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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Signs of Spring -- Tournaments.

Chaplains at Altru Health System do weekday one-minute devotionals which can be accessed by calling 701-780-3300.  I’m doing mine on “Signs of Spring” during the week of February 25 to March 1.  The third one is below. 


Take a moment to pauses and reflect …

            About Spring.  The signs of spring, like the grey snow which will eventually give way to green grass.  Seed catalogs.  And, today, the sign of spring is basketball tournaments.  Yes, basketball.

            Maybe you are a big “March Madness” fan, the college basketball tournament.  But, I am referring to where real basketball is played – in high school, where no one has big contracts and players play because they love the game or their community.  And where fans cheer even if their team is constantly losing. 

            The basketball tournaments point to the end of the indoor season and of winter.  Once the tournaments track and baseball are played in and around the mud of spring.  Many players, or even fans, regret the end of the tournament.  That escitement is hard to beat.  But that joy ending just leaves room for another to start.  Golf, anyone?

            The sports seasons, just like the seasons of the year, remind us of the constant change of life.  One activity is completed, but another begins.  Our children leave home and then we greet grandchildren.  Seasons, all unique, come to each of us.  Though we might have a favorite, each season is special and brings something new to enjoy along with a challenge or two.  Embrace the change; embrace the seasons with joy.

            Let us pray, “God thank-you for spring, but also for summer and winter and fall.  Thank-you for youth and middle age and childhood and retirement.  Help us to discover the joy of each season of life.  In your name.  Amen.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

SIgns of Spring -- Seed Catalogs

                 The Chaplains at Altru Health System record a one minute devotional each weekday which can be accessed at 701-780-3300.  Below is the second of my week’s worth of “Signs of Spring” for the week of February 25-March 1.
Take a moment to pause and reflect …

                About  Spring.  About the signs of spring.  What makes us think about spring. 

               That grey snow reminds us winter is ending and the green grass will poke through.  And that reminds me of another sign of spring.  Seed catalogs.  As the snow melts gardener’s minds turn to putting seeds into the ground.  My mom always looked through those catalogs and bought tomato, and other  seeds to plant in her greenhouse long before the snow actually melted or the ground was warm enough to plant. 

                I think that is called expectation.

                So the seed catalogs tell a promise of spring and hope for a harvest.

                No concept is more basic to life than sowing and reaping.  Plant something, and it grows.  To harvest, you must first plant.  And you cannot harvest tomatoes by only planting turnups. 

                As you look forward to spring, or to the next season in your life, what are you picking out to plant?  Azaleas for the flower bed, carrots and tomatoes for the garden, and maybe some gratitude and forgiveness in your personal life?  What you plant, you will harvest.  Pick out something good from the seed catalog.  It is winter, but spring is coming!

                Let us pray: “God, as we look to plant our gardens, we ask you to plant good things in our lives.  Help us to choose good things to plant.  In your name.  Amen.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Signs of Spring

            Chaplains at Altru Health System do weekday one-minute devotionals which can be accessed by calling 701-780-3300.  I’m doing mine on “Signs of Spring” during the week of February 25 to March 1.  The first one is below. 
           Take a moment to pauses and reflect …

            About Spring.  It’s not spring yet, but we can see it coming from here.  And isn’t that part of the joy of spring – the anticipation?  So let me give you some signs of spring.

            Let’s start with this sign of Spring:  dirty snow.  The beauty of a snowflake is created around a speck of dust.  (Who knew what a speck of dust could create?)  When the snow begins to melt, even a little, the dust begins to show, drawing more heat and we get dirty, grey snow.

            Already the power of the sun is increasing and the snow melts even on below-freezing days.  I know we easily, and probably, will again get some nice white stuff.  But the new snow will also begin to turn grey, telling us the season will soon move from winter to spring. 

            So often in life, we see grey before we find green.  We have to wade through some trouble before the better arrives.  When things around are grey, anticipate some green to come.  It’s still winter, but spring is coming.

            Let us pray, “O God, you who created the earth and the seasons, thank-you for the promise of good things to come – whether spring or heaven or joys on this earth.  We need your promise as we see all the grey around us.  In your name.  Amen.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Word for the Day

Today's Word: self-consciousness

The patient was dying. When the team of nurses and social workers (and me, their student chaplain) talked during morning rounds this was clear. The patient was not responding and several family members were gathered around. The chaplain should stop by, I reasoned, so I headed to the room. This was my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE).

I stopped by to visit and met a wonderful family and heard stories of an active and unique woman. I became quite interested in the family and stopped by several times that day. Overnight the patient died. The family didn't ask for a chaplain. Later I was told (quite kindly I should say) that I stopped too often and was actually intrusive. That was hard to hear, yet I consider that experience very important and (aside from the discomfort I brought to this family) I am glad it happened.

What made me an intrusion that day?

I know part of the problem was my experience in coming into the lives of people I didn't know. I have learned better questions to ask and how to bring a calm presence. I also know part of the problem is the ability to listen. I expect I should easily discerned the family was coping well and a simple, "I'm available if you need something" would have bee a good way to end my initial visit.

I now know my intrusive visits were about self-consciousness. I mean that literally. When I entered that hospital room I was quite conscious of my own fears and indecisiveness, of my feelings and hopes. I became enamored with this woman's story, but even that was about me and not her or her family. Put another way, when I visited the experience was all about me. If I had tried to be as conscious of the patient and family as of myself, everything would have turned out differently.

I learned a lesson in that unit of CPE which goes like this. When with a patient it's about him/her. Afterward is a time to reflect and then it is all about me. During the visit the focus is on the patient and personal self-consciousness gets in the way of making the visit helpful in meeting their needs. Only after the visit comes a time to reflect on the person, but also on myself. Why did I act like I did? What caused the feelings I had? What do I learn about myself for next time? Self-consciousness can also get in the way of personal reflection, hindering me from hearing criticism or facing the truth about myself.

A couple of thoughts about overcoming self-consciousness..

1. Know your agenda. We all have personal agendas and there is nothing evil about them. But, when hidden, agendas can be a problem. Know your what's on yours.

2. Reflect often. Before going to see someone think about yourself. What is going on that might divert from focusing on the other person (as true for my spouse as for my patients)? Reflect afterward about what happened and why.

3. Have someone you can talk to and to whom you will listen. I am grateful for my manager who gently explained my error and walked with me through it. We all need several someones with whom we can be honest and to whom we give permission to be honest with us.

4. Determine to focus on the other. The three ideas above will help, but it still remains a choice, occasionally a hard choice.

Philosopher Rene Descarte said "Cogito, ergo sum" or "I think, therefore I am." We humans need to be conscious of our life and existence. But once we know, the next and harder step is to be aware of others.