Category Archives: Chaplain’s Thoughts

Living Up to Our Potential?

A stakeholder mentioned something in passing about a family member of a resident.

The family member said that she was mad at her mother for not making more out of her life. In short, the daughter is angry with her mother.

That sounded odd to me. Why is the daughter mad at her dying mother for not making more out of her life?

I am thinking that maybe the daughter is mad at herself for not “doing more” with the life that she has.

I think that sometimes about my life. Do you?

When I reflect sometimes, I think that I could have done “more” though I am not sure what that “more” might have looked like. This life is a deep, complex mystery and to think that my brain can blaze the trail for Larry is as impossible a task as asking an aardvark to perform brain surgery.

At best, I detect hints about my life, nothing substantial. I am an expert on puzzling dead-ends. Insight is becoming rarer and rarer. I often find myself surrounded by a void. Our lives are a movie that is still playing and no one knows how it ends or even if that end will stand for good or evil.

So are we living to our potential? I don’t know. If we could live differently, would we? I guess not, and that is really all right because I sense on my best days and in my better thoughts that we really are living the true life even when we are afraid that we haven’t.

The Power of Studying the Bible in a Nursing Home

Residents and stakeholders just read and talked about the rich man who asked Jesus what he had to do to live forever. Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor.

The wealthy man balked and walked away.

Would we sell all that we have and follow? Most of us said that we would have to get back with Jesus on that.

Overall the consensus was “no”. I didn’t detect a scintilla of support for the poverty idea.

Me? I don’t like it either. I like my closets full of stuff secured beneath a dry roof.

But, I like the way we wrestled with the story. Even the CNA’s and nurses that popped in to see a resident would stay and debate. I like the multi-view of a Jesus story that you can only get from a gathering of diverse religious and spiritual traditions which uniquely occur at nursing homes.

The day of spiritual imperialism and “the” sacred pont of view are gladly over as we wrestle with a story that still bristles with fresh ideas and shocking inferences.

Studying the Bible in diverse community may be the only way to hear God above the monotonous roar of partisan doctrine.


Everyone Is Thankful For Something

Everyone is thankful for something.


Today at chapel, as we revved up for the big day tomorrow, I asked the good folk for whom or what were they most thankful. Most of the answers were boilerplate:



“A roof over my head”



One respondent when asked offered an answer two or three paces off the well-trod path: she said,




Like I said everyone is thankful for something.


Things To Give Thanks For

Here are my “thanks”:

1. That people interrupt me during my day when I really have other things to do. Interruptions give us a chance to do God’s work instead of our own.

2. That I can take a day off once and a while and eat, walk, exercise, pray and dream about what I want to do for the rest of my life even if I haven’t fulfilled them.

3. For the occasional insight that this life is heaven and that now is the time to soak it up.

4. That once in a while I realize that about 99% of what I do isn’t that important.

5. That God is more interested in loving me than in making sure that my Roman nose is kept to a mirthless grindstone of religious duty.

6. For CNA’s that do the real work of our home that keeps the doors open and as a result pay my salary.

7. For having a job to go to which keeps both my wife and me from a room for two at the crazy farm.

8. For simple prayers said for real needs, even if we don’t get what we ask for.

And you?


“Power Unheard Of!”

We are in charge of our lives.

The Greeks called it self-control.

We can cool our passions. If we find ourselves heating up with anger, we can call on the cool winds of calmness. We are not the victims of our unrestrained passions. I enjoy the eruption of irritation because it gives me a chance to touch the brakes before I crash. At the prime age of 59, I am discovering the joy of self-control. It makes me happy to know that I am not the hapless victims of my runaway emotions; instead I am the master of that ship. Soon, I hope to will be able to go hours, days, then weeks, then maybe even months without making myself the victim of rash behavior or unhealthy thoughts.

It is really up to us. The older I get the more appreciation I have for the wisdom of those bold, inquisitive minds that lived more than 2,500 years ago in Greece those same minds that are as fresh and cogent today as they were then.



There were many unqualified men in the steel mill where I worked, who got positions because they were sons, or friends or something to someone. These men often lacked the maturity needed for their jobs, and usually considered their abilities to be greater than they were.

Our plant had four tandem mills, which reduced the thickness and smoothed the surface of the steel. Each mill had two stands with two large rolls approximately 30 inches in diameter, pressing against two smaller rolls of about fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter, through which the steel passed. The rolls were about ten feet long and from their exposed ends, they looked like two snowmen, with one stacked upside down on top of the other. The smaller rolls actually resembled rolling pins, with the necks on either end being six to eight inches in diameter. When these rolls got worn, or when the mill wrecked, they were reground and reused.

A coil of steel came off of a reel at the entry end of the mill, went through the rolls and recoiled on the exit end. When the mill wrecked, the steel honey combed where it entered the small rolls, and become pressure welded to the rolls. When this happened, an overhead crane would be used to get the rolls out and to clear the mess of mangled steel.

On a day when a mill wrecked, the foreman, motioned for the crane to come over. The crane operator, Harley, had over twenty years of experience on that crane, and knew what he was doing. He moved the crane which was about forty or so feet above the floor, into position, and lowered the hook. The crew placed a steel cable on the hook and looped it over the exposed end of a roll on the entry stand. The foreman motioned for the crane operator to raise the hook, and Harley shook his head “no.” The foreman repeated this action several times and each time Harley shook his head “no.”

At this point the foreman went to the call box and called Harley every filthy thing he could think of, and without giving him a chance to explain, ordered him to take up the hook. Harley told him and the crew to get clear, pulled up the hook, snapped the neck off of a ten thousand dollar roll, effectively ruining it, and then just sat there.

The head roller on the mill went to the red faced foreman and said to him, “If you talk real nice to that man up there, he can get you out of this mess.” After a few minutes, the foreman went to the call box, apologized for his pig headedness and sheepishly asked Harley for his help. Harley soon got things cleaned up, but the foreman’s pride had cost the company a $10,000.00 roll.

There are many lessons to be learned here, perhaps the most obvious being that we never have all of the answers. But to me the most important thing that I see is the fact that on any team, everyone is important and necessary, and just because one might be the boss, he or she is not necessarily the smartest or the most important person on the crew. Most military veterans will tell you that it is not the officers who get the job done. It’s the NCO’s, the sergeants.

When that mill was running, the roller was most important. When it was being loaded, the loader was most important. When it was being unloaded, the assistant and the crane operator were most important, and when the mill wrecked, it took everyone to get it going again. At any given moment a different person might be most important, but at all times, they all needed to work together to accomplish their purpose.

Regardless of our position, when we think we have all of the answers, we probably are the one person on the team who should be removed. When we refuse to hear the voice of experience and wisdom from others, we put their jobs and their work at risk. The Bible tells us to let the attitude of Christ be in us, who even though He was God’s Son, humbled himself…. A truly humble person, is not prideful but grateful to God for his talents and never thinks he or she is better than others.

Chaplain Fred Jeans,
Kenilworth Care And Rehab


Healing Broken Hearts

We in the health care industry, are faced almost daily, with situations where mending broken hearts is sometimes more important than mending broken bodies; where no pill or medicine will help, and where there is no “one size fits all” answer.

The Signature healthcare model emphasizes the spiritual as being just as important as the physical. This in no way diminishes the importance of caring for the physical, but it recognizes that a person is more than just a body. In the Biblical perspective, we are spiritual beings that live in a body, and the simple truth is that you cannot neglect one aspect of our being without affecting the other.

I remember a man who almost never smiled. Then one day, I was talking to him, and as I was leaving, I casually said, “I’ll see you later, OK buddy?” Immediately, a big smile crossed his lips as he said to me, “How did you know that ‘Bud’ was my name?” It seems that all of his life, he had been called “Bud,” and hearing that name brought joy to his heart. Now when he sees me, he smiles, because I think he sees me as someone who knows him. While this discovery did not fix his physical problems, it began the journey toward mending his broken heart.

One day. a little girl’s puppy got her favorite doll and mangled one of its arms. When the little girl saw the damage the puppy had done, she was devastated. She grabbed the doll with the mangled arm and ran to her mother. “Mom always knows what to do,” she reasoned. With tears streaming down her face, she begged her mother to fix the doll, but it was just beyond repair.

As the mother tried to console her daughter, the child pulled away from her and ran into the garage where her father was working. “Daddy can fix anything” she thought as she burst through the door and ran crying into his arms. “Please Daddy, can you put Dolly’s arm back on,” she cried, but the look on her father’s face belied the fact that this was something he just could not fix. He took his daughter into his arms and told her that he would get her another doll, “just like Dolly,” but that was not what she wanted.

She pushed away from her father and ran down the street to the church. As she ran through the doors, she crashed into the legs of the pastor, who was just leaving for the day. He knew the little girl and her family, so when he saw the tears, he lifted her into his arms and asked her, “What’s so terrible that has caused all of this crying?”

Sobbing the sobs that only the deepest hurt can bring, the little girl replied, “Is this the place that mends broken hearts?”

When I read this story, I find myself wondering how I would answer that question. Jesus called the lonely and downcast to Him with a promise of healing, but do we, or can we serve in that same capacity?

The biggest enemy of our elders and senior citizens, is the loneliness and the sense of uselessness they experience daily. We in America focus so much on the physical aspects of healing that we often overlook the fact that one the biggest detriments to healing among the aged, is a lack of purpose; a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

Whether you are in healthcare, pastoral care, or you just plain care, what would you say if that little girl’s question had been addressed to you? Or for that matter, what would you say to a friend or relative whose life expresses that question?

Perhaps more to the point, at one time or another, that question is presented to all of us. How do you respond to it?

Chaplain Fred Jeans,
Kenilworth Care And Rehab


Montaingne Or Bust!

It sounds pretentious to say that, “I want to grow.”?

Some of us have our tickets punched to wherever it is that we believe that we are going to go when we die and we are content to hang around the terminal till the bus leaves. Not me, anymore.

I don’t like to hang around the terminal.

If we aren’t reading, talking, debating, and asking questions then what are we doing?

Recently, I read Montaigne and I am kicking myself for not having read him decades ago. Just two things that he has already said are enriching my life.

One is that we need not fear death himself having a near miss in a horse riding accident; he found the experience to be peaceful and thrilling. He added that the body will know what to do when the time comes; we needn’t fret. The other idea is that we should be present, to live in the stream of life that is happening now.

If I could, I need to retire and study, grow, make mistakes, read, and learn.

I turned 59, though everyone insists that I look 58ish and I am gearing up to grow.

How about you?

Tired of sitting in the terminal?

Are you geared up for a new idea or two?

“Choose This Day!”

According to “Fish” by Lundin and Christensen, the proven ways to boost morale and improve results at work are:

1. Choose your Attitude. Today, I choose hope and buoyancy.

2. Play. Have fun at work while you do a very important job.

3. Make Their Day. Engage the customers (and everyone is a customer) in ways which will create energy and goodwill. Produce proactive pizzazz.

4. Be Present. Focus. Heaven is now. All the way to Heaven is Heaven. The past is dead and there is no such animal as the future. Live in the eternal now, as P. Tillich said.

So what do you think? Want to give these a try?

We can soar or squat and shiver in the swamp? Our call.

“She Died This Morning”

She died this morning in the hospital. I was bending over her bed and talking into her ear telling her that she was loved and that her family would miss her but that they would make it. (Actually, I was walking out the door, when I decided to turn around and have a private talk with her, mouth to ear.) While I talked she died, softly.

Her family cried and then started to make calls to the family.

I hugged them and left so that they could call family.

She was fun. She had a sparkle in her eyes and her attitude was playful. Her face drew friends.

And she is gone.

But her eyes twinkle in my heart and probably will throughout today and at surprising times in my future.