Adopted Not Aborted

Childbirth by nature is a noisy event. Above the pulse of medical equipment, laments of pain and discomfort rise from a laboring mother. Direction is heard in the voices of medical attendants. An infant cries after her lungs expand with her first breath of air. In the best of circumstances, childbirth’s final crescendo of distress and clamor ends in euphoric joy and the hush of contented nursing.

My birth offered a different kind of quiet—a silence endured rather than enjoyed.

Moments after my first breath I was whisked away from my birth mother’s side by dutiful nurses. She was left to rest in silence.

And there was silence for me. Although I am sure the hospital nursery was filled with audible sound, my tiny infant being experienced the silence found in the care of strangers. With no familiar smells, no familiar voices to calm my cry, fear quieted everything around me.

For my adoptive father and mother my birth day was also a day of silence. There was no call from the adoption agency to interrupt the obligations of an otherwise unremarkable Thursday. It would be six more weeks before they knew I was born at all.

My birth mother was only sixteen. She had morning sickness and sometimes needed to brush her teeth a second time before stepping onto the school bus. The desks in her classroom barely had room enough for her pregnant belly.

Birth mothers are brave. They walk through fabled tales of undue vilification and merited accounts of heroism. They navigate public shame and adoptive parents’ hopes. They endure physical discomfort and journey through emotions of loss, relief and uncertainty.

She held me for a moment in those first minutes of my birth day. Although I met her years later, I never asked how that day felt for her. While she sat in her silent room on the maternity wing, did she grieve? Did she miss my movement in her belly? Did her young shoulders feel light again with the burden of my care removed? Could she lift her chin and sense God’s hand in all that she had just suffered?

Most of all, did she ever wonder if it was worth it?

My gratitude for life and the sacrifices of both my birth mother and adoptive parents is the golden thread woven throughout the fabric of my being. There were moments, though, that my gratitude fueled an internal feeling of indebtedness—the thought that my life needed to be “good enough” to merit the gift of life.

Sanctity of life—the sanctity of my own life—was about utility. Did my life have enough productive value in the world to merit the resources and affection exhausted on its behalf? Self-valuation was a daily task. Had I tipped the scales far enough from burden to blessing that I deserved to live?


It was as though the ramifications of abortion haunted me beyond the womb.

Try as I might, there was never a point where I looked at my life and saw complete justification for the sacrifices made in my birth. Sure, I had a few moments that shined—honor roll report cards and several well-timed “yes, ma’am’s,” but alongside those tallies came records of glaring disappointments and betrayal. No doubt my adoptive parents would testify to the many joys I brought their lives, but could they say with assurance those joys outweighed the pain?

My gratitude for life came with an undeniable guilt for having it. How good was good enough to live?

Creation by nature was a noisy event.

Above the rejoicing of angels, the boom of thunder echoed from created light. Direction was heard in the voice of the Almighty God. Birdsongs filled the sky and the trumpeting of elephants heralded the arrival of great beasts.

We would expect this newly created world to settle into God’s euphoric joy and hushed contentedness in seeing all that He had made “was good.”

But creation settled into a different kind of quiet. The crescendo of God’s masterpiece settled into the sound of stirred dust.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” Genesis 2:7 (NIV). “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” Genesis 1:27 (NIV).

Every day before, God spoke, and it was. Now, on the sixth day of creation, there was dramatic pause. Did the angels peer in wonder as, without words, He began to mold clay in His hands? After witnessing the intricate formation of each sinew and the placement of the last strand of hair, they must have stammered in astonishment, “He…he…he is like Him!”

On the evening of the sixth day, God looked at Adam, the first of humankind, and declared that he was “very good.” The rest of creation got an A; Adam got an A+. Adam did nothing to deserve his grade.

Adam’s value—his being good enough to deserve life—rested in the estimation of his Creator. God says to each of us, “I formed you. I made you like Me. You are very good.” The valuation of life rests in the hands of its sustainer alone.

God not only created Adam and Eve, but He gave them the ability to create more God-like beings. He commanded them to be fruitful and multiply. God’s plan of creation holds a vast family as its crown jewel. Each member bears His resemblance.

Unplanned, unexpected, untimely, unfortunate—there is no adjective that can remove God’s likeness from my existence. Circumstances cannot change the intricate architecture of my DNA, nor remove my creative, moral and spiritual nature that mirrors the divine. My value is found in my ancestry—I am a descendant of one formed by the hands of God. Very good is good enough to live.

Although I cling to these truths imperfectly, my life testifies that God’s hands are busy in silence. On the day of my birth, I see His hand gently lifting the face of a downcast teen mother. On the day of my birth, I see His hand cradling a quaking, fearful babe. On the day of my birth, I see His hand resting on the shoulders of hopeful parents standing beside an empty crib.

Humankind is the only part of creation the Lord brought into existence with His hands. May we shudder in fear at the thought of using our own hands to end another’s existence.

–Sharon Autry lives in Rockledge, FL.
How Christians are winning the fight to protect the unborn:

No Good Choices

Life has a way of throwing us an impossible curve ball just when we expect the perfect pitch for a grand slam. Tom and Lynn’s kids were out of college, working and paying off their school loans. Tom was in a good place in his career with retirement around the corner. Lynn established herself as a successful artist. They both loved God and served Him as active soldiers and local officers of their corps. Lynn served as the corps sergeant major and Tom taught an adult Sunday school class.

The Soldiers’ Covenant posted prominently in their family room was often a topic of discussion. Prayer was a well-practiced discipline in their home. They were well informed about Salvation Army beliefs and practices.

Tom’s Sunday school class often studied current events and social justice issues to see how the Bible could inform their personal and group understanding. He had a well-defined commitment to the Salvation Army’s international position on the dignity of human life.

Even this did not prepare him for the curve ball called stage four cancer.

Lynn was surprised when she got the call back from her physician after her regular exam. The words: “We have noted an irregularity” could mean anything but when one hears: “We need to see you tomorrow for a further test,” it is hard to miss the urgency. Tom and Lynn called their corps officers and a few prayer warrior friends to ask them to pray. Tom took the day off from work and joined Lynn at the doctor’s office. The next few days confirmed that Lynn had an aggressive form of colon cancer that had spread to her liver and lungs. A whirlwind followed with doctor visits, learning about the cancer, treatment options and desperate prayer.

Stage four cancer most often means that the only cures are miracles or medical trials. Everything else is maintenance. Tom saw his beautiful, energetic, creative love of his life wither and fade through chemotherapy until she was living just one more day for the miracle that would cure her. She was a good person and did not deserve this disease. Why, God, why? Why did Lynn get the cancer? Why wasn’t God healing her? Why was she suffering? Why couldn’t Tom take her pain for her? Why?

There were days when Lynn considered just stopping the chemo treatments. Years before she was ever sick she signed a Living Will that stated that in the event she became critically ill and could not speak for herself she would not want to prolong life with any medical treatment. She would only want to relieve pain and to be kept comfortable. Were the chemo treatments helping or hurting? Was there a difference between stopping a treatment that prolonged life and taking medical steps to end life quickly? Lynn decided that while she did not understand why God allowed her to experience this journey to death and she certainly did not understand why God was choosing not to give her a healing miracle, she would continue to love and serve Him until her body gave up the fight. In her prayer time, she recalled the words of Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him…”

Tom supported Lynn as she made her choice to continue the chemo treatments. When Lynn’s body signaled chemo was no longer a help and she was in her last days, the pressure from the insurance company and other people to choose the options of legally assisted suicide was great. When Lynn looked at Tom and saw the emotional, physical and financial toll of her cancer, she was tempted to ask for the “help” that would shorten the process of dying. When Tom looked at the pain and loss of dignity Lynn endured, he was tempted to convince Lynn to take the shortcut in her journey.

What was God’s plan and purpose in all this?

One day, as they discussed the options and implications, the words from the song “Amazing Love” came to Lynn’s mind. She asked Tom to play the song so they could listen to the words. “Bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.” They both realized that they must hold on to the belief that all human life is valuable. They both knew shortcuts in the journey only took away blessings, even when they came disguised in pain and loss. Lynn chose to live every minute God would give, no matter how painful, as her testimony of life. Hospice made her as comfortable as possible. Tom protected her decision and prayed he would be brave for Lynn. Family and loved ones sat with Lynn and listened to the music and Scripture readings she chose. While she was lucid, Lynn prayed with her visitors. As she passed into unconsciousness, her loved ones prayed with her. Her life had been a great testimony and now her dying was an even greater statement of her values and beliefs.

When Lynn passed from earth to heaven, the words “Bold I approach the eternal throne” were the words in the background and on her lips when she walked into the presence of the Lord.

Life without Lynn is hard for Tom, the family and the corps, but they are grateful for the triumphant warrior who lived and died with dignity as she served God with her every breath.

— Commissioner Debi Bell’s last appointment before entering retirement last October was as President of Women’s Ministries for the USA Southern Territory.


God must have loved the impoverished: He made so many of them.

Today an estimated 700 million people are living (existing?) on less than U.S. $2 per day, a number representing 9.6% of the world’s population. Further, the working poor—those who work and live on less than that $2 per day—account for 10% of workers worldwide (World Bank).

We stagger at these facts: Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 43% of the global poor. There is a population of extreme poor (defined by the United Nations as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, such as food, safe drinking water, health, shelter and education”) comprising 1.4 billion people, and 60% of the these extreme poor live in just five countries—Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Nigeria. Eighty percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas.

The U.S. Census reports a poverty rate in America for 2016 of 12.6% (about 40.6 million people), although there was a decline from the previous year’s report of 13.5%. Adults 65 and older were the only group to reflect an increase in the number of persons in poverty, where poverty is defined as an annual income of approximately $12,000 for one person and $24,500 for a family of four.

Writer Eli Khamarov says “poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.” Musician Bono remarks “where you live should not determine whether you live, or whether you die.”

So what?

Evangelical leader Ron Sider suggested that Christians are called to be “completely pro-life,” i.e., a biblical world-view based on the belief that all people are made in the image of God, and are to be treated and considered accordingly. While “pro-life” finds its expression most often in conversations about the beginning of life, Sider contends that all of life is to be thought of that way. “Precisely because human life is created in the image of God, we care about the fullness of human life from womb to tomb—and therefore we care about peace and justice and freedom and a wholesome environment.”

Even those in poverty are entitled to a quality-full life, because they too are created in the image of their Maker. Or perhaps, “especially” those in poverty.

Who are the poor? They are people bearing God’s image. If they bear His image, they are important to Him. The biblical record reflects that. In fact, it is reasonable to understand God as being on the side of the poor, those who are deprived, those who are without this world’s goods, the oppressed. God has a special interest in those who have little, or nothing.

In Exodus 3, God tells His servant Moses that He has “seen how cruelly my people are being treated… I know all about their sufferings and so I have come down to rescue them.” He not only sees and hears the plight of His people, but is prepared and ready to do something about it.

The book of Proverbs is replete with, well, proverbs speaking to the plight of the poor and what is to be done about their situation. “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy” (14:21). “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life” (22:22-23). “Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses” (28:27). “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (31.8-9).

Those who mistreat the poor do so at their own peril.

But perhaps the words of our Lord, in the Gospel of Matthew (25.31ff) are the clearest of all. Jesus is describing the final judgement and life in the new Kingdom, and says one of the “tests” will be how the poor and needy were cared for. “I was hungry and you fed Me, thirsty and you gave Me a drink; I was a stranger and you received Me in your homes, naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me, in prison and you visited Me.”

When the questioned confess confusion over these experiences, Jesus announces that whenever those in such need were cared for like this, they were, in fact, caring for the Lord Himself. It can be argued, then, that when one cares for the poor, in fact any in need, one is caring for the Lord. And the Lord is pleased when that happens.

How, then, do we respond to the plight of the impoverished, the poor? We treat them as we treat anyone who is made in the image of God; we treat them as though we are in the presence of Christ.

Often the reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25ff) is accompanied by Amos 6.7ff, which records Amos’s vision of a plumb line, referring to a standard by which the people of Israel were to be judged. Perhaps how we care for the poor and those in need is also a plumb line, the standard by which we will be measured. That, and how justly we have cared for those who have no one to advocate for them, to plead their cause.

We see those in need and we remember that we are all created by the same God, Whose image we bear, created equally but not the same. Perhaps we are more alike than we sometimes realize and understand: we all are needy, we are all fallen, and we are all offered redemption. We are all impoverished to some degree.

So, where do we start? What do we do? Perhaps by considering that what we do with our beliefs is as important as what we believe. And we believe there is a special place in the heart of God for the poor, the needy, those without, the disadvantaged.

Could it be the promise made to the Israelites—the people of God—some 3,500 years ago and recorded in Deuteronomy 15.10-11, has meaning and relevance today?:

“Give to [the poor] freely and unselfishly, and the Lord will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some…who are poor and in need, and so I command you to be generous to them.”

I suspect it does. Please, God, help us to see the poor in our land, in our world, as You see them.

— Commissioner William Roberts served as USA National Commander, then as Chief of the Staff at International Headquarters before entering retirement in 2015.

Awake & Arise!

For Alan Stalcup, the words of Ephesians 5:14 take on an intensely personal meaning. The scripture calls out,

Awake, you who sleep; arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

It’s almost as if the Apostle Paul were speaking to Alan over the centuries.

“After having two near-death experiences within the span of six years, I tried desperately to kick my addiction to alcohol,” Alan admits. “Unfortunately, I was unable to stay free from alcohol and began drinking after both times.”

Then, after what turned out to be his last bout had left him with liver failure—costing him the use of his legs and the ability to think clearly—he spent seven months in the hospital and then in a nursing home.

“The doctors told my parents that I probably wouldn’t survive. But my body seemed to not give up, so the doctors later changed their opinions to ‘he will never walk again!’”

But Alan continued to improve and his parents were told the chilling prognosis-change: “He may walk again, but his mind is gone.” The doctors were agreed that Alan would have to be institutionalized for the rest of his life.

God had other plans for Alan.

“As I began to get my mind back and realized where I was and what had happened, I began asking God for His help—asking for His forgiveness. I began trusting Him to heal me and keep me off of alcohol,” Alan says.

When Alan finally learned to walk again and got out of the nursing home, he sought help at The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Program (ARP) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I didn’t want to go to rehab,” Alan confesses, “but something told me I had to. I completed their six-month program, and then continued staying at the center while working the front desk.”

Eventually, Alan was hired to be the Intake Coordinator for the facility, in addition to working as the assistant resident manager—positions he still holds and considers “his” ministry.

“After I had been in the program for a while, I saw a doctor to see if I still needed to be taking all the prescriptions that had been given to me. I had blood drawn so she could check how my liver and the rest of my body was coping after my ordeal,” he explains. “When she got the results, she couldn’t believe that the results were actually mine!”

Alan’s blood work showed not only a healthy man with no apparent liver problems, nor any other problems, but that the results were as good, if not better, than a man who had never consumed alcohol in his life at all!

It was a complete healing miracle.

“When I thought that my world was over, God healed me, gave me back my mind, my legs, and my liver!”

There was a time when no one expected Alan to survive. But Alan is now convinced that all along, God was there.

“It’s clear to me that God has a plan for me,” Alan insists.

His wife, Debbie, has agreed to remarry Alan; and he has regained the love and respect of his family. And just as important, he is in a ministry where he can help others get over their addictions and come to know Christ as Savior and Lord.

Alan plans to get additional schooling in an addiction-counseling field and to become the program director, either at his ARP or another facility.

“I don’t see myself as being a minister, but I seem to be doing a lot of that, on a small scale,” Alan says. “I meet people with addictions, health problems, money problems, and a number of other woes.”

The future is full of hope for Alan, now that God woke him up from his “sleep.”

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, National Publications

The Soul Winner

Many know him as much by his first name as by his full name and rank. To Salvationists around the world, his name is perhaps a recognizable as another “Andy” who played a sheriff on television in a small North Carolina town.

Even after his promotion to Glory in 2011, Commissioner Andrew S. Miller remains as loved and respected as any Salvation Army Officer can get. In office he rose as high as our USA National Commander, and yet he always made others feel just as important and vital to the Army’s mission and ministry.

We all know a lot of “Andy Miller stories”—but this one in particular personifies the kind of man Commissioner Miller was; a soul winner. What happened in this story qualifies as a Salvation iRony.

Many years ago the Millers were Corps Officers in Akron, OH—long, long before the concept of a Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center was even dreamt of in that town. In those days, the old Akron Corps was located at 31 N. Main Street downtown. The Millers were giving exceptional pastoral guidance over the corps, and souls were being won into the Kingdom.

But one snowy night, something unexpected happened.

His Assistant Corps-Sergeant Major accompanied Captain Miller as they made their way up a long staircase leading to the second floor where the administrative offices were located. When the Captain opened his office door, they were both surprised by a couple of young burglars. The thieves bolted past the two men, ran down the staircase and out the front door.

And one of them had Captain Miller’s briefcase!

Well, there wasn’t anything in the briefcase of real value.  I suppose it was the principle of it all that instinctively made the Captain follow out the door and down an alley at breakneck speed close behind the culprits.

It wasn’t until after the incident did they consider the danger involved, had the criminals been armed. “It was more instinct and reaction, than any courageous thought!” Commissioner Miller later admitted when he told the story.

And yes, Miller caught up with them. The offenders were a couple of kids, not much more than teens. They had broken into the corps office by the same door through which they tried to escape.

But they were caught. Surely the next move would be to call the police.

Remember when I mentioned that “instinctively” Miller and the assistant sergeant-major chased them, despite the danger? Well, just as instinctively, something within Captain Miller changed gears.

Despite every right Miller had to call the cops and have the two bandits arrested—the Captain did something different, given the situation.

He witnessed to them!

Right there in the alley, surrounded by the cold darkness with only the light of a nearby streetlamp, Miller led the two boys to the Savior!

All of a sudden, the burglary to his office was incidental. The risk of life and limb during the chase became an afterthought. Even the retrieval of the briefcase was of no consequence.

Nothing mattered more to Andy and to those two young men than to turn this awful negative into a glorious positive.

And oh, what a positive it was! For those two boys that night marked the end of their life of crime, and a beginning of their new life in Christ Jesus! They even became involved in the corps program.

Down through the years, countless others have been won into the Kingdom through the loving ministry of Commissioners Andrew & Joan Miller—though admittedly none quite so exciting as the night Andy chased down two sinners and snatched them from the gates of Hell.

We can all understand that of all the “trophies of grace” won into the Kingdom by the Millers, the Commissioner fondly remembered these two with thankfulness for the rest of his life.

It proved to be a most exciting Salvation iRony.

—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, National Publications

Part Six — The Son of God

“What about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:36).

The Gospel of John is unique among the New Testament Gospels. John alone includes events not recorded elsewhere, and he omits events recorded in the three synoptic Gospels. For example, after recounting Jesus’ proclamations as “the gate for the sheep” (10:7, 9) and “the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), John is silent regarding the two-month interval between verses 21 and 22 of chapter ten. During this time Jesus went north to Caesarea Philippi and was transfigured (Matt. 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36).

Jesus returned to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights. Today, we know it as Hanukkah. Held on the 25th of Kislew, the festival celebrates the Jews’ victory over the heathen Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes.

Known for his love of the Greek culture, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes) reigned as King of Syria from 175-164B.C. In 170 B.C. he launched an attack on Jerusalem, achieving a swift, decisive victory by slaughtering more than 80,000 men, women and children. Antiochus attempted to destroy Jewish culture and religion. The Temple was pilfered. Circumcision was outlawed. All known copies of the Law were destroyed. The Temple courts were turned into brothels. Swine were sacrificed to the Greek god, Zeus, on the altar.

Six years after the Syrian conquest, Judas Maccabees led a rebel force that defeated Antiochus in 164 B.C. The day following his victory, he cleansed the Temple. The eight-day Feast of Dedication commemorates this cleansing by priests under the leadership of Judas Maccabees. In Jesus’ day, the Feast reminded the Jewish people of their deliverance from their enemies.

John describes the events of Jesus’ appearance at the Feast of Dedication, less than five months before His crucifixion (John 10:22-39). The setting was Solomon’s porch, a roofed portico covering the southern end of the Temple. Solomon’s porch was always filled with people—Jews and Greeks. The only business permitted was that of the infamous money changers (Matt. 21:12-17). People came there to pray and meditate as they strolled through the multi-columned plaza. Rabbis walked and taught with their disciples. It was not surprising that Jesus was walking on this occasion. As John points out, it was a cold, wintry day (John 10:22).


The Jewish religious leaders seized this opportunity to ask Jesus the question of the hour—nay, of the ages: “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are Christ, tell us plainly” (10:24). Jesus answered that He had already told them. In addition, two considerations placed His claim above question and  beyond doubt.

First, His deeds: “The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak for Me, but you do not believe because You are not My sheep” (10:25-26). Jesus’ miracles fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isa. 35:5-6).

Second, His words verified His claims. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). Both Greek verbs (listen and follow) are in the present tense, indicating continued action. The eternal security of believers is assured if they are consistent in obeying and following Christ.

Jesus now comes to His supreme claim. For the first time, He makes His claim clear: “I and the Father are one” (10:30). The Jewish leaders again took up stones to stone Him (they had previously done so two months before—see John 8:59). Stoning was  the normal punishment for blasphemy. “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death” (Lev. 24 :16).

Since Jesus’ “hour had not yet come,” He used a typical rabbinic tactic. He answered their outrage with Scripture. Jesus responded: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If He called them ‘gods’ to whom the Word of God came … what about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?” (John 10:34-36).

In quoting Psalm 82:6, “You are ‘gods’; you are all sons of the Most High,” Jesus argues that if the Scripture can call human judges “gods,” why should one who gives his whole life and service to God, and who was sent from God, be accused of blasphemy for designating himself  “Son of God”?

Jesus’ further defense was another appeal to the value of his miracles as proofs of God ‘s endorsement. God would not  endorse a blasphemer.

Jesus claimed two things for Himself (John 10:36). First, He was consecrated (hagiazo—pronounced ha­ gee-á-tzo) by God to a special task. Second, He had been sent (apostello-pronounced a-po-stél-lo) by God into the world. Jesus did not think of Himself as coming into the world, but rather as  being sent  into the world for a specific task.  His coming  was an  act of God!

Commissioner William W. Francis is a retired officer. He is also the author of The Stones Cry Out (USA Eastern Territory, 1993) and Celebrate the Feasts of the Lord (Crest Books, 1997), and is a frequent contributor to the War Cry and other Salvation Army publications.