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Norris Burkes: Thanks to the people who have made this column possible

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Chaplain Norris Burkes

Chaplain Norris Burkes. File/Staff

If you read books, you’re familiar with the acknowledgements page of authors thanking everyone who has encouraged them toward publication. The concept has inspired me to write my own acknowledgements for Thanksgiving week.

My column doesn’t come out of thin air and I don’t write it alone. Today, I say a big “thank you” to those who’ve made this column possible for the past 18 years. Yes, it’s time for a Beatles quote: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

In the beginning

On that point, I appreciate Tom Clifford who, during a Boy Scouts camping trip in 2001, discovered my talent for telling touching campfire stories. He took a risk when he invited this novice to write a weekly spirituality column for Florida Today.

He’s the reason I became syndicated in nearly 50 papers by 2010. When Clifford left Florida Today, he introduced me to the Montgomery Advertiser and The Post and Courier in Charleston.

Thank you to your local newspaper that edits my weekly writing. I appreciate their commitment to real news. I thank them for always encouraging me to write whatever inspires me (including this breezy piece). Thank you for never, ever, not even hinting at, telling me what I should or should not write.


I’m grateful to Baylor University where I earned a double bachelor's degree in journalism and religion. I’ll never forget the ecstasy of being paid to write for the Baylor Lariat.

I’m grateful for the MFA in nonfiction writing bestowed upon me in 2013 by the faculty of Pacific University in Oregon. Thank you, Mike Magnuson and Debra Gwartney, for helping me transform my thesis about my Iraq deployment into my second book, “Hero’s Highway.”

Also, thank you in advance to the faculty of the University of Nevada, Reno, for accepting me this semester into their Journalism Masters program 2020. I’m off to a good start in the podcasting class where I’m producing an audio version of this column.

One family

I’m thankful for my loving wife, Becky, who is the first to read this column every week. She pulls no punches. If my writing makes no sense, you’ll never see it. Also, a shout out to her father, Wilbur Nuckolls, whose conservative viewpoint has helped steer this column with good theology.

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When Becky approves, I forward the column to my team of proofreaders, consisting of Marcetta Musser in Florida, Roger Williams in California and Joel Langton in Texas. They act as a kind of “focus group” and give edits and suggestions that add a fair balance to my writing.

Leading my team is Davalynn Spencer from Colorado. Spencer is a retired newspaper editor who turns my column inside out every week. Her edits bloody my page with fact checks, punctuation and grammar corrections.

By the way, I’m grateful she has never asked me to edit her work. She writes award-winning Christian romance books that are a little out of my lane. However, if you love romance, buy a copy of “An Improper Proposal” for yourself or someone who loves you.

Also, thank you to Kathleen Niendorff, the Austin, Texas, agent who tirelessly pushed me to publish my first book, “No Small Miracles.”

Reader family

I’m grateful for all the people who have so willingly, and many times unknowingly, become the subject of this column. I appreciate the flight attendants, patients, family members, soldiers and congregants who’ve inspired my stories.

Over the years, many readers have invited me to speak in their churches, schools, hospitals and veterans’ groups. I’ve answered invitations from Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia.

Many of you have invited me into your homes, fed me, housed me and driven me around town. From chauffeurs and pastors to professors and retirees — Thank you!

I’m especially grateful to Riverside Presbyterian in Melbourne, Fla., for commissioning my third book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving.”

Most of all, I appreciate all the readers who have emailed me, called me or written wonderful letters. I’ve not been able to reply to every single one, but please know that I read every word and listen to every voicemail. You, above all, make this column possible! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Contact Norris Burkes at or 10566 Combie Road, Suite 6643, Auburn, CA 95602 or voicemail 843-608-9715.

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