Autumn Alleluia

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Autumn Alleluia

This fleeting moment

when leaves turn, one by one,

from green to gold and orange,

I stop and take a breath.

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Life drifts by,

the moments blur

into days, into weeks, into years.

I stop and look up

and offer a silent Thanksgiving

for all of the good gifts

God brings.

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Even in death,

even in times of painful change,

even when there’s nothing I can do

to stop the blur of time,

I offer an Alleluia

a simple praise

such goodness

such beauty

such joy.

Amen.

You’re in good company…

I had a long, difficult conversation with someone recently about believing or disbelieving God, and about the role doubt plays in our faith journeys. The conversation was left unresolved, and I have been reflecting on where it could go in the person’s life, or in mine, for that matter.

Reading Mark 9 this morning, I had a kind of Eureka moment… for when I honestly admit my doubts and fears, the Holy Spirit brings me the understanding and space to trust, and for my faith to grow. It sparked this poem/photo reflection.

If you are in that place of doubt, anger, fear or anxiety, God will meet you there. And will be with you, even as you struggle with your unbelief.

May you be at peace…

~–ooOOoo–~

Jesus said unto him,
“If thou canst believe,
all things are possible to him that believeth.”
And straightway the father of the child cried out
and said with tears,
“Lord, I believe;
help Thou mine unbelief!”
Mark 9:23-24 NKJV

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As the last leaf falls

and the wind sweeps it away

do You count them like the fallen sparrow

or the hairs on my head?

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As the teardrops flow

and the sighs of pain and sorrow heave

do You catch them all and heal

their ancient pain from a broken world?

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As the days grow short

and the night tries conquers the light

will You walk beside me, listening, soothing

and building up my courage?

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When my doubts take root

and crowd the edges of my faith

can You once again renew my heart and strengthen my resolve

and show me the path back to Your grace?

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“Lord, I believe;
help Thou mine unbelief!”

Pink Crocs in the Labyrinth: God Mother Shoes

IMG_6694Family legend states that my mom had a pair of “Godmother Shoes.” They were so-named because one of her progeny reportedly objected to her wearing them by saying, “My GOD, Mother, you’re not going to wear THOSE shoes, are you?”

Mom is a good sport. The shoes were forever nicknamed, and she wore them when she wished.

My pink faux-Crocs (or “Frocs”) fall into this category. However, they are the perfect shoes to slip on when I want to go get the mail, do a quick chore in the yard, or empty the compost bucket. This bright pair of footwear gets the progeny eye-roll every time I wear them. This morning, however, they were just right for a quick stroll around the labyrinth before work. And in pajama pants to boot!

Fall in the labyrinth is lovely. The morning light is stunning. The birds are happily chirping, feeding at our many stations. The rabbits watch from the cover of the forsythia. And there is little background machinery or mosquitos to annoy me as I walk.

This morning I wandered, camera in hand, to capture the loveliness that I saw all around me. The photos helped capture the words in my morning reading of Psalm 86:

Teach me your way, Lord,
so that I can walk in your truth.
Make my heart focused
only on honoring your name.
I give thanks to you, my Lord, my God,
with all my heart,
and I will glorify your name forever,
because your faithful love toward me is awesome
and because you’ve rescued my life
from the lowest part of hell.
Psalm 86:11-13 CEB

Here’s a taste of the beauty I could see all around me.

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Friday Five: sweet or Salty?

I’m hosting this week’s Friday Five over at Rev Gals…

 

Beggars Night. Harvest Party. Hallowe’en. Trunk or Treat. All Hallows Eve.

Call it what you want, there’s plenty of holiday love for sweet treats on October 31st. (Consider this your one week warm-up.)

Ain’t gonna lie… Even though there are no Trick-or-Treaters in our home, I still eye the candy aisle with undisguised lust.

(blushing)

What shall it be? Can I resist? Maybe you have a craving for a little something from time to time… join me for this week’s Friday Five!

1. First, Sweet or Salty? Or both? Describe that gotta-have-it treat. (It can be healthy or paleo-friendly, or decadent. We won’t judge!)
I like crunchy and salty with touches of sweet. Home made Chex Mix is da bomb. So are peanut granola bars.

2. Self-control: How do you help yourself stay strong with the temptation of All That Sugar?

I do better with self-control when I don’t have snacks after dinner. I also have a meh relationship with dark chocolate. Since that’s the main kind of chocolate around here, I’m doing OK.

3. Have you successfully cut (or decreased) sugar out of your diet? How did you do it?

Nope. Hasn’t happened for me. I’ll be reading others’ responses.

4. What’s one sweet you won’t do without. Ever.

Chocolate. Duh.

5. Just for fun: if you were a candy bar, which one would you be?

Since sometimes I feel like a nut… I guess I’m an Almond Joy.

BONUS: Share a recipe or tip that uses up the leftover sweets at your house.

We used to take the leftover candy and save it to decorate gingerbread houses. Worked really well. (I was also reminded by my progeny that I send the leftovers to college students I love. They never object.)

A HIPAA Farewell

One of the difficulties of being a hospice chaplain is that I hear so many stories that are not told. I can’t tell you the patient’s name, age or gender. I can’t tell you about life experiences, diagnoses or living situation. Because of HIPAA regulations, I am honoring their privacy and the nation’s healthcare policy. I want to write more about the people I journey with each week… but this is all I can say:

In memory...

In memory…

Dear Patient,

I honor your memory.
I listened to your stories, and heard your fears.
I laughed at your relative’s antics and celebrated their accomplishments.
I wondered with you at why you were still alive.

I celebrate your courage.
You trusted the hospice team with helping you cope with your pain and discomfort.
You were honest in giving us feedback.
You accepted help, increasingly, grudgingly, and allowed us to see your independence and your determination.

You touched my heart.
You shared your witticisms, your honest evaluation of life, your worries.
We walked many miles in your questions and memories.
You taught me as I listened.

I know you are at peace.
Even though I know in my heart of hearts
that all of our hospice patients are close to death,
I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t want to accept it.
And yet it was God’s time.
It was the moment you were waiting for, praying for.
I know your family is sad but relieved.
I know we did our best to make your death gentle and peaceful.

I will miss you.
Until the next time –
Deb

A Chaplain’s Perspective on Ebola

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:6-7 ESV

The media panic has begun. Better than a hurricane or the dreaded “polar vortex,” every news station in town last night documented the orderly (and legal) transfer of a nurse with the Ebola virus to the NIH Clinical Center for treatment. One station had the hashtag “FactsNotFear” but then went to a live shot of a breathless, wide-eyed reporter explaining that “some people” were upset to have an Ebola case in their community.

After all, many of the people who work at the National Institutes of Health take public transportation! There’s a Metro stop right beside the campus! Buses from all over the county stop there! Montgomery County has Ebola!

QUICK! BUY SOME MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS!

As a healthcare chaplain, and someone who trained at the NIH, I have a few opinions. ;) Let’s break it down a little…

1. The NIH is well-suited to treat and contain infectious diseases.

Not only do they have state-of-the-art medical care, they have immunologists, epidemioloists, geneticists, and infection control experts who know how to maintain a safe clinical environment for patients, families and employees. They isolate, treat and develop best practices on disease management.

In 2011-2012, there was an outbreak of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae, a so-called “super-bug.” A patient came to the Clinical Center for treatment, bringing the disease with her — from a New York hospital. The bug spread, and out of 18 patients, 11 died. According to their own studies, 6 of the deaths died from the infection itself, and 5 died as a result of their underlying condition. These patients were not healthy individuals, but were among the sickest seeking experimental treatments for their underlying diseases. Their immune systems were compromised.. And NONE of the patients were employees or family members. Using genome sequencing and care infection control practices, the cases decreased.

Not just anyone can visit the NIH campus. You go through a security checkpoint unless you have a keyed ID badge which allows you into specific parts of the campus. If you drive on the campus, even with an ID, your car/bags are checked. (Think airport security without taking off your shoes and doing the body scan hokey-pokey.) If you don’t have an invitation or a reasons to enter the campus, you don’t get on it. (Case in point: Reporters had to stick with aerial shots of the campus last night, as no one could get close to the ambulance and its accompanying motorcade.)

Therefore… There is no risk to the general public. There is no risk to the employee population at the NIH.

Deep breath, people. Moving on…

2. Ebola is not as contagious as other viruses already prevalent in our world.

Take a look at this graphic from NPR:

Think about it – there are vaccines for mumps and measles. People choose not to immunize. They are generally at higher risk for getting measles and mumps than Ebola. No, vaccines, don’t “prevent” you from getting the disease. But they do decrease your chances with something called “herd immunity.”

You are at greater risk of getting HIV than Ebola. This of course is mitigated somewhat by understanding how the virus is transmitted and decreasing risky behaviors. I have every confidence that the same will be true for the Ebola virus.

3. Use your noggin. If you are sick, stay home! See your doctor if you have risk factors that suggest you could have been exposed to Ebola.

It’s common sense that if you have a fever, nasal congestion or vomiting, that you should not travel. Or go to work. Or to school.

But I can promise you that on any given day, there is a kid who has a snotty-nosed virus in class who should have stayed home in bed. Attendance is taken, and heads roll if you miss too many days. (Even on the college level, students can lose credit for a class if they miss too many days.)  Conversely, there are awards for “perfect attendance” — an award that should be banned.

It’s true of those in the workplace, too. We all know (or have been) that worker who has the flu but goes to work out of fear of retribution. Yes, they know they are probably infecting others, but they go anyway. They cough, bark, snort and sniffle their way through the day. A couple days of isolation would be a good thing, but we punish those who follow standard infection control procedures.

4. Wash. Your. Hands.

If you don’t know how, look up a video. (There are many available on line.) Soap and water, friction, time and using paper towels are simple things. Be wasteful. Use more than one paper towel. (And please forget that TED talk guy who insisted you only need 1 towel. He does not know what he’s talking about. When I showed it to one of my colleagues who is an experienced infection control nurse, she about had a stroke.)

If you prefer to be really sure that you won’t get the flu or another viral infection, here’s a simple solution:

(Sarcasm font off.)

In all seriousness, this is simply not something that should cause panic. Go wash your hands and hug the people you love. And as Douglas Adams would say, Don’t Panic. And carry a towel.