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Chaplaincy Clark County

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The great unknown where feet may fail.

Good morning,
I pray the day has found you well.

Tim used to take me water-skiing a lot.

I eventually learned to water ski with one ski. I should rephrase this; I eventually learned to stay on top of the water for more than fifteen seconds on one ski, that is more accurate.

Tim however, could do many amazing things.

One of the coolest things Tim did was have the boat bring him in close to shore and then let go of the rope. He would glide over the top of the water with the greatest of ease. When he got to the shore, he would simple step out of the ski and stand on the beach.

I wanted to do this so bad it hurt, because it was so cool.

One day, a whole crowd of us was at Bonnie Dam. When I say a whole crowd, I mean a lot of us. When I say a lot of us there must have been at least ten or twelve. You might not think that ten or twelve teenagers is a lot of people but going up in northwest Kansas, more specifically Cheyenne County, Kansas ten or twelve teens is a lot.

Cheyenne County is located in the Norwest corner of Kansas. It covers roughly 1,022 square miles; back when I lived in Cheyenne County there were roughly 5,000 people that lived in the county. The little town that I grew up in, St. Francis had a population of roughly 1,800 people. This meant that while there were roughly 5,000 people in the county, 1,800 of them lived in town; leaving roughly 3,000 people to occupy the rest of the county. I will check my math later, but I think this only leaves around three people per square mile.

Anytime you had ten or twelve people in any one location, it was a crowd.

In this crowd, there was a bunch of girls. When I say, “A bunch of girls” I mean there were like four, or maybe even five girls in the crowd.

You might not think that four or even maybe five girls are a bunch of girls. If that is what you think, you obviously did not grow up in northwest Kansas.

Tim was busy showing off his water skiing prowess to the crowd on the shore. When he finished he let go of the rope, glided gracefully over the water, ski hitting the sand, Tim stepping gracefully out of the ski, walking up to the crowd of girls saying, “Hey.” Evidently, “Hey” is a pretty cool thing to say once you have just stepped out of a slalom ski because it sure made the girls swoon.

I was busy trying to make a campfire. When you can’t step out of a water-ski onto the beach and make the girls swoon just by saying, “Hey” you make a fire. Bob and I were making a fire. I was glad I had Bob to help me. I never could make a fire but Bob was good at chemistry, I guess that is why he is a doctor now, and had that whole fuel, oxygen, heat thing down pretty good.

I wanted to step out of a water-ski, say, “Hey”, and make the girls swoon too. I wanted to do that so bad that I went up to Tim, who was still standing in front of the crowd of girls smiling his wry smile, and said, “Tim, will you take me water-skiing? Tim said, “Sure” and away we went.

The great unknown where feet may fail.

I took off with only one ski. I managed to stay up as I came out of the water. I even made a couple jumps over the wake, hoping some of the crowd would notice. Tim took me around the lake and then I signaled for him to take me to shore. As we came closer to shore, I could see Tim was yelling something but I could not make it out.

One of the things you do not want to do is let go of the rope too early. There is nothing more embarrassing than gliding to a halt still 20 yards from shore, sinking in the water as your momentum slowed, and then having to swim awkwardly to shore with a ski still attached to your foot.

No, you do not want that to happen.

When I thought I was close enough to the shore to let go, glide gracefully over the water, and step out of the ski on the beach, I let go of the rope.

The great unknown where feet may fail.

At first, everything seemed to be going as planned. I was skimming over the water and I was sure I had enough energy to make to shore. In fact, the thought crossed my mind that I was going pretty fast.

As I got closer to the beach I realized a few things. First, that I was still going way too fast. Second, that I must not have let go of the rope soon enough. Third, things were not going to go as planned.

When I hit the shore I must have still been going about twenty miles an hour; I stepped out of the ski, well maybe it was more like being thrown out of the ski as the ski planted itself rather firmly in the sand. I tried to keep up with my feet, but could not. As my face headed quickly for the sand all I could think of to do was tuck and roll. I did that really well. I tucked and I rolled right through the campfire that Bob and I had just finished building before I went water-skiing.

I had been out skiing just long enough for the fire to take off and grow quite large. It was blazing away when I rolled through it. I came to a stop in front of the crowd of girls, hair smoldering, I through my arms out wide and said, “Ta-Da.”

Nobody swooned.

After Tim parked the boat, he came over to check on me. I asked him what he was trying to tell me. He said that he could see that we were getting to close to the beach and he was yelling for me to let go of the rope.

The great unknown where feet may fail.

As I look back on my youth there are many instances where I tried to over execute. I tried to do things I had no business doing. If I had been more attentive to God, He would have given me the confidence to know that I did not have to water-ski on one ski, and slide into shore to be accepted and loved. Tim had a gift for this and it was cool to watch him do it. If I had been more attentive to God, I would not have had to go to a place where my feet failed. God, in His infinite wisdom, saw this as a teachable moment though. What He taught me was even though I failed at water-skiing onto a beach I had many friends that cared about my wellbeing. People that loved me.

The great unknown where feet may fail.

I went to the great unknown where my feet did fail. What God showed me in this is that not only is He there with me but that it is better to try to fail than to never try at all.

Go into the great unknown.

Give God the opportunity to show you great things.


Monday, December 30, 2013

You call me out upon the waters.

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

You call me out upon the waters.

Growing up in northwest Kansas was a lot of fun. We had T.V.’s but only one station; obviously, this was before the time of satellite T.V., ComCast, Frontier, and all those cable companies. It was before computers, the internets, and WWW./////# and all that stuff.

What we did have was horses, motorcycles, pickup trucks, tractors, and a boat. Actually, I had the horses, a motorcycle it was an orange Yammerhammer 125 Enduro, and a pickup truck, a green and white 1966 Ford F-150. Tim had the tractors, a John Deere 4020, a John Deere 4630, and a 1936 John Deere –G. Tim also had a pick-up truck; it was a GMC with a toolbox bolted onto the bed. The boat also belonged to Tim. It was a Orange Glastron.

Actually, none of us owned any of that stuff, our parents did, but as kids, we thought it was ours as well.

The Great Republican River ran right by our little town, but since it was dammed in the 1930’s it really wasn’t much of a river anymore. The dam created a lake though. It was called Bonnie Lake, for that matter, the dam was called Bonnie Dam. The dam and the lake were actually in Colorado, which sounds as it was far away. In all actuality, Bonnie Dam was a mere 20 miles or so. We lived right on the border of Kansas and Colorado. A note of interest; northeastern Colorado looks an awful lot like northwest Kansas.

One day, Tim, Bob, and I decided to take the boat to Bonnie Dam. Of course, this meant that we had to take the pickup too. We loaded up all our stuff and headed to the lake. Tim was a very accomplished water-skier. He could slalom ski, which always left us impressed. The only time I was on one ski was when the water had just ripped the other one off and I was about to get a face full of lake water or worse.

You call me out upon the waters.

Bob was not much of a water-skier at all. In fact, he had never gotten up on skis before. Today, we decided that Bob would learn how to water-ski.

The lake had little wind waves on it. The wind tends to blow in Kansas, for that matter, the wind tends to blow in eastern Colorado too, not much difference. We experienced boaters called the lake “choppy.”

Bob would get into position, his ski-tips up and facing the boat, yell, “Hit-it” and we would throttle up the boat.

Bob would come most of the way out of the water, bent at the waist with his nose almost touching his toes, arms stretched out straight. Just when we thought he would get up on top of the water and ski he would start to wobble; the wobble becoming more pronounced until he would fall back into the water. He kept a death grip on the towline and we would always have to yell, “Let go.” I was afraid we were going to drown Bob.

The water was “choppy. Bob’s line of sight reduced to a few feet when he bobbed (no pun intended) in the water.
You call me out upon the waters.

A funny phenomenon occurred that day.

Bonnie Dam had many critters that called the lake home. There were deer, coyotes, rabbits, snakes, all sorts of land creatures. Bob was not concerned with land creatures at that moment he was in the water. Bonnie Dam had trout, bass, bluegills carp, and catfish. We had grown up with horror stories of giant catfish that would grab people and eat them. I do not think any of these stories are true, but back when I was a kid we thought about catfish a lot when we were in the lake.

The funny phenomenon was that as the water temperature heated up in the lake it became hypoxic. Hypoxia is when the oxygen levels in the water become low. In itself, hypoxia is not funny, what was funny was that carp, a family of fish that tend to grow large in lakes. Come to the surface and gulp air when the oxygenation of the water falls below certain levels.

The water was “choppy.”

The carp were coming to the surface.

Bob was bobbing.

We saw the carp coming.

We kept asking Bob if he was ready to try again.

Bob kept saying, “Not yet.”

Then it happened.

You call me out upon the waters.

A wave came and went, and right behind the wave was a great big “Killer” carp.

Bob started beating the carp with one hand and yelling, “Hit-it, Hit-it.”

Bob came right up out of the water.

He was skiing.

It was the most amazing thing I ever saw.

A one handed start.

A start with Bob still looking behind him to see if any”Killer Carp” were still chasing him.

You call me out upon the waters.

When I think about growing up in Kansas, I cannot help but see God in the middle of those years.

I also think about when God calls us out upon the waters, He takes us from a place that we perceive ourselves to be safe, to a place of unknown, to a place that takes us out of our comfort zone. It is only then that we have the opportunity to see what we can really do.

Father, continue to call me out upon the waters. Continue to stretch and remake me as I do my best to grow in your image. Forgive my failings as I forgive others who have failed me. Lead me father. Lead me out upon the waters.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

I received a call from a distressed father

Good morning,
I pray the day has found you well.

I received a call this morning from a distressed father.

His adult son is a heroin addict.

The dad was beside himself.

He wanted to help his son but did not know what to do. He had spent most of what he had on counselors to no avail. As I listened to this man my heart began to break. I really did not have any real answers for him. There are no magic bullets to these kind of things. I was able to get him in touch with a rehab center that works it's billing on a sliding scale. He said, "what if I can't get my son to go?" I explained that there are no guarantees and that I cannot promise anything. The father explained how his son was arrested but was released after the heroin wore off and that the police had no answers other than arresting his son again when he reoffends.

We talked for a long time.

Actually he talked and I listened.

I did give him information on narcotics anonymous, a group that helps addicts and their families much the same way that AA does. At the end of the call I prayed with him and told him that I am available and will walk with him through this season of life.

Lord, I come to you now for this fathers son. I ask that you take this addiction from him. I ask that you put people in front of him that will help him along the way. I also ask that you make yourself known to this father in such a way that he cannot deny that it is you. Please give him peace, wisdom, discernment, courage, endurance and hope, especially hope as he goes through this dark night. I also ask that you continue to provide with Your words as I work with this family. Amen

God is amazing, you never know when He will place a sick person, a person who has lost hope in front of you. When He does, He is giving you an opportunity.

Don't miss an opportunity.

Have eyes to see, ears to hear, remember what Christ said.

‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’


Friday, December 27, 2013

Ice-skating the Great Republican River

Good morning,
I pray the day has found you well.

The river behind my house has ice on it. It is not iced over, the temperature is not nearly cold enough for that, but it has ice on it non-the-less.

As I stood in my back yard looking at the river, a memory came to mind, a memory from the early 70’s.

Growing up in St. Francis Kansas we had a river that flowed close to town, it was called the Great Republican River.

Bob Sperry, Tim Raile, and I decided to go ice-skating on the Great Republican River.

I know this sounds dangerous but really, it was not, or so we thought.

You see the Great Republican River had been dammed in the late 30’s after a particularly devastating flood. At least that is what we were told. The unintended consequence of this damming of the Great Republican River was that the river was no longer Great. The river had been reduced to a trickle at best and spent most of the summers rather dry.

But, this was not summer, it was winter and there was more water in the river. The water was also frozen.

So Tim, Bob and I decided to go ice-skating. One might ask themselves why three kids from Kansas would have ice-skates; one might ask that question. Of course, one might ask why we had snow ski’s, or an old parachute but then one never knows when something will come in handy.

We went down by the grain elevator, which if you are not from the country might be a little confusing. I will do my best to explain. A grain elevator is exactly what it sounds like, it elevates the grain. I never really understood why grain needed to be elevated, I guess carbohydrates have poor self esteem, and needs to be lifted up. I know that grain has a bad temper, at least that is what I have been told. The grain elevator operators always told us to be careful around grain elevators grain elevators tended to explode. Evidently, smoking really upset carbohydrates. I had heard of a guy smoking in a grain elevator once and the whole thing blew up, nasty tempers those carbohydrates have.

We went down to the grain elevator, which was by the Great Republican River. We put on our skates and quickly fell through the ice. We fell through all the way up to our ankles. We stepped out of the river, back onto the ice, and were on our way. It was quite an adventure really. Skating up river, jumping the sandbars, dodging the unfrozen parts. The river is really pretty in the winter and from the vantage point of the ice everything seemed different.

We skated for quite a while. We skated all the way out to the Riverside Golf Course. We skated to the pond that was at the golf course.

The pond was frozen over too.

We had a blast.

After a little while, Bob made a mistake and took off his gloves. That is when we noticed he did not have any color in his fingers. Everything was fine and dandy until Bob took off his gloves. Immediately we got scared. Thoughts of losing our fingers to frostbite came rushing into our heads and out of our mouths. Once we started down that road, it was a short hop-skip-and-a-jump too wild wolves, mountain lions, and our parents finding our bodies on the bank of the river come springtime. It did not matter that we were no longer on the river. It did not matter that we were fifteen minutes from town. It did not matter that we had never seen a wolf or a mountain lion.

I have often wondered who thought about these things, I think it was Bob he was the smart one.

We gathered sticks to make a fire. We did not have any matches, nor did we have a lighter. None of us smoked, to afraid of upsetting the local carbohydrates. Tim, who we used to call wilderness man. We didn’t actually call him that but looking back we should have. Anyway, Tim grabs one of the sticks and starts to roll it back and forth in his hands the way wilderness men do to make a fire. He never made a fire but what we quickly noticed was all this fire making work warmed our hands up quickly.

As what usually happens with young boys, we got bored, we started to get hungry, and we skated home, making a wide birth around the grain elevator.

Looking back on some of our adventures it is impossible to see that God was not right there with us skating down the river. He showed us many wonderful things; He shared His creation with us. I am sure that He laughed when our imaginations went wild. I had not thought about our ice-skating adventure for many years until today. Thank you Father for reminding me that you want us to enjoy life and that it is an adventure.

My prayer is:
Father, continue to show me things. Continue to nudge me into adventures, while at the same time reminding me of the adventures that You had given me already.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

It is December 26, the day after Christmas.

Good morning,
I pray the day has found you well.

It is December 26, the day after Christmas.

Fall has come and gone. Thanksgiving has passed. All the excitement leading up to Christmas is over. Christmas Day was a joyous celebration.

It is December 26, the day after Christmas.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas many people worked very hard collecting gifts for children that are in need.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas many people worked very hard collecting food for people that do not have enough to eat.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas many people worked very hard collecting clothes for people that do not have enough to wear.

We collected lots of gifts. Our YMCA collected enough to give gifts to over 300 kids.

We collected enough food to feed, I don't even know how many people.

We collected clothes for homeless families; from socks to underwear, all the way to coats and blankets.

We worked hard during the days leading up to Christmas.

It is December 26, the day after Christmas.

The question that I ask myself is, "What do I do now?"

Do I stop collecting gifts for children?

Do I stop collecting food for the hungry?

Do I stop collecting clothes for the naked?

We celebrated Christ's birth yesterday.

I am reminded of something Jesus once said.

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’

Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because— I was hungry and you gave me no meal, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was homeless and you gave me no bed, I was shivering and you gave me no clothes, Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth:

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’ “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.” (Matthew 25:31-46 MSG)

It is December 26, the day after Christmas. It is also only 364 days until Christmas.

I think I will continue to collect gifts for children.

I think I will continue to collect food for the hungry.

I think I will continue to collect clothes for the naked.

Come along with me, it will be quite a ride.

My prayer is:
Father, I will do my best to have Your eyes, Your ears, and Your heart. I want to celebrate You every day of the year. I will continue to help others as you have helped me. I also ask for Your forgiveness in advance, as I am weak. I know I will pass some by in my humanness. Give me the strength, the courage, and endurance to be Your servant.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

I am going to hunt you down.

I am going to hunt you down.

The thoughts of a cell phone commercial ran through my head as a little girl who we call Mo came running toward me with her arms held out in front of her. She was yelling, “Santa, Santa I have to give you a hug before you leave.”

We had our first “Breakfast with Santa” at the Clark County Family YMCA this past Saturday.

It was an event where we cooked pancakes for the families and then took pictures of the kids sitting with Santa. We had quite the turnout and everyone had a great time. Rhapsody church descended on us with an amazing volunteer team that took all the pressure off Lindsey (The membership supervisor/Child Watch supervisor) and an old chaplain. They helped with the setup, cooking, bussing of tables, registration, photo booth, teardown, and cleanup. Jamba Juice served donated smoothies.

I played Santa.

I sat in the “Santa Chair” talking with kids, asking them what they wanted for Christmas. We had the usual requests, Lego’s, dolls, puppies, kittens…Then came one 5-year-old boy. He came and sat on my lap. He said, “I know there is no Santa.” I said, “Why don’t you think there is a Santa?” He said, “I just had my birthday and I did not get any presents. My mom doesn’t have any money.” She already told me not to expect anything for Christmas.”

The Clark County Family YMCA partners with the Salvation Army during Christmas. We have a giving tree that has many tags on it. Every tag represents a child. Every tag represents a child that will not get a Christmas present if someone does not take a tag off the tree, by the gift, and bring it back to the YMCA so that we can deliver the gift to the Salvation Army. Last year we gave Christmas presents to over 200 kids in need. This year we will double that amount.

Santa looked at the boy, then at the tree. Santa had a face to put with a tag. Santa had a child sitting in his lap that will not get a Christmas present.

Santa asked the boy, “What do you want for Christmas?”

The little boy told Santa his wish.

Santa is a sly elf. He found out where the boy lives. Santa found the caregiver that brought the little boy to Breakfast with Santa.

This little boy is going to have quite a Christmas this year.

Sometimes a chaplain sits with a grieving mother or father.

Sometimes a chaplain works with a family that is broken.

Sometimes a chaplain reads books to the kids that come into Child Watch.

Sometimes a chaplain is Santa and can give the gift of hope to a child that at the age of 5 has already lost it.

I had just walked out of Child Watch after being Santa to the kids in there when Mo ran up and said, “I have to give you a hug before I go.” You see, she had seen that Santa was not in his chair anymore and had dragged her mother all over the YCMA looking for Santa. Mo found Santa and gave him a hug.

Sometimes even Santa needs a hug.