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A message from your chaplain

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[Yesterday’s run: 3 miles]

To the Grandview Park Baptist School Class of 1980

You elected me as your chaplain in the fall of 1979. I didn’t become a pastor or much of a spiritual leader and the height of my formal theological education was David Board’s theology class. But I would like to claim my position on this occasion of the 40th anniversary of our graduation to do a chaplain-like thing.

Here we are, 40 years since our graduation from high school. I hope they have been good years. But I suspect yours were like mine, a full measure of experiences from despair to delight.

I saw something in the news about the Corona virus. They listed statistics about the ages of the people most affected, and the age range from 40- 60 they labeled “middle age”. I always thought middle meant half way. Do they expect people will start living to 120?

You know, when I was a student, when the year was winding down toward final exams I would take stock of my grades to see if I was in trouble. Mostly I was a B+ student without working too hard. So I would take stock and see that I maybe needed a little more effort in one course or I had some other course pretty much under control, all aiming for my usual outcome. If I got a C that was a little disappointing. If I got an A, good for me.

So things usually turned out the way they had in the past.

I’m sure after 40 years you can look back like I can and see a string of past events that are a mix of failure and success. But a lot of who you are and where you are at probably reflects who you were and what you started from 40 years ago.

In addition we each have this structure of life, patterns and obligations that we’ve built around ourselves in order to have some stability and control.

I have bills that I have to pay at certain times of the month. And they send me new statements every month. And I have income that arrives at predictable times. I have these obligations and reminders and arrivals and departures. I have people that I know, most of them are good for me but some maybe are not. But I have relationships now and there are expectations and agreements and promises and contracts. And I muddle through it all in my usual B+ don’t-work-too-hard way.

With the combination of our genetics, our experiences, the life structures we build around ourselves, sometimes it is easy to consider all of the deciding is over. I am who I am and if that’s not good enough then too bad.

I am who I am

I understand that attitude. The problem is that I can’t sustain this. And neither can you. The structures of control are just not as effective as they once were. If they ever were. One of the features of the current virus scare is the spotlight of uncertainty it has put on such basic things as getting groceries or having a job that doesn’t require you daily to risk your health.

Well, it’s not very chaplain-like of me to point out your troubles (and mine). I think a chaplain is supposed to be a comforting person, someone who gives hope. That may explain why I wasn’t very good at it, not the comforting part. But maybe I can help a bit with the hope part.

I had kind of a pivotal time in my life shortly after we broke up. I moved away and I was on my own and I had to decide if this stuff I had learned about God and the Bible, even just the concepts of religion and faith, if any of that was going to be an ongoing thing or just left behind. Was I going to go to church. Was I going to pray or read my Bible or what. I look back now and I see myself a bit like a bird getting pushed out of the nest. And some parts have stuck with me and other parts haven’t. Church going has been pretty easy, up until recently anyway. Praying is harder and Bible reading is probably the hardest. Real Bible study of the self-directed kind is really hard.

Some of you I’m sure have done just fine without any of that. It was something you suffered through in school. You closed the door on it and haven’t looked back and as far as you can tell things have turned out about the same or better than it would have anyway.

I really am not getting in your face about it either way.

But, I’ve noticed that most people have some things they would like to change. And with our current trajectory and natural aging we’re going to have less physical strength and probably less money, fewer resources in general to fight off our troubles.

My advice as your chaplain, which I can back up with Bible stuff if you want, is ASK. If there is something you need, ASK FOR IT.

That sometimes works with people. Frequently it does.

But really I’m talking about asking things from God. And I am 100% in favor of the God-if-you-are-out-there type of asking. Ask for wisdom. Ask for faith. Ask for a better car or money to pay the bills (or smaller bills), or less pain in your joints or to lose weight or quit smoking or that the neighbor would stop playing loud music so you can sleep. ASK FOR IT

What little experience I’ve had, the people who wanted to make a change in their life who have had some success doing it, they ASKED for it. I’ve seen that happen even when I’m not sure they knew who they were asking.

ASK. That’s my message.

Apr 20, 2020
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