After The Flood

After The Flood

Last September northern Colorado suffered some severe flooding. The high school youth group from Tree of Life is coming up to help in flood recovery/cleanup efforts next month. Here’s a sample of what we found when we went up in October to help in the early recovery efforts. The car is from California. It had been searched for bodies but, according to the sticker on window, there were none in the car. The owners may think twice about where they park it the next time they visit Colorado.

The Rock and Roll Chaplain

Even if they don’t say it out loud i can see it on their face as soon as I introduce myself.  Damn!  Just what I need — somebody who’s going to spout the Bible to me!  Here in my part of Colorado we have a lot of what they call “nones”.  Those are people who, when asked what their religion is, reply “None”.  And, believe me, I see a lot of those people in the hospital.  I serve as a chaplain in an Adventist hospital and no, you don’t have to be an Adventist to serve there.

I hear a lot of… “I’m not religious, but I am spiritual”, “I don’t like organized religion”, “I guess there’s a God, but I don’t see a lot of evidence of that”.  I’ve ministered to Catholic priests and a defrocked Wiccan priest.  But, I am determined not to let their attitude affect my attitude.

So, I assure them that however they believe, or don’t believe, is fine with me.  I’m just there to see if there’s anything I can do to make their hospital stay a little more bearable.  Usually I get an apology and an explanation of why they said what did when I introduced myself.  A couple more questions about family support and all those things we learn to ask in CPE and the stories start to pour out and the non-threatening connection is made.

One thing I’ve found to be useful is music lyrics.  Some of my favorites are from Jimmy Buffet, The Rolling Stones, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. 

If someone is upset because they haven’t gotten everything they think they deserve in life I pull out this little gem from the Rolling Stones: “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need”.  That gets them to thinking — and talking.

Then there’s “According to my watch, the time is now.  Breathe in, breathe out, and move on” from Jimmy Buffet’s song about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.  Or the introduction to “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash: “if you smile at me I will understand because we all smile in the same language”.

Music plays a part in healing at the hospital where I serve.  We have a volunteer who plays the  harp outside (or inside, if the patient wishes) patient rooms and one who plays the guitar.  And, as one of the nurses on my unit told me one day, a rock and roll chaplain.

 

 

All My Life’s A Circle

“All my life’s a circle” says an old Harry Chapin song.  I see that in my own life.  Although I didn’t recognize it at the time, my first encounter with my life’s circle came back in the mid-1990s when I was introduced to a newcomer at my quilt bee.  As we got acquainted I discovered  she and I had both grown up in Richmond, Indiana.  Not only that, she and my husband grew up just a few blocks from each other.  Small world, we both remarked.

Last night, as I looked at the Facebook happenings for the day, I saw a post that said Chris Lake and Ruth Fortis were now friends.  Ruth was one of the Assistants to the Bishop of the newly formed Southeast Texas – Southern Louisiana Synod of the also newly-formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America way back in 1988 and I was the secretary to our first bishop, Martin Yonts.  According to Facebook Ruth and I had another mutual Facebook friend, Lorne Hlad.  How in the world could that be, I wondered!  I don’t know how these three are connected, but, I feel the circle around me.

A couple of years ago I discovered that Chris Lake, who was my pastor when I lived in Texas, did his internship when he was in seminary at the church in Ohio where Lorne Hlad was a member of the youth group.  When I moved to Colorado Lorne Hlad was the new seminary intern at the church that started the new church I was attending and he occasionally preached at my church.  Once again, it was brought to my attention that it’s a small world.

When my church in Colorado became an “official” Congregation Under Development, the wife of the new bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod  served as our interim pastor until we called a full-time pastor.  Here comes the circle again — Pastor Kim  Gonia, her husband Bishop Jim Gonia, and Bishop Mike Rinehart, from my Synod in Texas, had been friends in college.  And, oh yes,  the two bishops had been in conversation about me.

It’s been said that you can’t run from your past.  That’s not something I want to do.  It’s too comforting having that circle around me.

How Far Does Your Voice Carry — Take 2

Not long after I moved to Colorado I wrote about how I’d become aware how my voice and/or body language can impact someone else.  Yesterday I was reminded of that again.

I’ve gotten in the habit of treating myself to breakfast (#2 with a large soda, please) at the McDonald’s on Park Street on Tuesday mornings before I do my volunteer gig at the Douglas/Elbert Task Force.  The first time it was because I’d forgotten to get cereal at the grocery so I figured that McDonald’s was a good option.  But, I go back almost every week just so I can listen to the OFL (Old Farts League) discussion of current events that takes place every Tuesday morning at the same tables near where I’ve become accustomed to sitting while I read my book and eat my Sausage and Egg McMuffin.

The OFL is a group of 3-5 retired men who are, shall we say, a little more conservative politically than I am.  Yesterday they were discussing gun control — a big issue here in Colorado.  The most outspoken of the men was telling his buddies how Obama was a Muslim so he didn’t have any right to say anything about gun control seeing as how the Muslims are going around killing Americans all the time.

I must have sort of chuckled as I tried really hard not to go over and slap him silly and the man at the table next to me looked up and smiled.  As I was getting ready to leave he stopped me and made a comment about how the OFL didn’t have the foggiest idea what they were talking about.  We laughed together and I told him I stopped every Tuesday before I went to the Task Force just so I could listen to them. 

Then I noticed the wedding ring he wore on a chain around his neck.  It matched the ring he wore on his left hand and I wondered to myself whether his wife had died and this was a way of keeping her close to his heart.  He was a young man —  maybe 35 or so.  Too young to be a widower.  It occurred to me that he looked vaguely familiar and that, maybe, I had visited with him and his wife at the hospital. 

Maybe he thought I looked familiar, too, and that’s why he spoke to me.  Maybe he needed to talk.  I wish I’d asked about the ring. 

At McDonald’s of All Places!

This morning I decided to  treat myself to breakfast at McDonald’s before I went to apply for my passport.  My boss, the head chaplain at Parker Adventist,  had given each of us the book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying” by Bronnie Ware for Christmas and I carried it in with me to read as I ate my Sausage and Egg McMuffin.  I laid the book on the counter while I got my billfold out my my purse to pay and the cashier noticed it.  She asked if she could take a look at it and then looked at me and asked me why I was reading it.  I told her I was a hospital chaplain and that my boss had given it to me for Christmas.

She told me that her brother had died last year and she wondered if he had any regrets about what he had or had not done.  An interesting question from a cashier at McDonald’s!  A little later she came over to the table where I was sitting with a cup of coffee and asked if she could join me while she took a break.  She wanted to talk about her brother.

I guess you never know where you’ll have a chance to minister to someone!

The Throw-Down Choir

A few weeks go someone at church suggested that we get a little choir together to celebrate Pastor Michelle’s first Sunday with us.  Eight or ten people stepped up.  One of the gals chose four songs for us and we ended up singing two last week and two this week.  We’ve got a guitarist and a couple of kids who play trumpet and trombone have played with us.  This week Pastor Michelle’s future mother-in-law even joined us.

The best part of our little throw-down choir (that’s what our choir director down at Tree of Life in Conroe, Texas used to call it) is the involvement of kids.  Gloria and Clara are really having a great time singing with us.  Gloria is an orphan refugee who was born in the Republic of Congo and spent most of  her life in Kenya.  She and her brother, Saidi, are being fostered by a couple in our little congregation.  Clara is one of the triplets and has cerebral palsy.

But, what really warms my heart is the willingness of my new little congregation to embrace children in our services.  They help usher, read, and serve communion.  It’s plain to anyone who worships with us that we are all God’s children!