About the Spirit

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This blog started out with "about me" in the title. My whole life has been "about me". I hope that the entries that I make will be about the Spirit and how He has changed my life because it has always been about Him and how He works through us.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Foundation Talk 2007

Foundations Talk

I wanted share with you all just how powerful these past three years have been for me. I Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide me in my attempt to explain my feelings.

So many things that have occurred to me and around me in the past that didn’t make sense, came to complete clarity during this course. To give you just one example:

I was a police officer in a major city on the east coast for fifteen years. I worked one of the deadliest, crime ridden ghetto districts on the eastern seaboard.

I must admit that during that time, when things really got rough, I questioned the existence of God. Being a cop I only saw people at their worse. Everyone was a crook until they proved otherwise.

I’ll never forget the case that turned it all around for me, the case that showed me that there indeed is a God but why He did what He did for me I didn’t and thought that I never would understand...

I was working the day shift on the 24th of December when I received a fire call. I knew the area where it was located and knew that it was a vacant house. I thought I would go there, direct traffic around the fire scene, write a small report, then go home and get ready for Christmas.

Things were going pretty much as I thought they would except for the size of the crowd. People and traffic were everywhere, all the streets were blocked in every direction. I still thought it would be a quick fire and everything would go back to normal.

I was standing near a fire truck when suddenly a shot rang out. All of us at that fire scene had been conditioned since the Baltimore Riots to do just two things at the sound of gunfire and that was to dive to the ground and Pray.

When I dove it was right into the gutter where the water was draining from the fire hoses. Firemen jumped off ladders, dove under fire trucks and hid in the burning house. After what seemed like an eternity, I could hear people screaming and looked up to see what was going on. I saw a large crowd standing on the corner and in their mist, lay a body on the ground.

I ran to the corner and found a very young male laying, unconscious, on the sidewalk. He was wearing a heavy jacket which kept me from seeing if there were any injuries. I unzipped the jacket, ripped open his shirt and found a small bullet hole right in the center of his chest. I had been a cop for a long time and knew what this meant but I wasn’t going to let this boy go without a fight...so I started CPR.

I, like everyone else, dislike cases where children are involved, but I really detested them because they tend stay on my mind for a long time.

Inside, I wasn’t just Praying to God, I was screaming at Him, “Why, why Lord did you do this to me? You know I can’t handle this sort of a case! Why didn’t You put someone here that can handle this...why me?!

Then my Prayers turned to: “Please help me get through this Lord, because I know that I can’t get through this alone.”

I continued CPR in the back of a squad car until we got to the hospital. The child was pronounced dead on arrival. I left the trauma room and walked around repeating that Prayer but now with a new twist: “If only You would have sent someone else to handle this maybe this child would have lived, but no You had to send me, half a basket case, to handle this, the most important thing a man can do, save a human life, and I failed.

I was in the waiting room trying to get information together for my report as I observed the boy’s father, who was in a state of shock, say mostly to himself: “What am I going to do with his bike, I just got him a bike for Christmas, what am I going to do with his bike?

I had to get away. I couldn’t handle anymore. I went into the men’s room and locked the door. I went to the sink and looked down at my hands they were covered with blood. I took a deep breath and looked in the mirror.

I didn’t recognize the man staring back at me. My uniform was caked with mud and dirt and I was soaked to the skin, I had lost my hat and eyes were bloodshot, I truly didn’t know me anymore.

I looked in that mirror and vowed to turn my life around, to start going to Church, and to try and make some sense out of what just happened.

I went to Church that Christmas morning and every Sunday after. I met a young Priest who helped me to understand that our God loves everyone, even a guy like me who not long before questioned the existence of our Savior.

Then one Saturday during this course I listened as Dr. Bobertz explained how Genesis 1.1 the creation, Genesis 6.5 the flood, Matthew 8.23 the calming of the sea, were all examples of God’s new beginning for mankind.

He explained that in these examples the water was Chaos and with Christ chaos can be calmed and there will be a new beginning for those who believed in Him.

I had tears in my eyes as I remembered that little boy and my awakening in that men’s room. Now I know what I was looking at in that mirror...it was pure chaos.

I went from chaos to a new beginning. I realize now that there was nothing I could have done for that little boy who died, so very long ago.

In 2001 one year before I retired I delivered a baby girl in the Stearns County jail. She had the cord wrapped so tight around her throat that she almost died. We untied the knot in the cord and she began to cry. I thanked God for letting me a part of her birth.

I believe that He was saying to me...”Forget all the tragedies that you have seen, and if you must remember your police years...remember this baby.”

I would like to close with a passage from the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians:

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation, behold new things have come!”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Coffee Shop

I thought I'd write a few words about the coffee shop closing. Last year I was told by my boss that if we didn't show a profit by the end of October of this year that it was pretty certain that we are going to close. I guess that we haven't shown a profit since we've opened. This is not unusual. The cafeteria never shows a profit and they throw more food away everyday then they sell. In our case however, we are not a necessity and because of the "supposedly" financial problems that the hospital is having right now they can't afford to subsidize us as they have in the past.

There is good news. I guess everyone in the hospital has heard about our possible closing and business has doubled this past week. (I just love the people here) If this keeps up I think we'll stay open. Also, Jeanne (Mom, Aunt, Grandma) tells me that the nurses are thinking of starting a petition if closing is imminent. Plus, I spoke to someone who is in the know and was told that the closing of my shop has never been discussed at any of the finance meetings.

I'll keep you all posted on what's going to happen. I love it here and it will break my heart to have to leave. My boss told me that she will hire me in the kitchen but I don't know what I'd be doing. She stated that I could wash pots. I don't know if I'll do that. I love working with people and don't want to spend my time in the kitchen away from everyone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Like a Seed...

Like a seed in the cold, frozen
Like a winter tree reaching to the

So desolate, so lonely, so empty, no
Oh, the sorrow, the pain, the suffering,

You come like a whisper, a warming of
The buds burst forth, a dawning, a new

A break in the ground ,dare I look, dare I
Leaves so tender, trust in Your warmth, or die

The warmth, Your warmth! Oh, Your infinite
How could you care so much to Forgive me my

Like a flower full bloom, I was reaching
All the years searching and I find You

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the past two weeks

The neat thing about this blog is I can write anything I want and hope that everyone that reads it will understand.

I've had a real very emotional and heart-wrenching two weeks. First, I was turned down from the Deaconate Program by a very uncaring and dispassionate Archbishop. I'm not going into specifics but lets just say I was almost in tears when I left his office. Second, I went to the VA Hospital in the cities and was told I have skin cancer. No big deal but lets say it put me back a little. Third, I just found out that they're planning to close the little coffee shop that I love to work at. And fourth and the most important...While I was visiting Chris I was made aware of the fact that I sent my girls, while they were very young, down to the grocery store to get me cigars while I laid on my butt at home. I don't remember sending them and I'm ashamed of myself. I remember when I was little and my dad sent me to the store then screamed at me if I didn't come back with what he wanted. I hated that experience and it stayed with me all these years. I can only hope that my girls don't feel the same way about me. As I wrote above I am ashamed of myself...my dad probably didn't know nor remember what he did to me. This is one time when I can say that that trait that I received from my dad, I'm not proud of.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Grief Retreat II

This is going to be the second and last segment of the Grief Retreat I attended. Just after lunch on that Saturday all the chidren were given shoeboxes that had been covered with white wrapping paper. The idea was this: to cut out pictures from magazines that reminded them of the person that died and paste the picture on the shoebox. The little guy that I was helping first cut a picture of a tractor and glued it in the upper right hand corner of the box. then he took a picture of a corn field and glued it next to the picture of the tractor. This went on with a picture of a farm, a vegetable garden and finally an apple pie.
He then drew a line from the tractor to the corn field then to the rest of the pictures then back to the tractor, drawing arrows through them all. He explained: My Mom first learned how to drive a tractor then she was allowed to plow the corn field. He explained all the pictures and how they related to the others.
He looked at me as he drew the last line back to the tractor and said "This line brings my Mom's life to full circle. She started out learning to drive a tractor and last Mother's Day she was accidently killed when her tractor accidently rode over her." He is eight years old.
It took a few minutes for me to get my voice back and I thanked him for sharing his thoughts of his Mom. I will never forget that weekend. Anyone that wants to sign up as a volunteer next year...let me know.

Saturday, October 6, 2007



I first met Elaine during my first week working in the coffee shop. She was in a wheelchair and had just finished a grueling 5 hours of dialysis. She could hardly hold her head up, she was drained of all her energy.

As I watched her, she started wheeling the chair in my direction. She was a little woman, white haired and pale, with a small frown on her face, the type of frown that comes from dealing with years of pain. I decided right then and there that she and I were going to be friends. For all I know, she was probably thinking the same about me.

She came up to the counter got out of her chair and asked for a cup to get herself some coffee. We started to talk. I think we were “feeling” each other out to find out what sort of person we were.

We became friends. She was coming for dialysis on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of every week which pretty much meant that she was housebound and couldn’t do any traveling.

Over the many months of our friendship I became very fond of Elaine and began bringing her coffee to her. I couldn’t bring myself to charge her, knowing that she (and I) looked forward to our meeting I wouldn’t spoil it by taking her money. She was a friend not a customer.

Almost a year in to our friendship she told me that when she was younger she played the piano at her church. Her community was the Tripolis Lutheran Church which only about five miles south of Kandiyohi where my church, St. Patrick’s is located. I had been in her church one year for a service celebrating Thanksgiving. She was very happy to hear this and I asked her if she would play the piano for us on her next visit. She promised that she would if she felt up to it.

On her next visit I anxiously waited for her to finish her treatment so she could play for us. She was pushed out of dialysis and she sat there with her head down, so weak she couldn’t hold it up. I poured her the usual half a cup of coffee and she couldn’t drink it. She told me that it gets like this sometimes, she got sick during treatment and couldn’t hold anything on her stomach. I was very concerned for her as she was being pushed to the elevator and I Prayed.

I know that we were brought together by the love of Christ, as Merton wrote: everyone is brought into our lives by the Spirit for a purpose. We may not know and we may not ever know why but sometimes He shows us His love through others and I think that is what I was experiencing, God’s love in the eyes of Elaine.

I waited for her at her next visit and found that she had been admitted to the hospital. I found out what room she was in, fixed her a cup of coffee, and went to her room. She was so happy to see me, I thought she was going to cry, I thought I was going to cry...

After a couple more days in the hospital she was allowed to go to a nursing home to recuperate before going home. I asked her how she liked the nursing home and she stated that it was alright but she had to get home because her husband was lonesome and needed her. Listening as she spoke of her husband, I realized that her statement could be turned around, she truly missed her husband and their home. She went home after a week.

On her next visit to dialysis, I was very busy which is unusual for that time of the day. Suddenly I heard someone playing the piano. It was a hymn, one that I have heard a thousand times and it was being played so well that it made me want to sing. I looked up and there was Elaine at the keyboard with a wonderful smile on her face, doing something that she loved to do, play her favorite music and she played it wonderfully!

Elaine has had her ups and downs over the past year, in and out of the hospital and nursing home. She took all of this with a smile and never complained. She just wanted to live a somewhat normal life with her husband and to be able to go to her little country Church and worship her God.

Once she told me that she really didn’t know how we became such good friends but she sure was glad we are friends because she cared a lot about me. I was thinking, I know how we became friends; because God brought us together to understand His love for us through each other.

One day as I was giving Elaine her coffee, she looked up at me, smiled and started singing. It was beautiful hymn. The years melted from her face as her voice traveled throughout the lower and first floor of the hospital. She was a wonderful singer. I can see her sitting at the piano in her Church playing and singing. It must have been a joy for everyone that heard her. As I watched her sing tears welled up in her eyes and I couldn’t focus either. I think that at that moment both of us knew who had brought us together.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Grief Retreat

This past Saturday I volunteered to help at a grief retreat which was held at St. Marys Church in Willmar. It was held for children from kidnergarten through the six grade that had lost relatives during the past year. It was a wonderful weekend. Just one example: As the day was starting a young lady who was a volunteer was asked if she would like to share her story as to why she became a volunteer (this was after we were all paired off with one volunteer per child). She said that when she was eight years old her dad died and she went to a grief retreat which really helped her in her grieving process. She decided then that when she grew up she was going to volunteer. As she was finishing her story and went to sit down, the little girl that she had been paired off with grabbed and hugged her to console her! What was that short Prayer of St. Francis? "Let me be an instument of Your peace and to console then be consoled" (something like that).