Chaplain’s Corner: Vol V

“Be Still and Know that He is God”

Earlier this spring, something remarkable happened in Punjab, one of the northern most districts of India.

The Sky Cleared!

And suddenly the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas appeared. For many folks 30 years and younger, it was the first time they had seen the world’s most spectacular alpine landscape even though they live in its shadow.

Because of the stay-at-home orders and social restrictions prompted by the pandemic, the traffic on India’s infamously clogged highways had disappeared almost overnight. So did the smog.

In New Delhi, which is burdened by some of the world’s worst air pollution, airborne particles plunged by almost 71% in one week. As the yellow gray cloud dissipated local residents gasped. There were the tallest mountains in the world, the tops of which had been obscured for at least three decades.

All Because Everyone Chose to Stay Home.

It may seem that the COVID-19 crisis has stolen our spring here at Westminster and around the world. We’ve lost March Madness, family trips, graduations, visiting with family on Mother’s Day and of course haircuts. But it has also provided a priceless opportunity, something many of us struggle to experience: putting on the brakes in our busy times.

Good Things Happen When We Choose to Be Still

We spend all our hours and days in the presence of the Living God. But God is hard to see even here at Westminster Village when we are going a mile a minute. When the smog of distractions finally clears, it can be stunning to see the face of the One who has been there all along.

“Be Still and Know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10)

It may be the isolation and social restrictions are beginning to wear us down. But keep looking up. As our spiritual vistas clear, the view will be awesome!
Faithfully,

Chaplain Ron Naylor

Chaplain’s Corner: Memorial Service

Memorial Tribute

Chaplain’s Corner: Vol IV

THE HEALING POWER OF FORGIVENESS

I grew up in Plymouth in northern Indiana and have been a Chicago Cubs fan since I was a young boy. But one of my favorite players of all time was Yogi Berra.

Berra won three most valuable player awards during his 17 seasons with the New York Yankees. But he was perhaps known best for his making unintentionally funny remarks. Some of his Yogi-isms-include the following:

  • “If you can’t imitate him don’t copy him.”
  • “Always go to other people’s funerals; otherwise they won’t go to yours.”
  • “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be”
  • “You can’t observe a lot by watching.”
  • “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
  • “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
  • Then there is the most famous Yogi-ism: “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

When Berra’s playing days were over he tried his hand at managing. Three times he was told, “It’s over.” His most painful firing was in 1985. The new owner of the New York Yankees, George Steinbrenner had assured him he would manage the whole season. Instead Steinbrenner fired him after only
16 games. The worst part was Steinbrenner didn’t even talk to Berra face to face. He sent an underling to deliver the bad news.

Berra was easy-going and genial but he resolved he would never talk to Steinbrenner again. “It was unforgivable”, he wrote later. For 14 years he never went to Yankee Stadium. He refused special awards. He turned down Old Timer’s Games. His friends pleaded with him to change his mind. “Never!”

Then something changed. In January of 1999, Steinbrenner flew to Florida to meet with Yogi and offer a personal apology for his behavior. But Berra refused him. His son Dale pointed out to him that Yogi’s grandchildren had never been to Yankee Stadium with him.

Berra relented. He and Steinbrenner met for 15 minutes. George admitted to Yogi that it was the worst mistake he had ever made in baseball. Berra chose to forgive him. And over the next decade until Steinbrenner’s death in 2010 Yogi and George became the best of friends.

We may think for reasons of pride and principle that we can never forgive that person that hurt us. But don’t close the door. Give God space to work. Even just wanting to forgive someone, if only we could, is a wonderful first step.

It never is too late to release a grudge. It is healing.

As Yogi put it, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.”

Faithfully,

Chaplain Ron Naylor

Chaplain’s Corner: Vol III

GOD IS THE AUTHOR!

John Tyler became America’s 10th President 179 years ago.  He was born in 1790 and died in 1862.  Historians have never considered Tyler one of the brighter lights in America’s Presidential chandelier.  But there is something that might grab your attention.

Two of Tyler’s grandsons are still alive!  At first blush that seems impossible.

How can a man born in the 18th century and who died in the middle of the 19th century have living grandchildren two decades into the 21st century?  As you might guess, the dominoes of Tyler’s life had to fall just the right way.  And they did.

Tyler fathered 15 children.  His second wife Julia was 30 years younger than Tyler.  One of Tyler’s sons, Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935) the President’s 13th child when he was 75 married a woman 35 years old and they had three children.  Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. was born in 1924 and Harrison Ruffin Tyler was born in 1928 and both are still with us.  They are the living grandsons of the 10th President of the United States.

When you think about it, some pretty incredible things had to happen for you and me to be here today.  Our grandparents had to make it out of childhood alive, something not guaranteed 100 to 130 years ago.  Those who came before you had to survive the Flu Pandemic of 1918, the scourge of Polio and the possibility of becoming a casualty of one of America’s great wars.

Against all odds, you had to win the most important competitive battle of your life.  The one which half your genetic material outraced at least 10 million other sperm.  Your mother had to decide to bring you into the world and care for you when you were sick, love you and feed you.  All those things had to happen.  And they did!

The Hebrew Psalmists were pretty sure there was more to the story.  “In Your Book O Lord were written all the days that were formed for me when none of them yet existed”  (Psalm 139:16)

God, in other words is the ultimate author of our stories.  God is the superintendent of the details of our lives both big and small.  “I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord  (Jeremiah 29:11)

Those plans may not include grandchildren who may carry on your legacy two centuries from now.  But they are remarkable enough to give every one of us the grounds to say every morning:  “Thank you, Father, for the privilege of waking up one more time in your good creation.”

Faithfully,

Chaplain Ron Naylor

Chaplain’s Corner: Hope In Troubled Times

Hope In Troubled Times

Chaplain’s Corner: Vol II

“With God Anything is Possible”

I love the story of Abraham and Sarah in the book of Genesis. The strangers who drop in on this elderly couple in their desert tent bring them the outrageous news that they are to have a baby. Scripture tells us that Sarah just laughs.

Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? Is anything impossible with God? Barrenness is not the last word for Abraham and Sarah for scripture tells us God is capable of what may seem impossible to become possible.

Centuries later, another improbable announcement of a birth came from the angel Gabriel to Mary. But Mary didn’t laugh. “How can this be?” she asks Gabriel, the messenger from God. “With God”, says the angel, “nothing is impossible”.

On Easter, the angel proclaims to the women who have come to the tomb that Jesus (that baby born of Mary now become a man) God has raised from the dead. Death no longer has the final word. With God even the impossible is possible.

What the angel knows is this: Earth has no power to thwart the will of God.

God’s will for our life and our wholeness is always loving even in the face of disease and death even when disease and death seem to have the final word. The Resurrection assures us, we can live and die; we can face the future even in the midst of great tribulation because God never abandons us.

Great tribulation! We have seen that in recent weeks. We have laid awake at night worried about our loved ones and if the coronavirus will come to our door. We have daily witnessed the nursing staff, the food service and dietary staff, housekeeping, maintenance, transportation, activities and the administration staff that come each day to minister to the needs of this home we know as Westminster Village. They too are among the Heroes.

We will come through this crisis. But if scripture and especially Easter tells us anything it is that with God all things are possible. The power of love that God loosed in the world on that first Easter is alive to bring healing and wholeness, joy, hope and love even in the face of this tribulation we call coronavirus. Let us never forget that.

Faithfully, Chaplain Ron Naylor

Chaplain’s Corner: Vol I

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” Psalm 46:1

As we are all going through this dark valley of Coronavirus, I want to share every week a message of hope and spiritual encouragement.

Back in 1980, a man named Bill Rittenhouse was driving through Kansas when he was passed by a loaded station wagon. Suddenly, a suitcase strapped to the top of the car worked itself loose. It fell to the asphalt and bounced to the shoulder.

Bill tried to signal the driver but failed. He drove back and recovered the suitcase hoping there would be some identification inside. He found clothing and a small white box with a rubber band around it. Inside was a $20 gold piece. On one side it said: “Twenty years loyal and faithful service.” On the other side were stamped the words: “Presented to Otis Sampson by the Northwestern States Portland Cement Company.”

After some difficulty, Bill found the address for Otis Sampson. He returned the $20 gold piece with a personal letter. It described his adventures during WWII, his escape from a Romanian prison and calling out to God for help. In fact, he wrote, “I can say that my relationship with Jesus Christ is my most prized possession.

More than a year went by. Bill assumed he would never again hear from Otis Sampson. But at Christmas he received a small box in the mail. Inside was the same $20 gold piece and a personal note. “Last Sunday, my wife and I were baptized…we want to tell you to have the gold piece to carry with you always. Our relationship with Christ is our most prized possession.

In the midst of major changes—like the ones that have been thrust upon us all this spring—we have the rare opportunity to think about what matters most.

What is the ultimate prize in your life? What is the one thing you hope and expect will always be there? The Psalmist reminds us God will always be there through all the changes in our life experience.

Some things we cherish may not end up one way or another on the shoulder of a rural highway, but many things we treasure will slip through our fingers.

What makes trusting God the real treasure? In poverty and abundance and in health and sickness we can never slip through God’s fingers. Not even in this scary time of Coronavirus.

God is our refuge and our strength! Let us never forget that.

Faithfully,

Chaplain Ron Naylor