Monthly Archives: August 2014

Google Glass in Law Enforcement

When I worked in the prison, I was initially put off by the ever present camera. They are everywhere in a prison, always on, always recording.

At first, I thought about them, found myself looking distractedly in the corner, and fascinated when in the control room looking at the live feeds.

Which is where I was the first time I witnessed and incident. I watched the inmate’s actions, the correctional specialists response and the resulting team effort calming the situation.

I was amazed.

The camera footage actually protected the inmate in that the cadre could not contradict video footage. It protected the correctional specialist in the same way. And, by reviewing the footage, all the Soldiers could benefit by using it as training. It is a mark of a profession that they self-evaluate, self-police, and train to a standard. The cameras were a vital part of that effort.

Turns out, cameras were good for everyone.

I thought about this after reading about Ferguson. If only there was some video footage of the incident. That got me wondering about cameras in regular policing. The dash camera has been in use for years but what about something like Google Glass?

Then I looked it up. Here, NYPD is considering using it; here, it is analyzed for use by police.

Technology never solves problems in of itself but why not use what we have to protect both law enforcement and citizenry?

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Filed under Citizen, Responsible Gun Ownership

First Day

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She was shaking her head, “no.” I really wanted her to say yes, so badly did I want her to say “yes.” But, she didn’t. She didn’t need me to stay. No matter how much I wanted to sit with her, hold her hand, keep her 6 forever, it was not going to happen. She was shaking her head and then said out loud, “no.”

It was time for me to go. It was time for her to grow.

This morning has been coming for months. She’ll be 7 in December. She had to start 1st grade sometime and sometime was this morning.

First grade is different somehow. Kindergarten is a separate issue altogether. When the numbered grades start, the clock starts. Today was 1. In twelve years, it’ll be done.

12 short years.

At breakfast, she was so excited. Anticipation was palpable. She had her new outfit, chosen for the first day of school, new backpack, new shoes, new everything. All I could see was my little one. My little girl I left as an infant on that second deployment. The little toddler I came home to. My oldest. My little that could now read and sing and reason. My pride.

We took pictures and off we went.

The process for this school is that everyone gathers in the school cafeteria and then the teachers take the students off to their assigned classroom. I walked her into the school, down the hallway and into a crowded cafeteria. I expected to hand her off to another adult but its 1st grade and she needed to do this on her own. I shook hands with a teacher who showed her where to sit.

We hugged. I saw a tear in her eye and that’s when mine started to get red. I asked her if she was ok and she said yes. Then I asked her if she wanted me to stay and she smiled, shook her head, and said, “no.”

She didn’t need me to stay.

Walking out, I’m reminded of Milne, “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

 

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Filed under General, Two Pastor Family

Favorite cartoon ever…

Ok, *one* of my favorites…doubts-14

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Filed under Chaplaincy, General

It’s been a tough week…

Ok. Take a deep breath.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Think about good things.

Really, I meant it, breathe out. Let it go…

Some really bad things happened this week. Really bad.

A general was laid to rest after giving his life in service to his country.

A Missouri town is in terrible upheaval.

A family is without their son.

Robin Williams. THE Robin Williams. The “Carpe Diem” said in a horse whisper, is dead.

And, of course, SFC Hairston died in Afghanistan this week. As have thousands.

And we should not forget those suffering in the hands of ISIS extremists.

And there is always Gaza.

It’s been a tough week.

Maybe, this night, as we prepare for tomorrow’s worship, we could all just remember that everyone is suffering their own hurt. That each person’s tragedy is their own, their pain is their own, and our pain is not their pain.

This is important. Grief is important.

This week, I’ve seen some “tragedy shaming” making its inevitable rounds. The memes showing images of graphic suffering with a “my tragedy is worse than your tragedy” theme. Hey everyone – its tough out there, people are hurting, you are hurting, I am hurting – shaming each other for not making your tragedy as important as their tragedy isn’t terribly helpful.

I’m sorry you are hurting. I am too. Each of the above events impact us in different ways. I’m not going to lie, there was a moment when I was about done hearing about the General, as great as I’m sure he is, thousands have died in the last decade – THOUSANDS. What makes his different? Rank?

But you see, that is exactly it – I am, in that moment, comparing my suffering and other’s suffering. A pointless and hurtful enterprise. Unhelpful at best. Painfully shaming at worst.

As we prepare our hearts for entering the Sacred Space tomorrow, may we focus on where we are grieving and think about how our fellow saints are grieving so that we might minister to them the healing Gospel.

Life is hard. We, as Christians, at our best, can make life easier by hearing the pain and offering the Grace needed for healing to begin.

“Bear you one another’s burdens and so fulfill the Law of Christ.” 

Amen

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Filed under Peace, Sermon

Courage.

I met Chaplain Hodge at Ft. Leavenworth last year. I have appreciated getting to know her and her journey. Yesterday, she wote for militarypartners.org

It saddens me to know that in this age of such great progress towards equality, many LGBT persons still feel they cannot be completely themselves without being judged by people in the communities in which they live. In many places, there is still hate, shock, animosity, and a slew of other emotions that fill peoples hearts and lead to the ending of families and friendships. I understand, even after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ended, why some choose to still remain closeted.It saddens me to know that in this age of such great progress towards equality, many LGBT persons still feel they cannot be completely themselves without being judged by people in the communities in which they live. In many places, there is still hate, shock, animosity, and a slew of other emotions that fill peoples hearts and lead to the ending of families and friendships. I understand, even after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” ended, why some choose to still remain closeted.
For many of us who are out to our family, friends and coworkers, we may still struggle to be out “authentically” in our communities.  If you are like me, you may intentionally or sometimes unintentionally modify your behavior or actions with your partner while in public due to not wanting to offend others, or draw unwanted attention so as to become the target of people’s hateful stares, mockery, or hostility.
Some days it is just easier to wait until we are in the privacy of our own car or at home to share that smile, hold each other’s hand, or exchange a quick kiss.  Some may think I do this because I am ashamed of who I am or because I want to leave the fight for equality up to others and not get involved.  That’s not it at all.  I fully embrace being gay, I have reconciled it with my faith, I could not be more proud of my wife, and I would love to be a part of making a difference.
I dream of a day where I no longer worry about what someone else may think about my relationship. I long for a day when holding my wife’s hand doesn’t turn the head and illicit a stare from one single stranger.  I hope that one day the sweat will stop dripping down my back right before I tell a new supervisor that I am gay.
I have moments where I feel brave and do not care what others think of me.  Then, just as quickly as it arrived, the bravery leaves and I feel the need to rush back into the solace of my shell.
I wish I could be strong and consistent, but unfortunately there are still times where I am overcome with the fear of what others think. I can’t seem to find the off button.
I care about not offending those in my family who still struggle with accepting me and don’t want to drive the wedge deeper. I am bothered by the mean stares of strangers; and the pain of rejection from my fellow Christian colleagues is still raw and very real.
I’ve been told that I need to get tougher skin, but I just can’t seem to find a store that’s selling it. Despite being told numerous times that I would get used to the pain, I have not.  After being in the closet for 35 years, sometimes the comfort of its darkness is still more comfortable than dealing with other people’s discomfort.
While the fear is still real at times, there is one very important thing that has helped me to live more authentically – community.
Knowing that my wife and I are not alone on this journey has proven to be a great comfort.  I have noticed that when I am in a group with my LGBT friends, I am able to truly be myself without worrying about what outsiders may think.  I feel at peace when I am with those who know first hand the challenges and successes of being gay and in the military.
I look at where I was a little over a year ago: completely closeted, paranoid, and ALWAYS afraid of being outed. Compared with today: I am starting a welcoming and affirming church in my community next month, I am out to my family, my friends, former supervisors, and just about 20 minutes ago, with the sweat beginning to roll down my back, I came out to my Brigade Commander and my new Chaplain Assistant. I absolutely would not have been able to do those things without the support of an amazing community and incredible friends. 

Respect. 

That is courage. Generally, coming out should be a single expereince. A, once-in-a-lifetime, courageous moment where, once it has been done, you know who is with you and who is not. 

Only, in the military, we often need to live the same experince over and over again. Mosty, they are just annoying like learning the lay of the land, learning the lightswitches in the house, finding the  best route to school, understanding the local culture. Sometimes, it’s a little more difficult and requires more and more emotional energy to figure it out like finding a new church and intigrating into that worship community. It can be exhausting. 

I can’t imagine what it is like to have to come out over and over again to people you don’t know but now need to work for. Clearly, it is a painful, overwhellming experience. 

CH Hodge, I’m glad you have the courage to be who you are. I’m glad that you are founding a church in a community that needs an open and affirming place to worship. I’ll be glad to preach there anytime. 

Thanks for, once again, confirming my choice to be an open and affirming chaplain

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Filed under Army, Open and Affirming

Oh the “System”

The System. 

Oh, the system. 

It gets blamed for failure. Gets marginalized for successes. Has to feel the weight of all the anger when someone, somewhere, points to it and says, “we could, but the system won’t let us…”

Or words to that effect. 

Here’s the thing: We are the system

Put bluntly, I am the system, you are the system. The system changes when we change. We make it change. We make it what we want it to be. That’s how systems work. 

I’m not saying it’s easy or even worth it, but it is still true. 

Especially in the Army. Every Chaplain that now serves in a leadership position once sat where I sit, a student at the Advanced Course. Every senior leader in the Army was once a Captain looking at Major with their operational days largely behind them and a decade or two left of staff functioning ensuring the capability of the operational Army. Every single one.

The system they operate is one they inherited but it is not static. It moves. It breathes. It changes as those who work within in do the same. I am continually inspired by leaders who own the system. For them, it moves from, “the system” to “MY system.” Once a leader owns this, positive change happens. When they speak, I get chills down my spine and am excited, honored, and thrilled to serve under them. 

I once served a chief of staff who would constanly encourage us to think differently about the orginization in which we served. Over and over he would say that this was our unit, these were our rules and we could (and were empowered to do so) think creativly about how it could be better.

Because when we are better, the unit we serve is better, our charges are better and our country is a better place.

There are always reasons why we “can’t” do something:

“We can’t mix colored and white troops!”

“We can’t have Humanist chaplains!”

“We can’t allow gay Soldiers to serve openly!” 

“We can’t let…”

Always the “system” can’t do it. The sky will fall. The world will come crashing down around us. All the chaplains will quit, all the Soldiers will go home, combat effectiveness will be crushed… 

On and on it goes. We can’t change because the system will not tolerate change. But again, WE are the system. When we say that the system will not tolerate change, what we are saying is that WE will not tolerate change. 

The most effective leaders look at their world differently – they see the world through the lense of what they can do to make it better. 

Being a change agent takes courage. I’ve seen a few chaplains recently who have given me courage. I’ve been inspired because they did not accept the status quo. They looked at the world around them, the “system” and said, “I know we can do better.” And then set out to change the little world they live in. Like me, at the prison, they influenced their world and thus impacted “the system.” 

What an exciting time to be a chaplain in the US Army! 

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Filed under Army, Chaplaincy

Emotional Leadership

Emotions are not bad. They are best integrated, not stuffed into the recesses of our mind. 

Of course, that’s not what I heard from an Army training on “Critical Thinking.” 

What was briefed there was this classic, tired axiom of our culture: good leaders are critical thinkers who will “set aside” their emotions, preferences, and bias in order to utilize reason and logic to arrive at the best decision. 

Oh the tyranny of reason and logic. One of the problems in our leadership today is exactly what was espoused (and argued with by me… respectfully of course) is this false assumption that:

1. We CAN “lay aside” our emotions, culture, and bias. 

2. That the best decisions are made without accessing our emotions (and all that goes along with them).

I disagree with both presumptions emphatically. Emotions happen, preconceived notions happen, cultural baggage is a part of our lives, preferences are a reality – to have an internal bias about something is part of what makes us human. 

Reason, divorced from emotions, is limited – for our humanity, at that point, is limited. 

I am suggesting that the best decisions are made through a thorough understanding of reason, logic, emotions, preconceived notions, cultural baggage, etc. 

I have served as a chaplain in Corrections for the last four years. If I have met one, I have met a hundred men who were solid Army leaders (at least where the Army was concerned) and were rewarded by promotions and more responsibility. Their problem was not that they were not reasonable or logical in their thinking but that they had followed the path of suppression, and were therefore not integrated in their thought. Since feelings were “bad” and suppressed, the important feelings of healthy shame and guilt that might have limited their behavior were also suppressed. Thus, they became unlimited people practiced at the art of living in violation of their conscience. 

Emotions are like signposts to let us know that there is a problem. It is vital that we pay attention to what is happening internally. When making decisions, emotions can check reason and reason can check emotions. 

The challenge is not in setting aside our parts of our humanity in making choices – the challenge is integrating them into our lives in a healthy way. 

I offer the following articles for further reading on the subject:

On how reason and emotions work together

On how decisions are inherently emotional

Emotional Intelligence 

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Filed under Army, Chaplaincy

It’s about time

It’s me.
I know it.
I’m aware of it.
This is emphatically my opinion and I speak only for myself.
It’s because I am married to a commissioned minister, a serving pastor. And hey, I’ve become sensitive to it. Recently, at morning chapel for chaplains, a male chaplain preached to “men of God” and completely ignored the presence of the only female chaplain in the room. Of course, this seems to be standard fare. I regularly experience chaplains (and I’ve been guilty of it myself) not even making an atempt at gender inclusive language.

We have a recruiting problem. We need more female chaplains in the US Army.

Yesterday, the US Navy appointed the first female Chief of Chaplains of the Navy. She had been the Chaplain of the Marine Corps (the Navy Deputy Chief of Chaplains) just prior. I applaud it. I am excited and proud of the Navy that they, finally, in 2014, had the courage to appoint a woman pastor to a position of power.

Only, it’s 2014.

And my service? My beloved Army? From this Captain’s foxhole, our halls of leadership look awfully white and male.

And it’s 2014. I think it’s about time.

I’ve heard the reasons, and they all sound the same – “the path to leadership needs to go through certain gates and those gates are closed to women. We choose the best candidate, and we’ve just not had a woman pass through the right gates – they are just not competitive for the job.”

It’s 2014 and THAT is still a reason. If gates are a problem, either change the gates or start sending the women through them in order to get them ready to lead the Corps. It’s our Corps and we decide the path to power.

Here’s the thing, my Corps loves to post the story about the first woman commissioned as a chaplain. It was 1974 and Rev. Alice Henderson, a pastor with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was sworn in at Ft. McPherson, GA and served for 13 years. Since then, dozens of women have served and even gained the rank of COL. But not chief. Not even deputy chief.

And the notion that they “just have not had the right assignments” is not good enough. I have heard for my entire career that the Corps sees you at some point and starts grooming you for leadership opportunities – up to and including the role of chief. So, what I’m seeing, is that for 40 years of women serving in the US Army Chaplain Corps, there hasn’t been one person, one woman, who could be groomed to be the Chief. Not one.

We are not the Infantry Branch, Armor, Intelligence, or Artillery. We are the Chaplain Corps, and we are woefully inadequate in the area of diversity. I can only hope that as I write this, there are great women serving in positions of power who are being groomed for the role as Chief. I hope to serve one in my career.

No more excuses. They are not good enough. Having women serve as colonels is not good enough. It’s about time.

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Filed under Army, Chaplaincy