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Prayer and Presence…

January 7, 2015

50 years of medical excellence

Today I had  a wonderful conversation with a dear friend about prayer and being in God’s presence. It was a God moment for me, as I had been thinking intensively about prayer and presence last night. Last night I was supposed to meet with a group of brothers for a “guys night” at the Convergence Coffee Shop in Crestview, Florida. On the drive over, I was directed by a sheriff’s deputy to turn around and go back. So instead of driving to Crestview on Hwy 90, I drove on Interstate 10. When I found out the reason for the detour was a two person fatality on the Shoal River bridge, my heart sank. Immediately, I breathed a prayer for the victims and any survivors, the first responders, the families and those who would have to notify the families of the death of their loved ones. It took me back to the many times in the Air Force where I had either been first on the scene at a tragedy or part of the team who had to conduct a death notification.

As I pondered and drove, a poem I had written in the Spring of 1998 during my yearlong residency in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center came to mind. The year of intensive training and introspection that CPE, courtesy of the Air Force, offered me forever changed my life personally and professionally. In addition to incredible training, residents had the opportunity to walk with so many patients, staff and families, sharing in the sacred journey of life and death.

Two Rooms On A Ward

 There are two types of rooms

On the ward where I work.

I enter each one in the same way.

What does the patient ask of me today?

The first is a place of despair,

With curtains drawn to keep out the light.

A faith lives here, all weary and worn.

Pain is intense, life is not good.

He talks of faith and God’s will,

Words that seem, tired and empty.

A cross of constant pain to endure,

Six months to live at the most he is told.

We walk together for a while,

Pain and discomfort are constantly there.

The look in their eyes, filled with tears,

Says, ‘Chaplain, how much can we endure?’

A second room is a far different sight,

The colors alone shine a far brighter hue.

Sunlight fills every corner of this room.

And her eyes are truly filled with a glow.

Pain is a companion to her as well,

But it does not stop her eyes from glowing.

I am a living miracle Chaplain, ‘tis true,

Five times God’s allowed me to come back.

My life on this earth must not be through,

There is so much He wants me to do.

Her eyes, her smile, her spirit are light.

We laugh, we smile, and we take time to pray.

Lord Jesus, thank you for your grace and this day.

Who has blessed whom, I think to myself,

She thanks me for caring and being…

A reminder of her Lord’s love in this life.

What do I bring to these rooms?

Can I really make a difference in anyone’s life?

Lord, may I be a beacon of your loving light,

To each room… gloomy or bright.

The above poem reminds me that it isn’t as much what I say or do, but what God reveals through the pastoral presence of a simple servant. Sometimes we pray together… sometimes we simply sit together in silence… always I seek to share God’s presence. In the Chaplain Corps, one of our historic core principles has been, the Ministry of Presence, or simply being A Visible Reminder of the Holy.

As a pastor and chaplain, I have had the sacred duty and honor of walking with people through the valley of the shadow of death. And I have found that it isn’t so much the words we think we are supposed to say as it is simply being there.

The same goes, I believe, in our prayers. Often times it is not so much the words we say or the “formula” we think we are expected to use as it is simply being. And that means simply being in the presence of the Lord or sometimes just being with the person in need as a visible reminder of the holy. So I think the call is for us to live our lives as a prayer. May we be, as the closing lines of the poem imply, be a beacon of God’s loving light to each situation or person, whether gloomy or bright.

The picture above was taken in November of 2007 and is courtesy of

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  1. oakabbey permalink

    This is so lovely; fully human, fully divine; just like the One in Whose Name and Love you serve. God continue to bless your life and ministry. ❤

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