Monday, February 28, 2011

What do Elvis and Thich Nhat Hanh have in common?

What do Elvis and Thich Nhat Hanh have in common? A belief in oneness.  Of God with humanity…of humanity with humanity.  That we all have one father.  Or as it declares in Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

Elvis said it this way:

Everybody comes from the same source. If you hate another human being, you're hating part of yourself.

And Thich Nhat Hanh….

We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.

Great truths that roll off the tongues of rock idols and Buddhist monks are backed up by the great Truths in scripture…declared by none other than Jesus….

Their Future Glory (John 17)

20 "I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so  that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. 24 "Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be  with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

When I looked up the meaning of some of these words in the Strong’s…a couple of interesting things stand out.  The word translated “glory” is “doxa” in the Greek.  Among its meanings…

a most glorious condition, most exalted state 

Jesus declares that the same glory…the Father gave him, he gave his disciples…and he also gave us. He’s not praying just for his disciples in these verses but for all those who will believe.  That we may be one.  In Jeremiah (32:39) God declares he will give them (and by implication…us) one heart and one way.  Everybody….

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 )

and the…

uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11)

all one in Christ…

Christ is all and in all

I also looked up the meaning of the word translated barbarian. One of the meanings…

one who speaks a foreign or strange language which is not understood by another

That does not necessarily mean the language of a nation or people....although that is one of the definitions listed. The Greeks considered anyone who did not speak or understand Greek barbarians aka foreigners.  And it wasn’t a derogatory term in New Testament days. It wasn’t until after the Persian War that the word barbarian started to have negative connotations. 

So one who speaks a strange language not understood by another could easily describe the language of a different religious groups whose terminology or views are “strange” to us.  The strange language could easily be the "lingo" associated with new thought....Buddhist....Hindu etc. etc, or… to the Buddhist or Hindu, the strange language could be “christianese.”

And what about the Scythian?  Well, the Strongs describes that particular member of the “one” as

….an inhabitant of Scythia or modern day Russia--by the more civilized nations of antiquity the Scythians were regarded as the wildest of barbarians

So that doesn’t even leave out those folks we are at odds with.  It doesn’t even leave out the “wildest of barbarians.”  I don’t particularly like that aspect of “oneness.”  I really prefer to share my space with those I like…those who do me no harm…those who are kind and considerate…but that’s not what it says.  (and for the record, I am so not there yet)

Which brings me to one of the other meanings of “Doxa”…the English word “Glory.” 

judgment, view, opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone

but adds this clarification…

in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory

So could an aspect of the “glory” Jesus talks about…the glory God gave him that he in turn gave them….and us…also involve an accurate assessment of who He was and who they were and who we are? Could that be what he meant when he said…all those who will believe?

I’ve heard it said in Universalist circles that “everybody is saved, they just don’t know it yet.” But perhaps the truest declaration is not just that everyone is is saved but that everyone is…ONE…we just don’t know it yet. Nobody is excluded.  Even the barbarian is part of the “in crowd.”  Even the Scythian, the wildest of all barbarians is included….all one in Christ Jesus. 

This post is getting long, but I want to point out one other aspect of Jesus’ words. 

that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

Perfected in unity.  Perfection implies completion.  It is in unity that we are perfected…completed….rendered full (Strongs again) A lot to think about. A lot to understand.  A lot for the carnal nature to be disgruntled about….but laid out clearly in Scripture and in the strange language of the sacred writings of so many religious traditions. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Will of God

During this whole "living at the hospital" ordeal there have been times, events and circumstances that have been exercises in total frustration. When I went back last weekend to visit, she was doing much better after the second actual surgery to drain fluid and blood from both of her lungs and chest cavity.  When I say surgery I mean under total, deep anesthesia.  There were many, many procedures that required a lighter level of anesthesia....and some of the nasty things they did to her "didn't require" any at all.  She had three PICC lines put in with great, great difficulty (and total lack of functionality)....a pacemaker (that caused bleeding into the cavity around her heart and collapsed her lung...main reason for the second surgery) numerous scope things....down the throat...another round on the ventilator…so many unpleasant, frightening ordeals. Yet when I went back this weekend she was quite calm.  In a good mood actually. It was almost as if God held her there in the fire (hospital) until she stopped struggling.  And I am learning some lessons about struggling too. 

“A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”(Proverbs 16:9)

Lest anyone think I've joined the total determinism gang, I haven't.  I do believe however that we are not totally free and there will be situations we get stuck in no matter how much we struggle.  No matter how much squawking and bitching and moaning we do, we are going to be held in the fire (a place or situation where we don’t want to be) until we stop struggling.  That is the essence of my car seat analogy.

When my kids were little they always...always… rode in their car seats the whole time the car was in motion. No exceptions.  Protesting…kicking, screaming, fighting made no difference whatsoever to the final outcome. The car seat was non negotiable. One way or another they were going in the car seat and they were staying there until we reached our destination.  Fortunately, they never put up much of a fuss and getting them into their car seat was no big deal but I’ve seen some life and death struggles going on in other vehicles…parent pitted against a 20 lb child.

Some of the situations God puts us in are also non negotiable (and for our good) and we cannot get out of way. Sometimes the only thing we can choose is our attitude.  My attitude throughout this hospital ordeal was pretty good.  Could have been better but I know my mom appreciated me being there. Looking through the “retrospectascope” I realize I should have struggled less and accepted more and I would have saved myself a lot of stress and frustration. The whole thing was a “carseat moment.” 

Reminds me of two similar thoughts about making plans.  One from the Qu'ran...the other from the book of James.  Both pretty much say the same thing...and remind me that I need to seek his will and way first.  To do otherwise is a bit like beating my head against a brick wall.  And you know the saying about how good it feels when you stop....

 SHAKIR 18:23/24 And do not say of anything: Surely I will do it tomorrow, Unless Allah pleases; and remember your Lord when you forget and say: Maybe my Lord will guide me to a nearer course to the right than this.

James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

So I spent all weekend hanging out in her hospital room.  She is feeling a lot better (and at this writing is actually in the rehab part of the hospital working on the final phase of her recovery) A lot of the time she dozed in the chair…and I sat quietly reading…making use of their guest wifi.  At one point, late on Sunday afternoon she asked me the same question she asked shortly after her surgery.....

"This was a wasted day wasn't it?"

"For who?"

" of us" she replied.

Ahhhhhh......but it didn’t feel like a wasted day.  And after all, in God's economy, nothing is wasted.  Eventually, all things work together for good, don't they?  I don’t think any of the time either of us spent in the “carseat” was wasted. Some of the lessons are yet to be revealed…but they are there, contained in the experience.  The tricky part is figuring it all out. 

My husband, Keith wrote a post about some of his struggles during this same period of time…from his perspective.  Check it out HERE.

Monday, February 14, 2011

ICU Psychosis

My mom did not do so well right after the valve replacement surgery.  (FYI…presently she is doing very well even though she has a long way to go to recover fully) Physically she was in good shape....but she let her mind and worries get the best of her.  Anxiety attacks...that raised her blood pressure very high, dangerously high, after heart surgery.  She thought she was in immediate danger.  The trite, oft repeated phrase, my  perception is my reality comes to mind.  Her perception became her reality.  Because she thought she was doing poorly...she did do poorly.  So began the balancing act.  Calm her down with meds so she had no choice but to relax...sort of.  The meds, however, disoriented her to the point of paranoia.  It was a classic case of (another trite saying) damned if you do, damned if you don't.  It was not pleasant.  It was not fun.  It was kind of the straw that broke the camels back (another one.....!) and I was impatient with her. 

I spent hours and hours of time.....sitting.....bedside... aware that I would much rather be spending my two weeks vacation time sitting beach side (with her sitting there with me....sipping frozen strawberry daiquiris)  Or probably more to my liking...sitting at home, reading and typing and pondering.  Two weeks of that would be, for me, bliss.  But no...there we both were, logging another day in the Butler ICU.  At one point, as if reading my thoughts she said..."This has been a wasted day, hasn't it?"  "It's just been a day, Mom. It's fine, I'm are fine... everything is FINE,"

I lied. It wasn't fine.  I was tired...and cranky and homesick....and she was in the throes of recovering from open heart surgery.  She was obviously less "fine" than I was....but neither of us was "fine."

Coincidentally, at the time I was reading a book called "Living on 24 Hours a Day" by Arnold Bennett.  At some point, don't remember when, I downloaded it (for free) onto my kindle.  It was an old book, written in 1910...missing the copyright restrictions by a decade.  He describes time as the most precious of commodities.....

The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it.

You wake up in the morning, and lo! your purse is magically filled with twenty-four hours of the unmanufactured tissue of the universe of your life! It is yours. It is the most precious of possessions. A highly singular commodity, showered upon you in a manner as singular as the commodity itself!

No one can take it from you. It is unstealable. And no one receives either more or less than you receive. Talk about an ideal democracy! In the realm of time there is no aristocracy of wealth, and no aristocracy of intellect. Genius is never rewarded by even an extra hour a day. And there is no punishment. Waste your infinitely precious commodity as much as you will, and the supply will never be withheld from you. No mysterious power will say:--"This man is a fool, if not a knave. He does not deserve time; he shall be cut off at the meter." It is more certain than consols, and payment of income is not affected by Sundays. Moreover, you cannot draw on the future. Impossible to get into debt! You can only waste the passing moment. You cannot waste to-morrow; it is kept for you. You cannot waste the next hour; it is kept for you.

I said the affair was a miracle. Is it not? barring death we all get the same amount of time in our day.  24 hours.  But there's the rub.  (another one of those sayings)

You have to live on this twenty-four hours of daily time. Out of it you have to spin health, pleasure, money, content, respect, and the evolution of your immortal soul.

And thus the anxiety of wasted time....

Which of us lives on twenty-four hours a day? And when I say "lives," I do not mean exists, nor "muddles through." Which of us is free from that uneasy feeling that the "great spending departments" of his daily life are not managed as they ought to be?

Which of us is not saying to himself-- which of us has not been saying to himself all his life: "I shall alter that when I have a little more time"? We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.

We are haunted, more or less painfully, by the feeling that the years slip by, and slip by, and slip by, and that they have not yet been able to get their lives into proper working order.

Yep...that's me.  I am keenly aware of time passing...almost to a point of preoccupation (bordering on obsession) with it.  I know I have a limited amount left here in this earthly realm...and want to spend it wisely since I have wasted vast years and years in the past.  Lost in my mind constantly getting the best of a mental state not that much different than my mom's as she teetered on the edge of what they call "icu psychosis."

Most of us do it....waste time in a state of self induced psychosis.  Sometimes we waste time by struggling against I've been doing for the past 10 or 12 days.  Rather than going with the flow (<<<<<) and walking in the spirit and trying to live in a state of awareness of his leading.  Another trite saying I've heard concerning time management with the focus on spiritual things (which is most definitely not the main focus of Mr. Bennett's book)

There IS enough time to do everything God wants us to do...when we follow his leading and focus on discerning what he wants us to do. 

I was listening to a Gary Sigler message on my way to the hospital the other day.  He said that the answer to every situation we find ourselves in is within us.  That would include how to use our time wisely, no?  If we go inside and seek God's leading...he will lead us. He is the ultimate "day timer."  Franklin Covey's 7 Habits...David Allen's Get Things Done System pale in comparison to God's time management program.  More on that in the next post.... 

PS…In this post, I’ve pointed out several trite and overused expressions.  That’s because I learned another new word in the 24 Hour book…and I’m going to, perhaps, turn it into a post.  The word? 



banal: repeated too often; over familiar through overuse

It occurs to me that many Christian catch phrases fit this description…and thought it might be a good topic for a post or two.  Whether I get anything written or not…only time will tell :_)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

At the Butler Hospital – You Are Awesome In This Place…

Written ‘now”
The following post was written during my mom’s hospitalization and surgery to have a faulty, leaky valve replaced.  She has been plagued with complication after complication requiring more and more invasive, painful, frightening procedures.  I was there for the surgery (6 days prior to and 6 days after) but she has gone through the past week alone. Yesterday she had to endure another surgery…with full anesthesia.. to drain fluid and blood from her lungs. It was hard being here while she is there, alone.  They didn’t know the extent…if they would be able to do it through 2 small incisions or if they would have to do the open heart thing again.  Fortunately the least invasive procedure seems to have worked and she is doing well.  Thank goodness. I am weary for this to end.  And she probably feels like she is lost in some macabre nightmare.
I still believe what I wrote in the following post.  That God is there…that he is in fact…everywhere.  The other day my daughter Emily posted the following “verse” on her FB wall….
"You were made with a purpose. The God of this universe will hold your hand through everyday of your life, for every laugh and every moment that takes your breath away. For the moments, the phone calls, and the news that make your heart drop and turn your world upside down. Yeah, my God is big enough for those moments as well."
I googled it…thinking it must be scripture from The Message Bible or lyrics to a song…but I couldn’t find it.  When I asked her about it later she said it was from one of her old journals. She wrote it.  She is indeed one of the living epistles the Bible speaks of. 
My post follows…but really…how can I improve on the sentiments expressed by my 17 year old daughter? 
Written “then”
I feel God all over the place in this hospital. Perhaps because I am not in patient care areas in the hospital where I work, I don’t notice it as much.  Perhaps it is because I am out of my normal, usual surroundings here (and very, very homesick) Maybe I am more attuned/ receptive to spiritual things here than at home… figuring out when to go to the grocery store....and the timing of other mundane tasks. Time has lost its meaning this past week.  Almost like it has been suspended.  I'm in a time warp.  A bubble...
Perhaps that is why I notice that the air here is heavy with His presence.  Almost tangible. 
Here in this hospital, the family of heart surgery patients wait in the ICU Waiting Room.  On the day of my mom’s surgery, I was there early...long before regular visiting hours began.  The solitude in the room was interrupted when, one by one, members of a big family started to arrive.  They were distraught.  Some of them were crying. Some of them were hugging.  One woman started to sob.  Let's face it....the waiting room in ICU is often not a very happy place. 
A woman who was part of the group struck up a conversation with me by the coffee pots.  She was here from Florida.  Her best friend was the ICU patient.  She came to say goodbye to her friend.  That morning they were removing life support.  She told me her friend and her family were all believers.  Strong believers.  Later, I heard them say that one by one they went in and said their goodbyes.  Then they all gathered in the room to be with her when she died.  Very sad.  Yet, I felt Him there with that family. 
I feel Him now...sitting in the lobby waiting for ICU visiting hours.  He permeates this place.
A song has stuck in my head for the past few weeks.  I listened to it a couple of times this morning....sitting here typing on my mini dell.  And it occurs to me that it is true.  No matter what place we find ourselves in....He is there.  And He is Awesome.  And He is “big enough.” Video follows....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

At the Butler Hospital 2 - More Living at the Hospital…

And more of my "living at the hospital" saga.  Still sucks big time. But we are making progress.  Mom had her surgery yesterday.  It went well.  She is off the ventilator.  Very very upsetting to see her last night with the tube stuck down her throat, in a state of near panic. no..not near panic.  Sheer panic.  It made it worse every time I came near the bed because she was sure I, of all people, would help her and she struggled all the more. Plus...since I have to talk myself out of panicking every time I go to the dentist and he sticks his fingers in my mouth, I can imagine the terror from having something stuck down my throat...gagging me....preventing me from swallowing. Finally they got her off the breathing machine about 5:30 this morning. 

She was still confused when I saw her for a few minutes this morning.  They are very strict with visiting hours here in the ICU.  They weren't always.  The new rooms are designed with couches for family members to stay....very spacious.  More like a hotel than a hospital room (if you ignore all the built in equipment) But people took huge liberties....10...15 people crowded into the rooms.  People brought their little kids...put their toys down on the floor and let them play (under foot of the nursing staff that was trying to do their job and tend to the patients) Mom's nurse told me one big family took over an empty ICU room, ordered pizza and sat around for hours visiting.  WTF?

And so, people like me, who would be content to just sit on the couch and stay out of the way...hopefully with the hospital wide guest wifi working properly.... get screwed because some people have no sense...or manners....or whatever. 

My mom is not exactly a believer. Now, I am not a Bible beater/evangelizer...dead set on the goal of winning souls for the Lord.  I know he is perfectly capable of winning souls without me.  If he happens to use plant a water a seed, that is wonderful.  And I hope this blog does give some cause to ponder...and seek the Lord for answers about who he really is..and what his character and nature really are.

But anyway...I had my speech all planned.  I was going to tell Mom to remember that God was with her.  That he loved her.  That he was nothing like the God they taught her about in my grandmother's joyless religion.  But they whisked her away so quickly all I got to say was, "I've been praying for you." and "I love you." 

This morning, after telling me that she had been worried about me worrying about her...she raised her hand and said, "Thank you God." Then I got to say MY line.  "You know he was with you the whole time, don't you."  And then she said that she knew Grandma (her mom) and Grandpap (her dad) and my sister (who passed away 10 or so years ago) were all with her.  The great cloud of witnesses the Bible talks about. 

And the fact is that I feel God all over this hospital.  And I haven't even been to the chapel :)  I did just this morning notice where it is and will stop in there later today.  More on that thought...about God being all over this hospital in my next post. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

At the Butler Hospital – A New Word…

The next four or five posts…that I’m going to post over the next few days….were written last week…and the week before. During the two weeks I spent with my mom…mostly at the Butler Hospital. She had open heart surgery…a worn out, leaky valve was replaced. I was there  pre/ during / and post op….at times so very homesick…weary, frightened, frustrated. Pick an emotion and I’m pretty sure I experienced it during the two weeks. It was a roller coaster kind of thing for me…and obviously for her.  She is doing very well. I’m glad I was there for her.  Post follows:


The last few days have sucked big time.  I've spent them hanging out in the hospital with my mom....while the medical staff dinks around trying to figure out if, whether and when she needs valve replacement surgery.  Seriously I have been away from home and work for a week and have really not accomplished anything other than sitting with her (which I realize is a worthwhile endeavor) but I am frustrated because I know that AFTER the surgery is when she will need me most.

As is often the case, the best laid plans have been shot to hell by actual events.  This was supposed to be pacemaker surgery.  They thought that a pacemaker/defib would fix what ails her.  Come to find out that it is valve surgery that will fix the problem....not a defib. But we have been waiting to find out when the surgery will be.  If she has to stay in the hospital till then...if she is able to go home in between etc. etc.   I've been staying in touch with work...but as soon as I update them, damn if things do not totally change.  Right now I am waiting for physical therapy to come and evaluate her for discharge.  We are hoping they decide she should stay in the hospital until the surgery next week. Either way, I am probably going home...working tomorrow...perhaps a bit on the weekend ....and waiting to hear when I need to come back for the surgery. 

And the dinking around continues....

But anyway...last night, on my 40 minute drive back to her apartment (where I’ve been staying during my “vacation”) ...I was listening to a Christian station on the radio.  A status quo Christian channel.  But there was an interesting sermon...that introduced me to a new word.  Reciprocity.  Cool word.  I may have seen it in print but had never heard it pronounced.

The preacher talked about how when we sow, we expect to reap immediately.  He compared it to farming.  You don't plant the seed and expect results the next day.  Sometimes in life that's exactly what we expect.  Sometimes we reap what we've sown fairly quickly.  Others times...not so much. 

Law of reciprocity...sowing and reaping....karma....cause and effect. An interesting concept. And indeed...sometimes it does seem to take a long time for all the chips to fall where they may....and then there is always grace that enters into the equation.

Following are a few quotes I found on sowing and reaping….  


Men are not punished for their sins, but by them.  ~Elbert Hubbard

Every action of our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.  ~Edwin Hubbel Chapin

The liar's punishment is not in the least that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else. George Bernard Shaw

"The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy."
~Florence Shinn~

"Just as there is no loss of basic energy in the universe,
so no thought or action is without its effects,
present or ultimate, seen or unseen, felt or unfelt."
~Norman Cousins~

Tsze-Kung asked, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others. ~ Confucius

You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

"If you waste your youth, no repentance will send the shadow back upon the dial, or recover the ground lost by idleness,or restore the constitution shattered by dissipation, or give back
the resources wasted upon vice, or bring back the fleeting
opportunities. The wounds can all be healed, for the Good Physician,blessed be His name! has lancets and bandages, and balm and anodynes for the deadliest; but scars remain even when the gash is closed." Alexander Maclaren

"John," said a father to his son, "I wish you would get me the hammer."
"Yes, sir."
"Now a nail and a piece of pine board."
"Here they are, sir."
"Will you drive the nail into the board?"
It was done.
"Please pull it out again."
"That's easy, sir."
"Now, John," and the father's voice dropped to a lower key, "pull out the nail hole."

Every wrong act leaves a scar. Even if the board be a living tree the scar remains. Dwight Moody – Sowing and Reaping