Walden’s Words: A new year, a new normal

waldenswords_header A new year can bring new possibilities and new opportunities.  A new year can offer new ways of thinking, being, doing, and existing in the world.

Jan2014_1New Year resolutions can be effective, but too often people find themselves unwilling to let go of the familiar routine of eating, living, lack of physical activity, certain habits, etc.

Our minds are more flexible than most people ever conceive and our spirits are more resilient than most people ever imagine.  Yet, it usually takes a dramatic-life-changing-event in order for us to actually utilize our mind and spirit to a greater capacity.

Recently, upon invitation, I attended a Sitting Volleyball Tournament consisting of Wounded Warriors from the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy.  All the players sat down to play volleyball.  Many of the military personnel wore various prosthetics.   Some prosthetics were more obvious than others.  Some wounds were more visible than others.  All of the wounded warriors had entered a new normal that required their minds to think, their spirits to be, and bodies to move in different ways.  What new ways would you like your mind to think, your spirit to be, and body to move in this New Year?

Sitting Volleyball is more complex than standing up. Sitting Volleyball demands you to stretch muscles from the torso with little to no help from legs or feet.  The ball is still moving around the court while your body has to find a way to keep up, so it is heavily reliant on your chest, stomach, and hands, and other areas- your bottom (butt).  It relies on a new normal.

The game was exciting for me to watch.  I stayed on the edge of my seat, witnessed courage, team work, and a desire to win without a need for fanfare.

Jan2014_2Believe it or not, I saw one player hit the ball with both of his hands and to my surprise, one of his prosthetic hands along with his arm fell off.  A medical expert hurried him to the side line, in a quick 5 – 7 minutes the player made the proper adjustments in securing the prosthetic hand and arm, and then quickly returned to the game.  I do not think that spectacular sports moment made it on any of the ESPN channels, FOX Sports, or any other major national sports station.

The players were not playing for million dollar contracts nor were they attempting to get million dollar endorsement deals.  It was time for the players to enjoy this game for physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual reasons.  They needed to play.  They worked incredibly hard…. for us.

During lunch after the tournament ended, my United Methodist military chaplain colleague Laura Bender and I were talking about the sitting volleyball players’ dedication, determination, and optimism as they navigate their new normal.

What should you display this New Year of your life for your New Normal to be possible and meaningful?  Ready or not, thousands of our military personnel respond to that question every day.

God Bless You, God Bless the United States of America, and Have a Happy New Year!

Feel free to look at a video of sitting volleyball at UMTV: Chaplain Comforts Wounded Warriors.

Ken Walden, UMR Columnist

Ken Walden

Ken Walden is an Air Force Chaplain Reservist and United Methodist Clergyperson. He is the author of Challenges Faced by Iraq War Reservists and Their Families.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Gil Caldwell
Gil Caldwell

I intended to write, “If a group of United Methodist clergy and lay people….” I was attempting to convey that despite our differences and our polarizations in these moments as United Methodists, I want to believe, I must believe, that at some moments, our differences pale into nothingness, as we observe courage like that of the WOUNDED WARRIORS! Our justice-making, and our reconciliation as United Methodists will come when we admit and acknowledge that authentically spirit-led and spirit-filled people, are more like each other than we admit. Could Wounded Warriors and those who are in ministry to them, become the… Read more »

Gil Caldwell
Gil Caldwell

I read Chaplain Walden’s commentary and then looked at the video, “Chaplain Comforts Wounded Warriors” I applaud United Methodist Communications for publishing the commentary and sharing the video. And, now I am wondering what would be the response if a group of United clergy and lay people of differing perspective and opinions on the issues that currently divide our denomination, looked at the video together? Would our seeing and hearing be shaped by our race, gender, sexual orientation, region where we were born, our biblical interpretation, theology, Christology, what continent we live on, etc? I think not. Rather, I believe… Read more »


Thank you for this sharing and thank you for your service.

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