December 2022 Devotional: Grace in the Grinding Season

By Angelina Koenig
Northwest Division

“But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds it full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have three best friends with whom I text almost daily or chat with every couple of weeks. One of the things that I find with my best friends is that I text them about life. It could be when I am having a good day, not-so-great day, downward spiral of thoughts kind of day. What I appreciate about my friends is that each one will respond. The responses I receive are anything from encouragement, accountability, Scriptures, and sometimes memes that make me laugh.

I recently texted my friends about a not-so-good day I was having. Things were stressful and I didn’t have a clear mindset that could help improve my situation. My friend texted a picture of her devotional book and there was the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”

“I sense more deeply the power of Christ living in me” part of the Scripture hit me to the core. It made me pause and think, what if I lived this verse out each day, conscientiously, in my life? Would there be a difference in how I operate and interact with others?

In the grinding season of December, we find ourselves in various beautiful geographic locations throughout the Western United States. Yet, we find ourselves in one season at the same time—Christmas. The time where we are grabbing a Starbucks, Dutch Bro’s, or a favorite drink from our local coffee shop not just one time a day, but maybe two times. It is the season where we “need” the extra to help us through the daily grind of serving others and forsaking ourselves. We all understand this. Yet, during the grinding season of Christmas, there is something important for each of us to strive.

It is a time where we want to strive for grace. Grace in the grinding season. Grace for ourselves. Grace for those we love. Grace for those we serve. When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me and loving me throughout each moment of the day. Christ is loving me through His promises of walking with me and speaking to me. When I recognize the grace of Christ in me, I am more apt to show grace to those I love.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I love my family better. When I take a moment to pause and breath in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace in tiring moments. I take a moment to pause and breathe in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace when the schedule is crammed and another thing comes up that might make me explode with words on a loved on.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I serve others without forsaking myself and my spirit. We have all been called to serve God and serve others in love. Yet, I cannot serve others when I forsake my spirit. My spirit, your spirit, cannot be what is getting grinded in the busy season of Christmas, or any season for that matter.

I feel more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I accept the grace, He has for me. It is more than the grace of salvation that Christ has for each one of us. It is the grace of love, of peace, of healthy thoughts, and physical well-being.

To help myself flourish in the grinding season of Christmas, my promise to Christ and myself, is this: I will pause in the morning to ask for help in accepting the grace Christ has offered me. I will ask for help in showing grace to myself and others. I will pause as often as possible to ask for grace in situations that arise and are difficult to handle. I will pause to give thanks for the ability to walk in the power of his grace and therefore, continually strengthen my spirit.

I have designed a small breath prayer that may be helpful to you if you find yourself in need of grace.

Dear God,
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over my life.
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over all situations I encounter today.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power available to me.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power in the life of my family.
I breathe in your grace because it is more than enough for me and I exhale your mighty power because your grace is perfect for me, for others, and for all situations.

Sisters, may you know the deep and mighty power of the grace of Christ in your life during this grinding season. May you experience the grace that Christ has for you. May you know you are loved graciously and lavishly by Christ, Himself.

December 2022 Craft: The Victorian Top Hat

By Captain Gin Pack
Centralia, WA Corps – Northwest Division

There are so many things I love about the Christmas season. For me, it feels like an all-senses adventure; there are beautiful sights to see, smells to breathe in, special treats that bring us back to special memories. Nearly everywhere you go, little whispers of Christmas carols play in the background, and there is certainly no shortage of things to do during the grinding season of Christmas in The Salvation Army.

Merriam Webster defines flourishing as to “grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment”. Sometimes during what we longingly call the “busy season” may feel like we are just grinding along, surviving and not flourishing.

However, I have often found that even if the season feels like we could not jam one more thing into the schedule, the one thing that is like a balm to a tired, existing, toy sorting, kettle counting, bell ringing soul, is the gift of time with a friend or two. If you have a regular group that meets through all seasons, this is a fantastic opportunity to find a place to flourish even in the busiest of seasons.

The wonderful thing about this project, is not only is it budget minded, but it allows for a time of fellowship and creative freedom, it also is wonderful display piece as a center of a table or even just around to add a little décor to your space. This project is also an excellent opportunity to gather supplies and spend intentional time with one another and all it requires is a little preplanning.

The supplies you will need are:

  • #10 can
  • A lager ceramic plate or a plate charger, or any other item such as foam board or wood cut into a circle that is about 50% greater than the mouth of the can
  • Black matte spray paint
  • Inexpensive embellishments such as Christmas tree picks, pinecones, sparkly snowflakes, I often find the perfect ones at dollar tree or other similar stores.
  • Wide ribbon
  • Hot glue
  • An additional item I really love, and I think it brings a beautiful element to it is a product called “SnowTex”. I purchase mine from Amazon, but it can be found it local stores as well. It adds a snow texture to any medium you’re working with.

My husband and I have been blessed to serve in our community where we serve a hot meal a few times a week. Because of this, we often find ourselves with those large #10 cans. If you do not have access to these cans, feel free to check in with local restaurants, places who do serve community meals or head to your local stores. Many of them carry certain items in those big cans. You will want to collect as many cans as you have people or as many as you need for festive decorations and centerpieces.

Once you have collected the cans, make sure they are clean, the label is off, and any excess adhesive or buildup has been removed. Once they are dry, take your plate, making sure it is clean and free of debris. Then glue the can to the plate using hot glue or something like E6000 and then spray paint. Once the paint is dry, it’s time to decorate!

I prefer the look of the Victorian top hat with a large ribbon at the base of the hat, felt or other textured material is a nice touch. After the ribbon is glued into place, the rest is really up to you how you want to decorate it. I tend to prefer a “theme.” Some really easy but beautiful ones are:

  • woodland (use berries, twigs, pinecones, and a little bit of the snow-tex),
  • frosty (use a little glitter either in white or blue and attach glittery snowflakes),
  • or even something like a pre-purchased little church ornament can make it look spectacular. It really is that easy and your hat can be as unique as you!

Corrie ten Boom said: “If the devil can’t make us bad, he will make us busy.” If that quote does not cut a little too deep and meet me toe to toe. I, myself am so guilty of waking up, a day full ahead of me and before I know it, I am headed back to bed having only checked off half of my list and offering my meager offering to the Lord of a whispered prayer before I drift off to sleep only to lather, rinse, repeat.

My sweet sisters, the Lord delights in you! Psalm 149:4 says, “For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.” Take this very sacred time when the whole world is grinding along. God calls us to flourish and delight in Him, to be intentional and mostly bask in the gift of creation as you too, create something masterful. I have always found that some of the most beautiful moments have been when I have planned ahead, and then let creativity develop. I pray that in this season, you do not just get swept away with all that there needs to be done but that God calls to you flourish.

Download the printable version of the craft

December 2022 Bible Study: Flourishing in the Busy Season

By Captain Angela Morrow
Vancouver, WA Corps – Northwest Division

Take a moment to stop all your activity for a few minutes. Pause and imagine you are sitting beneath a cool and refreshing flow of water on a hot day. During the Christmas winter months, when we are cold, busy and tired, let us imagine the relaxation of basking in the cool-refreshing springs and drinking fresh-cold-water to quench our thirst.

Let’s come to Christ and allow the Spirit to breathe life through the scripture.

Read John 7:37-44

Engage the Scripture:
As you read the passage, reflect on the words and phrases within the text.

Engage the background:
The feast that is being referenced in this passage refers to the Feast of Tabernacles. During this feast, there was a ceremony. A priest would draw water from the Pool Siloam and lead a processional to the Temple. The priests would pour out the waters at the altar. The symbolic significance behind this ceremony was twofold:

  • To remind God’s people of their wilderness wanderings and how God quenched their thirst and sustained them with life.
  • It was significant to remember that the scriptures would be fulfilled. There is the promise that living water would flow from the Temple as promised in Zechariah 14 and Ezekiel 47 (Walton, John. Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, 2016, pg 1825).

In this passage, Christ is conveying that He is the source of the living water. All refreshment comes from Him, and as we drink from the well of Christ, out of God’s people will flow rivers of living water. Living water doesn’t remain stagnant, it is constantly receiving so that it can continue to pour out. Living water cleanses and quenches our deepest thirst. The water saturates the driest ground and satisfies our deepest longing.

The text conveys that the Spirit will be poured out and will become the source of the living water from Christ. It is the Temple of God’s people in Christ, (Walton 1825), and from Christ flows life, refreshment, and healing.

Ponder the Text:

As God’s people, we are in a continual state of dependency on the Spirit of the Living God. The symbolic imagery of water reminds us of God’s Spirit. The Spirit of God flows through those who have come to Christ as the source and is water to the thirsty. It brings refreshment to the weary and healing for those in need of the hope.

In verses 40—43, we read that those who witnessed this were confused. Many are seeking to understand Christ. Many are searching for hope and refreshment. Some ponder Christ and wonder who Christ is and what is His purpose. This text reminds us that Christ, not only saves us but brings refreshment and life. What a blessing that we can thrive in this and flourish as we bring life to others.

Applying the Text:

  1. Remain in a state of dependency
    As God’s people wandered the wilderness in need of refreshing streams of water, they were thirsty. During the busy season of Christmas, the source of our service is to be channels from whom flows rivers of refreshment, rivers of healing and rivers of hope. The only way to thrive in the busy season is to stay connected to the source of our healing and refreshment. We remain in a place of receiving so that we can give.
  2. Givers of Life
    God’s people are called to pour out streams of living water to the world. As we remember our calling. We are called to be a place of refreshment for others.
  3. Fruit of Transformation.
    Finally remember, where the Spirit is, through Christ, there is life. Where there is life, there is fruit and change. Do not grow weary. Remember that as you thrive and allow the Spirit to work through you, there will be transformation. There will be fruit and there will be seeds that will produce fruit.

    Remember this: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season, we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Summary: If we are to thrive this season, let’s remember our source and the “why” as we do what we do. We serve during this season to be the receivers and givers of the refreshing waters to a world in need of hope.

We will thrive as we remain in the source.

You who are thirsty, come! Come and receive from Christ, for you need Christ to fulfill your calling to bring refreshing springs of living waters to other, so that there might be life.

Closing Prayer: Christ, our Lord, I pray that all who are reading this today might find refreshment from you during this season. I pray you might bring life this Christmas season so that we can rest in the knowledge of fruit and change from the waters of your Spirit. Amen.

Spirit of the Living God
Fall afresh on me
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on me
Break me; melt me; mold me; Fill me.
Spirit of the Living God
Fall afresh on me

Download the printable version of the Bible Study

November 2022 Flourish Newsletter

November – the season of Thanksgiving – the perfect to time to focus on flourishing with contentment, in the season you are currently in. That is what this month’s newsletter is all about.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise HIs holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Psalm 103:1-2

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November 2022 Devotional: Contentment at the Feet of Jesus

By Capt. Tanya Pemberton
Administrator of Program at Santa Monica, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center

Working in The Salvation Army can have our wheels spinning, especially with this constant cycle of change and transition happening in our centers, corps, and lives. The truth is, I know I am called to be an Officer; and at this time, I am in the ARC; what a beautiful and fantastic ministry! However, God has taken me down some very overwhelming and uncomfortable paths over the past few years. Paths that I could not figure out on my own.

Things got so bad that I was told I could be put on OED (officer experiencing difficulty). That scared me, and I had to figure out how to go on. I was so depressed and wanted out. I planned out leaving officership. I was extremely frustrated and angry. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I couldn’t stop being so angry at the situation.

It was at this time I remember making a promise to God that I would never leave the ministry angry. This meant that I had to figure it out but didn’t know where to start. That’s when God whispered to my heart: “Go back to the basics” I had to remember that God wired me with gifts that I do exceptionally well. He also stretches me in areas to remind me that I am entirely dependent on Him, which must have been what He was doing.

So back to the basics, what is that? When I think of getting back to the basics, I immediately think of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary at their home in Bethany. Luke 10:38-42 talks about this visit. It says:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I know that no matter how hard I try to embark on my own strength, it all comes back to relying on God. I can never do it on my own, and I’m alright with that because things manage to work out better when I turn to Jesus for help: when I posture myself at His feet throughout my day, and that is just what I did.

First, I went to His feet, the feet of Jesus, in my mind. I sat there picturing Him, and me at His feet. It is there that I found a quiet place in my heart. Then I went back to the basics, back to truth, back to the foundation of sound teaching we have in Jesus Christ. Mark 12:30-31 says this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

This started my journey to where I am now; flourishing in the season I am in – contentment! Focusing on God and the beautiful souls that God entrusted to The Salvation Army under my care, I let the rest go. It didn’t seem to matter as much as time passed.

Now I am not facing OED, quite the opposite. I am flourishing in my appointment and so are the people around me. Are there things I wish I could change? Definitely, but that no longer defines me, or my day. I can focus on the things that matter, God, others, and my family. And those things that matter to me the most are loving others just as Christ has instructed in his greatest commandment.

My hope and my prayer is that this devotional touched your heart today and it allowed you to understand that while you’re going through the storms of life, Christ is there, go back to the basics, and depend on him in all that you do and say, and he will guide your footsteps.

Tanya with her family

Flourishing Story: Flourishing Contentedly in the Season I Am In

By Captain Taneya Garrett
Administrator of Program, Long Beach, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center

Sometimes I move through my day holding onto the edge of my seat. I am a mom, a wife, a grandma, a Pastor, an administrator, and I have around 60 men who rely on me for support. I have a lot on my plate. Some days, days like today, I am doing my best. Life isn’t always easy, and I have been in seasons that are easier than others.

Taneya and her family

Often, I have tried to make the season the way I wanted it to be or how I thought people wanted it to be. All this did was stress me out. I didn’t know how to just be me. I can remember when my journey with the Lord started. I smile as I write this because it’s funny how God works. I would watch women, good Godly women and compare myself to them. They just didn’t wake up one day and be the person they are today. It took them time, but I didn’t understand that. All I saw was amazing women. They never seemed stressed. They seemed to have it all together. I remember saying to myself, “how can I be like them?”

I played this game in my mind for so long. Just when I thought I had it all worked out, something would trigger that thought again. A crazy cycle of comparing myself with other people. I can remember, just wanting to be a good Godly woman. I would allow myself to believe that there was no possible way, God could use a person like me. Today, I laugh at myself, but I remember thinking, if only God really knew me.

Little did I realize at the time, God knew me. God knows me and understands me better than I understand myself. It wasn’t until a few years ago, that I finally understood. I can only be who God created me to be and that I just needed to do the best I can. I was only able to come to this realization in His timing and by doing the work needed to grow and understand God more. The only way to understand God is to dig in His word. Jesus said, “she did what she could.”

I have found contentment, trusting in the words of Jesus and every day I do the best I can. This has allowed me to flourish, not only in my walk with the Lord, but also as a mom, a wife, a grandma and as a Godly woman. Yes, I am a Godly woman! Now,, I am not saying that I don’t still have seasons when I struggle, but I have learned to trust God for who He is and believe, that I am exactly who He created me to be. Do I still hold on very tight to the edge of my seat? The answer is Yes! That’s how God created me. Some days I am a mess and somedays I might have it together, but I learned to trust Him in whatever season I’m in.

“I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation..” Philippians 4:12 TLB

Flourishing in the Contentment Season

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

Contentment is such a lovely word! When I hear the word, I have thoughts of home, surrounded by the people you love, enjoying a good meal and stories that make you laugh. I think of a peaceful place to “steal” away after a long day and just be quiet. I think of long walks with my husband, enjoying each other’s company and taking in the beauty and nature of God. I think of a task completed when I know I’ve given it my best shot.

The past few months in my life have been a little chaotic…packing, cleaning house, saying good-bye to family and friends, finishing up one appointment and starting a new one in a new location, a new country. One would think that it would be difficult to feel contentment, surrounded by such change and the unknown. I am grateful though to say that at this moment in my life…the season I am in right now is certainly one of contentment. When you are where you feel God has ordained you to be, that brings a great sense of contentment.

As I prepared to leave family and friends behind, I will admit there were moments of anxiety and tears, especially as I said good-bye to my parents who are experiencing health challenges in their senior years. However, as I leave them in the care and keeping of other family members, and to the God who loves them, I can still feel a sense of contentment that God will provide for them.

The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 11, gives a litany of things he could boast about, but they are not your typical list (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He boasts because he’s been beaten more, imprisoned, shipwrecked, hungry, thirsty, in danger from bandits and the list continues. And then, in Philippians chapter 4, he declares that he has learned to be content whatever the circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12). A study of Paul’s life reveals that his circumstances were often less than ideal. I guess that really says it-contentment is not about whether everything is peaceful and “coming up roses”. Contentment is not based on circumstances; contentment is a state of being. It is possible, as I am surrounded by change-new place, new people and new processes- to find contentment amidst chaos. I too, like Paul, can testify to having a contentment I can’t really explain.

For the past 36 years of officership, with changing appointments, I have said a lot of good-byes and hellos, I have grieved the loss of appointments and people I loved, while embracing a new family and opportunities that God affords me. I testify to the fact that in every circumstance, God has been faithful in providing his peace and contentment. I have lived my life very aware of the goodness and faithfulness of God. As I reflect on my life and where God has led me, I do so with gratitude that he always provides exactly what I need.

So, in this season of change for me, God is providing a sense of contentment. He brings calmness amid chaos. He provides new friendships and relationships to fill the void of ones now distant. God is good! God is faithful! I am content in Him!