A comforting presence can help
After training to become a hospital chaplain, I quickly discovered that I still had more learning opportunities. Those teaching moments began when I accepted my first chaplain position at Houston Northwest Medical Center in the early 1990s.
I spent most of those early days on rounds through patient rooms, family meetings, and the emergency room. My rounds often took me past our glass-enclosed surgical waiting room — an open-air affair filled with enough couches and chairs to accommodate 30 pe... Read on...
God's not out to scare us into loving him
If you’ve picked up this newspaper, you’ve likely found enough stories to suspect an approaching apocalypse. The reports about a nuclear-armed North Korea, major climate changes and the black widow skulking the Winter Olympics all make great sermon fodder.
In case the doomsday prophets have your faith meter running on empty, let me remind you of the guy who started spinning news stories into apocalyptic mayhem. His name was Hal Lindsey. If you were born before 1960, you’ll likely remember tha... Read on...
What are you praying for?
As a hospital chaplain, I often ask patients, “What are you praying for?” Surprisingly, they don’t always ask for healing and homecoming.
Over the years, I sometimes paraphrased their answers into written prayers and invited the patient to post it for all to read. Today I want to share two prayers written by terminally ill patients.
There may be those who think I should be mad at you; I need you to know it’s nothing like that. I know things like this happen in a world you created. ... Read on...
God sometimes makes cameo appearances
In Hollywood, a “cameo” appearance is a famous actor delivering a significant, but one-time line. In my life, that person was Jimmy Whitfill.
Jimmy wasn’t a famous actor, but in 1975 he became the first male feature baton twirler at Baylor University. That was the year he also became my roommate.
As roommates, we were as different as the violin is from the trumpet. He was a gracefully athletic musician and I was a tone-deaf klutz. His family hailed from big city Dallas and mine from centra... Read on...
New parents unwrap hard questions
The crowing of the barn rooster stirs the young parents and their newborn son trying to sleep amidst steaming piles of hay. The boy awakens, pawing at the air and fussing for a feeding.
Mary opens her robe,offeringher son the fullness of her morning milk. Mother and son hold the moment as theirs while Joseph finds renewed sleep.
Soon, the sun streaks through the barn’s crevices, ... Read on...
Hard living not necessarily quality living
Like most hospital chaplains, I spend my day walking long hallways, going room-to-room and introducing myself to patients who have been admitted with a wide variety of ailments.
My introductions feel a lot like “speed dating,” a process where a large number of busy folks meet in a bar for a series of short "dates" usually lasting about five minutes. Only i... Read on...
Norris Burkes: Field trip leads to cultic understanding
In 1978, I took a cults class from James Leo Garrett at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. After several weeks of lecture, Garrett announced that the best way to explain a cult was to visit one.
His field trip of choice was a religious offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist Church called “The Branch.”
On the morning of the visit, he offered some “preflight” ins... Read on...
Before the parade, some facts first
Before you leave for the Veterans Day parade, there are five things I think vets would like you to know. Of course, I can’t speak for all vets, so I consulted the 2011 Pew Research Center poll of 2,500 vets and 2,000 civilians.
• First, most us would have you know we don’t like war. Yes, we train for it, practice it, and do it well, but we don’t like it. We know better than any legislator that war involves battle and as Col. Dave Hackwort... Read on...
When it became no laughing matter
In the fall of 1990, my ministry career transitioned from parish pastor to hospital chaplain, all by way of an internship at the University of California Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
My one-year training involved multiple calls from the emergency room where, between the usual gunshot wounds and motor vehicle accidents, I learned to recognize the symptoms of ritualistic child abuse, the smell of maggots in infected wounds and the risks of using animals for... Read on...
Round of golf put me on mission from God
After taking a series of golf lessons this summer, I recently took my friend, Roger, to a championship course so he could help with my game. We arrived to find our Saturday morning tee time so busy that the starter teamed us with two strangers.
The golfers, in their mid-40s, introduced themselves as Bill and Vick. When I warned the hapless pair that I was a new golfer, Vick gave an uncaring shrug while Bill lit a cigarette and blew plumes into the cloudless day.... Read on...