The Lutheran Chaplain

Cameron Swanson

                                                                       Best Theological Reflection

                                                                                                                                                         Spiritual Practices

                             Wed Nov 4, 2020, 23:05:25 P.M., EST

To My Colleagues and Supervisors,

Greetings. For my theological reflection, I chose my TELCON with JDL.  I had a great conversation with him, and he has been a friend for several years.  I am looking forward to continued talks and check-ins with him. 

 How  your theology guided the pastoral assessmentLutheran theology says a lot about the Incarnation of Christ, his nature as the Godman, his life, death, cross, burial, resurrection and ascension. JDL mentioned that his OCD actually helps him with numbers, and his work as a certified public accountant.  So I wondered if perhaps OCD is a cross that he is carrying? And the Incarnation tells me that JDL doesn’t have to bear his cross alone:  Matthew 11:28-29 (New American Standard Bible 2020) 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

— I believe this passage is saying Christ wants to give rest to all who are weary, or stressed, or anxious.  He is saying that he will give them peace of mind.  Rest doesn’t mean our problems will go away; however, our focus and attitude IN our problems will change when we learn that God came down and got dirty with us, and sits in our mess.  Christ feels what we feel. He walks in the tension between the human and the divine. 

How My Theology Guided My Pastoral  Interventions 

Prayer — I prayed with JDL on the phone.  I prayed for peace of mind, I prayed that he would be filled with joy and hope.  I prayed that God would remove those images of death from his mind. As I was writing this, I just had the thought that perhaps JDL could benefit from Visio Divina, or Lectio Divina, perhaps. Maybe one of those practices could help ease his mind. I will ask him and include his response in my Final Evaluation. 

Listening — I tried really hard to not try to prescribe things, or try to fix JDL.  I tried to simply listen, and ask a lot of questions. 

Providing Spiritual resources — The Lectio Divina and Visio Divina are new.  But in the past, I provided JDL with some passages in the Bible about God being near, in his translation of choice, the NLT. I also just had the thought that JDL and I are both big fans of martial arts and asian culture.  He lives in Washington, D.C.  I Googled, and sure enough, there is a kintsugi studio there.  Kintsugi is a form of Japanese pottery in which imperfects and cracks in the pottery are left there on purpose.  It is a deep metaphor for the flaws and cracks we have as Wounded Healers, and as people in general. 

Asking questions that foster critical thinking — I tried to ask JDL questions 

              How My Theology Affected My Plan of Care

Telcon follow-ups

Texts and phone calls

Adding him to my electronic prayer list

Table Talks — Luther and his wife Katie allowed Luther’s students room & board at their home, and they would all gather for dinner along with the kids & pets.  Luther and Katie would comment on all sorts of topics, from marriage, to intimacy, to children.  Luther’s Table Talks remain one of his most popular and down to earth writings.  My friend JDL traveled to Berlin, only an hour by train to Wittenberg, where Luther taught theology.  He is an intellectual guy and is intrigued by my journey.  So we have discussed things, like how the churches we grew up in weren’t always theologically and intellectually stimulating. So we have our own “Table Talks” from time to time. 

Bible studies together online — we have one that we are starting together called “The Bible Through African Eyes,” starting on 7 November. 

SECTION ii: My Best Spiritual Practices

  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER – Praying Psalm 56 
  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER -Singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” with a patient
  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER  -Praying Psalm 91
  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER – Contemplative, silent prayer. I have practiced this in rooms where patients begin to cry, and I want to maintain the Sacredness of their moments, and Holiness of Silence. And also, when I don’t know what to say, I will bow my head and say a silent prayer. 
  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER – The use of liturgical prayers as outlines 
  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER – Holding space for patient’s confessions, recognizing when they confess, & providing absolution: John 20:21-23 NASB 2020 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” — Exposition–Is this an authority that was only given to the 12 apostles? Or does this authority to forgive sins part of our privilege as part of the priesthood of all believers? Lutherans call this Confession & Absolution, also called, “The Office of the Keys (Matt. 16, Matt 18).” The rest of the Bible is silent, or vague as to whether this is a practice that should be applied to all believers (or at least to pastors) today, but Lutherans have taken a theological risk, chose to live in the tension of misunderstanding or disagreement,  and have maintained Confession & Absolution in their churches (Corporate confession & Absolution is most common, it’s a general church-wide prayer before communion.  Private Confession & Absolution is optional, and can be requested).  Are they right or wrong? Is there a right or wrong in this? I am willing to walk in the tension of this. Many patients often want to “confess” what they’ve done to chaplains, especially at the end of life.  Of course, I would start with getting a minister from their faith tradition.  But if they are comfortable with my pastoral authority, I may utilize this practice one day. I remember Yhanco saying that confession could be a powerful tool to use in prayer, and it also shows vulnerability.  But I also brought this up to explore confidentiality in our patient encounters, and how much confidentiality we have in our pastoral care. 
  • PATIENT ENCOUNTER – Empathetic listening — truly being engaged and present with the patient.  Turning my phone on vibrate, and drowning out the television in the rooms.  
  • SELF – CARE — Studying succulents and growing the succulent Jessica gave me have taught me so much about growth, regrowth, and how God constantly is cutting away the unhealthy parts of us.  Also, my plant is teaching me to soak up the Son (:D) and avoid overwatering (constantly wanting to study, while not taking time to be present and live in the moment and just enjoy life). 
  • SELF – CARE Studying Japanese kintsugi pottery – The Japanese have an art form that is called kintsugi, also known as kintsukuroi, translated as “golden joinery.” As a philosophy, Kintsugi treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object rather than something to disguise. This art form mirrors another Japanese philosophy, wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed and imperfect.
  • SELF – CARE – Bible journaling — I have found it to be very therapeutic just to slow down, and turn my Bible study into artwork.  I even color with colored pencils and crayons in my Bible! I’ve been doing this at lunch. 
  • SELF – CARE — Asian philosophies/languages (Art of War, Confucius) and Chinese calligraphy — I enjoy doing calligraphy, though I don’t do it as much as I’d like of Chinese characters.  I also have started studying a little Mandarin everyday, which is extremely therapeutic.  The more I can speak Mandarin, the more I can connect with my in-laws, which is something I really wish to do. 
  • SELF – CARE – Lectio Divina
  • SELF – CARE – Visio Divina — I just realized that the Japanese anime show Violet Evergarden that I watch is a form of visio divina for me! That show is very popular, and has won several awards for its depth, beauty, and deep emotional themes.  It is helping me process my war trauma through visual images and through metaphors.  Violet Evergarden’s metal arms are a metaphor for my invisible scars. 
  • SELF CARE/PATIENT CARE – Emailing myself immediately after patient encounters — I just started this practice several days ago. I started “pulling a Yhanco” and emailing myself right after encounters.  This helps me to reflect on encounters, and also to remember details about the patient. It helps the patient because I can accurately reflect on their stories, and the prayers I pray for them often get prayed again as I am doing my write ups for verbatims, or charting. 
  •   I’m looking forward to everyone’s thoughts.  Arigato, dankeschon, xie xie ni!!