Chaplain Norris Burkes

Chaplain Norris Burkes. 

If you’re searching for an interesting read, my wife advises that you skip today’s column. That’s because this is the moment I take every few years to update you on the personal events that I’ve been writing about.

Today, I’m using the outline from my book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving,” to revisit the personal topics I’ve raised these past few years. The book was written to encourage the reader to live, as I have attempted, by Faith and five other important "F" words.

Pause with me a moment as I ask my regular readers how they think I’ve been doing in living this outline.

FUN is first on my life-review list. My regular readers know that between many of the heartbreaking encounters I have as a chaplain, I reserve room for fun. This year I was able to spread the fun mantra by teaching a marriage class called “Laughing Your Way to a Better Marriage” for military veterans. I’ve also garnered some new converts who enjoyed a talk I give about “Laughing Your Way Through Love, Loss and Life.”

FAMILY keeps me centered. Some readers assume I have only one daughter because I talk so much about Sara, the one starting children’s libraries in Honduras. However, if you’ve followed the column for the past 17 years, you’ll know that Becky and I adopted three other children. Fortunately, we’ve settled only an hour from them and are involved with our three grandsons. Becky volunteers at their school while I’ve helped advise our daughter Brittney in her first home purchase.

FITNESS continues to challenge me. I wrote about the tattoo I got three years ago to celebrate my completion of two marathons. The well-concealed ink art motivates my future fitness. Unfortunately, I’ve reneged on my fitness goals since spending the winter in Honduras. Conditions made running unsafe, and I’ve not yet returned to a full routine. However, I’m making a go at it again as Becky and I walk the steep hills around our new home.

FLIGHT is the F-word I use for “travel." Most of you followed my adventure through Europe and Central America last summer. We called it our “Gap Year” between the end of our 40-hour work life and retirement. I’d planned more travel, but the house purchase slowed us down.

Gratefully, Becky allowed me one last hurrah as we are spending September in Quebec City. Last week, we drove to Upstate New York, where I preached twice on Sunday, shared a bit of humor with a Monday-night crowd, and spoke for a 9/11 memorial service.

In February, we will return to Honduras. Six of you promised to go with me, but we have room for more. See chispaproject.org/volunteertrip.

FINANCES were key to helping us travel. Many readers commented when we made the monumental financial decision to downsize our life and sell our McMansion. Well, Becky grew a bit tired of that uncertain life, so we assumed another mortgage for a small home in the California Sierra Nevada foothills, just above the fog line and below the snowline. I’ve now adopted a key financial equation: happy wife = happy life.

FAITH – For several years, I’ve written about something I call God-spots. Those are the places I go, usually near water, to know God’s presence.

I’m fortunate that my new home is within walking distance to a lake. But even better, we’ve found a place to worship. The church includes several people that knew my father’s ministry, so it feels a bit like returning home.

And with all our traveling, home seems like a nice place to be right now.

If you’d like Norris Burkes to speak to your church or organization, contact him at norris@thechaplain.net or (843) 608-9715‬.