Monday, March 28, 2011


At our recent silent retreat, we reflected on forgiveness. We wrote in our journals, drew mandalas and crafted collages.

We used small strips of dissolving paper on which we wrote confessions. Then we placed these in the "Grace" bowl (filled with water) and watched the "sin" vanish!I took a moment to watch the effect, which was stunning. The paper dissolved completely, leaving a cloudy film in the water. Any words written in cursive (in pencil) stayed stuck together and floated to the top. The stir spoon encouraged the message to disappear. This gave me pause.

I wonder if this is how God's grace works in our life: once it's written down and given to God, we still need to stir it up in our heart, even as the words hang in the air for a bit. I wonder if Love is like that water- holding a dissolved pain like a film, until it is stirred up by Spirit's movement.

How is God's grace showing up in this moment for you?

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us! Ps. 80: 1-2 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” John 5:7

Thursday, March 24, 2011


The other night on a busy shift at the hospital, I had just "settled down for a long winter's nap" (in the late-wee hours of the morning) when the pager alarmed. A family member of room H797 wanted information about ABC house, a place where folks from out of town can stay for free.

I rubbed the mascara out from below my eyes and put on my glasses. I grabbed the brochure from the office on the way. An elevator here, a long hallway there, my mind still zonked while my body found its way to the room. The nurse pointed, silently mouthing to me that the daughter of the patient was waiting.

I introduced myself and indicated that I had brought the information she requested. I stood awkwardly on one edge of the empty-of-patient room - Dad was off for a test. Daughter and mother-in-law sat in the only two visitor chairs, each on opposite corners of the room.

Expecting that the visit would be a "short one," I finished my little schpeel and asked about her father. What was he like? My tired body stood there while my mind would not wake up. My eyes were watering a bit from the dry air conditioning. My feet felt the floor and I semi-leaned on the wall, shifting my weight occasionally and kneeling to be sight-level of the daughter at times. I am pretty sure that I was not mentally or emotionally present, but I kept standing there. I didn't even have enough wherewithall to interrupt her droning-on story.

She began somewhere in the middle and began recanting how they got here, to this hospital, this time, for this reason. She continued on and on and on. I cannot for the life of me remember what she said. Some time later, I think I came-to. She was crying and reaching out for me. She asked me for a prayer.

I realized that during that hour I was probably at my chaplain worst. Despite that, she thanked me profusely for the visit. I left in just as much of a daze as when I arrived. I silently mouthed "thank you" to the nurse outside the room. And, by the grace of God, this woman found my presence to be healing. Grace Grace and more Grace.

And - showing up to that moment, like a zombie, anyway.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9

You're getting veewwwwy sslllleeeeepppy

The 15-hour on-call shift begins at 5pm. If it is Thursday or Friday, I've just finished my daily 8:30-5:00 shift and transported myself to the hospital for the over-night shift.

Last Thursday evening, I was pumped up to get to the hospital. I arrived a bit early, got into the on-call room, clocked in and went to the office just in time to catch up on all that was going on from the now-leaving-for-the-day chaplain to hand off to me. I discussed with the "late shift/backup" chaplain how we would split up the visits and went immediately to the emergency department where there was quite a bit of activity happening.

My second wind fueled my third wind and before I knew it, it was about 11pm. I still had quite a few general consultation requests to make. I scanned the list - anyone urgent? No 'end of life' requests, no 'spiritual crisis,' no 'need a bible' - nothing like that. So I went down the list.

Room 474 - asleep - didn't wake up
Room 392 - recent stroke - unable to rouse
Room 993 - asleep - didn't wake up
Room 792 - out for a test - patient missing
Room 864 - asleep - RN said she *just* managed to get her to sleep
and on like this. For like six patients.

The next day, I realized something. Of course they were all asleep... it was time for ME to be asleep! I remembered how my colleague Nathan used to say, "If you spot it, you got it!" Sure enough - I do believe that I projected my need for sleep onto everyone I "visited" so that I could get to sleep. I saw what I wanted to see, in some way. Oh, I could have woken up several of the patients and explored why they asked to see a Chaplain. But, at the time, my reality was that everyone in the hospital was asleep and so that's where I went.

It makes me wonder, where else in my life are folks "asleep" but really it's just how I am seeing them? How am I already asleep to others and just need to wake up? What about you?

When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). Mark 5:38-42

Thursday, March 10, 2011


"Meetings, bloody meetings."
"If it wasn't for all these people, we'd get some work done around here."
"OMG One More Meeting. Really?"

At the non-profit where I work, the building has four conference rooms available for any of the tenants to reserve. There is a handy accordion-style wall divider that allows for expansion or shrinkage of any of the rooms, each of which can hold about 20 people. They are comfortably and simply furnished with easy-to-roll-around desks and chairs, allowing each meeting to take on the personality of the topic.

Yesterday, one of the agency directors came into our reception area with a stunned look on his face. He was returning the key to the room in which they had just had an advocacy development meeting. He reminded me what really happens in that space.

"We just had an amazing meeting. I was thinking about how many meetings are held in those conference rooms - all the agencies advocating and volunteering to better our community - it's just simply amazing. That space witnesses so many ideas and with so much energy. I'm just grateful. Thank you."

As he walked away, my heart sensed the Holy Spirit smiling and delighting in the way she made herself known - and continues to do so - amidst simple desks and accordion walls. Love is in the air!

What's happening in your space, in this moment?

"Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:5

Monday, March 7, 2011

Body Slam

A friend of mine blogs about Dog Theology. I'm inspired to start a Cat Theology blog.
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See, my cat (Maya) has learned that behind *that* door is where we keep a bag-o-food, from which her evening meal arrives. During the late afternoon, she attempts to open the door to *that* closet to get her kibbles. She some how knows that the doorknob has something to do with opening the door. So she tries to grab the knob with both paws. Since she has no opposable thumbs, all her attempts to turn the knob are benign. Not only that, but since she's only about 10" off the floor, for her to get both paws around the 42" high knob means she has to jump - and hard - to even reach the knob.

It's really quite a sight to see her body slam the door. And she'll do it over and over. For two hours, if we are watching. We chuckle. We wonder. We are amazed. And we are glad she's unsuccessful or she'd be a fifty pound cat (she LOVES to eat; we have to keep her on a restricted diet).

All this made me start to wonder. How do I body slam to get to God? What "knob" am I trying to turn, that despite my opposable thumbs, I'll never be able to open? How is this actually working for me? How is God delighting in my efforts, nonetheless?

Body slam. Have you done it today?

From Jonah, 2:1-9: Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish. He prayed: "In trouble, deep trouble, I prayed to God. He answered me. From the belly of the grave I cried, 'Help!' You heard my cry....I was as far down as a body can go, and the gates were slamming shut behind me forever— Yet you pulled me up from that grave alive, O God, my God! When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, And my prayer got through to you, made it all the way to your Holy Temple....