Friday, April 24, 2020

Turnarounds and Transitions

In 1992 after eight years of leading successful hospital turnarounds I was without a job. The stress of 16-hour days to keep hospitals open and battle angry unions and staff as well as being away from home for weeks at a time caused somewhat of a meltdown. I lost my moral compass and judgment that I needed to juggle an intense career with two teenage boys and my wife hundreds of miles away.  I was let go because of my own issues.  I did not know the Lord, but He was using this trial as a transition for me.

Because of God’s grace, I found faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord in the process of finding myself. I have written in my books This is The Way, Walk in It as well as in my latest book, Hospital Parables: “Front Office To Bedside,” how God met me on a snow-packed highway along Lake Superior late on a Friday night trying to get back home from a marathon week leading a dramatic hospital financial turnaround. The hospital, which was going to close was now well on the way to a strong comeback to be the sole provider for nearly 100 miles.  The transitional and turnaround work was successful, but my life was in shambles. Hearing the invitation from God over the only radio station available, I knelt in the deep snow in the headlights of my car, repented and received Jesus into my heart. A new journey had begun.  My turnaround had begun.

I would lead one more hospital turnaround, with a newfound but a newborn’s faith. I needed discipleship. Yet before I could find spiritual help I was without a job. Probably a good thing as God wanted me to stop, listen to Him and rebuild my life and family. As well, I needed to take care of my mother, dying of Alzheimer’s and alcohol related dementias. This several year journey led to many transitions for my mother and growing faith for me. God spoke audibly to me in a counselor’s office, “This is The Way, Walk in It!”  Both of us clearly heard God, but only I heard His admonition for my life. I have been seeking and writing about His “Most excellent way” with zeal since.

I am writing this piece because I have left out another transition in my life; I believe all times are a transition to something new. I was at a seeking period in my life when a graduate school classmate that I knew very well reentered my life. He led a very prominent,  “brand name” consulting and education company. His name still is synonymous with hospital medical staff organization and quality.  He invited me to join him as a consultant, teacher and writer. I had led several hospitals through the muck and mire, but I was not a teacher or speaker. He suggested I begin teaching at Concordia University to help gain this skill. He also provided for me to attend perhaps the preeminent public speaking “boot camp” for executives. The transition was God ordained and very challenging. I was no “Rock Star” like my friend, as he had groupies and a host of disciples. His generosity allowed me to consult with nearly 100 hospitals across the country, speaking to the finest medical staffs.  I had the privilege of serving from Oregon State University Medical School to the New York, California and 20 states in between. I conducted “Mock” accreditation compliance surveys and revamped credentialing and quality improvement programs. I was not the brand name and it showed. But little did I know at the time that God was using this work to develop my skills to be a teacher, preacher and writer of the Gospel. He was preparing me to write books and present His Word to billions across the globe.  However, there would be another hospital transition in store for me. I would become one of the first corporate compliance officers in the nation as HHS regulations put hospitals at great legal and financial risk for potential false claims or non-compliance issues.  I had started Bethel Seminary in St. Paul at the time traveling frequently to the Twin Cities for intensive classes. Children’s Health System of Wisconsin let me develop their corporate compliance program. This experience allowed me to be called by the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville to do the same. This patrician of a Sothern university was founded in 1803 by Thomas Jefferson and possesses one of the nation’s finest medical schools and health systems.

 In the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains and several former presidents and patriots’ homes, this world-class University trains and does research in a broad range of industries from health care, nuclear and engineering. Federal regulations and laws abound to oversee these efforts. Being out of compliance with some is inevitable. Here I would audit, teach and write about these tough issues. This was a southern university not accustomed to anyone watching over them since before the Civil War. High-ranking professors and prestigious researchers took umbrage with the process. Fortunately I reported to the heads of the university and medical school, who were both strong evangelical Christians. Often I was in Washington D.C. battling with Federal agencies on compliance issues. Legal help usually accompanied me past the monuments to the concrete Federal triangle. The university said that they hired a “Yankee” so they would not feel badly to fire or allow him to go to prison for their own non-compliance. The test was intense. I could say an eventual turnaround for the university was transitioning. Again the stress for me was almost unbearable except for God’s people. I have written how during this trial, God added what would be diagnosed as a potentially fatal virus or illness that had no known cure. The tick- borne illnesses that I contracted caused a downhill spiral that was deemed futile. God however intervened as I prayed out loud Psalm 103, praising the God who heals all your diseases. My fever broke and frozen limbs loosened up immediately and miraculously. I was healed even though my transition to full health would take a while. I resigned my position at UVA to return home to Wisconsin where I would begin my transition into healthcare chaplaincy and our sons’ transition to leave home and “Go West young man” for dentistry, hunting and fishing.

As I began consulting for Aurora Healthcare in Wisconsin I was able to transition to be a part-time chaplain in a continuing care community (CCC) they owned. Soon I transitioned to become the first chaplain in their psychiatric hospital. Shortly thereafter the CCC was sold to another CCC and the new owners required me to leave Aurora and become their employee. I began a difficult transition to be a student in a healthcare chaplain internship as well as being a full-time chaplain in the company. Here I completed seminary training and began my ordination process in the Christian Congregational Church.

Under the duress of a difficult boss I decided to take a new position to lead the spiritual care department for Roger’s Memorial Health System. This was a difficult transition, as all seem to be. The challenge was beyond my capability, although I learned amazing lessons concerning caring for the mentally ill and addicted. Serving five campuses was too much for me. But God intervened allowing me to undergo a hip “resurfacing.”  During my convalescence I was led by the other chaplain to begin to write. I wrote Great is God’s Faithful, a Devotional Based On The Psalms. So began my writing career. This was another transition point that I would not fully recognize until my next transitions.

 God intervened again in a crisis at my church and I was asked to serve as Director of Congregational Care.  I hoped for a tranquil transition, but that would not be. The Senior Pastor was not gifted for this ministry and his behaviors brought chaos and pain to the church. Three of the four pastors were forced out, leaving only me to transition the church back to stability. The implosion brought spiritual and emotional agony to several hundred parishioners who abandoned the church. In the interim transition I cared for many and taught and preached while leading a grief process. The process was successful, but left me emptied of health, hope and help.  Again, God intervened and healed me of my despairing depressive state. I was totally healed miraculously as I was at UVA.  This Pentecost Sunday Holy Spirit embrace brought healing and joy that has not ceased since. I resigned from the church when God allowed. I had stayed the course and finished race. It was time to transition back to hospital chaplaincy.

Froedtert and The Medical College of Wisconsin brought me on board as a call pool chaplain, working weekends and odd shifts at Froedtert Hospital, a private teaching hospital. This transition back into hospital chaplaincy was difficult as well, but opened the opportunity to move to a place that I call the “friendliest hospital,” also part of the Froedtert System.  This seems like the place I will finish my employed career in chaplaincy. There is one unit, ironically mental health, where my services are not appreciated. People are funny. Otherwise my ministry has been well received.

My schedule allows me to write part-time and publish a written and spoken blog concerning walking with God called,  I have published or scheduled over 300 essays with accompanying You Tube sermons that have gone across the globe. The most fascinating finding is that there are some 500 people in Ukraine reading the blog in a country hostile to Christianity. May God grant them rest and peace.

So back to the beginning. It seems that the generosity of a friend lifted me out of unemployment to God’s calling for me, to write and preach the Gospel in and out of season. I will be forever grateful for his largess in my transition and turnaround.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Be Thankful

Be Thankful

What do we do in this Covid-19 pandemic? Gratitude and giving thanks is a very frequent admonition in Scripture, no matter what the circumstances. Giving thanks appears 100 times in the Bible, while praise over 350 times. In fact singing to the Lord with “grateful praise”is what the psalmist tells us in Psalm 147:7 because the Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Jonah the finally repentant prophet after being stuck in the fish’s belly, which might be compared to our stay at home orders with Corona-19 even said in his “thanksgiving prayer”, ‘“But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord’” (Jonah 2:9). No matter where we find ourselves in this time of viral pandemic God is sovereign and He will use it for our good and His glory in His time and ways as we trust in Him.  “God is in or inhabits the praises of His people” (Psalm 22:3).

The Apostle Paul exhorts the people of Colossae and by extension all of us on rules for holy living to, “Be thankful… “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15,16). 

Paul spoke often to remind us of being thankful no matter what. So I remind each reader, especially myself to do so and to,  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Clearly prayer with praise is His desire. He also told the Ephesian church to be wise and make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. He reminded believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not wine while we sing songs in our hearts and make music to the Lord, “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). This is hard, but it is one of God’s ways to get through the pandemic. So I will keep praising and praying for an end to this pandemic and revival in our country. 

Chaplain's Code

Chaplains are basically clergy serving in institutional settings such as hospitals, prisons and the military. We are primarily encouragers, comforters and counselors, providing religious sacraments as necessary to meet a patient or client spiritual need. We function under a code of conduct through the Association of Professional Chaplains or the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. As Board Certified Chaplains we must have a seminary degree and a minimum of four units of CPE, about two years. When I was in training through Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), my supervisor identified a Scripture under which he thought chaplains ought to function, and I agree.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

I note that this Scripture is about action and Christianity and Judaism are active faiths. When we pray we are to be still and listen, but to act on what God has informed us to do in response. Chaplains are caregivers emphasizing  the word “give.”

We should act justly as God is just, “And all His ways are just” (Deuteronomy 32:4). God chose Abraham to be His first Patriarch through whom all nations would come. “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him and keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him” (Genesis 18:19). Throughout Scripture we can read about God’s justice and His love of the just; “for the Lord lives the just”  (Psalm 37:28). Proverbs 2:8 tells us that God, “Guards the course of the just.”  God set up the only King “after His own heart” in Israel. “David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people”  (2 Samuel 8:15).  Nehemiah and Daniel were other just leaders of God. The Prophets were just and holy in their teachings and actions, even when they were required to be tough. The instructions to the church for Elders in Timothy and Titus tell us that they must be “upright, holy, disciplined and righteous and blameless, trustworthy and able to teach.”  The standards for clergy are high and so therefore they will be judged more “strictly” James 3:1 admonishes.

Micah also says we should “love mercy,” another attribute of God. “For His mercy is very great”  (1 Chronicles 21:13). Nehemiah spoke of how God in His great mercy did not abandon His people. Jesus Himself in teaching told the Pharisees, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (Mathew 12:7). God is not legalistic but merciful.

God is merciful and He is humble in Jesus. “But gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). The Psalmist says, “He guides the humble in what is right.” Jesus Himself tells us to ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:29). This is the way we must act and live. It is not easy except through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the thorn put in Paul’s flesh,  “For my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness.  Paul was able to say therefore, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We are God’s servants and as Christ’s must offer ourselves in thought and deed “holy and pleasing” to God. He wants a contrite heart, offered up in service of others.

Friday, April 10, 2020

The Rapture

Come quickly Jesus, Maranatha! Jesus said in Revelation 22:20, “Surely I am coming quickly.”  We live in a society where life is at risk, especially unborn babies and Christians who believe as God said 43 times in Scripture that “Marriage is between a man and woman.”  We have a Supreme Court in 1973 that authorized our murder of 70million unborn and now in 2015 have said that marriage is between any tow willing partners. God and our nations founding and constitution have been thrown out to the glory of “self.” Personal rights and autonomy are at the center of ethics laws today in this country more than any other.  Some of this is good in that we can decide what medical care we will accept. I believe we have this right, but not when others lives are at issue. In end-of-life care this question does allow us “Living Wills” and Advance Directives to identify our wishes when dying or when making decisions about extraordinary measures being provided. My wife and I personally have written that we are DNR (Do Not Resuscitate).   I am listening to a CD talking of our country’s new laws on transsexual and LGBT rights in marriage and bathrooms. Biological sex assignment is now however an individual identifies. This is scandalous policy giving a minority of less than 1% overarching rights. I believe that this is a chaotic concept and ideology.  You may be saying to slow down and what does this have to do with “The Rapture.”

“The Rapture” is the promise of Jesus Christ to return to earth in the clouds to take His chosen, those who have faith in Christ a Savior and Lord to heaven. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (2 Thessalonians 4:16-18).  This is about the second coming of Christ for a Royal visit. This is before the second coming as Revelation speaks to rule and reign or earth from Jerusalem.

Jesus Himself tells us in Mathew 24 of the disaster on earth before the Tribulation and His wrath being poured out on earth. He predicted the destruction of the temple because He is the temple and our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit of God, as we trust in Him. In Matthew 24:4-14 from the Mount of Olives He speaks of the signs of the times and the end of the age.
“And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

This period I believe has begun, the beginning of “birth pangs.” This period of “sorrows” has begun as there are false prophets and leaders of our country who are presenting platforms and laws that are the antithesis of our country’s Judeo-Christian founding. All the things Jesus prophesied are engaged in our world at this time. This is good or tragic news depending where you stand relative to Christ. If you are a believer, this is good news preceding His soon return for us. If not a believer you will remain as the Tribulation begins. This seven-year period, the ‘abomination of desolation’ has begun. The wrath of God comes after sever years. Christians are now experiencing the beginning of a major increase of persecution. We will suffer, but God will take us out of the world before He pours His wrath as described in Revelation on all the earth. Therefore I am saying that theologically I am mid-tribulation based on Jesus’s words in the gospels and in Revelation. He is telling the churches in the final book to trust in Him and not be afraid even though He says in Chapter 2 that we will be experiencing tribulation at some level.

The good news is that the “Day of The Lord” is coming soon and He will come first with a trumpet blast of an archangel. He will take us out and there with be vast numbers left behind to suffer the wrath of God and probable agonizing death. So, you have a choice, choose life or Christ today, before it is too late.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Golden Years

Whoever came up with this metaphor for the wonderful years that follow retirement and old age as the Golden Years? I spend most of my day visiting aging and ill people in hospitals. They are a source of wisdom for me as we share insights on life. One thing is clear, that God is good and life is hard and keeps getting more difficult with age. This is not a negative view of life; it just is what it is. So what does God have to say about it?

“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:30). Most of Proverbs guides readers to seek wisdom and discipline from the Lord and His word. “Listen my son to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:7).  Throughout the writer says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  He is also saying that all else is folly. So get your aging guidance from the Bible.

I have had the privilege of presiding over some 200 funerals or memorial services. These times offer wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel. One of the more interesting ones that I did not preach but attended looked at a woman’s long, long life from the perspective of Psalm 90. “All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is seventy years- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:9-10). Wow, now those are encouraging words. But verse 12 goes on to say, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). This tells us to make the most of our years. We are not to dread our aging but to have victory over it through faith in Jesus Christ. Keep on, keeping on.

Have you been to coffee with the “Ain’t it Awful Club?”  I suspect you have often been with aging friends as you have discussed all of your aches and pains and surgeries. Was it uplifting to compare scars, grumble and complain? Maybe for a couple of minutes, but soon this kind of discussion is depressing. Time for another proverb, we were never promised a rose garden.  In fact Jesus told the disciples and us today, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”’  (John 16:33).  In Christ’s victory over death on the cross, we who believe have gained a new overcoming life.

I am saddened when I see the “Golden Years Nursing Home.” The place smells like urine, old skin and furniture. The softened food all looks the same. Now I am not attacking the nursing home industry- We need it. But how about the Eden Alternative®, an inspired and uplifting green concept of caregiving?  Their logo says, “An Elder is someone who, by virtue of life experience, is here to teach us how to live.”  That is a good view of an Elder. That is the view of Japanese culture and not ours.  We seem to throw away elders, as they are work and a frustration not a source of wisdom.
I endured well, most of the time, working for eight years in an elder care community. I learned about patience and long-suffering there amongst complaints. Don’t be a grouchy old person. I received some encouragement in my ministry that is far more frequent today in my hospital ministry. My role today is as an Encourager for patients and staff. I do find that the more content the staff member, the more apt they are to be encouragers themselves. Our hospital is rated in the top few in the nation for quality of care. I find it even more so because many of the staff are friendly and cheerful. “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart and good news bring health to the bones” (Proverbs 15:30).  There it is, the promise for a positive view of life. We have an original Disney celluloid of “Grumpy” the dwarf hanging in our guest bathroom on purpose. Go out and cheer someone, now!  Don’t be a grumpy old person.Grumpy Dwarf Pictures, Images & Photos | Photobucket