Baylen the Brave

I came home after a long day to find this in my box of crackers.  I don’t know if the crackers were too much or if it was the plastic consumed getting into the stash. Most likely the latter, but in any case, I needed little prompting to get up to the animal shelter. fb_img_1496181063001.jpg

I went up and there were no kittens available.  I did learn that there “might be” one or two available after the regularly scheduled vet day.  Those kittens who had come in would be seen by the vet, spayed or fixed, then 24 hours released for adoption. If I were to be at the shelter at 1:00 on Thursday, then I might have a chance to snag one up.  I said, most likely not as I would be working, but maybe there might be one left over later in the day.  Don’t get you hopes up, the kittens go quickly.  Well, I figured, if I am supposed to have a new kitten, then one would be left if I got there later in the day. 20170601_212046

Not as pretty as mouse, kinda gremlin like with odd markings and beady little eyes.  And she is feral. A hissing and spitting scaredy cat who flees back into her crate at the smallest sound or shadow.  The polar opposite of Mouse who would run to the door as soon as you got there to say hello.

This one is gonna take some work.

But she does come out of hiding and after a couple of days, she actually was lying with me on the bed and purring.  Progress.

She has joined me for morning tea and has helped herself to the milk.20170603_053328(0)

She has even ventured to help me with design work. 20170604_094759

At the shelter her cage name was Checkers.  There was a sign on the door that outlined what an “under-socialized” kitten was like and how to socialize them.  There were two kittens, her litter mate was all black and had double paws, and for a moment I felt like I had the booby prize.  I pressed on.   Alicia, the supervisor at the shelter, had fostered the litter at her house. She assured me her kids played with the litter  for the last three weeks and even with all the hissing,  thought this kitten was the brightest and showing the most interest and curiosity.  For a feral cat, you want smarts. For this house we need a good mouser.  A bit of a gamble, but as long as she gets the litter box thing, we are golden.  I was assured she did but Checkers really isn’t an inspiring name. One of Alicia’s children is named Baylen and she said it means mighty warrior.

Baylen the Brave, positive intention into the universe with the hope that she will grow into it.  She has begun to branch out a bit.  She still hisses at just about everything, but she seems to have good hunter instincts.  She will be an indoor kitty, at least for the next few months.  She has to learn her home and that this is a safe space.  Maybe when the snow begins to fly she might be introduced to the outside on a leash.  Maybe not.

Under the Apple Tree

20170418_173453The house is too still.  Her non-stop action was just what I looked forward to at the end of the day.  And on her last day she had helped me wake by moving from a spot by my knees to lying on my pillow with her paws over my chin and her face on my face.  We would do the routine: get up, go to the kitchen, put on the tea kettle, open a can of cat food, and look out the window to assess the day.  I would head to the bathroom, she would use her cat door and go outside.  I would make the tea and bring it back on my tray to savor the first moments of peace.  She would bounce back in and join me on the bed, licking her paws and cleaning her face, she would then sit in my lap for the obligatory pet and purr.

At the end of the day she would be on the counter, across from the kitchen door, or sometimes come out the cat door to greet me.  On her last day, she was in the kitchen picture window watching me in the car making that last call.  I was tardy and so she left the window, went around to the study and her door, bounced out and when I opened my car door, she jumped right in.  Up on the dashboard, waiting for a drive, or just announcing that she was in my space, she was my companion.

Mum had returned from her trip to Spain and she had been greeted and loved by Mouse. I gave her the update of all the shenanigans and adventures she had the week before.  Dinner was made, mouse served first, and I was off to a meeting. Long day with Hospice and tomorrow was going to be long as well.  I needed balance.

I returned home to Mum’s bedroom light on. That was strange. Her goal was to stay up till 7:30. It was later than that. The kitchen light was on, she was sitting at the table, TV on but muted.

What’s wrong Mum?  She couldn’t speak, then she whispered, “I have bad news.  Mouse is wrapped in a towel in the garage.”

I retrieved the bundle, and unwrapped her to see her limp and lifeless, a bit of blood out of her ear stained the towel.  No broken bones, no gaping wounds, she was still a bit warm and listened for a purr as she was in the morning.  Her eyes were open but it was clear that she was gone.  I brought her back into the kitchen so that Mum could say goodby and I dug a grave under the apple tree.  I laid her down, curled up as she was with me, looking peaceful and said goodbye.  Gently covering her up I gave thanks, checked back in with Mum and bid her goodnight.

She had gone out on her own accord and had been under the lilac bush.  She had been hunting bumblebees and flying bugs as of late and I imagine that she had darted out in full chase and unaware of the car.  The driver didn’t stop and I hope didn’t know.  The next driver saw her on the side of the road, stopped and looked for the owner.   Mum wouldn’t go to the door when they came knocking because she didn’t know them, but our neighbor stepped up, and brought the news to the door.

Fast and lethal.  I knew it was a risk to have and inside outside cat.  I knew that she might live a long and fun packed life. I balanced that with the knowledge that she might be hit by a car, taken by a coyote or otherwise killed.  I took the risk because I needed to have life and non-stop-action to balance my work.  Life is a risk.  I got her at the shelter and gave her the best life I could in the short time we had. No regrets there.  But I have learned a huge lesson.

We are all created in nature and in nature we should live.  I just don’t live in a place where she had a fair chance. And I am guilty for thinking that getting clipped by a car was a smaller risk. I felt she was smart enough to learn fear of cars.  I didn’t count on her natural predatory instincts over-riding that awareness.

I yearn to be where I can walk a dirt road, be in nature, and have a pet.  This week was full of patient deaths.  It was full of tending to those who are grieving.  I found myself tearing up in a staff meeting and coming home bawling as I park next to the apple tree. I found myself lost in the vastness of the silence and rethinking the cost of living off the farm.

I want to float, not dive

7239cf715db990fa2babb5c00ec962e1.b2c7dcabcd02d6b1a207e0dffe7b5242.jpgNot quite ready for the day.

I have my tea and mouse is keeping me company.  I kinda want to be all on top of it and hit the ground running, but today I just want to ease into it.  Like when you are going swimming in the early morning and you slip slowly into the still waters, trying not to make a ripple.  You are one temperature and the water another and the change from one state to another can be a welcome shock, but not first thing in the morning.  Late in the afternoon, in the heat of the summer, you welcome it, along with the other swimmers. But early in the morning, you move slowly into the depths.

And today I have patients to see and meetings to attend and driving to do between one place and another,  all within certain times, all seemingly crowded together. There are notes too. Notes to say what I did and how I met the goals already written.  “Patient will transition through the end of life process with peace and serenity.”  ” Patient received pastoral presence and silent prayer.”  Today is like most days, but today I want to slip into it slowly and purposefully, not reactively. I want to slip into the sacred and let it support me as I go,  I want to float, not dive.

 

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

Sometimes I wonder why I say yes.

Melanie our Priest at St. Paul’s asked me the  week before last if I would read some of Jesus’s last words for Good Friday service and pontificate about it for 5-6 minutes.  She didn’t actually say pontificate, she said “meditate” , but that is my feeling about talking in the pulpit sometimes.

I got the phrase that I can’t pronounce.  My God, my God why have you forsaken me? is the general translation.  Some translations say, abandon.  All are based on the 22nd psalm.

1.My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? 2.O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest. 

And the psalmist continues describing his anguish and ends with a prophecy of the coming of the Lord.  Next up, psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd reminding us that,

6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. 

So that is my mini- exegisis and I can connect the dots to the scripture in Mathew pretty darn easily.  Jesus is on the cross, but we know the end of the story and his is raised, salvation all around. Easter lilies and chocolate bunnies for the rest of us.

This universal condition of feeling completely abandoned is a familiar one.  I see it with patients in their own dark hour.  Chaplain shop talk calls it “the dark night of the soul”. Alcoholics call it “hitting their bottom”. In depression, it is that point before you step off into the abyss of absolute aloneness because you can not bare the feeling or weight of it any more.

But here is the thing.  Hang on.   We know the end of the story.  We know that we will have Easter.  The tough thing is leaning into the depths of abandonment. Forsakenness. The psalmist says that he is lower than a worm, not even human.  Who hasn’t felt that before?

I certainly have. And I have wondered if there really is a God and I hit my bottom, I couldn’t see, or feel or even know that my God was there the whole time.

And yet, here I am.  Last night I was a guest lecturer at Emmanual College teaching a master’s level class of Nursing students, of all things.  The class is Spirituality and Ethics in Nursing,  and I got to teach on spiritual assessments.  Today I got one of the most  heart warming letters from the professor who said loads of good things about the class and my teaching.

Monday I brought a palm to a patient who was experiencing  their own dark night and “I said, you are not alone, I will be here with you” .  Monday night in the halls I heard the same thing from folks that have been sober for a while to the newcomers who are so very lonely and feeling  so very forsaken.  “You are not alone. Welcome”.

God never promises us that it will be easy.  In fact, there are tons of stories in every major faith that tell us the opposite.  Things are gonna get bad, but hold on.

Easter is coming.  I have meditated on it.  Might actually get up the moxie and just read the blog post  vs. cleaning it up for prime time.  At this point, I am gonna leave it alone and just stay fluid through the unknown.

 

 

 

Mouse Is In The Garage

I had a heavy week.  I thought I would get ahead of it by doing a spiritual assessment on a new admission Sunday afternoon and while I was at the facility, I would check in with another couple of patients.  I have a flexible schedule like that. However I also had a bunch visits that needed to be done, a week of lousy, rainy and otherwise dank weather, a memorial service and an online class.  Come Friday I was a bit fried.

Balance is the key and so knowing that, I got a kitten and named it Mouse. img_0788

I figured having something very alive was a good balance to being with those who are dying.

But after a long week, I figured I needed something else. Teary eyed and exhausted. I finished up work and even Mouse could not help lift the weight, so I headed down to the village, and I decided to go and get that bike that I have been wanting for a good long while.  I had been down to the Dedham Bike Shop at least a couple of times over the last few years and even bought a bike for my buddy Bea’s birthday. But didn’t get around to getting one for me.

I stopped riding a bicycle about 18 years ago when I was diagnosed with IC and was told that I had to change a whole lot of things in my life to reduce the pain and disabling effects of the illness.  Riding a bike was one of those things. Plus I was either a student or an unemployed CPE intern or simply unemployed, so a fun thing like a bike was out.

imagesYesterday I threw  caution to the wind and decided to go look at bikes and found one that seemed like a good fit. I put a deposit down on it with the plan to go ahead and pick it up this morning.   I felt like I was 5 again.  My first bike was red Schwinn Pixie but with a white seat and it came from the Dedham Bike Shop. I picked a purple one and got a purple helmet to match.  I felt like the kid at Christmas who peaked and saw a bike with their name on it.

It was a good thing too. When I returned home after a meeting last night I was called in to work to help the family of that new patient I had been with last Sunday.  The patient had put themselves on hospice and the family was not ready.  The Patient was ready for death and had said so to me, but the family wasn’t on the same page.  And despite the protests against the illness, the patient passed away.   I got the call and within 15 minutes was on site, but the family had left and so I did what I was called to do.

Went down the hall, entered the room and then spent then next little while with the deceased.  I had found the TV on, the bathroom door open with light streaming out, full light in the room and the sheets of the deceased all askew.  I turned things off, pull the covers up over her feet, shut the door and began to pray.  They had said to me last Sunday that they had forgotten their prayers, so I pulled out a Rosary and said it for them, as I laid the pink plastic cross down.  Returning home I took some time to decompress and thought about that bike.  I went to bed singing “Bicycle race ”

This morning I went down to the village and rode it home, singing.   These same streets that I rode my first little red bike on and all of those feelings of being free came back. Just like when I first learned to ride and go faster than on foot.  And getting the bike gave me some energy to do the chores and put the cat window in for Mouse. She learned to use it and has some freedom now herself.

In her new freedom she disappeared for a while and gave us a scare.  Turns out she went into the neighbor’s garage and before they went out for the night, the door was closed with her locked inside.  They are still out and she is still locked in, but at least I know where she is and eventually they will come home, see my note pinned to their door and I can go fetch her.

And here is where the balance pays off.  Mum was tired at the end of the day and when Mouse didn’t show up, Mum was upset.  Afraid of all the things that could go wrong.  On the other hand, I had an awesome day riding my bike and singing Queen songs.  I figured Mouse would either show up or she wouldn’t.  Either she lives a free life going out and coming, sometimes getting stuck and needing to be found, or she doesn’t.  I choose the former too.   And like Mouse I choose to play when I can.

 

Jonah and The Divine Deep Knowing

Penned by Tori Jamison

Many call to ministry stories begin with a deep knowing or a dramatic moment of realization, followed in quick succession with the knower running fleeing church life to pursue careers in business or as far from the church as possible, diving into family or art or literally anything else, until they can’t anymore – and then they show up at seminary. My story isn’t that at all.  I heard the voice, I felt the deep knowing and my community acknowledged that they also knew I had the knowing and so off I went, confident. I graduated seminary by the skin of my teeth and running as fast as I could get from the institutional church.

images.jpgAnd I’ve been thinking about a lot about Jonah, of “gets swallowed by a whale and is still a punk while sitting in digestive juices for three days and gets his own book in the Hebrew bible” fame. See, Jonah gets this call from God to do a thing (go preach repentance to Nineveh) and he runs. Lots of commentators make a big deal out of him running the opposite direction from where he was told to go, but what I find interesting about Jonah is his confident swagger. He runs but gets on a ship and when the sea gets rough, they draw lots and blame Jonah, who asserts with no nuance who he is and the name of his god, and that they are welcome to solve the problem by throwing him into the sea. The sailors oblige, and into the sea goes Jonah… only to get swallowed by a fish. He skulks and mutters for a while, covered in digestive juices in the dark, and then the text says that he petitions his god with a prayer that amounts to “God has to save me because I have work to do that God gave me to do so get on with it, God!”

I also ran with reasons aplenty from the institutional church but not ministry. I’ve taken all kinds of jobs and calls since graduating, and have met some incredible people, been a witness to the miraculous and the mundane. I’ve seen a baby born and held hands with the dying and everything in between, and yet, l

Like Jonah, I thought that shouting my call while going my own ways was enough.

It isn’t, and I’m worn down by running- the moving every few months to this or that pulls me farther and farther away from the divine deep knowing. What I’ve been doing is in the name of the good work and justice (mental health first responder! Care for the youngest! Communities of belonging and safety for everyone! Farm and feed the world!) but I am increasingly more disconnected from a call to contextualize sacred service in a community.

I haven’t been running from everything in life and I’ve certainly grown and learned.  I came out as queer last year as undramatically as I could conjure simply by putting on Facebook that I was in a relationship with a same gender partner.

Spoiler alert -if an ancient book can be spoiled –

Jonah gets out of the fish but his swagger continues. He preaches to Nineveh and then informs God that God should make good on God’s promise to smite them. God does not, and gives a shade tree to Jonah. When the tree dies, the last words of Jonah in his book are informing God that the tree ought to still be alive, and that Jonah himself is right to be angry, even to death.

I too had my very good reasons for running, but now that I am a distance away by time, geography and circumstance, perhaps now I can reconsider a retooled return. Like Jonah, I have never doubted the deep knowing, but unlike Jonah, I do not wish to end up under a tree angry that it is not enough.

March 31

March 31st is the day I picked Trump to “resign” as president.   I circled the date on the calendar about 3 weeks ago.  The 31st of March is the last day of the first financial quarter of the year.

Here is my theory.  Trump can’t help being himself. Which means a couple of things. He loves to win, loves a deal, and generally blames everyone else.  Trump is a business man, first and foremost.  He has been asked to be financially transparent and put his interests in a blind trust, but his kids are running his business and participating actively in his inner circle as “advisors”and if the pattern holds, nothing is going to change in the Trump chain of businesses.

The history of his business also includes settlement vs. trial for cases against him.  He works the system well, evaluating what the cost of doing business is, knowing what his bottom line is, what his loss tolerance is and going right up to it.  If he settles a case against him, he is not “guilty” he is just doing business.  His style is a winner/looser equation.  If he bankrupts, it is simply the cost of business, regardless of those who are not paid fairly.  That is how bankruptcy works.  Your debts are paid off.  He boasts that his style of business, this giving a shaft to your obligations is winning.

His past business practices are indicators of how his presidency will unravel.

He has already begun a negative branding campaign, fashioned after the Birther Movement.  And this is what a bully does.  By putting it out there, the story that Obama wire taped him at the Trump towers, then that story will get legs.  People hating Obama or what his Presidency stood for, will buy onto the “wiretap” story and will perpetuate it, even if it isn’t true.  A bully will say something nasty, not because it is true, but because the shear outrageousness will give the story a life of its own.  Trump and Bannon, through the Alt-right Breitbart media have tried this game out before and since it has worked in the past, it will be used again.

So Trump is planting the seeds to be able to say that it was not him, it was someone else who said it and he was just reacting to it.  He is planting the seeds to do a Trumpesque exit.  It aint about Russia, it is about doing global business and like the days of old school empires, Trump has been acting much in the same way.  Russia just happens to be one of the oligarchies at the table.

Here is the Tie in to the March 31st timetable.  It is the end of the first financial quarter. And something has to be reported and made public.  Better to get ahead of it then watch it all burn down.

Trump loves money and feeling like he is rich. The stock market has gone into overdrive and if I had a ton of assets in various markets, I would be selling stocks now and positioning myself to get ready for the bottom to drop out.   If you have a sense when this is going to be, then you would position yourself for the swing and when it happens, take advantage.  In farming, you store up extra hay, and grain especially if you know there will be a drought.  Once everyone else runs out of hay and grain, you can share what you have with those that ran out or sell yours at a higher price. Trump understands commodities and my guess is that he would not help out his neighbors, he would buy low and sell high.

So when the political heat gets too high, when he comes too close to the edge of losing his financial holdings through his companies, then he will walk rather than be forced into impeachment and potentially losing his companies.  It might be because of some wrong Russian chit-chat before the actually presidency, or it might be some illegal financial hood-winking that we don’t know about yet.  I tend to believe the latter. I think that there are some shady business and government crisscrossing going on and his children are in the middle of it.  He will be offered or will see an easy way to settle without looking guilt.

Then he will blame it on the media, on the democrats, on the system, on everyone but himself.  He will try and spin it that his hands are tied and for the benefit of the country, (because he is such a patriot) he needs to step down and “let” Pence take over.  He will walk with all of his holdings.

He just can’t help being himself.

 

Exhaling into death

images.jpg

It occurred to me yesterday morning that I have been fearful of the role of full-time hospice chaplaincy for two main reasons.

The first is that I thought I might get burnt out ministering mostly to folks who are actively dying and their families, that the nature of unavoidable death without the affirmation of life might not be there. That without the balance, I would eventually tip over and absorb too much of the grief and not enough of the life.

If you are on my hospice list then you are most likely dying.  Some folks get better with hospice care and no longer qualify for it, but mostly, folks die.

Here is the other point. Frankly I didn’t have confidence that my spunky little self was cut out for the solemnness of the gig.  I met a ton of ministers and others who felt called to hospice while I was in seminary and CPE, and they tended to be very peaceful, calming, and reverent.  I am mostly irreverent and have a quirky sense of humor.  I am also naturally charismatic and sometimes find it difficult to tamper that gift down. I don’t mean to say that I am all that and a bag of chips, but I have that funny personality that is highly interested in others, connects easily to strangers and for the most part, is authentic.  What you see is what you get.

I didn’t think that my calling was to hospice.  I figured it was to helping people with addictions, and homelessness, and hospital type stuff.  I love hospital chaplaincy and did well in training with the cases where it was messy.  Messy with bells and whistles going off.  Messy with theological issues.  Messy with emotional responses.

This is what I discovered.

In the hospital, death is there and is often sudden.  Unexpected.  As chaplain you need to have your spiritual tanks filled because you respond to some deep stuff. People are plugged into machines, the heart is monitored, beeps and alarms go off. People rush in and rush out trying to save the patient. The main purpose of the medical team is curative,  everybody jumps in at the code to save the life and the chaplain holds the sacred space.

A 17-year-old wraps their car around a tree and the family comes to the bedside, faced with issues of taking him off life support or organ donation.  The baby’s heart isn’t working and he has to be medevaced to Children’s hospital.  You are called to take someone to see their loved one in the morgue after death from an overdose and you lead them to a cold room, generally far away from the rest of the hospital, and generally underground.   Shock is the response to sudden and unexpected death.  It is surreal at times.

Death comes unexpectedly and on the emotional intensity scale of 1-10, 10 being full on, you give spiritual care and support, holding the sacred space for the family and the patients.  It is a fast inhale, like when you are being startled and you quickly hold your breath for dear life, hoping death will not take it.   And sometimes you go from emergency to emergency and you have to be there, one patient emergency after another.  All of you, present and with The Divine because you are the symbol of the sacred in the moment.  It is exhausting, but I was good it.  I can hold my breath for a very long time.

In hospice, it is like a long and cleaning exhale.  Death is not unexpected, it is unavoidable, for the most part.  There are folks who struggle with accepting death, their own or the death their loved one.  Hospice is provided only if there is a medical indication that curative medicine will no longer help.  To be on hospice you have to have a terminal diagnosis with death imminent, generally less than 6 months.   Hospice is when death has knocked the door has opened.

And with the exhale, it seems that the tension of intensity , the holding your breath against sudden illness and unexpected death,  is released. The emotions are still there, but not as tense.  The grieving process has begun.  The emotion has moved from the shock of not accepting that death has come,  to sometimes welcoming the relief from suffering that death sometimes brings.

In this place, with patients and their families, my true self can be present without filtering.  Not to say that I was fake in my other work.  I was authentic, but I feared that I could not be authentic in hospice full-time.

Well I seem to be wrong. This calling fits like a glove.

I can hold the space sometimes  and relieve the tension by bringing life back into the room of the dying.  “Tell me a little bit about your loved one” I say.   I can get the story telling started because I am genuinely interested in the life of the patient.  Family members get that. They can feel it  and respond by sharing the life that their loved one lived.  Granted I am still new at this type of gig. But if I can be my true self right from the get go, then I am pretty optimistic about it.  All things will sugar out with time. I am hopeful this calling will get sweeter.

 

 

Bennies

Bennies.

Not what you are thinking though.  I am thinking healthcare and insurance benefits.  I just spent the past couple of hours signing up for them and I am the lucky one.  

Lucky because my new employer offers a whole host of benefits which include medical, dental, vision, long and short-term disability. Then there is also insurance for credit fraud, benefit plans for lawyers, pet insurance and then the pre-tax, directly from your paycheck savings account.   There were 24 different areas to pick from.  I made my picks and I will be paying 3.8% of my gross pay for insurance per month with a potential of 1.43%  of the gross in costs for healthcare.  That is about 5% of my gross.  And that is affordable access to healthcare.

This new policy  will kick into effect 90 days from my hire date and I can breathe a bit easier.  I say that with the silly notion that large employers are keeping watch at the current health care payment fluster cluck.   I will be sorry to say goodby to the current coverage I have, but I am the lucky one.

I have been covered for the last year and a half on Mass Health, the Bay States version of the Affordable Care Act,  also known as Obama Care. In graduate school I was covered under a student health plan that basically covered very little.  When I graduated I was able to get onto the public coverage and because I was still training for chaplaincy, I didn’t have an income. As in I didn’t have a job.   The coverage was basically free to me and every medical expense was covered and 99% of my medications.   I could pick up my thyroid medication and instead of a 20.00 co-pay, I paid out 1.75.  One dollar and seventy-five cents.  Less than a cup of tea.  Even my Epi-Pen was free because of Mass health and the CVS pharmacist found coupons to make up the difference.

I totaled up my health care costs based on billing submitted by my providers and it came out to about 78 thousand, of which only a small fraction was paid out to the hospitals and doctors, but under contract, I was not billed.  I benefited from Mass Health profoundly.

Health maintenance is critical for me to be engaged in the larger community.   In order for me to work full-time, I have to keep self-care in the foreground.   That means that I have to put the needs of my body, mind and spirit before the needs of others.  I can not sacrifice me to serve others, I must serve myself first so that I can be there for others.   If I don’t take care of the vessel, I can not sail.

I am not unique on this. We all need to have good, not adequate, but good health coverage. By we, I mean all of us.  Good prenatal care, infant child wellness, preventative care, emergency care and end of life care, including hospice.   If we see the Dr. before the issue gets bad, or get our teeth cleaned on a regular basis or take the medications we should, then can you imagine what good would come from it.  More of us could do the work we are called to do.  More of us would take care of things before those little things become disabling.

So the issue then becomes: are we entitled to good health care?

If we look at the greater good, what is good for all of us in a society, then yes.  People do better when choices for care are available and affordable.   Society does better when the populace is healthy and can engage in the workforce.  Businesses run better when their employees are healthy. Our economy can grow when the population is healthy. Our country can focus on other issues if this one can be solved.

Looking at the costs billed from providers; hospitals, Dr.s and procedures like labs, I was shocked at the difference between the charge and what was paid out.  A blood test with a full metabolic panel was over 568.00 while the provider was paid 40.00.  It is like going to Savers and seeing a cashmere 4 ply designer sweater priced at 5.99 when you know that it retailed at over 400.00 and it probably cost 50.00 to grow, harvest, spin, dye, knit, ship, and stock at the store.

So here is the long-winded idea.  I got the sweet deal in insurance last year and now I continue with a sweet deal though my new job.   But I shouldn’t be the only one.  We should all have the ability to access affordable health care.  For the benefit of the individual and society as a whole.

 

 

I am not a preacher

imageBlizzard

Well, not really. At least not yet, there is very little wind. Certainly not huge gusts that make the trees creak.  There is heavy wet snow  and walking home tonight was lovely in a surreal kind of way.    The ambient light created from street lights, and glow from the nearby highway, gives everything a pink and orange edge.  The sun set hours ago and I swear it is so light out I took the photo without a flash.  I miss the dark deep of a North Country snow.  The stillness I crave in the storm is dispersed with sounds of cars unaccustomed to driving on greasy roads.  Just say’n.

Yet my joints don’t know the difference. My hips hurt and I am a bit gimpy. Which I expect with a good-sized Nor’easter.  Yesterday was worse than today and no amount of hot tubs, gentle stretches or over the counter meds help.  I didn’t leave the house and spent most of the day up in my studio working on a pattern draft and playing with Mouse.

Today I mustered and got myself to Church and was treated to validation of my calling.

On Fridays and Saturdays many of my preaching buddies are working on sermons and programs.  Not me. I was grateful for that yesterday.  I love to write and I love the exegesis required for a good sermon, but I don’t like preaching.  I don’t like reading scripture in front of people. Here is another secret: I don’t really like participating in a service.  It is too much like organizing a play  in which you are both the director and the actor.   Plus you gotta know the script. Which given my dyslexic way of thinking and the way the words often tumble out in the wrong way, I get anxious.  So instead of  being in the moment and getting my worship on, being totally connected, I am uneasy.

Not so when I speak extemporaneously in a AA meeting, or in a one-on-one in a hospital setting.I can pray at the bedside of the dying and the injured without notes.  I can expound ad infinitum while being authentic and I won’t remember exactly what I said, or the way I said it.  I just know that when I connect with people in that way, the spirit shows up.  I can give a testimony, tear up and get an amen.  But be the pastor in a congregation every Sunday?  Nope. Not me and not my call.

Melanie, our Priest at St. Paul’s has the gift.   Today she did a baptism and when she was pouring from the silver (historic) pitcher to the font, she stopped abruptly and exclaimed “Wait! This isn’t water.  This is the wine!” Talk about being baptized into the blood of Jesus, which would have totally  ruined the beautiful baptismal dress of the candidate. She then got the correct silver pitcher, but the water was too hot.  Trying to make sure the water wasn’t too cold, which might have produced a cry of anger, someone had brought the water to a boil and it was still scalding hot.  Melanie then called for colder water and several folks scrambled to get some.  She was able to turn a potential disaster into an epic win for the preacher.

And I got to be present instead of being anxious and it didn’t matter that my hips were killing me and that I was chilled and kept my coat on during the service or that I had my clunky blizzard boots on.  I was reminded that I had a Sunday of friends and worship and that my gifts of ministry are just that; mine.  Different from what is sometimes expected, but valid all the same.

I was hoping to go into work tomorrow, yup was looking forward to it, but got an email that we will have a snow day.  Whoop Whoop.  Here’s hoping we actually get some decent snow.

 

 

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