Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Week with Charlie

In June of 1985, I took my first graduate level course in theology at Abilene Christian University.  Dr. Royce Money, who was later named president for ACU, taught that course on pastoral skills for ministry leaders. I learned principles in that class that I still use today. In 1988, Dr. Charles Siburt joined The Graduate School of Theology faculty at ACU. He soon assumed responsibility for teaching ministry courses in the curriculum for graduate level students. 

Dr. Siburt endured me as a student when I returned to ACU for the second time to pursue my Doctor of Ministry degree 12 years ago. He told Chris Benjamin and me that we were truly “demons” and not just “dmins”. We of course took a bow and thanked him. And we reminded him regularly that he would miss us when we graduated.  He never denied it…

Since I have lived in Granbury Dr. Siburt has invited me lecture to his students about the kinds of crisis ministry that I do as a law enforcement chaplain. I would spend a couple of hours going over how to serve people when an unexpected or traumatic death occurs.  Oh and by the way…the class I was invited to lecture to was the same pastoral skills course I took with Dr. Money in 1985…

This year Dr. Siburt prepared to teach that very course in May, but his health situation was tenuous at best.  He asked me once again to do the same lecture I do every year.  I agreed with one condition.  I asked him if could come and be his graduate assistant for the duration of the week.  I would be on hand if he just did not feel up to lecturing at any point during the one week short course.  He asked me if I wouldn’t rather spend a week off fishing or playing golf. I told him no…

I showed up for the week. And I got the better end of the deal. I wrote down several Siburtisms in my journal that were personally helpful. In fact I would characterize them as profound. I took Charles to the lab, so he could have blood drawn a couple of times. We had some of the best conversations we have ever had on the way there and back. (It was obvious that he had befriended all of the lab technicians at the hospital. No great surprise there.)  Even though he was in a weakened state he treated me like I was the most important person in the world. But my sweet wife has pointed out to me several times that Charles makes all of his friends feel that way.  It is one of his many gifts.

For some reason the best selling book Tuesday’s with Morrie came to my mind as I finished that special week with Charles. At the time I wanted to write a book entitled A Week with Charlie…But I haven’t had just a week with Charlie. I have had 24 years.  Little did I know in 1985 when I took a course in pastoral skills for ministry leaders that I would one day be lecturing and assisting Dr.Siburt with the same course every year 20 years later. I can’t possibly describe what those annual experiences of lecturing and enjoying lunch together did for me.

Little did I know this year that a week with Charlie would help shape some of the crucial decisions I need to make at this stage in my life.  That week was truly life changing for me. The book entitled A Week with Charlie will be written… It will be written one day at a time from this point on as I strive to minister in deeper and more significant ways than I have before. 

The news all of us who love Dr. Siburt received today was very difficult to process. His loyal wife Judy wrote this morning: The doctor told us that we are getting close to the end of this long and winding road. The recent long stays in the hospital have taken a toll on Charlie's hard earned physical strength. Tonight I am overwhelmed with sadness and preparing to write an important book all at the same time. 

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