Friday, October 25, 2019

The War Romance of the Salvation Army by Grace Livingston Hill and Evangeline Booth

I read Grace Livingston Hill books voraciously in high school, sometimes one per day. But as my reading tastes matured, I moved on to other authors and never looked back. So I was a little stunned when my sister-in-law gave me The War Romance of the Salvation Army. Who knew that Hill even wrote non-fiction? Her fans might be confused by the title since she was a popular writer of romance novels, but the word "romance" in the title refers to the old-fashioned definition (adventure and chivalry).

(The soldiers learned better
than to flirt with these
no-nonsense girls.)
Evangeline Booth, the commander of the Salvation Army in the U.S. (1904-1934) was too busy to write a book herself, so she gave hundreds of letters and documents to Hill. Hill strung them together into a fascinating, albeit overlong, array of anecdotes about the 40,000 Salvationists who offered physical and spiritual comfort to men in the trenches of France during WWI. Most stories were told in a straightforward manner, but a few bordered on sentimentality, which should be no surprise to those who are familiar with GLH novels.

(Modern Cover)
The "Sallies" did everything they could: from driving ambulances, to helping in hospitals, to frying thousands of doughnuts for war-weary soldiers. The Salvation Army hut had candy and toiletries for sale, free lemonade and coffee, and often a Victrola for playing records from home.The grateful men filled up the tent for the evening church services.

I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into the sacrificial service of the men and women of the Salvation Army during this horrific time in world history. It was serendipitous that I read this just after finishing The Gospel Comes with a House Key because, in a way, the Salvationists were showing hospitality by bringing the comforts of home to the fighting men.

Written in 1919, The War Romance of the Salvation Army gives a fascinating look at one denomination's outreach to soldiers during World War One. A short video about this is available here.


Friday, October 18, 2019

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

There are, of course, other ways you can use your days, your time, your 
money, and your home. But opening your front door and greeting neighbors
 with soup, bread, and the words of Jesus are the most important. 

Not since Open Heart, Open Home (Karen Burton Mains 1973), has there been a better "anti-hospitality" book than Butterfield's latest title, The Gospel Comes with a House Key. It is "anti" in the sense that it eschews modern ideas of perfect homes and perfect menus as the requirement for receiving guests. Hospitality is a dying art since few have perfect homes and those who have them would rather protect them than welcome in folks who might "ruin" them. The household that loves things too much and loves people too little cannot honor God through the practice of radically ordinary hospitality... Sometimes Christians tell me that they don't practice hospitality because they don't have enough space, dishes, or food. They fear that they do not have enough to give. This is a false fear that no one should heed. Hospitality shares what there is; that's all.It's not entertainment. It's not supposed to be.

Butterfield contends that authentic hospitality is the strongest witness we Christians can have. Let's face it: we have become unwelcome guests in this post-Christian world. Conservative Christianity is dismissed as irrelevant, irrational, discriminatory, and dangerous. To a world that mistrusts us, we must be transparently hospitable.

The ultimate purpose of opening our homes is so that others may come to know Christ. She warns against the two extremes of building protective walls (condemning those outside) or accepting everyone while ignoring sinful behavior, reinventing Christianity that fits nicely on the "coexist" bumper sticker, avoiding the cross and bowing to the idols of our day: consumerism and sexual autonomy.... We are not extending grace to people when we encourage them to sin against God. Grace always leads to Christ's atoning blood. Grace leads to repentance and obedience. Grace fulfills the law of God, in both heart and conduct. When we try to be more merciful than God, we put a millstone around the neck of the person we wish to help.

I appreciated her reminder that when Christians open their home to non-Christians, they lose the right to protect their reputations. Her own example of befriending a neighbor who turned out to be a drug dealer highlights some of the dilemmas they willingly faced to extend the love of Christ to him. I also appreciated her sharing about how she, an introvert, manages to have a house constantly full of people.  Knowing your personality and your sensitivity does not excuse you from ministry. It means that you need to prepare for it differently than others might.

Lots of things in this book will make you uncomfortable. Because it's convicting. Because real hospitality is messy. And because sometimes it feels like Butterfield is tooting her own horn. (I honestly don't think she intends to, but I know from experience that it's hard to describe your ministry successes without sounding prideful).

I was greatly encouraged to worry less about impressing guests, and to simply share what we have with others.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Thoughts on Prayer by Oswald Chambers

Prayer develops and nourishes the life of God in us. We generally look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves, but the biblical idea of prayer is that God’s holiness, purpose, and wise order may be brought about. 

“Your Father knows the thing you have need of before you ask Him”(Matt 6:8). Then why ask? Very evidently our ideas about prayer and Jesus Christ’s are not the same. Prayer to Him is not a way to get things from God, but so that we may get to know God. Prayer is not to be used as the privilege of a spoiled child seeking ideal conditions to indulge his spiritual propensities. The purpose of prayer is to reveal the presence of God, equally present at all times and in every condition.

During a war many pray for the first time. It is not cowardly to pray when we are at our wits’ end. It is the only way to get in touch with reality. As long as we are self-sufficient and complacent, we don’t need to ask God for anything. We don’t want Him. It is only when we know we are powerless that we are prepared to listen to Jesus and to do what He says.

It is not so true that “prayer changes things” as that prayer changes us.

(All above quotes are from If You Will Ask: Reflections on Prayer by Oswald Chambers)