During the troubled sleep of that bleak
night, a night made darker from the seeming unfaithfulness of the woman he
loved, Joseph heard the Lord speak. He had not understood and now, because this
Child was the infinite treasure of the ages, he heard from God Himself: The
virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him
Immanuel - which means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Mary and
Joseph lived with this astounding truth in that backwater town of Nazareth
among the disdained Galileans. Then onward they trekked to Bethlehem to a
smelly cave deemed fit only for animals. Here in these unexpected places this
most unexpected message found flesh in the birth of Jesus.
Dazzled by the angels and then driven to prove their message, the
shepherds ventured into a town where they didn't belong to see what
prophets' eyes craved to look upon. A Child, an unspeakably wondrous Child
lying there in the chill of the night. The star signaled something too
important to allow the Magi to stay home, forced them through a relentless
desert to a land where they were unwelcome guests. Where is this One born King
of the Jews? And upon finding Him they forgot the gods of their childhood and
knelt before Him in worship. The blazing star dimmed before the glory of this
Immanuel, God with us.
Time would bring Him forth to walk
the hills and valleys, to cross the lake and ford the Jordan, to visit the
villages and challenge Jerusalem. Along the way His steps were marked by once
scarred lepers now with spotless skin, blind beholding their families, lame
leaping, dumb singing praises heard by those whose now open ears once heard
nothing. There a withered hand now held a grandchild and here a forsaken widow
hugged her restored son. God with us. Could it be anything less?
But the notion of God with us eluded the grasp of Herod, escaped
the understanding of Pilate. And those Jewish leaders looked at Him and largely
chose to seek someone a little more pliable to their expectations. Nor was God
with us enough to keep Peter from uttering his profane denials or stop Judas
from the treacherous act that has made his name despised across the centuries.
Immanuel, God with us, played out so strangely on Calvary.
God with us was also the One who was "wounded for our transgressions,
bruised for our iniquities." The coarse cross was the altar of irrevocable
proof that God, the suffering bleeding God, indeed was among us. One dying
thief in his own agony could not miss it. The hardened Roman centurion spoke
his crude confession. Surely this was God with us.
us. No grave could make Him less than that. The Roman guard and the boulder
were as useless as death in restraining Him. Because nothing, absolutely
nothing, could keep Him away from the people He came to save. This is Immanuel!
God with us!
Disciples, hide in fear behind your walls, but
know they shall fail to keep Him out. Disheartened ones leaving Jerusalem for
Emmaus, He will find you along the way. Peter, load your fishing boat and cast
your useless nets. But soon the dawn will reveal Him beckoning you from the
shore. On it went and still goes. Years melted into centuries as numbers
swelled from hundreds to billions who believed that God is with us. Over those
same centuries and on to the present martyrs' blood continually spills
forming rivers of witness. Do not pity them. The dying rejoiced that they
traded their one life for the more certain one, brought personally to each by
Immanuel, God with us.
God with us. Right here, now. Layers of sin cannot
prevent His entrance to the repentant heart. There is no place in all of
creation where He cannot be. Then on that day when eternity will banish the sun
from dictating time, forever and always our hearts shall sing of Immanuel. God
Frequently Asked Questions
receive many questions and concerns as I travel the territory. The following
are those "Frequently Asked Questions" that are answered below:
Q: Why does The Salvation Army need a "brand?"
A: The Army has enjoyed a unique form of public awareness for
most of its 126 years of existence in the U.S. Most of us are aware that the
vast majority of Americans know us only for the kettle and the bellringer. This
is because the kettle program is the only real "public" activity we
perform each year, and has become our "brand" to the greater public.
Having a "brand" is essential in all that we do, especially our
public exposure and fund-raising activities, as it evokes our beliefs,
qualities of service and is remembered by the public for a long time.
Q: How is a brand different from a slogan or logo?
A: A true brand is a promise that an institution makes to its
public. That promise conveyed through the brand has to be consistent and
exposed at every opportunity. A slogan is often effective, but seldom lasting,
especially if it is a mere statement of activity or purpose. "Doing the
most good" is our promise to the American public every day of the year. A
logo, such as the shield, identifies an organization, and can evoke some
qualities, provided the person has already been exposed to the true brand,
which in our case would be the branding promise.
Q: What does the
brand promise mean?
Before I answer this question, consider this. A truly strong brand is like a
sphere. It looks the same regardless of the point at which you come into
contact with it. By contrast, an inconsistent brand is shapeless and open
ended, constantly changing, never really establishing any consistency,
connectivity or conviction about purpose and direction. A brand is a promise. A
promise to achieve certain results, deliver a certain experience or to act in a
certain way. It is a promise that is conveyed by everything people see, hear,
touch, taste or smell about an organization . . . our organization.
with the goal of consistency and completeness, we as officers, employees,
volunteers, soldiers and adherents need to "be" that promise. In
other words, it becomes part of us, our DNA, in all that we do. By adopting the
branding promise personally, we are that promise. Our every thought,
action, motivation and goal is to do the most good for those who need us the
Q: How long will this brand be around?
Our territorial and national leadership agreed with the national advisory
board, at the branding promise initial rollout, that its life cannot be
determined. If we are to achieve a consistency of message as one Army in one
nation, the branding promise has a lifetime of service ahead.
Can some of the old slogans like Heart to God, Hand to Man still be
A: This slogan is powerful, but only to an internal group
of people. Our research revealed that no one out there knew that we were a
church. Such slogans cannot be used instead of the branding promise, but could
be included whenever the statement relates to an existing
Q: How and where should the branding promise be
A: If our goal is consistency at every
point of contact, the branding promise has to be displayed wherever and
whenever the shield appears. Now to avoid a rush of email, it would not be
"doing the most good" to dismantle every sign we own and spend our
resources on new signs with the branding promise. However, I do hope that every
unit has the promise displayed somewhere visible.
Many corps have
purchased inexpensive transfers that adhere to glass. Check with your local
signage company. All units should by now be using the new letterhead, envelopes
and business cards. Your vehicles can display the promise. Supplies &
Purchasing have a number of items in its catalog to assist you with this. The
Red Shield Tool Kit contains the branding promise artwork. Go to http://www.redshieldtoolkit.org/.
Q: Is this brand really going to be used throughout the entire
A: The Commissioners Conference gave approval
for its adoption nationwide. The Southern Territory has mandated use of the
brand throughout the territory.
Q: Why doesn't the brand
mention God or that The Salvation Army is a church?
branding promise of "Doing the most good," when adopted by all of us,
is a living testament of faith and practice. It is the stepping stone for
everyone to evangelize who, what and why we exist. No matter what the Army says
or does as an organization, it is our responsibility to preach the gospel of
Jesus Christ to the unbeliever.
Q: Who can I contact if I have
A: You can contact me through the Territorial
Communications Bureau at: email@example.com with
Salvationist Service Corps
for a chance to catch God's heartbeat for His people? Hoping to do
something more with your life? The Salvationist Service Corps is your chance!
We're looking for young adults ages 18 to 25 to
participate in mission for six weeks. Two of our mission teams will head
overseas, and two will remain right here in the United States to minister to
those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Want to gain your life? Then lose it by
giving it away.
What are you doing this summer?
We are also putting together a team of
young adults who are interested and talented in the arts. We are hoping to
reach the New Orleans community through spoken word, dance, acting, singing,
etc. If you have a passion for the arts and for serving Christ and the mission
of The Salvation Army, then this is the team for you.
the SSC Others Team are available from your Divisional Youth Secretary and
online at www.youthdownsouth.org. Please return them to your DYS by January
stars battle over red kettle bragging rights
Southern Spirit staff
Left, L to R:
Wes Wyatt, Nicole Schilleci, Tamika Alexander, Terri Brewer, Lynn Brooks and
Shane Dorrill are already tugging over a Salvation Army red kettle, even before
the competition begins. Major Mark Smith (at center) tries to restore order to
the newsroom set. Photo by Major Frank
The most successful television news teams are
the ones who work well together, bonded with a common goal of being a positive
force in their community. That is certainly the case with the newsroom staff of
WVUA-Channel 7 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
That is, except for a
ten-day stretch in December when the competition among the local stars runs hot
and heavy over which one is able to raise the most money during their turn at a
Salvation Army red kettle location.
Personalities known from
covering local news, sports and weather went head-to-head in a friendly, if not
fervent, face-off for bragging rights until next Christmas as to who received
the greatest response from the viewing public. Live feeds each evening kept
viewers updated on how well their favorite newsroom member was faring. News
anchors, field reporters, sports guys and the weather team implored their fans
to come to their kettle to help make them the overall winner for this
"The real winners are the children receiving
new toys and families getting a brighter Christmas through the supporters and
volunteers of The Salvation Army here in Tuscaloosa," said Lynn Brooks,
WVUA news director.
Major Mark Smith, corps officer, agreed
saying that the competition among the newsroom personalities has caught the
"This has been unbelievable," Smith
said. "The news team here is united in their effort to provide a nice
Christmas for the needy of our community. This has been huge and we are so
S. T. A. R. S.
Southern Territory Annual Retirement Seminar
started planning for retirement?Retirement Planning Seminar
February 20-22, 2007
The seminar is
tailor-made to meet the retirement interest and needs of Salvation Army
officers who are turning 50 or 60 years old this year. The book How to
Retire without Retreating - Getting Your Ducks in a Row for a Meaningful
Retirement, written by Johnnie Godwin, will be used throughout the seminar.
Sessions will be offered on topics such as:Relocating and Home
Financial Planning and Budgeting
Health and Medical Needs
Special speakers experienced in these essential areas
have been selected to share their knowledge and insight with officers attending
these few days. To register for the Retirement Planning Seminar go to:
Contact the School for Continuing
Education at 404.756.7480 for details.
The miracle of
Christmas continues to stir heart, mind and imagination as the story is re-told
generation to generation. Recently a very good friend of mine brought to me a
chapter from a well-known theologian who quoted John of Damascus concerning the
birth of Christ: "...it is essentially right when John of Damascus
describes Mary's ear as the bodily organ of the miraculous conception of
Christ. The operation of the Holy Spirit at the conception of Jesus is one
mediated through Mary's faith. Mary believes...and by believing in the Word
of God spoken by the angel she is thereby enabled to take the eternal Word into
It seems to me that Luke conveys that piece
of truth beautifully in the opening of his gospel. Side b
y side are Zechariah, the pr iest and Mary, the humble and o rdinary young
woman - both individuals from the chosen race of Israel. Each received a
miraculous and life-changing visitation of God through the angel Gabriel.
Consider their place in Jewish life at that time. Zechariah
was to administer the duties of the office of priest, both teaching the people
and bringing them before God. He was responsible to uphold Torah, offer
continued hope that the promises of God insured and bring his people before
Holy God. Mary was a worshiper of God and lived among the Jewish nation with no
particular status or pedigree to commend her for the future that was to be
|From the very
| beginning |
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| God has been
| who would
announces the good news to Zechariah that the son he and Elizabeth had longed
for was to be born, describing the nature of the child and even giving him the
name he is to be called. The one who taught Torah, who knew the stories of his
ancestors (specifically Abraham and Sarah) and who was to instill and exhibit
faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob responded to the angel by the
question, "How can I be sure of this?"
the other hand, receiving the news from Gabriel about bearing the Son of God,
asked, "How will this be?"
Two very different
questions with two very different points of reference. The religious leader
questioned the validity of what the angel said. Mary questioned the manner in
which it would take place.
From the very beginning God has
been looking for people who would walk by faith: who would hear, believe and
act upon that belief thereby creating with God, reproducing with God and
inviting others to the life of faith.
Paul was clear:
Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
If the organ of conception is the ear, I wonder what God
would be asking you to believe this Christmas season that will enable the
Divine Creator to use you in the ongoing workings of His eternal Kingdom.
May our answer be that of Mary's: be it unto me
according to Thy word (Luke 1:38).
Community Care Ministries volunteers from the
Atlanta Temple Corps distributed gifts and copies of the Christmas War
Cry to residents of the V.A. Hospital nursing home. While all residents are
U.S. veterans, many have served during wartime, including some who were
severely injured recently in Iraq.