For fun.

“What do you two do for fun?’

I was asked that question again recently and once again, I didn’t have a clear answer. I said something about walking and talking together, but that sounds a little too basic.

It’s a question that Nancy and I ask each other from time to time, at those times when we get an unexpected free day or evening. Other people go out to eat, or go to a movie, or go to a sporting event. Some people take ballroom dancing lessons or go on climbing vacations or have adventures. We don’t. And so it has always felt awkward to come up with an acceptable answer.

Driving home after the conversation, however, I finally realized what the answer is: We do life together.

IMG_3159.JPGWe talk to people in crisis moments together. We talk about people in crisis together. We are the church service on Sunday mornings together. We sit at tables with people for vacation. We eat leftovers together or decide to splurge on $5 pizza together. We help eat other at work. We help each other with wording, we worry and pray for and smile about our kids. We cheer for each other and cry with each other. We nap on the sofa after long days. And we do walk and talk together.

I’m not against the other ways people choose to have fun. But I’ve decided that I’m not worried about not having fun anymore. Because being us is fun. At least for us.

Because we do life together. 

The spiritual consult.

IMG_3162.JPGSometimes people ask for a hospital chaplain. At our place, it’s called a “request for spiritual consult.” We’re never sure exactly what to expect.

Sometimes a person is sad and wants a visit. Sometimes a person needs a prayer or to have us contact someone for them. Sometimes a person wants a Bible or a copy of a devotional or communion or a priest.

The other day, the message was simply, “would like a visit from a chaplain.”

So I visited.

I knocked, walked into the room, introduced myself, and asked: “How can I help you?” I was a little more eloquent than that.

The patient smiled at me. “I always ask for a chaplain to visit,” she said. “I was a hospital chaplain. I want to pray for you.”

Her story was remarkable and challenging and inspiring. We talked for a long time. Then I talked with God about her. Then she talked with God about me. Each of us had the specificity that comes from understanding the other person’s life.

She was sitting in a chair, being treated herself. But her compassion for others hadn’t stopped when she retired for chaplaincy. In fact, she’s still functioning as a chaplain in the hospital.

I’m grateful that I was the one who was able to follow up on that request. It could have fallen to another chaplain. And I’m grateful for the reminder of the value of simple actions.

I talk often with people who want to do something that would be helpful to others. They feel trapped by location or vocation. But I’m sure that other people can be her kind of chaplain, looking at hospital staff with compassion, offering prayer of encouragement and blessing.


A muddle in the middle.

(First published November 17, 2010.)

I love stories about people praying and then having answers. It’s exciting.

I mean, think about this story:

Paul writes a letter to some people in Rome. He talks about his travel schedule and his desire to visit them. And he asks them to pray for him.

Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. (Romans 15:31-32)

In the travelogue that is the book of Acts, we find the end of that story.

And so we came to Rome.  The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us. At the sight of these people, Paul thanked God and was encouraged. (Acts 28:14-15)

It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Paul asks, God answers, and he is refreshed by the people from Rome. It would never happen that nicely for us, of course, not being as spiritual as Paul, but it’s nice nonetheless.

IMG_1138.JPGOf course, there is part of the story that doesn’t show up between the prayer and the answer. Paul does go to Jerusalem. He’s beaten and then arrested. After a plot to kill him, he’s taken to Caesarea. He stays in prison there for a couple years. He appeals to Caesar and is taken as a prison to Rome. On his way there, the ship is wrecked but they safely gets to Malta. He’s bitten by a snake but lives. Another ship takes them.

And so he comes to Rome, in chains, but safe.

Sometimes in the middle, the story feels muddled, but the ship may yet arrive.

Real life.

On Sunday in the United States is Mother’s Day. It is, perhaps, the most complicated day ever.

The very name creates mixed emotions. We all had one, but the memories are not like Hallmark cards. And the present is often bittersweet. And though we all had one, not everyone who wants to be is one. And many who were one, are not now.

Which may be why, when God created feasts for the Jewish people, none of them was Mother’s Day. The feasts told his story of life with his people. And the one new meal that Jesus invited us to wasn’t to celebrate and isolate a gender or a role, but to bring us to a common table.

But when God gave directions, honoring mothers and fathers is one of the top ones.

FullSizeRender.jpgWe’re not called to romanticize or worship an ideal which may never have been true. We are, however, called to offer what may be unreciprocated respect. And are allowed to ask for God’s help.

My sisters are making this offering of respect these days. Our mother carries the marks of Alzheimer’s. My sisters carry my mother. Though she only occasionally knows them, like a tiny clear tile in a mosaic of made-up reality, they always know her.

This Sunday, they will visit her at her health care facility. I will visit other women, some mothers, some not, in the health care facility where I work. I will offer prayer and comfort and hope and compassion in all kinds of situations and relationships.

And I thank God for these three women, two sisters and a mom, who are living out love in real life.

From 5 minutes to 5 miles in less than a week.

“5 minutes to 5 miles.” That’s what my sister told me to write about. I asked her last week for an idea. She sent me a picture of the readout of her stationary bike. She had a knee replacement. Shortly after, she could ride for five minutes.  Within a week she was riding five miles at a stretch.

IMG_2837.PNGShe said that the subtitle should be “How determination drives something like progress that starts like with a d.” Which could have taken us to a discussion of alliteration, trying to figure out a synonym for progress.

But progress is the word. Determination drives progress. You decide and you progress. Maybe not succeed, whatever that means. Maybe not get ahead, whatever that means. But you progress.

My sister keeps doing that. Her determination about many things across time has helped her to progress.  She’s taken as a principle a statement from the Proverbsfor the righteous falls seven times and rises again. “Fall seven, get up eight” is how she says it.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly” is the way our dad said it. Get up. Finish. Don’t procrastinate to perfection, finish this and move on.

Today, you may need Jill’s words. And Dad’s and the Proverbs’. Even if there aren’t 300 of them.

Decide. Progress.