Belief or Disbelief?

Exodus 17:1-7 – The 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for September 28, 2014

“The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” (Exodus 17:2)

The Children of Israel complained about the lack of available beverages. As usual, they were as petulant as they were parched.

The people argued with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”

This was the time of the exodus. This was the reality between the memory of slavery in Egypt and the promised freedom in the land of milk and honey.

Forget milk. Forget honey.

Water. Now.

How precious water is . . .

How precious water is . . .

Without water, they’d wither. Moses rightly feared, as the people grumbled, that the last act his fellow desert sojourners had would have strength for would be used to cast stones at him.

Water is more crucial than food. If a body’s fluid isn’t replenished, the kidneys will be compromised; there will be days, at most a week or two, until death. The weak and sick will likely die first. Then the children and elderly will perish. The strong won’t stay strong for long.

As someone who has spent time backpacking, I know the importance of access to water. I’ve tramped extra miles to camp by a creek or pond. H2O weighs about eight pounds per gallon—one of the heaviest items in my pack—but the water filter and bottle would be one of the last things I’d discard in an emergency. Forget the tent. Forget the change of underwear. Forget the dehydrated food (just add water!). I’d abandon much to keep the final drops of life. Continue reading

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Habits Die Hard

Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.86

Please ignore what I’m about to tell you regarding handling a patient in the final hours or days of their life. Hmmm? Let me rephrase that first sentence . . . don’t assume old Larry is correct when wondering if turning your loved every two hours near the end of her or his live is necessary. Hmmm?

habitOne of the nurses at our weekly hospice team meetings—where the staff gathers to review each patient’s condition and needs—mentioned she’d read an article questioning the value of turning a patient near the end of life. She wasn’t recommending a change of policy for our treatment of dying patients, or suggesting that some patients be used as “experiments” to see how turning versus not turning impacts their well-being. Mostly, she seemed to be asking about how to improve the quality of life for families and their loved ones as they face the final days.

Based on how other nurses in the team meeting reacted to her comment, regularly turning a patient is an essential part of patient care training. That makes sense. By shifting someone, if only a gentle move, bedsores and skin tears and bruising can be reduced or avoided. It’s important for our bodies to be bodies in motion. When I broke a leg while backpacking in the early 1980s—“It’s a tib-fib spiral fracture,” the surgeon had announced after screwing pins into the two bones of my lower left leg. “It’ll take a long time for recovery.”—I was shocked at how quickly the nurses made me leave the “safety” of bed. Indeed, even before I could dangle my one good and one bad leg over the bed, they had me exercising while flat on my back. How I loved the butt cheek squeezes! Give me a hundred squeezes, kid!

Keep the body moving. But what about when the body—when our loved one—is near death? Continue reading

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Matthew 20:1-16 – The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 21, 2014

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard…” (Matthew 20:1)

What’s your favorite Bible passage?

My childhood response was Proverbs 14:34. Look it up, if you want. I’d found it on the inside page of a Bible at my grandparents’ house and memorized the words. Whenever I quoted that verse as “my favorite” in Sunday school classes, teachers looked befuddled. Why hadn’t I chosen the popular John 3:16 (like other kids did), instead of an obscure Old Testament verse? As a kid, I didn’t know what the Proverbs passage meant, but I enjoyed the odd reactions.

vinography_desktop_brief_respite-thumb-600x398-3389I’d bet few claim Matthew 20:1-16’s story about a landowner hiring workers as a “favorite.” In the parable, a landowner was desperate to harvest his Zinfandel and kept driving his dented Ford F-150 to the nearby town. He needed workers, lots of workers, because a good Zin waits for no one. Any card-carrying union workers? Bring ‘em. Any undocumented workers? Bring ‘em. Any slow, fast, inexperienced, and veteran vine dressers? Bring ‘em. Back and forth on the dusty roads, with newly hired hands crowding the truck’s bed, the landowner tried to meet his grape need.

The workers were hired early and often. The workers were promised payment. For some, “the usual daily wage.” For others, “whatever is right.” For a few, there were no promises other than work. Continue reading

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A Long Drive With Ashes


Hospice ADLs:  My Adventures of Daily Learning.85

My older sister drove. I sat in the front passenger seat, sometimes cradling my mother, sometimes resting her on the floorboard at my feet. It wasn’t a long drive, but it felt forever.

In the fall after Mom’s death in August of 2013, we took her ashes to the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, located between Sacramento and San Francisco along the Interstate 80 corridor. Her ashes would be buried beside her husband’s ashes. Dad, who’d voluntarily joined the Army Air Corps before Pearl Harbor, had been in the ground at the military cemetery since mid-2012.

As a young adult I had start-and-stop chats with Dad about cremation. At first, he was against it. He was raised on conservative Christian values, which included a belief that cremation wasn’t an acceptable option. When, as the Biblical book of Revelation promised, believers would be raised from their graves, you better have a body available for the divine action. Somewhere along the line, Dad changed his mind. I have no idea when or why. Maybe Mom influenced him. Maybe—since struggling through the “Great Depression” was a lasting influence on all his financial decisions—he realized cremation could save a few bucks (even after death).

What about you?

Will you be buried or cremated? Or have you avoided thinking about that? If you’re Muslim, there is no discussion. The Islamic faith, like the Eastern Orthodox (a Christian church) and Orthodox Judaism, doesn’t believe in cremation. What do you believe? Continue reading


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490 Times (or More)

Matthew 18:21-35 - The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 14, 2014

“Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me…’” (Matthew 18:21)

The “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant,” which is the subtitle used in my old New Revised Standard Version, is easily understood.

(And maybe unsettling.)

The disciple Peter asked Jesus how many times he must forgive another.

ForgiveNot surprisingly, Jesus told Peter a parable. In the parable, Person A forgave Person B. Did it matter that Person A was the “master” and Person B was the “servant?” While it added detail and tension, I’m not sure it’s important. One forgave another. The story continued, becoming more complicated. Person B, having felt the joy of forgiveness, was next seen confronting Person C.

Person C owed Person B.

B didn’t forgive C. Indeed, B did bad things to C.

A, clearly in the loop of information, learned what B did to C.

As quick as you can say a-b-c, Person B, once forgiven, once the recipient of compassion, was tossed into the slammer by A.

(Whew. Bad things do happen to bad people!)

Christianity, from the earliest Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions through today’s rise of non-denominational churches, has emphasized the healing power of forgiveness. But what about other religions? The Qur’an, in Surah 7:199, implored: Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant. The Buddha invited: To understand everything is to forgive everything.

Isn’t forgiveness central to every faith tradition?

(Please forgive me if you think I’m wrong!) Continue reading


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