Monthly Archives: October 2012

Driven out but going back in

Keep the earth below my feet

For all my sweat, my blood runs weak

Let me learn from where I have been

Keep my eyes to serve and hands to learn

Keep my eyes to serve and hands to learn

– “Below My Feet” Mumford and Sons

An inmate got under my skin yesterday. I walked away frustrated, angry, and hurt. I didn’t deserve the triad he laid on me. This sort of thing used to happen quite a bit. When I first started at the Facility, I was constantly walking away hurt and angry but then, over time, I began to recognize that their anger was not about me but about the bigger world. I have been able to differentiate between what is theirs, mine, and the governments. 

So what happened yesterday?

I let my guard down. I forgot that no matter how friendly and kind I am with the inmates, no matter how many needs I meet or services that I oversee, I am the enemy. 

It was a reminder that I didn’t want but, in fact, needed. 

There is no education like adversity.” Benjamin Disraeli 

The real test will be whether or not I can go back in there today, maintain my professionalism, give great pastoral care, listen and lay aside my anger to be a pastor again. This is the calling of the chaplain, being able to lay aside “your stuff” in order to minister. It’s not the explosion avoidance in the moment that is the test of character, it’s the going back in the next day that defines.

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Filed under Chaplaincy, Theology

That moment. Of Fear.

It was that moment.

I looked up from mowing the lawn and my three year old son was standing on the side of the road. A busy road. We live on the top end of a blind turn coming up hill. There is no shoulder. My son stood on the sliver of gravel between the blacktop and the overgrown grass by the ditch that runs between the driveway and the blacktop.

I was scared.

I yelled. I hollered over the lawn mower so in reality it was more of a scream. He looked up. I could see the confusion in his eyes.

It has been noted the men use the word “confusion” where there are deeper, more significant, undesirable emotions that want to be said but we are not at a place to say them.

I realized that I was screaming over the mower which was still running. I let go and shouted a warning to my son, “Stay where you are at, don’t move!!” I ran to him. Not realizing until later that I was running down the road in the middle of it between any unsuspecting drivers and my boy. I reached him in seconds that seemed like minutes. Dangerous minutes.

We live down a hill. We have a “back yard” at the bottom of the hill and a “top yard” by the road behind a fence. There is one, unmovable rule about the top yard, you can’t go past the fence. Ever. Never ever. The road is too busy.

I took him by the hand and we walked briskly back down the driveway.

When we got there I knelt down and looked at him. “Son, you can’t go by the road. You just can’t.”

He looked up at me and there were tears. Sudden, immediate, big tears rolling down his little, red cheeks. The angry, scared, hurt cry followed. I hugged him to my chest, tears in my own eyes. I was so scared. So afraid of what might have been. He was scared. Scared of his daddy who had yelled so loud, so angrily.

I held him until he was done crying and my heart was done racing. It took a minute. After trudging through the woods investigating some dragon tracks we found, the relationship was restored and all was well with the world.

Its like that with God sometimes. We experience the Divine yelling, screaming for us to get out of the way. Move. Stop doing what we are doing – because its hurting us and hurting God.

Fear not. All is well. Just get out of the road. Move away from the danger. Let God hold you close. It’ll be ok. All is well.

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Filed under Theology, thought of the day

Rain and Science

Every day I give a thought in a staff meeting. Since it is the Festival Season in the Jewish faith, I have used thoughts from that tradition for some time. Today’s was really good. It focuses on the relationship between science and faith. It comes from the desk of the Chief Rabbi in the UK.

 

For Jews the festival season is well and truly on us. We’ve just celebrated the New Year and the Day of Atonement, and next week we have Sukkot, known in English as Tabernacles. It’s difficult to explain Sukkot in Britain, especially this year, because it’s a festival of prayer for rain, whereas here we’ve had all too much of it, including the floods still doing damage in York, Liverpool and Wales. But in the Holy Land, where the Bible is set, rain was and still is the scarcest resource and without it there’s drought and famine.

So on Sukkot we take four kinds of things that need rain to grow: a palm branch, a citron, and leaves from a willow and myrtle tree, and holding them we thank God for rain and pray for it in the Holy Land in the year to come – even if we happen to be living in the soggiest of climates. Sukkot is, if you like, a festival about the fragility of nature as a habitat hospitable to humankind.

The natural world is something science and religion both speak about in their very different ways. Science explains; religion celebrates. Science speaks, religion sings. Science is prose, religion is poetry and we need them both.

Science continues to inspire us in the way it reveals the intricacy of nature and the power of the human mind. Rarely was this more so than earlier this year with the almost certain confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson, which someone with a sense of humour called the God particle on the grounds that it exists everywhere but it’s so hard to find.

But science can sometimes make us think we’re in control, which is why we need moments like Sukkot to restore our sense of humility. We’re so small in a universe so vast, and our very existence depends on an extraordinarily delicate balance between too much and too little, whose symbol is rain. Too much and we have floods. Too little and we have drought.

So as well as knowledge we need wisdom, and the better part of wisdom is knowing that we are guardians of a universe we can easily endanger and which we still don’t fully understand. Perhaps it’s not crazy, once a year, to lift our eyes toward heaven, the way we do when we’re praying for rain, and remember how dependent we are on things beyond our control. The more scientific knowledge and power we have, the more humility we need.

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Filed under General, thought of the day

Get outside, see the colors

02 October 1925 – John Baird tests the first working television system. Thus giving to the world a way to sit in the comfort of their living rooms and live vicariously through others. Upon seeing the system, he remarked, “if only we could now record the actions of the most obnoxious members of our society – that would look wonderful on this system.” Approximately 70.3 years later, reality TV was born and the national intelligence rate dropped 22.4 percent.

01 October 1908 – Henry Ford, great grandfather of Steve Jobs, introduced the Ford Model T to the world. It came with a 20-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and had a top speed of 45 miles an hour. It weighed 1200 pounds and got 13-21 mpg. The car had a price tag of $850 and later sold for as little as $260. It came in black.

Today’s “thought of the day” for my morning meeting comes from Dale Carnegie – “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside of our windows today.”

The colors are coming out. Do yourself a favor and go see them. Drive a car slowly. Even better, take a walk.

(by the way, I might have made up some facts in the first date…)

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Filed under General, thought of the day