Friday, September 19, 2008

A hard night

Whew, I am exhausted. It is about 1am and though that is not unusual for me to be awake at this late hour, it is not the source of my exhaustion. I'm drained.

I just got back from the hosptial where I work as a chaplain. The work shift itself was not difficult, just long. It was about 11:30 when I got home and I was hungry because I'd only had a salad for dinner. I scrounged up some leftovers and nuked 'em, loaded up a show to watch on my laptop when *beep*beep*beep* my pager went off.
I called in to find out what was up and the operator told me, "They need you in Labor & Delivery.... please hold and I'll connect you."

My heart sank. Usually, when I get paged in the middle of the night to come back up to the hospital, it is not good news, but to get paged to Labor & Delivery meant that a baby was dead.

All death is tragic, but the death of a newborn/stillborn seems especially pointless and difficult.

The patient was just weeks from full term, with all indicators being that the baby was healthy... until earlier today. When I got to the floor, the nurse gave me additional information... they are a young couple, no other children, no family nearby... she is in shock...

What do you have to offer someone in that situation? There is an expectation that the chaplain is going to have some words of comfort, some insight that eases the pain. The only reference point I have is a miscarriage that we suffered when our first child, Mary Hannah, was about a year and a little bit old. I remember being devastated. I remember thinking that I *shouldn't* feel so bad, after all, it wasn't even a fully grown baby. I remember thinking it was a little creepy that the fetus was still inside Amelia, no longer alive. We had to schedule the procedure for several days later. I remember .... it was awful. And this... this situation I was walking into... I can't even begin to imagine how much more terrible it must be for this young couple.

I talked with them and prayed with them and tried to plant seeds of ideas of things they're going to experience in the coming days; emotions and hurdles and well-meaning friends and family who will offer platitudes and empty comfort. I reminded them that God is still good and he loves them very much. That, being a Father, he knows the pain they are in, even if I can't and no body else can hope to understand. I encouraged them to mourn a baby, a real, fully formed baby that deserves to be honored, remembered and cherished. We asked God to give them peace knowing that He is holding the baby in His arms now.

I left their room and encouraged the nurse who called. Not every night in Labor and Delivery is a night of joy.

I returned home and checked Ethan's blood sugar... 314... that is high, so I gave him some insulin. Tiptoed into the girl's room and gave them both kisses on their foreheads and watched them sleep for just a minute. I looked around their rooms at their mess, their toys, their clothes and was filled with gratitude to God that I had three messy, noisy, fussy miracles to love and hold.

God be with that young family. God be with me and help me to bring your comforting love to hurting people in a tangible way. Thank you, God, for loving us all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Google Docs: Forms

Hey there, faithful readers. Do me a favor and help me out. I'm experimenting with the new Forms available in Google docs. The Forms function allows you to embed questions in blogs or emails and then return the results to a spreadsheet. Thanks for taking a moment to fill out the form below. You can make up the data if you like, as this is just an experiment.

THANKS! - Jeff

Monday, September 15, 2008


By the numbers:
Hours this weekend I worked on Academic stuff: 9
New photographic prints I put up in my office: 32
Items I checked off my to-do list: 17
New apps installed on my iTouch: 4
Chapters read for class: 4
Episodes of House, MD watched: 6
Hours of audiobooks listened to: 1
Miles run: 5, 1 walked
Time spent with family: wife-6 hours (sitting in the hospital counts, right?) kids - 12 hours
Case notes written: 4

Why is it that I hit my highest productivity between 12am and 2am? *sigh*
Time for bed.

Friday, September 5, 2008

On the other side of the wilderness...

In 2001, a little over a month after my 1st baby was born, I embarked on an epic (for me anyhow) journey to a distant land. My quest was three-fold 1) Conquer the mountain 2) Encounter God 3) Come back in one piece. I was successful.

Many people have gone on Wilderness Trek and lived to tell about it, so I wasn't really worried that I wouldn't make it. Then again, everyone had an opinion about it. One of the ladies at church expressed skepticism,
She: "Jeff, I heard you are going to climb a mountain with the youth group?"
Me: "Yes, we're all pretty excited about it!"
She: "Oh, um... it is just that.... well, I thought you had to be in shape to do that sort of thing."

ouch... Anyhow, I knew I'd be ok, physically. I was concerned for my wife and baby with me being gone for a week. I was concerned for the kids that we were taking with us. I was excited and nervous all at the same time.

The week was fantastic. Our guides were remarkable, they guided us not only up the mountains but through the process of changing our perceptions. For some in our group, it was a time to face physical limitations and overcome them. For others, it was a time to recognize the social barriers that prevented close friendships. For all of us, it was a time to recognize the beauty and majesty of God in the mountains of Colorado.

Over the course of 6 days, our goal was to hike and camp on the 2nd tallest mountain in the lower 48: Mt. Elbert! Unfortunately, on our summit day (pictured above), a storm moved in and prevented us from reaching the peak, so we had to have a quick picture and then hot-foot it back to the tree line. It was an amazing experience, one I'll not soon forget.

The Bible has a lot to say about wilderness experiences. It is a common metaphor used to convey the change process for God's chosen people. For some characters in the Bible story, it was an actual wilderness (Read Exodus, if you like) and for others, it took on different forms. Basically, it is a time of testing our faith and our reliance on God. Can we be trusted to trust God to be faithful?
In therapy, we talk a lot about the process of change and how it happens. Many people come to counseling because they get stuck in the process of living and can't seem to move on. They get lost in their wilderness wanderings and don't know how to find the other side of the wilderness, the land flowing with God's blessings. Some begin to doubt it exists. They are OK with the idea of complaining to God about their situation, but they've forgotten his promises.

I don't feel like I am in a wilderness, per se, but I do feel like I'm being tested. Instead of removing all the luxuries in life to help me rely on him, it feels like God is allowing Satan to fill my life with stuff and busy-ness so that God's influence will be choked out of my life simply by my trying to do keep up.

Change me, O Lord. Mold me and shape me daily, to conform to the image of your Son. Don't let the worry and busy-ness of my life sprout up as weeds to choke out the seed you have planted in me. Give me of your living water and let me grow in your light.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Repost: Devotional from Mark

Greetings, here is another post from my past... a devotional I wrote while in Enid, OK.

I’ve been teaching the high school class at church lessons from the Gospel of Mark. Mark is a great book and is full of great lessons from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Two weeks ago, I faced a big challenge on how to present chapter 13 of Mark. The chapter contains teachings on the second coming of Christ, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and signs of “the end of the age”. That is some pretty weighty stuff for teenagers. When I was in high school, some of my biggest concerns included facial blemishes, pre-calculus homework and what I would do at prom (this boy can’t dance). So I wrestled a bit with how to present a lesson on Mark 13 to teens. But I did it. Now, here I am, two weeks later, again faced with a tough problem: Mark 15. This is the story of Jesus’ trial before Pilate and his subsequent death on the cross. You may think that this is an easy story to teach. “Come on, Jeff!” you may say. “This is the easiest story in the world to tell.” After all, it is the basis of our hope, it is the central story of Christianity, we hear it all the time in sermons, everybody knows this story. And that is precisely the problem. How do I present this story to my students and help it to be significant? That is not to say that it is not significant all on its own, but sometimes, familiarity with something tends to make it less significant. For instance, have you ever noticed that the period is missing after the Dr in the Dr Pepper logo? It is so common as to be unnoticed. I wanted this story to be so important to my students that they’d sit up and take notice, even though they’ve heard the story many times before. That is my hope for you as well. I know that the Easter holiday is coming up. It is a time when most believers remember the awesome and terrible story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. So my challenge for you during this season is to see this story with news eyes and hear it with new ears. Receive it with a open heart, and God has promised that your life will changed… forever. Matt 13:13-16

with love in Christ, jeff

Ice Skating devotional. Repost from earlier notes

Note: I wrote this devotional to be published in the Enid News and Eagle in April of '03.

I took a group of kids to the city to go ice-skating during spring break. Before we go any further, I have to explain my athletic ability. I don’t have any. I am devoid of virtually all talents physical. So, you may understand that I brought along a bit of “extra” equipment for our ice-skating. As the rest of the kids were putting on their skates, I donned a pair of wind pants over my jeans and then pulled out a pillow and stuffed it between the waistband of the wind pants and my blue jeans. Thus equipped, I put on my skates and headed toward the rink. I know I looked silly, but an hour’s worth of silly was worth not breaking my tailbone. As I was about to step out on the ice, I noticed that one of my teens was nervously regarding the ice. She’d never been ice skating before and so I offered to help her out. She is a smart girl and in any other circumstance I’m sure that she would have examined the situation better before taking MY hand for help in ice skating. After all, it should have been obvious to even a casual observer that I didn’t have any confidence in my ability to keep myself upright, much less another person. But she apparently didn’t consider any of this and she willingly took my hand and together we slipped and slid around the perimeter of the rink. Later, I asked myself what kind of faith it must have taken for her to place her hand in mine and step out on the slick surface. She trusted me, obviously (perhaps her faith was a bit unfounded…). In trying to draw a spiritual application from the afternoon festivities, I realized that it takes great faith on our part reach out and accept the hand that God offers. The difference if we trust God and follow his ways, we can have confidence that God will keep us from falling. Psalm 37:24 I pray that we will all reach out and take God’s hand and follow where he leads us. Love through Christ - jeff