I Wish…

I wish that Trayvon Martin could have grown up.  I wish that he could have had a chance to become a man.  I wish that he could have been able to find a great mentor, like a youth worker or a community organizer, and that he could have had the chance to grow up and make a difference in the world. I wish that he could have gone to college, and gotten an education that would improve his chances of survival in this cruel, harsh world.   I wish that Trayvon could have had the chance to become a mentor himself, and help other young men become the people God intended them to be. I wish he had been able to have the chance to become a successful entrepreneur, who built up a community-based, socially responsible business that benefited not only his wallet, but the entire community. 

But I know that’s not possible.  I don’t even know if he would or would not have taken the opportunities I just described, but it would have been good if Trayvon had at least had the opportunity, the chance, to reach his full potential.  But it’s not possible. 

I also wish that George Zimmerman had not been walking down that particular street that day.  I wish that the neighborhood he lived in wasn’t so disorganized and distrustful of one another that he felt it necessary to become a neighborhood watch member.  I wish that he had met someone who encouraged him not to buy a gun, but to invest his time, talent, and money in serving in a local youth center.  I wish that George had been a mentor to Trayvon, instead of his killer.  I wish that these two children of God could have met on the basketball court in a church, and played some two-on-two with another adult and teenager, instead of meeting on the street in the middle of an altercation.  I wish that we lived in a nation where race and class and stereotypes didn’t determine our feelings about one another, and where the media and the politicians didn’t grasp at every opportunity to tear us apart for ratings or political gain.  I wish that every Trayvon Martin were loved and cared for by his community, and that every George Zimmerman were encouraged (and rewarded) for putting down their weapons and taking up the cause of peace–real peace–in neighborhoods and communities all across this country. 

I wish. 

I wish that children wouldn’t be shot in the places that should be the safest for them.

I wish that people would speak openly about their fears of the “other,” instead of looking over their shoulders before perpetuating a falsehood about “those people.”

I wish that the churches, synagogues, mosques, humanist clubs, atheist organizations, political parties, non-profits, and corporations of this country would unite under the banners of Peace, Love, Harmony, and Understanding. 

I wish. 

But wishing isn’t enough, is it? 

Wishing that this were all so doesn’t accomplish it. 

No, I’ve got to do something about it.  And so does everyone else.  Each of us, in our own ways, must work for peace, every day, in our hearts, our homes, our streets, our nation, and the world. 

Wishing won’t get it done.

So, what are you going to do about it?
I plan to start speaking up, and talking about peace, and acting for peace.  Not just when I’m around my friends who are also peaceniks and pacifists, either.  I need to start talking about peace with everyone I meet, and I dare not let an opportunity pass me by to live it out in my life. 

The hymn may sound corny, but it’s as true today as when a group of campers first stood around in a circle and sang those words, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with ME.” 



52 Weeks of Chaplaincy

Today marks my one-year anniversary as the Chaplain at Ohio Northern University, and what a year it has been!  At this time last year, I was busy filling out employment paperwork, finding my way around campus, and figuring out how being a college chaplain is different from being the pastor of a church.  Boy, is it different!  I’ve learned a lot of things over the last 52 weeks, but I thought I’d share 52 of my favorite lessons from my first year as a chaplain.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  1.  There is never a dull moment in campus ministry.
  2. You can get more done over one cup of coffee than in three hours of meetings.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try new things, or do old things in new ways.
  4. You are not an authority.  On anything.  (Get used to it.)
  5. The people in Student Affairs are your best friends.  Get to know them.
  6. Word spreads fast on a small university campus.
  7. Meetings sometimes start late.  Like, really late.  Sometimes 9 or 10 at night late.
  8. Freshmen look scared, but what they sometimes don’t realize is that inside, they are braver than they think.
  9.   Seniors (and P5s/P6s) look like they have everything under control, but sometimes on the inside they are more scared than the freshmen.
  10.   Faculty members are not the enemy.  In fact, they can be the chaplain’s biggest ally.
  11.   Never put your robe on too early before an academic ceremony—it can get hot!
  12.   Being part of a “platform party” is not as fun as it sounds.
  13.   The leadership potential of emerging adults is tremendous.
  14.   Part of the chaplain’s job is to encourage and draw out leadership potential in students who seem least likely to possess it.
  15.   People of different faiths and belief systems can get along if they are authentic in expressing who they are and what they believe.
  16.   Prayers don’t have to end “In Jesus’ name…” to be in Jesus’ name.
  17.    If you’re not sure about your theology, you soon will be.
  18.   Plan.
  19.   Do a review after every event.
  20.   Utilize the talents and gifts of others.
  21.   Take time off.
  22.   Be prepared for times of great busyness and activity, followed by periods of quiet and solitude.
  23.   Make good use of school breaks.
  24.   Find out where things are on campus.  Take frequent walks.  If you’re wearing school colors/logo, someone will stop and ask you for directions.
  25.   Meet students where they are, but don’t leave them there.
  26.   A college campus is like an ecosystem—everything works best when there is a balance.
  27.   If you tell someone that you are not very busy, they will find something for you to do.
  28.   Having an “elevator speech” about your project/program is essential.
  29.   The chaplain’s “congregation” leaves town at Christmas and Easter—this can lead to a lot of extra adrenaline over the holidays.
  30.   Strive to maintain your personal spiritual disciplines.
  31.   Build a good relationship with your building custodian/housekeeper.
  32.   (Almost) everything they taught you in seminary about being a good pastor applies to being a good chaplain.
  33.   The things that don’t apply are crucial, and should be respected.
  34.   You don’t have to preach for 30 minutes to get your message across.
  35.   Most of the time, you don’t have to preach at all.
  36.   The message isn’t yours, anyway.  It’s God’s.
  37.   A good administrative assistant is worth his/her weight in gold.
  38.   When a student comes into your office and says, “Can we talk?” get ready for some serious listening!
  39.   Always show up at a campus event ready to pray, if asked.
  40.   Get to know the academic deans and their staff members.
  41.   The same applies to the people in financial affairs, admissions, security, athletics—you name it.
  42.   Never neglect time with your family.
  43.   Clergy and parachurch organization colleagues are precious resources.
  44.   Reach out to local churches—be a “fill-in” preacher.
  45.   Be a part of a small group where you aren’t seen as ‘the chaplain’ for one hour a week.
  46.   Network with other chaplains and campus ministers.
  47.   Learn how to use social media.
  48.   Build up your student leaders.  Train and encourage them.
  49.   Show up at student events.
  50.   Campus ministry is not “Youth Ministry 2.0”
  51.   Campus ministry does not exist in a vacuum separate from the Church.
  52.   Campus ministry is the hardest, but most rewarding, work I have ever done.

Well, that’s it–52 things I’ve learned over the past year as a chaplain.  There have been many, many more things I’ve learned, but these are my favorite.  It’s been a steep learning curve, but I’ve really felt blessed this year to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful students, faculty and staff, and I look forward to many years more.