Over the past several weeks I have purposely and intentionally not addressed contemporary issues greatly because of the magnitude of work as a chaplain intern. That work has put me in touch with people across the human spectrum. I have enjoyed working with Blacks, Whites, British, Columbian, Chinese and all types of people groups. I have found this to be greatly rewarding as I have learned many years ago that people are people are people and to suggest anything different is simply asinine.
I bring this up because of the present turmoil in Ferguson, MO. Here is a town riddled with cries of racism born out of false emotive responses to a police involved shooting wherein few facts have been made public. Thugs (many from other towns) continue to break into stores and steal from those who had nothing to do with the shooting. Vulgarity has run a muck to the extent that some “protestors” have used their fingers to indicate a false disdain for injustice. Obvious facts are ignored in the face of some flaming the fires of racism only to meet personal or political points that have done nothing other than bolster feigned outrage. This bolstering continues to be by political leaders, the media at least in some part and so-called civil rights leaders.
There are certain matters I have considered I as have watched this unrest unfold. For instance I have wondered why President Obama has once again injected himself in the middle of a local matter while he seems to pay no attention to the burning world around him? Why have Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton gone running to a situation in order to promote justice when the investigative process had not the chance to begin? Moreover why have they not gone to Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Dallas and other cities where Blacks routinely kill other Blacks? Are not those Blacks important too? Do they not deserve the same treatment? Also, why are these so-called protestors rioting in the streets? Can they not find a better way to vent their points of view? More importantly it seems to me that injustice has yet to occur. What about waiting for the completion of the several investigations before making crass judgments?
Now, there is no intent here to make little of the death of Michael Brown. The death is absolutely tragic no matter the circumstances leading up to it. However that does not mean that tragedy needs to be met with tragedy. There is no good reason for citizens to turn to crime in order to make points. Bad can only make bad worse so that my sidestepping from CPE discussions is truly highlighting and celebrating the diversity of those with whom and I serve and to those I serve. If the rebel rousers in Ferguson would but lay down their weapons of destruction perhaps there would be room in their hands for the tools of reconciliation.
To further this point a bit more it needs to be noted that some have suggested that the actions of the criminals here is the result of a so-called “Black plight.” It should also be noted that, well, I am counted as a Black person. I was raised in a neighborhood in Baltimore wherein the best chose not to go. In the neighborhood were Blacks, Whites and other people groups nearby. The thing is we got alone just fine. Yes, my parents were divorced when I was very young and there were definite family problems. Moreover there were social problems going on as well. Still the problems of the day did not lend to the idea of “Black plight” at least not in my mind.
And still I did not let my situation hold me back from who I am and my progress in life. Without presenting a biography of myself suffice it to say that I have had a successful life. I served in the military, have owned businesses, worked in law enforcement and have accomplished academic success that most will never. Pointing these things out is not to toot my own horn (all though I have also played a number of woodwind instruments) rather to show that one’s ethnicity has nothing to do with success or failure. It has more to do with the decisions and choices made. It is certain that there will be positive outcomes as well as negative ones. Yet one’s choices tend to lead to individual “plight” rather than that of an entire people group.
With that I would encourage all to lay aside senseless idiosyncrasies and pick up the tools of reconciliation. Perhaps when preconceived notions of wrong predicated upon no facts can be thrown out then the notions of wrong can be replaced with true justice which leads to peace.
When this unit first started my supervisor gave my peers and me a word that has stuck with me even until now. That word was “presence.” Presence presents the idea of being with someone in the good times as well as the bad. It is a concept that God instilled with Adam in the garden and is a concept that has been a continuum throughout humanity and even until this moment by way of the Holy Spirit. A way to further the idea of presence is with the practice of sojourning. Sojourning, what an idea to bring about intimacy in mankind from one soul to another.
Last week I had the good pleasure of meeting with a gentleman who called out to me from his room in the emergency department of Huguley Hospital. This gentleman was not in emotional turmoil like many that I have met but rather this kind one simply needed to have someone walk a short distance with him. So I stood by his bedside and listened, responded and simply came along beside this gentle soul. The visit ended up with not only me ministry to this gentleman but also him ministering to me. I had taken the time to sojourn with him which resulted in the two of us being all the better for it.
The point is that there are some in this life that think that they need no one but Jesus. Yes, we absolutely need Jesus with us in this life. Without Him our lives would be complete and utter failures. Yet man was created to enjoy companionship. That companionship can only come with someone who walks alongside and with another. It is not only knowing the sentiments of our neighbors but also feeling and experiencing the sentiments whether those sentiments are good or bad. Sojourning is part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Recall how that Jesus promised to send “another Comforter.” Now it is true that the term “paracletus” has legal definitions it comely presents the idea of one called alongside to help.
When the Holy Spirit walks with us in day-to-day activities He is sojourning with us. We, too, are called to walk alongside our fellow man. This sojourning means that we go through what our partner goes through. If they cry we cry. If they rejoice we rejoice. And when this is done intimacy is developed to the extent that when our sojourning friends have a need the call will not go unheeded because of the compassion developed during the steady gradation and journey toward oneness in Christ.
Hence I am convinced that, like chaplains, Christians at large would do well to walk with one another thereby strengthening and carrying the burdens of those too weak to carry. The matter of sojourning, then, has much to do with the relational aspect of Christendom rather than the prescriptive methodology many seek to practice. Yet I dare say sojourning does far better than any prescription.
Writing this post will probably be among the hardest for me to write. The reason for that is because it requires some vulnerability and being vulnerable is a matter that I have learned to shun on certain levels and embrace on others. You see, this culture does not necessarily embrace tears as strength particularly when those tears flow from men. This is because men are not supposed to cry; we are to ‘walk it off’ as though there were truly no hurt and no pain. Yet I have found that this mentality does little to strengthen or grow mankind.
All too often I think about that divorce I had to endure. It was a divorce that I did not want and a divorce that I felt was undeserved. The memories of the day my wife packed what she wanted out the house in Chesapeake, Virginia while taking not only my kids with her but also everything that I had in the world. There was no greater devastation to me than coming home to find the kids beds gone, my wife’s possessions gone and nothing left but a deafening silence. All I could do was sit on the steps in the house and cry. I cried so much that I think I filled buckets with the tears. However that would not be the last time I was to cry.
I use that backdrop as a prelude to the discussion of the tears I have seen here at the hospital. I am reminded of a recent encounter I had with a precious lady having a number of physical problems. As she began to pour her heart to me concerning family issues the tears welled in her eyes. Those were tears of hurt, pain and disappointment. Her adopted daughter was presented as acting in a rather cantankerous manner. The son of the daughter appears to be following in the mother’s footsteps. While nothing had been done to this dear lady she had the impression that her life had been a failure. She felt that she had done nothing right all because of her wayward daughter.
In encouraging this lady I began to draw a picture of all the people she touched in her life. I suggested that she imagine all those people lined up in the hallways all waiting to write a paragraph or two describing the way she touched their lives. As I talked the expression on her face began to change from hurt and pain to one of inquisition. The inquisitive look gave way to an understanding that she was significant and perhaps she had accomplished more than she realized. The tears, the crying changed from pain to acceptance of the fact that she had done well in her life. So, this lady in a short period of time cried because of hurt and also because of the relief in that she had done well and was not a failure.
I also began to consider my small group. There have been emotive moments wherein tears and crying could not be held back. And there were many reasons for those tears. Some of the tears were because of past hurt. Others cried because a fresh realization came that it is OK to cry and that crying is not a sign of weakness rather it holds within it much strength. Even I have cried for a couple reasons. Among those reasons is because the hurts of the past surfaced and there was no way to release the hurt except by tears. Additionally there was crying because the weight of the world was finally lifted from narrow shoulders. This crying served to cleanse, to heal and to relieve. What a wonderful gift God has given us by allowing us to cry.
My point in this is simple and to the point- it is OK to cry. In fact I would venture to say that someone needs to cry even as this is being read. So, go ahead a cry. Go and get your healing through tears. Go and get the much needed relief. Go rejoice in the fact that you don’t have to carry what you have not been designed to carry. And, don’t worry about what others may say. There is significance in crying and that crying is nothing more than an emotional release of things stored inside us. So go ahead and cry!
For one to suggest that the CPE journey is not about the minister would be a major fallacy. The journey has much to do with introspection and adjustment. This adjustment, though, is not all about the chaplain. The adjustment certainly betters the chaplain but the adjustment is not solely for the chaplain but also for those to whom he ministers. And this is the point of chaplaincy; it is not to use the positional platform as a box from which to promote academic and ecclesiastical wares rather it is an opportunity to “extend the healing ministry of Christ” which is the mission of Huguley Hospital.
As I began to reflect on this past week as well as my experience at large in this program I realized that I was not just walking toward my destiny of ministry but that I am already engulfed with that thing I thought I was walking toward. Take for instance the case of a lady I had opportunity to minster to. Here was a wonderful person in the emergency room. This lady was steeped in domestic problems. Her boyfriend had all but told her to kill herself. Her self-esteem was already much lower than it needed to be. This is not to mention the fact that she was busy caring for others, including her adult children, but that there was no reciprocal action as to her care. As such she felt alone that nobody cared so that she was in the hospital as a cry for help. Her way out, at least in her mind, was suicide. Yet she knew that suicide was not the answer. So, here she came to a place seeking healing not for any physical ailment rather for a deeply wounded spirit.
And so as this patient “regurgitated” her heart onto me I sat, listened and engaged in what turned out to be an excellent visit. My gentle probing coupled with word of encouragement caused this patient to realize just how good she is. Now, I cannot say that my visit with this young lady eradicated thoughts and intentions of suicide yet I can say that at least for a short time she knew that somebody loved and cared for her. She also knew that I was not there to get something from her but rather to give something to her and that there was absolutely no need for reciprocation. So then it dawns on me that I no longer walking toward my destination. Instead I am already involved in that destiny of ministry.
Not all the ministry that is done has to do with those that find themselves in tough spiritual and emotional difficulties. I recall when I was on call a few weeks back and I was asked to visit a patient desiring to see a chaplain. After responding to the room the discouraged gentleman simply wanted to be read Scripture. I promptly went back to the office, collected my Bible and responded back to that kind gentleman. We talked for a while and then I began to read the Scripture. After reading the gentleman and I began to talk about what I just read. This form of ministry was similar to the lady mentioned above; he just wanted somebody to talk to and wanted to know that somebody genuinely cares.
In this I can say of a surety that I am no longer walking to my destiny rather destination ministry has already been accomplished. It is in this that I seek to encourage all. Sometimes we think that we are walking toward a certain thing but when we look we have already met the destination. Take for instance those of us that drive on highways – all too often when driving our minds go to other things. Sometimes we are involved in conversation or perhaps listening to the radio. As we engage in those things we pull closer to the destiny. And then we look up just to see that we are no long headed for our destinations; we are there.
I suspect this is part of the “pressing toward the mark” Paul discussed in Philippians 3:14. Paul worked earnestly to please God in that which he was called. And while he was pressing toward that mark it is interesting that Paul was already doing that which God wanted him to do. His destination of ministry had already been met yet he pressed even harder even while in the fullness of ministry.
So then those that do not see themselves as having met their destinies might do well to look and see where they are. It stands to reason that the pressing is so intent that the full realization of destination ministry may not be realized even while there may be an encamping of work around those seeking to do ministry. Now, as you press to further your destiny and it seems out of reach look up and you may not be close to your destiny but already in the midst of certain destination.
As I have been journeying through CPE I have learned that there is much to be learned not only in the academics of Clinical Pastoral Education but also the practical application thereof. Yes, I have learned much and there is much to be learned. Even there are times when questions are posed to me that the answer is not immediately obvious. It is for this reason that I struggled with writing for week five of the journey. I was simply uncertain about what to write about. The week entailed so much that expressing this part of the journey in about eight hundred words simply did not seem reasonable or even possible.
Let me explain. Part of my growth edge came from the discussion of pastoral resources as presented by Charles W. Taylor in The Skilled Pastor: Counseling as the Practice of Theology. Among the resources discussed with and by my peers was the matter of rites and or/rituals such as marriage, baptism, funerals and the like. While each of these is celebrated differently depending upon worldviews it is not incumbent upon me to know the specific practices each worldview. And this is the point I would like to stress; certain uncertainties are not only OK but that some ignorance is welcome depending on the circumstances.
Without going in detail last week I was asked a question by my CPE supervisor while we were behind closed doors with my peers. After less than a moment of contemplation my response was that I did not know. My supervisor politely responded that my lack of knowledge was not only honest but very welcoming. You see sometimes, especially those of us that minister professionally, think that we need to know everything. We often think that we not only need to know all answers but also have the ability to fix all problems. The reality is that neither of these can be accomplished. Further because neither of these can be accomplished we can trust in the Lord all the more.
The words “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” found in Proverbs 3:5 make it clear that our own understandings will often fail us. This is why the author broadly encourages his audience not to trust in their own understanding but rather that reliance and dependence on the Lord will bring about ultimate success. Perhaps this is why the matter of uncertainty becomes irrelevant to those trusting in the Lord. It is also a principle upon which Abram lived. You see he was completely uncertain about not only where he was to live but also his future. This, however, was not a hindrance rather a benefit.
Having said that of any reading this finds himself in a state of uncertainty concerning a certain matter perhaps it would be wise to lay aside the purported wisdom of man in lieu of leaning on and trusting the absolute wisdom of our Lord.
In week two of the CPE journey I brought about some discussion about introspection. Introspect serves a number of purposes and among the chief purposes is that the one looking inward looks honestly with the potential as well as probability of making positive changes for the future. However changes cannot be made unless goals are set in the life of the one looking inward.
The fact as that all need to have goals in their lives. Without goals there is a lack of motivation to effect positive change. For instance, in my own life I had an educational goal of completing college. My goal was originally to complete a degree in business. Once that goal was met my goal was challenged as I began to seek out other things to do with my life. However to complete long-term goals my academic career had to be furthered. Introspection caused me to not only work toward my distant goals but also to work on more immediate goals. It is because of the accomplishments of certain educational goals coupled with considerable introspection that I am now walking closer to my destiny both professionally and personally.
In conjunction with my academic goals I also have ministry goals. Among those goals is to plant a church. While I will not go into the specifics in this essay I will say that the large goal of planting a church comes with multiple other goals that will have the ultimate end of the local body. Yet once that work is done there are many other things that are goal related that will require considerable introspection and subsequent work in order to accomplish what is ahead. The fact is that the academic goals have placed me in position to fulfill not only my professional goals but also my ministry goals. Further it cannot be said loud enough that the goals that I have met and strive for as these words are being keyed come with much work. Even so the result of the work of meeting goals is rewarding within itself.
While God’s call to Habakkuk to “write the vision” (Habakkuk 2:2) is often attributed to churches and para-church ministries the fact is that the principles of writing visions (goals) can and should apply to individuals as well. Goals are the impetus of life’s victories without which nothing can be accomplished. Even more it becomes quite evident that God has goals for His people. Consider for a moment Jeremiah 29:11 wherein God succinctly states that He knows “the thoughts that I think toward you…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
The text in Jeremiah clearly shows that God has plans and goals for His people. Even more of God’s goals are seen throughout biblical text. With that said if God has plans and goals for His people then the Christian ought to follow suit and have plans and goals. It is certain that goals cause one to relieve himself from his “holy righteousness” in order to get done what God has in store. With that dare I say to one and to all to take time out to look within and set goals that serve only to get you moving?
We have been able to manage most of the expense of my cancer up till now but bills are still coming in and we just learned that our insurance will not pay for the drugs used in my chemotherapy! This expense alone is over four thousand dollars. With all these expenses we have set up a fund raising effort. If you can spare a little money and would be interested in donating here is the link:Patricia’s Cancer Fund http://gfwd.at/W1QuPF
I can’t tell you how much it will be appreciated and I understand how difficult it is,especially with the economy so bad. If you can not donate, please keep me in your prayers! I have faith that whatever the outcome, God will still be there and that is truly what is important! God bless you and I love you all! Patricia aka loopyloo
There is no doubt that ministry is multifaceted. In a sense it means being all things to all people. It encompasses being available if only to show support. This weekend as I was on call at Huguley Hospital the idea of presence presented to me an area I had yet to experience. On the one hand my presence was to extend joy to a joyful family. On the other hand joy was hard to find yet presence became paramount in the ministry that was set before me.
As I started my tour of duty early Friday morning I met a family near the labor and delivery unit of the hospital. I could not help but here the talking and laughter. Using my position as chaplain I thought it reasonable to go speak with the people that were in a light form of celebration. I was so glad I did because the family did much for me. This was particularly true see how this was a military family with a young lass being born on the Fourth of July. What joy! What celebration! What a moment to be in the company of those who celebrate life while the tending to the presence that was learned in the first week of CPE.
And as the day went on I continued dealing with a number of issues. Then came a dramatic call late in the morning while I was being present with another patient. It was a “code blue” in the emergency room. A lady suffered a heart attack. By the time I arrived to the emergency room the patient was already deceased. I met the doctor as he explained the situation to me. We walked together with a nurse to the family room. To say the mood was somber is to place a major understatement on the matter. I sat quietly while the doctor explained to the loved ones what happened to the patient.
The doctor spoke to the family for a couple minutes as they began to grasp the fact that the person they loved would be no longer with them. The eldest sister was most expressive. She could not believe what had transpired. To my surprise the doctor offered to pray with the family and the family accepted the offer. So, the doctor and I got on one knee each in front of the grieving group and the doctor prayed a prayer of comfort. Meanwhile I had said very little but that my presence was important not only to the family but also to that most compassionate doctor. My perspective of doctors changed more positively as I simply maintained presence for the loved ones as well as the clinical staff.
There was much more that had to take place with those that loved the decedent. There was a need and desire to spend time with the one they would no longer be able to talk to. She, the decedent would no long ride her horse. Her voice was silenced forever. The family dinners would be met with an empty chair. Things just would not be same without this precious one. So I joined them in the room with the decedent. Again, while I did speak to the family I said very little. I simply was present. I was there just in case they needed me for something. And they did need me for a few things and I helped as much as I could to aid this grieving family. And I did just as the family asked me. I ran a couple errands and I grieved with them as much as I rejoiced with the family having a baby.
Hence the two sides of ministry are introduced. Scripture clearly teaches that the Christian is to weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice (Romans 12:15). These two side of ministry coupled with the idea of presence lend considerable credence to ministry. You see, many are under the impression that ministry is the continual onslaught of scripture coupled with homiletic diatribes that usually do little but inflate the ego of the one engaged in a senseless soliloquy. Laughing with those that laugh is a wonderful tool of ministry. Crying with those that cry is just as significant.
Certainly there are other sides of ministry yet the two sides described above show that the minister cares about those that he is ministering to. The fact is that people really don’t care what you know if they don’t know that you care. Ministry is more than an act of compassion rather the compassion is coupled with care. And while the terms “compassion” and “care” are often synonymous I would like to use some creative license to show that these two sides of ministry coupled with presence does more for those being ministered to than can be imagined.
In order to minister one need not wear the ecclesiastical cloak of the clergy rather all that is needed is the robe of concern and love for fellow men. With that I would urge all to minister not with head knowledge per se but rather from the idea of being present and willing to be quiet in that presence as we sharpen these two sides of ministry.
First thing I want to do is to say thank you all for the prayers,the support,the hope and the love you all have shown for me. This is the very essence of what Christ asks of us! He also asks of us to give testimony of His work and share His word with others! I am honored to be able to share my testimony with all of you prayer warriors. Tue. I had a biopsy and the Dr.said that there was no sign of the cancer!!!
The way God has blessed us in the last six months has been amazing my friends! While there have been many bad days, the good ones and the blessings outweigh those.When I initially told you of the diagnosis and asked for prayer, I asked that you also pray that I would get out of the way and let God lead. Lead He did!!!! Every time I had a need it was answered! Sometimes before I was even aware that the need would be there!
Even from the very first visit to the Doctors, such as the receptionist telling me God bless you, the lab tech playing Christian music and talking about her church, the Doctors nurse telling me about her mission trip while she was taking my vitals,and so many other instances of faith in the people who were going to take part in my care.
My Sister in law is truly a woman who knows what love is and showed it in everything she did! She took care of me as if I were her child, even on some days that I would not wish on anyone. She made sure I ate healthy, took me to my treatments and Doctor visits, and was there for every need. Her prayers were always uplifting and filled with hope and believe me,she knows what it is like to lose a loved one to cancer, her husband died from cancer a few years ago.
There are so many things like this my friends, probably many that I am not even aware of. Please never doubt that prayer works or that God answers, it does and He does!
I don’t know what He has planned for my future but I am so thankful that He has given me so many blessings and that I am able to say thank you to Him and to all of you! God bless you my friends and I love you all!