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A little help, please

There is a local bookstore that I like to spend time in regularly, and I have purchased more than a few good books there. My wife enjoys a range of other shops nearby, so often, we will park the car, and she will utter some of my favourite words: “Just go to the bookshop. I’ll meet you there later.” As a very obedient husband, that’s what I do.


I noticed recently that the book section titled ‘Religion and Spirituality’ is right next to the section of books headed ‘Self-help’. I wondered what the books in the middle looked like – the books on how to help yourself be a better Christian. And then, of course, I pondered on some potential self-help books for Salvationists.


‘How To Find the Lost Books in the Bible’. This book will teach you how – without using the contents page – to find books like Esther and Zephaniah and Philemon and Jude. Philemon is only one page long in a book that’s normally about 700 pages. There have been times I’ve finished reading it in a meeting just as some people are finding it!


‘How to Sing the Founders’ Song from Memory’. At seven verses in the songbook, learning to sing ‘O Boundless Salvation’ from memory can be challenging for many. I find it helps to remember the first words of each verse – O, My sins, My tempers, Now tossed, O ocean, The tide, And now – by using the helpful mnemonic: OMSMTNTOOTTAN. And I remember the mnemonic by recalling the phrase: ‘O my soul, my toe nearest to our ottoman tickles the ankle nearby.’ See, easy.


‘Epaulette Application for Novices’. When new soldiers don Salvation Army uniform for the first time, the most challenging part (especially for those of us with fat fingers) is slipping the epaulette over the shoulder flap before buttoning the flap. The book suggests giving new soldiers a Bible and a pair of ceremonial tweezers.


‘Appropriately Firing a Volley’. While going out of fashion in most corps, occasionally – often after a particularly rousing closing song – an old-timer will yell out, ‘Fire a volley!’ and the congregation will respond, ‘Hallelujah!’. This is a good use of the firing of a volley. It’s normally not as well received after the officer says it will be a shorter sermon today or after announcing the death of old Mrs Higginbottom. There is a time and a place for firing volleys; one does not just fire randomly.


‘What Not to Say in Testimonies’. At one good corps I was fortunate to attend, we had a lady of great faith who would testify to God healing any manner of illnesses, injuries, ailments and maladies she suffered in the previous week. Her testimonies were powerful, faith-fuelled, and far, far, far too detailed. God may well have cured her bladder infection, but we didn’t need to know that.


‘How to Stop Praying’. This seems an inappropriate book for any good Salvationist; surely, we should want to pray regularly and faithfully. This is true, but the book offers guidance to those who don’t know when to shut up. In a Sunday meeting you want people to pray but not for 20 minutes each and covering everything from the war overseas to their sick cat Miffy to their need for a new TV to stopping homelessness in the world to the problems with the prime minister. Some people seem to have taken Paul’s words to the Thessalonians personally, and they ‘pray without ceasing’.


Look out for these books soon at your local bookshop. If you don’t see them, well, maybe that’s your cue from God to write one of them yourself.


– Major Mal Davies and his wife Major Tracey are the Corps Officers at Adelaide City Salvos






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