I am a hospice chaplain serving as the Spiritual Care Coordinator of a hospice & home health agency. I consider it a privilege to be able to spend some of the most intimate times of a person's life with them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

John's Perspective

John’s Perspective
Gospel – Mark 1:4-11 – The Baptism of Jesus
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.
11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

After reading the Gospel, I walked to the center aisle of the church and delivered this sermon

Good Morning, My name is John the Baptist and I don’t believe many of you have ever heard my story before so I thought I would share it with you this morning. I was Jesus’ cousin, my mother Elizabeth was Mary’s aunt. I always knew that there was something different, something special about Jesus. In fact, when my mother was in her sixth month of pregnancy with me, Mary came to visit my mom, to tell her about the news that she was pregnant with a baby that would bring salvation to the world. The funny thing though, before Mary actually reached my mom I could sense Jesus in her womb and I got really excited. My mom said that I leaped in her womb.
I grew up with Jesus and I always knew there was something different about him. I remember when we were five years old. Jesus and I were playing down by a pond that was formed after it had rained for what seemed to be days. Jesus commanded the water of the pond to be clear and it was. Then he took clay from the pond and formed twelve sparrows. It was Saturday and some of the boys that were watching Jesus went to tell his dad that Jesus was doing this on the Sabbath. So, Joseph came down to the pond and started to ask Jesus why he would do such a thing on the Sabbath, when it was against the law. Jesus hearing this opened His hands, and said to the sparrows, “Go up into the air, and fly; nobody shall kill you.” And they flew, and began to cry out, and praise God Almighty. [Infancy Gospel of Thomas Chapter 4]
Another time we were all playing on the flat rooftop of one of the neighbor’s house and one of the boys fell down through a back-door and died immediately. We were afraid so we all ran away. Jesus however remained in the house. Soon Sinoo’s parent, that was the boy’s name, arrived and started to accuse Jesus of causing their son’s death, speaking against Jesus. “Surely you made him fall down to his death.” Jesus came down from the house, stood over the dead child, and with a loud voice called out to him. “Sinoo, Sinoo, rise and say whether it was I that made you fall down.” And suddenly Sinoo rose up, and said, “No, my lord.” Witnessing this, Sinoo’s parents glorified God and adored Jesus. [Infancy Gospel of Thomas Chapter 7]
When the time came for me to start my ministry I was in my mid to late twenties and I lived in the desert and I survived on locust. I know most of you are thinking, eeewwwwhhh locust, but wild honey and locust go together quite well. Anyways, I was out in the desert trying to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. I kept telling people that they needed to change the way they were living. See, everyone was interested only in themselves. The motto of the time was “You have to take care of number one”. Well, I told them that if they started to take care of each other they wouldn’t need to worry about themselves. “Repent” I said. Well, I guess that’s the true meaning of repentance, to turn around completely; you know, to turn 180 degrees and to head the other way, to care for others more than yourself. At first it didn’t seem like anyone was listening. Then, a few started to follow and listen and actually change.
Next, I started to baptize people into the faith. As a Jew we had a practice of using baptism to accept Gentiles into the Jewish faith. See, if you weren’t born a Jew, if you were a Gentile, you really didn’t have a way of becoming a Jew. So baptism was used to symbolize a rebirth, as a Jew. So I thought it quite appropriate to use baptism by water, after all if a person really repented or changed their way, wouldn’t that be a new person, a changed person. It also was symbolic of entrance into a new community, a changed community that was interested in loving and helping others.
So people were really changing, repenting, and being baptized. And soon, I was in the water all day long from morning until night, up to my waist in water. This was exciting. Then one day it happened, there must have been a thousand people in and around the Jordan River and as I looked out over the crest of the hill I saw him. It was Jesus, and I knew this was the time and the place and I yelled out, “Look, the Messiah, God in human form, the One promised to us who will change the world forever!!”, actually I said it in the vernacular for the day, “Behold, The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29]
All of a sudden there was a buzzing going on all around me. People were talking. I heard a voice from the right of me say, “That can’t be the Messiah, he’s only a man” and I heard another voice to the left of me say, “Isn’t that Joseph’s kid, the carpenter’s son, we’ve all seen him before, a bit of a fanatic if you ask me.” I thought to myself, this can’t be happening, it wasn’t supposed to happen like this, no one is accepting Jesus as the Messiah. What is going on?
And then it even got stranger, Jesus walked into the water and approached me saying, “John baptize me with water”, well, I was really freaking out now. I couldn’t understand what was going on, so I said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you and you are coming to me to be baptized?” Jesus replied, “John, trust me, this must be done to complete righteousness.” I didn’t know what to say or do so I did as Jesus asked of me. I baptized him in the river and I remember it as if it just happened yesterday. As I was lifting Jesus out of the water, I could see the water glistening from his face and hair in the bright sun, and then, and then like nothing I have ever seen. The heavens opened up and the Spirit of God descended on him like a dove, it wasn’t a dove, but it’s the closest thing I can think of. And the Spirit showed upon him. And a voice came out of the heavens and said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [Matthew 3:13-17]
It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop and everyone, I mean everyone believed. After this my ministry decreased and Jesus’ ministry began and increased. He became greater, and I became lesser, and that was the way it was suppose to happen.

There is Life after Seminary

Just a brief posting to say that there is life after seminary and I am living proof of it. I completed my Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary on May 15, 2010. It has been a journey that has transformed my life and as the end of one segment of a journey is always the beginning of a new segment of the journey, I look forward to completing the ordination process seeking ordination in the United Church of Christ.

More to come as new chapters of the book are created...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Theology Transformed by the Gospels

The following paper is a logical presentation on the transforming that Interpreting the Gospels has had in the transformation of my constructive theology to date.

Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. 2 When they find, they will be disturbed. 3 When they are disturbed, they will marvel, 4 and will rule over all.” Gospel of Thomas 2:1-4

I was guided to Chicago Theological Seminary because of its mission to Question, Teach, and Transform. The following paper is the way in which CH312 Interpreting the Gospels, lead by our fore-journeyer, Dr. Seung Ai Yang who has continued to guide us as we are disciplorized. Thanks for the sharing the journey with us. It has truly been my pleasure.

It is unusual to begin a paper on the theological transformation of a class on Interpreting the Gospel with a quote from the Old Testament, but I need to start from the beginning. 26 Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; …27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27 (NRSV)

Because of the oppression of woman and the culture in which the Bible was written we have a tendency to see certain words almost jump of the pages to us as we read “male and female he created them”. Here is where I believe that we error in our reading due to the traditioning of our times.

This causes me to ask the question that none of us can answer but which God gave us a glimpse as Jesus was God incarnate. In John’s story of Jesus and the Women of Samaria, Jesus states, 21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:21-24 (NRSV)

The discussion of the image of God is not one of gender identification but rather one of the descriptions of God, is that God is spirit. Therefore we have been created as a being with mind, body and spirit. It is the spirit within the mind and body that is immortal and that sustains us emotionally, spiritually, and yes even physically at time.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. John 4:31-34 (ESV)

Again we see Jesus talking about God’s will or the spirit of God as sustaining the body. Jesus talks to the disciples about having food that they are not aware of, exemplifying the importance of the spirit sustaining the body even more so than food and water alone. In my experience as a Hospice Chaplain, when a patient stops eating or drinking for two weeks and they are still alive, the medical staff will always call the Chaplain realizing that it is a matter of the spirit.
So Jesus being human born without sin is the closest that we can come to understanding humans without sin. That is to possess an uncorrupted spirit. So as John the Baptist, discusses baptizing with water and the Savior baptizing with fire and the spirit, Jesus is discussing the human condition of lacking spirit and that immortal power that the spirit has.

In the same way as we are born to the flesh, it is Jesus who tells us that we must be reborn or born of the Spirit. The Spirit is the power of a being. Jesus sent into the world the comforter, referring to the Holy Spirit whose is responsible for bringing witness to the Son of Man. [50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.] 1 Corinthians 15:50 (NRSV)

At the baptism of Jesus, two things were accomplished: 1) the identification of Jesus as the Son of God whom God was pleased with and 2) the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus and stayed with Him until Jesus was resurrected and He met the disciples and He commissioned them:
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV)

Once we have received the spirit, it is to be used throughout our life, [Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. 2If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you (will) kill you.” Thomas 70:1, 2 and I now believe what Jesus is referring to is the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Immortality. Not only in the future, but now.

The Parable of the Tares is usually related to the gathering of the believers and non-believers, where God allows both to grow together in order to ensure that the wheat is not pulled up with the weeds, however Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons might have done exactly that when he decided solely to destroy, to pull the weeds out early, the many Gospels that were written along in addition to the four gospels that he chose when he instructed the priests to burn all but 21 books which ended up being 21 of the 27 books chosen for the Canon. If man than is corrupt [23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;] Romans 3:23 (NRSV) then how do we justify the canonization of four gospels and the non-canonical destruction of those gospels written by Jesus’ disciples. Irenaeus decided that the Gnostic Gospels might challenge the authority of the church because they “remained antithetical to the claims of the institutional church.[i](Pagels 1979, 121)

Since 1945 when the Dead Sea Scrolls were found at Nag Hammadi, it has become obvious that even though Irenaeus thought all other books other than the 21 he chose were weeds to be pulled and destroyed how much wheat was destroyed in the canonizing of the books of the Bible. Let’s reread the parable replacing what we have thought of in the past as reference to believers with the knowledge of the various gospels written including the Gnostic Gospels from the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery.

24 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27 And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' 28 He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' 29 But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" Matthew 13:24-30 (NRSV)

Without these Gnostic gospels we are reading the traditioning of the day in which the gospels were written. So you say what’s wrong with that. That is exactly what Jesus was striving against; the oppression of women, children, the poor, in essence all who are oppressed, the organization of power, and martyrdom to name a few. By reading the Gospel of Mary for example I start to gain and appreciate the role and impact that women had in Jesus’ ministry in a day and age when women were considered no more than property, Jesus was calling and using women as a key part of His ministry.

Jesus was always breaking down the boundaries that society had established to separate and oppress genres of society in order for those in power to remain in control. I find Christ as the serving, suffering Savior. His style of leadership was by demonstration of the loving concept that those in power are given power to serve others. So then a King is servant to all his subjects as a whole, just as Christ served all by laying down His life for those given to Him by God… [12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.] John 15:12-13 (NRSV)

11 "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?' And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' 14 For many are called, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:11-14 (NRSV)

Although God invites all to believe, there appears to be a foreknowledge of who will be saved and you will not, known only by God. This has caused me to go back to systematic theology to revisit John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 24 on the “ELECTION CONFIRMED BY THE CALLING OF GOD. THE REPROBATE BRING UPON THEMSELVES THE RIGHTEOUS DESTRUCTION TO WHICH THEY ARE DOOMED, in particular Section 8. Explanation of the saying, that many are called, but few chosen. A twofold call.

Here Calvin references the above scripture Matthew 24:14 explaining that a time with come when those elect, chosen by God will celebrate, while those not chosen will be sent out from the body or bride of Christ,[ii][1] (Calvin, 1536) this to be addressed in the next section on eschatology.

We also find Jesus’ comments on the elect in the Gospel of Thomas [49 Jesus said, “Congratulations to those who are alone and chosen, for you will find the (Father’s) domain. For you have come from it, and you will return there again.”] Thomas 49 Christ always spoke to the general public in parables so that some may understand and some (those not chosen) may not. Jesus would share in secrecy those things of the kingdom and the power of the Holy Spirit with those who were given to Jesus by the God the Father. 34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” Matthew 13:34-35 (ESV)

However in the same way, Jesus provided the Comforter, the Holy Spirit to enlighten and to provide peace and understanding to those given chosen by the Father. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:26-27 (KJV)

Eschatology – Heaven and Hell (One Possible Definition)

I have always been fascinated by the end times, and what will happen after this life and the more I searched for the end I hear Jesus saying to me: The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us how our end will be." Jesus said, "Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death." Thomas 18

For me the reference to the beginning can be applied to creation or from before time, which may be one and the same. However, it is our relationship with the light. That is that we originated from the light and we will return to the light.

Jesus said, "If they say to you, 'Where did you come from?', say to them, 'We came from the light, the place where the light came into being on its own accord and established itself and became manifest through their image.' If they say to you, 'Is it you?', say, 'We are its children, we are the elect of the living father.' If they ask you, 'What is the sign of your father in you?', say to them, 'It is movement and repose.'" Thomas 50

Movement and repose, the most graceful ballet could not come near the thought of, movement and repose. The movement of the heavens, and the repose of [7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.] Philippians 4:7 (NRSV) our Lord and Savior might also be by scriptural definition heaven. Einstein in his “Theory of Relativity” explains that in theory as we approach the speed of light, just as sound builds on the wings of an airplane as the plane breaks the sound barrier, so it would be true of a person traveling at or beyond the speed of light. Because light would compress on one side and expand (if possible) on the other side, the appearance or visual of the person traveling at the speed of light would be tunnel like with all colors blending, which a bright light is the culmination of all light. Sound familiar with the experiences of people in near death experiences? As we become more and more intelligent about the nature that God created it is not surprising how technology and theology blend into one as an orchestra is syncopathic in the deliverance of one complex but beautiful sound. He also theorized that an object moving faster than the speed of light can move forward or backward in time. However, I would also add that it may be the spirit that at the time of death, or its separation from the body, which the body cannot inherit the kingdom of God, [1 Corinthians 15:50 (NRSV)], may leave the boundaries of time and return to the light to be united as one as the body or bride of Christ.

We live primarily in a physical world so it is reasonable to believe that Heaven and Hell to be a physical place. Could it be that the judgment is not going to be done by Jesus for He became the judgment of God for us? But rather that we all determine for ourselves whether or not we will depend on God, on Jesus, on the Holy Spirit and become transformed by the renewing of our minds and our spirits and in death (the spirit leaving the body) those who believe and desire to be with God will join their spirits together in forming the body of Christ or the bride of Christ to relate to human understanding and that hell is deciding to live without the God.

1Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (New York, Vintage Books,1979), 121
2John Calvin, The Institutes of Christian Religion, 1536
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.v.xxv.html?highlight=election#highlight (accessed December, 2007)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Final Healing

As a hospice chaplain I am around death on a daily basis. In my experience I once witnessed a man discuss his daughters death at the age of 18 as her "final healing". Now, understanding the need to see things from a standpoint that allows us to better deal with reality I thought this term "final healing" was just a word of comfort.

Then as I was at the bedside of a patient in their final hours I found myself reading the following passage from Revelation 21:1-7

Rev. 21:1-7 (NRSV)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

"See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away." 5And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. 7Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

After reading these words to my patient it dawned on me, could death really be a final healing. A place where suffering that we gained as a result of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, would be no longer. Could it be that death is not a punishment but a rescue from our God so that we would not experience an eternal life of suffering but rather an eternal life of healing. Just something to think about.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Who Will Control Your Care When There Is No More Cure?

Exercising your freedom at the end of life through advance directives.

How do you make your wishes known when you are unable to speak for yourself? Who will be your voice? Advance Directives inclusive of Living Wills, Healthcare Power of Attorney (HCPOA), in combination with instruments such as Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, (CPR), Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, artificial feeding (gastronomy or G-tube) and Intravenous (IV) hydration orders can be your voice.

As a hospice and hospital chaplain, I have witnessed nurses and physicians that have the incorrect understanding of end-of-life medical issues and the appropriate way of addressing these issues. At this point, you are probably asking yourself “How could this be possible?” and “How can a chaplain make these types of observations?” The Healthcare industry for the most part is starting to learn that issues at the end-of-life are different from when we are “healthy”. First let me describe what I mean by end-of-life issues. End-of-life generally and loosely defined starts about one to three months prior to death. It consists of “withdrawal from the world and people, decreased food intake, increase in sleep, going inside of oneself, and less communication.” (Karnes 1986) The state of “actively dying” typically starts when a patient is in the last two weeks of dying. During this time the body, spirit and soul prepare for the transition of death. Prolonging the dying process for the benefit of family members is as wrong, in my opinion, as hastening the process.

By making our wishes known through advance directives, we protect ourselves from receiving medical treatment such as CPR when we are at the end-of-life and when it is more harmful than helpful. Two main advance directives are the Living Will and the Healthcare Power of Attorney. The Living Will is a document that directs your physician as to your wishes under specific circumstances such as not receiving CPR if that’s your wish. The Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that accomplishes the same things as a Living Will but goes beyond it to identify a person(s) that you trust to carry out your wishes when you no longer have the capacity to express them yourself.

The advanced directive I encourage people to use is actually a combination of both the Living Will and the Healthcare Power of Attorney plus it has additional areas where you can express your spiritual and emotional issues as well. This document is called “Five Wishes” published by Aging with Dignity(http://www.agingwithdiginity.org/). This is legal in 38 states including Illinois. It can be made legal in the other states by completing the state’s HCPOA short form and attaching Five Wishes as an addendum to the state form.

Five Wishes consists of your response to the following issues:

  • Wish 1 - The Person I Want to Make Care Decisions for Me When I Can’t;·
  • Wish 2 - The Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want;·
  • Wish 3 – How Comfortable I Want to Be·
  • Wish 4 – How I Want People to Treat Me; and·
  • Wish 5 – What I Want My Loved Ones to Know.

If you value your right to define in advance what you do and do not want to happen when you are unable to speak for yourself, rather than allowing the state to do so, then take the time to give your loved ones a gift and complete your advance directives while you are able.If you or your organization would like assistance in completing this advance directive please email me at kenhinz@kenhinz.com. I would be happy to arrange that for you.
God Bless
References Karnes, RN, Barbara. 1986. Gone From My Sight. Barbara Karnes Books: Depoe Bay, OR 97341

Saturday, December 16, 2006

When Do We Become "Soulfull"

In response to the question what is your definition of the soul, my definition is that it is the life source of the body and the significance or essence of a human being. My thoughts have been formed by my experience as a hospice chaplain. As a hospice chaplain, it is my believe that death and dying are transitional. I believe that when the spirit eventually leaves the body, the spirit being the life source of the body, the body seizes to exist and we call that moment death. Therefore I believe the lack of breath is a sign that takes place sometime after death, as a result of the spirit leaving the body. The exact moment of death we are unclear of so we pronounce death when we are unable to detect life. So the pronouncement of death usually takes place sometime after. However there has been more than one case of a person being alive after they have been clinically pronounced dead.

If we can't decide the moment of death but can only observe the body after death I suggest that we can not determine when life starts either. Some say that when it becomes viable outside of the body, but I ask you how viable is a newborn left to itself? If uncertainty rules, which I believe it does, than I would rather error on the side that life is present after conception and should be regarded as such. Ask a mother who has just lost a child through fetal demise why she feels grief if the fetus does not contain life.

I guess I would have to side with Calvin that the soul is immortal.

What color is the face of God?

In the Genesis story we find the following account of creation:

Genesis 1:26-28 (NRSV)

Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."

When I read this scripture I understand that we, humankind, have been created in God's image, not the other way around. I believe that in our search for God, we need to find a God who has the same color of skin as us for us to relate to God personally. But I don't read that God was created in our image. If he were then I could surmise that the color of God's face is white, or black, or brown, or yellow. However I believe the color of God's face is not a specific color but rather the combination of all colors, that being light.

If God is the color of light than all colors are present in God's image. Pretty neat when you think about it. If we are of different colors than I would propose to you that each of us has a little bit of God's light in us, that being the color of our own face.

Just a thought but one I needed to share.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Guess what happened on the way to the cemetery?

As a hospice chaplain, there is a saying in the industry that goes something like this; "Don't forget to tell the hearse to stop for his last chemotherapy treatment on the way to the cemetery." As cold as this sounds, every exaggeration has a point that comes from a certain amount of truth. The article by MSNBC, entitled "Cancer docotors don't know when to give up" ,linked to this entry, identifies one of the key medical issues in the treatment of patients at the end-of-life. As our knowledge and technology advances in medicine, it appears that continuous healing is just a matter of finding the correct technology or most recent miracle drug to eliviate the problem. So the trend is for physicians to continue treating cancer patients as late as the last two weeks of life when it really doesn’t help.

So you ask, why are physicians doing this if there is no healing benefit to it and it causes the patient to suffer the side effects of chemotherapy? The Hippocratic Oath of non-malfeasance, that every doctor takes, states that the physician will do no harm in the process of practicing medicine. "Overly aggressive treatment gives false hope and puts people through grueling and costly ordeals when there is no chance of a cure, cancer specialist said.”1

The answer is that physicians spend most of their time diagnosising and healing patients. They do this for their patients from the time of birth until death. So it follows that physicians are just as uncomfortable with talking about death with a patient as anyone else. However, though most of us really don’t have to deal with death if we chose not to, physicians have to be trained to understand that death is a part of life. The end part of life that a physician has accepted as part of his/her responsibility, needs to be addressed by doctor’s orders for hospice care, pain and symptom management, in the final six to twelve months of a patient’s life.

It is a natural assumption for most of us to make, that our healthcare facilities (inclusive of hospitals, nursing homes, long term care facilities, and assisted living facilities) are knowledgeable about pain and symptom management at the end of life. This simply is not the case today. Providing care for those who are actively dying is a specialized field, just as providing nursing for patients in an emergency room, a labor and delivery floor, and that of a surgical and neurological intensive care floor are all different. We would not expect an orthopedic surgeon to deliver babies, yet we consider all nursing skills as being equal. A nurse is a nurse, right? Wrong. As one example, when a person is actively dying the issue of addiction to pain medication is no longer an issue and the pain experienced in life and in the dying process is different. As another example, normally a nurse would suggest that we encourage a patient to eat and drink. However, in the dying process, it is natural to stop eating and drinking as part of the transition from one world to another.

By physicians providing such orders, the physician can give the patient the specialized treatment required at the end-of-life. However all of these services are foregone when a physician is not trained to identify the moment when medical cures have reached their limits and the fact that the patient is going to die. On the contrary when the order is written for hospice care, the physician opens up a whole new set of services. Services provided by multiple disciplines that are specialists in end-of-life issues. Items that hospices can provide include: spiritual support; psychological and emotional support, nursing and nursing assistance to provide relieve, education and general help to the caregiver, music therapy, Reki massage, life stories, advance directives, and volunteer services just to mention a few. By the physicians facing their own fears, they have the ability to provide the most complete set of services especially to those who are dying.

1. The Associated Press. “Cancer Doctors don’t know when to give up.” MSMBC.com, June 7, 2006. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13105178/from/ET/ (accessed 11/20/2006)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Eternity – Whether you like it or not

Once we ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good an evil, that knowledge brought with it suffering. For many years I have thought that the phrase “the wages of sin is death” to be punishment for wrongdoing. I now view it as the opposite. He decided to limit the number of years of suffering that we were to experience by taking us through the transition of death into eternal life, thus securing our future.

As you can see, eternity gained through the transition of death is God’s rescue of a fallen world. Whether we like it or not, eternity has been granted to all. But eternity is only the introduction into salvation. How or where we spend that eternity is what God has given us with free will.

Now you may ask, is there truly a heaven or hell? I believe both exist. Just as I want to be with the one I love, so I perceive heaven as eternity spent in the presence of God. Alternatively, hell then would be an eternal existence without God’s presence. This type of pain is one that I cannot conceive of and burns deeper for me than fire and brimstone.

Once given the freedom of choice God places into our own hands the destination of our eternal life. Those who choose to spend it without Him, He cries over. (see Revelation for quote).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

On the purpose of man:

Man was created to enjoy God’s creation, one another and to bear witness to God and all that He created. What a purpose! Did you ever think that our purpose or job is to enjoy what we have been given and to give recognition, thanks and praise to the Creator and sustainer for what He has done? Man, therefore, being made in the “image of God,” was given an immortal element. “He was endowed with life, reason, wisdom, and all the good things of God, so that we may recognize the transcendent and have the desire for God’s immortality. For man was created to enjoy God’s goodness.” [1]

In my role as a hospice chaplain, I have experienced the greatest pleasures in sharing the day and the moment with patients who are dying. Most patients who are dying value each moment, because each one might be their last. As an example, just a few weeks ago I sat with one my patients on her patio on a brisk, sunny fall day as we enjoyed the coolness of the air, the brightness of the sunshine illuminating the many colors of the leaves as they were falling from the trees. For me, that moment was like listening to Louie Armstrong’s “It’s a wonderful world.” We were in the moment. What transpired in the morning was gone. The close of day was not guaranteed for either of us. We spoke of what a magnificent God we have and how privileged we were in enjoying that moment.

God in His infinite wisdom provided us with forgiveness so that we do not live in the past. He secured our future so we need not worry about what is at the end. It is only through these two conditions that we can possibly live in the moment. The ability to live in this moment, the precious present, is our gift from God and our responsibility to God. Is it any wonder that He deserves the glory?

[1] Christology of the Later Fathers, Westminster John Know Press, reissue 2006, Ch 5 Par. 4,5

Can evil exist if all is good?

Gregory of Nyssa, in the 4th century, stated that “evil is the absence of good”, just as darkness is the absence of light. Where there is light, darkness cannot exist. Where there is goodness, evil cannot exist, for evil is the absence of good. Or put another way, all that it takes for evil to exist is for good men to do nothing.

“Just as darkness follows the removal of light and disappears in its presence, so, as long as goodness is present in a nature, evil is something nonexistent.”[1] Gregory further explains that even on the brightest of days, if we choose to close our eyes to light, we will see the darkness of our own eyelids. Gregory draws the conclusion that evil cannot exist in God’s light.

“Now the opposite of life is death; of power, weakness; of blessing, cursing; of candor, shame; and of every good thing, it’s contrary.”[2] “For nothing evil lies outside the will as if it existed by itself; but it gets its name from the absence of the good….If a man in broad daylight of his own free will closes his eyes, the sun is not responsible for his failure to see.” [3] We are unable to blame God for the exercise of our own free will, unless we agree to give up our free will and become puppets to his manipulation. The most precious blessings given to man are the gifts of liberty and free will.

[1] Christology of the Later Fathers, Westminster John Know Press, reissue 2006, p. 278
[2] Ibid, p. 281
[3] Ibid, p. 282

Eternal, Immortal, but Divine?

We say that “the Divine became man, so that man may become Divine”. For me this statement is not totally accurate because I believe to be Divine, is more than life eternal or immortality. We are given life eternal whether we believe in the Divine or not. If we chose not to believe in the Divine, then our eternity becomes the “hell” that we live in by the mere existence of life eternal, outside the presence of God. In the same manner I believe “heaven” to be eternal life in the presence of God. For if God is light and love than our own wills lead us to darkness and self obsession.

Because Christ, being God, took on human flesh to live amongst us, He died so that we might experience eternal life and goodness. So that mankind can be restored to the original image of God that we were made in.

Time is not Linear

Twenty four hours in every day, 60 minutes in every hour, 60 seconds in every minute, but are all seconds, minutes, hours equal. I contend it is dependent on your age at the time. Now, I am sure that none of this makes sense right now, but think about it. Ask a child how old he is and he is likely not to respond four or five, but rather five and a quarter or six and a half. Time moves so slow when we are young and growing and developing that we need to divide it into halves and quarters. However as we get older we can’t remember whether we are 51 or 52. Some of us still think we’re 39, and others of us will not even admit our age to others or ourselves.

I would submit that the longer we live, the faster time moves for us and the more precious time becomes. As we hear in lyrics, “once we find what we want there never seems to be enough time to do it.” When I was 23 I ask my grandfather, who was celebrating his 75th birthday, “ Does time seem to go faster the older we get?” to which he responded, “Wait until you’re 75!” His comment hit me like a ton of bricks.

How many times have we heard the expression, “Time stood still” or “I have all the time in the world” or “it was as if time had stopped”?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Chuck Currie on Blogging and Public Theology

Well our first on line session is complete. I was impresed with the various issues that were raised and the excellent participation of the class. Poor Chuck, how did you manage to stay up with multiple discussion coming at you simultaneously. Hats off to you. It's great to get the input directly from one you has been so successful with his own blog.

I personally received some advise which is reflected in my article on Oregon's Physicisn-Assisted Suicide. A position that I have changed 180 degrees since working in hospice and hospital chaplaincy. What a great media and opportunity.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Oregon's Physician-Assisted Suicide

There are worse things than death. In most cases, through organization such as hospice and palliative care, both symptoms and pain can be managed. However, there are cases in which the pain can not be managed. In these cases, I believe we are more humane with our animals than we are with each other. So I have attached this link from the State of Oregon and I welcome your thoughts and opinions on such a controversial topic.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Grief fades within 6 months for many widows

Grief is not linear but cyclic, it comes to us in waves and articles such as this one can be very misleading because it looks at a single point in time rather than the process of grieving itself.