Author Archives: Fred Jeans

It’s Okay To Be Drunk?

One year at our annual conference, the bishop addressed the assembly prior to the ordination of new pastors. This bishop had a severe limp, which made his walking difficult and unsteady. He told of coming out the front door of his house around five A.M. one morning, and seeing a man and a woman standing under the street light on the corner. As he limped down the walkway to his car, his irregular gait made a slapping noise on the concrete and attracted the attention of the couple on the corner. They turned in his direction and watched him as he limped toward his vehicle.

Their voices carried very well in the early morning quiet, so he easily heard their conversation.

Woman:  “Who the heck is that at this time of the morning.”

Man:        “I don’t know but at this time in the morning, it’s either a preacher or a drunk.”

Then the bishop turned and looked at the class of young pastors and said these words. “It’s Ok to be a drunk… if you know what you are, and are in the process of recovery. AND, it’s OK to be a preacher if you’re a person of integrity.

Now I do not recall the rest of the message, but this was its core. What the bishop said applies to all of us, regardless of our station in life. If we have an addiction, or just a troublesome fault, recognizing it, owning it, and renouncing it, is the path to recovery. And for those of us who are fortunate enough to have escaped these hang-ups, whatever our occupation, integrity should be part of our personal inventory.

You see, reputation is what others see us do. Integrity is what we do when nobody is watching. And as the bishop said, it’s OK to be whatever you wish, if you are a person of integrity. But if we are not persons of integrity, the addict in recovery is a notch above all of us, regardless of his past..

My first experience as an industrial arts teacher was in a Catholic High School. At my interview for the position, I was informed by the Vice Principal that I would have the worst students in the school, “The ones nobody else wants” were his exact words.

I thought this was a strange thing to say, and had pretty much dismissed his comments until somewhere toward the end of the first grading period. I was standing in the hall talking to some of my students before classes started, when this Vice Principle approached. He looked right at one of the boys and said, “Watch out for this one. He’s a trouble maker.”

At first I thought he was joking, but when I realized that he was serious, I said to him, “You mean Charley? He’s one of my best students. I’m about to make him one of my shop foremen.” I discovered later that this student had indeed been a trouble maker, and that his grades had not been good up to that year. All of a sudden he had turned around. Cs, Ds, and Fs, were now As and Bs. What had made the difference? I believe it was one simple thing. I demanded respect from my students and I gave them the same. I did not care about Charley’s yesterdays, just as God did not care about mine.  God accepts us unconditionally and expects us to do the same for others.

I expected my students to do well and would accept nothing less than their best. Charley had responded, proving that the problem had not been with him but with the Vice Principle who incidentally, had been his teacher the year before. The V P expected Charley to fail, and he did. I expected him to succeed and he did that too.

What’s the point? First off, yesterday should be used to help change tomorrow for the better, not as an albatross to hang around the necks of those who are struggling to change. The past must be seen as a road to a better tomorrow, not as a parking lot for failures. God is always willing to give us another chance.  Shouldn’t we be willing to do the same for those who are in recovery? Oh and by the way, giving and demanding respect will always work…. IF YOU ARE A PERSON OF INTEGRITY!

Chaplain Fred

Helping Nature

When my son was about six years old, he and a friend discovered a robin’s nest  with three eggs in it, in the shrubs along side of our house. Of course they were full of questions, so we explained how the mother laid the eggs and then sat on them to keep them warm until they hatched. They were quite fascinated with the nest and eggs and spent a good portion of each day peering in to see whether or not they had hatched. Then one day they ran into the house very upset that the eggs had been broken. We assumed that they had hatched, but on examination, we found otherwise. In an attempt to speed up the process, the boys had decided to sit on the eggs themselves, which sort of explained how the eggs got broken.

When my son was about ten, he and another friend took a large braided rope and fastened it securely onto a branch of a tall tree growing atop a ten foot embankment. They then tied a knot in the hanging end and with the knot between their legs, they took turns swinging off of the embankment. Rope swings like this were not uncommon where we lived, which was a blend of fields, woods, and subdivision. The kids either swung from wild grape vines in the woods or made their own swings like this one out of rope. What we did not know was that the embankment was next to the road coming down the hill into our subdivision, and that the flight path for their swing went right out over the road.

On a warm fall day, one of our neighbors called us on the phone,  hysterically screaming something about almost hitting our son with her car. When the dust had settled, it turned out that the kids were smart enough to tie the knot at a position which would allow them to stay a few feet above any cars coming down the road. At first, they were content to stay away from traffic, but then, since it was almost Halloween, they decided to scare drivers by timing their swings so that they appeared to be jumping right at the cars as they passed. They would then sail right over the hood of the cars. After that one, the boys found sitting to be somewhat painful for a while, and the rope swing came down.

In their eyes, what the boys did was perfectly innocent and safe. They never considered just how serious the consequences of their actions could have been. It is an inescapable fact of life that we often acquire wisdom when we are too old to benefit from it. It is also true that knowledge and diplomas do not equal wisdom. Wisdom comes with age and experience, to those who do not have all the answers, who realize that there is always a better way. Progress and improvement are by products of this attitude.

A trait of the very immature is that they think they know everything. A man once said to me, “I can find the solution to any problem. I’ll just ask my sixteen year old son. He knows everything.”  Another man told me, “You know, it’s amazing how much smarter my father gets as I get older.”

A man from one of my churches who intended to go into the pastoral ministry, was taking counseling classes. In the course of a discussion, I told him that I never counsel with a woman by myself. If my wife could not accompany me, I enlisted the help of an older female parishioner who was dependable and who knew how to keep her mouth shut. This man was pretty hard headed and did not feel that he was “so weak that he needed a babysitter.”

At that time, he was still working in a steel mill and called me from work one evening to tell me that the Lord had spoken to him on this topic. “He said that there are two ways to learn. We can learn from the wisdom and mistakes of our elders, or we can learn the hard way, and risk doing something from which there is no recovery.” As a pastor, this man failed to heed the advice and it cost him his ministry and his family.

Even if you think you know the answer, shut up and listen. It’s better than eating crow later.

Chaplain Fred Jeans

Remembering The Words

When I was a pastor in Ohio, some of my experiences made a big impression on me. Three such incidents follow.

1) I had been a pastor for about six months when I did a funeral for the husband of a woman who had once attended my church.  About a year later, this woman began attending services, and soon thereafter, stopped me at the door of the church. She asked me if I remembered her husband’s funeral. When I said that I did, she told me, “I don’t remember a word that you said at George’s funeral, but I will never forget the tears in your eyes.”

2) I never accepted money for doing funerals or weddings for my parishioners, and made this known only to those directly involved. On one occasion, I was doing a wedding for the nephew of a parishioner. As I talked with the groom in the foyer before the service began, he gave me an envelope, and thanking me he said, “This is for you.” I opened the envelope, took out the check, thanked him, handed it back to him, and said, “The first meal with your new bride is on me.”

Several months later the groom’s uncle told me that he saw me return the money. He had no idea that I refused to take money for these services, and was very impressed by what he saw.

3) About ten miles from my church was a golf course, owned by a man who was a better Christian accidentally than most Christians are on purpose. He allowed pastors to play golf free on Mondays and Thursdays, sold equipment to pastors at or below his cost (sometimes free), gave money and clothing to the needy, and gave many people jobs when he actually did not need them.

My schedule was never regular enough to allow me to play on any given day but if I showed up on days other than Monday and Thursday, I would hand him a twenty for greens fees and he would give me two tens for change.

One fall, my wife decided to buy me a good set of golf clubs for Christmas, with my help of course. It could be disastrous for a wife or husband, who doesn’t play golf, to buy golf clubs without their spouse’s input. While we were discussing the purchase, Charley asked me “Would you like me to run this through the church to save you some tax money?”

Without thinking I asked him “Why would I do that? This has nothing to do with the church.”

His response both pleased and shocked me. “Knowing you,” he said, “I didn’t think you would, but most of the pastors who purchase equipment here do it.”

I do not share these experiences to draw attention to myself, but rather to illustrate the point that others are affected by our actions more than we realize, even when we think no one is watching.

In the first story, it wasn’t my oratory skills that were remembered. It was my tears. Believe me when I say that pastors never want to hear, “I don’t remember a word you said.”

In the second story it wasn’t the beautiful wedding service that impressed. It was that I considered these services to be my gift to the wedding couple.

In the third story, I was pleased to see that Charley appreciated integrity, and was amazed at how many pastors exhibited so little. Charley never attended church. Could this be why?

In all three accounts, people saw in me, things that I never even thought about; things that were never the focus of my actions. My point is this: whether we are preachers, politicians, nurses, CNA’s, housekeepers or what have you, we all need to know that what we are, has a far greater impact on those around us, than anything we can say. Actions really do speak louder than words.

When we are born, we cry and the world rejoices. Let’s live our lives so that when we die, the world cries and we rejoice.

Fredric E. Jeans, Chaplain,
Kenilworth Care & Rehabilitation Center

Unconditional Acceptance

 The following is a true story from which all of us could benefit.  It is written and shared by a young mother whose life touched others, through a simple act of kindness.

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called “Smile.” The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions. I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway, so, I thought, this would be a piece of cake, literally.

Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald’s one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special play time with our son. We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch…an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible “dirty body” smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was “smiling”. His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God’s Light as he searched for acceptance. He said, “Good day” as he counted the few coins he had been clutching. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally deficient and the blue eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them. The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, “Coffee is all Miss” because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).  

Then I really felt it – the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action. I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue eyed gentleman’s cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thank you.” I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, “I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.”

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, “That is why God gave you to me, Honey. To give me hope.” We held hands for a moment and at that time we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give. We are not church goers, but we are believers. That day showed me the pure Light of God’s sweet love.

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in “my project” and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, “Can I share this?” I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we, as human beings and being part of God, share this need to heal people and be healed.

In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald’s, my husband, son, instructor, and every soul that was in the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.  I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: unconditional acceptance.

Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to Love people and use things –  not love things and use people.

God’s blessings to you all in the new year.

Fredric E. Jeans, Chaplain,
Kenilworth Care & Rehabilitation Center

Send In The Marines

A chaplain, who happened to be assigned to the Pentagon, on 09/11/2001 gave this first hand account of what happened at a daycare center near where the impact occurred right after Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. This daycare had many children, including infants who were in heavy cribs. The daycare supervisor, looking at all the children they needed to evacuate, was in a panic over what they could do. There were many children, mostly toddlers, as well as the infants that would need to be taken out with the cribs. There was no time to try to bundle them into carriers and strollers.

Just then a young Marine came running into the center and asked what they needed. After hearing what the center director was trying to do, he ran back out into the hallway and disappeared.

The director thought, “Well, here we are, on our own.” About 2 minutes later, that Marine returned with 40 other Marines in tow. Each of them grabbed a crib with a child, and the rest started gathering up toddlers. The director and her staff then helped them take all the children out of the center and down toward the park near the Potomac and the Pentagon. Once they got about 3/4 of a mile outside the building, the Marines stopped in the park, and then did a fabulous thing – they formed a circle with the cribs, which were quite sturdy and heavy, like the covered wagons in the Old West. Inside this circle of cribs, they put the toddlers, to keep them from wandering off. Outside this circle were the 40 Marines, forming a perimeter around the children and waiting for instructions. There they remained until the parents could be notified and come get their children.

The chaplain then said, “I don’t think any of us saw or heard of this on any of the news stories of the day. It was an incredible story of our men there. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The thought of those Marines and what they did and how fast they reacted; could we expect any less from them? It was one of the most touching stories from the Pentagon.” Remember Ronald Reagan’s great compliment: “Most of us wonder if our lives made any difference. Marines don’t have that problem.” God Bless the USA, our troops, and you.

As I read this account, and realized that our news media didn’t bother to report the story, it occurred to me just how great a debt of gratitude is owed to our men and women in uniform – our policemen, firemen, military, border patrols, national guard etc. These heroes, many of whom lay their lives on the line every day, serve at great risk, not for glory or recognition, but out of a sense of duty and respect for our nation and its people. The actions of these marines, exemplify the type of integrity and selflessness that has made our nation great. They saw a need and filled it. They didn’t stop to ask, “What’s in it for me?” They didn’t run for cover and shout “Every man for himself.” They stopped in the midst of a terrible situation, to protect children who needed them; and then they stayed at their posts until each child was completely safe.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, we need to realize just how many unreported and unacknowledged blessings we have; blessings that we take for granted until we lose them. Not everyone who blesses us, stands in the spotlight and declares their achievements. Not everyone who watches over us providing the security we need to enjoy a night’s rest, does so for personal gain. Unlike politicians to whom everything is a photo op to be used to get votes, thousands like these marines, serve God and country with honor and integrity instead of personal gain. In that situation, they weren’t black or white. They weren’t Christian or Jew. They weren’t Democrat or Republicans. They were loyal, patriotic, grateful Americans, who placed honor and duty ahead of self.

God has blessed America beyond any nation that has ever existed, with an abundance of everything we need. Here there is no reason for anyone to go hungry or to be cold and homeless. Still with hearts not filled with gratitude, far too many of us see and ignore the needs of others every day of our lives, acting as if God owes us, when in truth, we owe Him – big time.

A truly grateful heart, recognizes and shares the blessings God has given. If your heart is not filled with gratitude to God and to those who daily sacrifice to protect and provide for you, a little soul searching is in order. The path to real happiness is not found in an abundance of things. It is found in giving to others, and in seeking to fill their needs. “Give unto others and it will be given unto you,” is a truth that the Bible teaches. Try it. It works.
May God bless you with a heart full of gratitude that appreciates all of His blessings.

Chaplain Fred Jeans