specializing in retirement coaching and also as the fundraiser for an internet based charity that uses the latest internet technology to support people with mild to moderate depression. The use by date is still blurry and has an active involvement in mentoring and supporting people from all areas of life. Futurefletch is the tag line and he lives it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Left to fend for myself; Social Trauma Part -3-

Of the more than 200 former Salvation Army officers who have joined our fellowship in the past 12 months the large majority are supportive of SA policies and practices. And, only four who joined our fellowship have decided that the ‘club’ didn’t align with and suit their personal agendas.Perhaps not surprisingly, many in our fellowship forecast the departure of three of them, stating that at the very slightest support of The SA as an organization through blog articles, or positive comments relative to the Army's success in programming, ‘they’ would seek detractors and look for exit strategies and support for their unique causes; apparently symptoms witnessed while active officers. Perhaps they’ve joined other ‘clubs’, there are hundreds out there, or created their own. In any event we continue to lift them, and all former officers in our prayers; we share in a unique, and common bond. Between us, we all served Christ under the The SA’s yellow, red and blue colours in various corners of the globe.

It is worth noting that for many who join our fellowship (15-20 per month) it can take several months before they experience a sense of healing or a change relative to their attitudes. With time, most recognize that The SA is indeed a God inspired and Spirit led movement. Much good is said about The SA experience, but none have spoken positively about their exit experience. To the contrary, dozens have shared that if professional assistance would have been provided many of the problems they and family encountered could have been avoided.

The departures were awkward, strained, difficult, hurtful and left painful scars. This would not have been the case if professional pre-resignation and after-care had been provided officially by The Salvation Army. It’s an area of very real concern and one that the FSAOF will address directly with SA leadership in a paper in August 2009. Contact was made with IHQ some months ago seeking dialogue. It was recommended that the FSAOF make contact directly with those headquarters where The SA is perceived to be lacking in providing sufficient support. Based on comments from those in our relatively newly formed fellowship, the HQs in all 4 USA, Canada, NZ, Australia, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Brazil, Carribean, the UK, territories and more need to be contacted.

Comments made in response to yesterday's posted article reference a recent support initiative in the USA Central Territory. Strangely, non of the many formers in our fellowship from that territory are familiar with it. Perhaps someone can shed some light?
--------------------------------------
The reasons for our resignations from officership vary, as shared by the General in his article, ‘When Crosses Come’. (see earlier post) Some have moved directly into ministry elsewhere and found a ready support group awaiting them. Some of us remain faithful soldiers in The SA, and find support locally, but no doubt experience some ‘friendly fire’ on occasion, and maybe even ugly criticism and interrogation. The few who were asked to leave are probably most unique and more alone in that they have been shunned by the fellowship when they need it most.

Many of us doubt and berate ourselves creating a social trauma. And amid all the self-doubting and criticism, and without the support of that very special group to which we belonged as officers, it’s easy to understand why more than a few get lost along the way. Of the more than 200 members in our fellowship many have shared the sense of abandonment they experienced on resigning. They were ‘abandoned’ by a community of Christian friends, having shared joy and tears in a common sense of calling with them …
The SA’s PASTORAL CARE UNIT in the UK shares in their brochure that "Pastoral Support is available only in response to direct requests …" Interestingly the Army’s mission statement calls for proactive interactive intervention. Remember just a decade ago when every sermon, lecture and SA journal article was peppered with the word, pro-active ?! Is the care for those who have given years of faithful service, our former officers, not worth a phone call or e-mail?

I find it somewhat ironic that it is expected of a UK active officer, having served a total of only five years, to attend a retirement conference lasting several days, in preparation for the transition many deem difficult, to post active officership life . And yet, formers, some having given 25+ years, are provided virtually no emotional, psychological, spiritual, economic, or employment support in what is in fact an even greater life changing experiences, this in first world countries. What is the procedure in India, East Africa, Brazil?

Is it naive to suggest that an officer or Spirit led employee, experienced in key organizational relationship skills, that include building trust, respecting other's ideas and opinions, skilled in open and honest communication, without blame or judgment, be assigned to each individual (case) contemplating resignation. Creating an environment where both The SA and the potential 'former' feel "safe and protected" is a function of good planning as much as good intention. We all need to get better at developing and keeping effective officers and to have those who resign, see the exit procedure as being respectful and as a celebration of service given. Without question, that's God's position !

Should the attempt to thwart the resignation fail, we should at the very least assign an after-care team, in consultation with the resigning person/family. Would it be an idea to assign a 'contact' person at HQ with responsibility to maintain contact on a regular basis for the first twelve months subsequent to resignation ... We do more for those coming to our social service offices requesting food for the family. They are entered into our data base for follow up and I trust invited to the Sunday Service!

As long as an increased number of SA young people seek advanced education levels, they will be recruited outside our movement, and the challenge to find qualified, people will get tougher. Creating loyalty, internally and externally, is an important factor in companies/organizations/institutions in staff recruitment, retainment and offering restitution. A select few should be trained in "recovery skills" - the spiritual art of dealing with an angry, disillusioned, or distressed resigning officer. The exit interview (see yesterday's article) will be included in our list, near the top ! And, the exit interview ought to include 1 or 2 officers of the exiting officer's choice, along with HQ's selected officers. Minutes should be taken and shared with all concerned. This would ensure that there be a somewhat balanced and neutral representation and that an accurate record is kept of all that is said.

In addition I would support an annual two day retreat/camp for formers. Someone else suggested the same thing in the UK last year- I don't believe anything has become of it yet.

In Sweden there are a number of local chapters composed of formers. They meet regularly for meetings/retreats and annually on a nationwide basis at the SA Congress. Typically the Commissioner and other HQ staff conduct private meetings/seminars with the formers. They publish a very attractive quarterly magazine.

Thoughts ?

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former Officer; USA, SWEDEN, RUSSIA, UKRAINE

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Left to fend for myself; Social Trauma Part -2-

Most officers have wrestled with, and argued the validity of The SA as a church, while concurrently defending the movement as a social service agency (religiously motivated organization). Many in the FSAOF fellowship have spoken to the juxtaposition and the confusion it causes, and suggested that’s part of the problem in establishing effective after-care. Jeff Bassett, a “former” from the USA Eastern Territory wrote his MA thesis focusing on this . (e-mail selmoscow@aol.com for the dissertation)

Research into The Salvation Army's Dual Mission
Eastern Territory USA
Jeffery T. Bassett
Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership
Philadelphia Biblical University
April 2008


Problem Identification



The problem to be addressed within TSA’s situation will be classified as an identity crisis. Since the very first days of the denomination/organization’s beginning, there has been a constant tension of whom and what it is. The question TSA has had to ask itself has been, “Are we a church, or are we a social service organization?” This problem has led to the following areas that are affected by the answer to this question.
- Sacraments
- Funding
- Ordination
- Community perception and Member identification
- Clerical responsibilities and priorities

"Figure 1.2 shows the health, effectiveness, and freedom which will be realized when clear communication and settled identity as a mission is realized. While the research will show that there is mission ambiguity, the goal for long term effectiveness and sustainability must be to bring clarity to mission and purpose within all levels of the organization. "
----------------------------------------------------------

Perhaps leaders when deliberating on the aftercare necessary for those resigning as officers also wrestle with this question and find it more convenient to apply a regionally designed organisational application rather than a Christlike (Spirit led) attitude and approach. It’s clear though that there exists no approved exit strategy designed to be adopted and practiced internationally. And perhaps that’s a good thing as cultures and values differ as it applies to business practices. Nonetheless, oversight is needed to ensure that those officers contemplating resignation be provided all possible support as they face the angst experienced in leaving the security and relative comfort of a guaranteed income, furnished home, company vehicle, health provisions, retirement benefits, etc. Adding to the stress, and for many a very real trauma, is being divorced from God’s personal call to serve Him as a Salvation Army officer.

Some in our fellowship, having taken on Ministerial roles in other denominations (Church of England, Methodist Church, Baptist Church) have shared how those leaving their ministry roles in their church are treated/celebrated. And, many question the Army’s resignation statistics suggesting they are skewed and that SA resignation percentages exceed those in other (UK) denominations. I, for one, commend the Army for its openness in discussing this fact.

A white paper is being composed addressing many of the issues mentioned in this article in the hopes and expectation that a more focused exit strategy and after care programme be adopted for international applications insuring a uniformed level of care. The below, used by a major denomination might serve as a model:

Policy # 8
PROTOCOL FOR AN EXIT INTERVIEW
Background and Purpose.
The purposes of exit interviews are several and often depend largely upon the conditions
surrounding a pastor’s departure. The Exit Interview may simply provide closure and an
opportunity for celebration and blessing for the pastor, the church and the Presbytery. The Exit Interview may also serve as a kind of debriefing or unpacking of a pastor’s experience with a particular church. Authentic sharing may also provide insights related to the challenges and opportunities in a given church, as well as point to appropriate qualities of its next pastor.

Participants
I. Initially, it is suggested that pastors of congregations and certified educators (CE) be the focus of the Exit Interviews. If after six months to a year it is found feasible to extend this to Interim Pastors, Stated Supply Pastors or certain Specialized Ministry Pastors, the program will be broadened.
II. Two members of the COM (General Conference) will meet with the pastor/CE. They will meet separately with the Clerk of Session or designee of the Clerk. It is felt that more effective listening is possible with two, especially where there are concerns/problems/ hurts which need airing. The meeting with the Clerk or Designee can take place after the pastor has left. Conducting the interviews will be the sole responsibility of COM team members. The team members will determine the division of labor for the six month period (i. e. regionally, monthly) Matt: 18:16; Luke 10:1

Timing of Exit Interview
The pastor/CE and Clerk of Session should be contacted to set up the Exit Interviews as soon as possible after public announcement is made of the leave taking. It will be the responsibility of the Executive or Associate Presbyter to see that the team members are notified immediately.

Process within interviews
The pastor/CE (or Clerk) should be told that notes from the meeting will go in a folder, filed with the Presbytery and available only to the Executive Presbyter, the Associate Presbyter, the Chairman of COM, and available, where appropriate, to the liaison to the PNC.
The process of disclosure to Presbytery staff or anyone else should be defined at the beginning of the interview with the understanding that at the end of the interview the points recorded will be read back to the pastor/CE for clarification. There should be clear agreement about the information which the pastor/CE wants kept confidential and that which can be included in t he written report. Both the interviewee and t he two members of the COM interviewing team will sign off on the written report before it is filed.

Sample Questions for Interviews
Why are you leaving?
Tell me about your experience at _______________.
What did you enjoy the most?
What were your greatest challenges?
How did you grow during your ministry at ____________________
How did you take care of yourself?
What was your experience with staff relations?
What excites you about this church’s future?
What worries you about this church’s future?
What, in your view does this church need?
What do you think are the church’s expectations of its next pastor?
How did your family experience the church?
How can Presbytery best support this church?
How can the Committee on Ministry best support the next pastor?
What can we learn from you about this church or the Presbytery to increase our effectiveness?

Part 2 of 4

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former
USA, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine
Active soldier, SA Exeter, UK

Monday, June 15, 2009

Left to fend for myself; Social Trauma Part -1-

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

Groucho Marx, even in jest, speaks for a very select few. Maslow's hierarchy of needs speaks for the rest of us, in his often depicted pyramid consisting of five human needs. Maslow's list includes the need to satisfy physiological needs, and they include: breathing, homeostasis, water, sleep, food, sex, clothing, and shelter. With physical needs satisfied, the individual's safety needs surface: personal security, financial security, health and well-being and a safety net against accidents/illness.

After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third layer of human needs is social. This psychological aspect of Maslow's hierarchy involves emotionally-based relationships in general, such as; friendship, intimacy and having supportive and communicative family and fellowship groups.

The need for community is expressed in childhood when athletic teams are chosen and all can remember the anxiety of not being an early choice as team members are chosen. Those who were involved in salvationist activities in their formative years will recall the heightened excitement when, following an audition, being selected to play in the 'A' band or getting a part in an Army musical or annual congress youth chorus.

In my professional career, prior to becoming a SA officer, I enjoyed my role as a member and Officer in various clubs and groups including the Rotary Club in the cities where I lived, the Airline Sales Managers' Association of New York, the Faculty Senate in the state university where I taught, etc.

Growing up in the home of SA officers offered me many opportunities to observe a different type fellowship. One need not be a party to it to appreciate the sacred union they enjoy having followed the same call and life path. Their purpose was unique to the point where they voluntarily abandoned all else to follow Jesus and to do His will. There is virtue in giving up all to follow any worthwhile goal but none more so than following and doing the will of God. There is a bond among SA Officers beyond the simple rejection of the secular. Lifestyle is prescribed from Christ's commandment
 which is at the heart of Christian love, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).

Christian love is not that fraternal feeling or filial sense of belonging found in golf clubs, scout troops, sports’ teams or musical ensembles; it’s a learned life choice and practiced lifestyle. It’s beyond and above a fleeting wish to belong and do good. It’s the categorical imperative taught to us by Jesus, the founder of our fellowship. We’ve preached on it- we believed it ! Christian love is giving to others - it's doing so even if they can't pay you back. It’s what we'd expect to witness and experience when leaving the comradeship we enjoyed and relished as officers from those remaining in the ranks.

I can honestly not remember any of my parents ever speaking badly or critising another Officer; it was a fellowship of support and encouragement. On occasion my father would say that he wished Major so and so had been more forceful and compelling in the altar call. Being a fine musician himself he would on occasion term a musical arrangement silly or ‘cheap’. The worst I can remember my mother saying was ‘her uniform skirt was a bit too short’ or ‘the seam in her stocking was crooked’, but always in a jovial manner.

Officer get-togethers had a special air about them. There were the inside ‘Army’ jokes that most of us young people couldn’t quite understand. That is except when it came time for the moves to be announced. The speculation about who would go where and which Majors would be promoted to Brigadiers and Brigadiers to Lieutenant Colonels etc was always good for 30 minutes of comic speculation. I learned at a young age that promotions in rank matters only to those wanting more pips on their epaulets !

The first time I really witnessed the very real and true officership fellowship was at the death of my twin brother at age seventeen. The scores of condolences shared via cards, telephone calls, personal visits and flowers was astounding to me. The hall was filled to overflowing, midday on a week day. In that we were both members of the Staff Band the band was on duty and the Territorial Commander broke from his official duties to conduct the funeral. To think that so many hundreds who had never met my brother and many perhaps not knowing my parents would bond together was, in my view, extraordinary.

I saw a similar outpouring of love, respect and support when my father was Promoted to Glory. And again, the several times my mother had to go through heart surgery. Cards of concern and calls were received from both home and abroad. There exists a fellowship of incredible care and concern that non- officers would find difficult to understand. And the truly unique thing about it is that it’s not a role that’s awakened when an officer or family member is ill or dying; it’s a daily practice.

Why then, if officers claim and witness to this acquired sense of compelling care are we, the former officers, the ones closest to them, so quickly forgotten ? Is there not a difference in the secular professional groups to which we seek membership and those with a unique spiritual thread ? More than two hundred former Officers in this fellowship, and no doubt hundreds of others wonder, has the Army's attitude moved from the spiritual to the secular as it concerns us ?

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former
USA, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine
Active soldier, SA Exeter, UK

Saturday, June 13, 2009

WHEN CROSSES COME Part -Two-

Here are some tips that can possibly help you thrive in difficult times as they have me?

Nourishment – There is an element that needs to be in here called selfishness, or should that be self preservation. What is it that you do just for yourself? I read somewhere once many years ago that within 18 months of leaving ministry a huge proportion of former ministers have built some thing with their hands and as an officer there were times when my most rewarding task was mowing the hall and quarter's lawns. The reason being was that I could look over my shoulder and actually see that I had done something. So much of our work is of the spirit and it is so hard to measure and evaluate, but the lawns, that was different. I wouldn’t actually say it nourished me but it gave me a feeling of usefulness. However there is a need to know what nourishes your spirit, your emotions, something that rejuvenates your life force; something that you really feel good about afterwards. I have been amazed at the variety of things that make up a person's life that they simply just love doing. There is the accountant who works very hard all day and is very good at her job but in the evening she is a singer and likes nothing more than singing in a group or in a choir and the minister who is actually an expert model train buff; and we could go on, you just have to find out what nourishes you; make this a priority because it is all about you.

Stay in the Present – In any situations of extreme stress and trauma our internal gyroscope has a tendency to go a little bit haywire and our focus shifts from the present in a dramatic manner. What am I going to do now? How am I going to cope in the future? How am I going to look after my family? These are all questions that take on overwhelming proportions. There is also a tendency to focus powerfully on the past and play our internal video again and again; sometimes to confirm why we are in this situation or to prove that we were in the right. But as we have told people in our care on so many different occasions, live a day at a time, it's almost like trying to give up smoking or drugs; all I need to do is just get through today and that will be a huge success. Focus on the present moment; scale down, simplify - but live just for today. There will come a time for future plans and putting the past into perspective but in the middle of the pain; stay in the present.

Accept Support – This is really a tough one, particularly for us who were trained, or maybe just expected to be the tower of strength to people under our care. There are classic cases of people who claimed there was no help available, no one was interested, when in actual fact the offered help was either not recognized or not accepted. We, of all people, have to remember that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. We have all been in a meeting where Mrs. Brown who sits in the back seat hangs on every word as if it was inspired from heaven itself and in the band playing second tenor is one of Gods awkward saints, or as my son would call- EGN’s (Extra Grace Needed) who, as soon as the sermon starts you can almost hear him saying derisively “Go on; Bless me if you can!” Without the receiver, the givers gifts of encouragement, comfort and support are wasted. Accept the support of friends and family and be aware that by allowing them to support you; you are giving them a very precious gift.

Trust Yourself –There is a good chance that you have been here before. It is sometimes amazing to think that many of us got through adolescence, school and that first job, many of us enjoyed our time in the Training College but for some it was a trauma and Commissioning was almost like escaping from permanent after-school detention, but we survived and possibly prospered to some degree. No matter who you are, I believe that within your innermost being you have all the resources that are needed to become the ‘successful’ person that you were created to be. None of us were created to be failures. This is not a feel good comment this is what I really believe. Trust yourself to get through the difficult times and you will. Then – you can focus on the future, visualize yourself in front of a blank canvas, but it is not the canvas that is the focus it is what you can create for your future. If you can think it; you can create it. How do you want to write the next chapter? You have within you the ability to move further into what has to be one of the most creative periods of your life.

Forgive Past Errors – Of all people we should know the power of forgiveness. It is a word that we have grown up with, some of us from our Junior Soldiers pledge. In the transition from ‘Officer’ to ‘Former’ this can be of great help in moving on to the next stage. Yes of course, forgiving people who we feel have wronged us, who have hurt us and possibly brought us to this moment of distress; that forgiveness is obvious but it is more important to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, things not done, and people we have possibly treated badly, because we are the ones who are carrying this burden and it us who are being emotionally and spiritually damaged. If we can get to the point of forgiveness of others treatment of us and possibly our treatment of others then we will be able to move on to our future with a lighter spirit and renewed expectations for the future.

Growth is Creative. Finally - take advantage of the opportunity in these difficult times to re-create your life by nourishing yourself, staying present, accepting support, trusting yourself, visioning possibilities and letting go of the past and perceived limitations. For most of us ‘Formers’ is now a title that will live with us for the rest of our lives and we can let it define our future for better or…………

I have often had a picture in my mind the Hill of Calvary; the crosses are empty and are set in stark contrast to the setting sun in the background. For me, this is a sad scene because too often we focus on the crosses and the pain and trauma, where in actual fact they need to be cleared and the dawn then has the freedom to really be a new day without the painful reminder. The transition for many of us continues to be difficult but it can also be the best time of our life to explore ways to live more harmoniously with ourselves and others.

"Fletch"
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

WHEN CROSSES COME Part -One-

Difficult times, spiritual, emotional or practical, can bring us to our knees. They can also raise us to new heights.

We have all been through some difficult times and the transition from officership to ‘former’ status has different levels of difficulties for each of us that have travelled this path. Now I have no doubt that in our various appointments we all knew what stress was, for most of us it was a very constant companion and we simply learned to live with it almost simply as part of the deal. For some it may have been the catalyst that became the tipping point. We have all heard, and possibly experienced stories of someone saying just ‘get on with it’ and ‘it will get better’. There is always a tendency in a hierarchy that we just do that and try and get on with it, and then when the situation is prolonged our normal defense mechanisms are not enough to avoid being overwhelmed, vulnerable and under threat.

In situations like ours there is always the danger that these difficult times just simply continue even after we have left. It is trite to say that most people get over it because the reality is that the trauma of the transition often stays with us for decades. Many of us have become masters at the cover up. How are you going? Someone might ask and the automatic response is ‘I am doing OK’. At one stage we had a North American C.S. in our territory and when ever we passed in the corridor of THQ, in his strong North American (sorry I can’t be more specific) accent and enthusiastic manner would say “Giday Fletch! How are you doin?” From my little Aussie heart I could not let him beat me in the enthusiasm stakes and so I responded in a like manner, “I’m great Colonel” and his constant retort was.. “That’s great”; and he would move quickly on being busy about the work of the Kingdom. This was a regular occurrence but there was a day when things were getting on top of me and in response to his over the top question I responded ‘Colonel! Do you want the PR answer or the real one?’ There was a long pause where he looked at me intently and then said “That’s great” and he was off, again being about the work of the Kingdom.

For a number of years I used this little narrative as a description of a person out of touch with what was going on in reality, where in actual fact the Colonel was probably as much under stress as I was and like me didn’t know how to handle it. Although my strong alpha male exterior coped with it well, that soft vulnerable little boy inside did not fare so well and it confirmed to me, rightly or wrongly, that there was no one who could understand or help. This was not just an event that happened; it is something that can continue for the rest of our lives unless we do something about it.

"Fletch"
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Am I really Pro Choice ? Part -2-


Let’s face it no one can parent eighteen children. And no one needs eighteen children. Those farm working days are long gone and the planet is saturated. I’m not sure whatever happened to the 80’s idea of Zero Population Growth but clearly it has vanished. Where I live (Florida) we are in desperate need of water. So is Georgia. There are boundary wars going on here about who should have access to what waterways. There is warring between North and South Florida on the issue as well. We are in a serious drought brought on by overpopulation and wars among neighbors for the most manicured, putting green like lawns. That’s a whole other topic for me to address another time – reduce, reuse, recycle.

Onto the Octamom. What the ---- is up with that ???? I ask that of her, her family, her friends, her physician. Who was thinking what? Or should the question be who wasn’t thinking what? No money, no home, no prospect of income. She already had six children living in questionable circumstances according to her mother and others.

There are probably wonderful reasons for IVF; like helping couples who feel the need to birth rather than adopt manufacture a child. I, having never had the longing need of many women to parent or birth (which are two VERY different verbs) so admittedly do not fully understand it. That doesn’t mean I don’t get that other people do. For some women there is a very definite need to want to birth; even for some men, carrying on the family line and all that. Though I don’t understand it I do get that is what it is though I still advocate for adoption and consider those who do adopt as saints. To rescue so unselfishly is an incredible act of love. I wish I had it.

I work with a woman who underwent three IVF treatments at $20,000 a pop. SIXTY THOUSAND DOLLARS and for naught. In the end they adopted two Guatemalan siblings. That was a pretty tidy sum as well. I can happily report that little family is thriving and strong. And she has passed through the desire to birth and into the desire to parent and doing one mighty fine job.

For what it’s worth, I’m also against animal breeding. Spay and neuter your pets people.

Maybe I’m not as pro-choice as I’d like to think.

Deb Taube
Former
USA East

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Am I really Pro Choice? Part -1-

I have always been pro choice. Or so I thought. Two reasons; 1) I believe in the basic right of a woman to choose what is best for her body (frankly, I believe the same basic right applies to men as well) and 2) not everyone is a Christian or holds to Christian values which, in my opinion only, means we cannot tell them how to behave or what to do. We must let people live according to their beliefs. We can certainly present Jesus to them but we also have to realize not everyone will accept Him.

And, you already know I’m pro-choice on the gay/straight issue. I’m pro-choice on letting you marry whomever it is you wish to marry. Heck, I’m pro-choice on staying single or getting divorced or getting remarried. I think you should be able to put your offspring into whatever school you choose be it public, private, Christian, Hebrew, etc. I think you should be able to raise your children the way you want. Not the way I want or your mother wants or the way James Dobsen wants you to do it.

My current dilemma is not even with capital punishment or the incomprehensible illogic of those who cannot conjecture a reasonable defense of their beliefs. I settled my decisions on those issues long ago. No, my current dilemma is with IVF and huge families in this day of overpopulation and lack of basic resources.

Lately the ‘news’ is littered with stories about the Duggar family who have EIGHTEEN children and the so-called Octamom with her FOURTEEN, EIGHT of which were recently conceived via IVF. On the plus side the Duggar family appears to be able frugal and self sufficient; not dependent on state or national social service programs. They are seemingly healthy, Christian, well-behaved and well-presented. How does one handle eighteen children? She has said in interviews that the older children are responsible for – frankly, a whole lot - including child care for many of the babies. Learning the ways of the household and child care and becoming self sufficient is a standard way of life but is it what teen age girls should be doing so parents can continue to breed? They are children, not miniature parents. Is that the job of children? To raise children so you can deliver more children? Something here seems selfishly twisted!

Deb Taube
Former
USA East