(The following is my Chaplain’s Message from the Winter 2013 Issue of the Minnesota Police Chief Magazine)
“It’s getting dark.” This isn’t a metaphor created by your chaplain as he looks for a starting point for his chaplain’s message. It really is getting dark out there. Especially since daylight savings time ended and I often find myself eating dinner in the dark. This is the time of year when the amount of daylight we receive is shortened and the amount of daily darkness we face increases. And with that increase in darkness, it’s important to think about how it impacts our lives. Without giving the darkness much thought, our response to these days with fewer hours of daylight is pretty automatic. We simply turn on our lights. Why? So that we can see. Simple.
It’s hard for me to believe, but I have been retired from sworn service as a police officer for seven years now. For those same seven years, I have been serving several organizations, including the MCPA, as a full time public safety chaplain. During that time, I have spent hundreds of hours with individuals and organizations as they face the daily challenges of our professions. And in our time together, a time that I spend focusing in the spiritual health and fitness of these individuals and organizations, I have found a constant theme among those who are experiencing challenges in their lives. Darkness. (Okay, so I guess we are heading for a metaphor here…) And what enhances that darkness is the feeling of loneliness.
I have spent the last several months, working with a very qualified friend who has volunteered his time, developing a strategic plan for Public Safety Ministries. For those who don’t know, Public Safety Ministries is the organization that supports my chaplaincy work. The strategic plan, complete with mission, vision, principles, strategies, tactics, goals and objectives, will be completed for implementation in January 2014. But amidst all of the organizational and strategic planning jargon and processing, the description of what I do can be reduced to one simple statement: “I share light with those who are alone in the dark.”
My job isn’t to tell people where to find their light source, nor is it to give them my light source. My job is to simply walk with those who are alone in the dark, sharing the light I carry, so that they can find their own light. It’s much like having a neighbor who is alone at home, in a storm, in the dark, whose power goes out and they loose their light. The neighbor probably has a flashlight (but the batteries are dead and they can’t find the spares), or a lantern (but they can’t find it in the dark mess in the basement), or even a cell phone with a flashlight app (that they left in the car that the kid took to work). They may even have a portable generator (but can’t find the fuel, nor the funnel, nor the extension cord…). The light we all need to survive is there, our personal light is there, but sometimes we just can’t find it. And we need our neighbor to help us find it.
So as these days of darkness and frequent storms come upon us, do an inventory of your light sources. We can’t control the presence of darkness and storms, physically or metaphorically, but we can control the light we store, and the light we share. Take some time this holiday season to get together with family, friends and neighbors to share some time and to share some light. And take the time to experience the joy in hearing someone (or even yourself) say “Ah… and there’s the light!”
Take Care, Pastor Dan.
I got a text from a friend yesterday morning. It was an update on a friend of his who had just passed away. He had been walking with his friend through his illness and impending death. I felt a wave of sadness as the text led with the notice of the death. But the short text concluded with “Confident on his eternity. Diagnosed 4 years ago, he took the time to do it right :-)”. The text made me smile, and left me with a real sense of peace. A peace for my friend and for his friend as well.
So often we are faced with the anxiety, stress and worry of the challenges of daily life. In those times I wonder what would happen if we paused and took the time to ask ourselves: “Am I doing it right?” Things can get pretty complicated when digging into the question of “doing it right”. But that’s not the real question we should be asking. As the simple text states, it’s not about doing it right, it’s about taking the time. If we look back on life to when we took the time, we’d see that we were probably at our best, doing life right!
Take Care, Pr. Dan
I am on the receiving end of several daily, weekly, and monthly email devotional and spiritual messages. These regular messages are a great resource of stories that are the foundation of my ministry work. I received one such message recently that I’d like to dedicate to a guy who recently hit another annual life landmark. It comes from a group that I’d gladly give credit, but since I’m doing this without permission, I’m not sure they’d want responsibility. I’m not sure who wrote it, I’d give credit if I knew, but rest assured I didn’t (although I wish I had). Needless to say, prayers are good and this one is worth repeating, especially for that guy I mentioned above. I hope he reads it and learns from it!
A PRAYER FOR THOSE GROWING OLDER
Lord, Thou knowest that I am growing older.
Keep me from becoming talkative and possessed with the idea that I must express myself on every subject.
Release me from the craving to straighten out
Keep me from the recital of endless detail.
Give me wings to get to the point.
Seal my lips when I am inclined to tell of my aches and pains; they are increasing with the years and my love to speak of them grows sweeter as time goes by.
Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally
I may be wrong.
Make me thoughtful but not nosy; helpful but not bossy.
With my vast store of wisdom and experience it does seem a pity not to use it all. But Thou knowest, Lord,
that I want a few friends at the end.
Take Care, Pastor Dan
(Oh, and by the way, Happy Birthday… to ME! I especially like the “Give me wings…” verse!)
I heard a new song last night while pursuing the spiritual depths of my soul (ok, I was watching NCIS on TV). At the end of the show they played a song I’d never heard before and it just stuck. A little research this morning led me to the song “Nothing More” by The Alternative Routes. Now, I receive nothing by sharing this song, but every once in awhile you hear or read something that touches you, touches your spirit, touches your soul… and it did mine. This is a simple song, (with the kind of music that I enjoy) and lyrics that express ideas that our ministry promotes for personal and professional health when working in the public safety professions. You can find the song and video on You Tube, as well as a short video with some background on song. And as your spiritual fitness exercise (fit spirit exercise) for the day listen to the lyrics and find one that tells you something. Mine… “Heroes don’t look like they used to, they look like you do.”
Take Care, Pr. Dan
This past week I’ve spent some time in Rice Lake Minnesota, a township that borders the north side of Duluth. It is a sad time for the community who lost their Fire Chief, Matt Frantz, in a tragic death on Monday. (click here for his obituary, and here for a local news story broadcast). I ventured north on Wednesday, as chaplain for the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation, to assist and support the initial funeral planning efforts, and again yesterday for the procession from the funeral home to the church for the visitation. There was wonderful attendance from many family, friends, community members and fire service professionals. The funeral will be held this morning at 11:00.
As I’ve said before, I spend a lot more time dealing with the deaths of our public safety professionals that I expected when I started Public Safety Ministries. Unexpected work, but so critical to promoting the spiritual health and fitness in our professions. Lots of emotions come out in these hard times, but by far the most prevalent, is a feeling of sadness. Sadness for the loss of those who dedicate their lives to caring for and protecting our communities, our families and our selves, just as Chief Matt Frantz has done. So as difficult as it is as we mourn our loss, let us always remember to celebrate the blessed life of the one we lost. Matt’s spirit will live on forever in the lives of the Rice Lake Fire Department, as well as in the entire community.
photo courtesy of MFSF