More than simply a recording of the life of the Salvation Army’s 18th General, Something Better… reminds every reader that, with Christ, something better always lies ahead.
The book’s title is taken from the fourth verse of the Founder’s song “O Boundless Salvation,” which reads, “I feel something better most surely would be if once thy pure waters would roll over me.”
General Clifton describes his narrative approach as “…simply a series of self–contained essays of varied lengths, each one revealing—sometimes with a hint of candor—some aspect of my life’s story.”
For 20 years, my wife and I have known General Shaw and Commissioner Helen Clifton. We’ve worked closely together in the USA Eastern Territory, at International Headquarters, and when he was General as we served in territorial leadership. Although I thought I knew him reasonably well, I was surprised by the voluminous personal and corporate revelations disclosed in his book.
In his working relationships, Shaw Clifton followed the sound leadership principle of sharing information on a need–to–know basis. Hence, while reading the manuscript, I found myself thinking, Oh, that’s why this happened, or I never knew that, or Now it makes sense. The author reveals enigmatic aspects of his characteristics, roles, and multidimensional personality.
Throughout the volume, the sometimes complex and often subtle pieces of the “puzzle” come together, revealing a portrait of a Christian leader and a unique and remarkable human being.
I love reading biographies and I have the highest esteem for autobiographies, but this one is distinctive. Shaw Clifton writes with more clarity, insight, and honesty than I have found in reading any other biography. It is a proverbial “page–turner.”
General Clifton discloses behind–the–scenes accounts of previously unknown interactions with territorial leaders, such as the time when a commissioner misconstrued a second–hand account of the General’s health and wrote to the Chief of the Staff to call for a High Council to remove the General from office on the grounds of ill health!
And for the first time, the General chronicles the circumstances that occasioned the historic five years of communications between The Salvation Army and the Vatican. And throughout the volume, more unexpected and interesting revelations continue to illustrate and affirm that “there is always something more, something better God can do and is doing in us.”
The sequence of the essays is purely alphabetical by title—each using one word that begins with the letter “S.” Each essay stands alone and is further enhanced by the liberal use of revealing extracts from the General’s personal journal.
General Clifton confesses that this strategy works fairly well, but begs the reader’s indulgence for “Spectacles,” the title of Essay 8, which focuses on his reading habits and love of books.
The first essay deals with the Cliftons’ earthly lineage, as well as their courtship, early spiritual journey, and calling to officership.
The essay on “Sanctification” logically follows, focusing on their commitment, maturity, and growth in grace. Following this is an essay describing his leadership roles as a corps officer, a divisional commander, a territorial commander, and a General.
The author also tackles hard and challenging topics such as his and his wife’s illnesses, beginning with his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis in 1969 and concluding with the full description of Commissioner Clifton’s promotion to Glory in 2011. Through poignant accounts of their health challenges, Shaw Clifton achieves his stated goal: “I intend an orderly account, free of self-pity or sentimentality, leaving little out and attempting openness and candour.”
‘Something Better…’ Autobiographical Essays by General Shaw Clifton (Rtd) is available in print from Salvation Books (SP&S, International Headquarters, £10.00, plus postage and packaging). Or from sps–shop.com or amazon.co.uk (prices may vary).
A Kindle edition is available from amazon.com, as well as an ebook version from www.kobobooks.com.
A Crest Books edition is available through the USA National Headquarters. Enriching this 432–page work are 16 pages of b/w and color photographs. A detailed index is also included.
by Commissioner William W. Francis