In May of 2007, just after finishing divinity school, I went with a group of about fifty classmates and a few professors on a tour of Israel and Egypt. Seeing the places where so many of the stories I had read in the Bible took place – some of them very little changed by the passage of centuries – was powerful stuff. My mind always returns there at this time of year. This is what I wrote in my travel journal the day we visited Gethsemane: Continue reading “Where God Was Alone and Afraid”
Here we are about halfway through Lent, and it feels like I have skipped right over to Good Friday and the darkness of the tomb. This has been a really, really tough few weeks. I won’t pretend to know how much of that I caused, how much God caused, how much was coincidence, and how much was a result of the changes I chose to make for Lent this year. There were a few doozies. And by far the most difficult Lenten discipline has been doing one thing. Just one thing. The idea came to me a week or so before Ash Wednesday, when I was thinking about what I needed to give up for Lent, what would really challenge me and help me make space in my life for God to fill. At the moment I had this thought, I was on the couch, “watching” The Daily Show, while I played Candy Crush, in between texts with my best friend, checking Facebook and email every time my phone buzzed with a notification alert. Continue reading “Falling”
Recently, a friend of a friend asked me a question about death. She is a new employee at a hospital in another state. Though we haven’t seen each other in years, she remembered that I was a chaplain, got my number from our mutual friend, and wanted to talk. “I’m not a religious person,” she began. “I’m not even sure I believe in God. But if there is a God, I need to know if he’ll judge me for this. I’ve killed three people already.” Confused, I asked her to explain about these killings. She told me how she had been the one to remove the breathing tubes and turn off the ventilators for three terminal patients. “I know it’s my job,” she said. “And it’s what the families decided to do, and the patients probably would have died anyway. But they died sooner because of me, you know? I’m the one who took them off the vent. They stopped breathing at that moment because of me. Will God punish me for that?” I could hear the tremor in her voice. “I wanted to do this job to help people. And I do. I help a lot of people. But I didn’t count on being the actual instrument of death for some patients, you know? I don’t know how to deal with that.” Continue reading “Worse Than Death?”
I was sitting at the bedside of a tearful patient, a woman hospitalized with pain and bleeding after her fifth consecutive miscarriage. A few hours after she checked in, she got a phone call from a family member telling her that her youngest sister had been killed in a car crash. Her nurse asked me to visit her that evening, and so I sat, holding her hand, telling her how sorry I was. Then she said it. “I know they say God won’t put on us any more than we can handle, but I . . . I just . . .” She fell back against the bed, sobbing too hard to speak.
“But it feels like more than you can handle right now,” I offered. She nodded and squeezed my hand. Continue reading “Why You’ll Never Hear Me Say “God Doesn’t Give Us More Than We Can Handle””