Boots on the spiritual rock (part 2)

Veterans Day was observed in the U.S. last Thursday, November 11. This is the second of a 2 part series.  You can read the first installment posted on November 10 on this blog.  

“Boots on the ground” refers to success by direct physical contact.  In her distinguished 28 year career as a Christian Science chaplain, Janet Horton has had innumerable encounters with the men and women who serve in the military.  By her own estimate she has logged over 200 pages of incidents that have special meaning to her.  This is just one of those stories. 

Janet Horton

After some political wrangling between superiors, Horton was assigned to a post at the Pentagon.  At the time she considered it one of the worst assignments you could get.  “I thought this was a big mistake”, but her prayers led her to conclude God doesn’t make mistakes.   She eventually came to realize that she was at the right place and the right time.  

Sept. 11, 2001.  The World Trade Center had just been attacked.  There was great confusion as our country was waking up to the news.  While the world watching the twin towers burn, other events were still unfolding that would be forever embedded in our collective consciousness.  At 10:03am United Flight 93 crashes into a Pennsylvania field.  Seven minutes later American Flight 77 rams into the Pentagon.  

The nose of the plane that struck the Pentagon that day hit the rear of the personnel area.  There was an explosion and fireball.  In the ensuing minutes many stories unfolded.  One was of a Lieutenant Colonel who injures himself while jumping out of a second story window.  His legs won’t move.  Another individual remains above and throws others out of the same window. Despite his injuries, the Lieutenant Colonel uses his arms to help break the fall of those jumping from the window.  

Horton was one of three chaplains on site that day along with fire and rescue personnel.  While medics were trying to figure out the Lieutenant Colonel’s condition, she asked if he wanted her to pray with him.  She notes she always asks first, not knowing the individual’s faith background and wanting to honor their wishes. He said yes.  He was a Baptist. 

While trying to pray, the man kept yelling and was distracted by all the activity surrounding them.  Horton felt she needed to get his attention and keep his focus off his legs.  “Speak to him with more authority,” she thought to herself.  “Nothing can separate you from the love of God,” she recalled saying to him.  She continued to pray.  

The minutes ticked away.  It’s hard to imagine the chaos. Because the medics had removed his pants, the Lieutenant Colonel’s legs were now exposed.   At one point they came in contact with some leaves on the ground.  The man quickly complained the leaves were hurting him.  Everyone looked at each other and knew at that moment the feelings in his legs had returned and that he would be alright.  

Upon reflecting on the events of 9/11, Horton says she feels privileged to have been at the Pentagon that day.  It gave her the opportunity to do what comes natural to her, to minister. 

And it’s the same for other Christian Scientists like myself.  I, too, have ‘enlisted’ to minister to the needs of my neighbors and to heal when called upon.  I work hard to live up to the tenets of Christian Science found in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.  The concluding tenet reads, “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.”

There is an old saying, “To understand a man, you’ve got to walk a mile in his shoes, whether they fit or not.”  The Bible has a similar thought in Matthew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”  While honoring the men and women who have served selflessly in the armed forces, we can look to Janet Horton as an example of someone who has gone that extra mile while walking in others’ boots.   

Steven Salt

Boots on the spiritual rock

Veterans Day is observed in the U.S. on Thursday, November 11. This post is the first of a 2 part series.  The next installment will be published Monday, November 15.   

 

One of the first female chaplains called to active duty, Retired Colonel Janet Horton has had her share of war stories both on and off the field.  She gave 28 years of her life in service to her country from 1976 to 2004.

Currently, Horton is the Christian Science Military Chaplain Endorsing Agent for The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, world headquarters for Christian Science churches.  I spoke with her this week about the challenges she has faced and the triumphs she has experienced during her distinguished career. 

“Love for all mankind,” was her immediate response when asked why someone seeks to be a military chaplain.  This affection runs deep.  Willingness to be sent to some of the remotest parts of the globe signals a desire to practice what you preach.  Chaplaincy is a selfless career choice.  According to Horton, two Christian Science chaplains are being deployed early in 2011, one to Afghanistan, another to Kuwait.  

photo by The National Guard

It is often assumed that Christian Scientists have no support system in the military.  After all, Christian Science churches are lay churches with no ordained clergy or ministerial staff.  Christian Science worship services are conducted by elected members of the congregation.  Yet, this is not a hindrance for those who wish to be Christian Science military chaplains.  They do have to meet the same requirements as chaplains of other denominations.  These include:

*A baccalaureate degree of not less than 120 semester hours

*Completion of no less than 72 semester hours of graduate professional study in theology

*Completion of a minimum of two years of full-time professional experience if applying for active duty.

Christian Science chaplains also go through additional training under the auspices of The Mother Church, its world headquarters.

As part of a team of Protestant chaplains, Horton notes that 90% of the work Christian Science chaplains perform is with men and women of different denominations.  In addition to providing a needed spiritual perspective in daily military life, chaplains help out wherever they can to meet the religious needs of this special community.  Their work includes regular preaching duties as well as finding places to come together.  Dialoging with a unit’s commander about troop spiritual support is another component of the job. 

Horton learned early on in her career to be vigilant in her Christian life.  As she puts it, her vocation has required her to “come to a spiritual position of attention.”  Horton has met some resistance along the way, both as a Christian Scientist and as a woman. 

She relates a time when an individual spit on her, a hint of his distaste for her being on post.  He thought that as a woman, Horton had been given two very high medals that she did not deserve.  Rather than being personally offended by his actions, her response was pity for the young man.  It came to her, “What has this man been through to have been led to spit on another human being.”  

 Her grace and her heart-felt prayer was enough to heal the unpleasant encounter immediately.  The man got down on his knees and asked forgiveness.  Horton felt like she was on her knees too, on holy ground.  She recalls being grateful for this meeting, because the man was not only courageous enough to forgive, but strong enough to voice his uneasiness in the first place, concerns which needed to be healed.

Horton has the highest admiration for her fellow chaplains.  “Most are the ‘real deal.’  They love God, neighbor and mankind.”  They would help her in anyway they could, including handing out Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, a companion book to the Bible studied by Christian Scientists.  “These folks are very supportive.” 

Horton admits that each individual comes with his/her own personal issues and biases.  Some of her colleagues’ preconceptions about Christian Science would impact her work. For example, as a Christian Scientist she was sometimes left out of the preaching rotation.  She attributes these instances to misinformation about her faith.  Once they got to know her, once they realized how well she knew her Bible, doors would open up.  “Besides,” she says, “they also wanted to hear more of the wonderful healings accomplished through Christian Science.”

Qualification for endorsement of Christian Science chaplains includes this requirement, “They should be examples of lives lived in the spirit and letter of Christ’s Christianity as taught by our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, and able to communicate this readily to the general public.”  Horton has the credentials.

In the second installment of this post, Horton talks about her incredible experience while stationed at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, 2001.

Steven Salt

Below is a brief segment of the Columbus Veterans Day parade passing in front of the Ohio Statehouse on 11/5/2010

Christian ‘Silence’ Reading Rooms

“So quiet…it’s like Christian Silence Reading Room.”  In her rich Columbian accent, Gloria comments on a family feud between her husband, Jay, and son, Manny.  They are part of the cast of Modern Family (ABC network; Wednesday @ 9/8c).  Funny show!  The play on words alludes to Christian Science Reading Rooms, the iconic institution that has been around almost as long as mom’s apple pie. This clip is from the latest episode (airdate 11.3.10)

There has been a public fascination with Christian Science Reading Rooms for as long as I can remember.  That’s partly due to the fact that they are located in so many communities and downtowns around the globe.  There is even one in Homer Simpson’s fictional town of Springfield.   

photo by omniNate

There is also a curiosity about Reading Rooms.  What are they and what do they do in there?  It’s not really so mysterious.  They are community bookstores and hubs for the exploration of spirituality, prayer, and healing.   Just like the local Churches of Christ, Scientist that maintain them, Reading Rooms are open to everyone.  No proselytizing, no nagging or indoctrination, just self-guided spiritual learning centers welcoming the inquisitive.  Reading Rooms are public spaces.  

Each Reading Room has its own personality.  Many are quiet havens, peaceful bastions located within frenzied city centers.  The one on Mass Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay with its abundant computer stations has a synergy all its own.   Many Reading Rooms are located in small communities, some in malls.  Others are simple street side kiosks.  You might even find one at a community event or fair.   Click here for the location of one near you.                                         

I hope this clears up some questions.  And I’m glad Gloria knows about Reading Rooms.  Sounds like Jay could use one.

Election Day at the Statehouse

Well…the elections are over for the most part. I have to admit, I’m glad that the political ads are over with.

Ohio Statehouse

I spent some time on Election Day at the Statehouse. There were no winners or losers yet.  It was pretty quiet with everyone off doing their election thing.

This is a good time for me to thank the men and women who represent us, who listen, formulate, debate, and pass the laws here in Ohio. What a service they provide. And it is also important to acknowledge those people who put their names on the ballot and are willing to represent us win or loose.

Christian Scientists like me enjoy the freedoms of living in this great state.  We appreciate the individuals who lead us and we respect the laws that govern us.  We talk with our elected officials and support our legislators in making sure that all Ohioans, children, women, and men are fully represented and protected under the law.

I invite you to send a note to your representative or senator, thanking them for their dedication to Ohio. Here are links to find the members of the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House of Representatives.

60 second blame game

As the 2010 election cycle finally draws to a close, Americans across the country are breathing a collective sigh of disgust.  It has been a brutal campaign season and all those candidate’s anti-ads are finally history…at least for a week or two.  Here in Ohio the pressure has been particularly intense. The New York Times reports that Ohio is the most politically important state in America.  At least that is what the White House thinks.  President Obama visited Cleveland just yesterday, his 12th visit to Ohio since he took office.

Steven Salt

 

 Negative ads have suffocated the airwaves in recent weeks with some TV stations reporting 80% of their commercial time sold to political interests.  So what are we to make of all the name calling, finger pointing and misrepresentation?  Aren’t we better than that? 

 Strategists say it works.  Voters respond to negativity.  I suspect it has a lot to do with the way we communicate.  Speechifying today embraces nano-bites, the tiniest tad of information possible.  So how can you scrutinize someone with so little information to go on?  You can’t.  How can answers to a multifaceted problem like health care reform be articulated in minuscule fragments?  It can’t.  It is much easier to denounce in 60 seconds than to make someone understand a complex issue.  It is quicker to pinpoint fault than to expound virtue.  Does it have to be that way?

 Mary Baker Eddy never sought political office.  As one of the most influential women of her time, she could have.  But as the discoverer of Christian Science and founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, she had a different role to fulfill.  She could have used her clout to influence voters.  But she didn’t.  Her life’s work was to forward deeper understanding of God and man and to advance compassion in the human experience.  Genuineness was her approach. 

 In addition to establishing the Christian Science Church, she founded the Christian Science Monitor to combat the misinformation that plagued the media of the early 1900’s.  She, too, was sometimes the target of disinformation. Yet, she handled the attention without mudslinging.  She spoke plainly, gently.  Can we do that?  We can.

Writing about the connections between health, thought, and spirituality