et lux perpetua…

Today during our Hospice team meeting, we stopped at the 10 o’clock hour to honor the lives lost in Parkland, Florida just two weeks ago. Just two weeks…

I re-lit our memorial candles to read the 17 names. After two or three names, I could not go on. So I passed the paper to a co-worker… and to another… and then we stood in silence. And tears.

At my regular team meeting, I read the names of recent deaths, and we have a moment to honor them. Sometimes I get a lump in my throat and feel a little sad. The stories and lives of our patients affect us deeply. We know we are in a sacred work.

But this… this was so very difficult. So very, very different.

This was random.
This was evil.
This was violent.
This was full of pain.
This was senseless.

Right before I blew out the candles, I said to my teammates, “May their lights continue to shine.”

Indeed.

…et lux perpetua luceat eis…

And let perpetual Light shine upon them.

Amen.

NaBloPoMo: Holy Ground

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The light poured in to the sanctuary through the stained glass. Here, at the very back, the pews have been removed so that there’s free space for children to color and play. But today the floor was open and the glorious colors played on the tiles.

I thought of the old Woody Guthrie song…

Every spot on earth I traipse around
Every spot I walk it’s holy ground…

Yes, I’m dating myself…

If the pews had been there, I doubt I would have noticed the play of the colors. It was only in their absence that there was space for God to speak, God used the void to remind me of a never-ending, never-changing Presence.

Burned into my mind today is this image of power and presence and fire…

Every spot I walk it’s holy ground…

Not just in the holy moments of Calling and ministry, but in the mundane. When I’m getting groceries… when I stop to mail a package… when I’m waiting at a traffic light… when I clean the house and do laundry… when I spend time with family and friends…

Will it change the way I respond, and the way I answer? Yes Lord, let it be.

A Riverside Chat: Or How The Reverend Crankypants Got Her Groove Back

I took a break from a staff retreat today and headed down to the Potomac River. It’s been many months, but I knew that getting a chance to sit near the water would do my heart good.

I was a long ways from the riverbank, when I could hear the rapids. I found a rock and sat and breathed deeply. The rushing of the current over the rocks was so loud it pounded in my chest. All the “stuff” that was annoying me, making me sad, and giving me all kinds of heartache melted away.    In the presence of such power, I found some perspective.

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There are no obstacles in the presence of such power. Even a large rock or branch will not stop the river’s flow. It moves on, works around, pushes, smooths, and travels past.

So God and I had a little Riverside “chat” and I agreed to listen, bend and be moved… and not impede the Spirit’s flow. As a result, I had a better afternoon. (Though, I will be honest, there are things that should be best experienced with a pitcher of margaritas. Like karaoke. Just sayin’.)

Remember

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In the chaplain’s office, we have a small prayer corner. It’s something very simple… a bowl with small pebbles, a hand labyrinth, and some meditation pieces. One of the rocks has the word “Remember” on it. I got it at the Holocaust Museum, as a symbol of the people forever lost. But the stone has a deeper meaning than that. This prayer corner is where we stop to remember the patients who have died.

Remembering is a discipline. I have new patients every week. None of them are on my caseload for a long time… so when they die, it begins to add up emotionally. One way to cope is to turn off my feelings and just move on. But I can’t do that. It’s not just a patient, it’s a family. It’s friends. It’s a lifetime of achievements. It’s memories.

Remembering also has another result… it makes me grateful. Grateful for the people in my life — their experiences impact my life. Their joys and their worries cause me to think about my own. And many times, I realize how much I have to be thankful for…

So I Remember…

Writing for Lent: Let the Mudpies Begin!

I’m trying to get back in the habit of writing (and blogging) as a Lenten practice. I’ve slacked WAY off on my blogging. Partly it’s because I can’t always share what I’m learning since my job requires 100% confidentiality.

(I mean, if I sat with you as your family member died, would you like me to go blabbing about it? I didn’t think so…)

SO I face a dilemma. I’m pondering all kinds of things that I can’t put on paper. Yet I need to blog to keep perspective, and just maybe learn a little.

My life is messy. My heart is messy. My reactions to the things I see and experience are way messy. And people tend to misinterpret what I write about and that affects my emotions and self esteem which are messy10!! And that makes it hard to look in the mirror.

Yet… when I reflect and find a way to write about them, I can see my way through them.

Fellow blogger and person-I’ve-met-in-real-life, Esther Emery issued a challenge about blogging. It rang a chord in my soul. She wrote:

I am not the one to tell you what the future holds. There is always shift and pull. But I will go on record saying this. The phenomenon of blogging, in which ordinary people write out their lives in messy forms in malleable spaces, is something true and something precious. Somewhere in there, even amid self-obsession and exhaustion and navel-gazing, is a chance to accidentally pay attention and accidentally become engaged and be a part of something that is true and alive. I don’t want you to give up on that.

Yeah. That’s it. That’s EXACTLY what I’ve been thinking.

So here’s to mudpies and muddy jeans and the occasionally splat-on-my-face moments of blogging… because life is full of muck. And I step in it a lot. But even in the messy, there’s beauty, and amazement, and learning about the ways that God can redeem any situation or person.

Including me. Especially me.

Thanks be to God.

The “OFF” button

This weekend I have been practicing something that I haven’t done in a long time. I practiced using the “OFF” button. This particular one is on the cell phone issued to me by my employer. Though I am not required to use it to field voicemails and answer emails, on previous weekends, I have “just taken a quick look” at what is waiting in the queue. I’m not expected to be available on evenings and weekends. If they need me, they know how to find me!

As a pastor, there is ALWAYS another call to answer, another email to write. It’s ministry; there’s no timecard to punch. It’s part of our calling and our passion – to love and serve God and our people.

I love what I do, but I’m learning that as a hospice chaplain, the needs and questions are non-stop. I want to be helpful. I want to be there when I’m needed. But I can’t be “on” all the time. I just can’t. There is no “S” on this “Super Chaplain’s” chest!

The problem is, the emails and voicemails ping over to my phone 24 hours a day. If I forget and leave the ringer on, the little “beep-beepity-beep” is audible, even if I leave it in another room. (I guess my hearing is too good.)

So this weekend, after a couple of heart-breaking cases, I decided to turn off my phone. For the entire weekend. I buried it in the bottom of my work bag, and left it there. And it’s been a good thing.

Daughters were home for part of the weekend, and I did a lot of cooking and baking. My husband and I both got a lot of non-work tasks accomplished. I read, knit, and relaxed. I stopped and admired the leaves as they are beginning to change. I spoiled 2 cats. I wrote more for the essays I need for my certification paperwork.

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In short, I let other things go and focused on those things (and people) who were more important at the moment. I absorbed the love and beauty around me. I cleared my mind and my heart. Once again, I learned the lesson inherent in resting and waiting:

It. Can. Wait.

Transitions

I realized as I did a phone booth style transformation from chaplain (sweater, “Janie” clerical collar, skirt and heels) to tourist (traded jeans and sneaks for skirt and heels, took off “Janie”) that I’ve gotten good at transitions. Moving from room to room. Hearing good news and then drying tears, my work days are highly varied and there’s always something to do.

So now I’m in vacay mode – even for just a few days – and it is a welcome change. I’m even “unplugging” and won’t be on “SpaceHook” (as another RevGal calls it) or answer emails. I might do a blog post if my mind is sufficiently willing But I purposely did not bring CPE books. Or my laptop.

I’m looking forward to spending time with my mom and sibs, doing some manual labor, eating some seafood and just being OFF call.

We are encouraged to take our rest seriously – as a reminder that creativity returns when we are renewed.

So I’m going “off the air” – be safe friends! talk to you soon.