Hello! I’m Rev. Chris Wyckoff. It’s okay to call me Chaplain Chris. It is my privilege to serve as chaplain at Signature Healthcare, Chapel Hill. Besides getting to know my new position, prioritizing my responsibilities, and responding to the unknown and unforeseen events that come up daily, I have been trying to figure out just how to make a post to this page. Figuring this out has been quite a journey. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. I’m learning to deal with not having control over something that I do have control over in other environments. But isn’t that much like our lives? Our journey takes us to different places, and different places require that we change our ways of being and knowing and doing.
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true – not just for one man, but for all mankind. We live our lives behind masks, behind false facades that we have constructed for ourselves to hide our true identities. We sometimes have several different masks throughout a single day, making ourselves look like someone else to please someone else’s expectations.
Sometimes we wear the “life is all good – see my smile?” mask to hide the pain we are going through. Sometimes we wear the “I never struggle with sin and temptation” mask to hide the fact that we are just as vulnerable and messed up as the next guy or gal. We think it’s working, even though nobody is really buying it.
TODAY. We only have today. Therefore, we must not miss out on today’s opportunities. We cannot go back and change yesterday. Tomorrow is not in our grasp. But today we can choose to respond to each moment of life as it unfolds before us. We can’t control or even predict what challenges, surprises, pains, or joys will emerge during this day, however, in each of life’s twists and turns we can make the most of every situation.
Many of us have an uneasy feeling about visiting our family or friends in a nursing home, especially if they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This initial discomfort usually stems from the fear that we will not know what to say or do in these situations. The good news is that it doesn’t take any special abilities to have a pleasant visit with those who are experiencing memory loss or confusion due to dementia. They are just like you and me in most respects–they love to have someone to talk to, they appreciate someone who will listen, they express their ideas and feelings in many ways beyond words, and they long to be loved and appreciated. Just like us, they enjoy a tasty snack, they sway with their favorite music, and they care deeply for friends and relatives. I hope you’ll join me in overcoming our apprehensions and spend some quality time with those we love. Click HERE for more on how to relate to those with dementia, whether you are a friend, a family member, or a visiting pastor.
For many years, Reader’s Digest magazine has published a monthly article called “Laughter the Best Medicine.” But Reader’s Digest didn’t originate the idea. It was written in the Bible thousands of years ago. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” The Proverbs are wise sayings written by wise men such as King Solomon of Israel, inspired by God Himself. God has made us in such a way that joy and humor are meant to be vital parts of our lives.
The connection between our emotional health and physical health is undeniable. Those who are have a joyful and positive outlook are far more likely to have better physical health. It’s not a guarantee that the joyful will never get sick, but their ability to recover and cope with illness is greatly enhanced. Conversely, those who rarely laugh or spend long periods of time in overly serious states have less of an ability to handle the stress of illness and disease. Those with long term depression–what the Bible calls “a broken spirit”–often have physically declining health that parallels their emotional illness.
OK, I admit it. I love a good thrift store! I’ve had this bug since I was a college student when I first discovered the world of savings and fun that a thrift store can provide. My first trip, I went with a friend to the local thrift shop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I found jeans and sweatshirts for about a buck each and even found some comfortable chairs for my dorm room for ten bucks. Soon, all my friends were visiting the thrift store and reveling in the great deals.
A few years later, after I was out of school and working as a collegiate chaplain, I found one of my all-time favorite thrift stores. I took a bunch of students to Chicago to work with the homeless in the downtown area. One of the men we were working with told us about a thrift store just a few blocks from the soup kitchen ministry where we were staying. This unique thrift store was about as big as a typical Walmart and had even better deals than most! At least half of the clothes were brand new with tags still attached, yet they only cost between 50 cents and a dollar. Winter boots, gloves, coats, they had them all! Sporting goods, tape decks (keep in mind this was the early 80s), dishes–you name it, they had it! It was such a neat experience.
Having very few clothes in the closet could be a problem or a blessing, depending on your point of view. If you’re like me, you may have accumulated a large collection of clothes over the past few years, many of which never get used. Maybe they no longer fit, or maybe they are no longer in my favorites category–either way, they tend to just take up space. When I was young I had very few things for a few years and so I developed a “hold on to it forever” mindset. This was later reinforced by my stepfather who lived through the depression era where almost everything was saved or reused in some way. But now those habits of saving everything have cluttered my space to the point where I can hardly function. It’s time to clean out and do some serious simplifying. I only really need a few shirts, a few pants, and a few pairs of shoes. When all the old or unused items are cleared out and either thrown out or donated to the thrift store, I know it will be a blessing in more ways than one. I will have more space and a better organized closet. I will have less stress and less laundry to do. I’ll have more appreciation for the things that I keep. Others will be blessed with the items that get donated to the thrift store.
“Gnarly Knots” is a one of a kind specialty sandwich shop in Winfield, Illinois, just west of Chicago. It has created one of the most unique and delicious sandwiches in the world. My son-in-law, Carter, has been raving about these special pretzel sandwiches for months, so when my wife and I came to Chicago to visit he took us to Gnarly Knots in Winfield.
We arrived 45 minutes early to be the first in line when they opened…yes, he likes them THAT much! It was a good strategy as the parking lot was full within a few minutes and we were at the front of a line of about 75 waiting customers. (Nobody gets lines like this unless they have outstanding food). It was worth the wait. Wow, are these stuffed pretzels delicious!! They easily rank among my top 3 sandwiches of all time, and I’ve had a lot of sandwiches in my 52 years.
It’s an everyday thing. My little friends depend on it. They become useless blocks of metal without it. When the power is present my phone can do truly amazing things. I can speak to it and it will answer my questions, provide maps and photos of my destination, calculate driving time including traffic, show me the latest movie trailers, and take dictation – all in a matter of seconds.
We need to charge our physical bodies with good nutrition, proper rest, and regular exercise. Our inner self, our spirit, needs to be plugged in daily as well. We cannot power our own spiritual life alone – we need strength from our manufacturer/maker… namely God.
What comes to mind when I hear these words… Father, Dad, Papa?
Images flash in my mind, memories come to life, and emotions swell in my heart. Some of those thoughts and emotions are warm and positive, and some are not. For many of us the memories and connections with our father – or the lack of them – have made a deep impact on how we relate to others.
On the positive side, I can remember fun times with my dad – like the times we went camping, fishing, or just playing catch in the front yard. I treasure these memories and they helped to form the image in my mind of a close relationship with a man who was older, wiser, and a good friend to me.