Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Triangles . . .

Another IPR . . . two of the female residents had approached me about one of the male residents . . . each had problems with him . . . I shared with them both my own problem with him . . . I brought my concerns up today in the group when one of the others mentioned feeling tension and he began diverting it to his feelings that we (unnamed) were talking about him behind his back . . . in the ensuing discussion one of the woman who had come to me initially to complain about him told me that I was triangulating and although she wanted to be my friend couldn't handle this . . . I heard her and apologized for putting her in this position . . . however, I did not mention that she also triangulated . . . so as I drove home I contemplated how one can see the unhealthy communications in other and yet not in themselves . . . of course, this is our human condition.
So what if anything should I do? Swallow my confusion . . . confront her privately . . . wait for the next IPR . . . gosh, I wish my session with my therapist was this week.
Praying for discernment,

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

CPE Update . . .

This week marks the fourth week of my Clinical Pastoral Education residency . . . in a way it seems like it has been so much longer than a month . . . in other ways it is hard to believe that it has only been four weeks . . . dynamically, alliances have been formed -- good or bad . . . alliances seem to be part of community . . . my disappointment is in supervision.

The supervisor and I operate differently . . . she is an emotional person -- reminds us constantly that she leads from her emotions, while I am a head person . . . I am also someone who has served in administrative roles and some of my response to her in this area, but frankly some of my response to her is her supervision and boundary issues . . . I don't also remember technical terms but I am being driven crazy as there is no consistency . . . my personality craves consistency -- it is part of who I am . . . no doubt a hold over from childhood where I felt there wasn't much consistency.

Four weeks in . . . I am wondering where I will be at the end of the program . . . I would like to stay in this area, but it is looking less and less likely given the outlook for the medical community in this area . . . perhaps, further training for supervision in the CPE . . . am praying on it . . . have begun looking at programs.

I look forward to the continuing journey,


Monday, September 27, 2010

FEAR . . .

My brother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer 10 years ago this week . . . he had great insurance that paid 100% . . . the first time I picked up his medications it was over $2000.00 . . . I remember his asking me what happens to people who don't have insurance . . . my response was cynical, but I am afraid true, they die in a lot of pain . . . he died, too, but it is my prayer that it was without pain . . . he had every medical assistance he needed to be comfortable as he was dying. But far too many in our country . . . the greatest and wealthiest country in the world, live without benefit of insurance.

My father was sick for most of my life . . . at one point when he needed to be hospitalized the military hospital he used was full in cardiac care so he was admitted to the hospital with which I was affiliated . . . the doctor who admitted him was a doctor with whom I had had on-going discussion about universal health care . . . the afternoon my Dad was admitted this MD came over to do some work on the unit I was working . . . he told me that he had admitted my Dad and asked did I release that if we had universal health care my father would probably be dead . . . he equated advances in medicine to having privatized insurance -- I don't know that this was a legitimate equation . . . my response, though, was about quality of life . . . you see, my Dad would have told him that he had no quality of life . . . he was ready to leave this life and enter into life eternal.

I wonder today why there are so many who would deny health insurance to people . . . why we would not want insurance to have to cover pre-existing conditions . . . what is the fear of providing medical care to the millions who can't afford it? I think it has to do with fear . . . someone said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself . . . fear drives so much of the political hatred and venom today . . . and so much of it comes from good Christian people . . . the Bible tells us over and over again "fear not" . . . why do we fear? FEAR NOT!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Raising the bar . . .

"We need to in this country begin again to raise civil discourse to another level. I mean, we shout and scream and yell and get very little accomplished, but you can disagree very much with the next guy and still be friends and acquaintances." ~ Leah Ward Sears [Sears, an African-American female jurist, was the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court from 2005 until her retirement in 2009.]

What has happened to civil discourse in this country? We -- that is the royal we, have become uncivil and coarse . . . behind this, I believe, is fear . . . fear that is being fanned by professional politicians and entertainers, ugh, commentators who are more concerned, imho, with lining their coffers than the health of our country.

When I subscribed to Face Book I became friends with many people who I didn't know through my aunt and cousin . . . to be frank that side of the family has always been different than my family . . . although I didn't grow up in the "big city" I did grow up in a thinking environment (both my family and the community) and also in a denomination that stresses thinking -- sometimes to the detriment of experience . . . and yes, I understand that this sounds really pejorative . . . I don't mean it this way . . . my cousin and my aunt are really wonderful woman, but they grew up in small, rural, conservative communities . . . those experiences shaped them to be conservative today . . . both politically and religiously . . . they are on the Christian Right (they are so on the Christian Right that my aunt and uncle would not come to hear me preach one Sunday when I was preaching in their hometown and staying at their house . . . OUCH!) . . . they are devotees of Bill O'Reilley and Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express . . . and so are the Face Book Friends.

One of these is a lovely woman . . . she posts primarily inspirational ditties . . . things I really appreciate and when I disagree we have been able to have wonderful theological cyper discussions . . . I really like here EXCEPT . . . she hates President Obama . . . not just his policies, she hates him and is counting down to the days he is out of office . . . I don't understand how good people can have this much hatred for a person they don't know . . . yes, I know it is fear . . . what I don't understand is where this fear comes from . . . yes, I know that it flies out of FOX every night . . . but how can good people believe this dribble?

Today she posted 15 mug shots of people wearing Obama T-shirts . . . when I took exception to this by pointing out that The Smoking Gun Web Site who posted this in 2008 immediately following the election related that these 15 were taken from tens of thousands she got upset . . . I only passed it on . . . yes, she passed it on but was unable to see the not so subtle message . . . that Obama supporters are thugs . . . when I suggested that I could probably have found 15 people arrested the night of the Saints Superbowl win wearing Saints T-shirts, but that this didn't make Saints' fans (which she is one) thugs, she couldn't get it.

I hate to be overly dramatic, but I wonder if this is how people were feeling as Hitler and the Nazis were gaining power in Germany . . . yes, I see some parallels and frankly it scares the you know what out of me . . . I am praying that sanity will return and with it a willingness to engage in civil discourse as we try to discern a way out of the mess that we have made of this country.

Lord, have mercy on us,


Friday, September 24, 2010

Tea baggers . . .

When Sarah Palin hit the scene I was excited to see another woman enter the political fray . . . as I heard her speak, I could only shake my head . . . "what is this woman talking about?" . . . what is she thinking?" . . . and now I spend a lot of time just shaking my head . . . Christine O'Donnell . . . I spend a lot of my time shaking my head . . . I remember her from the Bill Maher show . . . I thought then she must be a natural blond (sorry to my blond friends!) . . . I remember thinking "what a fool" . . . now that fool may be a Senator.

Neither a Democrat nor a Republican I work hard to find out what the person believes so I can vote for a person with a similar vision and belief system . . . a person who wants to work to make this country one that lives with a deep care and compassion for "the least of these" . . . my belief system grows out of my Christian faith . . . some of the things that I am hearing from people who purport to share this faith boggle my mind . . . it also boggles my mind that many of the political voices today don't seem to understand the foundations of our country . . . religious freedom that births religious tolerance . . . it appears to me that there is a trend of revisionism taking place in our country today by leaders of the tea baggers . . . people, good people -- people I know, are buying it hook, line and sinker . . . it is a scary time even though I know that God is ultimately in control, but I continue to be worried for our country and for "the least of these".

Monday, September 20, 2010

It isn't just the Catholics . . .

In the early 1980's I was at my parents' home and answered the phone . . . the caller was the Youth Pastor at the local Baptist church looking for my Dad . . . one of the local attorneys and an Elder at our Presbyterian Church . . . the pastor was calling to report that a teenager -- a boy, had accused our pastor of molestation . . . I was in my 20's . . . it was the first time I had heard of a minister sexually abusing any one . . . more than three decades later it is way too common to hear about this if we have ears . . . unfortunately, though, it has been my experience that the institutional Church, whether Catholic or any other brand protects the accused and damn the victim(s).

Sunday this came back to haunt me . . . I belong to a group on Face Book from my hometown where we share memories . . . about two months ago someone posted about this occurrence . . . I ignored the post . . . I went to the site on Sunday afternoon and he had posted again . . . this time I "heard" his plaintive plea for someone to hear him . . . so I responded by sending him a message.

He is grown now . . . living on the West Coast . . . successful but still wounded . . . we sent back several messages . . . it brought back so many questions I had at the time . . . it appears he was not the only one . . . the others have died of AIDS . . . I am not sure how many . . . I couldn't bring myself to ask . . . not yet.

Nothing was done after that telephone conversation . . . not that people didn't try, but the boy wouldn't testify in church court . . . he told me this weekend he was ashamed . . . he didn't want his family to know what happened . . . but the minister must have known . . . he left shortly after that to pastor another smaller membership church in a neighboring state. One of the Deacons of the church who reportedly saw what happened left without warning . . . just didn't show up one day for work -- he was a school teacher.

Years later I heard through the grapevine that the minister and his wife had both died of AIDS.

My heart grieves for anyone who has been victimized, but especially those who have been sexually victimized by men and women who are allowed to hide behind the cloth . . . when will the Church be willing to stand for those who had/have no power . . . when will we be their voice . . . when will we offer them the grace of voice and healing? Please pray for this young man and those like him who have lost faith . . . who feel abandoned by God for what they endured and the silence of the Church.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I(nterpersonal) P(personal) R(elationships) . . .

Yesterday we had our first IPR . . . as our supervisor explained IRP is not a therapy group but it can be therapeutic . . . in reality it is what I use to call a process group when I did therapy . . . it is a time to see how we are forming community . . . what is working and what isn't working . . . where there are problems . . . where these might be growing edges. Frankly, I was dreading it . . . I had had a terrible experience with the chaplain assigned to the Surgery Unit . . . I had spoken to the supervisor about it . . . it was grist for IPR.

The chaplain on call is expected to help the Surgery Chaplain cover folks admitted early in the morning for same day surgery . . . I had skipped this last time I was on-call during the week as I had had a bad night . . . I had felt I had been chastised by the supervisor over this . . . so I made sure I was up early although that meant less than 5 hours sleep and done in the office by 5:30 to meet with him at 5:45am . . . he shows up at 6:05 . . . we head to the floor . . . divide the patients for visits . . . or so I thought . . . NO, he wants us to go together . . . I am not sure the reason . . . he is from India . . . he has a compelling story for the reason he no longer serves as a priest in India . . . he has been in this country 7 years . . . there are still language issues . . . he also has told us that he has a lot of hemoglobin in his blood and so he is hyper . . . I can't attest to this, but I can attest that he walks fast . . . so we go together (still can't understand this) and do what I term dive bombing prayers . . . swooping in to pray without offering a ministry of presence . . . an interesting thing hit me yesterday . . . the supervisor thinks we are up there until 8 when we meet for morning prayer when in actuality we were out of there before 7am . . . what do I do about this, if anything? Probably, I will handle my next rotation with him differently . . . I will insist we divide patients and I will go back when I am through and pick up patients who have been admitted since the first round of admissions . . . same day surgery patients are admitted all day.

He allows me to pray with the Protestants . . . he prays with the Catholics . . . except there are two folks he asks that I pray for . . . I see the look on their face and ask if they are Catholic -- yes . . . it is obvious they want the father to pray for them . . . he prays from his book . . . one family, a Jewish family, asks that we not pray . . . he storms out . . . the wife grabs my arm to apologize for making him angry . . . not your fault.

In IPR I share with him my feelings . . . that I felt 2nd class and felt that I was only good enough to pray for Protestants . . . as a hospital chaplain I am here to be an interfaith chaplain and should be free to pray and offer ministry to all people . . . going together didn't allow this . . . I was offended he said my prayers were too long . . . in fact they were as short as his but they were free-form and personal . . . the experience brought up for me some of my unresolved issues of the way the old boy network operates in my own denomination to exclude women . . . I felt as we missed 2 patients as we didn't divide the patients . . . according to him we missed them as I lagged behind.

It was not nice . . . it was uncomfortable for the group . . . it was uncomfortable for him . . . it was unfortable for me . . . it was also liberating for me . . . I have a bad habit of swallowing emotions . . . so this provided an opportunity to let them out in a safe environment. Although I don't think this will be one of my favorite parts of this year it will be one allowing for the most personal growth in my opinion.

Now, rabbit trial or not -- you decide . . . yesterday on the way to the hospital I heard a minister saw that a woman at his church (I hate this phrase) stood up during prayer requests and announced her son was homeless . . . he related that it was obvious that it made some in the congregation uncomfortable . . . later he spoke with her and asked her reason . . . doesn't it say somewhere in Scripture if one part of the body hurts? . . . she told him that she wanted people who were comfortable in their life to put a face to the homeless . . . perhaps, this was the reason . . . perhaps, she wanted the body to share her pain and that of her son . . . and that of the countless men, women and children who are "the least of these."


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Death . . .

One morning about 2 shortly after my father passed away my phone rang . . . it was my cousin . . . it was obvious that she had been drinking and drinking heavily -- she no longer drinks like that, but back then I tried to avoid her having my phone number as I hated her rambling calls in the early mornings. She nor any member of her immediate family had been able to attend my father's funeral, but our aunt had . . . when my aunt told her family about the funeral she mentioned that neither my mother nor I cried . . . and this call was to read me the riot act . . . how could we not cry . . . Uncle Albert was dead . . . he was gone.

My cousin is not a person of faith . . . my mother and I are as was my father . . . I asked my cousin why would we cry as we knew that my father was in heaven now . . . that he was out of pain . . . that he had told all of us that he was ready to go. She just couldn't understand it . . . she does not know Jesus so could not believe in the promise that earthly death was not the end . . . as Bonhoeffer is reported to have said as he was lead to death, his life had just begun. My heart grieved for her about 2 years ago when her father passed away expectantly on Christmas Eve just as Christmas morn was dawning . . . my aunt, her mother, called me right after he pronounced -- she is a woman of faith . . . I remember her joy that Rod had made it "home" . . . oh, she was sad for herself but she rejoiced for her husband of more than 60 years.

In the past two weeks I have been privileged . . . yes, privileged to be with families of faith who had loved ones pass away in the hospital . . . each had a week or more to prepare for the inevitable, but they both responded differently . . . one family responded with great wails of anguish and "whys" . . . throwing themselves over the body. I silently asked their pastor (they are Pentecostal) what they believe about death . . . did they believe that the woman with her last breathe had entered into "heaven" and now was at peace with the Triune God . . . "yes" he said . . . so, even though I understand they were mourning for themselves, I still don't get it . . . the woman was 92 and had been sick for more than a decade and the family had made the decision to remove life support. It took more than 3 hours to get the family to leave the hospital.

Monday night a 69 year old woman who had worked 12 hours a day as a cook until the day she had a clot travel to her brain passed. She had come in through the Emergency room almost a week before. When she passed away there were no tears . . . there was rejoicing . . . one of her daughters even started singing Alleluia! The nurses kept insisting that once the body was cleaned up they could come back and say their last goodbyes . . . they kept saying no we said our goodbyes while she was alive -- she's gone now . . . the third time the nurse came out to say this after she left they looked at me and said we are going to do this for the nurses. Man they were out of there within and 1 and 1/2 of the death . . . as they were leaving planning the celebration of her life.

Two families of faith . . . two different responses to loss.

My mother will turn 85 soon and although in good health and their is a history of longevity on her side of the father among the women, I have been wondering how I will respond. It will be different than my response to my father as mother is not sick. I pray that I will keep my focus on the promise of Christ and that my tears will be those of joy and not grief.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

The silence is deafening . . .

Worship and being a part of a local Church has always been a part of who I am . . . since the dissolution of my pastoral relationship in mid-June I am finding it difficult to connect to a local church. I know that this is my fault . . . I probably shouldn't use this word, fault, as I don't want to beat myself up over this . . . I know that on some level I am still healing over what happened . . . even though I don't want to admit it the wounds are still raw . . . but I think there is another happening here . . . I have felt abandoned (again) by my denomination . . . this is funny in a way as one of our hallmarks is "connectionalism" -- I have come to believe that this is true ONLY when it enhances the institutional church . . . funny, that only one person has asked me to attend their church and this is a staff member at a church . . . not one pastor has invited me to attend . . . my therapist and I have discussed this . . . yes, I realize it may be awkward for them . . . yes, I realize that they might not have the words . . . I even realize it might be embarrassing for them . . . what about our ordination vow to be a friend among our colleagues. And I must admit the silence from my colleagues is deafening.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2nd week . . .

Today ended my 2nd week of CPE . . . it was a short week in a way . . . had Monday off for a holiday (although I had call on Sunday from 8am to 8am), Tuesday was the hospital orientation and Friday (tomorrow) I have off because I worked Sunday.
Our assignment this week was to write our spiritual autobiography . . . among the seven of us mine was the longest . . . at first I thought perhaps it was because I was older than other people, but I really am the third youngest of the group . . . perhaps it is just that I am more verbose . . . or perhaps it is because of what I have gone through in the last several years and my re-entry into therapy I have been more reflective about those things that have and are shaping my faith.
Next week we begin on the unit . . . we have made it to the unit, but it has been somewhat disjointed . . . two men I have met have recently been diagnosed with cancer . . . they are both in palliative care (changes are that they won't live) . . . both believe in God, neither are involved in a community of faith . . . both have few contacts beyond their immediate family (for one it is a wife, son and elderly Mother and for the other only a daughter -- who hasn't visited). As I was thinking and praying for them tonight, I had to wonder if their hospital stays would be any different if they were involved in a community of faith. I wonder "why" they aren't. I worry about the hundreds and thousands in our communities who aren't . . . who have no "Body of Christ" to support and with with them through these difficult time.
When my brother was dying of cancer he didn't have a church home, but their was a smaller membership Presbyterian Church who knew about his diagnosis and prognosis and many members of the congregation knew me . . . in fact, they sent me checks to help buy my books when in seminary . . . each week -- it usually would arrive on Monday, a different women in the church would send a handwritten note telling him that he was being lifted up in prayer . . . how he looked forward to this . . . it was for him an expansion of his supportive community of family, friends and his place of work . . . I thank God for the faithfulness of this smaller membership church where these woman took time out to be Christ to my brother.


Friday, September 3, 2010

First week . . .

Whoa, it has been exhausting . . . my first full week of residency in Clinical Pastoral Education . . . exhausting, but in a good way. There are seven of us . . . quite diverse: a Roman Catholic priest from India; a Jewish Rabbi (female) from LA; a Unitarian-Universalist from New Jersey (male); a recently grad of Southern Baptist Seminary in New Orleans who is also the Administrative Pastor at a new church plant in Metairie; a Roman Catholic lay woman from New Orleans; a recent grad of Princeton (female) who grew up Pentecostal but hasn't decided her faith tradition -- leaning toward Quaker; and me, Presbyterian.

Yesterday was my first 24 hour on-call rotation . . . three code blues (deaths) although by the time I arrived on units the two of the patients had been revived . . . the one early this morning died. Sunday I will also have on-call duties . . . as it works out 1x/week we will be on-call and 4 weekends in a three month period . . . I have call Sunday . . . Monday off and then hospital orientation.

Man, my feet have never hurt this much . . . can't wear backless shoes . . . my vice so am having to get use to "real" shoes.

I will be working with a UMC Pastor who has done the one year Residency Program and is now finishing up her three year Supervisory track in oncology and palliative care . . . this was my first choice as well as the first choice of one other person . . . after awhile at negotiating I was ready to give in and take my 2nd choice . . . feeling guilty as I was standing my ground . . . I guess somewhere I have gotten the message that I don't deserve my first choice or that I have to settle so the other person won't have to settle . . . Supervisor wouldn't allow me to give in and in the end I was able to get the units I wanted . . . although I am trying hard not to look to the future, this is the unit that I believe will provide better opportunity should I decided to pursue professional chaplaincy.

Exhausted by this first week but excited about this door that has been opened.