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January Chaplain's Reflections

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christina Pittman, 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for her portrait, Jan. 13, 2014.   (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Christina Pittman, 169th Fighter Wing Chaplain at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for her portrait, Jan. 13, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

January 2016 now eclipses the year 2015 on the calendar representing that time is passing. There is a future which meets the present each day. This reality beckons us to make plans and set goals. In Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) God shares His plans which are, "...to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future." How can this be if life is full of struggle and pain? I believe when we have hope and purpose in our lives, it helps us cope through trials. Just like in the message God gave the Israelites in captivity in Babylon; that in time He would deliver them back to Israel. What the Israelites were facing, recorded in the book of Jeremiah, was not forever. Think back on times when you faced struggles and remembered with the end in sight it would all be over. 

Though we are not necessarily in physical captivity like the Israelites, as I reflect on the beginning of a new year, I am mindful of the effects life has on each of us which can hold us captive. Grief associated with loss is one aspect of life we all dealt with in 2015. For example, there are several Swamp Fox members who are no longer with us as well as the grief of the natural disaster flood. Managing through these life challenges can build our spiritual resilience. However, I do not want to stop with reflection on life's heartaches. Did you know that finding hope and purpose in life is strength in your journey to spiritual resiliency? Having a hopeful future with purpose and meaning are other emotional practices which build spiritual resiliency and can strengthen other pillars of resiliency. 

What do you face this new year?  I am sure there will be ups and downs. I encourage us all to make goals and plans to cope through the trails that may come our way in 2016. One method is to strengthen your spiritual resiliency through a positive mind set of a hope and future. There are spiritual disciplines that help us build strength. The National Guard Chaplain Corps has a pocket size Spiritual Care and Resilience Fitness Guide (2011, Quick Series Publishing) with practical aids. Some spiritual growth exercises on page six include:

- Practicing kindness and compassion: e.g., volunteering to help others.

- Becoming involved in the community: e.g., joining initiatives to protect the environment.

- Broadening your awareness of spirituality: e.g., taking a course on philosophy or religious belief systems.

- Practicing meditation or prayer: e.g., attending religious/chapel service, yoga or an organized meditation group.

Spiritual Resiliency is one pillar of the Air Force where pain is not the only growth toward gain. Consider how adding spiritual growth to your goals and plans this year will help strengthen your spirit. As the days pass, remember you do not walk this journey of life alone. You have access to spiritual resources whether a belief in a higher power, such as God, and/or the use of practical tools like the Spiritual Care and Resilience Fitness Guide available through your Chaplain Corps. We will also lead a one day workshop Friday, March 18, 2016 at McCrady Training Center, on identifying your spiritual compass to guide and strengthen your life and how to engage this compass on a daily basis in relationships at home, work, and in the community. For more information and one-on-one assistance with spiritual resiliency growth, please contact your Chaplain Corps staff at (803) 647-8265. Have a hopeful and blessed New Year!