Chaplain Norris Burkes: Focus on thriving, not just surviving |

Chaplain Norris Burkes: Focus on thriving, not just surviving

Chaplain Norris Burkes

Five years ago, I wrote a book called, “Thriving Beyond Surviving.” The book is a compilation of my columns organized by themes.

These days, I’m challenged to live by my own advice. If I ever republish the book, I may consider the titillating title, “Seven F-Words I Live By,” and begin with a new word – FACTS.

I’ve sat with families in hospital waiting rooms as they considered bad outcomes for their loved one. I tried to restore their focus by saying, “All we can do is act on the facts we know, not the options we don’t know.”

More than ever, today our faith must be informed by facts.

That’s why I turn off sensational reports that make dire predictions. I’ve tuned out the ratings-driven network news. More and more, I look to the factual, if not sometimes somnolent, Reuters News Service or NPR.

The facts tell us to stay calm. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. To paraphrase the Disney rides, “Keep your delirious arms and legs inside the car at all times.”


There are two things I know from my own marriage: Becky needs space, but I need closeness. We find a happy medium between desertion and smothering as I go running while she does puzzles. We walk in the afternoon and rendezvous on the recliners to watch comedy.

New York Times’ columnist Jennifer Senior recently summarized a study from the Journal of Family Psychology that looked at couples in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The study compared the lives of those who’d lived in the afflicted counties in South Carolina to those who hadn’t.

Senior observed, “More people in the devastated counties divorced the following year. But more people also married. And there was an increase in births. The hurricane spurred a great deal of emotional movement, in all directions.”

Fortunately, my family headed in the same direction this week when both wife and daughter made it home from Honduras.


Don’t get your medical advice from a chaplain, but I think we can agree that it’s more important now than ever to focus on fitness. If you get COVID-19, you’ll need all the lung power you can muster.

I’m running, walking and riding a bike. I’d try dancing but I’m still holding a Baptist membership. People tend to get hurt if I dance. But you’re free to try it.

If you’ve not been active for a while, begin slowly. Increase a little bit each day. Before you know it, you’ll be asking, “Who is that new person in the mirror?”

Whatever you do, don’t just sit around watching your hair grow. Or in my case, it’d be plural, “hairs.”


Not to say that any of this is fun or funny, but I am emphasizing funny today. Instead of binge-watching Star Wars or other melancholic mini-series, I watch as much comedy as possible.

My favorites involve clean comedians or a good network comedy series. I’ve even found some oldies but goodies with Red Skelton and Carol Burnett on streaming TV.

Use the funny papers to bring perspective. Or as one comic strip suggested, don’t watch the news without your glasses. Beer or wine — your choice.

I’m nearly out of space, so I’ll conclude next week with the harder F words, like Future, Faith and Forgiveness. But for now, from the “fun” category, I have a few fun offers.

staying connected

Join me Sunday, April 5 at, 3 p.m. for a friendly online chat using the video conferencing platform Zoom. All you need is an internet device with a camera. It’s super easy. You don’t need any experience with it, and there is nothing to download.

If you email me, I’ll send you instructions. I’ll take the first twelve requests and will repeat the conference if successful.

Finally, if you want a copy of “Thriving Beyond Surviving,” send me $10. This drastically reduced price covers printing and postage. If you send more, I’ll donate it to the Chispa Project, the nonprofit my daughter started for establishing libraries in Honduran schools.

In the meantime, you’ll be more spiritually fit if you try thriving with the good F-words.

Contact Norris at or 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn or voicemail 843-608-9715.

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