Jun 25

Work and Play Day with Counselors from FLBC!

cirlce-games

Jonah, Sam, Ian, Nicki, and Kelly–five awesome counselors from Flathead Lake Bible Camp–came for a special visit to campus on June 14th. They were in town service St. John’s Lutheran Church by running their Vacation Bible School, and decided that after a full day of fun with the children of St. John’s, they’d like to come up and see what Intermountain’s Residential program is all about!

explaining the game, "Grizzly-Trout-Mosquito"

explaining the game, “Grizzly-Trout-Mosquito”

The weather was a little iffy, so were gathered for games in the multi-purpose room to start out. We learned two new circle games: “Have you seen my cat?” and “Grizzly-Trout-Mosquito!” The children had a lot of fun, and Chaplain Chris added to his repertoire of games too! From there, children were excused to their cottages while Chaplain Chris gave our visitors a brief history of Intermountain, what our approach to residential treatment is, and how the chaplain’s program fits in. Jonah, Sam, Ian, Nicki, and Kelly were all very impressed by the dedication of our staff and the mission of Intermountain. As members of the ELCA, they were proud to hear that they were already a part of our newest supporting denomination!

After the quick orientation and discussion with Chaplain Chris, they split up to hang out with Bridger and Beta cottages for the evening and ate dinner with staff and kids. The menu for the evening was meatball subs, which went over–or should we say ‘down?’–well! The kids enjoyed a chance to entertain guests and share a little about themselves. The direct care staff also answered questions and helped our guests understand just

Huddling up to explain a game

Huddling up to explain a game

how the treatment model gets “fleshed out” in day-to-day living in the cottage and school.

Finally, as if that weren’t already enough, our friends from FLBC also helped sort some donations and do a quick inventory of clothing and shoes in our donations room with Gabi, our Donations Coordinator. By the time their visit ended, Jonah, Sam, Nicki and Kelly all had smiles on their faces and gratitude in their hearts for the opportunity to see first hand what all the hard work in Intermountain’s mission and ministry results in–hope and healing for children and their families. Who knows, just maybe after all their college studies we’ll see a few of them back in Montana, working for Intermountain?

After the games and dinner, these hearty counselors worked in the donations room!

After the games and dinner, these hearty counselors worked in the donations room!

Jun 17

Was Jesus’ Ministry “Trauma-informed?” [part 1]

I have written before about a growing trend in education, mental health, social services, and health care that has now extended to ministry settings: becoming trauma-informed. Trauma results when we experience something as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening. A traumatic event, circumstance or series of events leaves a lasting effect on our ability to experience “life to the full” as Jesus intended (John 10:10). Adversity, and particularly traumatic stress in childhood, leaves us scarred—affecting our mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Trauma, adversity and toxic stress are profoundly individualized phenomena, as each individual internalizes difficult circumstances, including abuse and neglect, differently.

As a Christian, everything I encounter that purports to impact ministry must run through a fairly simply lens: is it scriptural, and can I see it as something Jesus would endorse? These are important considerations if my ministry is to remain focused on its at-Custerfundamental purpose and calling: to expand the Kingdom of God as embodied in Jesus’ ministry. I imagine my personal concern is shared with many other leaders in the Church when considering the trauma-informed movement: was Jesus and his ministry “trauma-informed?”

That question entails more than it might seem at first blush, and since a large part of my work is advocacy and empowerment of local churches to meet the needs of hurting children and families in their communities, I want to properly answer the question. Therefore, I plan on take a series of posts to work through the framework provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and examine it point by point in light of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in Scripture. In this first post in the series, I will focus only on the first identifier of a trauma-informed ministry: the realization of the widespread impact of trauma and potential paths for recovery.

So you, the reader, can see the full context of this point, I will reiterate the definition provided in my earlier post. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the concept of a trauma-informed approach would mean that “a program, organization, or system that is trauma-informed:

  1. Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
  2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system;
  3. Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
  4. Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

A trauma-informed approach to ministry starts with the realization of the widespread impact of trauma. Certainly, if a church or ministry is not aware or is in denial of the problem posed by adversity in childhood, toxic stress, and the effects of trauma on whose they minister too, it cannot properly address potential paths for recovery and healing.

I believe it can be shown that Jesus was trauma-informed through any and all of these points, but especially this first one. Jesus knew the tremendous brokenness of the world, and he knew the power of the Kingdom of Heaven to address the needs of people traumatized by the evil of this world and the effect of sin. This idea comes forth in the first words we hear spoken by Jesus, and an important teaching which announced the beginning of his formal ministry.

Those first words of Jesus? “The time has come… The Kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15, NIV).

That announcement of Jesus to inaugurate and frame his ministry? Jesus had gone returned to Galilee after his baptism and testing in the wilderness. He entered into the synagogue he grew up in, in his hometown of Nazareth. He stood up to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah on the Sabbath, finding the place where it is written:

picture from freebibleimages.org

picture from freebibleimages.org

“’The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:17-21, NIV).

These two instances of Jesus’ announcement of his role in bringing in the Kingdom of God show that he was, indeed, “trauma-informed” in the sense that he recognized the widespread impact of trauma and understood the paths to recovery! I also love the balance that these two teachings contain. One shows the need for personal volition in the healing process, as the need to repent—to turn from—one way of living and relating to the world is emphasized. The second shows that the “good news” of the Kingdom of God was centered in a redeeming work that goes beyond just personal salvation—it’s a work that addresses the wrongs done to the poor, those who are imprisoned, and proclaims freedom to those under oppression. This was a work that would be done through the Kingdom of God, as an expression of the Lord’s favor, initiated by God for the benefit of all who turn to God for help.

Jesus recognized the tremendous need of those “harassed and helpless” who desperately needed good news, and compassionately engaged them in love. He gave not only of himself, ultimately to the point of death on the cross, but also pleaded with his followers to join him in meeting the need of a world traumatized by sin and the brokenness it produces in human relationships. As he said to his disciples then, he voices the same call, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:36-38, NIV).

I hope you’ll continue with me on this exploration of trauma-informed principles as they apply to the ministry of Jesus! We’ve just scratched the surface, and there is much more to investigate. Next time, we’ll look at the ways Jesus approached the traumatized people he encountered, recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma in their lives.

 

© Chaplain Chris Haughee, www.intermountainministry.org

Jun 10

How we see ourselves–a lesson from Providence home

The ministry at Providence Home is powerful, organic, and fluid. The team in our Flathead location has the challenge of meeting the children’s spiritual and cultural needs without the breadth of support that the Helena campus has. Regardless, there is something to be said for the creative energy that comes from Providence Home’s spontaneously meeting the needs of the children in the moment, rather than having a chaplain and a weekly program to rely upon!

Recently, Charli Wells, one of the counselors at Providence Home, shared this beautiful reflection upon a practice she has taken up with the children on Saturday mornings. She writes:

“A couple weeks ago at work, I started a new Saturday morning check-in with the kiddos. Now, I can’t get it out of my head, they love it, and we do it every Saturday morning as something to strive for.

questioning child-creative commons

(c) creative commons

The check-in question was as simple as this…’when people think of you or talk about you… what is one word that you would want them to think or say?’

This has been heavy on my heart and mind as I hear the words they say such as kind, pleasant, strong, caring and loyal.

Its pretty clear what I was trying to get them to start thinking about as they interact with another but really, it got me thinking.

What is a word I want people to think of when I am brought up in thoughts and conversation?

What are some words you would want people to say about you?” -Charli Wells.

Great question! I know that when I think of the many faith-based supporters of Intermountain the words that come to mind for me are: faithful, supportive, and encouraging. There are many more descriptors I could use, but I think you know how truly grateful we are for the love, support, and prayers you send our way. Your support helps us continue the mission and ministry of Intermountain, both in Helena and the Flathead!

I am thankful for the hard work of the Providence Home staff as they meet the spiritual and cultural needs of the children in their care. They have a deep faith in the healing power of the work they are doing each day with some very challenging kids. I know you are likely already praying for the children… would you please remember the Providence Home staff in your prayers as they work to bring healing and hope to the children they serve?

Jun 02

Flashback Friday: Rainbows in June

[this post originally appeared on this site in June of 2014, but it’s a message worth sharing again! Blessings, Chaplain Chris Haughee]

Those who have lived in Helena, Montana for a while quickly learn that June is our wettest month. Just about the time we’re ready to go stir crazy from another long winter, we get a wet and late-coming Spring. June is likely to bring a thunderstorm to your picnic in the park, and thus venturing out in this fickle month is an act of faith.

But, as has been said, without the rain you cannot have the beauty of the rainbow. 99% of the time people say this phrase while speaking metaphorically. What is meant is that without some disappointment or difficulty in our lives we wouldn’t appreciate the beautiful moments fully. What is a pithy turn of phrase that might help us get through a minimally aggravating day can seem to mock us when real tragedy hits. If you have just lost a loved one or are experiencing a recent diagnosis of cancer, the phrase “without the rain there would be no rainbow” is as likely to push you away from life’s beauty as it is to draw you in.

The children at Intermountain know their fair share of difficult times, as do the staff that attend to them. In this setting, one learns quickly to avoid the saccharine sweetness common to greeting cards and popular media. Pain hurts. Separation wounds. What’s broken sometimes cannot be repaired… at least not to what it was before. The storms of life sometimes crowd out the sun to the point where a rainbow is just a dream. All can truly seem lost is moments of despair.

But then… the sun does break through. The still, small, and gentle voice of God is heard between the peals of thunder. In these moments, a rainbow brings with it the good news that God’s promise remains: We will never be left completely alone. If all should fail us, God will remain. This gives us reason to hope, reason to trust, and reason to love again. This is good news worth sharing!

Recently, our children had the opportunity to share the reasons they were thankful in the midst of their storms. They wrote their prayers of thanksgiving on multi-colored foam feet that were displayed as a rainbow on the wall of our multi-purpose room where we meet for chapel services. They thanked God for Jesus, for family, for friends, for staff, for teachers, for love, and for hope. Their words inspired all of us that walked by the rainbow this Spring to think of reasons we have to be thankful. I was challenged to consider the good news that the rainbow does bring—behind the clouds of our despair, the sun still shines, and someday soon it will break through and once again give us its light.

Good News Rainbow

May 27

“No Greater Love” a reflection on John 15:9-17 for Memorial Day

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:9-17)

 

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and we think of and remember those who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country. But even before that ultimate sacrifice, think of the sacrifice, dedication, and hard work that it took for them to become fighting men and women! Basic Training was just the beginning!!  How would they have performed in their duties if they had not maintained an ongoing effort to be the best they could be?

I think some of our modern concepts of what it means to be a Christian have hurt us when it comes to understanding the ongoing effort required by love. By focusing on the decision someone needs to make to follow Christ, a decision that IS necessary to become a Christian, we have raised a generation of believers who don’t understand the cost of discipleship.

Just as basic training is the initiation into a lifestyle of being a soldier, the new birth in Christ that comes at conversion is just the first step on the way of discipleship. That way of discipleship is the way of the cross… Jesus said, “any who would come after me needs to take up his or her OWN cross and follow!”  Those that don’t remain in Christ fall away because they don’t remain in his love… when the troubles of life come, they think it is because they have failed or believe God is failing them!  Nothing could be further from the truth… for love to remain, it must be tested, tried, and proven true.  It takes WORK.

(c) creative commons

(c) creative commons

And, why should we doubt that love takes work? What does God’s Word say it cost to show his love for us? Jesus’ death on the cross! Memorial Day weekend is a great time for us to remember that it takes work to achieve love that results in joy.

In the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire,” there is an interesting commentary on the role of “work” in a loving relationship. Jerry and Dorothy, the main characters, are on their first ‘date.’ Jerry is angry at himself for not working hard enough on his last relationship (which had just broken up).  There is a long pause…

Dorothy consoles him by saying, ‘but maybe love shouldn’t be such hard work’ to which Jerry replies, “yeah, maybe so.”

That’s the tension we feel in relationships, isn’t it? We want to feel loved, but we know love takes work to nurture and grow, but then the work or labor of love becomes just work without love, and the joy we had in the relationship leaves.  We feel cheated… hurt.  We desire love, but we desire that love to be given freely… not out of obligation.

But, what if our sense that someone was loving us only out of obligation was more a problem of our perception than of reality?  I think our history as a nation provides some guidance…

Memorial Day, originally known as “decoration day” began on the 5th of May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11 which said:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

It was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Do we minimize the sacrifice and love shown by our war dead by saying, “Well… they were soldiers. They had to know it might cost them their lives, right?”  Certainly not!  No soldier sacrifices their life because they are obligated to.  They lay down their lives in defense of those they love.

Jesus said the same… did you hear him in the lesson today? Did he die for the sins of the world because it was his obligation as the Messiah?  Because the Father told him to?  Did the Spirit compel him?  No.  It was his determination to love us—his friends—to the very end.  This is what love demands! Jesus tells his disciples:

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (verses 12-15)

The good news for those of us who realize that we need to work at our capacity to express love is that Jesus tells us how to do it.  There are four things we can do to fulfill what love demands:

First: “Follow the Leader” (v. 12)

Jesus commands us to “love each other as I have loved you.” Who is his audience?  His disciples. You and I are Jesus’ disciples, so we can assume He is speaking to the church.  If the church is struggling, it is because we are not loving one another well. Period. It’s not the pastor’s fault, the youth group or children’s ministries shortcomings, the organ/praise team/choir, it’s not the lack of money, the size of the building, or how accessible the parking is. It’s LOVE, or the lack of it. The love of Christ shown through his people draws others in.  If we can’t love better than the world, the world will not be drawn to our Savior.  Let us follow Jesus’ example of sacrificial love.

Second: Sacrifice (v. 13)

Verse 13 is the cornerstone verse of this passage. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” This Memorial Day weekend, we think of the men and women who laid down their lives for our benefit. They sacrificed to the same degree, and out of the same motivation that our Lord did. There is no greater love.  In this cynical age it is fashionable to question everything, even the motivations of those who serve our country in the armed forces. I strongly believe this is wrong… Question the cause for which we fight if you must, but do not question the honorable men and women that are doing their duty as they serve.

But this message isn’t just about how we look at soldiers and service men and women… because, every one of us is called to lay down our lives. Every time we put another’s interests before our own, we are laying ourselves and our interests down for our friends—our brothers and our sisters in Christ.  Selfishness and sacrifice cannot coexist.  One will win out over the other and will be our motivation.  And, if sacrifice loses, so does love.

Third: Obedience (v. 14)

Obedience. Funny that this should be the next point of instruction. It is hard to be selfish and obedient at the same time. You can pull it off for a while, but will eventually lead to resentment. And honestly, some of us act as though we resent Jesus’ call to obedience.  We act as though it were a burden!

Verse 14 reads, “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Friendship and obedience seem antithetical to us. If one party or the other requires obedience in a friendship, it isn’t a friendship, right?

I think about some of the reading I’ve done over the years about the bond developed between fighting men and women in our armed services. Band of Brothers, The Wild Blue, and Flags of our Fathers are three of my favorites.  Despite the rigorous chain of command and necessity to obey orders, the friendships formed between these soldiers are among the strongest I have witnessed. These men and women know that obedience and friendship are not antithetical.  Let us learn from their wisdom and obey our Lord’s command which is, after all, for our good: Love God and Love one another.

Fourth: Trust (v. 15)

Jesus calls us his friends because he has made the will of the Father known to us. Jesus’ kingdom business is now our business. The mission objective of our Lord and Savior is now ours to carry out. This is tremendous trust. Trust is a sure sign of love. Where there is a lack of trust, there is a lack of love.  And, likewise, love… real love… demands that we trust.

At some point, we must make that choice. Be open and vulnerable, and choose to follow Christ’s lead, sacrifice, obey, and trust. This brings us to my last point: because we have been chosen, we have a choice to make. Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other” (verse 16-17).

God chose us in Jesus Christ! Wow! But what is most remarkable is that God chose us in Christ while we were still in our sin. Romans 5:5-11 points out that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” We were his enemies because of our sin, yet he laid down his life.

And how can our response to that kind of love be anything less than our all—our everything? How can we hold onto petty grievances and arguments about things that don’t matter in the course of eternity?  This is why I believe with all my heart that, God’s love compels us to choose love (v. 17). That is the choice we have, each and every one of us, today. Will we choose to love?

Thank you for considering this passage with me today, its importance to our lives, and its relevance to this Memorial Day weekend. I would like to close with a short story by Max Lucado, called “Come Home,” that shows the power grace can wield when we choose to love:

Maria had a beautiful daughter named Christina who wanted to leave their poor little village to enjoy the bright lights of Rio de Janeiro. Knowing her mother would never give her permission to leave, Christina packed a few things and left home one morning before dawn, leaving just a note behind. Maria, the mother, was heartbroken.

Maria quickly packed some things to go in search of her daughter. She stopped at a drugstore on the way to the bus station and spent most of her money having pictures of herself made in the photography booth. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money, and she also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to ever give up. So Maria searched in the worst parts of Rio de Janeiro, her heart breaking knowing that her daughter would have to do unthinkable things just to be able to survive. At each place Maria stopped-street corners, lobbies of seedy hotels, bathroom mirrors—she would write a note on the back of a picture of herself, a photo, and tape it up for everybody to see.

It didn’t take long for the money and the pictures to run out, so eventually Maria had to return to her village without Christina, heartsick that her daughter was lost in that urban jungle of Rio.

A month later, Christina descended the hotel stairs of one of those seedy hotels, her young face tired, her bright eyes faded and dull, her countenance fallen—a broken person now full of fear and pain.

A thousand times she had longed to trade countless beds that weren’t her own for her secure pallet back home in her little village. Now her little village seemed so far away in so many ways… lost to her forever.

As Christina reached the bottom of the stairs, she noticed something familiar. There on the lobby bulletin board was a photo of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened. She removed the picture and written on the back of the photo was this message from her mother, Maria: “Christina, whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been, it doesn’t matter. Please come home.” And she did.

Have you come home? Whatever you’ve done, wherever you’ve been… it doesn’t matter.  Jesus is calling, “Come home!”

And, if you’ve come home… will you join in the work of seeking and saving the lost? For every Christine that feels far

(c) creative commons

(c) creative commons

from God, unlovable and unredeemable… there should be a Maria; someone willing to lay down their lives, their priorities, and make the sacrifices that love demands to be Christ’s hands and feet.  There is no greater love.

Finally, I would ask that you make room in your hearts and in your prayers for the children and families served by Intermountain. Many of them feel lost and without hope. They need to know they are loved. We can show them, by laying down our lives, giving of ourselves, and sacrificing on their behalf. May God bless you this Memorial Day weekend and always.

May 24

African Children’s Choir visits Helena Campus

bus-parked

Every once in a while, a unique and special opportunity presents itself for the children of Intermountain to connect with other children who have experienced many of the same difficulties they must face, even if their stories started on opposite sides of the globe. Such was the case when Chaplain Chris Haughee was able to arrange for the African Children’s Choir to come and visit campus while they were in Montana on their West Coast tour of the United States. While Intermountain started from the hard work of the Deaconesses rallying around Brother Van’s call that the suffering of children not go unanswered, a similar vision birthed a ministry on the African continent. Here is just a part of that story:

Thirty years ago, Ray Barnett was on a humanitarian trip to war-torn Uganda when he gave a small boy a ride from his decimated home to the safety of another village. During the journey, the child did what he knew how to do best–he sang. That simple song of dignity and hope became the catalyst for a program, that has changed the lives of thousands of children and reshaped the future of the African continent.

“When I went back to Canada and people were not very interested in Uganda, I remembered this small boy,” Ray explained. “I knew that if only a group of these beautiful children could go to the West, people would be deeply moved and would certainly want to help.” From this the African Children’s Choir was born.African Children Choir1

The African Children’s Choir is composed of African children, aged 7 to 10 years old. Many have lost one or both parents through the devastation of war, famine and disease. They represent all the children of the continent and demonstrate the potential of African children to become strong leaders for a better future in their land.

the children warmed up for their concert on the bus and got to hear a little bit about the ministry of Intermountain from Chaplain Chris

the children warmed up for their concert on the bus and got to hear a little bit about the ministry of Intermountain from Chaplain Chris

Tour leader Eva, choir director Mary, and pastor Jeffrey accompanied the children to Intermountain’s Helena campus on May 16th for an intimate concert for our children in residence and day treatment kids. The children were from 5 different tribes from all over Uganda who had gathered to be part of the school in Kampala from which the choir originated. They sang in their native language as well as English, and their energetic dancing stirred all of those in attendance.

A unique part of this particular concert was that our children got to share a song of thanks and welcome, too, and then were able to meet and greet the children individually at the conclusion of the time together. It may or may not be true that Chaplain Chris picked up some new dance moves from a few of the children in the choir! Regardless everyone had a wonderful time and enjoyed getting to see and hear a beautiful expression of the Ugandan culture.Choir-warm-up

May 20

New Horizons back again for Spring Concert in chapel

Nancy-conductingNancy Trudell, Intermountain Board member, coordinated with Chaplain Chris to once again bring the New Horizons Community Band to a Tuesday chapel time in May.  The band has visited campus a number of times before, each time bringing energy and enthusiasm to their music and their interaction with kids and staff.

The band is made up of 52 community members, from a variety of backgrounds, ages and experience who enjoy playing together.  This most recent visit to campus was especially fun, because the program consisted of music from Star Wars, which is VERY popular with our children in residence. They also played a medley of Disney songs featuring tunes from a Jungle Book to The Little Mermaid. The closing piece was the theme to Pirates of the Caribbean, and Nancy herself conducted while wearing a pirate’s hat and wig!

Chaplain Chris billed the Spring Concert as a special visit from New Horizons, complete with “instrument petting zoo!” It was fun to hear from the children what they expected the “petting zoo” to be. Though no animals were involved, all of the children’s eyes lit up when they learned that they would get a chance to play trumpets, child-plays-saxpercussion, trombones, and other instruments. It was entertaining to watch one of our littlest girls on campus play a Baritone Saxophone that was as tall as she was… and she was delighted when the band members moved the keys and she played a few notes!

The children enjoy the relationships they have built with the band members by this point, some of them having seen the band a few times during their treatment now. And, of course the band members love the interaction with the children. You can see from the smile in the picture to the right just how much fun we have amidst all the noise!

Chaplain Chris was asked by one of the kids during the introduction time: “What does music have to do with chapel and God?” Chaplain Chris’ response, “Well, who do you suppose invented music and puts the songs in the hearts and minds of the composers? I think God smiles when he sees you try something new, play and instrument you have never seen before, and feel good about it… don’t you?” And, to that, all in attendance agreed and said a hearty amen!

May 16

“We shall be holy” Reflection by Janet Tatz, Jewish Educator

This week’s Torah portion is entitled, “K’Doshim,” which means “to be holy” or holiness. It can be found in Leviticus 19:1-20:27. The parsha or Torah portion begins with the words: k’doshim tihihu, tihihu being the plural form of “you.” G-d spoke to Moses saying, “Tell all of the people that they should be Holy, as I am holy.” What an awesome and challenging message! Each of us, individually and as a whole have been tasked by G-d to live out our days in holy community with each other. Not just the priests or the leaders but each and every one of us. No small task.Janet-Tatz-2015

As you can imagine, the sages of old as well as modern commentators, have wrestled with these words since time immemorial. Does holiness require us to live apart/separate from the material world, as some would argue, or are we tasked to bring holiness into the give and take of everyday Life? Most would argue the latter, I believe.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” How simple yet profound are these words. Holiness is found in community. As the Rabbinic scholar, Hillel, said, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.” It is not enough to just care intensely for your own kind. We must stretch ourselves to love those not like us; to recognize the holy in each individual.

Holiness comes not just through ritual acts or sacred study, but in the ways that we relate to one another. It extends beyond the walls that keep us within our own comfort zones or familiar spheres. We are commanded to not just see the stranger but to turn that stranger into someone with whom we can share community.

For some, the words holy and holiness may connote a sense of mystery, something beyond which we can truly comprehend or participate in. However, within the last half of the book of Leviticus, which is entitled the “Holiness Code,” it is clearly spelled out how each of us can live a more holy life, in community with others: revere our parents, keep the Sabbath, do not turn to idols, take care of the poor, do not steal or lie, or profane G-d’s name. There are also prohibitions about defrauding others, abusing those with disabilities and treating strangers badly.

Each and every interaction in our everyday lives affords us the opportunity to “Be like G-d,” to be holy, just and stretch ourselves beyond what is known and familiar. We can all strive to treat others with kindness and compassion, with justice and fairness with respect and dignity. These are all human acts of holiness through which we can resemble and imitate, in some small measure, the Divine.

As we go about our ordinary lives, we are commanded to “bring heaven down to earth,” to honor both the separateness and sacredness of each person we encounter. We are all strangers in a strange land. Opening ourselves up to know and understand “the other” can lead to self awareness as well as a sense of peace of mind.

Ultimately, to be holy means to see and respect the holiness that surrounds us, to recognize the beauty and wonder in each day; to reach beyond ourselves; to act as a partner with G-d and each other to make this world a better place for all.

Coincidentally, as I am writing these words, I am well aware that today marks the 54th anniversary of my bat mitzvah, the ritual ceremony of becoming a “daughter of the commandments”. How much I have grown and learned since that time, now so long ago that it is but a faded memory. How much more I still need to learn! I am grateful for all the faith-based, ecumenical and interfaith opportunities living in Helena has afforded me. I strive to live with “eyes wide open”. Earlier, when I mentioned that the great sage Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do unto others”, I neglected to mention the rest of the story. It goes as follows: A man had come before Hillel, tongue somewhat in cheek, asking to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. While others scoffed at the man, Hillel responded with his now famous words but did not stop there. He went on to say, “The rest is commentary. Now go study”.

Life is a journey. We are all on a path. Let us strive to live our Lives with grace, respect, understanding and holiness. May learning never end and hope reign eternal.

NOTE: This article appeared in the print version of the Helena Independent Record on May 14, 2016. Online version available here.

May 06

What a Mother Means to a Child: Mother’s Day Sermon 2016

[note: this sermon was prepared and delivered by Chaplain Chris Haughee for worship at Chester United Methodist Church in Chester, Montana on May 8, 2016]

What a Mother Means from Intermountain on Vimeo.

 

It’s Mother’s Day, and I hope yours in a happy one. But, my life experience and ministry setting at Intermountain tells me that for many, the words “Happy Mother’s Day” ring hollow. This morning I hope to give you insight into how important mothers are, how Jesus interacted with a concerned mother in the midst of his ministry, and what a partnership with Intermountain’s ministry might do in terms of framing our thoughts on motherhood and parenting.

Let’s pray…

Lord, as we come to your Word this morning, enlighten our hearts to your deep, deep love for us. No matter what has gone on before this moment, and what follows, help us hold on to this truth: you love us, you care for us, and you want us to read your Word to us as if it were a love letter… a word of praise and encouragement from a proud Community of Hopemother, a glowing parent. No matter the example set before us in our earthly parents, or the struggle we ourselves may feel or have felt as parents… none of that changes the fact that you are a loving father, a kind and gentle mother to us. This day and always. Amen.

In PROVERBS 22:6, we are given some clear advice, advice my mother heeded: ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’

We usually think about this in terms of discipline and general child rearing, but scientific research and attachment theory, the basis for much of Intermountain’s developmental-relational approach to intervention with emotional disturbance, shows us a much broader perspective. For instance, the root of empathy that ability to distinguish between my needs and your need and then to enter into your need emotionally and care for someone outside myself, well, that all starts with the relationship between mother and child.

A mother and her baby are biologically wired to mirror one another in empathetic responses. The cycle of distress, communication of that distress, the meeting of the need, and the alleviation of distress builds the neural pathways that enable proper self-regulation of stress later in life. This “training in the way a child should go,” if you will, prepares the child for emotional and relational stability for the rest of their lives.

What happens when this wiring doesn’t take place or is done inadequately in childhood? Well, it produces many of the difficulties we see for the children we serve through Intermountain’s residential and out-patient clinical services. Remember that phrase I used “developmental-relational?” That’s Intermountain’s approach because it works… it’s built on the truth of God’s Word: if something didn’t occur relationally at a key point of development, then you are going to have to somehow recreate and reteach the lessons from that developmental stage within the context of relationship in order to heal the hurt or damage done.

That’s why you’ll see 100 pound adolescents being coddled and rocked like 10 pound babies in our intensive residential program. It’s not because Intermountain loves running through and breaking down heavy duty Lay-Z-Boy recliners! It’s because we’re going back to Proverbs 22:6… supplementing whatever mother love might have been lacking for that child in those early years as best we can to help those children manage the rest of their lives as best they can.

The maternal role is indispensable. We see it throughout scripture. For instance, in 2 TIMOTHY 1:5, Paul reminds us of the maternal influence in Timothy’s life: ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois, and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded, now lives in you also.’

Timothy had sincere faith, and he had that faith because of his grandmother and mother. Surely a mother helps form our spirit, and if she is a godly mother, she will be the first introduction we have to our Lord. If we felt like God loved us, if we could sense that divine Other as an empathetic person willing and able to take our burdens and love us in spite of ourselves, the seeds for that trust and relationship started-as I mentioned earlier—with what we learned from our mother. Perhaps it was mom who taught you your first prayers, who echoed the Sunday morning lessons from worship to you throughout the week? I know that in my life, the Savior’s voice first sounded a great deal like my mother’s! Mothers are also great advocates their children, no matter how old their children may get. This is as true now as it was in Jesus’ day. Consider our gospel passage for today from Matthew, chapter 20.

Mrs. Zebedee was the mother of James and John, and like any mother, she wanted only the very best for her sons. Jesus told a story about a landowner, who hired some helpers, and no matter how long they worked for him, they all got paid the same wages (Matthew 20:1-16). This may have caused Mrs. Zebedee to worry about what kind of reward her sons were going to get in Heaven, so she found a time to ask Jesus about it.

In MATTHEW 20:20-23 we read, ‘Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons [James and John] came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of Him. “What is it you want?” He asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from My cup, but to sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by My Father.”

Mrs. Zebedee was certain that when the Lord instituted His kingdom, her boys would have positions of responsibility and authority. After all, it’s natural to reward the best worker with the highest reward. Mrs. Zebedee was advocating for her hard working and dedicated boys! Interestingly, while Jesus did not grant her request, He did not deny it. He simply reminded her of the cost of being seated on the right or left, and then told her that only the Father knows such things. As an advocate for her boys James and John, the first thing we will see is she prayed for her sons to be… PART OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

When it comes to motivation, Mrs. Zebedee was a good mother. She wanted her children to be a part of God’s Kingdom. Motherhood requires motivation. Even when everything is stacked in your favor, motherhood is a vexing, beautiful, frustrating, exhilarating job. And, a mother’s frustration often comes from having such a strong motivation to raise her children well, to honor God, and to have a sense that they are successful and happy.

If your mother was wired like my mother, that motivation coupled with a desire for perfection often led to frustration. Certainly, my mother wasn’t the only one to get frustrated with her children… Amen? Failures in communication often led to her frustration with me; I’m sure the mothers here can think of times when communication broke down and frustration prevailed.

Maybe you’ve heard the story about the man who was watching his small children so his wife could get out of the house and relax for the day. The man’s infant daughter was lying on the couch and his son was sitting next to her. The dad went into the kitchen for a second and told his little boy to watch his sister.

He had not been gone for more than 20 seconds when he heard a thump and then the daughter started to wail. He ran back in the living room to see the daughter had rolled off the couch onto the floor and the son still sitting on the couch, just looking at her. As he picked up his daughter, he scolded his son, “I thought I told you to watch her!”

The boy replied, “I did! I watched her roll off the couch and fall on the floor!”

Well, at least he followed directions, didn’t he? Direction is an important gift that a mother can give her children. Indeed, what good have we done in teaching our children how to be successful in life if we have neglected their spiritual direction? How prepared for life are they if they do not fully embrace the author of life, our heavenly Father? I think Jesus said it best in MATTHEW 16:26: ‘What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

I think Mrs. Zebedee carried her responsibilities well. She prayed that her sons would be a part of God’s Heavenly kingdom. I think all parents should pray the same prayer for their children – and we should do this for our children no matter what their age is. I hope that in the heart of every mother and father here this morning, there is a burden to go before the throne of God in prayer for your children – to pray they will be saved, saved from sin and its consequences, and saved for eternal life. And, if you would consider it, I ask that you would extend that paternal and maternal instinct to the children Intermountain serves… pray for them as well. I believe we have provided prayer cards for you to serve as a reminder to do just that.

Yes, as part of her maternal advocacy, Mrs. Zebedee prayed that her sons would be a part of God’s kingdom, and she prayed that they would be … INVOLVED IN THE WORK OF GOD’S KINGDOM. We must remember that we are all called and saved, not merely for our own benefit, but to be of service to the Lord. That service begins in the home. It should begin with moms and dads in prayer, and then including the children in those prayers, too. It starts with parents setting the Godly example of how to live and how to serve the Lord.

It continues when parents pray that their sons and daughters might be involved in the work of the kingdom, and then encourage them in that work! Mrs. Zebedee prayed that her children would be actively involved in the work of His kingdom. And, as parents and grandparents today, we need to walk in her footsteps. We need to follow her example in… HAVING GODLY EXPECTATIONS FOR OUR CHILDREN. Mrs. Zebedee had big expectations for her children; why can’t we? She didn’t just pray that her children would be humble doorkeepers in God’s Kingdom. She wanted them to sit on thrones, on either side of Jesus.

Too often, we have a tendency to settle for mediocrity in our lives and in the church. Too often, when coming into God’s Kingdom, we settle for aiming just about two feet inside the door… close enough to feel safe, but not far enough in that anything might be demanded of us. Maybe we are afraid we don’t have what it takes? Maybe the demands of discipleship seem too hard and left to someone more spiritual, more virtuous?

Nonsense. Totally rubbish. The work of the Kingdom is the work of relationships. If you invest in a relationship, if you pray for that relationship, if you give any time and energy to it… you are working with the basic building blocks of the Kingdom. Jesus is using you and can use you in even greater ways with just a little bit of intentionality. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t sell these kids at Intermountain short either! They have the opportunity to be amazing Kingdom contributors. There is a lot of hurt in this world, and no one knows how to comfort the hurting like those who have been hurt themselves. Amen?

This is Mother’s Day. In EXODUS 20:12, we are given a commandment. ‘Honor you father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.’ It says to honor your mother. Together, we need to esteem motherhood, the maternal role in shaping human character, and all the potential it has to bring healing to hurting children. You might be thinking that your mother doesn’t deserve to be honored. Maybe she was not a good mother… abusive, distant, or judgmental. I won’t dismiss that possibility, and even if she was a good mother, as a member of the sinful race of man, it is a given that she failed you in some respect.

We’d do well to consider however, the commandment from God doesn’t say anything about your mother’s qualifications to be honored, it just says you are to honor her. This is a day in which we are to honor our Mothers. We do not need to put parameters on that, even if it is difficult. We can simply follow our Lord’s directions and leave the results up to God. One result might be a growing forgiveness and healing in our relationships with a mother who was not all we needed her to be. It may be that we forgive ourselves for any failings we feel in the mother-child relationship? Sometimes forgiving ourselves is the hardest part.

If you have been raised by a godly mother, or if you are a mother raising your kids in a godly way, our hats are off to you this morning, and we want you to know you are truly loved and respected. But, if you have been raised without that godly influence, if a loving hand from a godly mother was denied you and you feel that your life been difficult as a result, let me encourage you to recognize that there is another hand reaching out to you. It is God’s hand, and He is telling you that He loves you and that you can depend on Him. He is saying He will go with you – no matter where that is.

Maybe it needs to be for you like it is for many of Intermountain’s children, a journey back to where some developmental building blocks were missed, where relationship broke down. It’s daunting and scary work at times, dredging up some very strong emotion. But you can do it… you can do it with God’s help. In ISAIAH 41:10, God gives us a promise. ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ How We See Jesus

Someone has already gone through anything you may face or have faced. As a matter of fact, He went through it for you; so you would be able to live forever. And He is extending His hand out to you once again, this morning, hoping that you would just trust Him enough to take it; to trust Him enough to let Him lead you through not only the pain of your past, but also into the somewhat fearful but hope-filled days ahead.

Let’s pray to close…

 

(c) Chaplain Chris Haughee, 2016

 

May 03

What is the ACE study and does it matter in your ministry?

What is the ACE study and why does it matter in ministry? As to what the ACE Study is, I will let the video do the talking, for the most part. ACEs are “Adverse Childhood Experiences.” Adversity in childhood is much more common than we might care to recognize at first, and it crosses social economic divisions. It’s a silent epidemic, and possibly the greatest public health crisis facing our country. Jesus, the one who came to “bring life and bring it to the full,” would be concerned with ACEs (see John 10:10).

What does this study tell us? If you have a congregation of 5 people, statistically you have one survivor of childhood sexual abuse. If your congregation is 50, then 10. 250 members? Then 50 have experienced some sort of unwanted, potentially traumatic sexual contact by someone in childhood. Extrapolate the rest of the ACE study findings over your congregation, and you’ll see just why it matters in ministry. There is a great need to be sensitive to the traumas your church members may have experienced, and building some greater awareness in your church just may be the place to start.

I would encourage you to connect with those in your congregation that are working in fields where the discussion of ACEs has been going on for some time. Check out Intermountain’s sister organization, ChildWise, and all the wonderful trainings they are doing. Or, if you missed it on this site, revisit the article “What does it mean for a ministry to be trauma-informed?” and work through the application questions together as a church or leadership team.

There is a great movement towards showing compassion and care to children who have been deeply affected by adversity in childhood. It is my conviction that our churches should be a part of that movement, as they can certainly bring a lot “to the table” in terms of expressions of love, healing, and wholeness! I hope the video and this brief discussion interests many of you to start the discussion in your church and community: What is the ACE Study and why does it matter in ministry?

 

Infographic created to share information about what adverse childhood experiences are, how prevalent they are and their impact.

Infographic created to explain what adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are, how prevalent they are and their impact.

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