As a hospital chaplain for the VA, I ask our patients a series of questions as part of their medical record called a “spiritual assessment.” The assessment is aimed at identifying the spiritual resources they will use to aid their recovery.
The most common spiritual resource patients will list include “family,” “faith” or even things like “outdoor activities.”
Church-going patients are quick to footnote their list with the trinity of the evangelical tradition: prayer, church and the Bible.
Occasionally, a patient will turn the question on me, asking me to list my spiritual resources. My answer can differ daily, but the ones I can share with you today are writing, running, water and singing.
It’s probably obvious that I get some spiritual strength from writing. However, that strength comes only as I write with a self-reflection that forces me to consider the part I play in my own difficulties. As I write, I prayerfully seek the wisdom of the psalmist who said:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalms 139: 23-24)
I probably talk too much about running in this column, but running inspires my spiritual confidence as well as my physical confidence. When I’m challenged by life’s difficulties, running helps me see that I can go beyond what I thought possible.
When I need contemplative time, I find a lake, a beach or a waterfall. For me, water is what my friend, Tamara Chin, calls a “God Spot.” She describes these spots as a physical place where you feel God’s presence. Sometimes it’s a field, a mountain, a space in your home, or place of worship. Mostly, it’s a place where you find a moment of peace and presence outside yourself.
The water I find most accessible is my subdivision lake. It is there where I inhale sights and sounds that renew my connection with my creator. I pause to listen to the songs of the red-winged blackbirds eating from rows of blackberry bushes. Nearby, I watch hopeful kids toss lines into the water while a waddling preschooler drops bread to the gaggle of geese following him. My spiritual renewal around water is why Tam is always saying, “Find your God Spot and go there often.”
During these lakeside visits, I sometimes sing to myself. A hymn-singing minister might sound cliche to you, but I don’t think my singing has much relation to the fact that I’m an ordained minister. I think it has to do with how the hymns bring me to the place where I first encountered God.
Singing first awakened my spiritual senses as a small child in the storefront church where my father preached. My father’s preaching taught me the precepts of my faith, but it was my mother who infused my faith with music.
As a preschooler, I’d often place my head on my mother’s lap as she sang songs such as “Amazing Grace” and “It Is Well With My Soul,” and a peace rested in my heart that told me life had a purpose.
These are just a few of my spiritual resources. Like you, I have more, but my editors limit my musings to 600 words. Now, I would like to hear yours. Please take a moment this week and share your spiritual resources with me by email or snail mail.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of No Small Miracles. He is a board-certified in the Association of Professional Chaplains and works as a chaplain for both the Sacramento VA Hospital and the Air National Guard.