Tuesday, May 24, 2011

best friends.

Stefanie– my best friend

What I remember most about Stef is her deep,
total acceptance of me.  That’s how best friends are. That’s what they do.

Someone said to me recently, of “best friends”
that they are the ones who remember who you are
even when you don’t. 
And then you get to remind them
who they are, when they forget. 
And we go on like this, remembering our best selves,
holding each other to account,
forgiving each other for our humanness,
laughing with each other
in moments too mundane to ever forget. 

In the movie Avatar, the famous line spoke:
I believe this about Stefanie.  She saw me.
And she never turned away –
in fact, she sought me out. 
Even during her distressed life of living with cancer,
she always made time to ask how I was doing? 
How was my family?  How was Logan, my nephew?

When the time came for me to be baptized,
it was Stefanie (and John)
who presented me to the living waters,
to be marked as Christ’s own forever.
On that day, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing,
but these two held me up and gave me the courage walk in faith. 
That’s what best friends do.

I believe that Stefanie showed me
what it means to live with a tenacious hope
and a generous love. 
She showed up for me, in my time, and I for her. 
Even her “I’m going to tell this story all the way through” style
captivated me
and her “there’s nothing you can do to push me away” self
showed me how to love and laugh
and hope and dream.
And showed me how to believe in newness and freshness of life.

When I met Stefanie in 1990, she seemed familiar. 
Did that happen when you met her? 
She seemed to have a knack for getting to know folks
and remembering their names – like no one was ever a stranger. 
In fact, we laughed often about how we met at a BBQ in Brussels
nearly one year after we actually had attended the same
Pumpkin Carving party hosted by a mutual friend in San Francisco. 

And so it went, whatever trouble one of us was in,
we shared – whether
vomiting from drunkenness or chemotherapy,
crying from exhaustion at the end of a marathon or the end of a marriage,
talking about incidental anecdotes or incendiary politics...
we shared it. 
These are intimate moments reserved for best friends. 
And all happened will remain secrets between us. 

I recently found a poem that captures our friendship,
That way of being friends…
unlike any hallmark book can do. 

In Sweet Company

We sit together and I tell you things,
Silent, unborn, naked things
That only my God has heard me say.
You do not cluck your tongue at me
Or roll your eyes
Or split my heart into a thousand thousand pieces
With words that have little to do with me.
You do not turn away because you cannot bear to see
Your own unclaimed light shining in my eyes.
You stay with me in the dark.
You urge me into being.
You make room in your heart for my voice.
You rejoice in my joy.
And through it all, you stand unbound
By everything but the still, small Voice within you.
I see my future Self in you
Just enough to risk
Moving beyond the familiar,
Just enough to leave
The familiar in the past where it belongs.
I breathe you in and I breathe you out
In one luxurious and contented sigh.
In sweet company
I am home at last.
    – Margaret Wolff

Rest in peace, Steffie, my best friend

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Must be a part of grieving, this flat-ness.  Everything seems, well, gray. 

Could it be my perspective?  Day Job is within two weeks of being over.  Packing has begun for our move to Virginia.  We don't know where we are going to live yet.  I'm supposed to preach in two weeks at a big church in my town - one I've never attended, but they seem nice.  The scriptures are not yet speaking to me...  oh yea, my best friend just died.

I pray.  I run.  I sleep. 

Still. Flat.

So I thought about this poem from Joyce Rupp, called "Old Maps No Longer Work"

I keep pulling it out -
the old map of my inner path.
I squint closely at it,
trying to see some hidden road
that maybe I’ve missed,
but there’s nothing there now
except some well-traveled paths.
they have seen my footsteps often,
held my laughter, caught my tears.

I keep going over the old map
but now the roads lead nowhere,
a meaningless wilderness
where life is dull and futile.

“toss away the old map,” she says
“you must be kidding!” I reply.
she looks at me with Sarah eyes
and repeats, “toss it away.
it’s of no use where you’re going.”

“I have to have a map!” I cry,
“even if it takes me nowhere.
I can’t be without direction.”
“but you are without direction,”
she says, “so why not let go, be free?”

so there I am – tossing away the old map,
sadly fearfully, putting it behind me.
“whatever will I do?” wails my security
“trust me” says my midlife soul.

no map, no specific directions,
no “this way ahead” or “take a left”.
how will I know where to go?
how will I find my way? no map!
but then my midlife soul whispers:

“there was a time before maps
when pilgrims traveled by the stars.”

It is time for the pilgrim in me
to travel in the dark,
to learn to read the stars
that shine in my soul.

I will walk deeper
into the dark of my night.
I will wait for the stars.
trust their guidance.
and let their light be enough for me.

How are you navigating, in this moment?

Sunday, May 8, 2011


The shift transition at the hospital is affectionately called "report."  That's when the staff (nurse, doctor, chaplain) who was "on" and is leaving makes a "report" to the staff who is beginning their shift.  It is designed to help the person who is beginning the shift and provide continuing care to the patient or family. 

For me, report is the hardest part of the day.  I clock in, say a prayer, open my notebook and fasten my seat belt.

"What's up today?" I ask the now-off-shift chaplain(s).  At 5pm there is usually two or more folks who are giving me "report" and it's a barrage of information: Be aware of this patient who is on "End Of Life" protocol, and you might get a page from this nurse about that patient, and there is this situation in the Emergency Department and the family is in the waiting room... and p.s. here is the pager.  In my experience, the pager beeps right about mid-report.  Last night, I didn't even make it into the office to print out the "requests a Chaplain" report - the pager went off, the reports were made, and I hit the ground running, so to speak. 

I am reminded about other transitions in my life.  Like mounting and dismounting horses - usually the most difficult part of riding.  Like taking off or landing a plane (as I learned in one incomplete attempt to get my pilot's license).  Like doing a Triathlon - it's the transitions where the time is lost or gained between swimming and biking, biking and running - where outfits, gear, route and competitors all change at the same time.

How is Spirit giving report with each of these transitions?  I wonder how hearing God's report from other transitions applies to what I face now? In this next transition - moving to Alexandria, Virginia, to attend a year of seminary, I hope that I get "report." Change job. Change living place.  Change life patterns.  I hope that I can remember how Grace will report to me through it, even while I am anxiously aware that how it will unfold is uncertain.   

How are you experiencing Report in this moment?

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ Acts 17:27-29

Monday, May 2, 2011


In my daily work-a-life, I sometimes get, well, bored.  Mundane things like stuffing envelopes or waiting for the phones to ring so that I can answer them on behalf of this organization.

Thanks to my Spiritual Director, I was reminded about recognizing God's presence in these times... not *just* when I'm overwhelmed by awesome Spirit at church.  She recommended a book to read, "Practicing the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence, circa 1666.  Turns out this seeming disappearance of God in the midst of mundane life is not a phenomenon unique to me, nor unique to modern times, but something timeless.

Brother Lawrence was the kitchen help at a monastery in France. The book provides a few chapters about his character and then includes letters that he wrote to others about how he finds God in the dish-washing, the cooking and cleaning.  Mundane things, for him.

"...that there needed neither art nor science for going to God, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but [God] or for [God's] sake, and to love [God] only.."
"...that he (Br Lawrence) might perform all his actions for the love of God...that we should establish ourselves in a sense of God's presence by continually conversing with [God]..."
"...[and] regard not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed..."

These are a few quotes that resonated with me, just like this recent poem by Rumi:
"No better love than love with no object, no more satisfying work than work with no purpose..."

And so I remind myself about not DOING but LOVING and having God at the heart of that love.  I pray that when I'm approaching that boredom, God will interrupt my heart and make known how God is present.  In this moment, in this time, in this space, so that I might possibly find myself, despite myself, "continually in conversation with God."

You show me the path of life.  In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11