Friday, November 28, 2014
We had the opportunity of visiting Joyville soon after it was opened. We met a little boy there, the staff had nicknamed, "The Preacher." We were told that the authorities had found him hiding under the backseat of a bus in Manila. Part of one finger and several teeth we're missing. He told them that his name was Toi Toi, and that his mother had done this to him.
The authorities took him to Joyville. The matron, a Salvation Army Officer, nursed him back to health and taught him how to pray. His nickname, The Preacher, came because, whenever the opportunity arose, he wanted to pray. We were told that he prayed without ceasing.
At the end of our visit, the officer called all the children together and asked Toi Toi to pray for us. He prayed for the staff, for all the other children, and he prayed for Doris and me by name. It was an experience we shall never forget.
It's been 22 years and Toi Toi would be about 27 years of age now. He might even be the boy mentioned in the video linked below, I don't know. But what I do know is, that he is but one of many whose lives have been changed through the miracle of Joyville.
Order your custom handed made Christmas cards today and help Joyville continue creating miracles one child at a time. We've a ordered ours and are sending them to a select list, suggesting they do the same.
And in each card, we’re placing the below links to these videos. Let's multiply our efforts together through another miracle, the miracle of social media, with a gift that just keeps on giving and giving.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day Halftime Show with Selena Gomez. I’ll refrain from responding to all the negativity, judgmental attitudes, and hypocrisy, as it would fall mostly on deaf ears anyway.
What I will do is write something positive, as this will ‘Do The Most Good” in my opinion, as opposed to negatives that reflect badly upon the naysayers, right or wrong, while poisoning those who may be influenced otherwise by contrary spirits.
First, I want to salute the Jone’s family for what they do day in and day out for The Salvation Army. It’s not just 6 minutes during a halftime show that may or may not resonate with the cultural values of every viewer. I’ve sat on the Commissioner’s Conference, been involved intimately with the National Advisory Board, and I’ve seen their Christian spirit up close and personal. It is real and genuine. Let’s celebrate, not denigrate it.
There are charitable organizations, religious and otherwise, who would give anything for this kind of opportunity. The financial contribution in prime media airtime and national exposure is mind boggling. I watched the show and recognized immediately that this was geared to the right genre, the charitable giving audience of tomorrow. My personal response was to applaud the producers for their creative vision and willingness to cross those cultural boundaries.
The Founder got hammered by the religious elite for taking on the cultural taboo’s of his day, but I’ll not delve into that as it would only provide more fodder for the negativity furnace (There is a parallel here, however). I’ve been hammered relentlessly at times for crossing cultural boundaries, so I write from a wealth of experience, scars and all. Success involves risk taking, and risk taking is fraught with danger. The larger the stage, the greater the risk. The greater the risk, the larger the reward, and sometimes, consequently, the steeper the fall. And every successful venture is preceded by many falls.
Selena Gomez, and those of her ilk, do not resonate with this aging septuagenarian. In fact, I had no idea who she was until this Thanksgiving weekend. But the GEN Y multitudes do, and they view things differently through a filtered cultural lens. I remember, clearly, when Elvis hit the world stage. “The world is going to hell in a hand basket,” the religious elite cried. And the beat goes on.
And The Salvation Army is losing this generation, simply because we are turning a blind eye to their cultural realities. Whilst not the purpose of this writing, I do have the research and data to back it up, perhaps the subject of another Blog soon.
My main message here is directed to those who have chosen social media as the medium for airing their grievances. May I suggest that there is a better and more productive way, as we all have every right to express our opinions. And I do respect every POV, although it may differ from mine. Let’s remember when expressing ourselves, that those on both sides of the issue care deeply about The Salvation Army’s mission. Let’s celebrate it, virtually, online, and everywhere else.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The tattoo culture, taking hold of this emerging generation captures the imagination. I’m imagining how William Booth might have reacted, had it been part of 18th Century London East end culture? In my fertile mind’s eye, I see him sporting the word, “Others,” creatively designed and displayed on his shoulder. After all, wasn’t it Bill Booth who wrote...
“If I thought I could win one more soul to the Lord by walking on my head and playing the tambourine with my toes, I'd learn how!”
That’s pretty dramatic isn’t it? And what about the Army mother, would she have condoned it? Didn’t she write something to the effect...
“Here is the principle - adapt your measures to the necessity of the people to whom you minister. You are to take the Gospel to them in such modes and circumstances as will gain for it from them a hearing.”
Sporting a tattoo wasn’t part of the culture I grew up in, nor were beards. Wearing a beard in the 50’s/60’s was considered a Beatnik/Hippy thing. I grew my first beard in the late 50’s, walking down the street, I overheard an elderly lady (she had to be in her 40’s) say to her companion, “Another one of those weird Beatniks!”
I grew it again, as a young Captain in my second appointment. A staff person on DHQ pulled me aside with a little career advice: “Keep that beard and you’ll go nowhere in The Salvation Army,” he counseled me. I’m still wearing it, a perennial Beatnik at heart.
A tattoo, one with a creative Gospel message? Tempting. Now, if I can only find a wrinkle free patch of skin on this aging body.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Capt. Kyle Smith
OCCUPATION: Salvation Army officer, pastor, father of two children
RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Married, 15 years
Why he makes us hot: To help make up for a slump in donations during the holiday season, Kyle Smith rang a bell for the Salvation Army for 36 hours straight. That’s hardly the most extreme task he’s taken on: Smith also spent time in Rwanda providing relief after the Civil War there. He’s traveled the world. He loves his wife. We think his heart is hot. And the five o’clock shadow. Oh, and the blue eyes. Did we mention the New Zealand accent? Damn, Mrs. Smith: You’re one lucky lady.
Turn-ons? “My wife. There is no other answer.”
Turn-offs? Bad body odor. Bad breath. “The prettiest woman can become not-so-pretty if she stinks.”
So, why are you so sexy? “I’ll tell you what: location, location, location. If I was back home, no one would notice me. Oh — and the uniform.”
Here’s what I want to say about this “Sexiest People” list, with Kyle right at the very top. Slightly irreverent, perhaps, but great publicity for a 21st Century Salvation Army. If I were still Candidate’s Secretary, this photo would set the theme for a candidate recruitment campaign: “Officership Is Sexy!”
The “informal” definition of “sexy” is: “EXCITING; APPEALING!” And that’s exactly the image we want to portray, isn’t it? Commitment, dedication, giving, serving, sacrificing and saving: Exciting and appealing. “Oh — and the uniform.”
Reminds me of a controversial, risky campaign we launched back in the 1970’s, the School for Officer training filled to overflowing, mind you.
O.K. Candidate Secretary’s out there, I dare you!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Homer, Alaska is the halibut fishing capital of the world, some of those caught weighing up to 730 lbs, 8’ long. They are one of God’s strange creations, at birth having an eye on each side of the head and swimming like a salmon. After about 6 months, one eye migrates to the other side and the color changes on the stationary-eyed side to disguise it from predators. God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t he? Look at some of us!
Now docked out on Homer Spit, there are “some of us” strange looking creatures disembarking to have a look-see – each of us “created in His image,” mind you. All rushing to have our pictures taken along side one of these bottom-feeding behemoths as they hang there on the weighing hooks (above). It’s really quite a funny sight if you stop and think about it, almost laughable. Which one has the Toni? Remember that commercial?
Makes me wonder, did God have these images in mind when creating us? Or did we screw it up somewhere along the way? For example, were “comb overs” included in His creation plan (See sample above)? What about makeup, liposuction and BOTOX? Or did He have a balanced diet, exercise and aging gracefully in mind? “Smile, Honey!” Get the picture? Standing next to this strange looking fish: Shorts, skinny white legs, pot belly hanging over, hair sprouting out the ears and extreme comb over – “Created in God’s image?”
The name, halibut, is derived from haly (holy) butt (flat fish) because of its popularity as a delicacy on Catholic Holy Days. I’ll leave the exegesis on this bit of knowledge to someone cleverer than I am. Go ahead, let your imagination run wild. There must be a sermon illustration in there somewhere.
Next port is Kodiak, where “there are more than 2,000 resident Kodiak bears on the island. North America’s largest carnivores and the world’s largest bear species, Kodiaks can be more than 10 feet tall, can weigh more than 1,200 pounds and are part of the Grizzly family; another of God’s strange creations. God does have a sense of humor, doesn’t he? Again, look at some of us.
Back on board, the Lakers are playing the Phoenix Suns again for the Western Conference Championship, watching it in the Sports Bar, Lorna Luft and entourage there whooping it up. Basketball is a strange game, isn’t it, grown, seemingly intelligent men running up and down this 94’ by 50’ court for 60 minutes (which takes 3 hours) trying to put a ball through a rim 10’ high and 18” in diameter? And they are paid millions for doing so! Can you believe this LeBron James thing? King James, Chosen One, really?
Ever look closely at these revered, athlete behemoths? Talk about strange creations. Take Shaquille O’Neal for example: 7-foot, one-inch tall, 360 pounds, size 23 shoe, shaved head and fully inked torso. Stand him up next to one of those Halibut fish or Kodiak bears. Get the picture?
Even stranger, stand my 5-foot, six-inch, 150 pound frame, receding hairline (no comb over yet), size 7 shoe and lily white, flabby torso next to his. Get the picture? I’ll bet I could take him in a game of Horse, though (ever watch Shaq shoot free throws?). David against Goliath!
Compare myself to David? Maybe not! He must have been the exception. There aren’t many of us who could sing, as he did, “ I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works… (Ps 134:14). The word ‘wonderfully” means: unique, set apart, uniquely marvelous, each and every one of us a very individual creation. Ah, maybe so!
Still, anyway you look at it God does have a great sense of humor. Take an honest peak in the mirror if you don’t believe me.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Anchorage, Alaska, not a cloud in the sky, Denali (“high place”), also known as Mt. McKinley, towering majestically in the distance, the Goliath of North American summits (20,320 feet). We’re told that temperatures at the top can dip below 100°F.
Ours is the first ship sailing into Anchorage after dredging of the harbor, coming in and leaving with the high tide very critical. Cameras and politicians everywhere, and I didn’t even bring my uniform. Commissioner Who? As a once high-placed Commissioner liked to say, “Upon retirement, I went from “Who’s Who!” to “Who’s He?” In hindsight, with all the uniforms on board (lots of gold braid), wearing mine, oozing velvet, might have brought preferential treatment (“high place”). Next time.
Speaking of uniform, there’s a Catholic priest aboard, conducting daily mass, high collar and all. He stands about 6’ 3’, very conspicuous, towering majestically above me. After a few days, high collar or naught, he is recognizable and very approachable, always a kind word (“Who’s Who”). Interestingly, I’m magnetically drawn toward attending his mass, conflicted about my Protestantism for the moment.
There’s also a Protestant service, but only on Sunday’s, the minister with no identifiable costume, invisible, blending in with the rest of us. They all pretty much look alike don’t they? – Dignified, severe expression, high forehead, thick glasses, pudgy around the middle and a long sleeved white shirt buttoned to the collar. I think I’ve spotted him, kind of looks like a Salvation Army Officer in civvies. The uniform does wonders for some, doesn’t it? Transforming, majestic, regal and imposing.
The Divisional Leaders in Alaska, Majors Doug and Sherry Tollerud, give us a grand tour, which includes a look-see at their magnificent camp, 700 some acres surrounding a gorgeous lake in Wasilla, they in uniform and we in civvies (Pictured above). I’ll let your imagination take over from there – what’s the plural of moose? Anyway can't see them, standing just out of the frame. By the way, Sarah Palin is one of their neighbors – “You betcha!”
Had to get back on board for the Los Angeles Lakers Playoff Game against the Phoenix Suns, a few 7’ plus Goliaths among them. Forget the Alaskan grandeur for a moment, got to be there in spirit with my buddy, Jack Nicholson, the Goliath of Academy Award winning actors.
Forget Jack, sitting in the lounge physically with us watching the game is Lorna Luft (daughter of Judy Garland), bedecked in Lakers uniform regalia (Pictured above, a little out of focus, forgive me). No question where she stands, vocally, ceremonially or otherwise. Lifting her hands high, she proclaims, “He (Kobe) is Lord (of basketball)! And here I sit, unceremoniously, in civvies. You get the picture. The game ended dramatically with the Lakers scoring in the last second to win, high fives all around. Lorna, upon leaving, places her hand on Doris’ shoulder and says, “I’ve got to go back to my room and take a Valium after that!”
Lorna performed the next evening, reminiscing about her two-year run on Broadway in Guys and Dolls, playing the lead female role, uniform, bonnet and all. In her remarks, she referenced this show as the Goliath of all Broadway Musicals. The lights dim, the orchestra strikes an opening credenza and she sings a medley of songs from the show. At its conclusion, I want to jump up and shout, “We’re Salvation Army Officers; that musical was about us!”
Alas! We sit there diminutively, quietly subdued in our civvies (Let your imagination run). Were we dressed in Salvation Army WARdrobe regalia, we would undoubtedly tower majestically above the crowd (“high place”), conspicuously, recognizable and approachable – buttons popping, high fives flailing.
Hmmm? Isn’t there a Biblical story somewhere about a light and a bushel? Exegetically, is TSA uniform a light or a bushel? Or maybe both depending? Standing out like a sore thumb. Or standing out, above the crowd.
“Once you're watching every move that I make
You gotta believe that I got what it takes
To stand out, above the crowd…” (Disney: “Stand Out)
There goes that love/hate relationship again.
PS Read the previous posts on this Alaskan Cruise travelogue, if you haven't already.