Exploring a Vision

Booth’s vision of rescuing people from the Sea of Misery

The blog post quoted below, dating to back to early 2007,  is the vision God gave me for my officership before we were ‘interupted’ in 2010.  It came in a dream, I seem to remember.  I can still see the place in my minds eye today and this blog post below was just an attempt to write what I could see.  Since writing it, I’ve discovered the missional movement, the simple church movement, the organic church movement, the new monastic movement and all that sort of stuff – there are so many things that speak into this original vision now and that seem to link to a wider thing that God is doing in his church.

Whether we will ever realise this vision in the Army now I don’t know.  We made some steps towards something similar in Torry where we refined many aspects of the vision and worked with the limitations that were there.    The vision still inspires me today and in honesty its the kind of thing I’d want to invest in.  It excites me, I can see it, hear it.  It certainly does strike a contrast to your ‘regular corps’ but then I think it is a vibrant and engaging possibility.   Hope it is of interest!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Simple Mission

I’ve got a dream. Its best encapsulated by the phrase ‘Simple Mission.’ Let me explain how I see it.

It is a corps of soldiers and local officers working a geographical area. It is, of course, a ward based corps, so the main teaching, prayer, worship and pastoral care happens in a network of small groups. New converts are also plugged straight into these groups because this corps doesn’t hold conventional meetings…not every week anyway. Now thats a good job, because this corps doesn’t have a very expensive building to maintain because its much more Kingdom efficient to just rent the local school hall when all the wards come together for celebration.

The corps does, however, have a decent sized shop front in the main street of the town. This shop front is the hub of the mission. It has a 24/7 prayer room too.  There might be a couple of offices at the back, but the front is just kitted out with sofas, a few tables and chairs and a coffee machine, and its open as much as possible. Its not a scant building though, it is simple yet attractive, modern. People float in and out all day, the young people gravitate there in the evening. Its the kinda place you want to spend some time.

As well as the ward meeting, the soldiers engage in brigade activity. They all get together at another time in the week and get out into the community. Maybe there is some outdoor worship, maybe some will be out doing prayer ministry door to door, some will be ministering practically to the poor. Others will be using the hub providing a course for new parents. Others will be prayer walking. Some might do an afterschool club at the hub to keep kids busy until bedtime. Others might be leading midweek worship at another church. Others are mingling in the local pub with the regulars. Yet more are befriending elderly folks, encouraging them to come down to the hub and meet a few people. Folk from all the wards get together to have a band practice because they spend their Sundays speading the word at as many public parks and events as possible during the summer and they love to go carolling at Christmas.

Others give free hours to the local Salvation Army hostel to help maintain the important spiritual work of saving men and women from addiction. The whole corps is invovled in mission yet everyone has much more time to be building personal networks of friends to invite to their ward because they are not down the Army doing all manner of stuff every night. At the bare minimum, people are attending their ward and doing a couple of hours brigade activity. Others are so enthused that mission is happening that they just want to give as much time as possible to the corps mission and they love manning the hub and supporting other brigade activity.

The corps officers devote their time to training the soldiers and local leaders. They get stuck in along with the rest of the soldiers with the brigade activity. They make the hub their base for most of the week. They may even be overseeing two or three hubs. The Army now has a less officer-centred ministry because of this dedication to simple mission because the whole Army is mobilised. The officer is now released to lead, direct and oversee…pointing out gaps in the strategy, manouvering troops, providing coherence, overseeing the pastoral work of the Ward Sergeants. The officers aren’t shattered because they aren’t having to carry the whole Army’s mission on their own. They have plenty of time for their mariages and families and there is much less unrealistic expectation thrust on them compared to what it was like before the change.

The Army has come into its finest hour and we’re opening new corps all over the place. Thousands are being saved, resources are plentiful and joy has returned to The Salvation Army.

Do you see it?

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Children as Disciples of Jesus

This video is very clever, witty and well made. Kudos to those who created it. But hey, the message is really much more crucial and vital. This topic has been on my mind of late due to the observations I have made about my own children in their new setting. My eldest in particular.

Ben on becoming a ‘Junior Soldier’ in The Salvation Army

Ben is 9, fairly bright and is interested in the things of God – thats how we’ve brought him up. In our days at Pill, he would often pray in a meeting, answer my rhetorical questions in sermons and ask questions in public worship.

We then moved up to Wick and he would continue to do that, for a little while. But by this time, when he came to the Army he would sit under the table at the back. The context didn’t engage him. Occassionally you’d hear a prayer from under that table cloth at prayer time but he was disengaging with the Body of the church and to be honest, the congregation were deaf to him.  I remember once when he started to pray, someone began to pray and drowned him out.  Not intentionally perhaps, and maybe they didn’t hear him.  But I remember feeling sorry for him that evening, that he wasn’t being heard and was being disengaged. 

That all changed fantastically at Torry, where our gatherings we much less formal, more conversational and indeed where our main mode of meeting was face to face in peoples homes. Our meetings were multi-voiced and open participatory, which meant that everyone was expected to contribute something God had given them as the norm.  Ben participated fully and openly.  He was looking forward to the opportunity to lead us through our meeting as a whole in time, but never had the opportunity before we left.  Yet, he’d often read the bible, offer his understanding of what was happening in the text and ask questions if he had them.  He matured in his understanding significantly, and as soon as he was old enough and grasped the implications of the gospel, we enrolled him as a Junior Soldier, basically a ‘junior member’ of the corps we were leading.

In our current context, public worship has little opportunity for him to engage.  Occassionally there is the opportunity to go up on the stage for the kids talk and no doubt makes witty contribution, but I do notice that not only are the opportunities rare, they are also at that unusual ‘kids talk’ level, at which the answer to any question is normally ‘Jesus.’  Our children are not performers to be ‘Awww-ed’ at.  They want to follow Jesus.  You know what I mean, don’t you?

We’re told that Ben actively contributes in his Sunday School class and thats great, but at home, he often asks when we can meet like we did before because he liked taking part.

What culture do we want in church for our children?  Surely one that instills in them from an early age that they can follow Jesus.   One that inspires them to do so, equips them to do so.  Maybe one that takes more seriously the potential of children to teach us things about God, the bible.  An appreciation that they, too, pray, engage the bible, think about the big questions and actively share their faith.

Contrast my daughter Ceitidh, who is just 5 and hasn’t got the memory of those contexts at all.  Are we creating a passive pew-filler?  Maybe in the church context, yes, but praise God she is a more avid bible reader than her father an mother put together!  No joke!  You see, I think do we have to ask the questions of church, the gathered faith community in all this.  However, as parents we must never underestimate the importance of faith at home, worship at home and the responsibility that is ours to pass faith on to our children.

Deuteronomy 6

 1 These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, 2 so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. 3 Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.[a] 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

What are we doing?

At William Booth College, on Thursdays they had cadets meetings every now and again.  I can’t remember what they called them.  Bascially, a night of worship etc organised by cadets for the college community.  One of the times they had a sort of ‘open mic’ night and people were just invited to share whatever it was God wanted them to share. I was sitting there and starting to get ‘that feeling’ in the pit of my stomach…that feeling where you have to stand up and say something.  Might not happen in your church circles, but not out of place in Army circles (‘a soldier is ready to preach, pray or die at a moments notice’ says Booth).

So, I move to the front.  I put my bible on the floor and I stand on it, literally.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I felt led to do it and I imagine that I gave a word about the importance of having the word of God as our foundation and not moving from it.

And therein lies my problem.  I do confess I have a problem.

The journey between that kairos moment (for me at least) and now has more or less been the fall-out resulting from seeking to live out what it says.  Now, I’m not saying that being in The Salvation Army as an officer is a direct contravention of scripture….as such.  However, in the years that were to follow I just kept on getting myself into trouble for the whole Bible thing.  Dyed-in-the-wool Salvationist, that I was (am),  I believe all the SA doctrines, especially the first one, which says ‘we believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice.’   (I didn’t even have to look that up).

What does that mean?  Well, I might be a bit dumb, but I think that it means the we believe that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice!  But what does that mean?

All the way through my time as a ‘fully-fledged officer’, I was aware of asking this question.  The first assumption I quickly came to was that my estimations were that my base gifting was not that of ‘pastor’ – at least not in the modern day sense.  Not in the sense of ‘preach the sermon, feed the sheep, visit the sick and talk about ingrown toenails’ variety.  I didn’t see that in the bible.  I couldn’t find the pattern of the one man band.  Even in partnership with Tracy, many of the corps folks were still looking for ‘the male officer.’  Whats that about? 

My problem was that I had been eisegeting, instead of exegeting.  Those are bible college words for what we do with the bible.  To eisegete, we start from our subjective point of view and read in our workings and justify it from the bible.  What we should be doing is ‘to exegete’ – to go to the bible, discern what it is saying, and then allow that to determine our practice.  I soon discovered that it was much more than just the shape of ministry that I was eisegeting and so I made a determination to move to exegeting instead.  Well, there went my nice officership.

I use this to illustrate a general point.  I’m not the first to do this, in fact Catherine Booth does it in the opening chapter of her Papers on Aggressive Christianity:   suppose that we forget the hundreds of years of church history and just had before us the gospels, the book of Acts of the Apostles’ and the rest of the New Testament, what would we make of it?  I mean, if we were starting fresh, would we do what we do now and have what we have now?  Would we meet like we do?  Would we live like we do?  Would we lead like we do?  I mean, really, what would the priorities be?

I’m not advocating ‘blueprint-ism’ here – some sort of ‘we must do it exactly like 1st century church.  What I am saying is that if we were starting now to form Christian community using the pages of the New Testament and translating it into our culture, I doubt if we’d come up with what we have got now.  I mean, who from reading the New Testament would get the idea of turning up to a big (or small) hall twice on a Sunday, sing some songs and listening to one person ‘perform’ the whole thing?  No, you just wouldn’t get that.

I mean, it strikes me that the big ole message of Jesus was to love God and love one another.  That has to be up there as the whole point of the whole thing.  Number one, right up there.  And you know, how well can we love one another doing what we do when we gather?  That has to be the key.  Is what we do and how we meet the best way to love one another?  Maybe why this is why the believers met day by day in the temple courts AND ate in one another’s homes, breaking bread.  A whole load of ‘one anothers’.  There are a total of 54 ‘one anothers’ in the New Testament.  And most of them are impractical things to acheive in the way we often do the church thing.

The second ole thing is that they gathered to listen to the apostle’s teaching,  they prayed,  there were close enough to practically love one another, making sure that no-one amongst them was in need of anything.  There isn’t even much of a mention of singing!  

And hey, these guys didn’t have masterclasses in the latest evangelistic techniques because they had a story to tell, a Jesus to follow and a mission to live out.  They weren’t scalp hunters, they were out in business to teach people to obey all that Jesus commanded them to teach.  Making disciples.  It was so natural, it didn’t have a massive budget, but it did cost them their lives.  Following Jesus isn’t an add on, it demands your all.

Friends, thats only the beginning, isn’t it?  Don’t we know that the experience we have of the thing we call church is, well, less than full?  I love the body of Christ.  I’m passionate about it.  I believe in its fundamental role as the biggest change agent in society because of Jesus. 

But I’m certain about this thing:  I’m not convinced that the thing we got is something we can legitimately call ‘church’ in the scriptural sense of the word.  Its like the Irish joke “Yes, I know how to get to Dublin, but if I was going there I wouldn’t start from here.”

Trouble is we do start from ‘here.’  How do we deal with church?  Is it able to adjust, shift, realign?  Will this, increasingly, be the thing that separates ‘new church’ from ‘inherited church’ – the shape of it?  Or, in this internet age, are we the generation who will see the next great reformation of the Christian church?  If the last one was about orthodoxy (believing the right stuff), will the next one be about orthopraxy (doing the right stuff)?  I hope so.  Bring it on (and count the cost)!

(First published on my other blog, but just adding Army related content from there on here)

The Mercy Seat

Mercy Seat at William Booth College

Biggest thing I miss about The Salvation Army?  The Mercy Seat, without a doubt.  Not only the Mercy Seat, but the culture of open response.  Now, the people I serve do respond to God and the Holy Spirit amongst them, of course they do.  But I do believe there is something helpful in being able to move from one’s seat, to come forward in response and to be a) prayed for b) prayed with in the context of the gathered community.

In the Army, we come from a tradition of ‘preaching for a verdict.’  We preach wanting people to respond to the word, rather than just soak in teaching from the Word.  Even when we teach, we still want people to apply and respond…we’re such activists! I believe moving physically in response to the Word of God helps to confirm that response of our heart with our whole being.  I’ve tried alternatives, including standing and receiving prayer afterwards etc but there is still the culture of response that lack of a Mercy Seat doesn’t plant in the consciousness of the community of faith.

Yet, the second aspect of the Mercy Seat is its continual presence.  Its always there in public worship.  The bare old wood itself bears a message that hey, there is something God wants to do in your life.  Whether its to cleanse a sinner or purify a saint, the Mercy Seat is a continual reminder of all that God wants to do.  Sure, Brengle said you gotta have a Mercy Seat in your heart.  Friends of ours run a Salvation Army prayer centre and they say ‘the whole place is a Mercy Seat.’  Praise God.  But we don’t all run prayer centres and we know the value of the physicality of ‘place.’

One corps I soldiered at before officership had the worst Mercy Seat in the world.  It had a million plants on it (ok..exaggeration) and there was nowhere to kneel at it.  It had probably been years since someone had.  The expectation had gone that anyone should respond.  So even actually having one is a bit useless without the call to respond.

Thankfully, my five year old daughter Ceitidh has the Mercy Seat in her psyche somehow.  If we are visiting a church building, any church, she’ll kneel and pray at anything resembling a Mercy Seat (usually communion rails).  Whether its in a touristy cathedral or a country church, she tries those places out! 

My arguement is that there is a spirituality of ‘space’.  The Celts called them ‘thin places’ – places where they thought they could focus on God, places that in themselves, suggest the call to the secret place with God.  I believe we all need it. Otherwise, where do we go?

Made in heaven…

Today is my 11th wedding anniversary.  Here we are (left) very young and in love (which we still are) covenanting our lives to one another under the flag of the Army wearing my high collar like a good soldier.

A few days ago, we celebrated another anniversary – the 15th anniversary of us being together in a relationship which has quite literally been made in heaven.  I don’t just say that out of some sense of romance, I say it sincerely because God ordained that we be together in our life’s journey.  I believe this.  God brought us together in the way that he did, at the age that he did for his purposes.  Our whole life belongs to him and we want to serve Him alone all our days.

From the very beginning of our relationship, quite aside from all romance and youthful infatuation, was a very spiritually mature foundation for our age.  You see, Tracy and I only continued our relationship on the understanding that we would both serve in ministry together as Salvation Army officers.  Even in those days, you had to be married to an officer if you felt called to officership!  So, unusually for some, marriage and officership was the topic of conversation in the first few months of letter writing (we lived quite a distance apart).  We were 15 and 16 years old at the time!  Yet, our promise stood true.

What else can be said?  Tracy is now 31, I will be 31 very soon.  Thus far, we have had so many varied, great (but challenging) experiences, two beautiful and intelligent children and I hope so many more to come (experiences that is, not necessarily children!!)  But we are in a transition time as a family.  Our original vision was disrupted and we’re currently waiting on God to open the next volume of the story.  Pray for us, will you?  Its so important to us that we do what God would have us do with the rest of our lives.  We don’t want to miss what he has for us and our children.

In the mean time, I pledge again all my love to Tracy and renew every vow and promise I ever made her before the Lord.  And I pray that God will seal again those things for his Glory and his Name.

Book Review: "One for All" by Knaggs and Court

“One for All” by Commissioner Jim Knaggs and Major Stephen Court is a publication of three books in one:  two previously published ‘One Day – A dream for The Salvation Army’, ‘One Thing – Win the World for Jesus ‘ and the new publication ‘One Army.’  The books explore and expound upon a vision for the Army that Commissioner Knaggs shared at an Aggressive Christianity Conference in Australia in 2007.

These men speak about an Army which, in essence, is still to be.  They speak to the very heart and identity of the Army.  Its something that Salvationists love to do and I’ve indulged in a fair amount of that in my time.  Yet the writers aren’t just ‘all words on a page.’  They are men who ‘do the stuff.’  Indeed, the book seeks to help the reader translate the vision into reality.  They are two men that I have engaged with over several years and who have shown the true spirit of Salvationism towards us, especially in our last months of officer service in the Army and beyond.  When I hear their individual voices shining through the joint text, I smile and thank God for them both.

The three component parts are fascinating in themselves, but combined provide a compelling vision for the Army.  In the first book, the elements of Knaggs vision are expounded by a variety of Salvationist essayists across the Army world, officer and soldier alike.  The second books combines the various strands and focusses like a laser on the one major purpose of the Army, to win the world for Jesus.  The final book is a plea for unity around the core salvo principles of the vision, whilst allowing for creative versatility and diversity.

It is the first ‘Army book’ that I’ve read this side of officership.  As I’ve said above, Knaggs and Court pin down everything about the Army that inspired me so much.  The Army is, indeed, a tremendous chapter in the history of God’s engagement with the world.  So as I read, my heart rings out ‘Amen’s and ‘Hallelujah’s’ and evokes a few ‘Blood and Fire!’s   Its edgy, radical, fiesty, incendiary and I’d imagine it will be pretty annoying (if not entirely alien) to those Salvationists who don’t belong the the kind of Army out to win the world for Jesus. 

This is a book that every corps officer, HQ officer, local officer and soldier will want to have on their shelves.  Every vision needs to be fleshed out.  It needs bones, muscle, sinews and blood pumping round it for a reality.  Knaggs and Court need to keep this vision alive.  It is all to easy to assign great books and inspiring visions to the bookshelves and the worst thing that can happen to this book is that it is read and put on the shelf.

Having said all that, I must confess that one of the things that led to me leaving the Army was that I actually bought into the vision espoused in this book, and did so sincerely.  That sounds like a weird thing to say but most folks who read my blog and know my writing from Army days will know the truth of that.  One of the conclusions I have made about my Army life was that I was living in an Army that few around me could see.  The Army in my mind wasn’t the Army that existed around me.  Easy to say now that I should have had more vision or wisdom, should have persevered, but its difficult to hold to a vision in isolation and in the end, isolated was what we became until we felt we could fight no more.

So whilst for me I struggle to see either my part in it or to what degree it can actually become a reality, I don’t say this as a criticism of the book, not at all.   I celebrate the publication of this volume.  My hope is that this book will bring comradeship to many a Salvationist struggling out there.  Sadly it happens and, thankfully, there is reference to this reality in the pages of the book. It brings the vision of the radical Army into the mainstream in a real way.  It gives any visionary leader the opportunity to share this vision with those he/she leads, not just from his or her own convictions, but with the ‘big name’ backing that things tend to need in the Army for people on the ground to take note.  Knaggs, Bond, Burrows, Noland, Court, Strickland, Rader – all the names are there.

But as for Clark, I’d love to think that there would be ‘one day’ where I might be welcomed back into the ranks open-armed and take my place ‘on the field’.  Maybe if General Bond has an amesty, I might hand myself in….

Sell your bed and buy the book.  Available on Amazon and on Kindle.  Probably available from your local trade department.

Made in heaven…

Today is my 11th wedding anniversary.  Here we are (left) very young and in love (which we still are) covenanting our lives to one another under the flag of the Army wearing my high collar like a good soldier.

A few days ago, we celebrated another anniversary – the 15th anniversary of us being together in a relationship which has quite literally been made in heaven.  I don’t just say that out of some sense of romance, I say it sincerely because God ordained that we be together in our life’s journey.  I believe this.  God brought us together in the way that he did, at the age that he did for his purposes.  Our whole life belongs to him and we want to serve Him alone all our days.

From the very beginning of our relationship, quite aside from all romance and youthful infatuation, was a very spiritually mature foundation for our age.  You see, Tracy and I only continued our relationship on the understanding that we would both serve in ministry together as Salvation Army officers.  Even in those days, you had to be married to an officer if you felt called to officership!  So, unusually for some, marriage and officership was the topic of conversation in the first few months of letter writing (we lived quite a distance apart).  We were 15 and 16 years old at the time!  Yet, our promise stood true.

What else can be said?  Tracy is now 31, I will be 31 very soon.  Thus far, we have had so many varied, great (but challenging) experiences, two beautiful and intelligent children and I hope so many more to come (experiences that is, not necessarily children!!)  But we are in a transition time as a family.  Our original vision was disrupted and we’re currently waiting on God to open the next volume of the story.  Pray for us, will you?  Its so important to us that we do what God would have us do with the rest of our lives.  We don’t want to miss what he has for us and our children.

In the mean time, I pledge again all my love to Tracy and renew every vow and promise I ever made her before the Lord.  And I pray that God will seal again those things for his Glory and his Name.

Book Review: "One for All" by Knaggs and Court

“One for All” by Commissioner Jim Knaggs and Major Stephen Court is a publication of three books in one:  two previously published ‘One Day – A dream for The Salvation Army’, ‘One Thing – Win the World for Jesus ‘ and the new publication ‘One Army.’  The books explore and expound upon a vision for the Army that Commissioner Knaggs shared at an Aggressive Christianity Conference in Australia in 2007.

These men speak about an Army which, in essence, is still to be.  They speak to the very heart and identity of the Army.  Its something that Salvationists love to do and I’ve indulged in a fair amount of that in my time.  Yet the writers aren’t just ‘all words on a page.’  They are men who ‘do the stuff.’  Indeed, the book seeks to help the reader translate the vision into reality.  They are two men that I have engaged with over several years and who have shown the true spirit of Salvationism towards us, especially in our last months of officer service in the Army and beyond.  When I hear their individual voices shining through the joint text, I smile and thank God for them both.

The three component parts are fascinating in themselves, but combined provide a compelling vision for the Army.  In the first book, the elements of Knaggs vision are expounded by a variety of Salvationist essayists across the Army world, officer and soldier alike.  The second books combines the various strands and focusses like a laser on the one major purpose of the Army, to win the world for Jesus.  The final book is a plea for unity around the core salvo principles of the vision, whilst allowing for creative versatility and diversity.

It is the first ‘Army book’ that I’ve read this side of officership.  As I’ve said above, Knaggs and Court pin down everything about the Army that inspired me so much.  The Army is, indeed, a tremendous chapter in the history of God’s engagement with the world.  So as I read, my heart rings out ‘Amen’s and ‘Hallelujah’s’ and evokes a few ‘Blood and Fire!’s   Its edgy, radical, fiesty, incendiary and I’d imagine it will be pretty annoying (if not entirely alien) to those Salvationists who don’t belong the the kind of Army out to win the world for Jesus. 

This is a book that every corps officer, HQ officer, local officer and soldier will want to have on their shelves.  Every vision needs to be fleshed out.  It needs bones, muscle, sinews and blood pumping round it for a reality.  Knaggs and Court need to keep this vision alive.  It is all to easy to assign great books and inspiring visions to the bookshelves and the worst thing that can happen to this book is that it is read and put on the shelf.

Having said all that, I must confess that one of the things that led to me leaving the Army was that I actually bought into the vision espoused in this book, and did so sincerely.  That sounds like a weird thing to say but most folks who read my blog and know my writing from Army days will know the truth of that.  One of the conclusions I have made about my Army life was that I was living in an Army that few around me could see.  The Army in my mind wasn’t the Army that existed around me.  Easy to say now that I should have had more vision or wisdom, should have persevered, but its difficult to hold to a vision in isolation and in the end, isolated was what we became until we felt we could fight no more.

So whilst for me I struggle to see either my part in it or to what degree it can actually become a reality, I don’t say this as a criticism of the book, not at all.   I celebrate the publication of this volume.  My hope is that this book will bring comradeship to many a Salvationist struggling out there.  Sadly it happens and, thankfully, there is reference to this reality in the pages of the book. It brings the vision of the radical Army into the mainstream in a real way.  It gives any visionary leader the opportunity to share this vision with those he/she leads, not just from his or her own convictions, but with the ‘big name’ backing that things tend to need in the Army for people on the ground to take note.  Knaggs, Bond, Burrows, Noland, Court, Strickland, Rader – all the names are there.

But as for Clark, I’d love to think that there would be ‘one day’ where I might be welcomed back into the ranks open-armed and take my place ‘on the field’.  Maybe if General Bond has an amesty, I might hand myself in….

Sell your bed and buy the book.  Available on Amazon and on Kindle.  Probably available from your local trade department.

Casualty

“Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed.”
— Jean Vanier

Astounding.  I was introduced to the existence of Jean Vanier through the Crucible Course I’ve been doing, but haven’t really read a lot of his stuff in detail.  My reading list is too long as it is.  Yet he is one of these quotable guys, always saying something entirely amazing.

I won’t bore you with the reasons why, but I had cause to spend 7 hours in the Accident and Emergency department of our local hospital in the middle of the night, early Thursday.  Waiting for a considerable time, you have the opportunity to watch people.  And is there such a more vivid place to see weakeness than in the waiting room of A&E?

As I sat there wondering what was wrong with them all, you can see that some of their weaknesses were visible….hobbling, cuts, bruises.   However, for many, the biggest wounds they carried were no doubt things of the heart. 

And then I think about myself and realise that I’m there as a ‘casualty’ too.  Yet, I’m one who has known in many ways what it is to be celebrated and seen as a source of joy, especially in this last year, and subsequently to see much healing come.  And honestly, I have truly received much more than I could ever have given to the good folks I serve day by day and week by week.

What a wonderful act of grace to welcome and embrace the weakness of others.  I’m still a spring chicken in lots of ways, but ‘the older I get’ the more beauty I see behind the facades of so many.  The more people we can accept in weakness, the more healing we bring.  The more we ourselves are open about our own condition, the more we find that we are not alone and that we find our life and identity in the community that bears the name of Jesus.

“Look at your own poverty
welcome it
cherish it
don’t be afraid
share your death
because thus you will share your love and your life”

Jean Vanier