I Am Tired Of Doing and Just Want To Be

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Today I started a personal journal and when I wrote these ten words “I am tired of doing and just want to be,” they brought tears to my eyes and I knew I need to figure this out. See, I am a doer, a “Martha’, and I desire to be a being, a “Mary”. I desire to figure out how to sit at the feet of Jesus and become more like Him, instead of always being busy doing the “stuff of life.” My problem is that I truly don’t know how. I am a wife, a hospice chaplain an ordained minister in the Free Methodist Church, a home owner, etc., and all of these things demand attention. In all reality, I realize I have the option of stopping all of these things, but I don’t think that is what God requires of me right now. I would love not to work and to spend time at the feet of those who have this “being” thing figured out. I would love to take three months off and go to the beach in order to walk, to journal, to sit at the feet of Jesus, but I don’t know how to do that when there are bills to pay.

The truly amazing thing is that I love what God has called me to do at this season of my life. I frequently say that I cannot believe that God has brought me to this wonderful ministry where I am invited in to such sacred spaces with others. Yesterday was such an incredible day in the life of a hospice chaplain. I sat with a spouse who shared how tired they are in the caregiving process. I sat in the kitchen with a husband a wife and we sang hymns and had church together. I also sat with an individual who had tears streaming down their face as they wondered out loud why they are still here, confined to a bed, only being able to look outdoors and see the pond and the ducks; the time was so precious and so real and I truly value the trust that was given to me in our time and space together.

Therefore, I need to figure this being thing out where I learn to listen to myself as well as I listen to others, where I learn to invest in myself as well as I invest in the lives of others. I need to figure this out so I can continue to be a vessel that brings honor and glory to God’s name.

Will you pray for me as I learn to stop and smell the roses?
Shalom

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Death As A Spiritual Event

One of my favorite quotes as a hospice chaplain states; “Death is a spiritual event with medical implications.” Gwendolyn London.

I had the privilege and opportunity today to attend the death of a patient who died with his loving family surrounding him. This patient died as we surrounded him and prayed for him.

Spirituality is defined as the human desire to find meaning in life and the universal search for that meaning. This search is grounded in the awareness that we are part of some reality that is greater than ourselves.

The timing of this patient’s death that occurred during prayer, while being surrounded by family, speaks to the heart of his spirituality that was grounded in his love and faith in God and his love for his family.

What a privilege and honor to be a part of such a sacred time in the life of this patient and family.

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Ministering to the Poor!

One of the most difficult aspects of my work as a hospice chaplain can be in ministering to the poor; whether the poverty is poverty in the economic sense, poverty of the spiritual realm or poverty in the emotional aspect. Poverty is often generational, which makes it all the more a mystery, because this way of living and thinking is something that has very deep roots. In addition, our time with patients and families can be very limited, and we must respect that we are guests invited into a sacred time and space in their lives.

Like any situation, a chaplain is called to leave our own agenda at the door and not bring any preconceived thoughts to the table. When we pull up to a house, we can pretty much tell the economic state of how someone lives by a quick assessment of the home; is it maintained or showing signs of distress and neglect, is the yard maintained, or are the weeds choking the life out of what has once been planted and groomed? Even with a quick assessment we need to be open minded and not think that we know an individual based on a curb side assessment.

The difficulty in ministering to the poor does not come because I don’t want to reach out and minister to that particular individual or individuals. It comes because I don’t know how, or perhaps because I want to “fix” their poverty. I haven’t quite figured this out yet.

I can read a book about different cultures and religions and gain insight as to what is acceptable and what is not, so I can “Be a Perfect Stranger” and I can even read about the aspects of poverty. Often a Hindu or Islamic family will invite the chaplain in and be very hospitable in sharing their beliefs and cultures, because their beliefs and values are important to them and they want to share them with others also. As a result, I gain wisdom and insight in order to minister more respectfully and effectively to a particular culture.

When you are dealing with a culture of poverty however, there is no sharing, no disclosure of the realm of poverty. One must walk beside as best as we are allowed and navigate through some often difficult paths in order to bring the love and hope of Christ to every encounter.

All I can do, at this point, is to accept, like I do with every individual I encounter, that I am invited in for a specific time frame and reason. That reason is to walk with an individual and their families through the valley of the shadow if death. To be present without any preconceived notions or mindsets. To bring the Incarnational presence of Christ and to love. Nothing more, nothing less.

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The Sacred Work of Grief.

In the matter of life and death, there is a sacredness of all human beings. We are created in love and created to love. We are created to be in relationship and community with others, and we are created to be an active participant in this world. When we find that the people that we love have died, it is then we begin the sacred process of grieving.

Working in hospice, we see death and grief on a daily basis. As unique as we are as individuals, so is our handling of death and grief. For some, death can be painful, and for others, death becomes a time of transition from life as we know it to life with God. No matter how you process death, our grief can become actual work. If you have ever been there, you will know what I am talking about. Often individuals question God, or get angry at God or their loved ones. Sometimes individuals live in denial and won’t allow “Doom and Gloom” to be spoken in front of each other. Still, other individuals seem to have already processed the reality of their own mortality and are able to recognize God’s presence in their lives from birth to death.

The goal of grief for any individual, whether we realize it or not, becomes an alternation between remembering and a time of hope.

Some of my most cherished memories as a hospice chaplain have been created when we sit together and remember. Remembering the mother, the father, the wife, the husband, the child, sister, or brother, that was love, laughter, strength and beauty; someone who cared, someone who loved, someone who was the glue and the backbone of the family. When we witness a family or an individual that is able to remember, we are able to witness a family that has hope.

Hope that God is right there with us in death, in our grief, and in our sorrow. Because, if God is the Creator of life and the One who determines our life on earth to have a final day, then we have hope that God walks with us through all of life, from birth to death.

Hope, then, is what helps us to believe that our death, or the death of a loved one is not the final destination. Remembering, therefore, should eventually lead us to being thankful. Thankful for having loved at all, or thankful for a career that provided, or for our memories that are no longer painful and can become cherished memories.

Grief is sacred. A Turkish Proverb states “He who conceals his grief, finds no remedy for it.” Walking through the “Valley of the Shadow of death” can be painful and might cause us to raise some big questions in the process. This is normal. We find that we are individuals learning to live with limits in the process of our grief, and we find we have hope that the death of a loved one, or our own mortality, is good, because God is present from birth to death.

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At The Foot of The Cross

Today is Good Friday. The day that Jesus walks His Path of Sorrow! During this Lenten Season I had an agenda of working on a personal item with the intent of laying that at the feet of Jesus on this day, as Jesus walks his walk towards Calvary.

God, however, had something different for me to work on during this time of prayer and reflection.

God has brought to the forefront of my mind these past 40 days something that I thought I had made peace with, and showed me that I was still holding onto a hurt; a betrayal. I had experienced a betrayal!

I had never categorized this personal hurt as betrayal, but when that was revealed, I was instantly taken to Jesus’ betrayal and realized that Jesus had felt what I had felt and was able to forgive with grace and love. The Incarnation of God, The Word Made Flesh had experienced, to a much greater degree, what I too had experienced, and was able to continue with His Father’s business instead of getting bogged down in the muck and mire of his emotions. Amazing!

Isn’t this what God calls us to do; forgive with grace and love? Lay offenses and hurts down for Jesus to deal with instead of wallowing in the muck. Why is this so difficult for me, for us?

What are you willing to lay at the feet of Jesus this Good Friday as He walks The Path of Sorrow? Are you willing to let go of something that you have been holding onto, a hurt, an offense, a betrayal; and allow Jesus to take that to the cross today?

May you find complete surrender this Blessed Easter season.

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A Journey Towards Healing and Wholeness

This blog was actually started back in December, but I have not been able to bring it to completion, mainly because of the emotions that I faced as a result of being a patient for two short days in the hospital.

After 30 plus years in the healthcare field as a nurse and a hospice chaplain, I now have a better grasp and understanding of the emotions and feelings that the patients are experiencing. As a result, I have a different understanding of my journey towards healing and wholeness.

I have heard that all medical personnel should have the experience of being a patient and I applauded that line of thinking, but now I know first hand that it should be a mandate for any who are thinking about entering the healthcare field.

I had the privilege of experiencing what it means to be admitted inpatient and spend two short but very difficult days at the hospital.  I have been a patient before for rapid in and out surgery, which did not seem to have the impact that this two day stay did.  I went to the hospital in the middle of the night for Atrial Fibrillation and ended up staying for two days, and those two days were two of the most difficult days I have ever spent, emotionally.  Not only was I at the mercy of those who came into my room, but I also was dealing with my own mortality and the feelings that my body had betrayed me in some fashion.

First and foremost, I had to acknowledge that I am human and that I am not infallible.   Working as a nurse for over thirty years and as a hospice chaplain for five, one would think that this truth would not have escaped me, but there I was trying to work through my own emotions in a not so private place. There was no place to run and hide, which made it all the more difficult for me.  When I am in crisis mode I have a tendency to withdraw until I have processed the situation with God, and there was no way to withdraw, no way to retreat!

Second, I was completely out of my element and seriously not in control. I just wanted to run and scream and go home, and I was never able to truly relax while I was there (can anybody relax in the hospital?).  I never knew that I was such a controlling person, but being at the mercy of others for a two day stay at the local hospital brought that reality to me in a challenging way.

My down fall in this arena is that I am a caregiver and I preach caregiving to those I work with, and yet, I have failed to practice what I have preached, always putting others first and myself last.  This may be humble, but in retrospect, surely not wise.

The reality of this hospital stay brought my humanity fully into focus and I was reminded that God is the only infallible One. My challenge is how to BEGIN the journey of truly caring for myself, in order to embrace my prayer of “Being a vessel that brings honor and glory to God.” I covet your prayers as I seek how to practice self care daily.”

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Gifts at the Table

In this life, each one of us will encounter a time that is difficult to navigate through. This might be walking with another individual as they transition from life as we know it to life eternal, or perhaps it is our own journey through a difficult season in our lives. My own personal “Dark Night of the Soul,” was most difficult to walk through but was life changing as I grew in my knowledge of God and myself as a woman and an individual.

There was one area, however, in which I was left with some unanswered questions where I ended up with two broken relationships during this time because I tried to fit these friends into a role that I needed them to fill, not the role they were designed to fill.  Of course I didn’t realize that at the time.

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference by Alan Wolfelt, who is an author and speaker on grief.  His message was so simple, yet profound for me. I wish I had this information while I was going through my own personal crisis and wanted to share this with you today.

Dr. Wolfelt spoke about the importance of being able to help others in a crisis identify what their friends bring to the table.  Not everyone is gifted with the potential to sit and listen or walk through a personal crisis with another. Everyone has gifts, however, and it is in knowing ahead of time what gifts they bring to the table that will allow for friends and family to feel useful, and will allow for the individual to feel as if they are being cared for in a crisis.  Like me, however, individuals often try to fit friends and loved ones into roles in which they are not suited; in which they are not comfortable, because that is what is needed at the moment. As a result, the person in need ends up feeling abandoned and uncared for and the friend or loved one ends up feeling inadequate and uncomfortable, as if they are unable to help.

His advice was simple; make a list of friends and list the gifts that those friends bring to the relationship. Are they good listeners or are they are the friend who will sit beside you at the beach and allow you to be still before God. Perhaps they are the one friend who is carefree and loves to laugh or is the friend that loves a good movie.

Then, when the individual in need has a day when they need laughter, or a meditative day for the beach, they will already know which friend is best suited because they have intentionally thought this through.

Perhaps you are walking with someone through their own journey and you are hearing them say that they feel alone or they feel as if nobody wants to listen to them. Take the time to encourage them to make their own list of friends so they can identify what their friends bring to the table.

In Genesis we learn that we are each created in the image of God. That image is not a physical image but is a moral or character image. Each one of us have gifts that we bring to each relationship, which make us uniquely divine, and whether we realize it or not, we reflect those gifts back to the world around us.

I encourage you to remember this simple tool which can also help us as individuals to become more aware of ourselves and what gifts we bring to the table. 

Shalom

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