Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A visit with a Muslim

A few weeks ago I visited with a Muslim patient.  I was excited as I entered the room and the visit lasted about 45 minutes long, and I was blown away by our conversation.  I went in the room just wanting to build trust and make a connection for a follow up visit where there could be an invitation to talk about religion.  Now I can’t go into specifics of the visit, or even tell you much more than that.  But, I left feeling burdened, so much on my shoulders as I stepped away from his room and moved on to the next rooms.  I left with the thought; this was a man of God.  As I left the parking garage, the visit and the dialogue continued to be pressed in my heart. 
One thing I will share the patient told me as I was leaving the room,” I know we have differences in our two faiths ( I never once indicated my particular faith tradition to him)  but we serve a God who heals all and is mighty , no other can compete.”
The problem I was having was this man impressed me with his heart, his faithfulness to God through all of his trials that he had endured.  I know I am just hearing one side of the story and do believe there is two sides to every story, but the patient really spilled his heart to me and his words spoke honesty. Now, I’ve never been one to judge,(at least I try not to) I try my best to leave that up to God, but everything I had learned said clearly that this man was going to hell because he did not profess Jesus Christ as Lord in his life.   This struck me and has convicted me to discuss the issue and talk about my thoughts.
My faith is not changing, and I’m not pulling away from the notion that Jesus Christ is Lord in my life, I believe that with all my heart and it continues to build in my life.  The problem I have is the God I know and worship is a God who can be defined by so much, but the God I’ve come to know is a God of love and mercy and kindness, one who is faithful in His love to me.  Can’t God be loving to those who love Him? 
I have this man expose all in his life, and my traditional beliefs tell me this man is going to Hell, I have a hard time accepting that notion. Especially since Jesus himself said it so clearly in the gospel when Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Clearly this man needs Jesus I keep telling myself, but how do I show Christ’s love to this man, without preaching and forcing my beliefs?
The question I have is what if I said this verse to the man, and started preaching to him and told him he was going to hell that the only way he could speak to God was through Jesus Christ.  Well I can tell you I would have lost all trust and rapport I had worked so hard to develop and I also would have received some puzzled looks as well, because this man clearly showed he had a relationship with God.  How do I reconcile this thought that someone can be faithful to God without professing Jesus Christ?  Is it possible to love God without knowing the Son? 
Another point I would like to bring up is that many would say I missed an evangelizing moment here with this patient, but I cannot reiterate enough in my work as a chaplain that I come to meet patients where they are and meet their spiritual needs.  My job is to minister to those I come in contact with, not minister to my own needs and desires.  But again I feel convicted by scripture that instructs me to preach the gospel to all I come in contact with, but my job is not evangelizing but comforting.  I worry at times when God looks down at my work, and He doesn’t hear His name once in a visit if I let Him down.  I’ll be honest I have several visits where God is never brought up.  I have many visits where I have lonely people looking for ears to hear their stories.  I am there for all I come in contact with, and I pray that they see the love of Christ in my words and in the way I present myself. 

O Lord, have mercy on my soul when I do not know the answers to the problems I encounter on my walk. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Women in the Church, my thoughts

Disclaimer:  I am young, and I’m still learning.

            One thing that keeps coming up again and again in conversations around campus, in our churches and in my relationships with friends is the role of women in churches.  What is their role in our churches in today’s culture?  In most churches you will find that women do not publicly speak, pray, or lead any type of worship in our churches.  Many women today in churches teach children, and some are children’s ministers.  But, we never allow women to teach ages older than elementary school.  Why is that?  Why do we let them teach the future at a young age, but not when they are older than, say 6th grade?  It is also very rare for a woman to be over the high school ministry, campus ministry, and especially over the whole church.  I posted a status on Facebook asking for their opinions on the matter and I am going to share a few of theirs on my blog.
            It is almost as if there is a glass ceiling for women today in our churches.  Three Sundays ago I attended Highlands Church of Christ and they had women helping pass the break and fruit of the vine for the Lord’s Supper.  Wow!  That was a change, but I didn’t mind one bit.  I enjoyed it, because I believe we can all serve and pass the bread as one church body.  In talking with a friend at lunch, he told me about a view one Bible professor at ACU shared. 
            She said, (greatly paraphrased) isn’t it funny that women serve when food is involved at every occasion.  At potlucks they set up and clean up. When there are any type of baked food drives women will provide the food, work the shifts needed to sell, and will clean up everything.  But, when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, it is all of a sudden not okay for a woman to pass the bread during church.  Most of the time the women are preparing the trays in the back of the church; some things just don’t make much sense.
            Another comment I got on Facebook from a professor reads…
                           “Paul writes "it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" he also writes that women should wear head coverings when praying or prophesying (I Cor 11:5). Two things about this verse: (a) that women were in fact praying and prophesying in the early church, and (b) that there is a direct command for women to cover their heads, a command we do not observe. Thus, we immediately realize that the hermeneutics are not so simple as we might think at first. "it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" he also writes that women should wear head coverings when praying or prophesying (I Cor 11:5). Two things about this verse: (a) that women were in fact praying and prophesying in the early church, and (b) that there is a direct command for women to cover their heads, a command we do not observe. Thus, we immediately realize that the hermeneutics are not so simple as we might think at first. “

Basically this says that we interpret scriptures the way we want to. As my Bible professor, Bob Strader, says we need to read the scriptures with Jesus’ glasses on.
The problem I believe we have with women leading in the church is not that we do not believe in it scripturally, but that we are not comfortable with it at all. If a woman was to get up and preach and say the same message a man would say what would be our problem?  Would we say, “Whoa? That’s not in the Bible.”  Or would we be uncomfortable with the fact that we have not had a women speak to us before. 
            Still at times we have women who are leading in a church and find themselves wondering if what they are doing is right, a women’s minister commented on my Facebook saying

,” Being a children's minister I am often put in sticky situations. I always want to be under my husband's & the elders authority. I whole-heartedly believe it has to do with your motives & heart. Even a man has to be aware of his motives in the church. Are you doing it b/c you're power driven, money hungry, attention grabbing, etc. or for God?”  I believe in this very much so, why do women want to lead in a church?  The same goes to men, why do men want to lead in the church?  Do they want power, fame; it’s definitely not money, or just a voice and someone to listen to them.

 My point is that whoever goes up to speak to me, pray to me, give me communion, is doing it out of love and kindness and not for some ‘Jesus Points’ I am all for it.  God made us ALL in His likeness that we may go and spread the message.  God didn’t say to go and spread the message, Men Only!  He didn’t say, hey this a guys only club!  But, what it does say is that Men are called to lead our churches, and how we interpret those scriptures is how women are viewed in churches, and there are many views and many churches that take them in different ways.  Putting the scriptures in today’s time is very difficult and I can’t do it, but what I will say is when we do get to Heaven God will say, “Man you guys worried about a lot of stuff that didn’t really matter, and missed the bigger picture.” We need to focus on what our motives are for leading and what we are saying is for the kingdom. 

In Him

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Can you be comfortable in a hospital?

           What a week it has been as I have finished my second week at Lifeline Chaplaincy.  This was my first full week on the floors by myself with no one shadowing me, and not needing directions to get around the two hospitals.  I get a very big grin when someone asks for directions in the hospital and I can help them, I’m starting to feel at home.  This brings me to a point that I’m not comfortable with: The feeling of being comfortable at a hospital. 
            Should I feel comfortable that I am walking around in a hospital where sickness and disease are the reasons the doors are open in the first place?  The fact that I have a job because people get sick.  I have a slight upset feeling in my stomach when I think about this.  This thought I have really reinforces that fact that I look to so much in explaining the meaning of my life, and that is we live in a broken world that is not our home.  I struggle with being immune to the fact that illness is just a part of life.  What if someone I know, or even I, gets an illness how will I respond.  Where being sick is the norm and people walking around in pajama scrubs is an every minute sight. 
            How can I keep my heart soft to the unique lives of my patients and their stories?  Let me make clear the fact that overall empathy and differentiation are two different points I am trying to make.  I believe I my  empathy has been unchanged since working in the hospital full time and I still want  nothing more than to have those that I am  visiting open up to me in a helpful way for both their sake and my practice as chaplain.  But, the question I raise is how can we keep each patient a separate and unique child of God?
            This thought was prompted by a visit I made to cardiovascular recovery by a referral from a family.  The patient was unconscious at the moment and I later realized was paralyzed.  I met with the nurse and she explained to me the situation, which was like nails on a chalkboard.  The news and prognosis was dark and quite discouraging.  But, I just nodded and thanked the nurse as she gave me the news like she had to so many other friends, families, and chaplains as in previous cases.   Of course I wasn’t able to process what I had heard due to the business of the unit (cardiovascular recovery) so I stepped outside in a separate hall to gather myself.  I realized that I was starting to take illnesses, accidents, and disease as the norm.  I knelt down in the hallway and prayed for the patient who I could not see and then prayed for myself.  That I could continue to believe in a world where there is no sickness and no disease, where Kingdom Comes, mean no pain, no sorrow.  I need my heart broken as much as possible.
            I go to as many as fifteen to twenty rooms a day, yet must treat them all differently with their unique talents and gifts they bring to the kingdom.  Can I remember that as I step into each room?  I’m glad I can find my way around a hospital, but I never want to be comfortable working there.