Across the disciplines of my work, from pastoral tasks, to chaplaincy, to counseling and coaching and spiritual direction, Theological Reflection is a consistent theme, resource, and tool for growth. I am continually seeking to reflect theologically on my experiences and … Continue reading
Earlier today I received an email fwd that originated last September when someone at Walter Reed mistakenly published an unvetted policy restricting the distribution of religious material, such as bibles, even by family and clergy. Here is the language of the policy, as reported by Fox News, et al: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.”
The policy was quickly retracted and a new one published that was consistent with the long and ongoing history of the military respecting, honoring and appreciating the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of our soldiers, veterans and their families.
Here is Walter Reed’s Pastoral Care site which makes fairly clear their commitment to the religious/spiritual/faith aspects of soldiers’ lives.
Some of the original email text includes: This military, where homosexuality is celebrated and Christianity is censored; where witches are financed and crosses are scorned; where bestiality is embraced and Bibles are banned; where same-sex “weddings” are encouraged but international charity is not. After three years of ideological warfare, the administration’s intent is clear: to disarm the military of its biggest weapon. Faith. Regardless of Presidents agenda, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution that empowers the government to stop family members from giving Bibles or crosses to their loved ones. And from a PR standpoint, I’m not sure the best way to boost approval ratings is by denying comfort to wounded warriors. Unfortunately for our troops, who have endured so much turmoil under the administration, this is another blow.
Can anyone else hear the fear? And with fear often come paranoia, conspiracy theories, and scapegoating. None of which is constructive.
Following is my reply to that original email:
That wording was an unfortunate gaff on the part of someone in an office.
Certainly not a part of some larger conspiracy, nor is it the kind of policy that any president from either party would have had a role in formulating.
My guess is that the policy language originated in response to soldiers who had unwelcome visits of a religious nature, either from pushy family or clergy, I have seen that in my work as a hospital chaplain. And an over zealous writer somewhere thought they had a way to protect patient rights.
I’ve worked at a VA hospital in the Chaplain service, and the VA is very much open to the role of religion/spirituality in the lives of soldiers and veterans and their families, and recognized the role that spirituality plays in health.
Some examples are:
Walter Reed National Military Medical Center
VA site on Spiritual Health
National Chaplain Center of the DoVA
Rev. Ken Crawford, Pastor
Maxym, Carol & Leslie B. York. New York, Viking, 2000.
Parenting is difficult, even when the family is fortunate to have a wealth of resources at their disposal. Each of us come with some relationship limitations, blind spots, and traps. Part of the work of maturing is working through and overcoming these things in the midst of our lives and relationships. This means that those around us get the joy of experiencing us when we are not at our best. And that may result in some distortions in their lives as well.
We may be part of the cause of other people’s brokenness, without necessarily being to blame. And regardless, at some point each person has to take responsibility for their own thoughts, words and actions, in so far as they are able.
Taking responsibility as parents: As parents, we need to take responsibility for our words and actions which with which we relate to our kids. We need to honestly assess: “Have I spoken or acted in anger?” “Have I been selfish in my parenting?” “Have I tried to make my child over in my image rather than nurture the image of God in her/him?” “Have I spoiled, neglected, disciplined too harshly or not enough?”
Once we ask these questions, when we see our own responsibility, and guilt, then we name it and ask forgiveness from those we have hurt. We make amends if there is something that can be repaired.
This process accomplishes several things. 1) it humbles us to the place where we are able to admit our mistakes and moves us from the pretension that we have ‘gotten it right’; 2) it moves toward restored and reconciled relationship by seeking to bridge the separations that mistakes of the past have created; 3) it models for others how they too can practice this kind of bold honesty with self and others.
We need to understand that God has already forgiven us, before we asked for it, and even before we were aware of our own failure or sin. God’s presence in the world through Jesus is the ultimate demonstration of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Will we still experience consequences of our sin? Yes. Does this mean that God does not love and care for us? No. Nothing you have done, are doing, or may do in the future can lessen God’s love and concern for you. What these sins do is to build up barriers in us that limit our ability to experience the love that God has toward us.
“Behavior is a metaphor, a way teens have of acting out the real problem. The real problem is the teenager’s attitude toward herself, toward others, and toward life. However a teen is acting out, beneath the surface of the actions and attitudes lurk the teen’s self-doubt, self-disrespect, and self-hatred, providing the rationale for behavior that is self-sabotaging (and self-destructive).” (Maxym, 17) [Emphasis and parenthesis mine]
COMMON BEHAVIOR-ATTITUDES OF TEENS IN TURMOIL (Teens in Turmoil, Maxym, 19)
- They don’t like themselves.
- They feel like failures
- They are demoralized and react with an I-don’t-care attitude toward school as well as others
- They are frightened and resentful
- They are self-absorbed, self-centered, and self-indulgent
- They lie
- They manipulate
- They test limits
- They are struggling with profound existential questions
- They are sabotaging themselves, their future, and their family.
- They are self-destructive.
If kids grow up expecting mom or dad to bail them out and rescue them every time, then when they have to take responsibility for themselves life becomes overwhelming.
“You cannot expect your life, your family’s life, your teen’s life to change without really changing yourself.” (Maxym, 59)
EXERCISE: Letting go of what you hate most
In your journal, let out what you have been keeping inside. Say it. Finally. Write down the five things you hate most about the way your son or daughter is living these days. Review the list of behaviors-attitudes above if that would be helpful. Is it her language? Is it the way he dresses? Is it the secrecy? The intimidation? The lies? Drugs? His girlfriend? The depression?
This is the time for you to stop the rationalizing and excusing altogether. What do you hate most? Write it down and consider hanging this piece of paper on your mirror. It will remind you that you do not have to accept language, behavior, or attitudes that are loathsome to you. You also have the right to a life.
EXERCISE: Getting rid of your guilt
Guilt debilitates. Guilt hurts. Guilt blurs your vision. Guilt hinders your judgment. Guild makes you unhappy. Guilt doesn’t bring anything very positive.
Do you ever wonder why you spend so much energy feeling guilty, even protecting your guild as though it were your most prized possession?
It is easier to cleanse your soul of guilt than you may have thought. You can leave your guilt behind, not only because at least some of it is imagined, but also because feeling guilty will only sap your energy, suffocate your love, and help you waste your life.
Write all the reasons you feel guilty for what your child is doing now. Keep the list with you for a short time – thirty seconds to a few days. Share it with someone you trust if that makes sense for you. Then get rid of it. Flush it down the toilet, throw it in the fire. Toss it into the ocean. Allow it to be released from your being. (Maxim & York, p62)
PART II Learning from other families shares a series of family stories
PART III Finding your own solutions returns to guiding you toward reclaiming your life
PART IV Resources and programs is for those parents who have decided that their teen needs more help than they as a family can provide
EXERCISE: Observing your family from a safe distance
We are often better at seeing the reality of other people’s lives, so this exercise lets you step back from your story and gain some perspective. 1) First write in the first person about an encounter with your troubled teen. 2) Next, take a walk or in some other way give yourself some space from what you have written. 3) Now rewrite it in the third person, as though it were happening to someone else. 4) When you read this new version, what do you see? How do you think about this “other family” and their situation? Write out your thoughts and talk with someone about what you notice. Ask what they see or hear?
Boundaries – (for mother’s self protection
Larson, Scott. When Teens Stray: Parenting for the Long Haul. Ann Arbor, Vine Books, 2002.
Maxym, Carol & Leslie B. York. Teens in Turmoil: A path to change for parents, adolescents, and their families. New York, Viking, 2000.
Cline, Foster W, MD & Jim Fay. Parenting Teens With Love and Logic: Parenting Adolescents for Responsible Adulthood. Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 1992.
Dobson, James. The New Dare to Discipline. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1992.
Oster, Gerald D. and Sarah S. Montgomery. Helping Your Depressed Teenager. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1995.
Group listened to John 14, and then came up with the following theme words:
Son; promise; prepare; way; believe; helper; life; ask; love; peace; presence; arise; obey; know; keep; father; recollection; spirit; word; teach; go; come; hear; commanded; glorify; say; do; lord; Jesus; truth
Ken introduced a group meeting process called GROW:
G – goal/objective – what do we want to accomplish
R – Reality check – strengths & weaknesses
O – options – ideas
W – What will you do?– action steps
The group revisited the previous action steps of:
- Back to basics study plan for the 2012-13 school year and
- Member care and newcomer integration (As CK & CA had outlined several weeks ago)
Some discussion led to the decision to resume the study conversation on Tuesday, July 10th
O – Options: For now, the group will work next week on ideas for member care, and then invite those called forward by the nominating committee for the Member Care ministry area, and open the conversation to whoever in the congregation would like to participate. Some of the member care ministry ideas included:
- First friends
- Spiritual feeding
W: What will you do?– The group will be thinking about the needs of the congregation and how to address them so that when we reconvene next Tuesday, 6/5 @ 6:30, we will be ready to discuss. The group members were asked to be praying for the congregation participants by going through the church directory person by person and thinking about what each one may need.
A key take away is that we need to be caring for the folks who are here – responding to one another’s spiritual and relational needs – even while we are discerning and addressing the needs of the community and world around us.