Monday, February 28, 2011

Showing Up

At my day job, I work in the reception area for the main non-profit that owns the office building, which houses a dozen other non-profits that provide health and human services. Our building is across the street from a county health service provider.

Gleefully, I greet people who walk into our office space. Many times they are looking for another agency than ours. The conversation flows something like this,

"I'm here to get my taxes done, I have a 9:00 meeting with..." "Oh," I reply, "you are looking for the agency upstairs. Just go one flight up and you'll see the sign for TAX HELP HERE."

- or -

"I need to get my hearing aids fixed. I have an appointment?" "Oh," I reply, "you are looking for the Division of Services for The Blind." (I say, chuckling to myself because it seems odd that the 'Services for the Blind' provides services for Hearing Impaired, too.) "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" and I repeat myself, pointing and shouting.

Last week, this interaction really topped them all.

"I have an appointment? " the visitor says.
"Oh," I inquire, "With whom?"
"Um, I'm not sure."
"Oh," I pause. "What time is your appointment?"
"This afternoon."
"Oh," I pause. "What's it about?"
"it's with someone about discrimination...?"

This is the strangest thing - the person has some vague notion that they have a meeting but aren't sure what time or with whom or where. We eventually figured out that I could not help at all. I encouraged them to look through their notes and find a name or phone number.

Then, right as I was shaking my head in wonder, I realized how often I approach God like this. '

"Um, God, it's me. I think I have an appointment with you. Maybe not you. Might be someone else. Not sure what we are going to talk about, or for how long, or what will come up."

And you know what? God always says to me, "Sure thing, fine! You just show up and we'll have a chat." And so I keep coming back for more. Just showing up to this moment and God's there.

With whom are you visiting, in this moment?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Complex Power

Wow. This computer system we use at the office is really complex.

I'm trying to send an email to a group of people. Simple enough. Well, first we need to identify which people. When doing so, be sure to click five fields and update three date ranges. Oh, and there is the optional "title" field that provides for even more options, down the line.

Next, set up the mailing list. This is attached to the assigned group of people. It has another set of fields and date ranges to click on and set. Third, define the "usage" of this mailing list - email? post? fax? ESP? - and remember the four-digit number that is randomly assigned. Don't forget to click on "log" so that it tracks who actually received the email. Next, set up the template email to which you will attach this usage for the mailing list of this group of people. You are almost ready to send your email to the group. Now go back to the main menu and...

Don't get me wrong, I think that this system is capable of many, many things. It probably could make a double shot macchiato with whipped cream and a dusting of chocolate if we want. The power of this thing is indescribable. It slices, it dices... and that's not all...!!

Which makes me wonder how powerful and intricate is God's presence in our lives. I sense that God is right there with us when we find ourselves in complicated situations. God's love spills out in those places where we see both sides of an argument. God's connection in our lives is revealed where one reaction triggers other responses we had not thought of before. God's power is known when something that seems unsolvable is gracefully cleared.

The power to simplify in the midst of chaos.

I pray for God to simplify the chaos edges in my life. Or at least be with me as I discover those blind spots that "I had not thought of before." And in my current, seemingly unsolveable dilemma, to provide graceful clarity. Thanks in advance, God!

How is God's power known to you in this moment?

Pay close attention now: I'm creating new heavens and a new earth. All the earlier troubles, chaos, and pain are things of the past, to be forgotten. Look ahead with joy. Anticipate what I'm creating: I'll create Jerusalem as sheer joy, create my people as pure delight. Isaiah 65:17

Friday, February 4, 2011


Last week I shadowed a half-dozen chaplains around the hospital.

Part of my department orientation to being a chaplain at this particular institution is to learn the unique idiosyncrasies. Which set of papers to fill out upon a death, how to contact the morgue if a family wants to view a body, what protocol to follow when there is a Code Blue, how to call the shuttle after hours to go between campuses, how to chart spiritual assessments so that it helps the next person who will visit, how to use the "clock in" time keeping system, etc. etc. etc.

During my year as a resident, I learned the art and science of being a chaplain amidst an institution that was set up a bit differently. The culture was one of learning, exploring, making mistakes, asking questions, reflecting, and doing it again and again and again. Eventually, right about the last week, I finally felt like I could simply show up and even though I didn't know what the pager might bring, I knew how to navigate the space, the system, the relationships, the staff and the paperwork.

Last week I shadowed a half-dozen Pro's. They know their stuff. They know the procedures, policies, charting. They showed me how to connect with the staff. They've been doing this for 7 years, 16 years, 25's in their blood. They shared their terms of endearment for certain personalities "Big Bob" or insider names of key spaces like "the snake pit."

And, I realized at my supervisor's coaching, I'm now one of them. "Can I actually write *that* on the chart?" I asked. She said, "Yes. You're not a resident anymore. You are a Chaplain."

So my prayer is that with God's help, I will fill the shoes of a Pro Chaplain. As my sister said to me at the 20-mile mark of the Chicago marathon, "You have been training for this day for a year. You are ready. Get up off the curb and run like a pro!" May I remember the encouraging words of my residency supervisor and my yaar-colleague-resident chaplains. My I approach this ministry always with fear and trembling. Amen.