Help Us Help Others

Help Us Help Others
Chaplaincy Clark County

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sometimes it takes ice cream

Good morning,
I pray the day is finding you well.

Sometimes it takes ice cream.

The Camp Collins YMCA leadership staff came into the “Y” last night; they do this every year right before the start of the camping season as they continue to team build. They show up in cars, they show up in a big school bus. The cars showed up first and then the bus. I was here to greet them and make myself available.

There was already a crowd in the lobby when the bus rolls up and stops at our front door. The door opens up and more people start coming in. One of the staff comes into the Y, looks at me, doesn’t say a word, heads into my office, and sits down.

Yesterday was one of my long days. It was a day filled with people sitting in the chair.

The chair is in my office and a place where people sit when they have a problem and need someone that will sit with them and listen.

Yesterday was filled with emotional conversations, conversations that ranged from feeling all alone and hurt, to worries about the future. I played basketball with a couple of handicapped people; I do this almost every day. I did my walk through (I call it Roger sightings.) this is where I walk through the building at different times during the day and check on staff and members, giving them an opportunity to talk with me on “their turf” and letting them know I care and am available. I was finalizing the “Holy Yoga” class that is starting soon. I held my “Life with God” class and camp started showing up just as we were ending.

I was at the front desk when the staff member walks past me into my office.

I follow her into my office, sit down, and wait; I wait for her to say what it is that is bothering her, it seems as if I do a lot of waiting as a chaplain.

She had had one of those days. A long day filled with lots of needy people that were new to camp and she was done. She was feeling frustrated and unsupported at the moment, it is a tough place to be when you do not have a place to sit and process. She got done venting: I had given her my box of Kleenex and she would talk, pull Kleenex out of the box, wipe her tears, and tell me more. She loves her job, she loves the people she works with, she loves the “Y”; she was just having one of those moments.

When she finished telling me what was bothering her I said, “Would ice cream help?”

She looked at me kind of puzzled and said, “Yes, ice cream does sound nice.”

I asked, “What kind of ice cream do you want?”

She said, “I like chocolate.”

I said, “I will be right back.”

I ran to the store and bought Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie, it was the chocolatiest ice cream I could find.

When I returned she was talking with another camp staff, who had seen she was having a day and was sitting with her and comforting her. I knocked on the door, they said, “Come in.”

I came into the office, handed her the ice cream and left them alone.

I waited another 30-minutes; like I said, I do a lot of waiting as a chaplain.

I went back in to check on them.

I asked, “Are you doing better.”

She looked at me with her tear soaked cheeks, smiled, holding a spoon full of ice cream and said, “Thank you for the ice cream, it really helped.”

Sometimes when you sit with people, they are looking for an answer

Sometimes they just need someone to listen.

Sometimes they just need time alone.

And sometimes they need ice cream.

The trick is to know what they need when they need it.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Cheese. crackers, powerbait and unhealthy spirituality

Good morning,
I pray the day is finding you well.

I caught a fish Saturday, a trout my favorite fish to catch. I am sure that a steelhead will become my favorite fish to catch, if I ever catch one!

Laurie, Abe (my dog) and I made an afternoon of it.

We found a nice spot where I could fish, Laurie could sit and read, and Abe could snoofer around doing dog stuff; snoofering around is what Abe loves to do, he is half Bassett hound and half Golden retriever. Snoofering is where Abe puts his nose to the ground and follows a scent.
Abe loves snoofering.

Laurie brought all sorts of picnic supplies; sandwich fixens, cheese and crackers…the normal picnic stuff.
One of the tricks of the trade when fly fishing is to put a small amount of powerbait on the hook. There are many different thoughts behind doing this; one thought is that it hides the hook, another thought is that it smells good to the fish. I am of the second thought. Powerbait smells terrible to me, so it must smell good to fish.

Powerbait comes in a jar and is gooey, smelly and sticky. You dip your finger into the jar, take a small amount out and wipe it on the hook, making a small ball.

Then go fishing.

It seems to work, so I use it.

After some time, and one trout later (I let the trout go), I settled in for the picnic.

I was eating cheese and crackers when I noticed that my fingers were red. The same red that the powerbait is colored. I had also noticed that while dipping my finger into the powerbait jar, there was a warning label, it read, “Not For Human Consumption!”

I was wondering if I would get sick eating cheese and crackers and powerbait? I thought about washing my hands, but that would not be a manly fisherman now would it.

I decided that I would just continue to eat my cheese and crackers and powerbait.

As the afternoon wore on Laurie and I and Abe were having a great time. Laurie and I were talking about going to church on Sunday and what the rest of the day would bring.

I did not make it to church on Sunday.

By the time I went to bed, my stomach wasn’t feeling so hot. By 1am I was not feeling well at all. Needless to say my body was trying to get rid of something by any means necessary.

I was sick.

Another way of saying, “I was sick.” Is to say I was unhealthy.

As I lay there, not feeling well. A still small voice said, “This is what unhealthy spirituality is.”

I said, “What?”

The voice continued, “This is the same as people when they think they don’t have to cut something out of their life. They come to me, and I say, ‘don’t do that anymore, or don’t think that way anymore.’ And people say to themselves, ‘This won’t hurt me. Even though Christ is telling me to cut this or that out of my life, this isn’t so bad. It is the same way that you left the powerbait on your fingers when you ate the cheese and crackers. The cheese and crackers were good, the powerbait was bad. It only took a little powerbait to turn the whole thing bad, and now you are too sick to go to church. I told a story a long time ago to another group of people about this very thing. This is what I said when I was asked what else is the Kingdom of God like? 21 “It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.'The same thing happens with sin, it only takes a little to ruin the whole batch."

When you find something that takes your focus off Christ, wash your hands of it.

Unhealthy spirituality is not good.

Don’t become a victim of a powerbait episode.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Reunions, family and Christ

Good morning,
I pray the day is finding you well.

Today starts the festivities for the class reunions in my home town of St. Francis.

I wish that I could be there, but I am not able to attend this year.

St. Francis is not only celebrating the reunion of the kids that grew up and graduated from St. Francis high school, St. Francis is also celebrating its 125 years of existence.

It has occurred to me, as I go through life and grow older, that St. Francis reunions are different. Just like every other school St. Francis has its "honored classes." But unlike other high school reunions, "honored classes" are celebrated by every class. What do I mean by this? What I am saying is this; my sister Katie's class is celebrating their 35 year reunion, but the classes surrounding Katie's class will be there too. I also know that the other "honored classes" will be joined by the classes surrounding their class.

It is as if the St. Francis reunion is actually a family reunion. We all grew up together, went through the trials and tribulations of finding our way in our young lives together. We were hurt by people, we hurt other people, as we struggled with our growing years. But in the end we still cared very deeply for one another, and it shows by the simple act of coming together.

We come together to mourn the lose of those who have gone before us, telling stories of times gone by.

We come together to rejoice in each others blessings.

We come together to sit and listen to those who need a loving ear.

St. Francis reunions remind all of us of the importance of family, and relationship.

When I think about St. Francis reunions, I cannot help but think about Christ and my walk with Him.

If I am to be honest, there are times when He slips my mind.

There are times when my thoughts are not on Him.

When I realize that I am not being in relationship with Him, I realize how much I miss Him and run to Him. Then I sit with Him and He gives me a loving ear. He mourns with me. He rejoices with me.

He reminds me to be His hands and feet.

My prayer for today is that everyone back in St. Francis has traveled safely. That everyone back in St. Francis spends their time well, and are actively present to the person in front of them. Show each other the love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service that not only you would like to receive, but that Christ commands us to give one another. Be His hands and feet. That I be His hands and feet.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Holy Experiment

I was reading Oswald Chambers this morning, this is what he said:

. . . come, follow Me —Luke 18:22

Where our individual desire dies and sanctified surrender lives. One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of our own individual temperament. We make our temperament and our natural desires barriers to coming to Jesus. Yet the first thing we realize when we do come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatsoever to our natural desires. We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself (see Romans 12:1). If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you— and His experiments always succeed. The one true mark of a saint of God is the inner creativity that flows from being totally surrendered to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing Well, which is a continual Source of original life. The Spirit of God is a Well of water springing up perpetually fresh. A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.

If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, “Come,” then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.

Have I come to Him? Will I come now?

As I was reading this, a still small voice asked this question, “Are you being creative, or just doing the same old thing over and over again expecting a different result?”

This caused me to look a little deeper at myself and ask Christ the question, “How have I not submitted to you Lord?”

My prayer is, “Lord, show me the areas in my life that I have not submitted. Give me your heart so I may better serve you while I am in this world, make me Your HOly experience.”


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fly fishing and ministry

Good morning,
I pray the day is finding you well.

Laurie, my wife, and I moved to a nice little house on a river about a year ago.

Since I moved to the house I have had this romantic idea of catching a steelhead: for those of you who are not fisherman, a steelhead is a fish. It is an amazing fish that I hear is a lot of fun to catch.

I say I hear because I have never caught one!

I am a fly fisherman; for those of you who are not fisherman, fly fishing is not fishing for flies, it is a type of fishing. If you want to now more about fly fishing watch the movie, "A river runs through it."

I have this romantic idea of getting up in the morning, grabbing my gear, going to the river, catching a steelhead, taking a picture of my catch, letting it go (the nice thing about fishing is you do not have to kill a fish to have fun). I do like to eat fish, so I am sure there will be times when I bring one home and eat it, sounds slightly barbaric just saying it.

Since we moved into the house I have thought about finding all my stuff and going fishing. I spent the last few days going through unopened boxes, well actually I opened them to go through them, but they were not open before I opened them. I found all my gear and started making plans.

I have this romantic idea of catching a steelhead.

I say romantic, because in all actuality, it takes on average a thousand casts to catch one. In reality I will be on the river, strategizing, picking my spot and casting, casting, casting...finally to tired to cast anymore I will pack up my gear and come home empty handed.

Ministry is a lot like fly fishing for steelhead.

When we first enter ministry we have a romantic notion that we will have this powerfully impactful ministry, one that has tangible rewards that can be easily measured.

In reality ministry is much harder than one imagines.
In reality ministry is much dirtier than one imagines.
In reality ministry can hurt.

As one spends more, and more time in ministry, one either begins to see success in the small things, the little things, or continues to feel defeated and ultimately burns out trying to do what they think is successful.

It has been my experience with Christ that He is not impressed with the "Big Deal." Christ asks us to, first be in daily relationship with HIm, and through this relationship come into relationship with those that come into our lives, whom ever they may be, and help them see Him.

Ministry and fly fishing are a lot alike. Many, many casts, a few fish.

The whole time I am fly fishing, I am talking with God.

The whole time I am with someone, God is talking with me.

As I go through my day, I will continue to let go and take peace in the fact that God is using me to help people for His sake.

As you go through your day may I suggest that you measure your success in the little things and take peace in the fact that God is using you to help people for His sake.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Making Room for God; a Forced Sabbath.

Good morning,
I pray the day is finding you well.

Making room for God; a forced sabbath.

Last Friday around 10:30am I was sitting in the YMCA membership office, checking on membership staff. I had already had a meeting, two counseling appointments, played basketball with Tony and Scotty (playing basketball with Tony and Scotty is a daily routine. Tony was a star athlete in high school and was all set to go to college on a basketball scholarship when he got into a bad car accident that changed his life forever. He has a brain injury that has left him with short-term memory lose and the emotional state of a 17-year old. Scotty was placed on oxygen when he was born and cannot speak. He has the mind of a four year old. Tony is 45-years old. Scotty is in his twenties.) I had made my morning rounds and was finishing up with membership. It had been a very good week; one that included speaking at summer camp staff trainings, connecting with faith community members, counseling sessions and finding resources for people with problems that ranged from relational problems, domestic violence, unemployment and homelessness, and attempted suicide.

I had been working until almost 10pm every night.

I was sitting in the membership office, checking in with the membership staff.

A typical check-in goes like this:
Me, "Good morning."
Staff, "Good morning."
Me, "How are you doing today."
Staff, "Ok." (This is actually an opportunity for me.)
Me, "Just ok? How come you are just ok?
Then the staff will tell me something that is bothering them that is making their day just ok. It gives me the opportunity to talk with them about what is bothering them and hopefully reframe things and refocus them.

I was sitting in the membership office, checking in with the membership staff.

I sat down in a chair, and said, "Good morning."

This is what happened.

The staff turns and looks at me and says, "Roger, you look terrible."

I am not one of those guys that spends a lot of time in the bathroom making sure every hair is in place before I go out the door, but I do shower, shave, comb my hair and try to look decent for people, so being told I look "terrible" set me back a bit. I sat there hoping that I would get an explanation, I did.
A board member who was walking by just then stops in to say hello.

The board member looks at me and says, "Roger, you look terrible."

They proceeded to tell me about the bags under my eyes, and that I looked exhausted.

I am thinking to myself, "Thanks a lot."

Then something amazing happened.

One of the staff asked to see my phone.

I gave her my phone.

She then called my appointments that I had scheduled for the weekend and explained that I was exhausted, she went on to tell them that the staff was worried about my health and that I was to do nothing but rest this weekend. She then emailed my wife to explain that I was looking very tired and that I should rest.

I was shocked.

I was amazed.

Both the board member and the staff proceeded to tell me, "Roger, you spend your entire day looking after us. You take on the troubles of the staff, members and community. We are only looking after you."

I admitted that I was feeling a little run down.

Sometimes God shows up in the funniest places.

Sometimes we see Him in the blue sky and clouds.

Sometimes we see Him when we walk in the country.

Sometimes we see Him in a staff member and a board member.

I went home, my wife met me at the door and made me take a nap.

It is Sunday morning, I have rested and feel much better. I will spend the rest of the day puttering in my yard and thanking God for the people that care enough to tell me when to go home.

One of the dangers of living your calling is that it does not feel like work.

I counsel people; staff, members, those that I talk with on the importance of taking a sabbath.

I am terrible at taking a sabbath.

I must learn to follow what I ask others to do.

Thank you God for showing up through a couple of people at the YMCA.


Friday, June 7, 2013


We have a funny language. I think our communication would be clearer and more concise if we had clear expectations of what our words mean when we say them. I know that we have had the “word” police in the past but as effective as these police people were, as passionate as they always seemed to be, after all every one of these police were unpaid volunteers, their efforts went for not.

Often times, I think that if we had fewer words or had actually come up with our own language instead of stealing words and phrases from every other language in the world, we would have an easier time of it.

I was having coffee with a friend of mine today, I will call her Lindsey, anyway, Lindsey was telling me about her day, which really does seem to be a vital part of any counseling session, and she said, “The things that we are doing will ‘dramastically’ impact us in a good way.”

I looked at her and said, “Dramastically? Is that a combination of dramatically and fantastically?”

She just looked at me, smiled, and said, “Yes.”

So often, when we talk with one another we use terms and phrases that others may not understand.

There is an old saying that goes like this, “Listen with the intent to listen and not the intent to respond.”

There is another old saying that goes like this, “Speak with the intent of being understood and not merely heard.”

I am not really a fan of the word police. As efficient as our language could be if we cut down on the “new” words, it sure would not be as much fun. I never would have learned the word “dramastically” or had the opportunity to use it in a sentence.

I will remember though, as I go through my day and talk with people, to speak with the intent of being understood and not merely heard. I will listen with the intent to listen and not with the intent to respond.

If my job is to present the Good News to people, I better make sure that I am communicating well.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Musings on Heaven

Good morning, I pray the day is finding you well.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.

Actually, I have been doing a lot of thinking about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Heaven.

This is something that I have been thinking about.

In the beginning was God.

God, as Christians we believe in the trinity. This being said, if we believe in the trinity, we believe that God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are one. Therefore, if we believe that, "In the beginning was God," we believe that, in the beginning was God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. I know that this is hard thing to wrap one's head around, the more you contemplate it, the deeper it gets and quite frankly we see through the glass darkly and will never get the complete picture of this until we are there with them. Being there with them would suggest, well actually, it doesn't just suggest, it means that we would be in Heaven with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Being in Heaven with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit also is a lot to wrap one's head around. We have heard many preachers and pastors tell us that heaven will be like a big banquet, with never ending food and never ending praise songs. I would hope that Heaven is more than just eating and singing. As much as I like to eat, and I must confess I like to eat, thus the reason for my current weight loss endeavor. Eating for eternity would get old. I hope that we are not just eating for eternity. The more I think about eating for eternity the more I begin to wonder about it. First of all if all I do in Heaven is eat; isn't that gluttony? Isn't gluttony a sin? I am pretty sure gluttony is a sin. Sin does not reside in Heaven. Secondly, there a multiple schools of thought about who will be in Heaven. One school is that there will only be the souls of people from earth in Heaven. Another school of thought has animals up in Heaven too (How many pastors have heard, "Will my cat Buffy be in Heaven? It sure wouldn't be Heaven if my cat Buffy isn't there.") Other schools of thought have souls from other worlds in Heaven too. Heaven could be quite the place when you start wondering who could be there.

Let's stick with the second school of thought for now.

If all we do is eat, where does the food come from?

If animals are in Heaven, and since we are in Heaven there is no reason to think that we could not communicate with animals, and all we do is eat, I can see a conversation like this going on.

Roger, "Hello Cathy." I am talking to Cathy the cow.

Cathy, "Hello Roger." Cathy the cow is talking to me.

I say, "What are you doing today?"

Cathy says, "Eating."

I say, "Me too."

Cathy says, "What are you eating today?"

I say, "I am so glad you asked, because today I am in charge of the barbecue."

I just do not think that Cathy the Cow would think that is Heaven if she is a vital part of the banquet.

I was in my aqua aerobics class this morning. As I mentioned earlier I am in the middle of a weight loss endeavor. This morning I was doing my water walking, water walking is where you walk in water, duh, with weights. I was obviously lost in thought, at least when I am lost I have an excuse. Being lost in thought is much better than just being lost, at least I think so. Anyway, I was lost in thought and another "water walker," no it wasn't Jesus, this person was in the water not on the water. asks, "What are you thinking about?" I say, "Heaven." and I go into the whole banquet thing. After I say that I did not think Cathy the Cow would think being eaten was part of Heaven my friend says, "Manna, we will eat Manna for eternity." I thought, "that is just ludicrous." First of all, the Hebrews only had to eat Manna for forty years and they were darned tired of it after only forty years. Eating Manna for an eternity would be just awful. Besides Manna means, "What is it?" Can you imagine eating "What is it?" for eternity?

Can you imagine a conversation around Manna?

Phil, a friend of mine in Heaven, we will have nothing but friends in Heaven so this is really a ridiculous statement. Anyway, Phil comes up and says, "What are you having for dinner?

I say, "This."

Phil says, "What is it?"

I say, "Yep."

Phil says, pointing to the Manna, "What is it?"

I say, "Exactly."

Phil, his face is starting to get red and his voice is rising says, "Are you being a smart-butt? What are you eating for dinner?"

I say, "What is it."

Phil, face in contortions says, "What is what, dinner? are you asking what dinner is?"

I say, "No, I know what dinner is."

Phil, visibly upset, just gives me a big huff turns and leaves saying, "I will never talk to you again."

I say, "Are we still friends?"

Phil shouts over his shoulder, "NO."

Now everyone in Heaven is no longer friends; all because of Manna.

This is why we are not eating Manna for eternity.

The whole Banquet theory falls apart pretty quick when you think about it.

I also must confess, I do like to sing. Simply because I like to sing does not mean that I am any good at it. Nor, does it mean that others like to listen to me sing. I, for one, have heard more than my share of bad singing; usually in the form of special music when someone comes forward in church, a sound track is turned on and all of a sudden it is karaoke morning in church. I hope that Heaven is more than singing. Not just for my sake, but for the sake of those standing in earshot of my voice.

When I talk to people about singing in Heaven and tell them that I can't sing they say, "When you get to Heaven God will give you a wonderful voice." When they say this I cannot help but think, "It will be like those Allstate commercials were the little girl is talking to her dad and then all of a sudden her voice changes into this beautiful baritone voice and she says "Allstate, you have the Allstate protection plan." Her father just looks at her in wonderment. I am sure that he is thinking, "Who is this in my daughter and why does my daughter sound like a forty year old man?"

I really do not know if I will be given a new beautiful voice or not; I really do not think that having a new voice or not is really the point of Heaven in the first place.

As a chaplain, I get to listen to lots of people talk about lots of things. I was sitting with a member the other day that had just gotten out of the hospital. He had tried to commit suicide and had been hospitalized. He had just been released, and came to me for help. He needed someone who could help him work through his stuff. He needs a psychologist or psychiatrist. Of course he has no insurance and little money, thus his dilemma. It took me a couple of hours but I was able to find him the help he needed. He still likes to sit with me and talk.
After he leaves, I have another conversation.

I have a conversation with God.

The role is reversed. I do most of the talking and He does the listening.

One of the things that I tell the member that comes to me is that life is worth living even though you do not know all the ins and outs, all the if, ands, or buts of the future.

As I was talking with God, He said that Heaven is much the same way. Heaven is bigger and better than I can ever imagine; even though I do not know all the ins and outs, and the if ands or buts of Heaven.

Life is worth living.

Heaven is worth looking forward to.

Have a wonderful day.


Monday, June 3, 2013

You Don't Want to Bite off More Than You Can Chew

We; Laurie, Levi, Saundra, Abe, and I had a wonderful day yesterday. We went up the Gorge and had a picnic on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The day was Sunny and warm and we all had a great time. We had crackers and cheese, fried chicken, grapes…We sat there watching tugboats go by. We sat there and watched trains travel up and down the Gorge. We watched Abe being Abe, which is to say we were watching a dog be a dog. After a few hours, we decided that we would finish the day with an ice cream. We decided it would be fun to go over the Bridge of the Gods, my favorite bridge, and have an ice cream in Cascade Locks. There is a great ice cream shack in Cascade Locks that everyone must go to at least once in their lives. Notes of caution, the sizes of cones are not your usual size.

Ministry is such a funny animal. Every day I come into the YMCA with my list of, “Things to do.” and every day I find that there are things that are not on my list that come to my attention. Some of these things are opportunities that are very good in nature. I try to look at all the opportunities and evaluate them.

Hmm… evaluate, what do I evaluate?

Great question.

My mission is to serve the staff and volunteers of the YMCA, the members that call us home, and the community we live in.

My bulls-eye is the staff and volunteers.

My next ring is the members.

My third ring is the community.

As I evaluate I always keep our mission in the forefront of what we are doing.

We also do not want to try to do something that we will not be successful in doing.

As I said earlier we were in the Gorge yesterday afternoon. We decided to get some ice cream.

Levi and I decided to get a “large swirl cone.”

I should have done a better job of evaluating.

In ministry I do not want to bite off more than I can chew.