Friday, July 22, 2011

Pick Up The Phone

As the lone chaplain in the middle of the night, I often assisted by contacting a patient's family.  Much of the time, the patient is not able to verbalize to me who they want me to call.  If they are intubated, unconscious, or just plain too drunk to say, I rely on the registrar's deeply honed skill at digging up history on this patient. 

We often will collaborate when the patient is non-verbal.  Who is listed as the emergency contact from the last visit?  When was the last visit?  Can we try finding the ex-wife on  Do we have any employment information?  A middle name?  Who called the ambulance for them?

Once, the only number we could find was the patient's brother and his son who were both listed as living on the same street but whose phone numbers didn't work.  So we called the county sheriff to make a house call and let them know that their loved one was in the Emergency Department.

Once, the patient was actually very awake.  She was screaming from shock and her coping mechanism was to talk talk talk.  The hardest part was getting her to stop talking.  She provided her mother's name and number, her sister's name and number, her nephew's name and number, her boyfriend, his son and his dad, and the neighbor.  It was around 2am, so I hesitated calling these folks, but we needed family information since she was headed to emergency surgery. 

I called. Wrong number.  I called another number.  "Please hold while the party you are trying to reach is contacted," while listening to annoying rock music.  And held. And held.  "This person is not answering.  Please try again later." click.  I called another number. Disconnected.  I called another number.  Ring, ring, ring, ring, ring, ... no answer.  Out of the five numbers, not one person picked up the phone or even had voice mail activated. So, I went back to the talker and, well, talked for a while.  I tried this sequence a number of times until finally the patient used her own phone to call her family/friends and they recognized the number so they picked up.  By that time, hours later, she was ready to be discharged.  But her friend was not so lucky.  Her friend's family never did pick up the phone call from the hospital and since she was unconscious, she went right into surgery.  Due to medical privacy, we could not tell the friend what was happening.  We only urged her to ask the friend's family to call or at least to answer the calls from the hospital.

This scenario happens over and over, and on every shift.  I get to call a patient's family who are often out of town, and the family doesn't recognize the number so they don't pick up.  Now, when I receive a call on my phone from a number that I don't recognize, I pick up the phone.  I might have a streak of suspicion or cynicism, but I pick up. 

I wonder how many times God has "called" and I just didn't recognize the number so I didn't "pick up."  Ya just never know until you answer! 

Who is calling you in this moment?

So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. 1 Samuel 3:9

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wild Goose Festival Reflections

What's the Wild Goose Festival?  

The website describes it this way, "The Wild Goose is a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit. Last month, the first Wild Goose festival was held near Chapel Hill, NC. This festival is a North American arts, music, justice and spirituality festival. Inspired by Greenbelt in the UK, the festival hoped to provide a space to deepen growth for those who want to connect faith and justice, and provide inspiration and energy for fresh expressions of Christianity in today’s world."

If you are a Wild Goose Festival (WGF) follower, you know by now that everyone who attended has blogged or tweeted or facebooked their reflections already - and you can view many of them through the "Syncro-Blog"  - "...51 discreet bloggers who wrote a total of 59 posts on the subject of the Wild Goose. And not all of them are about the festival, though many are." 

To the abundant myriad expressions of "what was it really like?" I add my own bit of what it was like to show up in that moment.  I'll try to be concise.

1. Bookshelf Alive!

Many of the authors whose books I had read in the last year participated.  (They all waived their speaking fees, too!)  I felt like I had taken books off the shelf and with some Harry-Potter-like command (bookious alivious!) the speakers appeared before me.  

Vincent Harding, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shane Claiborne, Peterson Toscano, Paul Fromberg, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Joyce Harding, John Dear, Jim Forbes, Diana Butler-Bass, Doug Pagitt, Peter Rollins, Kester Brewin, Richard Rohr, Tony Jones, ...

And like most good authors, they introduced me to several new-to-me authors and musicians whose work I will now engage: Mark Scantrette, Cheri Holdridge, Karyn Wiseman, Abdullah Antepli, Rabbi Ororose, Anthony Smith, Vince Anderson, Eliacin Rosario-Cruz, Paul Knitter, Richard Twiss, Michelle Shocked...

2. Let's Talk

It was in seminary when I first heard the expression "who is your conversation partner?" Professors asked this about which theologian provided the direction and foundation for a topic.  In "Theological Imagination and Construction" class, our professors encouraged us to find several theologians with whom we agreed and several with whom we disagreed.  This gave us something to work with or against, and these formed our "conversation partners."

At WGF, there were seven venues at which these speakers/musicians/artists presented.  Main Stage was for a very large audience (opening and closing ceremonies, major artists, big name speakers).  Storytelling, Talks and Coffee Barn were for medium sized audiences which allowed post-talk Q&A time, or a book reading with a bit of sharing from the audience and the speaker.  Geodesic Dome and Peace Garden small-ish and circle-shaped, allowing intimate and delicate matters to be shared (such as sexuality, or in another case how the festival was hush-harbor-like).  The Social Justice Gazebo was just big enough for a dozen or less.  

Over the four days, most speakers appeared at two venues, if not three or four.  At the Geodesic Dome, the speakers were asked to share a question for which they did not have the answer and invite conversation.  At the Coffee Barn, there were panels of folks sparring and debating a subject.  

As a result, I felt like I had "conversation partners" with these speakers and other festival attendees who, like me, engaged some aspect of their perspectives in their lives.  Even when I did not agree with a speaker, I learned how that speaker might resonate with others who participated.  I appreciated being able to go deeper on many topics and helped me understand the complexities and interwoven-ness of perspectives. 

3. Fresh

To me, the topics were fresh,  the encounters spontaneous, the conversations hopeful and the definitions helpful (emerging vs. emergent vs. hybreds...)    The schedule was as demanding as the justice topics were important (death penalty, AIDs, immigration, sexuality/spirituality, war, federal budget, mental health, ...).  

While standing in line at the lemonade stand, I met a man who simply introduced himself to me, "Jim," who asked me what Phyllis Tickle's presentation was like?  What did she say?  I recognized him, Rev. Dr. James Forbes, but it was just me and "Jim" in the lemonade line... both sweating away the afternoon and talking about the Great Emergence.  

I later found myself laughing as he presented and acted out a wonderful bible study that spoke to him and how "even the rocks will cry out" towards justice.  As I participated in that talk, I just had warm glow of watching a friend speak and let go of my "star struck" stance of who that famous guy is.  

= = = 
Between the bookshelf, the conversations and the freshness of the festival, the Holy Spirit sure showed up in many joy-full ways.  And so I close with Mary Oliver's famous poem, reminding me about harsh and exciting ways that the world unfolds before us.  Hope you can go to WGF in 2012~!

Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
© Mary Oliver.

How is your wild goose showing up in this moment, for you?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fox news and fruit loops

As much as I resist the temptation to stereotype, sometimes it is really hard.
We stopped along the highway at a chain hotel for the night, in southwest Georgia - or was it northwest Florida?  The roof was indeed red, which should have been my first clue, but it was "cheap and cheerful" as a friend from Britain used to describe places.   The carpet was very worn and, well, smelly from the hot humid weather.  The room was clean and there was both a fridge and a microwave, so we could make dinner and save money by bringing along some fresh food.

"Hot breakfast" was advertised, so when we woke up the next morning, we went over to see what it was.  "Hot" for the u-make waffles, or "hot" for the wonder-bread toast, I'm not sure.  But there were also a variety of sugary cereals and the TV was blaring the day's news.  Look out for this.  Look out for that.  Up next is so-and-so with his opinion that will set you straight...

1Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; protect me from those who are violent, 2who plan evil things in their minds and stir up wars continually. 3They make their tongue sharp as a snake’s, and under their lips is the venom of vipers. Selah - Psalm 140

The only conversation we could exchange was our own running commentary about the landscaper at the table nearby.  He was having a loud conversation with his partner. On his cellphone. 


Then I realized that in my judgement, I missed that these are the places that make for a resting place for the weary mom and dad with cranky kids who just want to spend the afternoon in a pool.  Any pool.  These are the places that are not "stuck up" or ritzy, just down to earth and affordable.  You really do get what you pay for.  These are the places that employ people who do make a sense of hospitality possible. In their own way.

I pray, "God of surprises, grant me the grace to accept and not stereotype.  Strengthen me to take a long, loving look at the real." 

How are you seeing through the noise, even when you are souped up on sugar, in this moment?