There is a difference.
I have heard the stories about other facilities. No, I don’t gossip (that often), I just listen “very carefully” to what floats around in the air. And what I hear is that Signature facilies have an aura about them. One traveling, medical professional gave a competitor facility a “F” because of the “backstabbing” going on and she gave us an “A” because she feels peace and calm when she steps through our door.
I feel that the good will and love have increased here during my stay though not necessarily because of it. But I do feel that the Chaplaincy has brought peace, hope and even prosperity to Signature. We are like Sun Tea, it takes a while for the sun to heat the water so that the tea can flood the glass jar, but we have brought goodness and hope to nursing over time. That is just the way I see it after four years of listening to the word on the street.
Chaplains, on our best days, create a loving and forgiving atmosphere which can’t help but blanket the facility in time.
How does one get hurt and disappointment disentangled from the net of the heart?
I don’t know, but today I will try.
Here is my plan. First, I may to pray a real, uncensored prayer. Next, I might even talk to a trusted someone and then I may well even try to disentangle someone else’s hurt from the net of their heart. To top it off, I will have a few yuks with my stakeholder buds.
That is what we chaplains do every day even if we never fully disentangle our own hearts.
Then. I may motor to the talking Atlantic…watch the waves… strain to see Spain….and eat a fried shrimp of two dozen at Barnacle Bob’s.
We have two natures as Christians.
One is serious; the other is carefree and fun.
They are both of God. I pray and I dance. I notice the quirky in life and I pour my heart out to God in dire need like a desert monk down to his last crust of bread. Sometimes, we think that the serious is the only way and that often turns us into drudges and H2O saturated blankets.
At this morning’s leadership meeting, we laughed and laughed and would not stop chortling, and guffawing and it was wonderful. Most productive morning congress ever!
We are both serious and silly and both are sanctioned by the Spirit.
My life is a circle.
Sometimes I laugh, but then I am sad, but then I laugh again.
Sometimes I am too religious, and then I am not, and then I am again.
Once and a while I am harsh, mostly not for a long while, and then unsympathetic redux.
Once and a while I feel found, then lost, then found again.
God is close, then absent, and then my BFF again. And so it goes.
I am Larry. You are Alice, Tom, Malik, or Shanese and this is the story of our lives whether we live in Sarasota or Swaziland, and I think that we should graciously flow with the movement of the circle and not take ourselves too seriously at any of its segments.
Our lives are like a circle and I am glad that I know it.
Activities Directors and Chaplains go together like Starbucks and coffee, Barak and Michelle, and Bar-b-q and napkins.
We are a team. We do the same kind of work in that we bring joy to the soul and in turn we know that a happy soul fuels healing.
Spiritual Directors bring spirituality and joy to Activities and Activities brings fun and spontaneity to what could be a very boring, dry as a desert spirituality.
Because Spirituality and Activities know that God’s work involves Bible study and Proms, prayer along with bingo, bedside counseling plus indoor-horse racing, piety as well as play, bedside visits plus trips out to dig into a bright plate of Cajun Food, healing touch and dancing with local firemen on Valentine’s Day.
Actually, Activities and Spirituality do the same job which is the increase in joy in our residents. A joy that many residents may not have ever have know until they come to live with us where they find a Chaplain and Activities Director on the same team, wearing the same jersey, running plays out of the same play book, working in tandem for the wholeness of the resident, cheering them on toward joy.
Do not limit the voice of God. It is everywhere.
So I am driving to work this morning and fuming over a certain someone at work who had really frosted my English muffin. I set my mind to work on a solution. I talk out loud in the car. I fret. I growl. Nothing.
I turn on the radio and grump.
Then I glance at the passenger seat; pick up the top book of a pile, open it to a story about an ancient Zen Buddhist poetry contest in China and the first poem scans:
”The mind is like a mirror. It collects dust. The problem is to remove the dust.”
The second shorter entry read,
”Where is the mirror and where is the dust?”
Most of my worrying about my antagonist this morning was so much glaring at dust on a mirror and then molding into a mountain.
Today I heard God say, “Larry there is no mirror, no dust.”
As you know, we are studying though the Bible in eight years with our residents. (Job Security!) Right now we are wandering through the desert of Deuteronomy. It’s not Hemingway.
I rarely think about the study before we do it twice a week. At the last minute, I pluck my tattered, soiled, and rebound, college RSV from the desk and then I sit down without fanfare or buildup and start reading where we left off, and everyone talks, people interrupt, one or two talk about things that are in no way related and they will not stop. Some sleep; others roll out the door and do whatever they do. Others roll in at the tail end and seem to listen.
And others and I feel something almost every time we read the Bible and that something is palpable and real. Now I hate to sound religious and I don’t like to lie about religious things. I refuse to say that God is “working” when I felt nothing. I try not to make up stuff about God.
But this study that we do is more than the sum of its parts.
Residents say that the study is good.
I think that it is the Spirit.
I made the decision in less than a second.
I walked past the chapel in the massive hospital and debated whether or not to go in.
I even had a hitch in my step
And then I quickly walked on by.
I felt like I didn’t have time to stop and I am not sure why I had that feeling and then I walked on to my car and drove to work in the Sun.
And then nothing happened one way or the other.
Which brought to mind something that a fellow seminarian told me about thirty years ago? (I think it came from Augustine originally).
“Love God and do as you please.”
This morning on NPR I heard the nominee for the Secretary of the Interior say, “there is no mission without a margin.”
As chaplain, sometimes I forget that without a profit I can’t prophesy and that without money I can’t minister. In short, we Signature chaplains work in a business that has invited us in to pray, love, grow, and listen.
We Signature Chaplains have so many powerful gifts to offer, but none of them will ever be given to residents and family unless we understand, agree, and actively support the business end of our company.
As chaplain, were ever I go I have a ready eye open for referrals whether I am in the hospital, opera, In and Out Burger, or out on the town with the alluring Karen because good business always jibes with good ministry.
We are a business and a ministry.
We have a ministry because we have a margin.
Good margins make good ministry!
I now believe that there is certain time in everyone’s life when we finally get it.
And this is “it”: (get ready for the secret to existence in 11 words)
“Smile. Stand tall. Forgive. Take nothing personally. Be kind to all.”
There it is.
I am now ready for Nirvana or at least a very good day at work.