Where Kindness Leads

Moving as much as we have, much was lost. Or tossed, or given away. Most of it just stuff but time reminds me of the photo’s  dad had that didn’t end up with me or my brother. I’m surprised there are a  few cherished things that found their way to our home.

Durham bible

mamas songbook songbook note

The books and bibles are well-worn and today I finally glued the spine back to one of the family bibles and a songbook given to mama. Kind words were written inside from the giver and I was quickly reminded of the kindnesses that have spread across generations.

Notes written in books, a delicate handkerchief from a pastor’s wife when I was a teenager, funny pictures with friends who could bring out silliness in me. I wondered if I’ve been as kind in return.

me and Suzi

I thought I had the correct change when I walked in to get a soda. But I’d mistaken a penny for a dime, plunked the money and drink on the counter and said, “I’m short a dime and going to the car to get it.” Walking back in, a young man walking out said “I gave her the dime”. Kindness from a stranger.

I am moved by kindness. The simple gesture of a coworker offering to walk me to my car when night has come, someone holding the door open, these ordinary everyday acts, I don’t want to miss the grace of giving and accepting.

My mind goes to the gentle rhythm of a melody from long ago….

It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, O Lord

Knowing that you love us no matter what we do

Makes us want to love you too.    – Your Kindness Leslie Phillips

“His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” Romans 2:4b TLB

The rest of the verse is hard. It talks about our stubbornness and our refusal to turn from our sin, from our own desires rather than His. The verses talk about his judgement that will come. But, God wants to move us with his kindness, His benevolent patience.

God, help me to be moved by your kindness, swayed to put your ways above mine. With each kindness shown me by a stranger may I see your face, your hands, your grace. Forgive my stubbornness. May my heart be turned to you.

What’s good for you


It’s no surprise that I’m not a big show kind of person. Meetings that are overblown and overstuffed with things to make ‘us’ look good or look like we’re doing the most good and celebrating ourselves instead of our Creator.

While meetings can be overdone, I am over critical. Sitting in the crowd, trying to disappear and just get through.

We were going to a week of these big meetings. Thousands would be there from all over and I just wanted to go to England again and see it with family this time. The meetings would be an obligation.



Do you remember somewhere around Jr. High age when you didn’t want to go somewhere or be part of a school group but your parents kept pressing, assuring you it would be good for you?

Daddy always made me play in the school band. In those days I was often the only girl playing a brass instrument and I learned quickly how to ignore rude boys not use to a girl in their section. Especially a girl who wasn’t half bad.

I fussed, but turns out, it was good for me. I learned more about music, which in my opinion, is never bad. I also learned how to not let stupid remarks lower me to another’s level.

Funny thing about this big celebration in London, it was good for me too.




I forget that our coming together is more than celebrating our heritage, it is celebrating why we have this heritage.

We come together to blend our accents and languages in prayer and praise, to come away from the burdens of the everyday and soak up the affirmations that God has raised an Army of believers to serve the lost and last and least.

We come together to be reminded we are the lost, the last, the least, and God calls us through His power and Spirit to be grace and give hope.

We come to be reminded this mission is bigger than ourselves, bigger than our local units, it really is a world-wide Army for God.

We come from over 100 countries to this city where it all began. Where God called a Methodist minister to come away from the safe and practiced church and “Go for souls and go for the worst”.

He and his wife would fill their tent services and store fronts with men still stinking of alcohol, with the curious wondering what this odd lot was about.

“You’ve heard of The Salvation Army, what an odd lot of people they are.

They sing and they shout Hallelujah, as daily they march on to war.

They form in a ring on the corner, they kneel in the street e’er to pray,

While others tell out the sweet story, how happy they are night and day.”

from the song, I’m Glad I’m a Salvation Soldier

Catherine Booth said, “If we are to better the future we must disturb the present” and disturb it they did with their bands playing tunes heard in bars but the words replaced with words of salvation and God’s love.

They gathered on street corners and used military terminology and ranks to identify their ministers (officers) and members (soldiers).





150 years. 

William Booth was a visionary and if we are to be true to his vision, and God’s calling, change must come. But change doesn’t wipe out the past or our foundation.

So we celebrated our heritage and challenged ourselves to continue this war on sin. A war fought with love and mercy. Armed with truth and grace.

And it was so very good for me.

To view video clips of Boundless2015 International Congress, Boundless2015.

Five-Minute Friday {meet}

arms of grace quote

It seems we always meet at the worst times. The times when anger wells up inside or fear of the unknown stifles my being and turns me into a complaining mess. Yes, she has a knack for showing up at just those times.

Too often, I ignore her presence or can’t hear her over my selfishness but she is there, waiting with the patience that only comes from above.

What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things – Grace, U2

The unknown tomorrow is known by a loving God and through our fears and anger and hurt, his grace will meet us.

For the Wanderers

He was sitting crouched in a chair, the blue hoodie over his head. He stood to give me a hug as I walked toward him, this skinny kid with a talent for rhyme and a bent for drugs.

His voice is soft as always but the silence he used before gave way to quick words of It’s good to be back. It’s hard out there.

The night before we’d all sat in the chapel. I’d heard that maybe he’d come back and maybe that was him curled up on a cot, the 100th person in a 99 bed facility. Let him stay I said to Gavin. We know when anyone first comes in their body is a shell and their mind a sponge that has dried hard from the toll of addiction. He didn’t need a bible class. He didn’t need to try to make himself listen or sit up. He needed rest.

Our gathering that night was different. Rather than two bible study groups we joined together to recognize the Lenten season. For some, to learn what this kind of lent is and for others to be reminded of the symbolism. For all of us to understand it’s personal how we do this giving and receiving.

Some sat with open hearts and I suspect some sat with unwanted yearnings for the poison that wants to claim their life. The magic cure alludes them because it isn’t magic but it’s work and surrender which is a lot like work.

The closing song lingers, its words echoing in my mind from the moment I woke.

Oh wanderer come home, you’re not too far

And he did. This wanderer whose face can’t even grow a decent stubble has come home.

He is just one but there are so many more. Some will come home to peace, to hope, and some will wander still.  But no wanderer is too far.

I’ve done my wandering and still do. I wander from gentleness and gratitude to cynicism and complaining. Both are equal poisons that threaten to steal what God wants me to have and to share. They won’t cause me to lose my family or a job like an addiction can but they can cause me to lose who God wants me to be.

Come sit at the table, come taste of the grace

I carry my burdens refusing to share and on days when they weigh me down I become that dried up sponge thirsting for grace.

It’s important to me not to think of how we’re helping these men who come through our doors but to consider how they are helping me. How alike them I am in wanting my will rather than God’s.

God uses the humble to confound the proud, perhaps.

We sit at the table together, he and I. This man-child who hasn’t given up. Who is ready to stop wandering. He has come home to grace and hope.

Five-Minute Friday {when}

When will you be home?

When can you call?

When will you grow up?

When will the pain stop?

When will my prayers be answered?

When do we need to leave?

When do you get the test results?

When are you going to change?

When am I going to change?

And Van Morrison sings the words, “when will I ever learn to trust in God?”

The numbers on the clock seem to creep at an agonizingly slow pace when we ask, when? 

“When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”


That’s his favorite verse of the old hymn we sing every week at the close of our community worship.

It’s a progression like those good old hymns are. Theology set to music and words we sing as a sending out of these men who have asked, “when will I stop the cycle of addiction, of abuse?”

The first line reminds us of this amazing grace that make the blind see in that metaphorical way. Make us see, Lord, make us see your love for us.

We sing on and the pause comes, the pause before the last verse when he says, This is my favorite. I want to see you there, singing into eternity, singing praise to God.

When we see God, acknowledge his presence and claim that He Is God, when we love him and accept his love for us, when can be now.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and a host of word-hungry, flash mob loving bloggers writing furiously for 5 minutes on the word Kate provides. Stop by Kate’s and join the party.

Five-Minute Friday {gone}

This is not part of the FMF link-up, the weekly round-up of bloggers waiting for Kate to give us the word prompt which signals “GO” for free-style-no-editing-writing-for-5-minutes-comment-on-the-blog-before-you frenzy. I like this community and have developed favorites I search for to read their take on the word of the week.

But this week, we’re gone. Away. On a plane. Outta here. No time to check the Twitter feed at 10PM Thursday night to let the word drift in and out of my thoughts til morning. Just can’t do it this time but I don’t want to miss writing something.


The Pyramid was featured in the Tom Cruise movie, The Firm.

The Pyramid was featured in the Tom Cruise movie, The Firm.

So we’re gone to Memphis on a business trip. Required attendance to the city we lived for three years, to the city we left our son. Bonus for us to see him and his wife on this trip.

Buffalo were an unexpected sight in Memphis.

Shelby Farms where buffalo were an unexpected sight in Memphis.

In memorial for Sept. 11 these flags were placed in Shelby Farms and visible to the main road.

In memorial for Sept. 11 these flags were placed in Shelby Farms and visible to the main road.

Do stop by the Peabody to see the ducks processional.

Do stop by the Peabody to see the ducks processional.

Memphis was not on the radar for places we thought we’d ever live. Did I say ever? Ever!

And when we got the news that’s where we were being sent I decided the one thing I wouldn’t do was go to Graceland. Too cheesy. Too predictable. Too Elvis. And I’m not an Elvis fan.

Scan 277


Do take the Sun Studios tour if you any kind of music fan. This was my fave.

Do take the Sun Studios tour if you’re any kind of music fan. This was my fave.

Of course, I did go. Twice. Once to take family because that’s what family wants to do when they visit Memphis and once as part of my job. Yep, I was asked to take a group of women who were meeting in the Bluff City and had chosen Graceland as one of their excursions.

Memphis has seasons.

Memphis has seasons…


...and beautiful pear trees in the spring that keep Allergists in business.

…and beautiful pear trees in the spring that keep Allergists in business.

We don't have these in South Florida backyards.

We don’t have these in South Florida backyards.

When we were transferred to Memphis, our whole ministry changed. We left being pastors of the local Salvation Army church and administrators of the social work in the community and were now going to be exclusively in charge of a men’s residential rehabilitation Center with the Salvation Army.

We were gone from a familiar place, familiar ministry and familiar routine to a new that held more questions than answers.

That’s where I found the real Graceland.

It wasn’t the smallish white house on well-tended property with an out building that held awards and gold records and Elvis memorabilia. The Graceland I found was a very old building in a depressed area near downtown Memphis. It was blocks away from a town that celebrated the blues on Beale street but inside this old building were men living the blues of another kind.

This Graceland was full of broken down men, abandoned by family and friends, lost to any kind of hope or promise. They came looking for a place to stay, shelter from a hard life, an attempt to leave the bottle, the pills, the pipe. Together we found grace.

We found grace opens the door to the dirty and beat down. Grace says welcome,come home, sit at my table, put on some clean clothes.

Grace wraps itself around you when you are coldest and your most alone. Grace covers you with the warm embrace of love, God’s love.

That’s when I found we were and are living in Graceland.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 the Message

Five-Minute Friday {adore}


It is not an often used word. It doesn’t fit into my daily conversations but finds its best fit nestled between “us” and “him”.

O Come All Ye Faithful

O Come Let Us Adore Him

I have found an expression, a look, a child, our granddaughter, our babies, I’ve found them adorable at times. Is that akin to adore? Or just an external appearance or act that brings a smile and warms some spot within?



Christmas decorations

I think of the first visitors, ones who were guided by angels or followed a star, those travelers who went to the place where the Christ Child lay. I picture them bowing or in some fashion lowering themselves to the baby because this is how we receive a child. We bend over and reach down, we kneel beside their bed, lean over their crib, we posture ourselves to enter their presence.

And this is how he meets us. He bends down to reach me in my mess and brokeness. He stoops low into dark places to reach our hearts, to lean into our lives.

At times, at the end of this great carol that calls for our adoration, we sing the other words, the ones telling us why we give him our love, our worship:

For He alone is worthy….Christ the Lord.

Linking up with Kate Motaung and a cheery group of bloggers for the last Five-Minute Friday of the year! Join in with our Merry group.

Throwback Thursday {the Christmas Pageant}

I don’t know when or who decided that the best thing to do when we’re already busier than ever, is have a Christmas pageant, but they did.

Ours were too small to call a pageant. We just called them musicals. We’d round-up all the kids, teach them songs over endless rehearsals, then costume them all and, voilà! we have a Merry Christmas to all and to All a Good Night (now go home!).

It amazes me we were able to get some of these kids, especially teenagers, to take part in these plays but that’s the importance of community. The church gave us belonging.

Our two with friend Rachel (on right)

Our two with friend Rachel (on right)



There was the time I got roped into directing and the other, more surprising time, I got duped?, guilted? tricked?(I contend to being tricked!) into performing in it. The things we do for friends.

Mostly it was about our kids and our kids learning the Christmas story. The story of the baby whose birth gave and gives us reason to celebrate.

The school pageant when our daughter was in 4th grade and cast as Mary and the background track completely stopped in the middle of her solo. You could hear the collective breaths of all the parents catch in horror and slowly exhale as Heather kept on singing as though nothing was amiss. This kid has always been composed.

school program GBCS

Our son’s first grade duet with a girl in his class. The pastor’s daughter. The one he’d find a little mischief with from time to time. Isn’t that always the one 😉 He sang a line and she sang a line and then their voices combined for the duet, the surprise being his voice going to the high part and hers to the low. Too cute. So precious.

I wish I had more photo’s of those grand events. Grand in our memories and stories retold.

It seems we’re always searching for a new way to share this simple story. The story of a baby being born, but not just any baby. The baby who would be called Prince of Peace. God with us. Because he is.

“For a child has been born—for us!
the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Strong God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.” Isaiah 9, the Message

Our Right Jolly-old Selves

The countdown is on and pace is stepped up. The weekend was a whirl of busyness and it’s Monday already.

I’d like to say, “Stop. Just for a moment. Deep breath in, hold for 7, out for 8. Be still.” 

But I know better because I know me and I’d think, “Are you crazy?

So go ahead and get your rush on. Start your day feeling behind and plunge headfirst into a week that will spin faster and faster because, ’tis the season.

to you from me

JOY wreath

Before you do, bookmark this page because I’m going to share some jolly with you. Yes, jolly. The word only used at Christmas and most often when reading The Night Before Christmas.


employee xmas luncheon

Randall and Jenny

Tree topper made by Randall

Tree topper made by Randall


Here in our palm tree decorated part of the world, in our community of men trying to sort out life and understand what this season is really about, in the midst of life, we’ve been jolly. And we want to share some of it with you. Most of it in pictures.

Our nostalgia tree complete with working train

Our nostalgia tree complete with working train

Randall completed our program over 5 years ago. He works for us with the title of “Special Projects” which, in large part, means he’s my right hand man. He is responsible for all the decorations. A florist by training, he puts great care into all he does. He adds a lot of jolly along the way.

"My sweater's uglier." No, my sweater is uglier!

“My sweater’s uglier.” No, my sweater is uglier!

employee xmas luncheon


This year’s ugly sweater party looked a little like an explosion in the Christmas department at Michael’s. Then there was the After Party when I took leave of my senses or succumbed to peer pressure or just wanted to show I can be fun (when I choose and on my terms ;)) All I know is our store supervisor walked in with a box of new shoes that had been donated, shoved them in front of me and said, “Here, try them on” and a chorus of voices sang out in unison “Put them on, put them on!” So, yeah, I did that.

red platforms

Trying to keep my balance

Trying to keep my balance

Sitting seems safer.

Sitting seems safer.

And then Sunday, when we celebrated JOY in our Advent service and it filled the room and our hearts and we knew this Christ Child came to show us joy is what stays when happy is fickle, playing hide and seek with our emotions.

I want you to know joy can be found. Sometimes it’s jolly and silly and sings horribly off-key while touching the hearts of old people bed ridden in a nursing home. Sometimes joy is found among the animals in a smelly stable. And sometimes it’s found in a rehabilitation program at The Salvation Army.


Jolly ol’ joy for all who believe.

For a look at some of our celebration, check out our YouTube videos. I promise, it’s all joy.


She looked like the perfect Santa’s helper; sweet smile and a blush of color on her cheeks. The bell at her side a polite tinkling complimenting the cheer on her face.

I’d forgotten I was wearing a staff shirt that day but she spied the shield on my shirt as I approached. “Do you do this to?”, she brightly asked? “No, no, I’m in the office,” the easiest answer I could give her without going through the explanations of being a separate branch of the same group.

The Salvation Army red kettles are out, manned by volunteers or paid seasonal workers. I suspect this cheery person was earning a little extra in her retirement years. It comes as a surprise to some that the Salvation Army uses paid workers but volunteers are hard to come by at 8 – 10 hours a day, six days a week. Civic groups and clubs who provide volunteer hours are important to this seasonal campaign but most places couldn’t do it without some paid workers.



The history of the red kettle dates to 1891 in San Francisco. The local Salvation Army officer was burdened by the thought of the poor not having Christmas dinner. He found this unacceptable and set out red kettles on street corners to collect money to be used to feed those in need. Over one hundred years later, these red kettles continue to provide a source for collecting money to help provide more than Christmas in many communities.

All monies collected stay in the local community. They provide food and toys for families as well as other assistance into the year where funds are available.

Over the years The Salvation Army has seen businesses reluctant to allow the red kettles to be placed on their property. Target stores have prohibited the red kettles for several years and some Wal-Mart locations greatly limit the number of days the kettles are allowed.

With locations being harder to secure, the Army has turned to more modern methods with its Online Red Kettle. Here, anyone can ring a virtual bell and raise money from online contributions to support the Army’s efforts.


Growing up in the Salvation Army church I felt like ringing bells was a rite of passage. I was 13 when I received instructions on bell ringing etiquette: smile, say Merry Christmas and God Bless You. Never let someone give you money, ask them to put it in the kettle.  There were no chairs and breaks were taken every two hours. No instructions were given on what to do if a someone from your Jr. High school saw you ringing bells. Especially if you were in uniform. You were on your own. 😉

my grandmother (left) as a lay member of the Salvation Army

my grandmother (left) as a lay member of the Salvation Army (Ft. Smith, AR)


My brother-in-law volunteers for 12 days



One of our men volunteering


The money raised in the kettles aren’t part of financial support for the ARC. That’s done through the resale of goods in our stores. But our men have stepped up to volunteer knowing that giving back is important to their recovery and their testimony of faith.

I’ve heard the complaints while standing at the kettle but, mostly, I’ve heard stories of how families were helped, how the first doll a little girl received was from the Salvation Army’s Christmas program.

I’ve seen the delight on faces of givers and receivers and in the end, we are both.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth, goodwill to men

And the bells are ringing
(Peace on earth)
Like a choir they’re singing
(Peace on earth) “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”, Casting Crowns