Week Nine of the CPE Journey: Sidestepping

Week Nine of the CPE Journey: Sidestepping.

Week Nine of the CPE Journey: Sidestepping

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 amuck 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.

Week Eight of the CPE Journey: Sojourning

Week Eight of the CPE Journey: Sojourning.

Week Eight of the CPE Journey: Sojourning

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.

Week Seven of the CPE Journey: The Significance of Crying

Week Seven of the CPE Journey: The Significance of Crying.

Week Seven of the CPE Journey: The Significance of Crying

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!

Week Six of the CPE Journey: Destination Ministry

Week Six of the CPE Journey: Destination Ministry.

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