Controlling the Tongue

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

I remember as a child repeating the words of the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s very interesting that the words were often repeated through tears and sobs as a defense against an unkind word spoken or name calling. The defense was very weak as there is no shred of truth to the adage. Words are indeed powerful and can hurt deeply! Because words are powerful, we need to choose them carefully.

Rotary International has what they call, “The Four-Way Test” …of the things we think, say, or do…

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I love this four-way test and I believe that if we all incorporated it in our lives, a lot of damage could be avoided.

Incidents from childhood and even adulthood may be foggy preventing us from recalling all the particulars of the incident, but we often will remember words spoken…both negative and positive. As children of God, it is very important that we have good control of the tongue. That may come easy for some people, and it may require great discipline for others. I am sure we all wish we could take back unkind words spoken. While we can’t take back words once they are spoken, “I’m sorry” is undeniably powerful and often life giving!

We have all no doubt heard it said that we should listen twice as much as we speak. There is such truth to that statement, and we would do well to heed its warning. I believe words come from a deep place within us and when we are personally troubled by the words we speak and wish we could take them back, we may need to ask deeper questions:

  • Why do I react with words the way I do?
  • Is there something from my past that I am still holding onto that causes me to say the things I say?

If we want to flourish, and be deeply rooted in the spiritual disciplines, we need to exercise great control and wisdom with our words. The Bible says a great deal about the tongue and words.

In Matthew 15:11, Jesus said, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth. That is what makes him unclean.” The disciples asked Jesus to further explain to them what he meant by that, and his response was, simply put, eating something without washing your hands does not make a person unclean, but the words spoken from his lips does, because words essentially come from the heart. It is out of the heart that evil thoughts, murder, adultery etc. come.

There is much wisdom to be gained from the Proverbs. I am quoting several Proverbs here that we might need to sit with for a moment or two, drinking in the truth and sitting quietly, ask ourselves, “How are these Proverbs showing up in my life? Are they showing up at all? What do I need to do to ensure that my life and words reflect Jesus?”

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)
“He who guards his mouth, and his tongue, keeps himself from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23)
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)
“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” (Proverbs16:23)
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)

James also speaks about the importance of control of the tongue. He refers to it as taming the tongue. He says, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” (3:6) Taming the tongue may not always be easy but it certainly is essential for the child of God. We want our words to matter, to heal, to edify, to be life giving. I am grateful that with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, it is possible to tame the tongue and for our words to be encouraging and uplifting to our fellow man and honoring to God.

I think we would all admit that at times we get it wrong, no matter how well intentioned we are, no matter how close we walk with God. We must admit that sometimes we are too quick to speak and too slow to listen. It’s bound to happen; we are human after all. None of us will be perfect, this side of eternity. To flourish in the spiritual disciplines requires us to admit when our words are not edifying and apologize when necessary. An apology is truly life giving!

I pray that as we seek to control the tongue, we will, with the Psalmist David say, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my tongue” (Psalm 34:1). With God’s praise on our tongue, we can’t go wrong! With God’s praise on our tongue, we will flourish!

He Took Our Pain

By Major Beth Desplancke

When my oldest son, Ryan, was 7 ½ years old, my mother-in-law, on a Monday morning, took him to the doctor’s office for a drop-in appointment, because he had been sick all weekend. We thought it wasn’t too serious; that’s why she took him, because I had another appointment to be at that morning.

Cathy checked him at the doctor’s office. They immediately took him back and put him on oxygen, and informed Cathy that they had called 9-1-1 and an ambulance was on the way. He was transported to Oakland Children’s Hospital – two cities away! We discovered that he had asthma and had we waited any longer to get him to a doctor, he would have died. Five long grueling days my child spent in the hospital.

It broke my heart, and I was utterly helpless. I could do nothing for him! Time went so slowly and the first three days there seemed to be no progress. When it was my turn to leave Ryan and go to the cafeteria, I shed lots of tears. I did a lot of praying, begging and pleading with God for Him to do something. I would have willingly traded places with Ryan, and would have given my life, if I could. Finally on day 4, he was much better, and on the Friday we were able to take him home. Thankfully, he never had a bad issue with asthma again (today he’s a healthy 24-year-old, college graduate and just started his first job in his chosen career).

Those days in the hospital, where I sat by his bed, holding his hand, I couldn’t do much (it was before the days of smart phones so there was no scrolling on Social media or playing mindless games). I spent a lot of time praying silently and thinking about God and His Word. I immediately thought of Mary, Jesus’ mother, as she stood and watched her child be beaten and ridiculed, and then forced to carry His own cross to the place of His crucifixion.

Mary didn’t shy away from the pain, but John records the fact Mary was at the foot of the cross, watching everything her son endured. John 19:26-27 says When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved, standing nearby he said her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother…” Even in His anguish and pain, Jesus noticed His mom, spoke to His mom, and made sure she was taken care of.

As a mom, I am sure Mary winced, cried secretly (she would have wanted her son to see she was strong), prayed and even bargained with God. I am sure she would have exchanged places with her son if she could. But she knew Jesus had come for a greater purpose. She and Joseph had been told that: “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).” Perhaps it was at that moment, she recalled when Simeon had said 33 years earlier, when Jesus, as a baby, was presented at the temple, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:35). Mary, too, was helpless. There was nothing she could do but watch her child suffer.

Mary hurt for her child, but Jesus suffered. He experienced the whip, the thorns on His brow, the weight of the cross on his bleeding back and the nails physically. His flesh tore, He lost a lot of blood. He had trouble breathing. He thirsted, and then He breathed His last breath. He endured a pain that we will never fully understand. He willingly died for us. Our sins need to be paid for, and He paid the price for us. Isaiah 53: 4-6 states,

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Hallelujah that Jesus took our pain. Unlike Mary and I, who could not switch places with our sons, Jesus did switch places with us. He endured what was meant for us. That is the beauty of the Easter story. Jesus took our place, and died a horrible death, so that we would not have to endure the punishment for our sin. He was afflicted, pierced, crushed, wounded, punished and suffered so we could have healing and peace through Jesus Christ.

Yes, in this world, we will have pain, hurt, sorrows and suffering. Jesus told us that would be the case in John 16:33. But then He made this promise, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Hallelujah the Lord understands our pain and our suffering. Hallelujah, He took our place and bore the pain that we should have endured.

Flourishing in the Discipline of Unplugging

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

When our two sons acquired their first cell phones, these devices came with some rules; one being that they were not permitted at the dinner table. We didn’t allow texting with friends during the dinner meal as this was our family time. It took a few reminders that texting with friends could wait as we ate together and talked about the events of the day. However, it didn’t take long for the message to get through and it really was not a problem for them. Even if it didn’t make sense to our sons at first, they eventually understood that we needed everyone to unplug for a few minutes before we were out the door again, on the way to band practice or some other activity. It was a lesson I’m glad we taught and a rule I’m glad we enforced.

In this age of instant messaging, unplugging from our devices is an extremely difficult thing to do. We send a text message and we want an instant answer. We write an email and, if we haven’t received an answer in the same day, we either feel ignored or we worry that our email didn’t get through. We debate the ills of always being constantly connected, but we fall prey to it repeatedly. When we talk about “unplugging” as a spiritual discipline, we are talking about more than unplugging from phone messages or emails, though they are a big part of it, I believe. If you Google the question, “What does it mean to unplug in life?”, someone shared,

“Unplugging is a disconnection from the chaos of life which comes in multiple forms – one being
an over-reliance on social media. It’s not the device’s fault, but the choice of the user who
feels somehow living plugged into someone else’s life gives them satisfaction.”

I personally look forward to opportunities to unplug and have moments to just breathe. I have never felt the need to let people know what I am doing every moment of the day. The only time I’m interested in what someone is having for dinner is when I’m invited! Apart from that, I don’t sense a real need to view on Facebook what other people are eating…it just makes me hungry!

In chapter 6 of Mark’s gospel, Jesus and his disciples were busy with the activities of ministry. Jesus had sent out his disciples two-by-two to preach the gospel of repentance. According to verse 12, they “drove out demons and anointed many who were sick.” In verse 30, the group has come back together and reported to Jesus all that they had been doing. Seeing that they were tired and hungry, Jesus recognized the need for his followers to “unplug”. He said to them in verse 31, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Now if you read this passage, you will notice that the people ran ahead of them, the chaos continued, and the feeding of the five thousand ensued. We often read this passage and it’s the feeding of the five thousand that we focus on. Let’s not forget Jesus’ invitation here. When we’re tired from all the “doing,” Jesus invites us to “unplug” and take time to rest and to be renewed.

When we’re tired from all the “doing,” Jesus invites us to “unplug” and take time to rest and to be renewed.

Colonel Genevera Vincent

On another occasion in Matthew 11;28-30, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Following the leading of Jesus, it’s important that we “unplug” and allow our souls to find rest.

Ministry is demanding and often difficult. Without taking moments to “unplug,” his yoke and his burden seem anything but easy and light! It’s amazing though how we can approach a difficult task, following moments of rest, and successfully “unplugging”. When we feel rejuvenated and rested, that difficult meeting or conversation somehow seems more manageable. The yoke and the burden seem a little easier and lighter. In simple terms, unplugging is a choice. If we don’t carve out time to “unplug” it will never happen. The business and busyness of our lives will constantly drive us to do more.

In this age of instant messaging, we need more than ever to heed the invitation of Jesus to go to a quiet place and get some rest. That will certainly look different for individual people. Taking a walk, reading a book, sitting quietly and breathing in the quietness, and listening to worship music are all ways we can “unplug” from the chaos of life and find rest. So, take the time and make the effort to incorporate moments to “unplug” into your life and you will not regret it. You will actually flourish!

So, will you please excuse me…I need a moment to “unplug” and finish my cup of tea.

Find Joy

By Major Beth Desplancke

Every morning when I walk into Territorial Headquarters to begin my workday, I am greeted with these words: “Find Joy.”

What a great reminder as I start each day. No matter what the day holds -meetings to attend, emails to read, reports to generate, people to talk to -whatever I encounter that day, I need to find joy in all that I do. I am going to be honest; some days it is easy to find joy in what I am doing, and other days, not so much.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so the Christmas song proclaims, but often during this season of rejoicing, that isn’t always true. With all the holiday hustle and season stress, comes the blues of busyness and instead of being filled with joy, our hearts are more pulled toward the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, “Bah Humbug!”

Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. The birth of our Savior isn’t just joy but GREAT joy! The angel declared to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

The shepherds heard this announcement of a baby being born that will bring great joy to everyone, and of course they must go and see for themselves. They must consciously choose to leave their routine and go and find this baby that would bring great joy to all. After seeing the baby, they leave and must share their joy with others. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:20).

Later, when the Wise Men were searching for the King of the Jews, they followed a star that led them to Jerusalem, and an encounter with King Herod. They learn of a prophecy that declares this king would be born in Bethlehem. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where they child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed (Matthew 2:9-10).

We all know that the Christmas season is busy: Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, kettles, nursing home visitations, food drives, Angel trees, preparing toys and food for families in need, parties, baking, decorating, cooking holiday dinners… the list is endless. In all the busyness, we can miss the opportunities to find joy.

How do you find joy in it all? It is a matter of choice! The shepherds and the wise men had to consciously seek out and find the joy. Yes, the calendar is full, and there are lots of activities taking place. Yes, some things are non-negotiable and must be done, but other things we can choose to say yes or no to.

Finding joy might mean saying no to something so you can have one evening at home a week, where you sit down with the family and enjoy a home-cooked meal or spend the evening baking or watching a Christmas movie.

Finding joy could mean saying no to buying things on credit and only spending what you can afford.

Finding joy may mean driving home the long way after a busy day just so you can enjoy the lights of a beautifully decorated neighborhood.

In the busyness of the season, I must plan joy breaks once a week. I usually enjoy iced drinks (which I normally consume faster) but I find joy going to a coffee shop, ordering a hot drink and sitting at a table and savoring each sip. As I slow down, I listen to some of my favorite Christmas carols, or simply enjoy reading a book for fun. After a chapter or two, or after I finished my hot drink, my joy is restored, and I am ready to face the rest of the activities and things that must be done.

In addition to the once-a-week joy breaks, when I find my attitude is in need of an adjustment, and I am not able to find joy in the moment, I close my office door and listen to a favorite Christmas Carol that brings a smile to my face. One of my favorites (I think the video is what makes me smile) is Born is the King (It’s Christmas) by Hillsong Worship. Another favorite of mine (not a Christmas song but is sure to put a smile on your face) is Joy by For King and Country.

In all of the busyness of this season, may we seek out and find the joy that comes through a child’s smile, a thank you for your service, or baking homemade goodies to bless someone else. Challenge yourself to find joy in each day. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 NLT).

May you have a joyous Christmas and a joy-filled New Year!

Flourishing in the Spiritual Discipline of Gratitude

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

The dictionary defines Gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” When you come down to it, gratitude is really all about attitude. It’s easy to be grateful for blessings and/or things when everyone is on the same “playing field”, when we are comparing apples to apples. True gratitude, however, may be put to the test when someone receives thanks for something that you feel should have been directed your way. Gratitude may be put to the test when someone receives a promotion that you were denied. When we feel wronged in some way or slighted, it may not be so easy to feel grateful. Gratitude can quickly dissipate when we begin to feel resentful for the praise and tangible things others are receiving that we are not.

It’s times like these that call us to take the “balcony view”. The balcony view allows us to take a step back from daily routines and even the mundane and see the bigger picture of our lives and circumstances. When we take the balcony, panoramic view of our lives and remove ourselves from the “weeds”, we are more apt to conclude that we have lots to be grateful for and life is not so bad after all!

When we consider the aspect of gratitude, it is very closely linked to the word validation. The longing of every individual is to feel validated. We may not admit that readily, but it is true. We all need encouragement and validation. A very important question to ask ourselves is, “Where am I looking to receive validation”? “Who am I wanting to receive validation from”? When we can take the balcony view and see our lives from a distance and understand fully that our true worth is in Jesus, we will find it easier to temper our longing for recognition with our God-given worth. Gratitude will become easier when we are able to find that balance. I would not want to indicate here that this is an easy process because it is not! It takes time, prayerful reflection, and moments of introspection, to move us from a place of self-pity to a place of gratitude where we truly understand the worth that God attaches to our lives.

In case you have forgotten how God feels about you, let me remind you of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-31. Jesus is preparing to send out the twelve disciples and they were sent with several instructions and words of advice. In verse 29, Jesus asks, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” He continues, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” If you’ve ever longed for validation, here it is! I don’t know about you, but these verses make me feel truly grateful!

True gratitude is supernatural work. I think if we are all honest, we would say that when we compare our lives with someone who has less than we do, in monetary and opportunity resources, we find it easy to say, “God is so good to me” and I have a sense of gratitude for all that God has provided. However, when we compare our lives with someone who just seems to have everything handed to them on a silver platter, without having to expend much energy, it can lead us to question why. Why is it that I must work so hard for what I get while others just have it handed to them? That’s when gratitude requires supernatural work. To stay positive and not wallow in self-pity requires us to look beyond the tangible, temporary things of life and have an eternal view. When we can view life from an eternal perspective, it’s then we understand our true worth in Christ and can flourish as a result. After all, if God notices when a sparrow falls to the ground and he declares that we are worth more than many sparrows, what more will it take to give us a grateful heart? So…

Give thanks with a grateful heart,
Give thanks to the Holy One;
Give thanks, because he’s given
Jesus Christ, his Son.
And now let the weak say ‘I am strong’,
Let the poor say, ‘I am rich’,
Because of what the Lord has done for us;
Give thanks!


By Commissioner Colleen Riley

Rest? Who has time for rest? It seems like we have a go go go world, with a do-do-do mentality and are labeled lazy if we take any time for rest each week. Or maybe that is all in our minds. God specifically tells us to take a sabbath day and rest. And who is the best example of that, God himself. On the seventh day, he rested. Not only did he rest, but he also blessed that day and made it holy.

“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works just as God did from his.” Hebrews 4:9-10.

I remember as a young girl that Sundays, Sabbath Days, were truly Sabbath days. While Mom and Dad had a lot to do at the corps, the in between was rest. We didn’t go to a restaurant. We didn’t shop at the stores, and outside of the ministry at church, we came away from things that could distract us from being focused on God. We came home, had a meal together and found time to connect as a family, share and yes, take an afternoon nap.

If this is not something that we practice regularly, what does Sabbath rest even look like? There are many ways we can observe Sabbath. For the Christian, we gather for worship with fellow believers and praise the Lord through songs, scripture and teaching. There are other ways such as prayer, solitude, journaling, reading and reflection, so many different ways to connect with the Lord.

If this is new, at least the deep, reflection and awareness that we are to truly take sabbath, then where do we begin? I would suggest prayer be your starting point. Find a place where you are not distracted by the world, set your phone and any other electronics aside, and sit and be still in the presence of the Lord. You don’t always have to speak, begin by listening. And find yourself in conversation with God. You may only have questions when you first start. That’s ok, ask Him, He is listening. There may be some days you don’t have any words at all, that is ok too. I believe in those moments God wants to speak to our hearts. As you do this more and more often, you will find that the time goes quickly and that there is never enough time to sit and be still and listen to the still small voice of God speaking to you. Sabbath.

Some of you may know that I love the ocean. Walking along the beach and listening to the waves brings me peace. Where is that for you? Perhaps it will be in the tall trees of the forest, or the garden full of blooming flowers. And for some it may be in your prayer closet. Wherever that may be for you, find it, make it a regular practice. Step away and find solitude with God. Sabbath.

If I asked for hands to be raised for our writers out there, I know there are several. Journaling may be for you. I personally have struggled to keep consistent in putting my thoughts down on paper. It rolls around in my mind but putting pen to paper has been something I have tried off and on for years. Journaling can be a wonderful way to put your prayers and concerns down for you to go back to and to see where God has been blessing.

Recently, my Mom was promoted to Glory. I have always known that she has lists of prayers that she kept in her bibles, next to her bed, where she did her devotions, etc. In going through her things, I found some of them. Our family was always on each list, with our names, the specific prayer and the date that they were answered. My heart was so full reading these. I knew this was how she prayed, but to see it on paper made my heart leap for joy. Perhaps God is calling you to write things down, to put it in pen the thoughts of your heart and the prayers of the people God has entrusted you with. You can find rest and solace in this. Sabbath.

Whatever way you feel God is calling you to Sabbath with him, do it. Lean into His presence and find true rest in God alone.

“Truly my soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” Psalm 62:1

I pray that you take time for Sabbath. Find rest in Him and be rejuvenated and refreshed by your time away with God.

New Vision for the Battle

By Major Beth Desplancke

For three years my husband, Frank, and I served as chaplains at an Adult Rehabilitation Center where we got to minister to men in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. The highlight for me were the Wednesday and Sunday chapel services. One Wednesday after chapel, well past the time we normally left to go home, I couldn’t find my husband. His office was dark, and he wasn’t talking to any of the men in the common area. I walked back to the chapel, looked through the window in the door and saw my husband and Tim, our assistant resident manager, counseling one of the men in our program. I didn’t disturb them.

A short time later I saw Tim in the hallway; obviously my husband was done talking with the man in our program. I walked back to the chapel, and again looked through the window. There were still three men in the room: my husband, the man in our program, and someone who I was sure was Tim. I turned from the chapel window as I heard Tim talking to one of the men at the front desk. I looked back through the window, and once again there were three men in the chapel. Obviously the third man could not be Tim. Confused, I went to my office. A short time later Frank called me saying he was ready to go home. On the way home I asked Frank who was with him in the chapel as he counseled one of the men. Frank looked at me strangely and said he and the man were alone the entire time. I told him I had clearly seen 3 men, several times, and I told him I thought it was Tim with his hand on Frank’s shoulder.

I stewed on the situation that evening and was reminded of a story in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha, God’s prophet and his servant discovered that the city they were in was surrounded. The servant panicked and asked Elisha what they should do. Elisha told him to not be afraid and confidently said that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:16-17). Elisha’s servant got a glimpse of the spiritual war that was taking place around them.

I believe what I saw in the chapel that night, was a glimpse of the spiritual realm that was around me. This isn’t something that happens often in my life; I am not in the habit of seeing people that aren’t there, but I know that God opened my eyes, because I was in one of the biggest spiritual battles of my life.
Yes, we are in a battle; we have an enemy of our soul, the deceiver, the tempter, the devil. Jesus tells us what the devil’s desire is for us: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10a). He is a liar and only speaks lies (John 8:44), and he loves to fill us with discouragement, defeat and doubt. At this time in my life, I was struggling with my calling to serve God as an officer in The Salvation Army. Besides questioning my call, the stressful situation was impacting my marriage, my family, and my health (both physically and mentally). I was at my breaking point, and I was going to throw it all away. The enemy was attacking, and it felt like he was winning!

And then God opened my eyes to see a glimpse into the spiritual realm. Did I see an angel with my husband? Maybe. I saw someone no one else could see. Whatever God allowed me to see that day, was the encouragement I needed to keep moving forward in the battle. Through this unusual encounter, I was reminded of three things that would help me flourish in this battle (as well as any future battles I would face).

What I saw reminded me that just like the servant, I didn’t need to be afraid of the battle. It has been said that the phrase “Do not fear” occurs 365 times in the Bible (I haven’t actually counted for myself); a daily reminder that we need not be afraid of anything. Matthew Henry wrote, “The opening of our eyes will be the silencing of our fears. In the dark we are most apt to be frightened. The clearer sight we have of the sovereignty and power of heaven the less we shall fear the calamities of this earth.”

Secondly, I had the assurance that I was not alone in this battle. The Lord was with me during this difficult time, and would continue to be with me every step of the way. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Finally, I was reminded that with God, I am on the winning side. Although I only saw one person, and not a mountainside covered with horses and chariots of fire, I had the assurance of knowing that God is greater than anything I face, and the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Did the battle get easier? Not necessarily. Did it end immediately? Definitely not. It was still a battle. The struggle was real. Eventually I did get through the battle. I didn’t let the enemy defeat me. I was victorious because I depended on Christ, through whom we have the victory: But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Flourishing in the Dry Season

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

After first moving to California, I was amazed and somewhat amused at how excited people became when it rained! I remember a thunder and lightning storm early last fall, and when the rain started, people ran to the windows, excited to watch the rainfall, albeit very brief. I must confess, I didn’t find it terribly exciting, as I was accustomed to rain pretty much every week where I came from. We usually ran to the windows when the sun came out!

Having been here for nearly a year now, I totally understand the excitement that comes with rain. The land in Southern California is very dry and the rain is needed and very refreshing. What amazes me now are the beautiful flowers in such a dry climate. Even in the dryness, they flourish and fill their surroundings with beauty and an inviting aroma.

It really is a perfect example of what I desire my life to be. Flourishing in the dry season. We all experience the dry seasons…times in our lives when God seems far away, when life is very routine, when ministry seems to be routine and somewhat uninspiring. During times like this, I must remind myself that the change is in me and not in God. God is always present, always powerful, he knows me better than I know myself. These are the times that call for a deep trust and faith in the one who holds me in the palm of his hand.

The Psalms are a great read as we work through the dry seasons of our lives. They are brutally honest about what is happening, how one is feeling. Those feelings of dryness and despair are often resolved as the Psalmist recounts the past mercies and grace of God. That is not always the case, however. In Psalm 137, we are given a quick glimpse of what it was like for the nation of Israel to be in bondage. There they were, sitting by the rivers of Babylon, weeping about what they had lost, having been taken from their homeland. They hung their harps on the poplar trees…they had lost their song…they were experiencing a dry season. When their captors asked them to sing some of the songs of Zion they refused, responding instead with, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (v. 4) I have often wondered, while reading this Psalm, if the people of God had missed a chance to witness about all the amazing things God had previously done for them because they were somewhat self-absorbed in this moment. Their dry season left them without a song, without a testimony. How very sad!

Then I am caused to think about the dry seasons of my own life. How many opportunities have I missed to witness of the power and provision of God because I interpreted the dry season as distance between God and me?

How many opportunities have I missed to witness of the power and provision of God because I interpreted the dry season as distance between God and me?

Colonel Genevera Vincent

In Psalm 77, we encounter another example of a dry season. The Psalmist is feeling abandoned by God and questions if God will reject him forever. “Has God’s promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be kind and compassionate?” There is a remembering of songs sung long ago, but troubles …the dry season…are now keeping the Psalmist without a song. Verse 10 of Psalm 77 is a resolution verse. The verse reads: Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. Suddenly the tone of the Psalm changes and the Psalmist is recalling the goodness and faithfulness of God and the dry season becomes a flourishing season!

That, my friends, is the beauty of our relationship with Jesus. When we are experiencing the dry season, the times when we feel spiritually wilted and running on empty, recalling the past goodness, faithfulness, love, and mercy of God will bring about beauty despite the dry season.

Just as the flowers in Southern California bloom despite the dry season, I pray that my life will flourish and bloom with the beauty of Jesus, whatever the season.

Where to Focus in Times of Change

By Major Beth Desplancke

Recently, while attending my corps (church) on a Sunday morning, I noticed that the lyrics on the screen were harder to see than they had been before. I was thankful for the songs I knew, so I wouldn’t have to squint as hard to see the words. After way too long of squinting every Sunday morning (and also when going to fast food restaurants where I couldn’t see the screens – once again I was thankful for familiarity), I caved in and made an appointment for an eye exam.

It isn’t the eye exam I struggle with. I don’t mind the eye test. It is the thought of having to choose new glasses; the idea of changing to something new – gulp! I have worn glasses since I was 12 years old, and over the years I have chosen better glasses than others. I make my husband come with me to help me pick out the best pair. To be honest, I can’t see well enough without my prescription glasses to see how the sample glasses look on my face.

The eye doctor had news I was expecting. My distant vision had indeed changed, and I needed more correction in order to see things far away. But I had another change to deal with as well. I had reached the age where I would need bifocals or progressive lens. I was so concerned about the word on the screen on Sunday, I hadn’t noticed I was squinting to read or pulling things closer to my face.
Out of vanity I chose to go with progressive lens rather than bifocals; I despise the line. They told me it would take a few weeks for my eyes to adjust and for me to change habits. I would have to turn my head in the direction I wanted to look at, and actually tilt my chin down to read, rather than simply glancing with my eyes.

I’ll admit the first two weeks were rough. I felt like nothing was clear. It felt I was adjusting the angel of my head constantly. But, eventually, I realized I could see both close and distant things easier than before.
Change at first is hard. But eventually, change is no longer new, and simply becomes normal. Now that I have worn my “new” glasses for a little more than a month, it has become natural to move my head instead of just my eyes. My new glasses taught me a lesson on focus. The secret to flourishing in times of change is choosing what to focus on.

Change is simply a part of life, and the world around us is changing constantly. Where do we look? We look to the One who does not change. God declares, “I The Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6a). The writer declares in Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. Psalm 102:27 declares about God, But you remain the same and your years will never end.

While everything around me changes, God is the one and only constant I can turn to. My age changes, my hair color changes, my weight changes, my job changes, my family changes, my eyes change, but through it all God is the same.

Who God is in the beginning of the Bible, is who He is today. What a comfort to know that there is One person in my life that will never change. His love for me is the same today as it was yesterday. His grace, mercy, and salvation are all the same. His promises for a hope and a future remain the same. His promise of salvation through His Son Jesus, is the same. I just need to keep looking to the unchanging One for stability and focus during times of change.

One of my favorite songs (right now) is “Same God” by Elevation Worship. It is a beautiful song of worship that focuses on the fact that God is the same, and we can stand on His faithfulness. The chorus says:

O God, my God, I need You
O God, my God, I need You now
How I need You now
O Rock, O Rock of ages
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
On Your faithfulness

What comfort I can have knowing the God of the Bible is still the same today, and who He was in the past, is who He is today, and who He will be tomorrow. I can stand on that! So, yes, change will come, and there will be times that the changes are a lot harder to deal with than a new style of glasses or adjusting to progressive lens, but no matter what changes comes my way, I can stand on the unchanging nature (the immutability) of God. He is the same God, the Rock of Ages.

Check out the song Same God

Flourishing in the Tearful Season

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

It seems very natural that we would flourish in the seasons of joy and the happy times in our lives. Joyfulness and happiness just seem to lend themselves to growth and beauty. We don’t typically couple flourishing with words like grief, sorrow, and tears. However, as children of God, we know that when our lives are rooted deep in Christ, we can flourish despite the season we find ourselves in. It may take a little more reliance on God and less on self. It may take many moments of contemplation and seeking God but flourishing in the tearful season is possible. It most certainly has much to do with our perspective. As believers, if we look at a healthy perspective as our “up look”, how we view God in the seasons of our lives as well as our “outlook”, the things that are happening in and around us, our lives would be so much more blessed and balanced.

We would be so much better served if we viewed the seasons of our lives as opportunities to flourish, rather than always questioning why. It’s natural for us to ask questions and I’m grateful that God is never thrown off course with my questioning. He created me, He knows me, and He knows the types of questions I will ask and the things in my life that will cause me to question. The real beauty I find in serving God is that he can take all the seasons of my life and create his beautiful masterpiece! I give him my joys, happy moments, ordinary moments, contentment, peaceful moments, busyness, my valley seasons and like a patch work quilt, he puts all the pieces together and our lives become a thing of beauty. How good God is!

“God is never thrown off course with my questioning. He created me, He knows me, and He knows the types of questions I will ask and the things in my life that will cause me to question.”

Colonel Genevera Vincent

Less than two weeks after I moved here to the Western territory, a very precious aunt, who is more like a second mom to me was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Just five weeks after she was diagnosed, she was Promoted to Glory. During the weeks following her diagnosis, I will admit I asked some questions of God. Why, after six years living only one hour away from her, is she taken away so quickly when I am on the other side of the continent? In this time of sorrow and grief however, I have been grateful for Facetime, which a few years ago would not have been a possibility. So, I had the opportunity to Facetime with my Aunt Becky and tell her how much she meant to me, how much I loved her. I was able to pray with her.

My flourishing during this time has really been tied to memories. Memories of my growing up years and the love and nurturing I received from my aunt. She gave her heart to God as a child and for her 81 years she loved God and it showed! In addition to many positive childhood memories, I also have memories of heart-to-heart conversations after I became an adult, these I cherish. My parents and my aunt, prior to her passing, lived in a senior’s residence not in the town they lived in and raised their families. However, family homes still exist and this past summer, I was able to enjoy three weeks in our family home with my parents; with my cousin in the house next door with my aunt. We shared many lovely moments, sharing meals, sitting on the patio, enjoying the sunshine and good conversations and a few…well, maybe more than a few good laughs! I realize now what a gift God gave us, as this was the last time we would physically be together. In that tearful season, God has been showing how faithful he is!

The Scriptures give us many beautiful pictures of God. I think none more beautiful though, than a God who keeps account of our tears. Psalm 56:8, in the Message paraphrase reads, “You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.”

That verse encourages me to believe that none of the seasons of my life are wasted. God is constantly at work, using the joyful seasons as well as the tearful seasons to shape me and make my life to flourish. May God help me always to recognize him in every moment of my life!