Monday, June 27, 2016

Continue The Call

In my book Hospital Parables: “Front Office to Bedside” I wrote of being “Called and gifted” for ministry. More specifically I wrote of the audible calling of God as expressed in Isaiah 30:21 saying, “Whether you turn to the left of the right you will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘this is the way, walk in it.”  These words spoken and heard audibly by my Christian counselor and myself in his office was a clarion call to trust God and to walk in His ways. I have since written a 2-volume book of the same title words speaking of how to live out this call.

After hearing my call, I attended Bethel Seminary in St. Paul studying theology and pastoral care. There God made clear my call into the healthcare chaplaincy. I heard that call and made my way from “The Front Office to Bedside,” having been a hospital executive for over 30 years. God was saying to me something like He told Moses in the flaming bush and so many others who have gone before us. He was saying that He had prepared me for 35 years in hospital leadership to be finally able to care for people directly as a bedside caregiver and encourager. He was telling me to become a chaplain. I was the only one out of 40 students in my seminary pastoral care class to raise my hand when surveyed by the professor about my calling. My classmates were amazed advising me that I would not be able to share the gospel or preach. What a misguided admonition that has turned out to be in 2000. Since then I have been able to share my faith when asked or the Spirit has led me with 100s of patients and family members as well as hospital staff. Many have found eternal security through God’s promises and words of encouragement in the Bible. Not only has this been exactly what God wanted me to do, but also it is what He has called me to continue. Let me clarify that thought.

Three years ago I decided to retire at age 66 after leading a very difficult church implosion as the lead pastor after the three other clergy had been forced out by the congregation and the denominational hierarchy. Suffice it to say, helping a split congregation of  nearly 2,000 through this storm almost caused me to take my own life. God spoke to my spirit to take my leave only after I had been obedient and stayed under the trial until some calm and He released me to continue my calling elsewhere. After retiring, after only two weeks, my wife announced that I had “failed retirement.” Then these were to me at the time strange and harsh words. However, three years later after serving once again as a hospital chaplain and now an author of four books and a blog, I understand the admonition and the new call.

Some seven years before this dramatic crisis of faith bringing change and challenge, I had endured a hip “resurfacing,” or replacement. During my convalescence, my chaplain partner at Rogers Memorial Hospital, a five campus psychiatric facility, told me, “why don’t you do something useful with your time.”  This encouragement was strange at the time, but led me to begin writing a devotional for small groups at the hospital. In fact, I wrote a devotional based on the psalms that was and continues to be used at the hospital. Fast-forward seven years to my new place in failed retirement. As I began my new part time hospital chaplaincy, I also picked up my loose-leaf devotional Great is God’s Faithfulness and contemplated publishing it as a book. This happened after sharing my thoughts with another chaplain who had published two pastoral type books. He steered me to a Christian book publisher and a new journey in my continued calling expanded. Not only has this book been published through Amazon, Create Space Publishing, but three others have as well. This is The Way, Walk in It (Volumes 1&2) and Hospital Parables: “Front Office to Bedside,” have also been released. They are now being sold through several bookstores. Moreover, I have now published nearly 300 essays or sermons in a blog  This blog, as all websites is worldwide. Fascinatingly, the greatest readership outside the United States is in Ukraine.  Some 500 readers in this Soviet controlled satellite are now hopefully finding some encouragement in their difficult lives. Most recently I am having my Hospital Parables book displayed in multiple dental office waiting rooms my son, a dentist, operates in the Northwest.

I have had the opportunity to give my testimony to a couple of groups and submitted my work for chaplain workshops. Recently, I shared my essays on “fear” on a local radio station. I am not sure where to go from here, however. Nonetheless, a recent sermon spoke to me about “call.” The Pastor shared about his journey in publishing Christian CDs for radio called the Brinkman Adventures. He spoke of being open to hearing and obeying God’s call. He spoke that as he goes out on his own with his family in his new adventure, that God had called him to “continue” his calling. I heard his call to continue and know God has not called me to something new, but to continue doing what he has called me to with vigor and enriched enthusiasm. I don’t know what that means, but I clearly know that God does, and I am prayerfully seeking His will as I continue to obey this call.

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