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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Of Stones and Caviar

Luke 11:9-12 (from The Message)
 “Here’s what I’m saying:
Ask and you’ll get;
Seek and you’ll find;
Knock and the door will open.
“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?”

I must admit—I am rather conflicted over this passage and others like it. It seems to say that we can get anything we need just by asking, seeking, and assertively knocking on doors. It seems to say that God favors those who help themselves, to paraphrase an old saying. I am conflicted because my experience tells me life’s not that simple. There are many, many people I’ve known who sincerely asked for good things but often got stones. And there are many people who dine on caviar who are not at all appreciative and see their daily blessings as entitlement rather than gifts. How is that fair, or of God?

So I’ve been thinking about this passage for hours, even days, now. And here is my a-ha! moment: I don’t think this scripture is about asking for our finances to mysteriously improve, my excess weight to drop like scales off a lizard, protection against bad events, or to get that dream job, super-human health, or handsome husband. I don’t even think it is to get to be a better nurse, person, or ‘Christian’. I think it’s all about asking, seeking, knocking on doors, and not taking no for an answer in an all-out, no holds barred passionate drive to meet God. 

Blaise Pascal said that there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing. All good things do follow our relentless search for God, for we will always find our Creator and our Redeemer. The God-shaped vacuum in the heart means that even when we cram the good things we receive in life into it, the vacuum is not filled—and eventually we become jaded and restless. The opposite happens when we seek passionately after God—even ‘bad’ things are redeemed and we perceive meaning and purpose is at work, even if we cannot immediately see it. 

Encouragement for this week and the next: ask after God and seek Christ in the face of strangers, patients, friends, professors (:-)) and colleagues. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer—knock on the door of initiative and commit to presence and relationship even when lives crossing your path today seem random. 

Blessings on your week!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


From The Message, Luke 6:

Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then Jesus spoke:

You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.

But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.
    What you have is all you’ll ever get.

And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.
SELF will not satisfy you for long.

And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games.
    There’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.

There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests—look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.

I like The Message because it shakes free some of my preconceptions of scriptures that I’ve read for years. What I take away from this version of the Beatitudes is a steely determination to look life straight in the eye—recognizing that sorrow and longing are a part of life. BUT, that sorrow and longing create the amazing opportunity to experience joy and be filled from the heart up!
Well, the practice of nursing, like life … [insert grin here!] … 

Oh Nurse, you are blessed when you’re lost in the anatomy wondering where to place that Foley catheter.
  An expert colleague and a multitude of anatomy apps are there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re faced with a complex, hard-to-get-along-with participant.
Then you’re ready to learn to listen.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely in the middle of a long night shift.
Joy comes the morning at shift change.

But it’s trouble ahead if you think you know it all.
    What you know now is all you’ll ever attain.

And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied that you’re a super nurse without need of a team.
SELF will not satisfy patients for long.

And it’s trouble ahead if you think management and delegation is all romance and drama.
    There’s still BM to be managed, even if it's not the type you used to see (frequently!).

Nurses who perform only to impress others, and practice favor to ‘nice’ patients and administrators, lose heart. Popularity contests are not truth contests—your task is veracity, fidelity, justice and true equity, which often is not popular.

So, I encourage us, in whatever work we do as nurses and practitioners, not to run and hide from the suffering, the longing, the roughness of life! It is in the trenches that we all pray and it is in the storm that we see Christ walking toward us … we are called to truth, justice, and faithfulness.

Blessings on the roughness of your mid-week!