A Possum, an Egg, the Devil, and Fear

A Possum, an Egg, the Devil, and Fear

“Go gather the eggs, David.” I loved doing chores with Dad when I was a scant six years old. When he gave the order, I eagerly rounded the corner into the chicken coop. The nests were on the east wall. The west side of the tin barn had one small window that allowed the setting sun to send a sharp shaft of light onto the setting hens. It would have been another warm childhood memory, save for the large possum in the top row. The fading sunlight struck his eyes in the darkened barn, giving his eyes an unearthly glow.   In his paws were the respective halves of an egg-shell… the sticky, yolk dripping from his mouth. Then he hissed at me!

This was a little more than a six year could handle.   I backed to the west side of the coop without taking my eyes off the critter, for fear it would leap at me. My dad came in and saw my dismay, asking what was wrong. My jaws begin working, but no sound came out. I pointed at the demon in the roost, and my Father calmly, (but with a serious tone that could not be misunderstood), told me to go get the 22 (rifle). I ran as fast as my skinny legs would carry me, fetched the gun, and a box of shells. I scurried back down the path to the barn, where my Dad took the weapon from my grip. “Now go on back to the house.”

I gladly obeyed. In just a couple of minutes, the crack of that rifle silenced my fears. My Dad…my hero… has just dispatched the devil!

I am older now, and my Dad is no longer here to destroy my demons. My fears…well, they have taken on different forms. My fears don’t exactly have egg yolk dripping from their pointed fangs!

Those fears can be sharp and biting just the same. Cancer…spinal injury…stroke…demons that threaten my health, and leave me slowly turning on a spit. They are grown up fears that cause words to catch at my throat, and snatch my breath away.

I have had to find a father’s voice that would always be there…that could not be stripped away by death.

Once a 20-year old called and tried to talk to me, but he could not get the words out, though I am sure his mouth was moving. It was a choking, garbled sound. “What? Terry, I couldn’t understand you.” More garbled words, and then his mother took the phone and told me his sister had been killed in a car wreck.

Not what you want to hear at 1:30 in the morning. I went.

And I stood. I stood by a younger friend who wept over the bed of a two-month old…just a baby…who had unknowingly lost her mother.   Again, as in the chicken coop, my mouth moved as I tried to speak, but no sound came out. I am pretty sure that was a blessing. What kind of words matter in the face of such horror?

Speechless then, we embraced. Terry and I and cried together.

That was good.

It took a long time for Terry to feel better, I imagine. I can’t really know. I have never lost a sibling.

But maybe you have.   Maybe you could hold someone who is facing a fearful demon…you know…help them along the way…join them in the dark places so they can find the Father’s voice…and be comforted once again.

 

David Martin

Vibrations of Reality

Vibrations of Reality

On PBS…
one night Andrea Bocelli sang …
….in front of Christmas trees that dotted the stage.

Ethereal sounds punctuated
by long connected notes…
At times brought tears to my eyes,
then tightness in my throat.

The dissonance of my worried meanderings…
melted into a pool of beauty, passion, and hope.
The musical of all musicals…
the sound of the spheres thrummed…
with ever rising crescendo…

That affirms that there is more to life than what I see
And in the music of the gifted tenor
The whisper of eternity.

Shared by David Martin

Grief Happy?

GRIEF HAPPY?

Sometimes well meaning friends try to talk us out of our grief.  “Stay busy.  Get all their clothes out of the house.  It’s time you move on.”

Others may shame you.  “You should have more faith!  It was God’s will.”  But your feelings of grief and loss continued unabated.

I submit that faith isn’t about happy feelings. It’s about believing when the feelings aren’t there.  Deep, abiding faith sustains in times of raw grief.

As the Psalmist reminds us,

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…” (Ps. 23: 4a NIV).

David Martin, DMin

The Jug

Sometimes, in the hot summer months, I visit patients who cannot drink fluids (NPO). I cannot give them water, but we often pray together as we ponder that water, when received, satisfies like no other.
A few years ago, after one of these visits, I tried to think of a time when I was as thirsty as my patients. This came to mind.

The Jug

Simmering summer days
Bring back memories of cotton fields
In West Texas on Dad’s farm.
Cracked earth, agape and begging
For a drink while
My own thirst pushed me faster
To the end of the row
Where a burlap jug waited
In the shade of a careless weed
Tall and broad enough
To cast its own shade,
For my precious cache of water.

John 4:10 “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Psalm 42: 1-3, 11b “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?…Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

    

David Martin

DNR: “It doesn’t mean, ‘Democrat, Not Republican!’”

I entered her room with the knowledge that she had had a heart attack. She looked like she was improving. Even though she looked okay, the shades were drawn and the room was dark. That should have told me something, but I forged ahead. She pointed out that I had visited her before in another hospital. Soon, she began to tell me her story which I summarize here:

She began about her kidney failure, with a fistula in place (in order to assist with dialysis), but now doctors aren’t going to do dialysis or any heart surgery, since they found a heart valve problem. At her age of 88, “they aren’t going to do anything. I’ve survived cancer, lived with lots of health problems, but now they can’t fix me anymore. I’ve been put on hospice and now I’m ready to go.”         

I realized that this was more than a routine hospital visit. This woman, this servant of God, was saying goodbye. She began to give what grief experts term “life review.” I have learned in my fourteen years as a hospital chaplain that if we will just listen long enough, we might be privileged to hear an incredible life story…that life counted for something…‘why I am here, after all.’

So, I just sat and listened, nodding from time to time, to let her know I was paying attention. She spoke of being a charter member of her church. She rehearsed her stories of her love for her husband, now deceased. She smiled as she told about moving back to Temple, Texas, “three times…but, the last time I came alone.” There was a gleam in her eye as she discussed her love for her children, saying, “I raised them all to be believers in God…I did my best.” Thinking about her family, she chuckled when her son-in-law told her that the Do Not Resuscitate order depicted on her wristband, “DNR”, meant ‘Democrat, Not Republican!’ “I told him that’s surely NOT what it meant!’”

Finally, she shared her love of church. Her eyes sparkled as she recalled visits from elders, church members and favorite preachers who had come not just once, but many times to check on her. The conversation concluded with her love for God and a forward look toward heaven where, as she said, “my husband and a son are waiting.”  Family. Friends. Church. God. These were important markers in her life.

Desiring to say something helpful, I shared I wished for a magic wand to take away her pain. Sensing some anxiousness in my voice, she reassured me, “It’s going to be okay, for I know I’m okay with God.” I thanked her for allowing me the privilege to sit with her. She reached for my hand, and together we prayed for her courage, for her faith, and for being a blessing to others and to her children as she looked forward to going home to heaven.

As often happens with someone who is nearing death’s door, I sensed God’s presence while talking with this great faith pilgrim, to spend a moment with her at the end of her journey. I was invited into her sacred space, with an invitation to see the face of God.

Thank you for helping Lifeline Chaplaincy to be present in such powerful, holy moments.

By Tom Nuckels, Director of Spiritual Care, Central Texas

Measuring Success in Spiritual Care

Measuring Success in Spiritual Care
By Paul Riddle

One afternoon I was having lunch with Ruby (not her real name), who was interested in becoming a Lifeline pastoral care volunteer. At one point in the conversation, an expression of thoughtfulness, mixed with concern, came across her face. “You look pensive. What’s on your mind?” I asked. “I was just wondering,” she replied, “How do you know when a visit has been a success?”

I thought for a moment and said, “If you communicate the love and care of God to the person you’re with, through your presence, the visit is a success.” Ruby’s face brightened, and she looked relieved. “I can do that!” she declared.

Ruby was worried that she would be expected to offer deep words of wisdom, or have answers to her patients’ profound spiritual questions, and she was afraid she might not be up to the task. It was liberating to her to hear that what mattered most was for her to show up and care, that her presence (actually God’s presence in her) was sufficient.

It seems to me that presence is what spiritual care is all about. We have the impulse to care because of God’s presence within us – and because of our awareness of God’s presence for us at many points in our lives. Our presence with patients and their families provides a tangible reminder of God’s presence with them.

May each of us be open to God’s presence, and open to the opportunities God places before us to be present with and for others.

Song of Love

Song of Love

I listen to the song of God’s great love
In morn as birds sing.
I see this song in leaf of green
From weed to majestic tree.

I listen to this song of God’s great love
In purple Martin melody.
I see this song in sunlight’s beam
Falling fresh ere’ early dawn.

I see this song of God’s great love
In colors shade and hue,
And wonder that Creator loves me;
Always, and ever loves me.

David Martin