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Chaplaincy Messages

I remember with reverence those teachers who inspired in me a love of my religion. It’s been  50 years since my Seminary days, but especially on the occasion of the anniversary of their deaths, I reflect on what I learned from them. One of the most well-known was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. His activity in  interfaith work and promoting mutual respect between religions has been  part of my life ever since… and especially relevant to working as a chaplain. Below is a reading inspired by his teachings… I think it is a good way to start the year 2022….

Chaplain Gary Atkins

No Religion Is An Island

No religion is an island;

There is no monopoly on holiness.

We are companions of all who revere Him.

We rejoice when His name is praised.

No religion is an island;

We share the kinship of humanity

The capacity for compassion.

The hand of God is extended to all who seek Him.

He is near to all who call upon Him in truth.

Gold’s spirit rests upon all, Jew or Gentile,

Man or woman, in consonance with their deeds.

The creation of one Adam promotes peace.

No one can claim: my ancestry is nobler than yours.

There is no monopoly on holiness;

There is no truth without humility.

We are diverse in our devotion and commitment.

We must unite in working now for the kingship of God.

He is near to all who call upon Him in truth.

There can be disagreement without disrespect.

Let us help one another overcome hardness of heart,

Opening minds to the challenges of faith.

Should we hope for each other’s failure?

Or should we pray for each other’s welfare?

Let mutual concern replace remnants of mutual contempt,

As we share the precarious position of being human.

Have we not all one Father? Are we all not His children?

Let us not be guided by ignorance or disdain.

Let lives of holiness illumine all our paths.

The hand of God is extended to all who seek Him.

Let your deeds reflect that we share the image of God.

Let those who revere the Lord speak to one another,

Leading everyone to acknowledge the splendor of God.

 

 

On a beautiful day the wonders of creation are all around us. Psalm 104 is a "hidden gem," that beautifully describes God's blessings of a wonderful world.

Sharing it with you in the hope that it makes the day even a little richer for you.... (King James version)

Chaplain Gary Atkins

NH Wing Chaplain

104 Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.

2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

3 Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:

4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:

5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

6 Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.

7 At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.

8 They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.

9 Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.

10 He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.

11 They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.

13 He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.

14 He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;

15 And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

16 The trees of the Lord are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;

17 Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.

18 The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.

19 He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.

20 Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.

21 The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.

22 The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.

23 Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.

24 O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.

25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.

26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.

28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.

29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.

30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.

31 The glory of the Lord shall endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works.

32 He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.

33 I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.

34 My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord.

35 Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.

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I read this essay from a TIME magazine columnist, Susan Scrobsdorff, and I thought it was worth sharing as we enter summer and, as I wrote above, a hopeful sense of normalcy..... Chaplain Gary Atkins, NH Wing Chaplain

 

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Let's admit it. We're already getting used to the things we yearned for during the pandemic. They're becoming ordinary again, maybe even underappreciated.

I have to close my eyes to picture how desolate my neighborhood looked last year, with most everything closed and the near-constant wail of ambulances in the background.

The one thing I wanted to take from this very terrible time was gratitude for everything--my reasonably good health, my kids, drinks with friends clustered around tiny tables, my local coffee shop, or any coffee shop.

I thought we'd be like that Depression-era generation that still saves foil because they never forgot what it was like to go without. But I can already feel my old impatience returning. Earlier this month, just going to a restaurant buzzing with people seemed as exciting as going to another country. Now I'm getting picky about dessert.

In truth, humans have always had a hard time holding on to gratitude and wonder. The 18th-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau put it this way: Since these conveniences by becoming habitual had almost entirely ceased to be enjoyable, and at the same time degenerated into true needs, it became much more cruel to be deprived of them than to possess them was sweet, and men were unhappy to lose them without being happy to possess them.

At this rate of technological innovation, our conveniences are accumulating so fast it's hard to comprehend our dependence on things we hadn't heard of 5 or 10 years ago.

I may be just a few A.I.-powered devices away from starring as a blob-person in a prequel to WALL-E. In that version, we'll see how people in overindulged countries went from expecting stuff we buy to magically appear on our doorstep the next day, to not being able to get out of our flying space-chairs.

Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University, says what's happens to us (well, some of us anyway) is called 'hedonic adaptation,' meaning we pleasure-seeking humans get used to luxuries, great and small. We inevitably take things for granted, marriages, friendships, coffee shops, toilet paper.

Santos teaches a hugely popular class about how to be happier called "The Science of Well-Being ," which is available to the public on Coursera. She explains that hedonic adaptation is why a new car is only a thrill for a little while. Pretty soon, that car doesn't make us as happy as it did, and we start looking for something new. (Unless you're my uncle who never once got into his beloved car without busting into a joyful soliloquy about something small like the glowy red lights on the dashboard or the wonders of his Sirius all-50's-music-all-the-time station.)

So how do we hold on to gratitude after the pandemic recedes?

One of my favorite pieces of wisdom from Santos's class is a tactic called: "negative visualization." You imagine the end of a relationship or lack of access to some convenience or privilege or pleasurable experience. "Thinking about losing something is the clearest way to pop out of your hedonic adaptation because you're putting your attention on what is going to be like not to have that," says Santos in a lecture called 'Thwarting Hedonic Adaptation."

It's not so hard to picture the worst days of 2020 now. But as our schedules fill up again, it'll be more difficult to stop and rekindle the joy we took in those first forays to normalcy, like sitting inside a burbling cafe with a cookie. Or hugging someone dear. Santos acknowledges that it takes commitment and practice to cultivate happiness and savor the ordinary gifts we have been given. But her research shows that these behaviors of learning lead to increases in her students' wellbeing.

Perhaps being happier also a choice. Can we decide to remind ourselves daily that the world we've built is tremendously fragile? As we've seen everything can go dark in a week or two.

 

During The Era That Gave Us Memorial Day, Abraham Lincoln Explains Why The Fallen Fought

Memorial Day became common as “Decoration Day” during and then after the Civil War for Americans to set aside certain days to remember soldiers who died on duty, usually by “decorating” their graves and holding picnics, parades, and other events.

So many died during and after the Civil War that their memories remained fresh for many years in the minds of their friends and families, who used such ceremonies to process their grief and honor the dead and the cause for which they served. Eventually these varied ceremonies among North and South coalesced into one day that ultimately became a federal holiday.

Soon before his re-election and the end of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln faced dark days of worry about both. He asked some Ohio soldiers to stop at the White House while on their way home from the battlefield, and in brief remarks to them expressed the unifying reason he and they fought for the country they loved: its “dedication to the proposition” that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” These remarks are the “Speech to the One Hundred Sixty-sixth Ohio Regiment,” President Abraham Lincoln, Washington, D.C. August 22, 1864.

 

”I suppose you are going home to see your families and friends. For the service you have done in this great struggle in which we are engaged I present you sincere thanks for myself and the country. I almost always feel inclined, when I happen to say anything to soldiers, to impress upon them in a few brief remarks the importance of success in this contest.

It is not merely for to-day, but for all time to come that we should perpetuate for our children’s children this great and free government, which we have enjoyed all our lives. I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake, but for yours.

I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has. It is in order that each of you may have through this free government which we have enjoyed, an open field and a fair chance for your industry, enterprise and intelligence; that you may all have equal privileges in the race of life, with all its desirable human aspirations.

It is for this the struggle should be maintained, that we may not lose our birthright — not only for one, but for two or three years. The nation is worth fighting for, to secure such an inestimable jewel.”

 

Welcome to the promised land

       Jeff Jacoby  

For immigrants who come to America from a dictatorship or a theocracy, writes Roya Hakakian, “the hardest task of all” is figuring out “how to go about the business of living.” A question that never occurs to native-born Americans — “How do free people live?” — is one that immigrants from all but the most privileged backgrounds must grapple with.

Having entered the United States as a refugee from Iran in 1985, Hakakian knows firsthand how disorienting freedom can be to those who grew up without it.

“What is the shape of a day,” she asks in “A Beginner’s Guide to America,” her compelling portrait of the immigrant experience, “that is not fitted between the hours of official curfew or electricity outage? What is a night without fear? What is one that does not end at sundown because bars, discos, music, dancing, and gambling are not banned?” In the old country, it took all of one’s emotional energy to resist the oppressive government. In America, she tells newcomers going through what she once went through, the challenges are very different — not the least of which is getting used to a society in which freedom is taken for granted and the pursuit of happiness is a national ambition.

There is no shortage of books about immigration policy, immigration’s history, or the economic and social effects of immigration. But “A Beginner’s Guide to America” is something different. Written in the form of a manual for new immigrants, it is intended as a window for US-born natives on what the process of Americanization feels like to those going through it.

Hakakian, who came to the United States speaking no English, is today an accomplished essayist, poet, and journalist. She doesn’t sugarcoat America’s failings, and her book notes candidly the strain of anti-immigrant hostility and xenophobia that has always existed here. Yet love and gratitude for her adopted country far outweigh the disappointments. “America remains the pioneer, however imperfectly, in accepting immigrants.”

From the moment a newcomer arrives in America, signs of that acceptance are everywhere. At the airport, for example, “pinned on the … chest pockets of the officers guiding everyone are name tags — ‘Sanchez,’ ‘McWilliams,’ ‘Cho,’ ‘Al-Hamed’ — and, by God, all of them are Americans!” This ethnic diversity is “the surest sign of America,” Hakakian exults. “In the monochrome life you just left behind, such a motley human landscape would have been unthinkable.”

Again and again, Hakakian calls attention to such seemingly unremarkable details, infusing them with insight into the American character.

Streets, she observes, are named for trees, birds, or natural features — not, as is common elsewhere, for “old wars and bygone enmities.” There may be the occasional Washington Boulevard or Franklin Street, but no avenue or public square proclaims the glory of glowering ayatollahs or all-powerful despots.

Meaningful, too, is something else that to Americans is perfectly humdrum: Purchases can be returned for a refund.

This evokes disbelief in many newcomers, Hakakian says, since it would have been unthinkable in their native land. Yet it should evoke their joy as well, for “the exercise of returning goods is the surest sign of America’s greatness to them.” The right to get a refund demonstrates that ordinary consumers are “formidable” here. More than that, she writes, it is evidence that in America, “anything is possible because a one-time decision need not be destiny.”

Like foreign-born observers since Alexis de Tocqueville, Hakakian marvels at America’s extraordinary culture of charity and volunteerism. “Americans do not help because you are one of them,” she writes. “They help because that is what they do.” They clean up beaches and register voters, coach Little League and support struggling artists, raise funds via walkathons and serve meals at homeless shelters. Hakakian describes America as a “land of strangers” who “bond through shared love.”

Above all, perhaps, America is the “great equalizer,” the land where “you can get to know the bogeyman of your past.” Here, the detested or feared “other” of one’s homeland — the Jew, the Pakistani, the Hutu, the Arab — is simply a fellow citizen. In America, someone an immigrant would once have shunned is the doctor who treats her illness or the mechanic who fixes her car. As foreigners become American, old bigotries fade away.

Lyrical and perceptive, “A Beginner’s Guide to America” is an immigrant’s love letter to the nation that took her in. And it is a timely reminder of what millions of human beings endure when they uproot their lives to become Americans by choice.

 

 

The Perils of Reentry

 

“Mitzrayim,” the Hebrew word for Egypt, means narrow. We think of narrowness as a purely negative trait. Yet there are times when tighter is better: when we are held for example. “Snug” is another word for narrow – because sometimes to be confined is to feel safe and to be released is to feel scared.

The Israelites as they left the desert were scared. They were dizzy with freedom. Why did they build the golden calf? Because as slaves they were used to being told what to do and having an authoritative voice above them giving them direction. They craved narrowness. 

“Escape from Freedom,” as psychologist Erich Fromm wrote so powerfully, is a human impulse. One 19th century Rabbi said that when the Torah reads that God liberated us with “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” that the hand was to take us out and the arm was to keep us from going back! Yes, the Jews wanted to return to Egypt. It was slavery, but it was safe.

We are about to be liberated from confinement in a very different sense. We too have to relearn to use it wisely, to be judicious and careful and kind. From the narrowness of our homes to the wideness of the world – the journey is a slightly scary one, but also beautiful and full of promise.

 

 

To pray for our country

Chaplains, like all members and units of the Civil Air Patrol, have a command structure, This morning, after the horrific events of yesterday, I received this message that I feel appropriate to pass on to each of you.

In light of today's events in the nation's capital, the Chief of Chaplains has asked us all to take a moment and join him to pray, reflect, or meditate according to our own traditions for the nation.  His message reads:

"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Please join me, from your faith traditions, in prayer for our Nation."

Ch, Col John B. Murdoch, CAP

Chief of Chaplains

 

A Sharing from your Wing Chaplain

Thoughts on prayer as we start the new year…..

As the holiday period recedes in the calendar, we face a New Year with hopeful optimism, but weighed down with the ongoing tragedy of the pandemic. The figures are daunting, and we know that our hospital system/medical staffs are being challenged to save as many lives as possible.

Personally, many of us are limiting our social lives, living in our own “bubble,” as the expression goes… and for safety’s sake, this is a good thing. I have received requests for prayers for individuals suffering with COVID. I have a personal prayer list, my synagogue has its prayer list, and, as I have written before, the chaplains of CAP have their prayer list (to add a name simply write Chapel@capchaplain.org with the relevant information). I do this because I believe that saying prayers is a good thing to be done. At the worst it can’t hurt, and quite possibly, for there are many, many things beyond our knowledge, it might make a difference. After praying, I always feel fulfilled that I have prayed… and that is, in itself, a good thing.

As with many of you, increased home-time has meant more TV-time, including “binge” watching, and one of the programs my wife and I have been streaming is the series “The West Wing” from a generation ago. One need not agree with the politics to enjoy the episodes. But I mention this because, in a recently-watched episode (either Season 3 or 4), a senator asked for a ridiculously small figure ($115,000) to fund a NIH study of “intercessory prayer.” This is when people pray for someone they do not know; the person’s name and the simple fact of prayer somehow make a difference…. whether in healing the person or at least “directing God’s favor towards him/her).” This is part of every religion (1 Timothy Ch 2 in the New Testament and, in the Jewish tradition, the “Mee Shebayrach” prayer). There was some black humor in the West Wing circle thinking the requested amount was $115 million and laughing at the actual tiny amount,… but, for ideological reasons, the senior advisors could not agree to support it. Although personally I thought that was a poor decision, I wasn’t asked.

But it did make me ask myself about what I was really doing, and how could I really feel that my praying could make a difference.

Well, I answer that question (at least for now) by a reliance on faith, but then I researched and found that there have actually been a good number of scientific studies… double blind/etc., testing this concept… and I read that a number of them said there was a positive result to prayer re patient health, while others said there was not. And there was always the question of whether the study parameters were sufficiently rigid or correct. So, it’s nice to know that at least some studies said there was some “proof,” but I’ll stick with faith as the fundamental basis for my praying.

This conundrum reminds me of a story from one of my Seminary professors, a few generations ago. He shared that he had a compulsion to join museums. (This was in New York City and there were a lot of them!) He then said he knew that he could go to a psychiatrist and try to deal with this compulsion… But that it was cheaper and more satisfying to join the museums! 

And this is how I feel re the question of prayer. My mindset (maybe yours) is that I CANNOT know all the answers re God and prayer, and, although it’s been a fundamental part of my life for over 50 years, it’s much more meaningful to pray and to believe(!) that it makes a difference re those individuals for whom the prayers are said. I know it makes a difference to me.

So,  blessings and prayers for a safe and healthy year, and for our leaders to make wise decisions as they face the many challenges that 2021 brings.

Chaplain Gary Atkins

 

New Year's Message from Your Chaplain

Be inspired... and best wishes for a successful and healthy New Year....
>LIFE IS
a challenge....  meet it
a gift....            accept it
an adventure.. dare it
a sorrow....      overcome it
a tragedy...     face it
a duty...          perform it
a mystery.....  unfold it
a song....        sing it
an opportunity... take it
a journey...     take it
a promise....   fulfill it
a beauty...      praise it
 
Blessings,
Ch, Capt, Gary Atkins, CAP

 

Holy Day Sharings and Wishes

Hello, New Hampshire Wing,

How many of you have heard of an organization named “Caring Bridge? It exists to facilitate families sharing information about a loved one who is dealing with a long-term  hospitalization or illness. Rather than stressed family members needing to contact dozens of friends / far-flung family individually, information is posted in this central location and comments can also be posted for all to read.

The son  of a close friend is in this situation, and getting updates via the website is most encouraging to me. This is good information to know should it become relevant!

But more, recently they shared quotations of gratitude. At a time of serious illness, you might think. “What would such a person or their family feel grateful for?” But feeling gratitude can indeed help everyone, those who sense it and those who learn about it. And that can inspire us, even at this difficult time of pandemic, to look into ourselves and see what we can feel grateful for. Below are some of them:

“Hope is praying for rain, but faith is bringing an umbrella.”

 

“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”

 

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1
 

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

 

“God will not give you more than you and He together can handle.”


“All our infirmities, whatever they are, are just opportunities for God to display his gracious work in us.”

 

“The sun never quits shining. Sometimes, clouds just get in the way.”

 

“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Abraham Lincoln
 

“When you go through deep waters I will be with you.”

Isaiah 43:2
 

“I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future.”

Ralph Abernathy
 

“We grieve because we love. The intensity of the grief often proclaims the depth of our love.” 

“The forces that are for you are greater than the forces against you.” 

“And sometimes, against all odds, against all logic, we still hope.”

Coming up in a few days is the winter solstice… as the snow falls  this Sunday afternoon in the latter part of December, I read this meditation on a Time Magazine site, and I think it is a warming holiday message….

….But in the tragic poetry of 2020, we find ourselves at both a celestial and medical tipping point. The COVID vaccines have arrived at our darkest hour—literally—and they bring with them a tattered satchel of hope. Tuesday’s winter solstice both the longest night of the year and the start of our climb back to the light. From December 22 on, instead of losing daylight every day, we in the northern hemisphere will get a few seconds more. It won’t be noticeable at first, but by the end of the month, we’ll have about four more minutes of daylight in New York.  By March, we’ll have two more hours. This doesn't make the road to March, or to the long, sweet days of June, feel any closer or easier.

When I see the nurses, doctors and elderly people on TV getting their shots, often weeping with relief, I try to imagine a new kind of map—not the blotchy red map of disease we've been staring at for months, not our fraught election maps. This one is the color of midnight, and every time someone gets the vaccine, there’s another pinprick of light. 

Our nights will feel endless for a while longer. We’ll still have to fight this virus with the tools we’ve had all along: generosity of spirit and wallet, masks, patience, science—and love. Love for ourselves, and for the children who are watching to see how we treat each other.  And I know there are more devastating COVID numbers headed to our screens before the end of winter, but there's solace in the fact that the earth  -- its northern part, at least — is at last tipping ever so slowly toward the sun. 

Have a meaningful holy day… and, especially if you are a person of faith, then look with faith, gratitude and hope towards the future….

Blessings, 

Chaplain Gary Atkins

 

Thanksgiving Thoughts 

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I would like to share two messages with you. 

The second is more on the Biblical origins of Thanksgiving, which I was asked to write for the chaplain/CDI internal newsletter called The Transmitter. I hope you find the reading worthwhile... and that you have a SAFE AND BLESSED THANKSGIVING.

 1.  We are, as a country,  in desperate need of some common ground. That’s why, this year, Thanksgiving isn’t coming a day too soon.

No matter our political views, our religious beliefs, or where we live,  on the fourth Thursday of November, Americans will step outside their daily routines to partake in this beloved national holiday.

It is natural that we mark Thanksgiving in many different ways. For some, expressions of gratitude to God take center stage, while others celebrate in a more secular fashion.  Some will stick to the holiday’s traditional menu, while others will augment their dinners with dishes reflecting their own cultural backgrounds — and vegetarian Americans might opt for a “tofurkey.”

But a shared national holiday is still a shared national holiday, even as its observance is infinitely customizable and variegated. 

And even if, because of the pandemic, we will probably celebrate it more physically apart from family that we would normally be with. It becomes harder to give thanks fully, but I invite you to still recognize what we CAN be thankful for, and I invite you to overload the internet and telephone circuits to connect with those we otherwise would see personally.

There is a teaching, “This too shall pass.” Although the teaching doesn’t say when, it should give us the essential quality of HOPE that we will overcome the challenge of the pandemic. May it happen soon!

 

2.  As I write these words, it’s only about a month until we observe the holiday of Thanksgiving. Even in these stressful times of pandemic, we need to channel our thoughts into this positive holiday. 

The Thanksgiving celebration, Thursday, November 26 this year, is rooted in both the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot and the holiday of Hanukkah, this year starting the evening of December 10.

 The Puritans were greatly influenced by the Biblical narrative of celebrating the Sukkot holiday as they planned their first Thanksgiving observance. Sukkot was the harvest festival in ancient Israel, and the Puritans resonated with that idea.

 So how can Thanksgiving be connected with Hanukkah as well? Many scholars feel that the Maccabees’ “first” celebration of the victory over Antiochus and his Syrian Greek forces, with the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it had been desecrated, became a delayed celebration of Sukkot. You can read this account of this victory in the book of Maccabees, part of the Apocrypha.

 The act of “thanksgiving” is a universal religious value. Actually, we really shouldn’t need a “special” day to give thanks, because gratitude should be part of our ongoing, daily spiritual practice.

 Prayers on the theme of thanksgiving are a basic part of every religious tradition I am aware of. Psalm 92, for example, which is recited every Friday night in the synagogue, opens with the words, “It is good to thank God.” What a simple and beautiful sentiment. Gratitude shouldn’t be and can’t be confined to a given time or place. Gratitude does not have a prescribed amount. It is simply good to thank God.

 Every morning, my prayers include Psalm 100, one of the shorter, more ecumenical, and most beautiful of the Psalms. Do consider saying it at your Thanksgiving celebration: 

A Psalm of Thanks 

Raise a shout for the Lord, all the earth; Worship the Lord in gladness

 Come into God’s presence with shouts of joy

 Acknowledge that the Lord is God;  God made us and we are God’s God’s people, the flock God tends 

Enter God’s gates with praise;  God’s courts with acclamation 

Praise God! Bless God’s name! For the Lord is good; God’s steadfast love is eternal.

God’s faithfulness is for all generations. 

Have a joyous Thanksgiving!  

 

April 8, 2020

Another week starts and we remain in the midst of the pandemic. 

 

One of the most remarkable and inspiring things, and we all have seen stories of it in countless places, is how hospital and health workers, and police and first responders as well, are so devotedly doing their life-saving tasks, disregarding their own personal safety. 

 

One thing EACH IF US can do is to say a prayer for them, I share the prayer below, forwarded to me by a colleague.

 

Blessings and be safe!

 

May the One who blessed our ancestors
Bless all those who put themselves at risk to care for the sick:
Physicians and nurses and orderlies
Patient transporters, hospital cleaning staff, and security guards,
Technicians and home health aides,
EMTs and pharmacists
[And bless especially  ________ who is in  need of healing]
Who navigate the unfolding dangers of the world each day,
To tend to those they have sworn to help.
Bless them in their coming home and bless them in their going out.
Ease their fear. Sustain them.
Source of all breath, healer of all beings,
Protect them and restore their hope.
Strengthen them, that they may bring strength;
Keep them in health, that they may bring healing.
Help them know again a time when they can breathe without fear.
Bless the sacred work of their hands.
May this plague pass from among us, speedily and in our days.

Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen

 

April 5, 2020

Words of Blessing to all CAP members reading this message….

 I share some thoughts as we draw close to holy days in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious calendars….

If one thing has become clear to almost everyone in recent days, it is that we are all in this together—the “we” enlarged, as never before, to include all human beings everywhere. From China to Italy to Israel, on factory floors and in university classrooms, at empty stadiums and overflowing hospital wards, there is new meaning to the concept of “human community.” The world is without question bound together, across every border imaginable. The coronavirus spreads so rapidly, strikes invisibly, and makes no discrimination on who it attacks.

I have read of a prison chaplain who would tell prisoners that genuine freedom began not from without, but from within. In our own time, leaders such as Nelson Mandela, although in prison, testified that they felt freedom in their souls.

For those of the Jewish faith, this Wednesday evening will be the first Passover when we are uncomfortable leaving our own homes, almost as if we were captives. But restrictions from without can create spaces within. There are universes to be explored in each one of us.

For those of the Christian faith, the Easter message of resurrection, renewal and faith is a most powerful one. Although I sense it from a distance, I do sense its message of belief, strength, support and connection to the Source of All Being. Likewise, for those of the Muslim faith, I understand that Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship

 Please take good care of yourself and those close to you, as we together take care of our communities, our neighbors, and all of God’s creation at our shared holy day season. May each of us find both support and joy in   our individual faith journeys.

Blessings,

 Chaplain Gary Atkins

March 30, 2020

Every CAP (and active/reserve military) chaplain holds their position only after being endorsed by their appropriate endorsing agency. This guarantees the chaplain corp, at a minimum, candidates who are well-trained in their calling. My endorsing agency is headed by a retired navy chaplain whom I have the privilege to know.

So Chaplain Elson sent out the following message to us this past week,  and it is a most worthwhile and positive thing to share with you all. It is natural that problems make the headlines, while positive events are in the background!

Friends, we can do this!!!

The reports are that the truckers are getting supplies to the stores.

People are stocking the shelves all night and letting seniors shop first.

Carnival Cruise line told Trump “We can match those big Navy Hospital ships with some fully staffed cruise ships.”

GM said hold our cars and watch this; we can make those ventilators where we were making cars starting next week.

Women and children are making homemade masks and handing out snacks to truckers.

Restaurants and schools said, We’ve got kitchens and staff; we can feed kids.”

Churches and synagogues are holding on-line services and taking care of their members and community.

NBA basketball players said, “Hold our basketballs while we write checks to pay the arena staff.”

Construction companies said, “Here are some masks for the medical staff and doctors.”

Breweries are making sanitizer out of the left-over ingredients.

We thought we couldn’t live without Baseball, NASCAR, NBA or going to the beach, restaurants or a bar. Instead, we’re trying to keep those businesses open by ordering take-out.

I think a Japanese Admiral in the middle of the Pacific said it best in 1941, "I think we have awakened a sleeping giant."

Give us a few more weeks (maybe months) and we will be doing much better!

We have a wonderful country and an amazing GOD.

Fall 2019

The cycles of many of our activities begin anew in September, as the fall season starts. We are getting ready for the new CAP fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Many squadrons, like my Seacoast Squadron, have fall recruitment open houses as we reach out for prospective cadets beginning the new school year.
Within the Jewish religious calendar, September presents what are called the “High Holy Days,” the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. With their foundations based in Scripture, but enhanced by millennia of observance, they present universal messages of the need for self-analysis, reflection on what makes life special, what we owe to our fellow human beings, and what is our relationship to God, however we conceive the Infinite Source of Being. Only incidentally is it the start of a new religious calendar year, 5780 in the traditional calendar.

Being Jewish perhaps gives one a “double opportunity” to celebrate New Year. But since January 1, with the possible exception of resolutions, is devoted to merriment and celebration, I’m glad that we have a New Year to celebrate not only the blessings of life, but the opportunity to ask ourselves what is really important in life… and to rededicate ourselves to a life and to values worth living.

May each of us and our families be inscribed in “God’s Book of Life” for a healthy and happy year.

Summer 2019

Every Sabbath, Jewish congregations throughout these United States include in their worship service a “Prayer for our Country.” In almost every sanctuary there will be an American flag as well. I expect that this would also be the case in the houses of worship of other religions.
As we draw close to July 4, and celebrate another year of American independence, I share the prayer I say at my worship service….

“Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask your blessings for our country — for its leaders and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights from your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.

Creator of all flesh bless all the inhabitants of our country with your spirit. May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony to banish hatred and bigotry, and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country.

May this land, under Your Providence, be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom — helping to fulfill the vision of your prophet: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war any more. And let us say: Amen”

Spring 2019

I have spoken/written on the power of prayer for seeking healing for a friend, relative, or even oneself. The subject has, of course, been a topic of thought and concern for centuries. Books have been written about it… both praising the idea and denying is efficacy. But that is a topic for another time.

If you believe in the power of prayer, you understand that it is not like putting a dollar bill in a vending machine and waiting for the candy bar to come out. Rather it is directing your thoughts towards what you believe to be a higher power that, in a way that goes beyond the physical world, may have an effect on both you and (somehow) the person for whom prayers are being said. And, in an old military tradition, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” when the questions of life and death are very real, most of us feel that, at a minimum, it can’t hurt.

For those who feel it can help, the Civil Air Patrol Chaplains Corps has established a national prayer “line,” where requests for prayers on behalf of CAP seniors, cadets, their families, and even their friends can be shared… and hundreds of chaplains throughout CAP have committed to keeping those souls in their prayers. Obviously, this is voluntary… but if you have someone for whom you would like prayers said, you can email the name(s) to Chapel@capchaplain.org

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