Norris Burkes

Spirit Matters Columnist

About This Author

Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of the book No Small Miracles. He is a retired chaplain for the Sacramento VA Hospital and the Air National Guard.

Articles by this author

Bad Breaths

Preaching to a sparse crowd, pastors often begin by quoting Matthew 18:20. They remove the verse from its context to passively express disappointment in the low turnout.

They say, “This reminds me of what Jesus said. ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’”

During my years as a hospital chaplain, I paraphrased this verse to convey my frustration at yet another staff meeting.

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Listen Up

Some of my most rewarding years in chaplain work were spent as chaplain for women and children at Sutter Medical Center from 2002 to 2008.

My rounds often took me onto the high-risk maternity unit. Rooms were filled with scared, pregnant women whose doctors confined them to bed in hopes of avoiding a miscarriage.

One afternoon, our unit secretary, Jeannette, told me about a patient expecting twins. Her 23-week pregnancy was threatened by severe complications.

“Her husband is a youth minister, so she has a lot of church friends in her room now,” Jeannette told me.

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Heavenly Appeals

Before my retirement as a health care chaplain, I was privileged to hear the prayers of patients who were hurting, sick and discouraged. They were heavenly appeals I wanted to share with you, but patient privacy prevented publication.

In other cases, patient families recorded their prayers in the public journal of our hospital chapel. The journal was a spiral notebook on the altar where visitors wrote anonymous requests.

I recently rediscovered some of those requests. Now I feel comfortable sharing them.

As you read these collected prayers, I encourage you to do two things. First, recall situations where God answered your prayers and granted grace. Second, offer your own prayer for these writers.

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Road Warrior

Inside Sacramento readers might be surprised to learn I write this column every week for syndication in 35 newspapers across the country. I’ve been doing it for 22 years. My favorite part is connecting with readers through personal visits, speaking tours, letters and emails.

Over the past year, I’ve visited a half-dozen places where I employ my Phil Donahue schtick. With permission of my host, I begin a pre-show routine, roaming the room with a microphone, asking guests if they have questions.

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Cheap Talk

After 30 years as a hospital and military chaplain, I returned to the pastorate last year. Now I’m rediscovering things I missed.

I missed preaching, potlucks and the fun I share with parishioners. I don’t miss the pressure clergy feel to recruit new parishioners. I was never much good at that.

In the Air Force I had ample opportunities to “troll for souls.” Each base chaplain is assigned workplaces they must routinely visit. My assigned areas were the hospital and security police station.

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