Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dare to Dream: The Salvation Army Spiritual Life and Retreat Center

Even while I was still a soldier I felt the calling to minister to officers in The Salvation Army. God laid it on my heart early on, that pastors need to be cared for, loved, and encouraged just as much as the flock they tend to. In recent years there as been even more awareness brought to this issue. As I have prayed about it God has given me this dream.  I realize that in order for this dream to happen I would probably have to become independently wealthy, but hey, God is in the miracle business.  ;)

My dream is to create The Salvation Army Spiritual Life and Retreat Center.  The focus of this ministry would be officers but it would also be open to lay leaders and soldiers who are beginning to feel the effects of burnout.

I'm not sure where exactly it would be located but it would need to be beautiful and off the beaten path.  There would need to be lots of land so that people, if they choose could spread out a bit and be alone with God. 

There would be several villas, for long term stays, maybe even short sabbaticals and a bed and breakfast type house for the shorter stays. 

We wouldn't need much staff because the people who were staying there would all pitch in to help cook the meals clean the place, and even work in the gardens.

There would be planned themed retreats, ie. marriage retreats, art retreats, holiness retreats, etc. But there would also be space for people to come and just be. Officers don't get that opportunity very often.

We would request that cell phones and laptops not be brought in.  There would be a phone and a computer available if necessary.  The whole point of the Center would be to unplug and if people brought in their own electronic devices the temptation would be to use them.

Imagine the spiritual returns on this kind of investment!

There is a brief picture of my dream. Maybe someday, when I retire...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sorting it out...

I don't often get angry. Frustrated, annoyed, maybe even a little agitated but angry, not really. I think part of it is because anger is one of those emotions I'm afraid of. You see for years I've stuffed all of those strong emotions because I was afraid that they would swallow me.

Today I didn't stuff it.

Today I let it well up to the surface.

Today I was angry to to point of white hot rage.

And it didn't consume me nor did it hurt anyone else.

I shared my anger in a safe environment and nobody yelled at me or told me I shouldn't feel that way. They let me get it out.

My anger has cooled now to a simmering frustration. And as I sit here and begin to sort it all out I realize that anger is a valid emotion. Jesus dealt with it too. It's not something I like or something that I will seek out but it is a part of our emotional make up.

As much as I don't enjoy the feeling of anger, I know that just dealing with it is far better than stuffing it and trying to ignore it. Stuffing and ignoring just leads to festering and bitterness. So in my attempt to live honestly it's time to deal with those uncomfortable emotions and move past them.

Not fun but necessary.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Good Things

A couple of years ago my son Nathan began to complain. He complained about everything school, the weather, food, it went on and on....and on. So on those days that he was particularly complainy I started making him tell me three good things about his day. It could be anything. Sometimes it was "school is over today" or "I had recess" but at least he was finding something good about the day.

Thus the Whitney Three Good Things tradition was born.

This week has been a tough week for our family.  To begin with Nathan has had half days of school all week and Becca has been sick.  Add that to already crazy schedules filled with programming kettles, United Way grant that has to be done early, demanding people and crabby clients and it is a recipe for disaster.

Last night after my husband got home it turned into one giant pity party.  My husband finally stopped me mid-sentence and said "Three good things." And because I don't like things to go unfinished, I tried to complete my sentence and he interrupted me again and said  "Three good things."

So here were my three good things from yesterday:
  1. At our nursing home visit yesterday, a non-responsive lady suddenly burst into song! We were all kind of shocked and finally just joined in singing Joy to the World with her. 
  2. Last night our Women's Ministries made ornaments with our shelter residents for their Christmas tree. It wasn't really a big deal for me or for the Women's Ministries group but our residents had such a great time! The kids were especially excited.  One little boy was running around yelling, "It's Christmas tree time!!!"  His mom kept saying, "I'm so glad my children won't miss decorating a tree just because we don't have our own place." 
  3. We were able to get our daughter into see the doctor quickly.  She was diagnosed with croup and the doctor gave her medicine and told us how to take care of her. We are so fortunate to have the means to provide great medical care for our children and that we have access to doctors and medicine. 
So if you find yourself overwhelmed and frustrated today stop and just look for three good things. Make sure you share those three good things with someone. It helps to verbalize them.

Praying that today you will see those three little birds on your doorstep....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mirror, Mirror...

"And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can't be criticized.  Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us."
2 Titus 7-8

At our Corps (church) we are currently preaching a series on stewardship.  Each week has a different focus, time, talents, relationships, and treasure. As I have been praying, meditating, and reading scripture about stewardship a few things have been rolling around in my head and tonight this portion of scripture seemed to sum it all up.  

As a leader in the body of Christ, I realize that my life is on display as an example of what living a Christ life should look like. My life is pretty much an open book, as well it should be. I don't always get it right but I'm trying and I hope that even in my shortcomings I am someone who people know loves God with all of her heart and desires to follow Him.  

As I read the above scripture the word everything jumped out at me.  EVERYTHING I do needs to reflect the integrity and seriousness of my teaching. 


How I speak to my husband
The way that I interact with my children
The way that I maintain my home
The way that I maintain my Corps, physically, spiritually, and even financially
The way that I interact with other community agencies
The way I treat our clients
How I treat our employees
The effort and care that I put into programs like Junior Soldiers, Women's Ministries, and even preaching
The effort and care that I put into community events, Christmas distribution, Angel trees, etc. 

Everything I do is a reflection of my walk with Christ.  

Lest you think this is just for leaders...

If you claim to be a follower of Christ people are watching you. You're life and how you are taking care of the gifts and resources that God has given you will reflect the true nature of your walk.   Are you walking in such a way that people want to know God or is your walk reflecting something else all together? Are people seeing Christ in EVERYTHING that you do?

People see the truth written all over us. We can't hide behind the words "I'm a Christian." It's like a hippo trying to hide behind a fence post.  Who we really are leaks out the side and people see it.  

Father God, help me to look at my reflection honestly and humbly. Show me those things that aren't reflecting you and that are turning others from you. Convict me and cleanse my heart. My deepest desire it to be filled with you and that others may find You in me. 

I pray this prayer not only for myself but for my Corps, for The Salvation Army, for the church universal. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we are His example for the world. What are we showing them? 


Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Christmas Crisis of Conscience...

First off let me just state for the record, I really do love Christmas.  I especially love Christmas in The Salvation Army.  I enjoy the bell ringing and the time we have with our bell ringers, I enjoy the hustle and bustle of the season, the snowy days, the warmth of fellowship, and most of all focusing on what the birth of a tiny baby means to me and to the world.


If I am to be honest, as my blog title says, I must say every year I suffer a crisis of conscience at this time of year. I'm sure that there will be people who are outraged by my confession and there will be some who will be relieved that someone finally had the courage to say it.

Here goes......

I really struggle with toy distribution. There I said it. God hasn't struck me dead and the earth seems to still be spinning. Before you write me off and condemn be to the eternal fires of you know where hear me out.

My struggle is with the excess of it all. Every year I stand amongst piles and piles of toys that represent thousands and thousands of dollars and I can't help but think of children around the world.  There are children in our world today who truly are living in poverty, who are in need of food and medicine for survival, shoes to protect their feet, and even clean water. And truly if we are honest with ourselves, even the poor in this country are wealthy compared to standards of other countries.

Are we really meeting a true need with those toys? I do know that there are some who come through and are very grateful to receive those gifts for their children. But what if we could do something else instead. What if we could really met the true needs of some of the families that we serve? The needs of the families that we serve oftentimes are far more complex than food or medicine. The families that we serve are many times broken by divorce or an absentee parent, addiction, abuse, chronic poverty, mental illness, the list goes on and on.

It all just seems like too much. How can a toy meet those needs?

Short answer is it can't.

But maybe, just maybe when they come in to fill out their application or pick up their toys they will see Jesus.  Maybe they will see Jesus through the kindness and love of a volunteer who is being patient with them when they are demanding. Maybe they will see Jesus in person who helps them to their car in the cold and snow. Maybe they'll see Jesus in the person who plays with their little one so they can pick out the toys. Maybe they'll see Jesus on the face of their little one who is truly excited to have been thought of on Christmas day. Maybe they'll see Jesus....

We live in a land of excess. The needs we see aren't always quick fixes and maybe the toys we give out aren't the answer to the need but merely the vehicle to the real answer.

Maybe, just maybe they'll see Jesus.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Do you see what I see?

I have long prayed that God would give me His eyes.  I've always thought about it in terms of seeing need but today He gave me his eyes to see how He is moving.

Today I saw:
  • Six of our shelter clients come to worship not because they were required to but because they wanted to. One gave a testimony and I had the opportunity to pray with two of them at the altar. 
Do you see what I see?
  • A couple that has successfully crossed the bridge from The Harbor Light to being an active part of our Corps family. 
Do you see what I see?
  • Teenagers committing God's Word to memory as a part of the Bible Bowl team. I'm not sure if they realize it now but they are hiding His Word in their heart. The best part is they are excited to do it!
Do you see what I see?
  • Harbor Light Clients that are becoming a fabric of our Corps, sharing testimony, gaining encouragement, and seeking Him within the walls of our building.
Do you see what I see?
  • Our Junior Soldier Brigade walking the streets of our neighborhood collecting trash and thinking about ways that they can make our community a better place.
Do you see what I see?
  • Adults who are seeking, growing, and being discipled through the study of His Word. 
Do you see what I see?
God is moving.

I am reminded today that this is His show. I am here to serve but He is the one transforming lives.

Do you see what HE sees?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I really don't know...really I don't.

Once a month our Corps takes a turn feeding the hungry in our community.  Our building is used every Saturday but we cover the first Saturday of the month. It's an interesting crowd and for my very introverted son probably one of the toughest days of the month. But each month we go and serve and on the way home talk about what we experienced and the people we met.

Tonight I didn't really want to talk. I needed to think and process. 

Toward the end of the meal a man came in and said he was looking for shelter. I told him that our warming shelter hadn't started yet but he should try The Philadelphia House, the shelter for men. He said he'd been there but they told him that he'd been there too many times. So I naturally asked him how many times; five. Five times. This man was chronically homeless. I offered him some food, which he promptly turned his nose up at and left.

As he walked out the door I couldn't help thinking what causes this kind of chronic homelessness. Then I thought about some of our shelter clients who have exited but keep trying to come back, or the people who we see regularly for food and utility assistance or even Christmas time, the families that we see year after year, generation after generation.

One of my training officers once challenged me on this very topic.  She pointed out that this is the culture that many of our clients are raised in, sometimes for generations.  This is what they know. Many of our clients have amazing skills.  They are very resourceful, they know how to fill out paperwork, and they often have great networking skills (you need to get the word out about something? There's always that one client you can tell and the whole town knows.) 
So how do we translate that into the job market? I really don't know.
Do they really want to have a job? I really don't know.

I want to have compassion. I want to show these people Jesus. But I really wonder how Jesus would actually handle all of this.
Am I showing them compassion by solving the same problems for them over and over again? I really don't know.
Would it be more compassionate to show them that they can do it themselves and then let them do it? I really don't know.
 And if I took the second route would they actually do it? I really don't know.
And if they didn't would we step in and rescue them again in the name of compassion? Probably.

Are we just in fact enablers? I really don't know.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ashes into Beauty

The last couple of days I've been feeling very reminiscent. I've been going through the catalog of my memories and thinking about all of the people, places, and situations that have made me who I am today, some good, some not so good.

Today I am thankful for the not so good.

  • I am thankful for the tough growing up years. Being hungry, cold, dealing with an alcoholic mom who couldn't deal with life, having a Dad who wasn't around consistently, abuse....I am thankful for all of those things because they all taught me I am a survivor. I learned how to be resilient and resourceful.  And now as an officer in The Salvation Army I can relate to the people that we serve better and I can tell them with great confidence that God has not abandoned them and that there is a way out. 
  • I am thankful for past relationships with men that didn't work out. Sometimes it takes a lot of wrong ones to find the right one. When I met my husband I learned that I had value and was lovable.  Even before he met Jesus, my husband demonstrated His love for me when he was willing to be persistent and pursue a stubborn, obnoxious girl who didn't even love herself. 
  • I am thankful for the mistakes that I've made in my relationship with my husband. Let me be clear, the hurt that has been caused through the years was not pleasant and I wish that we both had sometimes made better choices. However, I am thankful for what we learned from it. I know that my husband is my soul mate. He is the man chosen by God especially for me. Our song has always been "Are you Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow and through the years he has proven over and over again that he is.  
  • I am thankful for those tough situations that I've faced in my Officership that, at the time, seemed insurmountable. It was in those times I learned the faithfulness of God and that His strength is indeed made perfect in my weakness. 

As I write this I realize people could see this as a real downer but I want you to know as I look back at all of it I really am not sad anymore. It's taken me a lot of years to say this but because of my past I now know great joy! He has turned these ashes into beauty....

With Gratitude.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trust the Process; A Spiritual Lesson in Sewing

There is a mug a Barnes and Noble that I have seen on several occasions but I haven't bought it...yet. The only extraordinary thing about the mug is three little words that appear in white letters: Trust The Process.

I actually think about those three words quite often. Last night, decided to get started on the shopping cart seat cover I am sewing for Becca. I bought it in one of those little kits you can get at the fabric store. It came with two pieces of fabric, a length of elastic, and instructions. So I'm thinking, "How hard can this be?" HA!

In reality it's a really simply constructed item.  The problem is I can't quite envision how or why the instructions come together. I've read over them several times and I just can't quite seem to wrap my brain around why I have to do things in the order they are given. Isn't there an easier way? I have done this with every pattern or sewing project I have ever taken on and usually it ends up with lots of ripped out seams and frustration.

This time while I was working those three little words popped into my head: Trust The Process. So I stopped trying to look long term and decided to work on one instruction at a time. It's taking me a bit longer but I haven't had to rip things out because I thought I could take a short cut or that my way made more sense.

As I was thinking about all of this and Proverbs 3:4-7 came into my head;

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

This is a struggle for me not only in sewing but in daily life. Don't get me wrong I really, really want to trust in God and follow Him but somehow my brain jumps ahead to the end and I see shortcuts and ways that seem to make more sense. Just like in sewing when I try to do it my way I end up with a lot of ripped out seams, frustration, and things that just turn out plain ugly. 

Today I will try again to slow down and trust the process. He has a plan and lessons for me along the way as long as I trust in Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.