Category Archives: Published

Writings that have been published in other publications

An External Conscience

(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.

Ahhh… And There’s The Light

(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.

 

A Fit Spirit Exercise

Every month I write a short “Spiritual Fitness Exercise”  message that I distribute to a few of the churches that help sponsor Public Safety Ministries.  Those churches usually publish the message in their monthly newsletters. I often receive positive comments on those messages so I thought I’d start sharing them here on our website as well…

“Ahhh… and there’s the Light”

“It’s getting dark.”  No, this isn’t a metaphor created for this message.  It really is getting dark out there. This is the time of year when daylight decreases and the darkness we face increases.  And how do we respond to the darkness?  We turn on our lights.  Why?  So that we can see.  Simple.

During my past seven years as a police chaplain, I have spent hundreds of hours with police, fire and EMS professionals as they face the challenges of their jobs.  From our time together I have found a constant theme among those who are experiencing challenges in their lives:  darkness and loneliness.  (Okay, so I guess we are heading for a metaphor here…) My job with these people is simple: “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). The light we all need to survive is there, our personal light is there, but sometimes we just can’t find it.  We need our neighbor with a light to help us see where it is.

So as these days of darkness come upon us, do an inventory of your light sources. Take some time this holiday season to get together with family, friends and neighbors to share some light.  And take the time to experience the joy in hearing someone (or even yourself) say “Ahhh… and there’s the Light!”

Take Care, Pastor Dan

A Chaplains Message

The following is the “Chaplains Message” I wrote for the most recent issue of Minnesota Police Chief, the official publication of The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

A Retirement Tale: Climbing Down the Mountain

Well, the day has finally arrived. I am no longer a Police Chief. I am now a retired Police Chief. No one knows that better than my wife of 24 years. She has been my confidant and sounding board throughout my 25-year career with the Eden Prairie Police Department. I often wondered if she actually listened to me when I went on and on about whatever was consuming my thoughts on any particular day. The other day I discovered she had been listening as I shared my plans and apprehensions about leaving the career and the department that has, in many ways, defined me throughout my entire adult life.

She called me at my new office to share a passage from a book she was reading, “for one more day” by Mitch Albom. The main character in the book, who was facing an impending career change, tells the following story:

I met a man once who did a lot of mountain climbing. I asked him which was harder, ascending or descending? He said without a doubt descending, because ascending you were so focused on reaching the top, you avoided mistakes.
“The backside of a mountain is a fight against human nature,” he said. “You have to care about yourself on the way down as you did on the way up.”

I think this is a great analogy for retirement, particularly from a law enforcement career. My public transition from chief to civilian was almost nine months long. I was fortunate to have a supportive boss and department that allowed a fairly deliberate climb down. But when you compare the nine-month descent to the 25-year ascent, it was a rather fast pace.

The way I see it there are four ways people can come down from the mountain of a law enforcement career: you can walk, you can run, you can jump or you can be pushed. You don’t always have a lot of control over how your career ends, but you can prepare yourself and make plans for dealing with the situation you are facing. I believe walking or running are the best options. But the faster you come down, the more likely you are to stumble and possibly get hurt.

If you are going to jump, you better plan ahead and look for a safe place to land and have some help at the bottom to fix whatever broke in the fall. And if you end up getting pushed, well, that’s the one to try and avoid. Not having control over how and when you come down is difficult. That’s why it’s important to be self-aware and know your situation and the circumstances that impact your employment.

There is one guarantee that comes with a law enforcement career: it will eventually end. No exceptions. So here is my advice. Regardless of how you have personally climbed the mountain of your law enforcement career, you need to have a plan for getting down. And that plan needs to include contingencies because you don’t always have control of the descent. However, the more planning you do, the better you will be prepared to handle what is a very complicated journey.