Friday, May 29, 2009

For Susie and Hamada

How wonderful it is to find new friends across the world but all of us connected via this marvelous technology! In actuality, the technology is just a tool to putting faces, words and thoughts and more to spirits who are already connected as all of us are in the spiritual realm. But with the amazingness of Blogs and email, Facebook and Twitter we can share things in the immediacy of the moment. Who would have thought it possible to pass on to one another in such a vibrant way things which can deeply enrich our lives, lift our spirits, share laughter and good wishes, and encourage our hearts?

This post includes a song/video from YouTube called "Whisper of Angels" performed by The Opera Band from their "Amici" CD. What wonderful voices blended together impeccably with silken steel to strengthen and soothe at the same time. If the song sounds/feels familiar to you, it is taken from a piece by Faure ("Pavane") but given words by Canadian song writer Amy Sky who also added a chorus/refrain which beautifully compliments Faure's original melody of the verses.

While I hope everyone who happens upon this post will be blessed by this music and beautiful images, it's put together and uploaded especially for Susie and Hamada with love and prayers for their upcoming special day…for all the days ahead as well.

Drink deeply, my friends, and may your spirits be refreshed, empowered and renewed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sometimes You just gotta have a little Gospel Music

You know what I mean? Sometimes you just gotta have it, have to have it, your spirit is thirsty for it --- some good gospel music. One of my favorite gospel choirs is the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. They started as a group of 9 singers and the founding director, a blonde lady named Carol Cymbala is still the director. They are just amazing. Not professional singers but SO disciplined in their rehearsals. And filled with joy that's just plain contagious! In a choir (as in most things in life) discipline = freedom. Discipline gives you the foundation from which you can then take off and soar. I looked on YouTube for a performance of theirs of a different song (I have several "favorite" songs done by this group) and the performance I found of "This is How it Feels to be Free" was filmed from a gospel concert they gave at the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. Talk about some dynamic meanings….true freedom which can be found in a prison like that. It's too late in the night (or early in the morning…whichever way you look at it) for me to go on about how totally Biblical this concept is, about the Apostle Paul, for example, and the freedom he found despite being in prison, how many of his most encouraging, inspiring Epistles (letters to churches) were written either from prison or from living in an enforced house arrest situation.

But friends, from time to time, we're all in our own prisons, many of which are formed by our own hands. Or we allow our spirits to be "imprisoned" by the actions, words and attitudes of others. We need a boost, a reminder. We need to reclaim our joy, no matter the circumstances, and our inner freedom. So, sit back, turn up the volume on your speakers and drink it in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“Do the Next Right Thing…”


"At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can't help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming if not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question, 'What are you smiling about?' but I already know the answer: It just gets better from here." --- from Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox.

Did you happen to watch the television special on "Optimism" hosted by and featuring Michael J. Fox? It was really quite amazing. Here is a man who has had Parkinson's Disease for the past 19 years and fully exhibits all its life-limiting and altering symptoms despite medication, yet by his own definition and obvious outward fruit he is an "incurable optimist". He fully participates in life and continues to learn from and teach others about the deep happiness which can be found from living with the kind of optimism which brings him peace and joy. Regardless of his limitations, this man's value is immeasurable. And his joy is utterly contagious!

The TV program documented visits to people of all ages throughout our country and the world, interviewing them about what makes them happy, and the importance of happiness to them. Most significant was his visit among the people of Bhutan, a small country the size of Switzerland in South Asia in the Himalayan Mountains, bordered by India and China. In addition to and more significant than their GNP (Gross National Product) is their GNH (Gross National Happiness). Really! They have a "Minister of Happiness" in charge of measuring this and working to expand and guard it. These are not financially wealthy people at all, but will lovingly give deeply to everyone from the generosity of their heart. Gross National Happiness is the "guiding philosophy of Bhutan's development process" in their country. They believe happiness is vital and firmly dependent upon good relationships and strong connections with family, friends and faith community. While not a "Christian" nation, this sure sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Being part of the global community, connected and interacting with the outside world, they know "one way or another, change is coming," King Wangchuck told correspondent Barbara Crossette. "Being a small country, we do not have economic power. We do not have military muscle. We cannot play a dominant international role, because of our small size and population and because we are a landlocked country. The only factor we can fall back on . . . which can strengthen Bhutan's sovereignty and our different identity is the unique culture we have." And that is their culture of happiness. Not a "la la la, zippity-do-dah" superficial frivolity happy thing, but a deeper genuine joy and contentment in life, despite all its travails. But do not underestimate the power of happiness! Tourism to Bhutan has grown tremendously as more people long to bask in this kind of love in action, people living out what they believe and sharing themselves and their joyful hospitality with everyone they meet.

This is more than ironic, isn't it? People don't NEED to go half-way around the world to enjoy the comfort, love, hope and happiness of being connected and involved with a family and faith community…specifically OUR church family and faith community. Somehow more people are learning about what can be found in Bhutan, and more people need to know what can also be found inside the doors of the United Church of Penacook.

Once again we find ourselves on the doorstep of summer with its endless possibilities stretching before us. It's not only a time of refreshment, but I always think of it as a time to learn something new, to develop something better about myself and stretch to grow more spiritually deep. This year I've bought a copy of a book I've always meant to read and study but never have. This is my summer to start My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It's a devotional book with real meat and potatoes readings for each day of the year which has been revered by Christians as a tool for growth since its first publication in 1935. Let's see what the reading for today's date is. Oh my…it's titled "Out of the Wreck I Rise" taking from the text of Romans 8:35 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" For those of you who own this book, it's for the date of May 19. It's very relevant to what I've been writing about here. These are the last lines of the reading: "Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver and Paul is deluded, or some extraordinary thing happens to a man who holds on to the love of God when the odds are against God's character. Logic is silenced in the face of every one of these things. Only one thing can account for it --- the love of God in Christ. 'Out of the wreck I rise' every time." Wow.

Now comes the question of how do we move forward, upward and outward in the love of Christ in the character of God to live in the peace, love and joy He has for us? And to become contagious Christians in sharing this with everyone we meet? This is one good answer: "Do the next right thing." Here it's well put by author Anne Lamott:



Monday, May 18, 2009

This is Where I Am Right Now

Friends, thanks to the kindness of a friend (thank you Walt --- you are a GEM!), I now know how to imbed a YouTube performance in a blog post! WOW this is huge stuff for me :-) This is a wonderful performance of an extraordinary song. Please take a few minutes for yourself, turn up your speakers and click on the video link, sit back watch and listen. Not just because of the title of this post, but because…well watch,listen and see. The song is sung by Charice and is called "If I Wrote a Note to God". In this clip, the lyrics appear on the screen as well. You may have seen this performed on Oprah Winfrey's show. She is very young, from an impoverished background and already has been on an astonishing journey. She is simply amazing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Story which Should Not Have Happened, but Thankfully Had a Good Ending

As this is a true story, I'll be changing the names of the people involved and not mentioning the name of the hospital.


When Carol was a toddler, born to a neighbor nearby, we knew something wasn't *right* with her. Couldn't put my finger on it and these are the times when I try to turn off my counselor/medical brain and try NOT to diagnose people. But still. It wasn't autism, asperger syndrome, cerebral palsy….but something. Carol was a happy child, eager to interact and smiled up at you with huge brown eyes. But when she walked or ran, her gait was odd and her hands tended to flap. I kept hoping the doctors her mother, Justine, took her to would figure it out and that as she grew, she'd be fine. This was my hope, it was my prayer, but it was not to be.

As time passed Carol developed seemingly normally and was a very creative, happy child. But still there was…something. She was imaginative and enjoyed engaging with me for tea parties, reading from her books, and playing with her dolls. She was not developmentally disabled, made friends easily, and enjoyed school. One Christmas she was so fascinated with our nativity set that I loaned it to her family so she could enjoy it through the season. She liked making up stories about Mary and Joseph, the Kings and shepherds and moving the characters around near Jesus in the manger.

When Carol was about 8 she began having petit mal seizures which were generally preceded by her saying she saw characters from her story books. Immediately before a seizure she'd usually say, "I see Pinnocchio….." and then it began. As these were petit mal seizures, they did not include more than her standing still, seeming to stare off in the distance and lose touch with her surroundings for a few moments. Sometimes there was also a bit of the hand flapping. Her mother Justine added a pediatric neurologist to Carol's list of doctors. After batteries of tests and a regimen of medications, Carol's seizures were controlled for quite a while. She went to school, made friends, played imaginatively, loved to learn new things and was a happy little girl. Still….there was something I could not put my finger on. When she ran, her gait was strange with her legs overly wide apart and she swayed from side to side. From time to time, the hand flapping also accompanied the running or would happen when she was happily excited about something. I wasn't asked for an opinion, and I knew she was under the care of at least 3 physicians, so I didn't comment. I mean, it was all pretty obvious. What was I going to say…do you notice the odd gait and flapping movements? Have you brought these to the attention of the physicians, particularly the neurologist? Justine and her husband Steve were well educated people with much concern for Carol. I wasn't going to sound like a jerk and bring up this stuff without it being mentioned first by them. Personally, I had concerns that she should have been seen by a pediatric neurologist who sees more complex cases like this on a regular basis (like at Boston Children's) but I didn't feel it was for me to say.

Time passed and Carol's seizures were no longer being well controlled by her medications. Different meds were tried with varying results, but still the seizures not only continued, but they worsened. There was no predicting them and they grew more severe. From petit mal seizures, they became a more worrisome kind referred to as status seizures. More trips to the pediatric neurologist, more meds. More prayers from me.

Suddenly in the middle of the night our phone rang and it was Justine calling me in a panic. She'd already called the hospital. "Come quick! Carol's having continuous seizures and I don't know what to do!" I set a record for throwing on a sweater and jeans, grabbed purse and car keys and with my car running at her house, yelled for Justine who was holding Carol, to get in. We were going to a hospital in a nearby city, it was 3:15 AM with zero traffic, and this was much faster than waiting for the ambulance service in our area. It was a straight shot. I knew I could get us there in a flash. Carol continued to seize off and on and in minutes we were at the Emergency Room entrance, just as Carol went into respiratory arrest.

I parked the car while Justine raced Carol into the ER where they were ready for her. She was there for a while being stabilized. I got to sit down and be thankful. Although it wasn't a holiday or a weekend, the hospital was busy, and the pediatric ICU where Carol was soon admitted was understaffed for the number of patients they were caring for. I accompanied Justine and the staff with Carol in the elevator as we went up to pediatric ICU. Carol's seizures were still not under control. I asked, "Has her pediatric neurologist seen her yet?" No "Has she been called?" Yes "When is she anticipated?" Anytime now (said with irritation by the staff member on one end of the gurney).

Soon Carol was settled into a *room* in pediatric ICU and Justine and the two staff (I was unclear if either were nurses) were on their way out, leaving me there alone with Carol who was still having seizure after seizure. "WAIT!!!!" I said. "Who's going to be caring for Carol?" I sort of barked. The two staff looked at one another, we all looked at the two ICU nurses who were flying around from crisis to crisis in the beds around us, and then their eyes settled on me. "Justine said you used to be a paramedic. That true? You drive like one". I said yes…..but my license has been expired for a long time. They inquired, "You still know how to suction a patient and take vitals, though, don't you?" I couldn't believe what was happening. I'm this woman in jeans and a sweater, they've seen no ID, no credentials, I could be Jaqueline the Ripper for all they knew….did they know how to spell "l-i-a-b-i-l-i-t-y"? And mom (Justine)? She said "I need to go have a cigarette. I'll be outside".

I said certainly, I know how to suction a patient but I'll be expecting one of those nurses in here every few minutes and…PLEASE call the neurologist and tell them Dr. Brook says this is an EMERGENCY and she needs to be here NOW. Carol was having status seizures and those are very dangerous and can cause brain damage.

All night long, I comforted and cared for Carol and every few minutes she'd seize and I'd suction. But I wasn't recording any vitals. Nah-uh. If the nurses weren't in there in a timely fashion, I'd call them and one would come in and take care of those details. I was committed to doing my absolute best for this little girl, but I wasn't putting my name on anything. This was just too surreal and bizarre.

And Justine? Never saw her again all night long. Apparently she had lots of cigarettes to smoke outside. I do know this is REALLY hard on parents, but come ON. She never even came up once to check on her daughter. And the pediatric neurologist? Shortly after 8:00 AM she rolled in. I could not freakin' believe it. I gave her an overview of how the night had progressed while she read the chart and then I left. I called a nearby friend and she came and gave me a ride home. I had nothing to say to Justine beyond the fact her doctor was with her daughter now, receive her "thanks" and say goodbye. A story which should not have happened, but thankfully had a good ending.