The vast majority of the work I do as a pastor and public safety chaplain is providing spiritual care and support. In the more challenging situations that involve physical and mental health issues, or when spiritual care issues exceed my skills and experiences, I make referrals to other care providers. It those cases my job isn’t to provide the care as much as it is to walk beside those in need as they face the challenges of dealing with unknown and new care providers. These referrals are usually made in my work responding to incidents of pain and suffering.
Well, today I’m going to make a referral for all of you to experience some preventative care and enlightenment. There is no doubt we have a tendency to focus on the negatives in life, often spending a disproportionate amount of time dwelling on what’s wrong in life rather than what’s right. I just came across a video where a neuropsychologist explains why we do this. And it’s not all our fault! We are hardwired to behave this way. So I am referring you to this TEDx video of Dr. Rick Hanson sharing his message “Hardwiring Happiness”. He’ll explain this idea of our negative bias. Simply Goggle it or use this link: http://youtu.be/jpuDyGgIeh0
This is actually a mental health exercise, but I’m going to ask you to modify a part of the message. He uses some graphics that represent a vessel, a bottle or jar, to represent the brain and some colored circles to represent the life experiences we put in our brain. Watch the video straight through the first time. Then watch it again thinking of the vessel as your soul and the life experiences as spiritual experiences. It’s good stuff and a great exercise for your Body, Mind and Soul!
Take Care, Pastor Dan
Note: About once a month I write a “Fit Spirit” exercise and distribute it to several churches and organizations for their use and sometimes internal publication. I thought I’d start posting them here on my blog as well.
(The following is my Chaplain’s Message from the Winter 2014 Issue of the Minnesota Police Chief Magazine)
“An External Conscience”
I had a conversation with a cop recently who was facing some signifiant professional and personal challenges. He’s someone I’ve known professionally for several years, but we aren’t particularly close since our paths seldom cross with any frequency. As we were talking, I asked him if anyone was looking after his personal well-being as he went through this challenging time. Since we weren’t likely to have much contact in the future, I wanted to make sure he had on-going care resources available… resources that he would actually utilize. Like most cops, he replied that he was fine and had plenty of resources. I asked again who he had watching him, someone that knew him well enough to notice if his behavior and health were changing in a negative way. And I asked if that person was someone who would intervene appropriately if needed? After pestering him for an answer for awhile, he finally replied “Fine, I’ll activate my external conscience.”
I had never heard the term external conscience before, but now it has become something I use with some frequency. I do a fair amount of training these days, particularly on the topic of personal health and fitness. As most of you reading this are aware, the foundation of this training is based on the concept of promoting Physical Health of the Body, Mental Health of the Mind and Spiritual Health of the Soul. One of the exercises we use, is a discussion where we identify the different health care providers available for each of the three categories of health. We talk about the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and others who provide physical health care. We look at the different providers of mental health care that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counselors. We conclude by exploring our spiritual health care providers, such as pastors, rabbis, priests, imams, lay ministers and yours truly… chaplains!
Then we talk about the two providers that are universal to all health care categories. The first and most important is… you! You need to personally take responsibility for your health care services. But the second is just as important. It is someone close to you who knows you well. It is someone you trust such as a family member, close friend, colleague or even one of the above listed providers when you share a close personal relationship. This is a person who can pay attention to your health from the outside, someone who can be objective and honest. I previously called this person a trusted friend. Now I have a more scholarly term, your external conscience!
When we go through the exercise of naming types of health care providers, the next step is actually naming the person who fills those roles. Sometimes we get to name the individual person we want to care for us but, especially with our physical health, we often get whoever is available from a specific care team (none of our three kids were delivered by our primary OB doctor). The same is true for picking your external conscience provider. Find an individual (and some backups) that know you well and that you trust. Then ask them if they would be willing to be your care provider when those inevitable challenges of life hit you head on. And offer your services to them when needed as well.
I really believe that with a quality external conscience care provider, your life will be healthier, happier and more fulfilling. For you and all those around you!
Take Care, Pastor Dan.
The Public Safety Ministries (PSM) 2014 Strategic Plan is now complete and viewable/downloadable as a PDF.
This plan was actually created in 2013 with the never ending support and direction of Dan Watts, a long time PSM advocate and supporter. I didn’t published it sooner because I wanted to use it for awhile and see if there was anything we were missing. Aside from a few format changes, the plan is the same as when it was completed in early 2014. I think it does a great job of describing what we do and what we intend to do for many years to come. Our plan has become a great tool for carrying out every aspect of our ministry work. Check it out and let me know what you think!
And I can’t thank Dan Watts enough for all of his hard work, wisdom, dedication and especially his endurance!
(The following is my Chaplain’s Message from the Winter 2013 Issue of the Minnesota Police Chief Magazine)
“It’s getting dark.” This isn’t a metaphor created by your chaplain as he looks for a starting point for his chaplain’s message. It really is getting dark out there. Especially since daylight savings time ended and I often find myself eating dinner in the dark. This is the time of year when the amount of daylight we receive is shortened and the amount of daily darkness we face increases. And with that increase in darkness, it’s important to think about how it impacts our lives. Without giving the darkness much thought, our response to these days with fewer hours of daylight is pretty automatic. We simply turn on our lights. Why? So that we can see. Simple.
It’s hard for me to believe, but I have been retired from sworn service as a police officer for seven years now. For those same seven years, I have been serving several organizations, including the MCPA, as a full time public safety chaplain. During that time, I have spent hundreds of hours with individuals and organizations as they face the daily challenges of our professions. And in our time together, a time that I spend focusing in the spiritual health and fitness of these individuals and organizations, I have found a constant theme among those who are experiencing challenges in their lives. Darkness. (Okay, so I guess we are heading for a metaphor here…) And what enhances that darkness is the feeling of loneliness.
I have spent the last several months, working with a very qualified friend who has volunteered his time, developing a strategic plan for Public Safety Ministries. For those who don’t know, Public Safety Ministries is the organization that supports my chaplaincy work. The strategic plan, complete with mission, vision, principles, strategies, tactics, goals and objectives, will be completed for implementation in January 2014. But amidst all of the organizational and strategic planning jargon and processing, the description of what I do can be reduced to one simple statement: “I share light with those who are alone in the dark.”
My job isn’t to tell people where to find their light source, nor is it to give them my light source. My job is to simply walk with those who are alone in the dark, sharing the light I carry, so that they can find their own light. It’s much like having a neighbor who is alone at home, in a storm, in the dark, whose power goes out and they loose their light. The neighbor probably has a flashlight (but the batteries are dead and they can’t find the spares), or a lantern (but they can’t find it in the dark mess in the basement), or even a cell phone with a flashlight app (that they left in the car that the kid took to work). They may even have a portable generator (but can’t find the fuel, nor the funnel, nor the extension cord…). The light we all need to survive is there, our personal light is there, but sometimes we just can’t find it. And we need our neighbor to help us find it.
So as these days of darkness and frequent storms come upon us, do an inventory of your light sources. We can’t control the presence of darkness and storms, physically or metaphorically, but we can control the light we store, and the light we share. Take some time this holiday season to get together with family, friends and neighbors to share some time and to share some light. And take the time to experience the joy in hearing someone (or even yourself) say “Ah… and there’s the light!”
Take Care, Pastor Dan.
I got a text from a friend yesterday morning. It was an update on a friend of his who had just passed away. He had been walking with his friend through his illness and impending death. I felt a wave of sadness as the text led with the notice of the death. But the short text concluded with “Confident on his eternity. Diagnosed 4 years ago, he took the time to do it right :-)”. The text made me smile, and left me with a real sense of peace. A peace for my friend and for his friend as well.
So often we are faced with the anxiety, stress and worry of the challenges of daily life. In those times I wonder what would happen if we paused and took the time to ask ourselves: “Am I doing it right?” Things can get pretty complicated when digging into the question of “doing it right”. But that’s not the real question we should be asking. As the simple text states, it’s not about doing it right, it’s about taking the time. If we look back on life to when we took the time, we’d see that we were probably at our best, doing life right!
Take Care, Pr. Dan