Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Brain is Full. So is My Heart.

So Monday and Tuesday, I spent 16 hours in a classroom with 30 other fire chaplains, trying to figure out what it means to be a fire chaplain.

So at the end of two days I have a new training manual, a new certificate (for the sake of those who thought I was certifiable, now I have a certificate!), and a brain full of stuff that will only start to make sense as I put it to use on scene.

One of the things I learned is that I am not the only one who feels overwhelmed by the calling to chaplaincy. There were 31 learners in that room, all of whom had some level of experience in ministry (some with much, much more than me), all of whom faced the uncertainty of the pager, the difficulties faced by those in the fire service, and the power of a calling.

The first lesson they started teaching us was that in order to be a chaplain one must have the heart of a servant.

The next lesson was the three qualities required for chaplaincy: kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

What amazes me is that the first lessons were not about techniques or protocols or theories of chaplaincy, but qualities and callings.

What amazes me is that the qualities of a chaplain are in fact the qualities Jesus asked (asks) of each of his followers: to have the heart of a servant; to practice kindness, compassion, and forgiveness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Travelin' Mercies

Tomorrow and the next day, I have 16 hours of chaplain training with the Federation of Fire Chaplains just outside of Indianapolis.

(I keep wondering when I will get over the feeling of "wow, this time last year, I didn't even know this existed.)

So I drove down to Indy on Friday, where I am staying with my wife's sister and her husband.

(Since I started with the parenthetical commentary, might as well continue. I married the sister of a college friend. This friend had herself married another good friend from college. So my in-laws are a class reunion of sorts. As Ms. Stewart would say, it's a good thing.)

On my way down here, I stopped in Ft. Wayne to get gas and a refill on the caffeine. After pumping the gas, I turned the key, and the starter did its thing, but the engine did not follow suit. Crank, crank, crank, nothing. So I called the Mrs., who is still up in Michigan, she gets me some pertinent numbers, and I called for help.

In the meantime, I am busy praying for some help, because I am stuck halfway between home and where I am headed, and this training isn't happening in a reasonable driving range again anytime soon.

The short version of the story is that the crankshaft sensor on the car was bad. Which means the timing on the valves and the pistons was off a bit, so that is why the mileage was down and the car was a little rough lately. When it gets bad enough and the engine is hot, the car shuts off so as not to damage the engine. It could have happened while driving, apparently. So being in a gas station was not a bad place to be. After it cooled off, I could start the car and get to the local dealership.

The cool thing about this story is trying to jump start the car before I knew what was wrong. I looked around for someone who might have a set of jumper cables. Lots of commuter types were pulling in and out of the station. But one gentleman caught my eye. He was a bit older than me, driving a pick-up truck, wearing a well-weathered "First Armored Division" shirt, and pumping gas into a plastic gas can. I went up and asked if he had jumper cables. He did, and pulled around to my car and we tried those.

As the cables were not working (because that wasn't the problem), another guy, younger, African American, and with an accent I couldn't place (it might have been Caribbean, might have been African), drove up with a jumpstart pack and offered it for my use.

I had two good Samaritans who helped me out. Unfortunately, I didn't know what the real problem was, so I was asking for help with stuff that had little to no effect. I still had to get to the dealership and still had to write a check much bigger than I had wanted to. But in the midst of economic downturns and all sorts of other troubles, two people were more than willing to help a stranger who was stuck halfway to where he was headed.

God is good. As are lots of people.

Monday, April 6, 2009

To Blog or not to blog....

So several readers have gently nudged me with the question, "When are you going to post to your blog again?"

I have been thinking about starting a second blog, so there is one for chaplaincy and one for ministry. But if I can't get around to blogging on one, I have no business starting up a second one.

I was going to name it something like "Signal 7," which is the old radio code for "Return to Station" in our department. I liked it. It had something to do with everybody getting back from the scene safely, and it is often after we return to the station, after the accident or fire or medical call is over that I am chaplain to the fire fighters. But there is a band and a media company and a movie by that name, so it was already taken on blogspot. And if I am having trouble keeping up with one, I certainly don't need more than one server.

So instead, I am going to keep on plugging away at this one, combining local church ministry, chaplaincy, and other observations.

And I might get around to actually posting more often one of these days.