Dec. 25, 2015

One of my aspirtations in life is to speak a language other than English. That said, my attempts to begin bringing this desire to fruition was met with the reality of my youthful struggle to learn English grammar. I recall taking a year of German in high school. To say the least trying to figure out how to pronounce these new sounding words was the first obstacle. Then our teacher informed us that the sentence structure was nothing like the way we communicate in English. His example to us: "I looked the window out and saw the street run the horse down!" "You have got to be kidding!" Well it wasn't long before my desire began to cool down and my satisfaction to just speak my native tongue seemed to suffice.

As my children grew up my oldest married his college sweetheart. She was born and raised in Argentina. Of course she spoke Spanish. It wasn't long before my son became fluent in her native language. I was impressed to say the least. As the grandchildren began to enter our lives they began to learn their mother's culture and language. One of the phrases they were taught was "te quiero mucho." This phrase means, I love you very much. Usually upon the conclusion of my visit with my son's family I would speak this phrase to my grandchildren and they would say it back to me.

One day while ministering to various patients and their family members in the hospital there was one particular patient of Latin descent present in our intensive care unit. It had been communicated to me that the patient had family making their way to the hospital to see him from his hometown outside the United States. The patient was on life support and unable to communicate. Once the family members arrived the patient's sister, evidently not aware of the seriousness of her brother's condition, began to express herself. I shall never forget the tearful reunion I witnessed as she came alongside her brother's hospital bed. As she wrapped her arms around his shoulders she began to weep and her weeping turned into cries and sobs. All the while she kept repeating the phrase, "te quiero mucho, te quiero mucho, te quiero mucho!" If I had not previously learned what this phrase meant it would have escaped me along with the impact of the moment as she expressed love for her brother.

As families share and celebrate Christmas joys this year I am reminded that Love is the basis of that joy. I John 4:8 indicates that the one that does not love is not aquainted with God for God IS Love. Our origin, our genesis originates IN that Love no matter in what language it is expressed whether verbal or non-verbal. May your Joy be full!

Dec. 19, 2015

Where has the time gone? Here it is the Christmas season and I keep asking the question, "what happened to January?" When I ask this question most people smile and nod their heads in agreement that they too recognize how quickly the time seems to be passing. And with the passing of time, particularly during the holiday season, often our minds begin to reflect on memories of home. Some of those memories may be fond and some, well, some are not so good! We may be up to our eyeballs in shopping or gift wrapping or football watching or preparations for making that long drive to see relatives, or we may not have anyone at all with whom to share the holidays. I don't think, though, that keeps us from reflecting on memories of home. As a matter of fact, I think that may cause such memories to overwhelm us all the more at times. Even some of the Christmas songs we hear, like "I'll be home for Christmas" seems to have a certain sadness about it that the only way we will be getting home this year is in our dreams. "Home" means so many things to all of us. There is another aspect of home, however, that I wish to share with you that overtook me as I ministered to a patient and their family just this week where I serve as a chaplain. I asked permission from them to relay this story to you and they graciously agreed. Thank you for allowing me to do this!

In the hospital setting when a "code" is called often it is about the resuscitation of a patient that has stopped breathing and their heart has stopped beating. Such was the case of a particular patient on my nursing unit. When I arrived the patient's spouse was not present but I was informed that they had just gone downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Upon finding the family member the information was given that her husband was being resuscitated. After accompanying the family member back to the area where the patient was being cared for the code team was successful in their efforts to resuscitate the patient and he was moved to the intensive care unit. There he was placed on a breathing machine to allow him to rest while recovering from what he had just encountered.

Often families dealing with difficult and trying situations regarding their loved one's health struggle with conversations that pertain to end of life. The conversation took place between family and physician and it became apparent that due to his condition his quality of life would never improve. It was decided based on this and previous conversations with the patient, his wife, his family and physician that if it came to this it would be time to say goodbye. As many times as I have accompanied family members through these waters I am so overwhelmed with the sacredness of God's Spirit and my sense of being held in His presence through them. It was decided to begin the process of removing life support the following day.

There is an awe factor in what I am about to share with you. As I stood at the foot of the patient's bed I listened as the physician spoke to the patient and his wife and the patient's son and daughter. The patient was guardedly alert. The compassion with which the physician related spoke volumes to me of his care and concern. "Are you ready for me to remove the life support?" The patient nodded his head. All of us except the doctor and nurse were asked to step outside the room until they had removed the ventilator. Medications were administered to keep him comfortable so he would not suffer. 

While we waited to re-enter the room the patient's daughter began telling me some family history I was not anticipating. The history was about her. She informed me that she had been diagnosed with cancer some five years earlier and that it had metastasized throughout her body. She related how her diagnosis and struggle with this disease had somehow aided her in being more present with her daddy as he made his transition. Again, I was overwhelmed. Then she slipped off her overcoat revealing a blouse covered in butterflies. Oh my soul! How appropriate! Grasping the understanding of our amazing transformation from this life to the next seen so clearly in the metamorphosis of the catapillar and butterfly again just overwhelmed me.

Once we were back in the patient's room chairs were brought in so we could sit and wait. As we waited all of a sudden the familiar tune of Amazing Grace began to be hummed and softly sung by the patient's daughter. My eyes filled with tears. Soon with seemingly no struggle the patient took his flight. At some point in our time together I had asked permission to speak to the patient while he was somewhat alert. His wife nodded. I told the patient that my prayers were with him today and that soon he would expereince the joy of his beginning, that soon he would be going home! 

Dec. 15, 2015

When I was a young child I was introduced to the joy of hunting easter eggs. You remember don't you? Of course you do. It went something like this. The grown-ups would hide the eggs while the teenagers would occupy the children until all the eggs were hidden. Then with baskets in hand with that fake green grass lining the baskets the children were sent to the general location where the eggs were hidden. My first experience found me watching the older children scramble around finding egg after egg as their baskets began to fill to capacity. My egg finding abilities were no match for the other egg hunters. I noticed my mother calling me over to where she was standing. So I went to her. She urged me to find the egg that was in close proximity to where she was standing. I looked and looked but to no avail. Suddenly, an older kid walks up to where my mother and I are standing and there in plain sight was the egg she had wanted me to find. I only saw it when the older child drew attention to it and then picked it up and put it in his basket. It was wedged in the fork of bush and for me it was hidden in plain sight. 

Now that's exactly how I've experienced truth, as I think about it. Sometimes those little nuggets were totally concealed from my mind's eye until someone else caught a glimpes of it and pointed it out to me. Perhaps that is why Jesus spoke in parables. I'm becoming more and more convinced that he was hiding the truth in plain sight. I don't think this was his idea of keeping the truth from anyone. And I don't think he was playing games either. Our discovery of the truth is far too important to get lost in some religious game. The truth about the truth is only discovered by those who really want to find it. Much like the treasure hidden in an agricultural field that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 13. The treasure is the Truth and it is hidden within each of us, the field. Jesus goes off and gives everything he has to purchase us, the field because the treasure is hidden within each and everyone of us and its been there all the time.

The joy of easter egg discovery happens when the egg is seen by the child for the first time and he or she makes an enthusiastic beeline to claim it as their own. Why even the apostle Paul said that God hid this treasure in earthen vessels. The treasure, like the egg for the child, was there all the time hidden in plain sight!

Dec. 11, 2015

Several years ago as a hospital chaplain I was called to the bedside of a female patient. I knocked on the door and the patient invited me to come in. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The sun was shining and there was an arrangement of flowers that evidently someone had thoughtfully brought to her during her hospital stay. She invited me to sit down so I took a seat next to the bed. I wondered what kind of need she might have that would cause her to call for the chaplain. As we exchanged pleasantries she began to tell me about her life and her family. Then she began to unfold what I thought was the reason for the visit. She began to tell me about the recent death of her husband. How she told me this news did not seem to fit with her facial expressions. She did not show any emotions. I thought this lack of emotions at the recent loss of her husband seemed a bit odd. Then what happened next brought into focus the reason she had called the chaplain. She began to unravel the fact that she had two adult children, a son and a daughter. She told me that they had forbade her from showing any emotions concerning their father's death. This placed her in somewhat of a precarious position. She was being called upon by her children to be in control in the face of a situation they could not control. I sat forward in my seat as I began to listen intently to this wounded woman's story. The expectations placed on her were so heavy she was beginning to collapse under the pressure.

I offered my hand to her and she took it. I began to offer my sorrowful concern for the loss of her husband. I also offered my support for her children as they too struggled with their father's death. All of a sudden, as she squeezed my hand, a tear began to roll down her face and soon others began to follow. Perhaps for the first time she was beginning to experience the relief from the expectations that had been placed upon her.

Expectations have the power to imprison us often because we give those expectations that power. Love is the only force that can free us from expectations because with Love there are no expectations because Love already knows.