Photo-a-day: Forgive

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The fence line at the Antietam Battlefield

This last week has been a whirlwind. Patients, families, meetings, charting, phone calls, and driving over 750 miles. And that’s just for starters.

The reason I logged all those miles was to attend a committee review of my application to be recognized as a Board-Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains. I’ll spare you the details, (you can go to the link and read all about it), but it has taken me almost five years since I graduated from seminary to achieve this recognition.

Professional chaplains engage in an intensive learning process. It is the process of learning how to use your “self” as a resource; being aware of your strengths, weaknesses, blind spots and potential triggers takes time. Lots of time. It requires prayer, reflection, writing, talking, and applying what you discern. It’s long hours for crap pay (no lie… for one of my placements I earned minimum wage!) It’s trying to understand someone from a radically different background. And always, always ALWAYS listening to the Spirit of the Living God.

So when I came to today’s Photo-a-Day prompt, FORGIVE, I was immediately drawn to search for a photo of Antietam. The bloodiest battle on America’s soil where over 23,000 were killed in a day. In some parts of the United States, the shadows cast by The Civil War are decidedly UNcivil. I was reminded of that fact as I drove around North Carolina. And later today, as I drove up I-95 and saw the huge Confederate flag in full view of I-95. (Read more here.)

It’s true: in some places, the South has not forgiven the North. Funny how that applies to many other issues in the US today…

But it is also a part of my chaplain’s journey, as I have learned to view people who reject my ministry with compassion instead of getting angry. Yes. I’ve been rejected. And many times, I don’t know whether it’s because I am the wrong race, gender, denomination or something else I don’t know! (I’m wearing pants? My head isn’t covered?)

I’ve had to leave a lot of baggage behind. It’s too much emotional and psychological effort to carry all of that extra enmity. I am learning that life is too short, and the world has much to celebrate and cherish.

Family, friends, beauty, joy, hope… all are worth the extra time and energy that I can give them.

A quote I read recently brought it home:

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace. – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The Apostle Paul had some good advice about forgiveness too:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13 NIV)

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)

A reminder. A prayer. A life-long goal.

Blessed be.

Photo-a-Day: Still

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Walking through the garden that afternoon, the air was heavy and humid. Not a leaf was moving. I was struck by the vines above me, clinging to a cool stone wall.

Still.

It’s the moment where I realize that I can stop moving, doing, responding… and just BE.

It’s a chaplain skill. Waiting for the time and place and moment… for the wind of the Spirit to blow freely through me.

Still.

Photo-a-Day: Search

jasonTwo weeks ago, we added a feline to the household. We had become a one-cat house, and Henry, our big and beloved tiger, was lonely. VERY lonely.

We prepared a place and went on a search. Perhaps the local no-kill cat shelter would have a new friend… and they did.

Jason, with his pumpkin-colored eyes, kittenish ways and soft purr wound around our ankles and reeled us in. Our search for cat #2 was over.

Jason was a stray and ended up at the County shelter. The no-kill shelter scooped him up and fostered him, had him neutered and brought him to their cat-house. (Imagine a house full of cat-trees, cat beds, and cat cozy spots. It was magical.) He  was a little shy, but enjoyed our attention. He had dirty patches in his fur and some matted spots on his tail. 

Today Jason roams the house, tortures the rather portly Henry, and has found many ways to enchant us with his energy and love. The places where his fur was matted and dirty are clean and silky smooth, and he’s put on a little weight.

His search for a safe place is over. 

P.S. The shelter always has cats up for adoption. Check them out the Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County. Be sure to tell them if you visit that Jason says, puurrrrrrrr! 

 

Advent Photo-a-Day: Hope

I preached a sermon last Sunday on “The Roots of our Hope,” one that was for my own ears as much as those listening in the congregation. It’s funny how that happens…

Today’s picture reflects the hope I have in God, despite the changing and challenging ways of life. Winter has just begun in our back yard, but spring will come.

Hope
Hope

I love the beauty of my yard in the winter, though the shorter and shorter days are hard to take.  This morning, the rising sun on the snow in our backyard was bright and cheerful, despite the cold temperatures outside. Things may be frozen, but I can hope for new growth, and for spring.

I sat with a Bible on the table and a cat on my lap, thinking about the recent death by suicide of a classmate, wondering how and why and what… and having no answers. I’ve come to the conclusion that emotional pain is so real and  deep that sometimes we do not give it a voice, for fear of scaring others. Or when all the lush growth of summer is gone, we forget to look for the underlying promise of God’s faithfulness to us.

Sometimes all we need is a glimpse of God at work to have hope. A glimpse, a brief flash of love and providence to shout to our hearts that God hears and loves us more than we can possibly understand. And so, I offer these lyrics to a song by Michael Kelly Blanchard.

Glimpses of God

There are glimpses of God
in the snow-covered chill
that seeps in the doorways
and the windowsills
and blushes the boys
as they sled down the hill
to the twirling of girls
on the pond scarred and still.

There are glimpses of God
in the spring of the earth.
The song of surprise
that breaks forth at birth.
The hello of hope
that wakes up our worth.
The laughter of love
that heals with its mirth.

There are glimpses of God
in the summertime plays
that pose like tulips
in a backyard parade.
The gossip of crickets
as the sun has its way
with the warm and the wind
and the dandelion days.

There are glimpses of God
in the dying of things.
The autumn of hearts,
the fluttering of wings.
The face of farewell
in the stares of suffering.
The falling of leaves
such a long way from spring.

It’s all we’ll remember,
As angels applaud,
The traces of tender,
The glimpses of God.

– Michael Kelly Blanchard