His mercy seat


Peter Gabriel’s voice sang low and pleading, the words “mercy, mercy, looking for mercy….” (Mercy Street, 1986) It’s a lovely and haunting melody that conveys the heart that searches for compassion, desperate for forgiveness when none is deserved. Mercy.

The Psalmist pleads for mercy over and over as did Job when he said “I could only plead for mercy” (Job 9:15)


As a child, I was instructed the altar, the wooden structure with a cushion for the knees, was not a place to play. You didn’t stand on it, run on it or sit on it. You came here to kneel and pray. This was serious business when you come in front of the congregation to kneel at this place. At times, my parents called it the mercy seat.

I didn’t know what mercy was, but I knew it was serious. It was personal stuff and some people cried when they knelt and prayed but they all seemed to feel better after spending time at this mercy seat. Some of them scared me as a child, their emotions so……loud. But mostly, folks were quiet when they knelt there.


We don’t call it the mercy seat much these days but it is. I know God’s mercy isn’t confined to a particular place but I love the symbolism of it. The tangible where we can physically bow our bodies and heart, humble and quiet ourselves to beg of God, “have mercy on me and hear my prayer” (Psalm 4:1). Psalm 25:16, “Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress.”

Mercy, that which isn’t earned or deserved…compassion in our need.


It’s the close of another service. The message ended with a compelling video that described who God is and asked “I wonder, do you know him?” Henry knelt at the alter asking those who wanted to come pray with him. And I saw Lloyd. In his chair, at the end of the row next to a window, he got out of his chair, turned and knelt. Right there. It was one of those moments I wanted to photograph, not with a camera because it would be one dimensional. No photo could show the meaning of this simple motion. My heart has captured it and replayed it. To see his tall frame, dark skin and bright smile, quietly slip out of his seat, turn and kneel, head bowed over that chair. His mercy seat.

It’s how our services end each Sunday, with Henry asking, “Pray with me?” and with more men going forward than is room at our Mercy Seat so they crowd around and make their own space. Some kneeling at their chairs, some standing in the back, a visual sign of unity in prayer.

God’s mercy is free and freely given.

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 {hope}

We’re back from our trip to London. Back physically, mostly, but mentally….working on it 😉 Kate Motaung‘s Five-Minute Party link-up is a good way to get back in the groove of sharing from Grace-land. Today’s prompt is hope.


Out of the hundreds of men coming through our doors at our Adult Rehabilitation Center, I’d guess only a small percent coming looking for hope.

They come looking for rest, for a safe place, for a chance to clean up and get some regular meals in their body. They come for the ‘3 hots and cot’ so they can recharge to go back out ‘there’.

They don’t come looking for hope. Not most.

Hopes have been shattered when the marriage fell apart or the job fell through.

Hopes placed in others devastated because others will fail too.

pain hope

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him.” Romans 15:13a

If we can stop long enough, be still and quiet enough we will know that hope comes in rest. Hope comes in clarity to see the grace God gives not because of us but in spite of us.

Hope comes when we accept we can never be more than because we are always less than Him and that is why He wants to be our hope.

He is our completion.

He is our Savior.

He is our mercy and grace.

He is our hope. The hope of glory. Living in us.

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles [the nations] the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 NIV

150 years and Counting


We are in London for the 150th celebration. These photos are just a few from the International Congress being held with thousands of Salvationists from around the world.

 From the song penned by the founder, William Booth, 

“O Bondless Salvation……the whole world redeeming”

May we love the unlovable and serve the least and the lost. 

May the world know we are Followers of Jesus by our love for all mankind. 

Renew our commitment, strengthen our resolve and guide us clearly putting you above self as we serve you in our daily lives. 






This girl is gone….lord willing and all that


Later tonight we’ll board our flight from Miami to London. Direct. More hours than I want to calculate now.

The melatonin is packed and ‘easy mix’ playlist on my iPhone ready with noise canceling ear buds.  Thoughts of how I’ll look after an overnight flight are banished from my mind. I figure I’ll be too tired to care and the hair will be good so what else matters 😉

We are going to the a giant birthday celebration. July 2nd marks 150 years of The Salvation Army. And for once, we’re calling a little attention to ourselves.

PR isn’t our strong suit. Most people will tell you that. I’ve been asked enough times, ‘why don’t we see your canteens on the news in disasters?’ or ‘why don’t you advertise the work you do?’ My answer is simple: we’re too busy doing the work. Our story is best told my others.

There’s that word: Others. The one word Christmas message our founder, William Booth sent to his officers (ordained clergy). That one word sums up what we’re about – others.

But this time, we’re taking time to celebrate these years that are still marked by service.

There will be officers and soldiers (church members), volunteers, employees, friends, family and the whosoever from over 120 countries The Salvation Army serves today. From the east end of London in 1865 to a worldwide organization that exists, still, for others.

We’ll alternate between meetings and sightseeing and cram all the good and new and old we can in the week we’ll have there.

Our list of places to see has been made and is subject to change. We hold it freely choosing rather to soak up the moments less planned.

In all my preparations for this, I’ve failed to prepare my heart. It struck me today, last-minute but not too late. Hit me that I’ve not included God much in my plans, the quite One I take for granted.

Lord, I’ve prayed for safe flights. I’ve prayed for the family there and that we’ll be able to help with the girls when get there. But….I’ve not prayed that in the midst of wherever we are I will see your hand spread across the gardens and the skyline. I’ve not prayed for your calm to be evident in my words and manner. Don’t let me only see you in the colors of the sky but in the smile of strangers and pigeons on statues. Help me know you are with me and around me. Today. Every day.


Blogging won’t be a priority the few days but follow me on Instagram to follow our journey.


Stumbling through another Father’s Day

Who ever knew these holidays, the ones to honor our mothers and fathers, could be the toughest of all. Hallmark doesn’t make a card for “The Dad Who Has Everything…..including a drug addiction and jail time.” Or, “Thank you mom, the best thing you could have done was put me in the foster home. I’ll always remember you for that.”


Walking through the church doors the greeter would ask, red or white? The red carnation pinned to your lapel or dress (in the days when we wore ‘church clothes’) signified your mom was still living and the white, that she’d passed on. The moms would be asked to stand and little prizes given to the one with the most children with her in church that day. Sometimes the oldest would be recognized for her stalwart faith in raising generations.

Times changed and we don’t do that anymore. We try to be sensitive to the women who want nothing more than being a mom but can’t or are still waiting. So many reasons people can feel excluded so I suppose we just celebrate women and that’s good. Dads have never gotten the fanfare of mothers so maybe there’s not as much change there.

When we go through the calendar in our Rehabilitation Center, there are so many joys to share with these men throughout the year. Advent and the Lenten season are particularly special as some are new to the spiritual side of these holidays typically called Christmas and Easter. But I dread Mother’s and Father’s Day.

We stumble our way through these days, learning to follow their lead. They’ve seen our family, heard our stories of childhood and seen the pictures. We don’t hide our celebration of good but imperfect families and homes. They celebrate with us. And we hurt with those who ache from the dad who was never there or the mom who did put her sons in a foster home.

Before chapel, M, leaned over and told me his son had unfriended him on Facebook. This boy he loves and has been half way around the world to see, is hurt, angry, over his father’s relapse. M knows this. “It is what it is”, he says. And it’s the deepest kind of pain, I think.

A daughter messaged me asking if we’d heard from her dad. She was planning to visit him. Bring his grandson to see him for the first time. But his regular calls had stopped. Again.

chapel remodel


J gave the welcome and this 20-something young man celebrating over a year of sobriety told us he hadn’t had a good relationship with his dad. His dad is still in addiction. “But I’ve forgiven him and I’ll call him today and tell him I love him.”

Grace? Amazing grace!

And so another and another stood during our time of sharing and thanked a God who has brought them to this place of healing, of restoring families, and making all things new. My eyes water while my spirit soars knowing God is always a God of love and grace and healing. He will make all things new.

Five-Minute Friday {world}

Joining the weekly Five-Minute Friday blog party for the free-writing frenzy that commences when our hostess, Kate, gives us the prompt and the GO!

In less than 3 weeks we will be flying to London, England for a celebration. A big, huge, world-wide scale kind of celebration for something like a birthday party for The Salvation Army.

We’ll be gathering with thousands from around the world to celebrate 150 years of service for this international organization.

SA pins  Hudsons old pins



SA crest stained glass

Its beginnings were in London, where the international headquarters remain. It’s reach extends far beyond to 126 countries today. Its mission varies depending on need but its message is ever the same: Christ for the Whole Wide World

Our founder, William Booth, wrote these words, the first verse of seven that is often referred to as the Founder’s Song.

O boundless salvation! deep ocean of love,
O fullness of mercy, Christ brought from above,
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free,
Now flowing for all men, now flowing for all men,
Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!

The world was his vision because he knew God came not for a select group, but for the world.

How thankful we are to have faith in this God who sees all people as his children.

“He told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and earth. 19 Therefore go and make disciples in all the nations,[a] baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and then teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Matthew 28:18-20 TLB

Soup, Soap, Salvation

Over 4 years later and Jeff’s words are still clear. “I never would have listened if you hadn’t fed me first.”

He wasn’t like most of the men who have come to seek shelter. They all come broken whether they admit it is another thing.

preach the Gospel Booth


There is no one type who comes. They aren’t all homeless as the assumption goes. Homeless only in that we’re the last stop on the proverbial block. Family and friends have tired of their empty promises or learned they can’t trust them not to steal and hock their widescreen t.v.

But Jeff had been living under a bridge. An overpass of I-95 to be more exact. He’d been out there sometime and I’m not sure what brought him to our doors. A moment of clarity, we say.

When we have an open bed and the most basic of criteria is met, men are accepted into our 6-month program. Most promise to stay but fewer than half will. We know that. We hope anyway.


Most of the time, the first thing the men will do after some filling out some paperwork is eat a good meal. We serve three meals a day to over 100 people each meal. Rare is the man who checks in and doesn’t gain 40 pounds during his stay. Rarer is the man who doesn’t need to regain some healthy body weight.

Serving FDNY during 9-11

Serving FDNY during 9-11



Upon intake, each man will get a voucher for clean clothes from our Family Store. He will be provided with all of his basic needs. A hygiene kit will be given so he can shave and have his own tooth-brush before the day is out he’ll enjoy a hot shower a be assigned a clean bed.

What person can give attention to instruction if he is hungry, dirty or tired.


There are no surprises here. Each man is made aware we are a faith-based program and there will be a Sunday chapel service and a bible study class he’ll attend. That is the extent of what we can require: attendance. Some will sleep through all classes including recovery groups. Again, we know but we hope.

Soup, Soap and Salvation is one of the early slogans of The Salvation Army. It continues to fit much of what we do, but it particularly is fitting to the Adult Rehabilitation Program. A program for men who have lost their way, often due to substance abuse issues, to receive guidance, purpose, meaning, and education to learn new ways to live.

Our desire is while they are with us they will come to a relationship with Jesus. We pray for them and with them. But our love isn’t conditional on their choices, just as God’s love for us isn’t.

SA poster


This year The Salvation Army is celebrating 150 years in existence. Often times, this week in May is celebrated as National Salvation Army week. I’m surprised I haven’t seen Willard Scott give us a shout out as he often does.

There is a lot to celebrate in that at the core of who we are, is this:

The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination. – Mission Statement

We can’t do any of this alone as it takes an Army to reach a village. This Army is mobilized in over 100 countries and we’re on wheels in the US (and many countries) to meet disasters with the first responders, serving up soup, soap and salvation.

For more information on beliefs and practices of The Salvation Army, or locations of service, go to www.salarmy.org

Shalene and Freddy

We came as visitors, in town for a pastors conference. We gathered at a true community center for Sunday morning church.

Her name was Shalene. Her hard ‘r’s’ and sweet tea accent made me think she’s native to this part of Georgia. She took the stage to lead the Praise and Worship part of the service. The name the church has given to songs played more on guitar than keys, where words are repeated and hands lifted.

I wondered if she was nervous. There were at least 50 uniformed visitors seated in front of her today, a good bit of us strangers I’d guess. But then we think the uniform makes us family and not strange, not in that sense of the word.

Her spirit of enthusiasm captured me as she led these two familiar songs wholeheartedly. I’m not sure how anyone could help but be compelled by her sincerity.





duplicate (4295654935)

There was the usual stuff that makes up our style of church meeting: hymn songs, scripture verses read, the collection plates passed through the aisles.

Not so typical in some denominations is the brass band. This smallish town had put together a nice little band, a few of the visitors sitting in to fill out the sound.

On ‘Happy Song’ a woman a couple of rows in front of us trilled the tambourine she was holding. I recognized the experienced way she held it, only letting the heel of her hand, that part of the lower thumb just above the wrist touch the hide of the instrument. She played it in the right spots and kept in still in the others. A pro knows when and when not.

A friend/co-worker/pastor/officer gave the sermon. He’d been here before. This was once his town to pastor and be the face of The Salvation Army. He’s a tall, southern speaking man himself with a voice as deep as a barrel and heart as big with a softened patina. ‘He done good’, they’d say.

The screen flashed the name “Freddy” someone was going to give the benediction. The man I’d only seen from behind as he waved the conductor’s baton leading the band, shuffled to the podium. He had to be in his 70’s I decided and his gait not one of ease.

“We love you Lord”, he started the prayer, “And we’re just so thankful you love us too.”

We don’t get to this part of the south much and maybe that’s how these folks are made up here. Their hearts are open and their words spilling such warmth and love all over us.

I was taken in by Shalene and Freddy. Blessed by these two everyday folks not part of a ministerial team but whose lives are about serving with a joy that is worn as new garments, all clean and begging one to ask, “Where you’d get that?”, because you wanted to wear it too.


his is also The Salvation Army. Serving in places like Augusta, Georgia where every day folks take up the task of following Jesus and leading the way to joy.

You’d be surprised

You would be surprised.

If you walked through the doors of our Center, the place called Adult Rehabilitation Center that sounds plain and ordinary like maybe it’s for physical therapy or something, but if you walked through our doors and see what we see, well, I don’t think I can explain it fully.

I wouldn’t have known before and I’ve been around this type of work most of my life.

Ft. Lauderdale ARC

Ft. Lauderdale ARC

The faux fireplace in the day room adorned for the holidays

The faux fireplace in the day room adorned for the holidays


Here’s the expectation: a homeless shelter, with homeless looking men (i.e. dirty, smelly, unwashed), sleeping on cots in a big room. At night they line up to be fed from a soup kitchen because, you know, we’re The Salvation Army and we have soup kitchens.

I’m not sure what the expectation is of the day time. Maybe that the homeless men just hang around outside or go hold their signs at intersections or loiter around convenience stores until it’s time to get in the soup line.

Alumni Sunday

An offering of dance in our worship service



visiting a nursing home

visiting a nursing home

Yes, you’d be surprised.

Surprised at the professional, college-degreed men who no longer have insurance to pay for the 28-day treatment programs and are looking for another chance at recovery.

Surprised at community that exists among these men and how they mentor the new men, helping them find their way in their first days.

Surprised at the level of care provided through the counseling staff and work therapy program.

Surprised at the cleanliness of the facility and how organized this place is.

Surprised at the brightness that has returned to their eyes and the smiles on their faces when they are greeted by name.

Surprised by their willingness to read scripture in a public meetings when they’ve never held a bible.

Surprised at the recovery meeting requirements for them.

Surprised at how we celebrate holidays, sobriety and every day.

Surprised at the number of family members who want nothing to do with them until they “fix” their problem.

Surprised how much they look like your brother, or uncle or co-worker.

Surprised at how God’s grace and love can change a wretch like me.