A Christmas meditation

By Norris Burkes Posted Dec 24, 2017 The Psalmist suggests that the best way to understand Scripture is to meditate on it “day and night.” Problem is, my short attention span denies me such 24/7 operations. Fortunately, a pastor friend recently suggested a meditation method that involves using the point of view of the biblical

My Christmas Story

By Norris Burkes t Dec 17, 2017 My wife and I have very different childhood Christmas stories. Her professional-class parents (a minister and a schoolteacher) somehow managed to stock their Christmas tree with a boatload of gifts wrapped in a flurry of fluffy bows. Their tradition called for each person to open gifts one at

Chaplain learns the pregnant truth

By Norris Burkes Posted Dec 10, 2017 at 7:14 PM In 1991, I began training to become a hospital chaplain in a yearlong postgraduate residency called Clinical Pastoral Education. It was a hospital-based clinical internship that consisted of half-dozen seminary graduates. Each morning, the student interns went onto the wards to support patients in need

A shopper’s prayer

By Norris Burkes Posted Dec 3, 2017 After four months of European travel, my wife and I made our return to the United States during Thanksgiving week — just in time for Black Friday shopping deals. I confess to feeling a little “culture shock.” During our travels, we gained some appreciation for European homes that

If you can see something wrong, you must say something

By Norris Burkes Nov 26 2017 Recently, we’ve been outraged to hear of the sexual harassment charges against some prominent and respected men. While it’s no surprise to hear about Charlie Sheen’s dalliances, we’re beyond dismayed to hear about such men as Charlie Rose. While Bill Clinton had his accusers, nothing prepared us for the

Pastor prays to be teachable

By Norris Burkes Posted Nov 19, 2017 Some years ago, I was sitting in my chaplain’s office at the VA hospital in Sacramento, Calif., when a local pastor stopped by to introduce himself. “I’m Brother So-and-So,” he said, giving me a hand-pumping shake. “I’m spirit-filled.” If you are unfamiliar with church language, “spirit-filled” is a

Brave actions inspire faith

By Norris Burkes Ledger Posted Nov 12, 2017 As I spend Veterans Day on a cruise ship to Florida, I can’t help but feel an astonishingly greater appreciation for those who serve in the armed forces. I boarded the ship in Southampton, England, the same port where millions of combat soldiers went to the front

Praying for changes in myself

By Norris Burkes Posted Nov 5, 2017 Even as we were packing to return to the U.S., I was already considering possibilities for our next adventure. “I want to walk the Appalachian Trail next spring,” I told my patient bride. “I think your weekly running routine is depriving your brain of badly needed oxygen,” she

What do Europeans think of America?

By Norris Burkes Posted Oct 29, 2017 Last July, my wife and I put our worldly goods in storage and left for an extended stay in Brussels. Immediately upon our arrival, Belgians began asking me what Americans think of Europe. Sheepishly, I admitted that many Americans likely share President Donald Trump’s understanding when he said

A Walk in the Woods

By Norris Burkes Ledger Posted Oct 22, 2017 Osarumen Osama works for a Brussels charity called Serve the City. Last month I asked him to take me to what remains of the famous refugee camp at Calais in Northern France. “Are you sure you want to go?” he asked. I lied and said yes. A

Vegas reminds me that I am my brother’s keeper

By Norris Burkes Posted Oct 15, 2017 In the ancient biblical story of Cain murdering his brother Abel, Cain asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It’s a question I can’t help but wonder whether Eric Paddock, the brother of Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, has been contemplating. While I can’t know Eric’s anguish, I do

To Judge or Not to Judge

By Norris Burkes Sep 10, 2017 In my role as a chaplain, people often bring me their complaint against organized religion. I’m not proud of the fact, but my responses occasionally come with a bit of snark. For instance, when folks complain, “Religion is a cash business,” I say, “No. We take credit cards too.”