Chaplaincy and the Bible

I started a career in ministry 20-some-odd years ago. At the time, I considered a number of opportunities within the bigger arena of ministry.

It is possible to be a missionary, a pastor, a musician (I knew that one was out), an educator, or a number of other options, but one thing I did not consider was being a chaplain. The reason why I moved away from chaplaincy was the knowledge that in this form of ministry one is expected to minister to people with a generic identity. If the person was of a different theological perspective or ecclesiastical tradition than you, then play the role to meet their needs.

I don’t disparage the ministers who take on this task. Nor do I believe it a grievous wrong of them to behave differently than their core identity to meet the spiritual and emotional needs of others. But I also know I do not do ‘generic’ well. When a person asks me for my perspective, they get my perspective rather than an answer measured by what they need to hear.

I will strive to make that answer Biblical. I will try to be led by God. But ultimately I know that answer will come out of my personal relationship with God. Anything else would leave me feeling dishonest.

Chaplains recognize this tension, and know how to balance these two different concerns.

Recently I heard about a chaplain, a hero among chaplains, who was being chastised because he was asked what the Bible said on a topic and he answered. His answer was not so much an opinion, but a review of what the specific statements of Scripture on the topic in question. The Bible is not politically correct. He is being disciplined for accurately answering a question on what the Bible said. Or to put that another way, the Navy has decided that some parts of the Bible are not acceptable for use by their chaplains.

So we must have turned a corner, a horrible corner. The military is now officially censoring the parts of the Bible they do not like. Since that is the case, how long will it be before the government at large begins telling churches what parts of the Bible are no longer acceptable?

Fuel Blog for the A.S.B.C.

I normally post writing news on Wednesday, but I didn’t have a chance to put it in yesterday.  The Arizona Southern Baptist Convention asked me to write a blogpost for their Fuel Blog. You can take a look at it by following that link.

The topic is in regard to our annual car show and using auto events to reach out to car people.

Amber’s Ride

Amber looked at herself in the mirror for a long time. Eventually she said a quiet goodbye. Talking to yourself must be the first sign of sanity, she thought.

She locked the shabby studio apartment behind her and headed on foot to the bus station. She put her hand over the $178.50 in her pocket, just to be sure it was still there. She had heard of golden parachutes, but her pocket full of cash was more like a frayed rescue line.

She didn’t stop by the diner where she had worked. There was nothing in this town she would miss. Not her apartment, not her neighbors, not her co-workers, not her customers. Most of all, she wouldn’t miss the person she had become. She herself, was the only one she had said goodbye to.

Amber was going home. Home where she had been miserable under the constraints of decent society. Where her mother tried to run her life and succeeded in sheltering her from every bit of fun she had ever tried to have. Home where the rules felt like a strait jacket on her free spirit.

She had left to try and get away from all of that. Now she was hoping to find it again. All of it.

She had left with an abundance—savings account, credit cards, even a trust fund once she turned 21. She would return with nothing but tough lessons learned. After buying the necessary tickets she had $5.37 left for meals along the way. Hardly enough to cover the five meals over the two days of cross country repentance.

On the bus she read a pocket New Testament. She ordered off the dollar menu at stops. She avoided talking to the other passengers. And she cried, quiet tears, full of old sorrows and new joys. But mostly she planned how to not be the person she had said goodbye to back at the studio.

When she reached the city, she realized she had made no arrangements to get from the terminal to her home. She had no cab fare, no remaining friends, no means but her restless feet. So she walked, it must have been about four miles. Each block passing a little faster than the ones before.

At the door she grabbed the knob and turned, but of course, it was locked. So she rang the bell. She couldn’t stand the wait so she started knocking, until her mother opened the door.

For a second they just stared at each other. Then they embraced, cried, and finally, they spoke. At first both were cautious, but soon there was no stopping the flow. They kept on speaking for the next thirty years, and when it came time to bury her, Amber did so, without regret.

 

This is the first week in a long time that I have been able to post every day except for today. So I went looking for an old story that I had never published on my own blog. I wanted one I couldn’t locate, but found this one. I remember that I originally wrote it for a weekly challenge called Midweek Blues Buster. If I remember correctly it was well received. As always if you like it and want to leave a comment you are more than welcome. 

Categorical Theology

Sometimes I notice I have trouble talking theology with people who are accustomed to thinking of theology only in categories. For example, I am aware that I am not exactly a Calvinist. For a lot of people their immediate response to this is to assume I must be Arminian in my beliefs. This is false. I am even further away from Arminianism.

In my way of thinking about theology it is perfectly fine to have a belief system that is somewhere in the middle. But it seems as if a lot of people, believe this is cheating, somehow.

It is as if the men, for whom these theological systems are named, are such icons that we are obligated to accept or reject everything they say as a unit. Perhaps we are supposed to submit to their wisdom, assuming they are smarter than us and whatever they say fits together as a cohesive system must be accepted in total.

For some, theology is a zone where you are not allowed to think for yourself. Instead you are obligated to study, discuss and choose your belief based on the historic categories used to teach theology.

This doesn’t work for me. Not only do I like to think for myself, but what makes the most Biblical sense to me, doesn’t fit exclusively into one of the traditional categories. It appears to me to be a clear, sensible, tight fitting system, and I am perfectly fine that it doesn’t fit any previously defined mold.

So don’t limit my theological discussions to the framework of others. Instead let me describe my own beliefs. Hear what I say, rather than only looking for what historic views my discussion resembles.

I expect that the best ways of discussing God’s character, actions, and redemptive work, may be yet to be composed. Perhaps, our conversations will give birth to a new paradigm, but only if we allow ourselves to think outside of the historic boxes. Of course, we can never set aside Scripture, reverence or God’s deity, but there is still a lot of room for discussion.

Splickety Prime 4.2

Recently I updated everyone about recent writing events. Now I have some more news.

This past weekend I found out that another story of mine is being picked up by Splickety Publishing. This next story will appear in Splickety Prime 4.2 which will come out in June. The theme of this issue will be the Wild West, so the genre was a little different for me. If you already have a submission to Splickety, watch for it in June. If you don’t have a subscription you might want to check out this flash fiction magazine. (I didn’t mention the title of my story because the title was one of the things that may change as they ask for edits.)

Splickety does pay for its submissions, but as of yet, I have spent more money on my subscription and the ad I placed for my book, than I expect to receive from the two stories. Just saying.

Baby Killdeer

Killdeer Baby 04.09.15This little guy is a baby killdeer. He is probably not more than three days old and three inches long. Not much more than a ball of fuzz, but a very cute ball of fuzz.

There is something about babies. The toughest men will melt at the sight of a baby. The wimpiest men will stand tall and risk death to protect them. Babies change us, making us set aside our own goals and dreams to meet their needs. At least that is how healthy people respond.

This nurture and protect response, is it a spiritual quality? Just talking from common sense I would assume it is. God designed family, God designed the system where we start as babies before growing up, and God put into us these most common and universal responses toward babies.

I also believe we can see some Biblical instruction that protecting the youngest among us is an expectation of God’s. Consider Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:6 (HCSB).

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea!”

Or for another perspective, consider Ecclesiastes 12:1 (HCSB).

So remember your Creator in the days of your youth:

Before the days of adversity come,
and the years approach when you will say,
“I have no delight in them”;

This section is saying it is important to come to grips with the most important things in life, your Creator being the most important, before life begins to jade you. Or by implication, we must protect children from those things which will corrupt their innocence and harden their hearts, so they can learn the lessons of life without these distortions.

I remember growing up my parents had a long list of things we were not allowed to do, see, touch or have, because we were not old enough yet. Coffee was not allowed. Dating was out of the question. Quite a few television shows were considered too racy.

In today’s world though I don’t seem to see the same limitations. If they put it on TV it must be okay for kids to watch. Children walk around with energy drinks in their hands. And I see kids talking about sexual situations and making boyfriends or girlfriends at seemingly any age.

Given these trends I am not surprised that more and more people abandon basic morality, reject the authority of God over them, and live in the misery wondering why they cannot enjoy life. It is now old fashioned to protect the innocent, and we are too oblivious to admit the consequences. But the truth is when a child is not protected from the adversities of life, they will adopt bitterness as normal and never enjoy what is truly good.

My Presidential Wish List

Election season, 2016 has begun. A couple of candidates have now officially thrown their hat in the ring and we are officially off and running. It makes me think, what do I want in a candidate? What kind of a person would I vote for?

I want to vote for someone with morality. Someone who knows the difference between right and wrong and lives it both in public and in private. I don’t want to vote for someone whose ethics are being shaped by the pursuit of votes or by the whims of public opinion. I want them to have a concept of right living that is guided by a higher standard than current trends.

I wouldn’t vote for someone who is obviously going to further divide the country. Of course, it’s hard to tell who that will be. The current president spoke a good game of creating unity, but he apparently expected everyone to come to his viewpoint in order to experience that cohesiveness. I don’t want to vote for an idealist who cannot compromise without feeling he has corrupted his own perfect plans.

I want to vote for someone who patriotically loves this country. Someone who sees the founding documents as important and worth honoring. Someone who will not ignore the rest of the world, but will never prioritize world issues above the needs of our own citizenry. I want to vote for someone who understands US Government, not for the purpose of working around the limits and balance of power, but who will work to guarantee these boundaries as a safeguard for our future freedoms.

I don’t want to vote for someone with no track record or business experience. It seems to me that the oval office is one of those jobs that is too important to take a ‘learn as you go’ approach. I don’t want to try and figure out their skills purely from their speaking ability. I don’t really want to vote for a career politician, but would prefer a person who has chosen to serve for a time based on what they have to offer. Career politicians remain in the mix by protecting themselves, while public servants feel a freedom to do what is right without concern for how it affects their careers.

I want to vote for someone who can understand the economic world we live in and still create jobs in this country. Some jobs are being created but by eliminating manufacturing we have limited ourselves to job creation in service industries and entrepreneurship. In other words, the jobs we currently create are only for the best educated and qualified or are so low paying they cannot support the workers life needs. The jobs which form the historic middle class have been either priced out, or regulated out, of this country.

This is not a complete list. I will think of other qualifications as I give it more time. Unfortunately I already have doubts that my list will be met by any candidate, and even more doubts that if they are, the media will find these details important enough to report upon.

 

 

Religious Freedom and Homosexuality

Indiana has taken a huge amount of heat over its attempt to enact its own Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Similar to what happened here in Arizona, people started yelling discrimination, often without any respect for religious liberties.

Those who support the laws will quickly say the law is about religious freedom and not about discrimination. Those who oppose the law say it is veiled language to allow for discrimination against homosexuals. In Indiana the governor asked for additional legislation to clarify this point and to prevent the law being misused.

A similar situation in Arkansas makes a curious side note. The governor there said he changed his mind at the last minute and vetoed the law because his teenage son asked him to. If I was a voter in Arkansas I would ask the governor to explain why his son is more qualified to govern than he is.

In discussing the topic, I have heard it said that church leaders should have no say in these policies because it doesn’t affect them. They are given a ministerial exception in the laws. This argument is silly, creating an inequality between church leaders and church members. In my church I would like the membership and leadership to have the same religious freedoms. It is also obvious that their exception will soon be taken away.

A lot of this hoopla is based on a denial of reality. Conservatives want to protect religious freedoms, and try to pass RFRA or similar laws. But at the same time they try to align themselves as being against any form of discrimination. But the truth is you cannot have it both ways.

Religious freedom must include allowing a person to choose not to participate in something they find morally objectionable, not only as a private person, but also as a businessperson. Asking them to set aside their beliefs while conducting business is asking them to be a hypocrite. Incidentally I believe this should hold true for personal ideologies as much as for recognized religious perspectives.

Meanwhile the homosexual feels discriminated against if a businessperson does not want to serve them. They have very successful political forces seeking to make any such decision illegal. They have also controlled the dialogue of these encounters labeling anyone opposed to homosexuality as homophobes, defining in the public mind that homosexuality is genetic condition instead of a behavior, and defining sexual behavior as a greater good than religious freedom.

The path we are on ends with the courts ruling that all major world religions are historically wrong in regard to this issue and must change their doctrine. I don’t know for sure what the future holds, but I can tell you one thing about religious freedom. You will miss it when it is gone. Even if you are not religious, you will not like the world where the government determines the content of your conscience.

Writing News

Although I haven’t done it recently, I thought I would take today to update everyone on new developments in my writing.

CoverFirst I have received notice from the publisher for The Storeroom of the Heart that they are going out of business. It is entirely possible that the book will become available from another publisher in the near future, or possibly after May 1 it will go completely out of print. Not sure which yet, but either way I still have copies if anyone wants to order a signed copy directly from me.

Second I have had a couple of short pieces published just in the last couple of weeks.prime_cover

Splickety picked up a story I wrote called The Family Business for their detective issue. That is Splickety Prime 4.1 which was their March 2015 edition. I enjoy reading this flash fiction magazine, and I bet you will too. If you are interested in learning more about them here is the general website. http://splicketymagazine.com/ If you are interested in the issue I have a story in, here is a more direct link to purchase it. http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/900198

Spiritual Citizens largeAnother opportunity was that Kim Bond contacted me to include a story of mine in a book she was producing. The name of the book is Spiritual Citizens and the story of mine is titled Grandmother’s Scars. It is intended to be circulated as a free ebook, to be used as a witnessing tool. Here is a link to acquire it in a number of different formats. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/530952 One of the easiest ways to read it is to just view it as a PDF in your browser which can be done at the link above or here is another link that goes straight to it at another location. https://drawneartochrist.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/spiritual-citizens-ebook.pdf

The printed book is inexpensive, but the handling and shipping is high, just so that you are warned. Here is a link to the printed book. http://blur.by/1I5eXou