In the in-between

Advent. That season in Christendom where we wait. Wonder. Yearn. Dream. Pray. And then, we live with the fact that we do not have the answers we so desperately long to hear.

It’s true in my Hospice work. Knowing that death is coming (or not). Wishing there were absolutes and clear prognostications (and being shocked or disappointed). Wondering “how much time…?” When we do not know, and can never know.

In times like this, in the in-between, God uses pictures and moments to remind me… that the Divine is intricately involved in my life. That my short life is cradled in the span of Infinite wisdom. That it’s in the waiting that God Calls and leads me.

Tonight I needed reassurance. I needed hope. I needed encouragement. I needed a reminder of my relational and caring God. And then, this song came across my desktop. It’s by Kina Grannis, and is called “In The Waiting”. I think it’s the official heart song for my Advent season this year. Take a listen… the video is as powerful as the lyrics.

May we each know peace and LIFE in the waiting…

O Come Emmanuel.

 
“I’ve been working on patience
trying to trust in the timing of my tiny existence
I come alive
I sat still in the twilight
I found peace in the quiet things
How could I wish away all the in between?


And all this time
Ive been staring at the minute hand
Oh what a crime
That I can’t seem to understand that life
Is in the waiting.”

O Joy?

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There is this strange idea in some strands of Christianity that we will never have problems or have “bad things happen” if we are truly Jesus-loving people. As if.

From the first fig leaf, humanity has seen and known pain, discouragement and doubt. But that’s not what sells, is it?

The kiddie Bible my kids had growing up reinforced this. All the characters (who were remarkably Caucasian looking… which is another essay…) were all smiling and content. There were a few pictures of the Israelites frowning about manna burgers, I guess. And maybe a few tears at the tombs of Lazarus and Jesus, but the Christian faith was, for the most part, this “in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right-happy-all-the-time” religion. (That song still makes me shudder. And bonus points to you if you don’t know it. If I just gave you an ear worm, I’m sorry!)

I’m not suggesting we teach children “life sucks and then you die” either (just to be clear). But there needs to be a balance. Enough of a balance that when the hard times come, there is a reserve of faith that says, “I will get through this… with the help of God and God’s people.”

We live in disturbing times. Frustrating times. Fear-mongering times. Hate speech fills the airwaves.

This should not surprise us. It is as much a part of our Christian lives as walking in joy and seeing glory! A full-rounded faith does celebrate, but it also mourns. We are called to  embracing pain. Accepting change. Finding hope in the unknown. Making sense out of nonsense.

When I was thinking about the world’s events over the last few months, the old hymn by Robert Matheson came to mind. How often do I remember that God is made real in our lives is many ways?

A Love that will not let me go…
A Light that follows my way…
A Joy that seeks me through pain…
The cross that lifts up my head…
(Full lyrics here.)

Yes, it’s a schmaltzy old hymn. But the thread of faith through the verses brings me some comfort and courage. Perhaps you, as well.

O Joy? Yes. Joy. One frustrated, tired, hoping, yearning step at a time. There’s joy.

From my journal recently:

I’d like to know why, God.
I really would.
I could go through the whole alphabet of whys…
And I can say trite words and cheap phrases
to make myself feel better…
But that’s not how faith works.

And every time I think I might understand
A little more
Another piece of insight into Your world,
Some tsunami of stupid knocks me flat.
And here I am
Again.
Asking why.

So there’s doubts.
O God, so many doubts.
And there’s pain.
I’m tired of pain.
But then… There’s beauty and grace and love
And laughter and hope and joy,
so much joy!!
And the Spirit winging me upward
for just a glimpse
for just a taste of Glory.

And it’s enough.
It’s enough to say one more day,
I love you.
Thank you.
Let’s do this thing called “life”
one more day.

SDG

Sept 2017

Grace has called…

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Grace Has Called My Name
Kathryn Scott

Peace as elusive as a shadow dancing on the wall
Life swallowed by the pain of yesterday
Left broken by the shame of things that I had done
No freedom from the choices that I’d made
But with one touch, You made me clean
You met me in my deepest need

Grace has called my name
When all that I had left were just filthy stains
Grace has called my name
When hope had all but faded far away
Grace called my name

Wounded by words that left their mark upon my soul
Dreams overturned by empty promises
Well intentioned things
I’d heard a million times before
Just left my heart to grieve alone again
But with one touch
You set me free
You met me in my deepest need

Grace has called my name
When all that I had left were just filthy stains
Grace has called my name
When hope had all but faded far away
Grace called my name

Healing Rain

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming nearer to this old town
Rich and poor, weak and strong
It’s bringing mercy, it won’t be long

Healing rain is coming down
It’s coming closer to the lost and found
Tears of joy, and tears of shame
Are washed forever in Jesus’ Name.

Lift your heads, let us return
To the mercy seat where time began
And in your eyes, I see the pain
Come soak this dry heart with healing rain

from Healing Rain by Michael W. Smith

I took off my shoes and carried a stool out to the back porch.

It was the first real rainstorm we’ve had in probably a month. The sound of the rain on the leaves and the patio was a soft, inviting hiss.

I soaked it in.

(null)I listened to the birds calling, watched a chipmunk scamper within inches of my toes. The rain dripped off the wisteria and ran down the trellis. Little by little, the stresses of the week washed away. The rain came down harder, and I realized I was soaked from the knees down.

It was time to retreat and get ready for the next part of my day. It was funny that ten minutes in a rain storm did so much to refresh me.

Remembering to stop, pray, breathe, and be thankful got me through the end of one week and prepared me for the beginning of the next. It refreshed my perspective. It released hope. It reminded me why I do the work I do.

My toes got a little wet. But my heart was refreshed.

Blessed be.

Sunday Night Meditation: Not Right Now

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As the Queen of “Open-My-Mouth-To-Change-Feet” I was encouraged and challenged by this song. Sung by Jason Gray, it is a simple reminder to “listen twice, talk once.”

You could see the smoke from a mile away
And trouble always draws a crowd
They want to tell me that it’ll be okay
But that’s not what I need right now
Not while my house is burning down

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

Tell me if the hope that you know is true
Ever feels like a lie even from a friend
When their words are salt in an open wound
And they just can’t seem to understand
That you haven’t even stopped the bleeding yet

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

Don’t tell me when I’m grieving
That this happened for a reason
Maybe one day we’ll talk about the dreams that had to die
For new ones to come alive
But not right now

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief

I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now

 

When the Train Leaves the Station Without You

chaplaingearIt was a night where everyone had expectations. But the outcomes were not what they wanted.

There were lots of referrals, several emergencies, and some long conversations with families, patients and staff. But it was also the reason why I am a chaplain — to be present and a companion to those in a health crisis. I’m not there to pick buttercups and play with puppies (though I confess I like to see the therapy dogs as much as the patients do!)

I know when I start my shift that there will be questions, issues and frustrations. Sometimes it is the result of unrealistic expectations. Outcomes from surgery or from a procedure won’t yield the easy-fix results they were hoping to see. A routine visit to the doctor leads to an alarming lab test, and then a devastating diagnosis.

I mused about this as I handed off the pager and RF phone to the relieving chaplain. I headed home tired and pretty done in. On this particular morning, I decided to commute home from work via the Washington Metro system.

Luck was not with me that morning. I missed the first train at MetroCenter, and then the second train had to be off-loaded because of door issues. Then there was the “next train” sign which stayed looking like this for 20 minutes:

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YUCK!! It was NOT the commute I had anticipated. Instead of a 90 minute train and bus ride, it inflated to 2 1/2 hours.

The train left the station without me.  And the anticipated easy commute was not what it was supposed to be.

I thought of my patients…

The train left the station…

The patient that came in after ignoring her symptoms… It was too late and the cancer that had metastasized.

The chest pain that was not exertional asthma, but a serious heart attack.

The “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” bystander with a gunshot wound.

The stupidly-drunk “let’s surf the escalator” patient. (Google it. It’s dumb to try sober. Let alone highly intoxicated.)

These moments of unexpected illness and injury all resulted in questions of “WHY ME?” and “WHY NOW?” (The ultimate in rhetorical questions, and yet, incredibly existential at the same time.)

Sometimes life goes off without a hitch. Many times it does not. How we cope and move through these moments is frequently determined by our faith and our ability to see “big picture.”

The key word here is MOVE. The train doesn’t stay stuck in the tunnel all night. The bus will arrive. The interruptions to “life as we know it” will come, but it means that we have to walk through them (sometimes be carried through them.)

The train left the station…

I could wish for one of those cool MiB cars that fly upside down through tunnels (with Elvis playing!) and help my patients overcome every obstacle. It doesn’t work that way.

So wherever you are when you read this, and whatever you are experiencing… My prayer is that you will find that place of centered hope and peace and strength to get through your present dilemma. God knows… and hears… and walks it with us.

Worn by Tenth Avenue North