I Held a Swastika.

Part of my hospital chaplaincy duties is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

The nurse told me that the patient, Willard, had taken a bite out of another nurse. He had swung at one of the doctors and thrown urine at a surgeon. Willard had multiple organ failure and he couldn’t walk; he kept demanding to go home. “Get me a wheelchair, I’ll flop in and ride over you people.” The staff kept trying to get him to stay, to get treated, despite his violent non-compliance: because nurses and doctors have the guts to look past that stuff.

They called for a chaplain to ask about Willard’s family members, to see if anyone could pick him up when he was discharged. I was the lucky chaplain who took the order.

When I walked in, I immediately noticed the patient had a tattoo of a heart on his hand, near the inner-fold of his thumb, with a swastika in the middle of the heart. The cognitive dissonance was startling. Not “I love mom” or his wife’s name, I thought, with a bit of snark. But hate in your heart. Very subtle.

“He’s one of those, you know, angry old fogeys,” the nurse had whispered right before I walked in. The nurse was a Middle Eastern man, about my age, and I couldn’t imagine the awful things he had to go through with this patient the last few days.

My eyes locked on the swastika first. The symbol held a terrible place in my memory: when I was a kid, someone had spraypainted a red swastika next to the front door of my dad’s business. Though my dad had tried to paint over it, I could still see it on hot summer days, a scar on the wall and a scar in my head, a mad throbbing declaration of all the world’s ugliness dripping in crimson. I still dream about it sometimes, and in the dream I’ll peer down at my wrists, which are engraved with the same red marks down to the veins.

The patient, Willard, saw me and said, “Thank God, a chaplain, finally someone who can hear me.”

But I don’t want to hear you, I thought. And a sick part of me also thought, You deserve this. I hope you never leave. Then you can’t hurt anyone out there.

He said, “Look, I see your face, I’m not trying to hurt anybody. You get it? I just want to go home. Fetch me a f__ing wheelchair, would you?.”

Willard got louder. He clenched his fists and waved them around. It was rather sad to see someone so animated and aggressive while pinned down to a bed, like the blanket had eaten his lower half and he was trying to crawl out. “Come on, I told you people that I wouldn’t hurt nobody. I got a dozen things wrong with me, I’m not a danger to you, I want to go home and to die in peace. You hear me? I’m ready to go home and die.”

Continue reading “I Held a Swastika.”

Advertisements

To Love Means




To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

— G.K. Chesterton



Question: How To Reconcile With My Ex?

Anonymous asked (edited for length and anonymity):

So here’s my situation: I ended an extremely destructive relationship around 2 years ago. The relationship was based almost entirely on lust … The relationship ended badly … So for the next few years, I actively tried to avoid her because I felt that an encounter would be “awkward” and “uncomfortable.”

I was recently convicted to apologize and try to reconcile with her … But since I took something that I can never return — her sexual purity — do you have any advice as to what I could or should do in terms of making amends?


First of all, I highly applaud you for owning up to your sin and carrying forth with your convictions.  Very few men — or boys — would even dare consider approaching an ex they had most likely messed up. Not only is it excruciating to start that process, but she might be a constant reminder of where you fell short.  That is, if you don’t try to reconcile in earnest.

Of course, pray through it and make sure you’re doing it to truly elevate the name of Jesus, not to remedy your guilt or rectify a past mistake. 

Let’s hit up some reminders.

Continue reading “Question: How To Reconcile With My Ex?”

Begging For Retroactive Grace: When You Realize You Were The Stumbling Block

I haven’t lived a very good life.

I know that in the eyes of Christ, because I believe who he is and what he has done, that I’m forgiven for it. But that doesn’t change the horrible ideas I’ve embedded in innocent minds, the trail of destruction I left behind, the blasphemous garbage from this mouth that has thrown people off a brighter path.

I have God’s grace, but I beg Him for grace upon others I screwed up.

Continue reading “Begging For Retroactive Grace: When You Realize You Were The Stumbling Block”

Quote: Ensures


God’s decision to forgive Peter required the death of his Son; Peter’s decision to forgive those who had offended him would cost him little more than his pride. The same is true for us.

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another. Forgiveness is the gift that ensures my freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment.

— Andy Stanley


Quote: Unchained


Very often people are afraid to forgive because they assume that if they forgive, injustice will triumph. Yet the counterintuitive wisdom of Christ reveals that the very opposite is true. It is forgiveness alone that has the capacity to break the chains of injustice and give us the possibility of a new future — a future unchained from the past and free of bitterness.

— Brian Zahnd


Quote: Convictions


I fear that far too many followers of Christ have been sucked into the angry political polarization that characterizes our culture — a culture that has come to venerate the enraged rant as an art form. And when we do this, the name Christian is diminished to an adjective for modifying certain political positions rather than a noun for a person who is deliberately attempting to imitate Jesus Christ. This absolutely must change. We can hold all the convictions we want, as long as we can hold them in love.

— Brian Zahnd


Quote: Undeserving


“God’s decision to forgive Peter required the death of his Son; Peter’s decision to forgive those who had offended him would cost him little more than his pride. The same is true for us.

In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another. Forgiveness is the gift that ensures my freedom from a prison of bitterness and resentment.”

— Andy Stanley

Quote: Balancing


“Justice must be about much more than balancing out the wrongs of the world. It must be about making things right, about the kind of restoration that does not reverse the pain, but moves beyond it toward something new.”

— Rachel Tulloch

Burying Your Burdens



This was our unforgiveness.

At church on Sunday, I preached on why we should forgive. After service, we wrote the names of those we wanted to forgive, wrote down the debt we thought they owed us, and put those notes in a wooden cigar box. We poured lighter fluid on it and burned it out back.

As a wise man once said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other guy.”

You can listen to the sermon here.

Hey church: Love you guys. We burned this thing but forgiveness is a daily, continual, willful decision. Don’t run, but confront it with Christ. The debt is canceled: move on to new life.