And the Glory Shone Around Them

“…and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,..”

Every Sunday one of the residents stands in front of the chapel and reads the scripture selected for this weeks worship gathering.

This may be the first time he’s read in a church setting. It may be the first time he has read from the bible. He might stumble over the words. He might be filled with fear even though he’s volunteered to do this.

With 100 men I don’t know many details of their life but I know he’s not living at the Salvation Army because life was good. It’s alcohol or drugs and these days in this part of the country odds are it’s opioids. I know there was something that took him out of life. If you heard some of their stories you’d probably give him a pass for choosing drugs or alcohol to numb the pain; to escape the nightmares that were real.

What I see when they stand in the front of our simple, small chapel isn’t what brought them here. I’ve come to see God’s glory surrounding them. God’s radiant love and mercy shining around someone who still isn’t sure if there is a God. 

It’s easier to recognize God’s glory in church. It’s easier to see it shining on the clean and well fed. But the truth is, God’s glory was shining on them holding that cardboard sign on the side of the road. His glory was wrapping them in a grace they hadn’t discovered. 

The familiar verse in Luke gives a beautiful image of God’s glory. The Voice says it this way:

“Suddenly a messenger of the Lord stood in front of them, and the darkness was replaced by a glorious light—the shining light of God’s glory. They were terrified!” Luke 2:9

God chose to shine his glory on a group of smelly men who spent most of their time living outdoors with their sheep. They were laborers. Unless they had an assistant they probably didn’t take time off to attend religious instruction. In other words, they weren’t church folks. Their ordinary life was interrupted by God’s radiant glory, their darkness replaced by His glory. This heavenly birth announcement was specifically given to them. By an ANGEL CHOIR! 

He stands in front of our chapel and reads. 

He plays his first piano solo in church one week. 

He kneels at the altar. 

He is sitting in our service unsure of who this Jesus is. 

He is angry with God. 

He stands to thank God for giving him breath. 

I have wrestled with God, turned my back on him, ignored his voice yet, it’s His glorious light that continues to break through the darkness in my life.

God’s grace surrounds us. Do you see it?
God’s glory always shines in the dark places. 

God’s Economy of Hope

Our audience is a group of 1st through 6th graders. They’ve asked us here to tell them about what we do. They’ve asked us how they can help. 

It’s been a while since my audience has been children though at times some of the adult groups I’ve spoken to have me wondering if there’s much difference. I’m not the main attraction. I was asked to come to share a little of the history of the Salvation Army. I think that mostly, I was asked to come for support. This is Lee’s first time speaking as one of our representatives. Usually he’s speaking in recovery meetings. Talking to kids about this is a first for him and I notice a hint of nerves. 

I go first. Talking in any setting has rarely been a problem for me. When the subject is the mission of The Salvation Army I’m at my best. I start by asking them if they know what we do. Hands go up and one little girl says, “You help people”. We’re off to a great start.  It’s apparent these children are sensitive to the plight of the homeless and hurting. 

When one little girl notices my uniform her mouth drops wide as she says, “a real soldier!”. Another asked, “do you fight for us?” This gave me the opportunity to tell them that we’re called the Salvation Army because our founder said we are fighting the war against sin. Yes, I told the girl, we’re fighting for you. But our weapon is love. This program that helps men battling substance abuse is an all out war as we fight with them and for them to live a life in recovery and attain the gifts that God has to offer – gifts of restored relationships and integrity. 

I introduce Lee and he starts by saying, “You know the people she was talking about? The homeless and addicts? That was me.” There is an audible gasp and the mouths of little ones literally drop open. 

He has their full attention as hands shoot up with questions. 

What kind of drugs did you take?All kinds

What was it like being homeless?It was lonely. Very lonely. 

What did they give you?They gave me hope

The children brought donations to help us help others. They brought clothes and shoes and items we can sell in our stores that fund our residential program. Things others no longer want are just what we need. Funny how that works, especially in God’s economy. 

In a week’s time we can visibly see the difference in a mans life. We’ve given him fresh clothes, good food, a safe place to sleep and a hot shower. These are outward signs. Lee reminds me that the most important thing we give anyone is hope. 

Here’s the thing, you can’t give hope if you don’t have it yourself. It’s another way God’s economy works. He is our hope and when we have Him we can give hope to others. It seems that’s just what our world needs most.

They’re Too Young


He is young but they’re all young these days.

In his 30’s, he’s on his second stay with us to deal with his addiction. He is bright, articulate, a husband, biblically literate, and an addict. Last month, living separated from his wife in our residential rehab program, he learned his wife was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.
Too young.
We prayed for her healing, for her well being and comfort. We prayed for him as he tries to manage more than what is enough to break anyone.
His wife is hospitalized for treatment that consists of 5 days of radiation to be followed by chemo. He is living in a rehabilitation center. She’s lost her hair, he says, but the radiation killed one of the spots. ONE of the spots.
I see him working with some other guys unloading a truck. They finish and start playing a game of flipping one pencil into another to try to break it. It looks so ordinary except I know nothing is ordinary about this scene.
I ask for an update on his wife and he tells me like he would tell the forecast. He’s said it over and over giving updates and reports to friends, family, us. His words are calm and deliberate and after he’s told me of the radiation and chemo he looks me eye to eye and says “God is using this for good”.
I don’t know what to say so I pat his shoulder and smile. He is young to have such confident faith.
This man is too young to be in more than one rehab more than one time. He’s too young to face these trials. Too young to watch his wife suffer the ravages of cancer.
They are all too young to carry the heavy burdens of abandonment, criminal records, sexual abuse, addiction, mental health issues and more.
They are not too young to choose faith. To choose in a power greater than themselves to turn to with their fears and failures.
In all of his struggles Aiden* is choosing to believe. He’s believing in God’s perfect will over well-meaning quotes and hugs. He is choosing to see the positives in his wife. He is choosing God.


As long as I can remember, as long as I’ve been on this earth, Sunday has been a day of gathering.


Born into a church family from a church family, born to preacher parents, all other days pointed to Sunday.


We gathered Sunday clothes and Sunday books, Sunday people and Sunday dinner. The doors opened wide on our little churches begging for a bigger gathering of people week after week.


Sunday was the day we all got up with the same purpose, same intention, same schedule. And somehow, we got there without contention and we got there early, amen and thank you Jesus.


Sunday is where I learned beauty isn’t always external or pretty. There was the Sunday beauty of Billy, an older man who sat at the organ every week, shoes off with his socked-feet on the pedals, greeting everyone who walked by.


Billy was different. I never heard the real story but the mark on his head seemed to confirm a head injury of some kind. His was an awkward beauty, best seen when looking back and realizing his testimony was his faithfulness.

Beauty in the kids squirming about and the homeless man who wandered in, welcomed by Ed, stone cold deaf but it never stopped him from nodding in agreement with whatever was said that he never heard.


It was one of our pastors at our long time church who had the courage to cancel Sunday night service one year on Mother’s Day. It was all our group of peers could do not to stand up and let out a hearty cheer for his sheer bravery. The pastor said seemed like this was a good day to gather with our families.


Turned out that was a test and not long after we stopped having Sunday night church all together. We didn’t stop gathering. Relationships were strengthened in those afternoons on the tennis court or a cookout with friends. Our families grew together watching our kids play. Fellowship beyond the church doors made it a lasting beauty.

Today it’s me and Hudson doing the gathering of stuff Sunday mornings; sermon notes, laptop for media, prayers for everything. It’s the two of us gathering an extended family of men once stained with the disease of addiction, many struggling still and even in struggle we see how beauty doesn’t give up.


We will gather songs and words and hearts along the way. We will pray our sinful lives will be restored and we thank God for recovering the beauty he made in us all along.

Playing Church

I may have told you this before, but some things bear repeating. They bear remembering more than the retelling.

During my 3rd and 4th grade years we lived across the driveway from our church. When I say our, I mean it was the church where daddy preached most Sundays and mama taught and they worked together in ministry. It was not just the ‘our’ church we attend but it was ours.

Our house was the parsonage separated from the church building by a driveway. We walked back and forth from the church offices and were as much a part of the ministry team as anyone.

The chapel was where I’d go at times, up on the platform and stand behind the pulpit. I’ll wave my hand like daddy directing the congregation to sing. I’d turn the songbook to Just As I Am because we sang that one all the time and I knew by memory where it was.

Then we were transferred and the church wasn’t next door and I got older spending more time with friends and listening to the radio. Only, when looking back, I realize part of me still played church.

Going week after week, Sundays and Wednesdays and special events, were as much habit and obligation as anything. It’s where my people were and it was a good place. We grew together and planted roots in God’s word. It felt like community.

Time went on and we entered full-time ministry. We became the ones, much like our parents, preaching and teaching on Sundays, planning events and training leaders. Church was our vocation and while it was a God-leading mission if you don’t pay attention, you will be playing church again.


When there's no room left at the alter they come on the stage.

When there’s no room left at the altar they come on the stage.

You will stand before the congregation and wave your hands and sing the songs you sing every week. You will plan Advent and Holy Week and you will organize youth outings and summer day camps. And it will all be good. But you’ve forgotten church is more than a collection of parts.

We didn’t plan the change that woke me from my church induced trance of sameness. It was most unexpected. Who would ever think a bunch of guys who are required to attend an in-house Sunday service because they are part of this rehabilitation center, men whose last choice was to come to this residential program with dress codes and meeting requirements, would shake off my slumber?

The have and they do. Every week someone will teach me a new thing about grace. Someone will show me that God uses the least, the last and the lost. Every. Day.

Are you playing church? Sleep walking your way through? May the God who wakes the dead and gives life to dry bones renew our Spirit and make us alive in Him.

Word Processor

Maybe I’m a slow learner. I never thought that. I did okay in school. We moved too much in my high school years to find out my real strengths but I’m no dummy.

When it comes to learning about me…..others seem better. Maybe I don’t pay enough attention to myself or my perception is entirely different. Or  some of both.

Brian and I would have these long phone conversations. I’d stretch the cord on our wall phone as I’d wipe down the kitchen counters while we talked. Our conversations centered around church and serving and Jesus and these talks with him helped me flesh out what I believed. It help me go beyond the childhood beliefs and put feet to the words.


He was a new man in the Center. It was less than a week since he’d checked in to our Adult Rehabilitation Center, his first Sunday in our chapel service. Everyone had left after the service and JJ came back to introduce himself to me. He put out his hand and as I took hold of his there was nothing but flesh. No grip, just fingers held out but nothing given in return. He wanted to know if I’d take his picture so he could send it to his family. Said they’d never seen him dressed up like this.

I pulled my iPhone out and positioned him against the wall so as not to get shadows. I was going for a just below the shoulders shot so they could see his face but he motioned me back. More….more….he wanted the full view for them. From head to shiny dress shoes.

Version 2



This is why I write. Men who’ve never been taught how to give a good handshake, who’ve never been “dressed like this”. Men whose lives have brought them to through our doors, their “last chance”. Men who are so different are teaching me how more alike we are.  It’s these men and this ministry that has stirred something inside of me and brought me to pecking out the words while I search for more understanding.

I envision it as a lump of clay on the potter’s wheel. My thoughts are plunked down in a big lump. Wet, pliable but not weak or thin. There has to be strength to withstand the shaping.

Each word is taken by the potters hands and smoothed. There are times when one design is expected but, surprise!, another emerges under his skilled hands. A more suitable vessel, more fitting for service.

That is my hope, my prayer. That this word processor is not just for me but that others can connect and find their clay shaped to a form fit for service.


Riverside Pottery, Dillsboro

It’s an old hymn and I think the only reason it stays with me is its use of the imagery of pottery.

Have Thine own way, Lord, have Thine own way

Thou are the potter I am the clay

Mold me and make me, after Thy will

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

These words I offer to be molded into truths by the Truth.

Participating in a book discussion, link-up over at Kate Motaung‘s place working our way through the book, On Being a Writer.
















When the heart needs to hurt

I just may have trumped Jamie the Very Worst Missionary in the worst missionary category. I love her blog, I do. Love reading about her not-so-perfect life and I’m not even offended when she uses the, shall we say ‘slang’, of the day. I think we could be friends because she’s real and I’m wanting so hard to be real and I could be real with her. All the time kind of real.

Maybe that’s what I’m about to be here with you when I tell you that the week I spent on my first ever mission trip to Haiti, a country so steeped in political corruption that keeps their own people mired in poverty, that country close enough to our shores its people have set out on rafts to come here for better lives, yes, the mission trip there didn’t steal my heart. My soul isn’t bleeding for its soil and I’ve not dropped to my knees every day praying for those dear children living in a place that offers them safety, but few options for more.






I was the old girl on the team, older than some of my teams mama’s including my co-leader. I wasn’t in tears our last day there. I wasn’t vowing to come back some day. Maybe it was my age, my life’s experience that tells me ‘this is how things are honey’. You come, you love as much as you can knowing you’re going to get to go home and they have to stay, and you say thank-you and wave goodbye.

When I got home I stood under our shower with hot water for a long time completely conscious I was wasting water. Completely not caring at that moment. And I flushed the toilet every time I used it. I didn’t have to use bottled water to brush my teeth with and it was wonderful.

I’ve wondered about this a lot over the 2 years since that trip. Wondered why it didn’t pierce my heart the way I’d heard others explain, the way other bloggers have written. Have I built a gate around my heart that strong?


Bethany Children's Home 2399

And I think, yes, yes I have. No apologies for it. It’s survival. It started when my parents divorced I think. A heart so confused and so hurt and so broken that you never want to be hurt again so, unknowingly, the bricks start to build a shield.

Then you work in an area that sees heartbreak far too often when men who have sought relief from addiction, relapse. Again. And again. They did well a long while, and you let them in and thought they were friends and then, then the behavior starts that you know will come to no good end. And they’re gone and your heart hurts and you add a few more bricks around your heart. But you risk it again. Because you know, God risks it for you day after day.

Bethany Children's Home 2473


Haiti did impact me. It gave me a deeper understanding of their lives and yes, I do love that place that was once looked down on by so many from my neighborhood (America). Their smiles and generosity and contentment with little found its way around some of those bricks surrounding my heart. Or maybe the bricks are crumbling. Just a little. Maybe grace is blasting away at those bricks each day. Maybe the heart needs to hurt sometimes to love.

At the end of the day

Is this summer really busier than most or were slower summers just seen through hazy-want-it-to-be-so memories?

Summers when our kids were young seemed to stretch on with long days in the pool and road trip vacations out west. Then they started going to sleep-away-camps and working all summer at camp and summers got hotter and hurried to fit it all in.

Children add the pauses in life. Appreciated only with some perspective.

the granddaughter

the granddaughter’s recent visit

It has been a hurried July. Issues at work that can’t be resolved with simple decisions have stretched on, tethering us closer to home. The times we’ve enjoyed away haven’t been allowed to linger as we quickly put the photos aside to take up the next thing on the list.

The collision happened this week as it has before. The expected when working with people and disappointment more tragic when working with those getting their footing in recovery.

We throw some people right into the fire it seems. You get some traction in this recovery thing. You’re making all the right moves: sponsor, meetings, giving back, yep, you’re a stand-up guy. You’re hired.

It has to happen sometime this going back into the world, beyond our seemingly safe walls with counselors down the hall from you and recovery language spoken all around. Even here the addiction demon rages and pulls some down again.

80's night



It was that kind of week. We’d been gone two days and back in time to put the finishing touches on our big 80’s night. Smack in the middle of summer where we knew we needed to laugh off the steam of the day. Back to a turmoil we didn’t know was brewing. Back to relapse that had us scrambling for replacements and action and grace.

I was home most of the day, with the granddaughter at the pool. Oblivious to anything amiss until the phone call not intended to inform me of the chaos others had been swept in. A simple question about the audio for the night and the simple statement, it’s been a busy day. “Good busy or bad busy?“, I asked. The new employee on the other end hesitated before he said bad busy followed by, “I don’t want to be the first to tell you.”

“Better get use to it“, I said and so it went from there.

The granddaughter still in the pool wanting me to come back in, safe from our grown-up world of disease and heartbreak.

Even the counselors get into the spirit of the night

Even the counselors get into the spirit of the night







God knew. He knew when this would happen and that it would happen on the day we set aside to have a party. He knew at the end of confusion, uncertainty and frustration we would need to laugh. And we did.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:4

There are seldom more events that make us realize life goes on than relapse. One falls but 98 others must be held up, encouraged, shown a new way, a new life.

So we had our 80’s night with more of the younger ones embracing the costumes of a time before they were born. We laughed and cheered and booed when the judges didn’t score Pat high enough in karaoke. We danced with the counselors and wore silly things not in character for us. And in the process, some wounds were soothed.

At the end of the day, the fallen are cared for, taken to shelter and told they are loved.

At the end of the day grace. 

Five-Minute Friday {free}

Linking up with the gracious Kate Motaung, host of the weekly free-writing prompt known as Five-Minute Friday. Stop by and join this group of lovelies.

I’m a suspicious sort, tossing the junk mail with banners reading: CLAIM YOUR FREE PRIZE. Scan the fine print and you’ll discover the cost of free.

It pushes my buttons when someone, often a customer in one of our Family Stores complaining about a price with the rationale of, “you get this stuff free”.

store 1

bible conference

bible conference

I have to practice calm when explaining, no, it’s not free to us. It costs us the price of trucks, employee salaries, gasoline…utilities in this very building your standing in…….(serenity now!)

Yeah, I have to take a deep breath over that one.

I like free, but rarely are things without cost.


Oscar Roan

FtL prayer

Our 6-month rehabilitation program is free to the men. They receive counseling, food, clothes, purposeful duties, but it cost them something. It cost willingness to follow the rules, to get up at a certain time, to attend group meetings, to participate in their recovery. It costs them change.

For some that cost is too high.

Change carries a high price. No money is required to change but it’s a price many of us aren’t ready to pay.

Grace. Free. No cost. At all.

Paid for by Jesus. His life for us.

Grace because He loves.




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.