I have learned a difficult lesson in my work as a chaplain. It is one borne out of walking with others who are hurting or have hurt others… and there are times I would love to share the lessons learned, or the take-aways for me, personally.
But, the problem is, it’s not MY story to tell!
This isn’t because of HIPAA or “privacy” laws. This isn’t because the stories are boring (there are some incredible stories of healing and mercy!) It isn’t because I don’t have permission (there are many who urge me to share what they have learned.)
It is because it is, simply, gossip.
Not in the magazine trade, nasty rumors, oh-no-she-dih-unt! kind of talk. But it is the uncensored and oversharing of someone else’s business.
This week at my hospice, there were a number of patient deaths… some people whom I have followed for many months. By Thursday afternoon, my heart was tired and broken. So much loss. So much sadness. So much unknown.
As time goes by, I will have larger lessons from the collected experiences. But for now… it’s not my story to tell.
Almost three years ago, I walked into this office. Friday afternoon, I put the last paperclip, pen, and stapler into office relocation bins. I was a little teary, and it surprised me.
I scolded myself. “Really. This is no big deal.” And yet, it is.
The office movers arrive on Saturday, and on Monday morning, I’ll walk into a new building and new office suite. Everything will be different, from where we find coffee to what our building security access cards look like.
I’m mentally prepared for the chaos of an inter-office move. (I’m planning on chaos, anyway. It means that anything less than that will be encouraging.) I know I won’t have a desk or even a shared workstation to call my own and will be “homeless.” It’s a bit disconcerting. I am not looking forward to it. (Yes – there will be places I can sit down with my laptop… but it’s not the same.) My expectation is that it will take a lot of patience and adjusting to find this “new normal.”
I’ve thought a lot about our expectations in life, generally speaking. Sometimes they are motivating. Sometimes they are devastating to our morale. And sometimes, things go far better than we could dream! With my hospice patients and families, we often reflect on “the new normal” and the “chaos” of enrolling someone in hospice. It takes a while to get your sea legs again!
I’ve spent many hours helping people manage their expectations for their family member’s illnesses. Over and over, I will say, “we just don’t know how long…” And to the extent I can, I try to help folks find appreciation in the moments they have now on the road of loss and change…
Yep. A life lesson. Hits pretty close right now…
Wherever I travel next, I want to pack light and walk gently… and enjoy the gifts of today. And I’ll pay attention to the memories and feelings that they evoke.
Frederick Buechner said, “Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.”
Yes. Yes indeed. These teary moments have great meaning.
Today I took a quick trip into downtown DC, to the plaza in front of the US Supreme Court building. Before I started my rounds with my hospice patients, I put on my collar and this stole. The stole was made by refugee artists from Amani Ya Juu. It was the first stole given to me when I was ordained, and has a special place in my heart.
(Make sure you visit their website — see the beautiful things they have created, and read their stories!)
The artisans of Amani Ya Juu use their love of African textiles, their commitment to their community thriving, and their skills in creating beautiful items. My stole is just one of the items they make. But the beauty of their craft is just part of what I have learned from these women.It is their example of faithfulness in the face of horrible injustice. It is how they move past those experiences and find “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” They have learned to survive life’s twists and turns, and to make sure their community thrives with them.
It is this selflessness, this desire deep within them to serve others that inspires me in my ministry. I do it so imperfectly… but their example challenges me.
So I stood on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court this morning, with flurries and a stiff, cold breeze. There, I gathered with many other faith leaders to speak out…
…for those who are unjustly detained
…for those who are denied due process in our courts
…for the attack on our civil liberties — ALL of our civil liberties — by those who refuse to obey court injunctions, who defy our Constitution, and who act for selfish gain.
…for eviscerating the progress made under Loretta Lynch in defending the rights of all persons of color. #BlackLivesMatter
I am compelled to respond because I believe the God I serve demands it. I am compelled to respond because I believe in the worth and value of my fellow humans. And I am compelled to respond because we have done enough waiting. We have given enough “chances.” The actions over the last ten days are sufficient.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
I am angry. Angry that the powerful do not use their power for the common good. Angry that elected officials are not governing in a way that benefits ALL of us — our country, our world, our future.
I am motivated. I have called, written and tweeted my elected officials. I have encouraged them to stand firm and defend our Constitution. I have pleaded with them to uphold “liberty and justice FOR ALL.”
On Sunday, I led this prayer… and I stand by every word, knowing that God will be with us as we stand up to injustice and bigotry.
LET US PRAY.
Lord God, we gather in your Presence, aware of your care for us and for the world. We ask for your Spirit to guide our words and our worship this morning.
Gracious God, the hungry are all around us. May we faithfully share of our pantries and cupboards, our money and our time, that they will be bountifully fed. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
Lord of all, we pray for our elected officials, that they will serve the people and defend and protect our Constitution. We hear the words of the spiritually empty, the proud, and those who abuse their power. We pray you will burden their hearts with your Truth and convict them by your Holy Spirit. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
God of all nations, we pray for those in legal limbo, whose immigration status is wrongfully blocked, who are doctors and teachers, researchers and laborers, parents and children. May your justice prevail and may your angels take charge of them and liberate them. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
Healer of the broken-hearted, we your children humbly repent for the ways we have not cared for the aliens and the strangers in our midst. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and selfishness. Give us courage to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. May our actions make a difference as we join with others who follow Christ. Lord, in your mercy… Hear our prayers.
We pray all this in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
I do not understand the whys and breakdown of common decency that led to our country’s situation today. I lean on hope in a God who is more powerful than the power-obsessed. I am resting in that Peace from Above.
Pray with me, friends…
We must stick together and believe in God’s love for us and for all humanity.
At the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. yesterday, I carried many names on my stole. It was an honor and a privilege. When someone asked me, I could hardly talk about it without getting teary. There were many among my family and friends and coworkers and patients who could not go… and I was aware of your reasons.
So this is for you…
Perhaps you didn’t go to the Women’s March near you and are having some regrets. I’m thinking of all you who have a case of the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s. I’ve gotten a few PMs and wanted to say this…
Perhaps you could not go because you were doing something that needed YOU. No one else had your skills, your knowledge, the gift of YOU.
Perhaps you had to work (there were several of you who did that.) It wasn’t an option. Pay the rent, work your shift, be responsible.
Perhaps you had someone to take care of and couldn’t give that duty to someone else. (Thank you to all those parents, grandparents, caregivers, and overtired family members.)
Perhaps you were not physically able (my tired bones get that, too!)
Perhaps large crowds are not your thing.
Perhaps the cost was just too much — your job, your finances, your relationships, your time, your job security, your physical stamina, your emotional health, your workload for the rest of the week, your studies. You made a choice not to go — and I want to affirm…it was a good choice. It’s about your WHOLE life. It was a matter of balance and being real with yourself. Please don’t second-guess yourself about not going.
I want to thank you for reading our posts, listening to our stories and being in the moment, vicariously. While your voice may have been missed, you can start speaking up now.
HONESTLY? Now comes the hard part. Now is when we need each other. Now is when we need YOU. Your voice. Your gifts. Your focus. Your prayers. Your anger. Your integrity. Your wit.
This movement is JUST BEGINNING.
When the celebrities leave the stage, the busses go home, the pink hats come off, the signs start collecting dust, the pundits start mocking and dissecting us… NOW is when we are all needed.
To keep each other honest.
To ask the hard questions.
To be intentional in including ALL of us in the next days and weeks.
To read, write, think, discuss, pray and do things in ways we have never done them before.
To volunteer for causes and issues we are passionate about.
To support nonprofits who are the only backstop some folks have.
To watch our elected officials like a hawk and write them/call them/badger them.
To trust each other more and be less pissy. (Can a pastor say that? YES I CAN.)
I had a distinct honor to be able to march. I went as a white woman of privilege to bear witness. I left hoping to bring more into the story. So may we all.