Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Peace Prayer

June 30, 2009
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: "May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls and quietness within your towers..." Ps 122:6-7

Peace. Peace. Peace. Many of my patients, families and staff are praying for this. They seek the peace that is acceptance, the peace that allows waiting, the peace that provides sleep and recuperation. I, too, seek peace.

Helen Keller wrote, "I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace." I think she makes a very good point about how understanding brings peace, and that's being present in the moment. When I find answers to my questions, when I have insights to the source of my feelings, when I can find an image that reflects a representation of what is happening - then I can find peace.

How do you find peace within your walls and quietness within your towers?

Set Me On My Feet

June 29, 2009
And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet. Ezekiel 2:2

It's Monday! I tend to be a morning person and when I wake up, usually shut off the alarm quickly and "set me on my feet." I am invigorated by my work and it's seminars, reflections, prayers, interactions and times of just being. There are not many on-purpose times of just "being," I must admit. Perhaps that is because it's all so new, and I feel I have so much to learn.

"They deserve not to have a tired priest," one parish priest said to me in an interview. She explained that her responsiblity is to care for her self, so that when she is called by a member of her congregation (when the spirit enters her) she is to be ready to be set on her feet. Another priest indicated, "My job includes not going crazy." I think he is onto something, there.

When the spirit enters me, I believe it is my obligation to do a self-check and find out what is it that I need in that very moment, as well as what the "other" might need. In this way, with God's help, I can discern how to be a good steward of my SELF as well as my vocation.

How are you responding when the spirit enters you and sets you on your feet?


June 28, 2009
For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has-- not according to what one does not have. 2 Cor 8:12

Eager - eagerness. That's such an interesting inner state. One dictionary defines it as "keen or ardent in desire or feeling; impatiently longing" or "characterized by or revealing great earnestness." Is this a feeling that shows up in the moment? Or is it a feeling that teases me into the future?

I dance with this - am I eager because I am impatiently longing?

This character of great earnestness, while a strength when used for sharpness or enthusiasm, can also have a disingenuous effect if over-expressed. Yes, I am eager to do my work, to see my friends, to call my sisters on the phone, but could this be taking me out of the moment?

Then I breathe, and remember, that with eagerness, the inner state is a gift - and it is acceptable - and it is enough. I am enough. And that, is showing up to the moment.

How does your eagerness affect you?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Giving Thanks

June 25, 2009
We give thanks, O God, and call upon your name, we make known your deeds among the peoples. Ps 105:1

When I asked him about his situation, he explained his cancer diagnosis. With his wife beside him, I listened how he had struggled to keep things "normal" for his two young children. He lost his job and they moved in with her family. Then something amazing happened.

He said how thankful he was.

He shared how his family had received an outpouring of support from extended family, friends, work mates, former work mates, and people they don't even know. His wife explained that even now they receive a check every month with a little anonymous note saying, "we are thinking and praying about you." Boxes of food show up on their doorstep. I got chills listening to this story and caught a contagious hope from this young couple.

I reflect... how am I giving thanks, today?

Prepare The Way

June 24, 2009
See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. Malachai 3:1

Today is the feast day of the Nativity of John the Baptist. You know, the guy wearing camel hair shirts and eating wild locusts. In the Hebrew scriptures, we read in Malachai that they way will be prepared, and this sets up our understanding of John. When asked about Jesus, John replies, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30) He seemed to know his place vis-a-vis Jesus.

I find the notion of "preparing the way" very intriguing. And humbling.

I don't know what will happen to the patients, families, or staff after my visit. I don't know how the didactic course on Theological Reflection about biblical themes that intersect our hospital experience will help me be a better Chaplain. I don't know how attending an interdisciplinary presentation about cancer will help me provide pastoral care. I just have some sense that right now, in this moment, these activities are preparing in me some depth of resource from which I can draw at some point in the future.

How are you preparing the way today?

Seal Upon Your Heart

June 23, 2009
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm... Song of Songs 8:6

This week, I re-listened to the John O'Donohue interview by Krista Tippett from "Speaking of Faith." I was captivated when O'Donohue talked about finding the Divine in everything. He says (I'm paraphrasing here) "There are some things that are visible that the human eye should never see." When Tippett asks him to explain, he says that he believes the only way that we can sustain ourselves in the midst of horror, is to keep an image of something beautiful in your mind.

I asked myself, what beautiful image do I keep in my mind? I do see many of these kinds of things, and in those moments, I realize there are many dimensions to what I see. My eyes are normally drawn to the eyes of the patients, the family, and the staff. These are beautiful, amazing humans that I see. I have not yet learned how to hold some other image of beauty in my mind. I'm human - so I see what is front of me - and perhaps that is the most beautiful thing.

What do you seal upon your heart (and mind) today?


June 22, 2009
Be alert at all times, ... Luke 21:36a

Jesus says this twice in the Christian Scriptures. In Mark, he follows it with "I have already told you everything," but here in Luke, he emphasizes that we pray for strength...

This is a common prayer theme in a hospital setting. Families, patients and staff - we all want strength. Strength to hear the news of diagnosis. Strength to deal with whatever that diagnosis might mean. Strength to stay present with our loved one while we wait for test results. Strength - emotional strength - not to "lose it."

But no one asks to be alert. In fact, there is so much over stimulation keeping me alert (pages, overhead noises, medical equipment, elevators, doors, etc.) that I may even be praying for strength to numb myself to these alert triggers.

I believe that Jesus means to remind me to be alert to my inner story today. How am I responding in this situation? What is the inner trigger that annoys me so much when that IV alarm goes off in the middle of my prayer with a patient? What personal family history do I bring to my colleagues so that when one reacts a certain way, I become the middle child again?

What is your inner story? What do you need to be alert to?

Fresh Springs

June 20, 2009
The singers and the dancers will say,"All my fresh springs are in you." Ps 87:6

At a rate of about one page per hour, and I was not frazzled but busy and, actually, invigorated. What a honor to be present in the moment of so many family dynamics, so many questions, so many prayers, so many empty minutes, and so many footsteps.

Several calls required follow up visits and invited new dynamics and new interactions. While remembering each one is helpful, in the trauma center the situation can change in a heartbeat. Thankfully, team mates at each situation were generous in teaching and patient with my questions.

Sure there were interruptions. Sure the computer was error-prone with me. Sure the printer jammed. Sure the coffee nearly spilled. And each interaction brought me back.

Is is really possible to find Fresh Springs when we show up in the moment, no matter what the circumstances?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Applying Our Hearts

June 19, 2009
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. Ps 90:12

I spent the day visiting patients and staff today. I made my way around my assigned floors, got lost, and got found, and had a great time with the whole experience. I leaned a lot on instincts even as I wrote lots of notes trying to remember what to "chart."

For how much intellectual learning and formal education I have received, nothing can compare to walking into a medical situation. I was filled with my own expectations and no small amount of anxiety.

In this one room, the patient was sitting in the visitor chair, surrounded by her family. She had a big smile on her face as she relayed to me that she was a tearful wreck earlier. And she was not presentable - she had not combed her hair, put on lipstick, and was wearing this awful gown. "Respect the dignity of every person" came to mind, and I listened to her lament.

When her family member mentioned what church they attended, I inquired more about it. This family member then taught me how to pray in their style and I was gifted with a new perspective on prayer. It truly opened my heart to wisdom and I was grateful for the visit.

How are we, as a society, applying our hearts to wisdom in the small and big matters of the world?


June 18, 2009
He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.' Luke 21:1-4

It's Thursday of a long week. So many acronyms, so much to remember, so many policies and procedures. I found myself envying my colleague of 26 years old that he didn't need to take any notes - of course he remembers it all. Me, my poverty-memory-learning style insists that I write it down and reflect on it later.

We were assigned a "scavenger" hunt to make our way (on our own!) around the hospital campus and to discover our own short-cuts through the mouse maze that makes up the landscape. Surprisingly, it took me two hours - that's an hour longer than I thought I would, but I did make it to lunch to join my colleagues!

After all this learning, we are to share our spiritual journeys tomorrow. I wrote well into the night, trying to keep it to three pages. "If I had more time, I'd write a shorter letter," says Mark Twain. I heard this quote echoing in my head.

I really wanted either more time or more specific instructions - but alas, resigned myself to answer the one main question that would reveal more about my style and who I am. That's all I had - my SELF. This need for perfection just might be my own poverty.

What is the poverty out of which you are to share?


June 17, 2009
Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive. Luke 20:38

We met in a small room, just us residents, and discussed chaplaincy with a former chaplain for NICU - that's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. This chaplain and Methodist pastor serves on our advisory board and loves to teach, so she spent a good, full hour acquainting us with NICU issues. With sensitive and frank wording, she shared some meaningful anecdotes about what her experiences had been and what we might expect. With compassion and presence she listened to us share our own experiences with NICU issues, so as to form a perspective and bond with us before getting a "tour."

We made our way to the NICU and completed the obligatory 2-minute scrub up. Babies! Everywhere! Small ones, and smaller ones, and tiny ones. Each of them has a name, a story, a spirit! And the care givers were - also - everywhere! Doctors, nurses, assistants, helpers... all interwoven in this one space.

How can I find God in both the living and the dead, when they intersect in this sacred space?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

They became silent

He said to them, 'Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent. Luke 20:25-26

The morning was filled with important information that any new employee needs to know. Safety, emergency procedures, security protocols, that kind of thing. My new employee-mates by my side, we slogged through it and completed the obligatory evaluation forms. I listened in silence. I could not wait to get to the real work.

Over lunch we completed a daunting task: the on-call schedule for all nine chaplains on the team. For me, the tension of picking dates that would work and avoiding dates that would not work while trying to swallow my lunch was not an easy thing. I listened in silence. I could not wait to get to the real work.

Next, we found our work space. Got our 139 page handbook. Learned how to do computer work (emails, server access, charting, etc.). We sat in a group and reviewed on-call protocols. What to do when x happens, what about y, who do we call if ... Then we tried on our soft-wear that will identify us as chaplains. Attractive short white coats. I listened in silence. I could not wait to get to the real work.

Here's another article to read before next week. More clarification about writing our first assignment that is due on Friday. Here's the next year's planning. I listened in silence. I could not wait to get to the real work.

Then it was time to go home. Oh, I guess I did do real work today. I tried to be present in every moment. I laughed at my colleague's jokes. I panicked thinking about my first on-call. I clarified how to do some computer stuff for another colleague. I was human. I listened in silence.

Did I give to God the things that are God's?

Monday, June 15, 2009


Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. – Ps. 80:3

Today I met many new people, whose countenance changed as I got to know them. My original suspicions about their lives shifted and transformed as I learned their story.

She didn’t arrive early for just any job. She arrived early for her first job. Ever. She seemed like a seasoned “I’ve been in orientation sessions before” kind of gal – her countenance oozed confidence. Then I learned this was her very first job. After a year long internship here, she will eventually earn a certification in the same field as her mother. What a strong young woman she is! Do you remember your first job?

He graduated from accounting school and became a CPA for his first career, but he really wanted to be a doctor. In his mid-thirties, he went back to medical school and became an internal medicine specialist. Then I learned that running his own practice took him further away from his family, so he decided to work for this hospital in a similar, but different position. Now, he smiled, he can spend nights at home with his children and be part of their life. Have you ever completely changed your values – and then your life situation?

Her specialty is child development. Oh, she’s got a good job in the school system, but was recently told that she will probably be furloughed. She is now employed on a “PRN” basis (as-needed) and that’s why she is sitting through all this training so that perhaps, in the future, if they need her in the child development center, they might call her. No benefits. But it’s a foot in the door. Have you ever signed up for a job with so many “maybes” attached?

I thought that everyone else’s countenance changed. Actually, I think that I was the one was changed by them. Their full presence in our awkward “I’m a new employee, are you?” conversations – and their hope, encouragement and perseverance – their presence is what saved me today. Has that ever happened to you?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

So Sure?

God made the whole world so sure that it cannot be moved...Ps 93:2

If the world is so sure then why do I doubt? Why do I fear? Why am I second guessing? And what does the psalmist mean, "so sure"?

I ran along the road this morning, the one that follows the river. Sure enough, the birds were singing. Sure enough, the trees were rustling. Sure enough, the river was flowing. Sure enough, my feet plod along as I showed up for my morning run.

The ground felt very familiar. Solid. That's gravity for you. Of that, I feel sure.

Today will be formed by Sunday worship, and I'll pack my things into my car and drive south to to move into my new space. I will move into a new vocation. I will move into new patterns. I will move along a new road for my morning run. The air will move from greater heat and humidity.

Of newness, I feel sure. Perhaps just because it's sure does not mean it is not new?

God made the whole world, that's for sure, and as an organic, alive mass of creation that is moving and shaking. And on the days that God made the world, God loved it all. Including me - as a doubting, fearful, second-guessing human that is moving today.

Of God's creation, and of God's love, I am sure.

I'm on my way.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This I Believe ~ Inspiration for this blog

I believe in showing up. I believe that being present to each moment is the most sacred act I can share with the world and with my Creator.

Showing up on the road for a run – even when I would rather stay under covers in the morning – informs me that being healthy matters. Whether it is a cold, rainy morning or a hot, humid afternoon, I show up – to my air-conditioned apartment on the seat of my stationary bike, or to my living room for pilates, or to a nearby trail for a walk. If even for 20 minutes, I show up. After doing lunges three times a week for the last several months, I realized yesterday, as I ran up that hill-that-shall-not-be-named, that I feel stronger, physically, each day, and I could be present to that moment.

Showing up at gatherings or potlucks – even when I cannot afford to bring a dish to share – informs my awareness that relationships and community matter. Whether an end-of-season committee celebration or a “coffee?” invitation from a new friend, I show up. I ate pancakes at our church’s Shrove Tuesday dinner this year across from a woman who shared with me her joy of not having symptoms after her first round of chemo. Her grateful smile and her renewed sense of hope for a healthy future left me in a state of exuberance. Although the meal cut into my budget, I showed up. I was spiritually renewed by our conversation and our deepening relationship. Now she shows up in my life, asking how I am doing.

Showing up at endless interviews – even when I felt uncertain about the company or the job – informed my self awareness and increased my self confidence. Usually nervous at first, but once I showed up, I realized that I was the expert on me. Though most interviews resulted in no call-backs or a denial letter, I did my footwork for that day and I felt that I had done my part. I believe that by showing up to that discussion, the interviewer will remember me and be changed for our interaction.

Showing up at my new job on Monday, as a chaplain on a team at a level-one trauma center, begins a new chapter in my life. Uncertain as to what the year-long residency will require, I am going to show up – with my whole self – and be in the fullness of each moment, with God’s help.

I believe in showing up, again and again. And every time, God reminds me that I am loved and teaches me hope and faith. In ordinary moments, by showing up, I can experience a transforming sacredness of that moment – with all that was, and is, and is to come. By showing up, alert to the moment, I experience the web of all creation. I believe in loving my neighbor as myself – by simply, showing up. And that, is a sacred act.