The Power

This September’s meeting led us to Nashville, home of country music and GooGoo Clusters, which a few of us  (okay Sally Harris and I…)consumed as part of a nutritious lunch during our Young Adult meeting.

Over breakfast above Nashville’s skyline (love that Batman Building) we met bankers, CEO’s, and professors who are giving of their time, love, and money to The Salvation Army.  Commander Roberts spoke of the “Cab Horse Charter” and Charlotte, in her inimitable way; spoke to how the Army is there on the front lines.

Mid-day Diane Paddison exhorted us with Matthew 6:33, a reminder that if we seek Him first “all these things shall be added.”  And at night, in a blue room no less, we heard stories of lives transformed. Not just by acts of compassion but by the message fueling that compassion.

 A message that came in the flesh and walked among us.

In our meetings we pondered existential questions about SA’s identity and then discussed funding, recruitment, branding, and volunteer tracking. We saw Allen Chan’s face in People magazine,  learned Dr. Franklin is headed to Stanford, and wiped our sunglasses with Jerry Wipes.

We admired Pam Abdalla’s garbage bag dress and secretly wished Eric Holm would take us all home on his jet to meet his houseguest – Mr. Abs himself – Paul Ryan.

Laura weighed in on Advisory Board matters with Mary Theroux dialing in, Dick Hagerty offered to blog for MySAboard (you’re on man!), and Michael Ducker joined us Friday with his trusty iPad in hand. Meredith Counce provided an overview on Echelon, the smart finance guys talked about money stuff and ratted on Jim Nordstrom, and in between breaks we procured life wisdom from the likes of Marlene Klotz-Collins & Eva Gaither.

We found out that Merle Heatwole’s daughter’s getting married, learned Craig Campbell’s daughter got married, and were all invited to Gary Brown’s house for the Pittsburg November 1 Garbage Gala.  By Pam.

We learned from Walt Wilson how to properly introduce yourself, “a resume doesn’t tell you what I’ve done but what God’s done,” pondered why fancy schmancy hotels don’t put coffee in the room (ask Joel Manby), and heard Bob Byers forecast 1,000 Red Kettle Clubs over the next 2 years.

But the most inspiring spiritual moment in Nashville came not from a speech, testimony, or sermon but in a Strategic Plan document filled with red, yellow, and green status updates.

This is Bobby Lyle’s baby, a way to better steward our projects, a way to clearly see what’s moving forward, what’s off track, and what’s on hold.

This Strategic Plan is the only way to work.

I wish it was also a way to live.

Which brings me to the spiritual lesson God’s been teaching me in looking at these three colors – red, yellow, and green.

Sometimes God is saying “stop”. Other times God is saying “wait.” And sometimes God is saying “go.” 

Remember when Abraham put Isaac on that altar? God said “no.”  And Abraham stopped what he was doing.

Remember when Abraham & Sarah tried to take matters into their own hands (they were surely thinking, “hey, we’re old, this is soo not happening, why not bring Hagar into this?”)– that’s what we’re NOT supposed to do when God  puts a yellow code on an area of our life and says “wait.”

And then there’s green. That time when God’s project, His will, can move forward. The time when Isaac is born and promises are fulfilled.

Sometimes, in fact most of the time, we don’t know what God’s up to. We’re not sure what He’s saying exactly.  And let me tell you, it’s not a fun place to be.

But it’s the right place.

Because only when we take our hands off our life, plans, and dreams are we driven to our knees, reminded of how utterly vulnerable we are, and forced to put our lives on the altar as literal “living sacrifices” (Romans 12) before the Lord.

My pastor, Tim Keller, reminds us that too often we “living sacrifices” want to squirm off that altar.

So when we’re called to wait, instead we rush ahead, like Abraham, with our own plans. Or, like Sarah, we laugh aloud at God and mock His ability to do what He’s promised.

We’re squirming away.

And the only that brings us back to that altar, to putting our lives back where it should be, is the cross.

Because on that cross Jesus, the One who deserved no punishment, no shame, no pain – took all of ours upon Himself.

The power of the cross is the power that helps us lay our lives down.

The power of the cross is the power that helps people like Tara, whom we met in Nashville, overcome addiction and abuse.

The power of the cross is the power that brings people like Jimmy Wayne from homelessness to hopefulness.

The power of the cross is the power that enables us to wake up each morning and know that whatever happens today – if God says stop, wait, or go – we can trust His hand.

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