Forty two-years and four months ago I was commissioned (ordained) as a Salvation Army officer. Three months from now I will enter “honored retirement” from active service. Over these years, I have been blessed by wise thoughts from many sources. These practical words have sometimes encouraged, sometimes chastised and sometimes inspired me. I would like to make a going away gift of just a few of these thoughts.
“The Lord God has told us what is right and what he demands: See that justice is done, let mercy be your first concern, and humbly obey your God.”(Micah 6:8)
Generally speaking I have found that most things do not get simpler over time. But these words from Micah capture for me, the simplest expression of living for the Lord. My personal calling to serve the Lord through serving others is expressed in the final line of The Salvation Army’s mission statement: “….to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.” I cannot imagine a more ideal way to have lived out Micah’s admonition.
“Ministry is not a fireworks show with a flash of colored lights, falling sparks and a big bang lighting up the sky. No, ministry seems to be more like a web touching here and there, fragile at times and never sure where the next point of contact will be.” (Major JoAnn Shade)
One of my most important lessons learned is that real ministry happens not so much by my planning, but by God’s leading. Every relationship, every encounter is a potential moment of ministry. Whether behind the pulpit, across the desk or in the soup kitchen, I need to ask the Lord to keep me aware of that precious moment of connection.
“Winnie the Pooh says to himself: “I think I’ll go and see Tigger! No, he dismisses that. Then he says, “Owl!” then, “No, Owl uses big words, hard to understand words.” At last he brightens up. “I know! I’ll go see Rabbit. I like Rabbit. Rabbit uses encouraging words like ‘How’s about lunch?’ and ‘Help yourself, Pooh!’ Yes, I think I’ll go and see Rabbit.” (A.A. Milne)
What a sweet reminder to try and keep things simple, practical and positive in our ministry and service. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, asked for “an increased supply of good, hearty, sensible, cheer-up people”. In this way we can offer to those we serve faith over finitude, love over alienation and hope over guilt.
“…..no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
In this adventure that we call life, there is no GPS! We do know where we are, and have an idea of where we would like to be. Everything else is in God’s hands….the paths of services, the privilege of entering the lives of others with compassion and hope, the promise of a faithful God who leads and sustains us. It is not the devil who is in the details…..but God himself.
“May the Lord disturb and trouble you; may the Lord set an impossible task before you, and dare you to meet it; may the Lord give you the strength to do your best; and then – only then – may the Lord grant you his peace.” (Anonymous)
This prayer was on the back cover of a Salvation Army magazine. It grabbed my heart. In our shared calling to social service ministry, may we claim this challenge for our own.
Betty is currently the Salvation Army National Social Services Secretary at the Salvation Army National Headquarters and has been an NACSW member for about 20 years. For more information about the Salvation Army’s mission and ministry, please check out www.salvationarmyusa.org.