6 Reasons I Am Grateful For the Salvation Army

My family at a Salvation Army.  I'm the little girl on the far right...

My family at a Salvation Army. I’m the little girl on the far right…

Today is the Salvation Army’s 150th Birthday. The world is a much better place for the inception of this amazing organization. My world is a better place because of them. In fact, I just cannot stay silent on this day of celebration. So here are 6 reasons that I am grateful for on this Founder’s Day.

  • Sound Biblical Teaching: The Salvation Army is a not only an international movement, but a church. As a girl growing up in a second-generation Army household I remember how quizzical faces became when I told them that I attended the Salvation Army for church services. My paternal grandparents were Salvation Army officers as well as most of my father’s siblings. At one time, the Dalberg family was quite a name to drop in the American SA. So it was natural that we attended the Army for our weekly church services. I am grateful for the foundational and scriptural teaching I received as a Junior Soldier.
  • Family Heritage: I cannot think of a finer legacy than that of “Heart to God, Hand to Man”, and even though I no longer attend the Salvation Army as my local church I have always had a tender spot in my heart for serving others. In fact, I am now the Executive Director of a Christian non-profit Love INC. I know that this is due to the heritage that the Salvation Army has instilled in my life. I am eternally grateful.
  • Radical Love: The Army truly does love the unloved. You know…the ones no one else wants in their church; the homeless, the dirty, the slightly insane, the man or is he a woman, or is he a man? I’ll never forget one of the first Salvation Army church services I brought my children to when they were still elementary students. Scripture was read by a bearded woman…a fully-bearded woman and special music was done by a woman playing the accordion while on oxygen. Not to mention there were several outbursts by an intoxicated man. My daughter whispered to me, “This is better than the circus!” I was mortified by her comment. But this is their calling, my beloved Salvation Army. One of their songs boldly proclaims, “Oh to love the unloved, in the service of the Lord!” They love people right where they are…and many times those same people learn to live better, godlier and more productive lives. Some of them even enter the ministry. I’ve never seen a better record of truly transformed lives. Love changes everything.
  • Patience: There have been seasons in my lifetime when I have been more than a little concerned about the direction of my beloved Army. I have feared that like many other charities that they might lose their spiritual roots, but every time God has raised up His standard and the Army has remained faithful to His call. I pray that they will continue to seek wisdom on how to continue this vital ministry in a mixed up and crazy world. But through it all I have learned to give organizations time to correct and autocorrect and to respond to obstacles. This Army is the Lord’s and He is well able to take care of it.
  • Love of Others Before Love of Self: I am thankful that as a Junior Soldier I was asked to sign a commitment never to drink alcohol. I am not sure if this continues to be a practice, but this commitment had a profound affect on my life. It was a commitment I took very seriously. And the reason for this commitment was not because the Bible says not to drink. It was for the sake of the weaker brother and sister, for the many who come to the Salvation Army for help. It was for the love of others. Even as an adult, when my first marriage fell apart and I was a single mom confused and alone, I remember having a fleeting thought that maybe I should try drowning my pain in a bottle of wine. But then I remembered a piece of paper that I had signed as a 10 year old and I ran instead to the Throne Room and into the arms of my Savior. He was able to handle my pain better than any bottle of wine.
  • Refuge: Recently I have had a family member use the Army’s services due to mental illness. The family didn’t know what to do. The local church didn’t know what to do. Quite honestly, government programs didn’t have any answers. But my beautiful Army they embraced him. They loved the one that no one had any answers for and he is on his way to recovery. It was too difficult for family to fight alone. The Body of Christ needed help caring for this member. When there was no government program; When caring for the loved one was destroying family; When the Body of Christ was weary and weak, that’s when the Army became a place of refuge. This is my Army, and I am forever grateful.

Writing From A Ditch

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“We are all ditch dwellers,” Kirk Vander Molen, Director of Missional Integrity announced. My takeaway from the Love INC National Gathering was something unexpected. It pointed a gnarly finger at me, a ditch dweller. The general idea was: How do I identify with the characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan? In truth, I’ve always identified with the Samaritan or one of the other passersby. But here I am challenged to peer over the ditch to the side of the road; dirty, beaten, my hand raised to a hurried traveller and begging help. I have been the ditch dweller more often than I care to admit.

Sometimes I refuse to believe that I am stuck in a ditch and in my pride I turn a blind eye to hands reached out to help me. Other times I am slithering along loose gravel reaching down into pits deeper than mine to other ditch dwellers, and lifting them out. It’s the Garden all over again. I am desperately trying to be God rather than acting on behalf of God. And I feel superior. Better about myself because I am a ditch desperado. All the while, my own ditch is dug deeper.

Because we all have them, you know. A rut. A ditch. A reoccurring failure. Times we have been taken advantage of. Times we have taken advantage of others.

But what if I changed my perspective of service from highway traveller to fellow ditch dweller? What if I allowed my life to be a ladder for others who are reaching out for help and point them to the only One who is called Good? The Good Shepherd. He can heal them better than I ever could. Our problem as ditch dwellers isn’t the ditch we are in or the abusers who left us there, but how deeply we allow ourselves to be healed. Most times we want a quick fix and a hastily applied bandaid. But the Great Physician wants to go deep and wash festering wounds that will soon infect the whole Body. But we turn away from pain until we are so weak that we have no choice. Receive healing or be a different kind of ditch digger. The kind that we all become at the end of it all.

It can be frustrating, dealing with ditch dwellers. Most times, they don’t want our help. They take advantage. They want the bandaid and not the surgery. Though we can see clearly the help that they need, they resist and often refuse. But when we remember our experiences as ditch dwellers, can we blame them?

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Providing needs without introducing others to the Great Provider only insures that they will be insatiably needy. It’s the bandaid before the disinfectant. Encasing germs and grime and in the end only making wounds worse. For there is only one thing we need more than any common cure and that’s uncommon care. And the only care that’s uncommon reaches deep into the deepest parts and dresses wounds creating astounding momentary pain but bringing great eternal health. There is an uncommon call to reach into ditches while remembering that we too are ditch dwellers. This uncommon call begs that we not rescuing alone, but that we rescue in communion with Christ. Only He can transform our ditches into furrowed trenches ready for seed; ready for newness of life. Doing things in our own name only digs ditches deeper. Doing things in His Name transforms ditches into a row in His garden. It turns morning into dancing and creates beauty from ashes. It transforms. And just as I am crawling out of my ditch, I can humbly turn and offer a hand to another…and then place that hand into His.

Soap and Shampoo, Elements of Communion

My office is an oasis. It is a place of refreshing for those who think they need money, but who really need a drink. Weary travelers call hoping that we can solve all of their problems. Instead, we are only allowed to provide a sip. Because to allow the parched to gulp only gives them more pain, and they are thirsty for so much more than provision.

We give them soap and shampoo, but then we give them a morsel of genesis life. It is a Eucharist of sorts; a bit of bread and a sip of wine; scripture and prayer.

The Word of God, Jesus, was broken as bread…and we live by this Bread of life. His Words are the sustenance our innermost being survives to hear. These Words spoken heal wounded hearts, souls and bodies….and the wine? His Spirit. Where two or more of you agree touching anything there He is…right there in their midst. There He is, right there in the Personal Care Pantry. Soap cleansing the body, God’s Word cleansing a soul and the intoxicating Presence to wash it all down.

The seed is natural, but the growth is supernatural. Soap grows into spiritual hunger when mixed with prayer and compassion.

Maybe if we can give a sip, the partakers will want more….we hope to whet appetites with soap and shampoo, with Word and prayer, and all in the Name of Christ.

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Kim Sullivan is the Executive Director of Love In The Name of Christ Tinley Park, Illinois. Love In the Name of Christ of Tinley Park is a group of Christian churches and church volunteers reaching across denominational lines to help people in need. People in need often end up on the doorstep of our community churches. But one church alone cannot deal with the complex issue of poverty. Love INC works by mobilizing churches and Christian volunteers to network with existing community resources and develop church ministries to fill the gaps where community services are not available.

If you are interested in donating to this cause or learning more visit our website at loveinctp.org

Sharing with Michelle.

And Emily who is releasing her brand new book, Mom in the Mirror today!

…and playing with Laura…

Picking up where I left off

#303 a robin named Baskin’ caring for her young…
#304 a call to warfare and the courage to answer
#305 a warm day…FINALLY
#306 work day epiphanies that keep me going
#307 a tenth leper phone call
#308 Divine provoked courage
#309 the conspiracy of the Divine

The Fray and the Face of God

“I found God on the corner of First and Amistad…” I’m not sure what the writers of this song meant by this line, but I know what it has meant to me.

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I’ve always longed to see the face of God. I’ve looked in the faces of my family and have seen a glimpse of Him in their eyes, yet the glimpse slips through my fingers and is forgotten like warm summer sand is remembered no more in the midst of a long winter.

I’ve looked in the face of spiritual leaders and have found perfectly flawed men and women, striving to be seen in His image, relying on His grace….and a glimmer of His features are vague, unstable pixels from an other-earthly camera.

But I’ve never seen the face of Jesus as clearly as when I find myself in the middle of this scripture.

I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:36 NLT)

As Executive Director of Love INC of Tinley Park I am often given the precious opportunity to peer into Jesus’ eyes in what might seem some very unlikely places…through the eyes of the hungry, the homeless, and the heartbroken.

It is so easy to judge why a person has become who they are, but the most important question in the Love INC process is “How is it that you find yourself in this difficult situation?” …and then we listen. We listen to pain and promise. We hear so much more than the initial need which provoked the phone call. Loneliness, abandonment, betrayal and misdirection reveal themselves in the stories told. It is then that we can go to work. We can go to work because we have allowed the person to become more than a client with a current need. They are now a living, breathing, feeling person with a past, present and future. They aren’t an empty pantry or an unpaid light bill, instead they are a lonely seventy-five year old man who hasn’t seen his daughters for over fifty years; Or a woman who has had the courage to start over again after her abusive husband pushed her down the stairs; or the family who has just recovered from Mom having cancer treatment just to find out that their son has a brain tumor.

It is in their eyes that I see Jesus, because He told me that when I am serving them I am serving Him. It is where I found God…my corner of First and Amistad.

On Becoming Father Tim From Mitford

Years ago, in the midst of a difficult season I came across some books that saved my sanity, Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I call them vacation-in-a-book. The gentle perspective of an aging Episcopalian priest living in a fictitious small town in North Carolina brought peace and tranquility to my heart. Even though the protagonist, Father Tim, lives a far from a stress free life, the grace with which he lives it overcomes any turbulence he may experience.The true to life characters can be found in any parish, and the prospect of a romance for the never married sixty-something-year-old priest is intriguing.

Recently, I have been without a car, a predicament Father Tim prefers. My office is in the historic district of Tinley Park and I often find myself ambling along Oak Park Avenue visiting with small business owners while dodging red and yellow maple leaves from the trees.


I walk to the post office, while passing one of my participating churches and waving to the owners of Kernel Sweetooth.

I stop in to get my hair cut at the salon where they insist that I am much older than I am and continually give me a buffont.

I boost myself up onto a stool at an old fashioned ice cream parlor for a chocolate phosphate and talk about college with the handsome young man home for the summer.

My office door swings open to wonderful characters who make my life so much richer if not more complex. Finally, the mayor’s office calls me for information on an upcoming Love INC coat drive, and I pinch myself to ensure that I am not dreaming. When did I become Father Tim? When did I move to Mitford? How did I never notice? What a dream come true!

What book does your life emulate?

Connecting More Dots

I am sitting somewhere I never thought I’d be, not in a million years.  I’m sitting in a hotel room, alone, on a business trip.  This is a pinnacle of sorts; a place to look back and wonder at the hand of God and His leading. 

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I’m kind of lonely, very excited, more than a little frightened, and completely overwhelmed by His grace.  Oh the wonder of it all!  The wonder of the journey He’s prepared for me.  The journey of a simple girl.  A girl who was told she could do anything in life, and who chose to be wife, mother, home educator and church volunteer.  And when all of those roles seemed to evaporate into thin air, she found herself lost and frustrated, wondering what was next.  

Now that simple girl, through a miraculous chain of events, finds herself an Executive Director of Love INC.  So humbled am I that the board of directors chose me, and even still more humbled when I consider that He chose me. 

At first I wondered how this fit into my plans.  Remember my plans?  The ones whereby I became a successful author?  Those plans were going well.  I received two scholarships to writing conferences and interest in two of my books.  But God, He had different plans.  God had big plans for a little me. 

At one of those conferences T. Suzanne Eller helped me discover why I love to write, my true motivation.  I love to influence others toward Christ.  Writing for writing sake doesn’t motivate me, but writing for His sake does. 

And now?  Now I get to influence hurting people every day that I go to work.  I have the privilege of coaching and encouraging volunteers from 5 different churches.  I had no idea when I forced myself to be organized with the kid’s school records that I was learning how important documentation can be.  Little did I know when I oversaw 4 small groups with over 45 people total that I was learning valuable leadership skills.  I was completely oblivious when I planned events at nursing homes that I would use those same skills to plan events for church leaders and pastors.  When I went business to business selling advertisements for my home school co-op playbill, I had no clue that I was training to raise thousands of dollars for a non-profit organization. All of that social networking that I was learning while promoting this site?  My has that proved valuable for promoting our brand new Love INC affiliate. Here’s my favorite…I started that other blog, remember it?  What In The World R U Doing 4 Christ’s Sake?  It featured incredible people who were making a difference in their communities. Now I am one of those people! Who knew? All along I had no idea what I was being trained for.

But you know what?  He did.  He knew.  And He knows His plans for you.  They are totally blow-your-mind amazing and so much beyond what you could think or imagine.  He has plans for you to make a difference in this world.  More than likely, you are already training for your future.

So, next time you have a trial, don’t wish it away.  Thank God that He trains your hands for upcoming battles!  You never know where His leading might take you!

Finding Holy In The Process – TOYS Linkup

I look out of a slightly smudged window and wish I had some Windex, smirking at the irony of it all. I’ve been trying to make out my destiny through cloudy glass for some time now. My destination has been made much more clear as of late.  I thought I had finished my life’s greatest work, only to find that I’ve only just begun. The train jolts then creeps forward. I say goodbye to everything near and dear and hello to the exciting unknown, I will be farther from home than ever before. I feel like a girl leaving for college, except that I am forty-four years old, and my face shows years of pain and smiles and now an unexpected emotion, surprise. I thought I was used up and empty…I guess I was wrong.

Soon I am in another state; both in geography and mind. Amtrak has very wisely planned for Iowa and Nebraska to be in the dark, and that is where I have been…in the dark. Ordinary, everyday, hardworking dark. And next morning after sleeping beside a strange man, bright sunshine makes alive every sensation I have. I wake in Denver. The air sparkles with the expectation of rising higher than I’ve ever been before.

The mile-high city lays at the foot of a new and different world, and the train lurches forward to meet it. In a matter of minutes I have gone from looking east as far as the eye can see to facing west, and my future, with only a wall of rock in front of me. The train leans toward a precipice. The dizzy sensation I have when I look down feels familiar. I resume an upward gaze. The train works to climb, and gravity resists the change in altitude. We go through a tunnel…an eleven minute tunnel. All is dark, and the weight of a mountain presses in on every side. I try to imagine I’m in a traffic tunnel on the Kennedy expressway back home.  It is the only way I do not panic.I wonder if this is how Lot’s wife felt when she looked longingly at the life she left behind. I exhale in relief when bright sunshine flashes before us, craning my neck to look forward and see my future, instead I can’t see the forest for the trees.

The soil gets redder and the air drier, until all that surrounds me is parched. Have I been on a train or a rocket ship? Because I’d swear this was Mars. No life as far as the eye can see. Only strange and forlorn rock formations. I can not help but wonder what happened here. Was it always this way? How long have I been here? Time stands still in this place, for there is nothing to measure it but the scorching, searing, sun. I am desperate for change.

Night falls in Utah. Train stops in Salt Lake City. There are no cabs to be found. Eleven p.m. looks very different in Salt Lake City than it does in Chicago. A small group of college kids party at the end of the block. I call my hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service. They don’t, but they are coming to get me anyway. I waddle through the door of my room, drop my bags and wear my loneliness like a robe. I’ve never stayed in a hotel room alone before. The room is fabulous, but all I can think about is how much my family would be enjoying this trip…the family I feel like I am leaving behind. But truth be told, they leave me behind for their bright and bold futures.

I crash on the bed and sit up hours later in the early morning light. I make my way across town, suitcase in tow. I’m the minority here, a Christian in a Mormon world. It’s Sunday morning and I wait for a shuttle bus at the LDS convention center. Everyone ignores a bum asking for money. They are late for Sunday morning service. I bow my head in recognition. I’ve done this, been too busy serving God to notice how I might best serve Him. I walk over and offer the man a few protein bars. He gladly receives them.

My fellow passenger is a very enthusiastic Mormon convert who is determined to convert me. My spirit pleads with God while conversing pleasantly, desperate to show this young man a different Jesus than he knows. We pray for one another as we cross a bridge popular for bungy jumping. I free fall, not knowing how to land, but trusting His arms to catch me.

I am met at the airport in Boise by a temporary stranger. A lovely lady. She shows me around town and feeds me homemade soup that heals my soul. I am looking forward to tomorrow and learning about my new life as an Executive Director with Love, INC.

I wake to the smell of coffee and my new friend and I have a sticky communion of waffles with syrup and cold milk. Different than crackers and wine. It is then that I recognize it. The blur comes into focus. For I’ve been on holy ground the whole time. Holy ground on the train embarking on a new life. Holy ground in Iowa and Nebraska in the dark but trusting the conductor to help me arrive at my destination. Holy ground in the mountains when the journey is frightening and I could not see ahead. Holy ground in the desert when my soul thirsted for Him and Him alone. Holy ground on the mission field when I was alone, but never alone. Holy ground when I grieved for the end of era, the end of a role. Holy ground in the making of a new friend…All is holy when you see through the Planner’s eyes, because He’s planned for it all. Mistakes and everything.

 

Won’t you join me next week to hear about my ride home?

Won’t you join me on Fridays for a new series and linkup called, “Take Off Your Shoes, You’re On Holy Ground!” or TOYS? Each week a post will be shared about the significance of a place and you will be able to share as well!! Just 1) Write a post about how a place has ministered to you. 2) Add your post to the linkup. 3) Add the button to your post. 4)Visit and encourage your neighbors!

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