Sunday, December 28, 2008


1. One who is engaged in or experienced in battle.
2. One who is engaged aggressively or energetically in an activity, cause, or conflict.

Prayer warriors have always been held in high esteem where I come from. As a boy growing up in the church, I stood in awe of their power, authority and ability to include every person, place and thing, many times over, in a long winded prayer without missing a beat. In those days, during a public meeting, we went down on our knees to pray, it was called a “knee-drill,” appropriately defined: Drill: “repetition of a set pattern.”

And my church didn’t have those plushy padded kneeling benches, just a bare linoleum floor over hard, cold unforgiving concrete, quite the opposite of “forgive those who trespass against us.” You could count upon the same three prayer warriors repetitiously dominating a 45 minute prayer meeting. I must confess that my aching knees, some six decades later, are not as forgiving as they used to be. Nonetheless, my esteem for those warriors hasn’t lessened. In some ways, I long for their return but with one minor condition – knee pads mandatory.

I’ve watched our prayer posture mature over the years, becoming much more dignified, respectable and institutionalized. It’s now called “prayer posturing,” whereby clergy vie for an elevated place at prestigious gatherings, the invocation desirous, with the benediction coming in a distant second. Now there is political maneuvering for those plum spots, closet prayers no longer highly revered. Today these prayers are well structured and carefully worded, spontaneity no longer tolerated, impression everything.

Presently there is a big brouhaha over the Invocator selected for a major inaugural event, where prayer and political posturing have commingled together on the international stage. The secular left and the religious right each have their noses (or is it their knees?) uncompromisingly bent out of joint, both driven by a self-righteous gay agenda.

Ah, how I long for those old prayer warrior, knee-drill days. WAIT A MINUTE! The repetitive theme of those prayers is coming back to me slowly…”Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income” (Luke 18:11-12).
21st Century interpretation: “…or, heaven forbid, like this gay man.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Had A Dream!

I had a dream! Last night I dreamt that Jesus changed his plans in order to give us another chance, with another “coming” before the final one. The denomination he chose to identify with was a bit obscured in the dream, but it was definitely hierarchical in form with clearly defined ecclesiastical levels of authority identified by rank and position.

He started at the bottom, following protocol, purposefully working within the system, conforming where necessary and inching up through the layered chain of command, obtaining each coveted title along the way until at long last, in his waning days (3 years before retirement, no extensions), the crowning moment came: “Head Honcho,” be it Pope, General, Archbishop, General Superintendent, Whatever?

Upon reaching that long sought after, hard fought for position, He used that authority to begin leveling the playing field, thereby flattening the hierarchy, thus bringing a semblance of equality and oneness to the Body. His work completed, and while ascending the second time, he said, “You won’t know the time of my next coming, that’s the Father’s business. Be my witnesses in Honolulu, all over America, even to the ends of the world.” In that Spirit the Church began to multiply and prosper, comparably to the period following his first ascension.

Those who followed, several Head Honchos later, began to carefully restructure the hierarchy as it had once been. With increasing levels, titles and infrastructure there came, comparably, an ever decreasing number in followers.

At this point I woke up drenched in sweat; not a dream, a veritable nightmare! In the waking moments of reality, the thought came to me, Were he here, would Jesus even entertain taking on a title: General Jesus or Pope Jesus or Archbishop Jesus?

Kind of a scary thought, isn’t it?

Remember the time when James and John, jockeying for position, approached Jesus asking, “Arrange it so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left?”

Jesus’ response in effect was, “Better think this through, boys. You have no idea what you’re asking.” When the other disciples heard this they lost their temper and became indignant, maybe even a teensy weensy bit jealous.

Then we hear Jesus’ great discourse about “rulers who lord it over them and high officials who exercise authority over them,” saying, “It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to first among you must be your slave” (Mark 35-45).

Easy for you to say, Commissioner! I hear you thinking. Hey, I was just as surprised as the rest of you, perhaps more so. And besides didn’t Jesus also say something about the first being last?

Now that’s really scary!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Faux Pas!

I was out of the country for an extended period of time, making me late paying the credit card bill. It was a large bill, the penalty being very hefty as you might imagine. I called the company, begging, pleading and even wallowing a bit, explaining that my contract-breaking lateness was genuinely unavoidable for all the right reasons. After a little lecture reminding me of the legal contract I had signed, the representative of a normally ruthless industry had compassion on me saying, “Since you have been a good, loyal customer for many years and because you don’t have a history of lateness, we will exercise some flexibility this time. However, in the event you are late again, the penalty will have to be paid.” I thanked her profusely vowing never to be late again.

Almost simultaneously, I was denied a hefty refund for critical dental work by my denominational health care plan because I had failed to read the fine print about the UCR (Usual Customary Rate) Policy, and obviously the dental fee was significantly over that rate. Incidentally, I had to schedule the work quickly as I was going to be out of the country for an extended period of time, i.e. above, and it couldn’t wait.

I wrote the official denominational representative, begging, pleading and even wallowing a bit, explaining that my policy-breaking “faux pas” was a result of genuine ignorance, and if some compassion and flexibility were shown I promised that it wouldn’t happen again. The fact that we had been loyal servants of the institution for 45 years remained unsaid. After making the customary bureaucratic rounds, my appeal was denied on the grounds that it was a hard-line policy with a line having to be drawn somewhere, me being the “somewhere.” Well, so much for “Compassion in Action!” And it did cause me to rethink the ruthless part.

I was also reminded that Jesus broke the denominational Sabbath hard-line policy (rules), not because of ignorance or lateness, but because He and his disciples were genuinely hungry, a pretty good reason don’t you think? What impressed me most was the flexibility He preached. After reminding the lawmakers of past exceptions to the rule, He said:

"There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—'I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual'—you wouldn't be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he's in charge" (Matthew 12:6).

For context, I direct you to the second to last paragraph in the post below. Irreverent or irregular? You make the call. And if so inclined, pass this link along to the “keepers of the law” within your own denominational structure.

PS The penalty, ultimately, for Jesus' faux pas was death; mine was a measly $465, hardly a comparison. But it still hurts!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sacred Cows!

It has recently been brought to my attention, on pretty good authority (although not first hand), that a territory in the western world has mandated that, in the future, 75% of all music used at youth councils must be “Salvation Army music,” excluding even contemporary Salvationist compositions; only traditional stuff from the red song book.

I hope I heard this wrong, or that there is something missing in the translation, but even the fact that this issue has raised its ugly head again is problematic from a lot of different perspectives. It is, in fact, another in a series of “déjà vu all over again.”

The question isn’t even, “What is Salvation Army music?” although it’s an interesting one. I haven’t taken time to go through the song book (nor am I going to) and tabulate the origin of each song, but I can assure you that many of them were borrowed, begged and…well maybe not stolen, who knows? William Booth is purported to have said, “Why should the devil have all the good music,” or something to that effect. I wonder, would Barry Gott’s brass arrangement of songs from the musical, “Godspell,” count in the 75% or should it be tallied as part of the 25%? Who’s counting anyway? I hope another line isn’t going to be added to the statistical report.

The question is much bigger and broader than this, “What is our mission?” If we answer that correctly then all of our “sacred cows,” be they music or whatever, will fall into place…or out of place, whatever? Or to put the question another way, “Have we now moved from being a mission to becoming an institution.” Institutions are, in part, defined by their “sacred cows.” I’ve covered this subject thoroughly with a series titled, “Rediscovering the Mission,” beginning with the February 1, 2008 post – “What was once mobile and fluid has now become static, ingrown, methodological and institutionalized.”

Further, this piggybacks on my recent post below. “Salvationism” is mission in action. Mission is “Genesis in motion.” It removes the “No!” from “in(no)vation,” and replaces it with “Yes!” Reread the Orbiting “obsessing” quote below and put it into context here. Replace the word, “statistics,” with music or one of the many other sacred cows now mooing in our vineyard.

What is TSA’s DNA anyway? What makes us uniquely who we are? Catherine Booth defined the answer to those questions forcefully and succinctly for us: “Adaptation, expediency, is our only law” (Feb 9 post). And who do you think her model was?

I’m having trouble determining whether these are irregular or irreverent thoughts, so to be safe you will find them at both locations.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Extension Free!

We left for the Brisbane airport at 9:30 a.m., Monday, Oct. 20 with a stopover in Sydney and then on to Hawaii. 10 coffees, 5 meals, 3 movies, 2 shuttles, 22 hrs, 10 minutes later, we arrived Honolulu at 7:40 a.m., Oct. 20, 1 hr, 50 minutes before we departed. Go figure! At my age, I wish these kinds of time calculations occurred every day. Gaining approximately 2 hours every day, next year this time I would be 30 days younger. Now that’s my definition of “extending.”

After breakfast (I was asleep on the plane when breakfast was served) and a sugar-free, vanilla latte, it was off to Kuhio Beach for that rejuvenating swim under the swaying coconut palms—a taste of heaven-on-earth. Think about it: A place of “healing waters,” thirst-quenching rivers” and “life-giving trees” where “time will be no more” (Revelation 22). Those of you still trying to untangle from the Hairball, see what you have to look forward to? We, the retired sanctified, are just a wee bit closer.

I barely missed the cut and was able to retire at age 65 (extensions began immediately thereafter), followed now by almost 7 years of “heaven-on-earth” bliss. During those 65 years I spent most of my time, as MacKenzie says in Orbiting, “daubing more or less inside the lines.” For the first time, during these 7 years, I have felt entirely free to paint my masterpiece unencumbered by the Hairball.

He goes on to write, “The stifled strokes of paint had nothing to do with me. They did not illustrate who I am or speak of whom I could become. I felt duped, cheated, ashamed—anguished that I had wasted so much canvas, so much paint. I was angry that I had been conned into doing so.”

“But that is the past. Passed.”

“Today I wield a wider brush—pure ox-bristle. And I’m swooping it through the sensuous goo of Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson or Ultramarine Blue (not 4, 13 or 8) to create the biggest, brightest, funniest, fiercest damn dragon that I can. Because that has more to do with what’s inside of me than some prescribed plagiarism of somebody else’s tour de force.”

I can echo a loud “Amen!” to that.

He goes on to write, “You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know. One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be. And remember:”

“If you go to your grave
without painting
your masterpiece
it will not
get painted.
No one else
can paint it.
Only you.”

So it’s back to the heavenly drawing board for me, free from the threat of those Hairball limiting “extensions.” I’m actually painting “The River of Life” right now. Mine is filled with sugar-free, non-fat vanilla lattes! And without the hassle of a Hairball controlled petty cash reimbursement, mind you. I wonder what yours might look like?

Friday, August 15, 2008

God Forbid!

I’m vacationing (perpetual for me) in Hawaii right now with Barack, as in Obama, the presumptive Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. Well we’re on the same island together anyway. And there are some significant differences between the two of us believe it or not. When all of the tourists spot him they think, Who’s Who. When I wave they think, Who’s He? He’s running for President of the United States of America; I was just appointed a Committee Chairperson for my home-owners association. He’s young; I’m old. Come to think of it, so is his Republican counterpart, John McCain, a fellow septuagenarian. The difference is, he’s running whilst I’m rocking (as in retired).

Think about it. Can you imagine a 71-year-old as Commander-in-Chief? God forbid! I mean isn’t seventy synonymous with senility? What about the atrophying muscles and sagging body parts? After all, “The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be.” Those years of experience, accumulated wisdom and sacrifice can’t compare to a youthful enthusiasm and minimal body fat, can they?

Wait a minute! Obama just turned 48 a week ago, didn’t he? So what if most mornings include an hour-long, full body workout with standing tricep push downs, lying triceps presses with single 15 lbs dumbbells in each hand, shoulder presses, step ups with a high platform, clasping dumbbells, 50 lbs overhead dumbbell extensions and calf raises lifting about 80 lbs? Whew! Do trimness, charisma and youthful enthusiasm a world leader make? Think about it. Would you want a 48-year-old answering the “red telephone” in the White House? God forbid!

Can you imagine a stuttering, 80-year-old prophet facing up to a dictatorial regime and leading an entire nation into the Promised Land (Moses)? Or a 37-year-old annointed as King of Israel (David)? Or a prophet who was taken into captivity as a teenager, but was not to receive the Prophecy of 70 Weeks (Daniel 9) until in his 80’s? Or a 30-year-old anointed as the King of Kings? Or a 40-year-old Pope/General (The Salvation Army)? Or a 71-year-old active Territorial Commander (TSA)?


P.S. Written while rocking…after a two-mile swim and 200 sit-ups, that is.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rites of Change!

Written for the June 1984 issue of “The Orange Blossom” - Santa Ana Corps newsletter (Introductory comment @ Slightly Irregular - right):

I find it difficult to conceal the smile on my face these days. You see, the annual Salvation Army “Rites of Change” have concluded and our names were missing from the list. The yearly ritual goes something like this:

February: The Dance of Initial Speculation. Involvement is entirely voluntary and only requires letting your fingers dance through the “Disposition of Forces” pages. It employs the “process of elimination,” with the following clues in mind:

1. Take note of the “date appointed” (revealing number of years in their appointment) and write the “farewell odds” next to each name, utilizing the following formula: 1 Year – 10%; 2 Years – 20%; 3 Years – 40 %, etc. For example, we have been in our appointment for 4 years now, so the odds of our name being on the list are at 60% - thus the smile (beat the odds).

2. Designate “giftedness” or “specialized reputations” next to each name as follows: (!) = Program; (*) = Detailed; ($) = Finance; (?) = Youth. This helps to narrow the field.

3. Circle rank and age as this is vital for certain appointments.

March: The Ritual of Retirement. Every territory has a Savant who can recite with great accuracy the entire litany of ages and retirement dates. If asked he/she will give you a wallet-sized card so listed chronologically. Or you can go to the back of The Yearbook. These dates will be very helpful in narrowing the field.

April: The Chant of Rumors. As June draws nigh, rumors will begin to resound with increasing frequency. Listen carefully, keeping track of how many times you hear the rumor. If those making the appointments hear them often enough they will begin to think it is their idea.

May: The Rhythm of Reviews. Divisional Reviews are now complete with a confidential evaluation shared on every officer along with appointment recommendations. Whilst these are done confidentially, there are certain telltale signs to look for: (1) names obviously omitted from the Camp Meeting responsibility list (2) those failing to reach their Self Denial target (3) statistical comparisons, noting those who are “down” (4) the “twitch” or “tic” a DC or TC develops when addressing certain officers. Body language is a powerful tool.

June: The Incantation of Compilation. Now, after carefully adhering to the above, write every name and appointment, separately, on a piece of paper, place into a collection plate, mix thoroughly and pull them out randomly matching name to appointment. Your chances of getting it right are as good as any.

Let me tell you about the one ultimate appointment I’m sure of, sans all of the guesswork. My name’s already written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Hope yours is too!


Monday, January 14, 2008


Junk mail, get it whether I want it or not. Spam likewise. I Googled the word, “Spam” thinking it was an acronym for something and found a different one to define it, “UBE” – Unsolicited Bulk Email. I still have no idea why the word, “Spam,” is used in this context.

My search did lead me to an acronym for SPAM in a completely different context, however – Shoulder of Pork and hAM. UGH! My grandchildren in Hawaii love it, especially in the form of Spam Musubi – “a block of salted (not vinegared; that would be sushi) rice with a slice of Spam (cooked or uncooked) on top, and typically nori (dried seaweed) surrounding it to keep it in shape.” YUK!

According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, the residents of the state of Hawaii and the territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands consume the most Spam per capita. On average, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of Spam each year…In Hawaii, Spam is so popular it is sometimes dubbed ‘The Hawaiian Steak.’” It goes on to say, “Many jocular ‘backronyms’ have been devised, such as ‘Something Posing As Meat’ and ‘Spare Parts Animal Meat’ or ‘Special Purpose Army Meat.’" There must be a sermon illustration in there somewhere?

Now where was I? Oh yes, we arrived home, after an extended two month absence, and the mail had piled up, mostly junk mail, advertisements for Viagra, reverse mortgages, hair loss (growth) formulas, hearing loss solutions, memory loss treatments and back copies of various magazines, including AARP (all age related mind you). In the mix were three back copies of one of our church denominational magazines. Here’s where I get a bit befuddled.

I, an American, receive the The Salvation Army British Territory’s “Salvationist” (denominational paper) whether I want it or not. It used to be an international paper published by our Headquarters in London, but that all changed somewhere along the way. Yet we still get it and most pay for it whether they want to or not.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s an excellent publication (certainly not junk mail in that sense of the word), geared to the British audience, obviously. And they have reason to be proud of it. It’s just that I have no desire or need to know the itinerary of their territorial leaders. Places like Market Rasen, Sleaford and Basingstoke are totally off my radar screen. The Territorial Commander’s column is spot on for that part of the European Continent, but I would be more interested in what my own leaders are doing and saying – Butte, Albuquerque, Kake, Escondido, Pohnpei, now you’re talking my language.

It’s nice to know that their TC sent an anniversary message to the Queen, but the concept of royalty doesn’t even begin to compute with me, culturally. And I’m glad to know that SP&S is “On the Road, “Coming to Worthing and Winton Corps” (wherever they are). I must admit that it does make me a little envious, though, being that my own territory doesn’t have a Supplies and Purchasing Department of its very own.

Then there are the adverts (“ads”), like this one: “Do YOU know anyone linked to The Salvation Army who does not get a copy of “Salvationist” every week? There are employees, regular worshippers, friends, clients, former Salvationists and others who will enjoy reading a copy regularly if they receive it.” In the lower right-hand corner there is a large star with the inscription, “Still only 60p” (however much that is). The byline reads, “Salvationist – the essential read for everyone linked to The Salvation Army.” Perhaps that should be extended to read, “…in the British Territory,” don’t you think? Besides where are my friends going to find 60P, huh?

I do enjoy the “Letters and News” section and can relate to a recent letter to the editor titled, “We are a corps not a corpse.” The writer was relating to “our corps here at Sudbury (wherever that is) referred to as a corpse” in a telephone inquiry. He went on to say, “Couldn’t we find a better way to describe our church centres (“centres” doesn’t jive with my Spell Check) – or perhaps our centres of evangelism? I want people to know that we are alive and kicking, not dead and buried.” Fire a Volley! Amen! Even an American Salvationist can understand and connect with those feelings.

A recent column by the editor was headlined, “Nutters do it together.” It was in reference to Tony Blair not speaking out about his faith because “he felt he would be thought ‘a nutter.” Huh? I don’t know what it means, but if speaking out about your faith makes you one, lay it on me.

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language... we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God…’ Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine. (Paraphrased: “These guys are nutters”) – Acts 2:1-13.

OK, with those kind of editorials maybe the “Salvationist” is worth 60p a week (however much that is), even in America… whether we understand it or not.