A Prayer for Nepal

Great God of Creation, the one who created all things and is creating, the one who breathes life into being and calls it by name, and the one who mourns when your children suffer,

You hear the great cries of suffering calling out to you now from Nepal. More than 2300 dead. Countless injured. Crying. Afraid. Alone.

But you are there. In the midst of the rubble and the great sadness settling over Kathmandu and elsewhere, reveal your presence. Guide the hands of the rescue workers working diligently to save lives. Be at work in the relief aid personnel as they seek out immeasurable need. Create relationships of hope and trust in these moments of hopelessness and fear.

In the coming days, weeks, months, and years, steady the hearts of those affected by this tragedy. Be with them in their grief and mourning. And be with them in the rebuilding, in the shaping of new identities and new lives.

You promise life. And you promise new life. Thank you for the gift of your presence. Thank you for loving us and for teaching us how to love each other.

In your holy name we lift up our deepest grief to you,

Amen.

Earth Day 2015

I stand in a prairie field, waves of rolling yellow grass rippling beyond my vision.

A mountain stands in the distance, joyfully humming.

The trees of this field reach out their limbs to clap above the swimming grass.

The sky here dances to the tune, watercolors of vibrant reds, oranges, and purples, swirling together but resisting muddiness, maintaining vibrancy and individuality.

I start singing softly, joining the rhythm of my heart to the melody.

Slowly our voices strengthen, swelling.

Me. The mountain. The trees. The sky. And the grass. The rippling chorus.

Now we are belting our praise to God:

Thank you for this life!
For this eternal moment!
For color and song and breath.

Amen.

Grapefruit Musings

Today I sit pondering the juicy sweet flesh of a grapefruit.

The juice dribbles down my chin and in between my fingers, leaving a sticky sweet film of golden nectar.

I eat the fruit determinedly, if not quite ravenously. I concentrate on each pocket of flesh, methodically carving out spoonfuls. Every bite is pure pleasure.

Again. And again.

Nearing the end of the first half, I feel the first stab of regret. It will be gone soon, and I’ll be left with a fading memory. A poor substitute at best, but better than never having experienced the joy at all.

Grapefruit is not so unlike pistachios, I reflect. It’s the effort you put into eating them that make them so heavenly.

Have you ever eaten a handful of shelled pistachios? They are bland and dull and wholly unworthy of the chewing. Much like pre-prepared grapefruit.

The act of someone else removing the barriers subsequently removes the thrill of personal victory when each morsel finally succumbs to your valiant efforts and you taste the divine flavor of a well-earned treat.

Burn Out

I am burned out. It’s a common phrase, and we all pretty much know what it means. But today I feel it. I actually feel like a still-hot smoking wick at the bottom of a candle that has been completely sucked dry by the surrounding air.

I have nothing left to give today.

And why do I feel guilty about this? Bear with me: I need to do some self-examination for a moment.

Today is the sixth day in a row I have gotten up out of my bed to come and spend 8 hours in the hospital. Over the past 6 days, I have led and preached a memorial service, written a prayer for publication in honor of Nurses Week, led a devotional for transplant nurses in honor of their special day, planned and organized our department’s spring retreat, attended staff meetings, palliative care team meetings and a CPE graduation, completed mandatory education on online phishing and preventative practices for hospital acquired illnesses, provided mandatory staff devotionals on my units, attended codes to wait and pray with family members, been at the bedside of three dying patients who literally passed as I prayed, spent 4 hours being shadowed by a volunteer teaching and answering questions, and somehow kept up with my metrics and all the tracking we are required to report. All of this is, of course, in addition to continuing to provide pastoral and emotional care to my everyday patients and families.

So it does not surprise me that I’m burned out. What surprises me is that here I am, sitting in my office, and all I want to do is pack up and run away to the beach, but instead I’m feeling guilty about taking time out to write this post. To breathe. To focus on my own needs.

Because here are the emails I need to catch up on, and the passive aggressive insinuations that my numbers aren’t where they need to be, and I’m not increasing my visits by enough percentages, and I can’t take off a full day for PTO after all, so I’ll have to come in for 5 hours on the day I’m supposed to be off and work another 6 days in a row (even though I’m technically to blame because I asked for this, but who wants to waste a precious PTO day on mandatory events when we already have so few?)

I read a quote today by Thomas Szas that reads, “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” This strikes a chord with me. Right now I want to feel serene, but I feel bored. Even though I’m busy, I feel like I’m wasting my time. And who wants to feel that way? I want to melt into nothingness and enjoy the present moment, even if it means I’ve only seen 2 patients and it’s already 12:00. Who cares? I work hard. Yesterday was incredibly demanding on me physically and emotionally, and today I need a break. So I’m spending this time rationalizing away my guilt and demanding me-time. If nothing else, it should be okay for me to get paid for me-time when my pay barely covers my rent, right?

I do not like feeling cynical. It’s not really my style. But sometimes I guess I just have to indulge my Negative Nancy and let her point out some obvious problems. I need to re-evaluate my boundaries. I need to take time for myself. I need to shake it off like Swifty.

That’s why I’m going to Chattanooga this weekend. I am going to do what I want to do, and I’m going to eat what I want to eat, and I’m going to read my book, and play outside, and see some fish at the aquarium and enjoy myself.

And I guess that’s about all I have to say about that.