September 2, 2014 Leave a comment
September 2, 2014 1 Comment
August 22, 2014 is a day that will not soon be forgotten by me. It was the last day of my training as required by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The four hundred hours of clinical and academic work was among the most intense four hundred hours of work of I have had in quite some time. The intensity was met with me being honoured to present the last worship service of the unit. As I began to prepare the homily I found it difficult to put on paper words that would adequately present the intensity of completion that was accomplished not by me alone but also my peers as we all traveled the CPE journey.
Despite my inability to properly pen proper words for the homily on that last day of CPE I could not help but think of Paul when he was winding up his ministry as he sought to encourage Timothy. In his charge to Timothy in II Timothy chapter four Paul says in part that he fought a good fight and kept the faith. This is to say that Paul endured many things during his ministry. He had to lay aside some of his own views in order to be effective in preaching the Gospel. This led him to journey down difficult roads which included Paul being shipwrecked, snake-bitten, imprisoned and other difficulties. Interestingly none of these things deterred Paul from meeting the task at hand. Paul completed what was required of him so that he could confidently declare that he had fought a good fight.
My peers and I have also endured a number of things in order to accomplish the mission at hand. While we were not shipwrecked or snake-bitten the trouble we endured was not for the faint of heart. We had the temerity to set our sights on completing CPE and would not relent despite the troubles that came our way. There were obstacles to be met both within and without the program. Some of us disclosed some of the trouble and yet there were many obstacles that were not mentioned but either me or my peers. Yet there was an absolute necessity to complete the task at hand. And so we labored tirelessly as we journeyed through the challenge of Clinical Pastoral Education.
I certainly can speak with no authority as to the totality of the obstacles of my peers yet I can say that looking over my life some might have counted me out many years ago. You see I was told my entire childhood that I was no good that that I would amount to nothing. I was the one in school that had few friends and was often the brunt of many jokes and the skinny kid that was the natural target of not just being bullied but also being beat up on multiple occasions. Certainly people such as my first grade teacher saw much good in me yet very few took time out to aid in positively molding this stuttering, quiet kid that just did not fit in any crowd. Even so it would seem that a tenacious attitude was being built for many years in the young loner that I was.
One might not have thought that a young skinny kid would do well in the United States Marine Corps. Unexpectedly this strong-willed young man became a strong young Marine and there was certainly no stopping from this point on. No, it was not easy even in the military but then there was no promise of an easy life. There was no suggestion that being a Marine would put to rest all of the worlds ills. In fact the contrary was the case as I was being molded not just to a Marine but also a man of character; a man of destiny and a man of audacity. I did not and would quit in boot camp and could not and would not quit on whatever else life had to offer. No, quitting was not an option and neither was holding to the idea that the quiet young boy would amount to nothing but nothingness.
There is no intent here to discuss my biography. That would take much more than an essay of around a thousand words. The intent here is to show that audacity is a necessary tool used to bring the best from all of us. You see there were some that said that I was not chaplain material. That would not stop me from walking toward that pull of ministry that is deeply imbedded in me. Yes, there were some that encouraged me to move forward but as in my childhood the idea of not pursuing was the drumbeat of others. There was even one peer who told me at least twice that I did not belong in the CPE program. Nonetheless my tenacious audacity would not allow me to march away from that which I knew was part of the work I had been working toward for a number of years. No, I could not listen to the dissenters rather I had to heed the call which is so much part of my life.
In heeding the call I walked through certain aspects of academia. More importantly my CPE journey led me to many people; some in beds and others sitting in chairs. I have talked with staffers including doctors, nurses and housekeepers. I have been on the bedsides of the dying and the crying. Some of those with whom I have ministered have been hurt physically while others were in emotional turmoil. Some just needed someone to talk to and others just needed the feeling of belonging. I have had the opportunity to minister to many while some have ministered to me. It has been a journey and a journey well worth taking.
No journey comes without bumps in the road. This is perhaps a point that Paul was making to Timothy. Undoubtedly Paul endured obstacles which may have seemed insurmountable. It is certain that many sought to discourage as well as ridicule Paul as he journeyed the road of pointing men to the Saviour. The tenacity of Paul serves as an example of all that have a need to persevere despite certain opposition. Giving up was an option Paul could not enjoy and I am certain that it is an option that the children of God cannot entertain. Determination is sometimes confused for stubbornness yet without determined audacity nothing will ever be accomplished.
No worthwhile journey comes with ease. Nothing is accomplished without some blood, sweat and tears. Yes there are sweet victories along the road of success and there are also bitter failures. Yet the failures are not reason enough to end a journey rather the failures make successes all the more sweet. So, as I have said in times past do not quit and don’t give in. Let God complete the work He has begun in you as you use that deep-seated audacity of completion to do the unique work that is for you and you alone.
August 20, 2014 2 Comments
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.
August 13, 2014 1 Comment
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.