Day: June 9, 2018

HOW DOES GOD HELP US?

(Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up column to a previous one written by Mike Patrick, “Where Is God When We Suffer?”)

By MIKE PATRICK

One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:26 (NIV) – “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

The Spirit helps us, but how? I have heard all kinds of explanations of how God helps, but let me share examples from the two ends of the spectrum. Some of my friends say that God gives us a mind and we can do something about our issue. True. However, I wonder sometimes if those friends simply do what they want in the first place. At the other end of the spectrum, friends say that we should turn things over to God. I agree that we must trust him with all things. However, some of those friends seem to use that as an excuse never to do anything. Their premise has God magically taking care of our concerns. I was never satisfied with either response.

MPatrick (1)So if the Spirit helps us, how does that happen? The Greek word in the New Testament, translated “helps” in this verse, is a compound word made up of three different words. It literally means “together, face to face, we pick it up.” Maybe this helps illustrate—One weekend while in middle school, I helped a friend bale hay on his parent’s farm. We loaded the bales onto a wagon. The hay bales weighed about ninety pounds so I could stack them only about three high. As a solution, we got on opposite ends of the bale (together, face to face) and we picked it up. Likewise, God doesn’t sit back and simply watch us struggle; nor does God magically stack the hay for us. We still suffer, but he participates with us. In fact, the last part of the verse says that the Spirit prays for us with groans that words cannot express.

As a teenager, I helped our family move into a new house in the suburbs of Chicago. My Dad and I had trouble moving a large upright freezer into the half basement (it was only halfway below ground). The freezer was too big to go down the outside stairs, so we had to line it up with the door frame and go over the ledge and down through the doorway. We groaned under the freezer’s weight. Sometimes the weight of our suffering is so heavy that even the Holy Spirit groans with us in prayer.

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.

NEVER TOO LATE FOR FOREGIVENESS

(Editor’s Note: Caroyn Newman wrote this column, “Father’s Day and Foregiveness,” in 2006 and recently updated it for Spirit of Abilene.)

By CAROLYN NEWMAN

“I have returned to the God of my Father, the most God-like man a child could know.” Those are lyrics from Marijohn Wilkin”s “I Have Returned.” Before singing it at church, I asked, “Is that a description of your Dad?” Although mine had great qualities such as a keen sense of humor and a diligent work ethic, truthfulness and faithfulness to my Mom were not among them. He left home and remarried when I was 12.

CarolynNewman

Carolyn Newman

I can still see the hurt in my Mother’s eyes but she never said unkind words about him, always fostering a relationship with Daddy and me. She said that he was my father, no matter what he had done. She always made sure no one knew how much we struggled and there was always fresh vegetables, laughter, and gospel music in our home. She encouraged Daddy to send me to college. Now there was a miracle waiting to happen! Of all things, I chose Baylor University with no clue about how expensive it was. I just knew it was God’s will for me to go there. I went one semester at a time. Sometimes he would call and say, “You have to come home, I can’t make the payment.” He would call within the next few days with good news, “I sold three Pontiacs. You can stay.” He worked hard to see that I had educational opportunities he and my Mom never experienced. I made sure I let him know how grateful I was.

Here’s the forgiveness part: Some years ago, I went back to the Baylor campus and heard the Pat Neff chimes. At that moment I thought, “Daddy, I know you were sorry that you left Mother and me but God allowed you to send me to Baylor where I would earn a bachelor of music education degree and would meet my husband. We now are blessed with a daughter, son-in-law, son, daughter-in-law, and six grandchildren. At that memorable, emotional moment I said aloud, “Daddy, I forgive you and I thank you for sending me to this university.” Although it took 50 years, I cannot find adequate words to describe the feeling of complete forgiveness. Leaving Waco, heading for Houston, we came upon the road sign for the town of Marlin, which was the first name of my Daddy. Then we came to another small town and it gave me chills when I saw the last name of my Daddy on the sign. Beyond conincidence, I knew that was an affirmation that God and Daddy were smiling. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

Carolyn Newman is a retired public school music specialist who spent much of her career at Dyess Elementary School. 

SPIRITUAL RESPONSE TO DISASTER

IMG_3103 (1)

Trey Hudgens, foreground, participated in the June 5-7 Disaster Spiritual Training at Hendrick Medical Center. Hudgens is director for global engagement at Hardin-Simmons University. Photo by Loretta Fulton

By LORETTA FULTON

Say the words “first responder” and an image of a firefighter, law enforcement officer, or paramedic most likely will come to mind.

But what about the spiritual needs of the people affected by the trauma and their loved ones? That’s where “first responder” takes on an additional meaning. And that’s where people like Dan Franklin and his Texas Crisis Resiliancy Team come into play. Franklin is director of the TCRT and also is an associate in the office of chaplaincy relations for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He led a Disaster Spiritual Care Training session June 5-7 at Hendrick Medical Center.

img_3105.jpgFranklin literally wrote the book on Diaster Spiritual Care. His training manual was used during the session at Hendrick and was packed with good advice, guidelines, and “do’s and don’ts.”

A major point of emphasis was working with people of diverse cultures and religions–something that just about everyone responding to disasters is bound to encounter. A major “no-no” is “preaching” or trying to convert someone to Christianity during a crisis situation.

“We don’t go out there trying to make them like us,” Franklin said.

Also, Franklin advised, don’t pity, judge, try to be humorous, or interrupt a person talking. Always communicate respect and if you inadvertently offend someone, apologize immediately.

Spiritual care providers often are ordained ministers, but that isn’t required. In breakout sessions, students formed small groups for discussion. A recurring phrase was “intentional engagement.” Trey Hudgens is director for global engagement at Hardin-Simmons University. He works with students, and their families, from countries all over the world and from diverse backgrounds.

Hudgens lived in Shreveport when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Thousands of victims fled to Shreveport and Hudgens learned something about spiritual caregiving from that experience, which has proved useful to him in working with students from diverse backgrounds. At Shreveport, he observed the interaction of Red Cross workers with the hurricane victims.

“When was the last time you had a meal?” they would ask, realizing that meeting immediate needs and engaging a person to take his mind of his plight was extremely important.

Bermsoo Kim is a chaplain at Dyess Air Force Base. When a civilian contractor committed suicide in December 2017, the base commander gathered everyone together for the purpose of intentional engagement.

“Some people kind of shut down, especially people who are impacted,” Kim said. “I think that actually helped me.”

Another discussion group member was Bob Pipes, part-time chaplain for the Abilene Police Department. When police responded to a call that a man had found his wife dead in their home, Pipes observed how the responding officer handled the situation. The man was from India and Pipes asked him about life in India, intentionally engaging him in a conversation that provided distraction.

“It got his mind off what had happened,” Pipes said.

Franklin, who led the training, spent 30 years as an Army chaplain, with his last assignment at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The Texas Crisis Resiliency Team he leads is a member of the Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (Texas VOAD).

The TCRT and leadership leans toward Baptist but is open to anyone. The board of directors currently has members of other denominations and Franklin wants that trend to continue.

“We’re trying to be as diverse as we can,” he said.