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!

Eyes Up!

By Major Beth Desplancke

Just recently, my husband and I took a trip to celebrate our 25th anniversary and spent several days in Las Vegas. If you have ever been to Vegas, you know that there are lots of things to see. I had a list of all the “free” things I wanted to go see at the various hotels.

One of the places we visited was the Bellagio. As you enter the Bellagio’s hotel lobby, you can admire Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como, a glass floral sculpture that can be found on the ceiling. Yes, you have to look up in order to admire its beauty.

Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como

In the same area, right before you enter the Conservatory, there is a beautiful fountain. As my husband was busy looking down reading the sign about the fountain (he loves to read every little sign and plague), I looked up. The ceiling above the fountain was gorgeous; it might have even been prettier than the fountain.

That’s when I felt God’s Spirit said to me, “It’s important to look up!” After that, everywhere we went, I decided not to simply look down (some of the hotels and stores have amazing floors) or even what’s in front of me, but to look up.

Throughout our time in Vegas, I made sure to admire the upward view as well.

This picture is inside. The sky isn’t real!

What a great reminder for especially when we go through hard times. When the difficulties of life come, it is easy to focus just on the problem: the unexpected diagnosis, the overdue notices in the mail, the pink slip, the angry text. No matter how many great things are still happening in your life, all you see is the one bad thing, the one difficulty, the one struggle. As the saying goes, sometimes we get so focused on the details, or the issue, that we can’t see the forest through the trees – you are unable to see the situation as a whole. Corrie ten Boom, said it this way: “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God, you’ll be at rest.” The secret to flourishing in the hard times of life (or for any time or season in our life) is simply EYES UP!

There is a great story in the 2 Chronicles 20, that tells of when three armies joined together to come fight against Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and his people. The Bible records in verse 3, that Jehoshaphat was afraid, but that he “resolved to inquire of the Lord.” He proclaimed a fast for all Judah, and the people of Judah gathered together “to seek help from the Lord” (v. 4). Jehoshaphat prays a beautiful prayer, and speaks one of my favorite lines in Scripture, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (v. 12b)

They aren’t looking at the armies that are coming towards them, they aren’t looking around at their own army, and their resources, they aren’t looking at each other in a panic, and they aren’t looking for an exit route, instead they chose to focus their eyes up! They turn their eyes up to God. Why? They understand that in this hard time, He has the answers, and He will give them direction in what to do. And He does (I would encourage you to read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 for the entire story).

In Psalm 121, the psalmist makes a similar declaration: I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (v. 1-2). Need help? EYES UP!

King David declared in 1Chronicles 16:11, Look to the Lord and his strength; seek His face always. This is such an important thing for us to remember that the Bible repeats this verse again in Psalm 105:4. Don’t forget: EYES UP!

Sometimes seasons of difficulty, troubles, struggles and pain last a long time. We can’t just look up to Him once, but need to continually make the choice that no matter how big the struggle is that I am facing, no matter how long the trial endures, I am going to make sure my eyes are looking up to Him!

The song, I Lift My Eyes by Jesus Culture, says it this way:

I lift my eyes to the mountains
You are higher still
I lift my eyes to the heavens
You are greater still
My strength comes from the Lord
The maker of it all
My strength comes from the Lord
A mighty fortress
For every weakness
I am not helpless
You’ve never failed me once
I have a Savior
For every failure
I am not hopeless
You’ve never failed me

So no matter what we are experiencing, whatever hardships that might be in front of us, whatever struggles we may have to endure, may we be women who remember the key to flourishing, even in the hard times is the: EYES UP!

Flourishing in the Valley Season

By Colonel Genevera Vincent

We often equate positive experiences, feelings of elation, and times of being in a “good space” in our lives as mountain top experiences. Conversely, we have equated the valley experiences with those times of pain, grief, dryness…the opposite of the mountain top experience. I am here to say that the valley seasons in our lives can be some of the most rewarding and spiritually enriching when we sit back, take a breath, and have very honest conversations with God about what he wants us to learn in this time.

If you’ve ever hiked to the top of a mountain, you may find little growth, depending on how wind swept the top of that mountain is. However, in the valley below, there are often wildflowers and luscious green grass that is flourishing. So, I wonder why we speak of the joyful times of our lives as being on the mountain top and the painful experiences like being in the valley? I guess it really depends on our perspective. I think I get it though. Real growth doesn’t usually just happen. If you are a gardener, you will know that to enjoy a beautiful garden there is a lot of weeding and tilling the ground and pruning. I must admit, these are the aspects of gardening I least enjoy. I don’t know about you, but it seems that in my garden, the weeds always grow much faster than the flowers! But the pruning and the weeding are necessary if we want to get to the real beauty. There is a beautiful spiritual lesson tied to gardening, weeding, and pruning.

When I look back over my life at the mountain top and the valley experiences I have had, I can honestly say that the times of deepest growth in my life have been borne out of the difficulties, the hard places. I remember an especially difficult season as an officer. If mountain top experiences are joyful and exuberant, this was not a mountain top experience. We struggled to work through some difficult situations, uncovering some deep-seated problems that resulted in people taking sides and making life and ministry very difficult. I remember feeling very helpless at times and literally crying out to God for help. This was my “valley.” Years later as I look back on that experience, I am grateful for the lessons God taught me in that valley season. Lessons like…doing what’s right and honorable are not always easy; when you stand up for what is right, God will have the final word; before a seed is planted, hard ground must be tilled.

God said to me then, and says to me now, that I’m never in the valley alone. He is there with me – guiding me, teaching me, loving me.

Colonel Genevera Vincent

It was this last lesson that I have gone back to many times, these many years hence! In ministry we all talk about planting seeds of faith and watering those seeds with our prayers and our relationship with people. The Bible talks about that after all, in I Corinthians 3:6, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Before a seed is planted though, it is necessary to disturb the ground, to dig up, if that seed is to germinate and produce growth. As the Scriptures remind us again, a seed thrown on hard ground will be eaten by birds and will not produce anything. We are often okay with planting the seeds and the occasional watering but not everyone enjoys preparing the hard ground before planting. We love the result, the beautiful flowers, but we often want to bypass the hard and difficult task of tilling the ground. The life lesson I learned was very valuable to me. God said to me then, and says to me now, that I’m never in the valley alone. He is there with me-guiding me, teaching me, loving me. We sang a chorus back in my home province of Newfoundland that speaks of the work of God in our lives in the valley. It goes like this,

He leads me beside still waters,
Somewhere in the valley below.
He draws me aside to be tested and tried,
But in the valley, He restoreth my soul.

And that really sums it up. Being tested and tried in the valley doesn’t always feel good, but it is there that God restores us and renews us and causes us to flourish.

So, if you are in a valley season right now, ask yourself, “What is God wanting me to learn during this time? And then, position yourself to listen and learn and flourish as a result!

Be Still With the Savior

By Commissioner Colleen Riley

2023 has begun and we are starting another year. What is on your mind? Is it the busyness of your ministry or your life? Is it the calendar that is already filling up or the looming items on your to-do list?

January 1st always brings fireworks and cheering, toasting of glasses and promises of resolutions to be kept. This year, even before the new year begins, I have made the decision to not make resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, or to be more organized, although these are all good things in themselves. The pressure to be better to do more and to make our mark on the world, is real and can be overwhelming.

Instead, I am challenging myself to be still with my Savior more than ever before. Every day as I sit in my quiet place and focus on my relationship with Jesus, I find myself falling deeper and deeper in love with Him. I find myself with more and more of a sense of peace in my life. I want more of this! To find time in the busy, to find time in the chaos, to find time in the stillness, I can sense, I KNOW that I can FLOURISH because of Christ!

Looking forward into this new year I desire to have not only a sense of peace, but to be truly at peace with the Lord and in the circumstances of my life. While it is busy, I know that God is in control of even my busy life. He in the tiniest of details of yours and my life. I don’t have to fret, He has me just where He wants me, He knows my deepest needs and He cares for every single moment.

God simply wants you and I to dwell in the still of His presence, to listen to His voice and to trust in His plan for us in 2023.

Commissioner Colleen Riley

If you are reading this, I hope that you know this to be true of your life as well. God simply wants you and I to dwell in the still of His presence, to listen to His voice and to trust in His plan for us in 2023. Let’s you and I, be attuned to the voice of God, to really hear what He is asking of us in these next twelve months. I am guessing that it is not to put more on our busy schedules, or to work even harder than we are, but rather to find peace in Christ and to know Him more deeply.

Will you, with me, say to Him – Jesus do all you have in mind, I am with you heart and soul. Whatever you have in store for me, I am here and I am all in. I want to know you, to serve you, to trust you with my whole life.

I pray that in this new year, you will embrace a season of stillness and peace in Christ. In Psalm 4:8 it says “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Each evening as you rest your head, be reminded of His care for you. And each day, as you begin your day with Jesus, know that in this time of peace and still, flourish for the Lord. He is with you!

The Christmas Story – Better Than Any Hallmark Movie

By Major Beth Desplancke

In the middle of October one of my yearly holiday tradition begins. Before Halloween even hits the calendar, the Hallmark channel starts its “Countdown to Christmas” airing romantic holiday movies 24/7 until the New Year. Despite the busyness of the season, I make sure to fit lots of Hallmark Christmas movie viewing into the schedule. I note the new Christmas movie air dates and try to fit in one “live” Christmas viewing a week; yes, that means sitting still for 2 hours at a time. I set my DVR to record those movies I can’t watch at the time they air (and yes, I might be still viewing Christmas movies until almost March).

Perhaps I love a good Christmas romance because my husband and I started dating in December over 25 years ago. Perhaps I love them because they are fun, whimsical and simply help me relax. I think the real reason I enjoy them is because they all basically boil down to the search for hope. In case you aren’t familiar with the Hallmark Christmas movie genre, let me share with you the basic premise (and yes, once you’ve seen one or two, you really have seen them all). The main character is usually unhappy, unsatisfied or unfulfilled in their life. During Christmas, something causes them to step away from their ordinary life, to leave the big city to go to a small town, to set aside their daily schedule and experience Christmas fun, and in the process, they find the love of their life. And yes, they always end with a kiss.

Well, the real Christmas story is so much better than any Hallmark movie!

In the beginning when God created the world, everything was perfect. He created man and woman and they lived in a garden, naked and unashamed. They walked and talked with God. In this garden of perfection there was one and only one rule – one tree out of all the trees in this garden that they weren’t to eat from, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The enemy, the devil, tempted them and twisted God’s word, and then woman ate from the tree and then gave the fruit to her husband, and he also ate. Immediately they were aware of their nakedness, ashamed, afraid and hid. Instead of walking with God and conversing with Him, they were hiding from Him.

At that moment, sin entered the world and has caused separation between God and us ever since. God said there would be pain and suffering due to their sin, but at the same time He gave the first promise of Savior in Genesis 3:15. He told the serpent, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” From that point on, God’s people have been waiting for the promised One who would crush the enemy’s head.

In Genesis 12 God calls Abram out to be His people. God promises that Abram (later renamed Abraham) Abraham would be a great nation and his nation will be a blessing, and declares, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (v. 3b). Abraham’s descendants become the nation of Israel, and throughout the Old Testament God promised the Messiah would come from Abraham’s line.

The Old Testament ends with the word curse or destruction (depending on what translation you are using; Malachi 4:6). Throughout the Old Testament, prophets spoke of the coming Promised Messiah. And then, between the Old and New Testaments there are 400 years of silence – God sends no new messenger or prophet. God’s people are still under the curse and waiting for the Promised Messiah.

Talk about a hopeless situation. It appears that things will never get better. And then the Gospel of Matthew begins the New Testament with the words telling of the birth of the promised messiah. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him that Mary is pregnant, and what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. The angel gives this message: “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 1:22). Into a hopeless world, hope is born. God’s people are still under the curse of sin, but finally the Savior has come.

Jesus, our Savior came to bring the hope of salvation. When sin entered the world back in the garden of Eden, it created a distance between us and God. In the garden, innocent animals paid the price for Adam and Eve’s sin – an animal died so that God could clothe Adam and Eve with garments of skin. Centuries later, God sent His Son, Jesus, with the sole purpose of being the Savior of the world. He came to earth as a baby, a grew up to be a man, lived a sinless life, and gave Himself willingly to die on the cross for our sins. Why? John 3:16-17 tells us: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

The Christmas story is a love story. The Christmas story is a story of hope – there is a possibility for a better life. The Christmas story is a story for everyone. In Luke chapter 2, angels appeared to shepherds heralding the announcement of Christ’s birth: “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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:10-12).

My prayer is that you will know the hope that comes at Christmas through Jesus, our Savior.

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!

Welcome to the West

By Major Beth Desplancke

On September 1, 2022, Colonel Genevera Vincent joined the Western Territory’s family as the Territorial Secretary for Women’s Ministries.  Her and her husband, Colonel Eddie (serving as the West’s Chief Secretary) hail from the Canada and Bermuda Territory. Commissioned in 1986, Colonels Eddie & Genevera had the wonderful privilege to serve as Corps Officers for 19 years. After being Corps Officers, they served 7 years as Divisional Youth Secretaries, then 4 years at THQ in Personnel. Before arriving to the West, they served as the Divisional Commanders of their home division, Newfoundland and Labrador Division, for 6 years.

Installation of Colonels Eddie & Genevera Vincent; Photo by John Docter

When asked if she had a favorite appointment, she couldn’t name one. She mentioned that every appointment had high and low moments. She has enjoyed her different roles in each appointment and has loved the opportunity to journey with people. Their 19 years as corps officers were very special to them. Through the years she can trace God’s hand of blessing and faithfulness through her life.

In her words, they were “gobsmacked” when they got their appointment to the USA Western Territory. Having visited California before, they had said “we could live here,” but never imagined in a million years that they would get to. When I interviewed Colonel Genevera, (only being here two weeks) she commented that “It doesn’t look like home,” as she stares at a palm tree right out her window, “but it feels like home.”

They leave their son Stephen, a firefighter, and his wife Melanie, a preschool teacher, and their son Ryan, a software developer, back home in Calgary. However, they are now closer to them here in California than when they were in Newfoundland. Genevera is excitedly anticipating Christmas, her favorite holiday, when all the family will not be a celebrating a white Christmas in sunny Southern California, but will be together, for the first Christmas in 3 years. She loves to entertain and especially loves to cook.

Ryan, Genevera, Stephen, Melanie, and Eddie Vincent

When I asked Genevera to describe herself she said she was a sensible morning person, who wakes up immediately, rather than hitting the snooze button. For her, her glass is always half-full. When I asked her to describe herself with only three adjectives, she immediately said friendly. When she couldn’t think of any others, her husband was able to include a few more, “She is beautiful, humorous and compassionate.” After just a few minutes of talking with her she felt like a long-time friend.

When asked about a skill she would like to master, her response was sewing. One Christmas she said she would love to learn to sew, so her husband got her a sewing machine for Christmas. Her friend, Sylvia, casually asked her about what she had gotten for Christmas one evening at songsters. When Genevera mentioned she got a sewing machine, Sylvia was quick to encourage her to start quilting. Genevera panicked at first but signed up for a “Block-of-the-Month Club.” Each month she received the materials and directions to make a 12” block. The following Christmas, Eddie bought her the finishing kit for the quilt, and she made her first quilt, “Garden Trails.” Since then, she has made 2 more quilts. She says she still needs a lot of direction.

Genevera is a woman who is flourishing in her walk with the Lord. At the welcome chapel held at Territorial Headquarters she said, “We bring who we are. We consider ourselves servants of the Most High God. We have a deep love for God, love and appreciation for people, and long to see lives transformed.” She has walked with Jesus most of her life, having received Christ as her personal Savior at the age of 7. Whenever she was asked what she was going to be when she grew up, she always said a Salvation Army Officer.

Colonel Genevera sharing your testimony; Photo by John Docter

I asked Genevera when she hears the word “flourish” what comes to mind? Her response, “growth and beauty and life.” What tips does she have for women in order for them to flourish in their daily lives? “Quality time with God is the key, if we want to make a difference and be a transforming influence.” As a woman of the Word, when asked what her favorite Bible verse was, she shared she has lots. The verse that came to her mind as one of her go-to-often verse is Psalm 18:1-2 which says, I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Genevera participated in Arrow Leadership program in 2020. During that time, she learned this quote that has become her motto for life and for flourishing: Live passionately, Listen More, Laugh often, and Love always. Genevera is excited to represent the USA West and is ready to make connections with the women throughout the territory. She said that if she had a warning label it would say, “Don’t get me started on story telling or laughing.” As she visits around the territory, she is ready to talk, share stories, laugh, and probably over a cup of tea, to flourish together.