Monday, November 27, 2006

Lord, open our lips

These days my life revolves around two things: praying the daily office and IV therapy. The IV therapy takes about 40 minutes start to finish; cleaning and prepping, flushing with saline, connecting the port in my arm to the port carrying the antibiotic, waiting 30 minutes for the antibiotic to be delivered into my body, and then flushing with saline (to keep the line open and clear) again. Although this process is becoming more routine it still fills me with a bit of anxiety, fear of doing something I strive to make the whole experience peaceful, reflective.

I begin by playing a CD of soft classical music, maybe Mozart. I do the prep and start the IV. Then I open my Book of Common Prayer and pray the daily office of Morning Prayer (5am), Evening Prayer (5pm), and Compline (11pm). My 11am "treatment" I read some reflective piece from the book, "I Have Called You Friends", essays on reconciliation written to honor the ministry of our newly retired Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold.

I'm not sure what will come of this time, praying the daily office while injecting my body with antibiotics. Seems there must be some good metaphors in there....especially as we enter Advent, a time of waiting, anticipation, and hope for the new life given us in the Incarnation, God with us...This may be especially true since it is dark each of the three times I pray the offices; just as dark at 5am as it is at 5pm and 11pm.

Where is God in this dark time in my life? A time of illness. A time of worry about my little parish which soon will only be able to afford a part time priest. A time of worry about my need to maintain a full time job since my husband is rebuilding his career, post 9-11, and I bring in our only income. A time of worry as I try to prepare to interview for new positions while recovering from this intense illness...A time of worry over mounting debt, (launching our 18 year old into her passion for all things equine equal to a year of college tuition but on my credit cards instead of student loans...yikes), a time of worry over more debt from the hospital and doctor bills...

So I pray, "Lord, open our lips, and our mouths shall proclaim your praise." I pray this and trust that God is with me and somehow these dark days will pass.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Home at last

I have been a healthy person all of my almost 50 years. Yes, I've had the annual cold or flu, but otherwise I've been healthy. Which is why my recent bout with a serious infection from a tooth has given me a whole new perspective on life, health, pain, and grace. Entering into the hospitial nearly two weeks ago via the emergency room I found myself completely at the mercy of the doctors, nurses, and staff. My pain was so great that I was unable to do anything but plead for relief. They cared for me with such compassion, I will be forever grateful. And my husband really stepped up to the plate, both in his care for me and in his multi-tasking to work at his job and are for our house of kids and animals. I was scheduled to be in the hosptial until today, Sunday, while some of the procedures put in place to help me heal did their job. But thankfully this happened faster than anticipated and I was sent home on Friday.

Being home again is such a blessing. Although I have to take it a little easy, I can nonetheless be with my family and do some simple household chores, laundry and cooking. And what a blessing to sleep in my own bed, without the constant beeping, buzzing, and lights of the hospital. I am sleeping so well, comforted in my husbands arms.

The infection was quite serious and I remain on home IV antibiotic therapy, which I need to administer myself. This process of cleaning, prepping, and administerng the antibiotic into the PICC line tends to make me quite anxious. I am, I suspect, overly fearful of doing something wrong and getting an air bubble in the line and then into my vein, or causing the line to become contaminated and bringing on a new infection. This is perhaps a reasonable fear given the infection I am healing from, I know the potential for these things to bloom. (I think of what happened to me as something like an "algea bloom" in an aquarium, all the conditions were ripe and it just happened....).

Anyway, the longer I administer the IV antibiotic, the more confident and comfortable I become. Still fearful, but I'll take that as a good thing, something that will keep me careful and focused on cleanliness.

I think I will be able to see this time as one of grace, and it will help me in my ministry to others. The grace will unfold over time in ways I least expect. But for the time being I see the grace in the presence of those who have cared for me. I am so grateful for their expertise and kindness. I also feel the grace in the care and comfort given my by my clergy colleagues, who have been so wonderful. One of them blessed me with a prayer shawl, which not only kept me warm in the hospital (and at home) but is a source of deep comfort in the midst of fear and uncertainty. Another friend gave me a "palm" cross. Made of wood this cross fits in the palm of ones hand, with the fingers clasping over the the sides of the cross. It too is a source of comfort and holds many of my prayers. I see the grace in the depth of love between my husband and me. While there are many things that could be "better" in our marriage it is grounded in deep love and a commitment to care for the other. He has, I suspect, found a new depth in himself, and knows more of what he is capable of and able to do. But mostly this time scared us, and we are mostly grateful for life and for each other.

I don't believe that God caused this illness nor that God is giving me what I can handle. I think these things happen, they are just a part of the fragility of life, a life that has in all it's forms "free will." We humans have free will to make choices, but creation also has free will, a randomness that causes good and bad to happen to each of us just by virtue of, who knows, place and time? But I do believe that God comes into these situations and works (through grace) to bring forth new life, new hope, new order (the resurrection). As we head into Advent, and as I heal and re-enter my life, I suspect I will find God's presence in new ways enabling this traumatic time in my life to become a source of hope and compassion.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

In the hospital...Thanksgiving

Ten days ago I came to the emergency room of a local hospital suffering from an infection. The root cause, a tooth. The infection lodged itself between the bones off my jaw and skull and the massiter muscle of my check and blossomed out distorted my face; causing great pain and fever. The hospital tried IV antibiotic therapy for 36 hours before doing surgery to drain the site. That was one week ago today. I continue to heal well, grateful for the skill and care of the doctors,, nurses, and staff, not to mention my family.

As I write this I am using a hospital computer, thanks to the generosity of the nursing staff and residents. Three drains remain in my face enabling the remaining infection to drain out. These are slowly being "advanced" or pulled down and out to facilitate draining in the rest of my face (the infection spread up from my jawbone to my temple). They anticipate sending me home on Sunday or Monday, which will have been two weeks in the hospital. I will go home with a picc line so I can continue to give myself IV antibiotics for 6 more weeks.

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for all those who have been tending to me and helping me find wholeness and health in mind, body, and spirit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Five: Red, Blue, and Purple

1. Favorite red food: well, since Thanksgiving is around the corner I'll say homemade cranberry sauce. Otherwise tomato sauce for pasta, all kinds!

2. Tell us about the bluest body of water you've ever seen in person: the Caribbean from the southern coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Actually it is an amazing blue-green, but so beautiful.

3. It's movie rental time: Blue Planet, The Color Purple, or Crimson Tide? I've only seen the Color Purple.

4. What has you seeing red these days? I've been suffering from a fractured tooth - oh so painful! The dentist filled the fracture, which only caused increased nerve pressure. Yesterday the dentist and I made the tough decision to pull it (YUCK). So while the nerve pain is gone I am left with severe jaw pain from the extraction process. The pain definitely has me seeing red, not to mention my inability to do things like get my sermon written for Sunday. Plus I have to go to our annual Diocesan Convention today and tomorrow (I'm staffing a booth, so I have to go...). They tell me I should be feeling better as this day wears on and into tomorrow.

5. What or who picks you up when you're feeling blue? Taking my dogs to the dog park. Exercise of any form. A glass of very good wine (sometimes that would make me feel more blue, so it's not always a good choice, but sometimes...). A cup of Earl Grey tea and dark chocolates.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Jigsaw Puzzle Life; an All Saints' Day Sermon

Tomorrow we are transferring to Sunday the feast of All Saints, and I am also transferring the lesser feast of All Souls. I think I read somewhere that the ancient church blended these two feasts in one day...but regardless, I am unable to get folks to come out for anything but a Sunday morning, so into one they are.

My reflection for this Sunday will use an image of a jigsaw puzzle, beginning with how much my family and I enjoy putting them together. Recently my cottage mates at the IMAGINE conference in Kanuga put together a puzzle. This puzzle was a picture of a North Carolina covered bridge, very pretty. But it really seemed that many of the pieces of the puzzle were missing, we almost gave up on it. Over time, and with diligence we put found all the pieces, many were very odd in shape, not at all what the empty space would lend you to think it looked like.

Life is like a jigsaw puzzle: sometimes feeling like a jumbled pile of pieces that seem unrelated and disconnected. Putting the pieces together, over time takes diligence and work and desire. Often we only understand the full meaning of our lives as they are relate to the lives of those who have gone before us and how they become connected to the lives that come after us (our children, grandchildren...).

On All Saints' we traditionally baptize new members of the community, merging the past with the present and with the future. If we have no one to baptize we still renew our baptismal covenant, reminding ourselves of that connection, that web of life, the runs through out all time. The gospel reading for All Saints' is from Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes. So, I will connect the image of the puzzle of life, connected to the past, present, future, with the image of all the ways we are blessed, a time to be thankful for the gift of life.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

From Nomads to Pilgrims

Last week I attended a presentation by Diana Butler Bass on her research and study of churches today. She sees a phenomenon happening in some churches as they emerge from the depths of almost dying to being renewed. She calls this process a journey of moving people from being Nomads to being Pilgrims.

I have read her books, so some of what she presented was not new. But at the presentation she offered a "model" using tinker toys (so funny, so good!) to describe the three-pole socio-cultural-religious movement in our country today; unpacking liberal to conservative, established church to intentional church, and modern world view to post modern world view, and how they all interconnect. This model really gave me language for understanding how some churches are dying and others are growing or re-growing through reconnecting with Christian practices and tradition in a new way. She gave me language to articulate what I have been struggling to describe for years. She helped me understand where the church I serve is stuck.

Now I am so excited. I have a way of framing what is going on and can unpack it for the people in my church. We have a way of looking at who we are and determining our future. This does not mean that the folks are going to choose to become unstuck, they may prefer to remain as they are and die a slow (or fast) death. But at least what ever they do, it will be a conscious choice.

To help folks understand this I am going to present it in small groups: first the vestry, then some select small group dinners with key leaders, then to the entire parish. Hoping to build momentum and excitement. Or maybe just a way to frame who and what we are right now.

I am also using the concepts to frame my sermons so that the ideas begin to resonant in many ways. Folks have to hear or read something 6 times before it registers....I have a lot of work to do in very little time...

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...