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The Present of Presence


One of the avocations that go with my vocation is being a firefighter and a fire chaplain.  I get invited into stress filled and difficult situations in folks lives.  I have stood with people as their homes burned, stood on a doorstep in the pouring rain at midnight to give terrible news to a family, sat on the diamond plate of a fire engine with a firefighter, paramedic, or police officer who have had one of those runs that sticks with you.  From what I have heard, it’s probably one of the things I do better in all of my ministry.

Last week I was watching the morning news while getting ready for work.  The beeps came across the television and we received the “Breaking News Alert” and I heard about a 13 year old being shot and killed in a community just north of us.  I paused and prayed for the First Responders, the victims family, and the community.  After that, I went about my morning.  About an hour later a call came in from my Fire Department asking if I would be willing to deploy with my Critical Incident Stress Debriefing team (I didn’t even know I had a team – but that’s another entry on its own) – I rounded up some folks who had CISD training and coordinated a debriefing time with the Fire and Police in this community.

I would love to tell you what was said – some of it I am unable to due to confidentiality – but most of it I just don’t remember.  I remember just praying, “Lord, just let us do no harm.”  After the debriefing was over I overheard a conversation between one of the newer folks (it was their first live debriefing) and they said, “I don’t know if what I said made any difference.”  To which a veteran police officer smiled and said, “The fact you were willing to come says all we needed to hear.”

In my vocation I hear often, “Pastor, I would love to talk to _____________ (insert name here), but I just don’t know what to say.”  “Pastor, I wish I could invite _____________ to church, but I just don’t know what to say.”  I am learning that it is not all that important what we say – the importance is in what we do and that we are willing to do.  I am thinking of Jesus speaking of sheep and goats, “When did we see you hungry or thirsty or sick or imprisoned?”  Jesus wasn’t telling us to tell others, he was telling us to LOVE others.

Sometimes being present with another IS the present they need.  What a gift we have.


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