We Cannot Find Peace

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…deeds are done which appear so evil to us
and people suffer such terrible evils
that it does not seem as though any good will ever come of them;
and we consider this, sorrowing and grieving over it 

so that we cannot find peace in the blessed contemplation of God as we should do; 
and this is why:

our reasoning powers are so blind now, so humble and so simple, 
that we cannot know the high, marvelous wisdom, the might 
and the goodness of the Holy Trinity.

And this is what he means where he says, 
“You shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well”, 
as if he said, “Pay attention to this now, faithfully and confidently, 
and at the end of time you will truly see it in the fullness of joy.

~Julian of Norwich from Revelations of Divine Love

 

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Today in the newspaper a whole page is devoted to the photos, names and ages of those cut down a week ago in the latest mass shooting, all victims of an unexplainable evil.

I cannot find peace in their deaths.  If I were their family member, there could be no peace for me in the ongoing anguish and despair of untimely senseless loss.  Only the intervention of the Holy Spirit can possibly change anger and grief to the fullness of joy. It can come as slow and imperceptibly as the still small voice.

I pray that those who have been hurt, who may never fully recover from their physical and emotional injury,  may come to understand how such evil may be used for good.  It is the hardest of all for our simple blind human reasoning to accept.

All manner of things shall be well – even as we weep until we are dry.

 

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Strengthen Your Feeble Arms

from “Feats of Strength” by Tom Otterness at Western Washington University

 

In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants
and hold the world
in arms grown strong with love.

And there may be many things we forget
in the days to come,

but this will not be one of them.
~Brian Andreas

 

 

Now that I’m essentially one-armed for three months due to my broken “wing”, I’m learning that patience and letting go takes far more strength than holding on and pushing through.  I’m having to make choices about what is not as important as I thought, and letting things lapse for the time being.  I’m discovering how to ask for help because I’m in need when I’ve always been the helper before.

Others are watching me carefully to see if I’ll quietly go stir-crazy with my new temporary limitations or whether I’ll find new ways to live fully as a partially-abled person.  The jury is out on that but I already know I am seeing the world in a different light: that which I can do on my own and that which is impossible without assistance and I need to rely on others. For a stubborn person who thrives on self-sufficiency, this is a humbling reminder of my brokenness and frailty.

May the Lord have mercy on all those with broken wings who still endeavor to lift up the weight of the world and fly as high as ever.  May we find our strength is in Him, not in our feeble arms.

 

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No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
Hebrews 12:11-12

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She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
~Proverbs 31:17

 

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I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
~Philippians 4: 12-13

 

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Some of us think holding on makes us strong;
but sometimes it is letting go.
~Hermann Hesse

 

 

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Take My Waking Slow

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I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.   
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?   
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.  
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?   
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,   
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?   
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do   
To you and me; so take the lively air,   
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.   
What falls away is always. And is near.   
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.   
I learn by going where I have to go.
~Theodore Roetke “TheWaking”

 

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In my rush to get from there to here
I missed some things.  The solitary song
of the chickadee; the play of winter light
on kitchen walls; the smell of fresh-raked leaves;
the summer days of childhood, stretched slow
from dawn to dusk, no need to know the date
or time, only the sound of a silver swung bell
to call me in for supper.

Could I re-learn to navigate by phases
of the moon, the ebb and flow of tides,
the rhodies budding out today before
the fall’s first snow?  Could I re-learn
to take my waking slow?
~Ted McMahon, M.D. “Slow Season”

 

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I took an unscheduled landing while wheelbarrowing hay to our horses in the field yesterday morning.

In my rush to get from there to here I missed some things.

I stumbled on uneven ground and fell hard, badly injuring my elbow.  Finishing chores afterward was a challenge and a necessity, wrapping my broken wing up tight in my jacket, doing what was needed before my husband came home to take me to the ER where good people who know me took great care of me.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?   
God bless the Ground!   I shall walk softly there,   
And learn by going where I have to go.

Even though no bones were broken, it was dislocated, so my elbow (and I) needed to be put back together.  The miracle of “conscious sedation” IV medication let my body “think” I was awake – I was surrounded by a swirling round of voices telling me to take deep breaths and constantly reassuring me–while the ER doctor and nurse put traction on my arm and shoulder, then twisting and turning my elbow back into proper position with a “clunk”.  I was blissfully unaware of the tugging and torque, paying attention only to the swirling sounds in my head, then waking slow to find my arm splinted and wrapped from mid-humerus to fingers — all fixed but now typing is also slow.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.   
What falls away is always. And is near.   
I’m walking more carefully now, paying attention to exactly where my feet land and what is around me.
The ground is near yet still can be a hard and abrupt landing;
I celebrate the good clinicians who put broken people back together again.
Great Nature has another thing to do   
To you and me; so take the lively air,   
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
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The Helpless Prayer

Faye Jubilee with her sister Merry
Faye Jubilee with her sister Merry

I pray because I can’t help myself.
I pray because I’m helpless.
I pray because the need flows out of me all the time — waking and sleeping.
It doesn’t change God — it changes me.

~C.S. Lewis

Almost four weeks ago I wrote about our little neighbor, two year old Faye Jubilee, sickened by E.Coli 0157 infection/toxin to the point of becoming critically ill with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (plummeting cell counts and renal failure).  My post is found here:

https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/may-god-have-my-jewel-in-his-keeping/

At the worst point of her illness, when the doctors were sounding very worried on her behalf, Faye’s mother Danyale wrote to our Wiser Lake Chapel Pastor Bert Hitchcock with a plea for prayers from the church in the midst of her helplessness:

Here is how he responded:

“I understand that Faye  (and everyone dealing with her) is fighting for her life. And that’s the way I am praying: that God in his merciful power, would deliver her, even if her condition looks hopeless.

If you were able to be in church this morning, you might hear my sense of urgency, for I have chosen this benediction, with which to close the service — and I give it to you right now, from the mouth of our Lord:
Jesus said: “Do not be afraid, Danyale!
I am the First and the Last.
I am the Living One.
I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and the grave.

Neither you nor I know how this will turn out — the possibilities are terrifying. But we do know who holds the keys of life and health and death; He is the Life-giver, who heals all our diseases — nothing can rip our lives (or little Faye’s life) out of His hands. And, when He does allow these bodies to give out, He promises to give us glorious new life, safe forever in His presence. These are not pious platitudes; these are the rock-hard promises of the one who loves us more than life, and who is absolutely in control of what is happening today.

Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast;
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul shall rest.

I’m praying for you all; and the Chapel Family will be praying this morning, as we gather in the Lord’s presence.

Love you, and yours, Danyale,

Pastor Bert Hitchcock

 

And now Faye is home, with normal kidney function and improving cell counts,  having also survived a bout with pneumonia.
Thanks to you all for your prayers lifted around the world on her behalf.   Here is a summary from her mother:

 

Dear Friends and readers of Barnstorming,

Some of you we know, but so many of you we do not. Whichever the case, Emily tells me you have prayed for our little girl, Faye, throughout her sickness and into her recovery. What can parents say when people–many of whom we may never be privileged to meet in this life–have come alongside us to beseech the Lord for our daughter’s life and pray for her healing? Thank you. Thank you!

Faye is doing so well; stronger every day, more and more herself! It is wonderful to see.

This week we head back down to Seattle Children’s for a check up–we’ll get to say hello to the good folks who saw her through her sickness. A special stop will be made on the dialysis unit to see Nurse Kathy, a favorite of Faye’s. We anticipate a good report!

Thanks again for your love and support, far and wide. Truly astounding.
Danyale and Jesse Tamminga, for Faye, too

 

Faye at church this past Sunday, looking very much like herself again
Faye at church this past Sunday, looking very much like herself again

 

Our prayers of helplessness to God continue for the healing and strengthening of Towa Aoyagi, the fourteen year old son of Pastor Seima and Naoko in Tokyo, Japan, who remains paralyzed following a neck injury four weeks ago today.   He is currently in rehab in Tokyo, trying to stabilize enough to come to the United States for state-of-the-art spinal cord injury treatment to learn how to live and thrive in his changed body.

May God have our jewels this day in His keeping.

May God Have My Jewel In His Keeping

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God keep my jewel this day from danger;
From tinker and pooka and black-hearted stranger.
From harm of the water, from hurt of the fire.
From the horns of the cows going home to the byre.
From the sight of the fairies that maybe might change her.
From teasing the ass when he’s tied to the manger.
From stones that would bruise her, from thorns of the briar.
From evil red berries that wake her desire.
From hunting the gander and vexing the goat.
From the depths o’ sea water by Danny’s old boat.
From cut and from tumble, from sickness and weeping;
May God have my jewel this day in his keeping.
~Winifred Lett (1882-1973) Prayer for a Child

This prayer has hung in our home for almost three decades, purchased when I was pregnant with our first child.  When I first saw it with its drawing of the praying mother watching her toddler leave the safety of the home to explore the wide world, I knew it addressed most of my worries as a new mother, in language that helped me smile at my often irrational fears.  I would glance at it dozens of time a day, and it would remind me of God’s care for our children through every scary thing, real or imagined.

When our eight year old daughter was hospitalized with a life threatening E.Coli 0157 infection, this prayer comforted me when she was so sick, as I knew only God’s care and keeping would make the difference in a condition where there was no proven medical treatment other than watching and waiting with intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration.

And now this poem is in my mind once again, prayed fervently for two children separated by a vast ocean, but united through God’s church family.  One is our little neighbor Faye, turning two in three days, who also has E.Coli 0157 infection and is at Children’s Hospital in Seattle.  Her life and her family are incredibly precious to us at Wiser Lake Chapel.  Please pray with us that God will protect her through this awful illness, and give her parents endurance through long days and nights and an extra strength of faith and assurance of His love.

In Tokyo, Japan, we pray with our sister church Grace Harbor for their pastor’s son, Towa, age fourteen, who this week sustained a serious neck injury causing paralysis of his arms and legs.  His healing and recovery will take much time and his long term outcome uncertain.  He and his family too are having to depend on God’s power to help heal his body, and to prepare their hearts and minds for the unknowns and potential of life long challenges.

In addition to the two whose names we know, there are so many thousands of children hurting now in Nepal and other parts of the world, whose names we do not know, but who desperately need this prayer:

From cut and from tumble, from sickness and weeping;
May God have my jewel this day in his keeping….

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Faye

When the Wind Blows Hard

photo by Starla Smit
photo by Starla Smit

Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties.
When the wind blows hard on a tree,
the roots stretch and grow the stronger,
Let it be so with us.
Let us not be weaklings,
yielding to every wind that blows,
but strong in spirit to resist.
~Amy Carmichael

And so the government and its people are at an impasse–the winds of change are pummeling us all and everyone has entrenched more deeply in order to stay upright.

As a U.S. health care provider who has worked for over 30 years as a salaried physician, in non-fee-for-service health care settings providing patient care that meets the need when need arises without profit motive, I am flummoxed by this impasse.  Policy makers could not come up with a more simplistic solution than what is contained in 2000+ pages of complex regulations that are already creating bureaucratic havoc in all health care settings, distracting health care providers with electronic and telephone paperwork that pulls us away from the bedside. The patient and the provider no longer partner together without a dozen other entities dictating the choreography of their dance.

A potential solution to the problem of affordable access to all who need it already exists in the form of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps with incentive scholarships for medical and nursing training in exchange for work in under-served areas.   An expansion of such a system, requiring funding at a much lower cost than the billions of dollars required by the current health care reform act,  would address the challenges of the uninsured and the uninsurable.

As a medical student in training, I  spent many months providing patient care in Seattle’s exemplary Public Health Hospital and its associated clinics.  Patients traveled hundreds of miles to see the specialists who worked there; the best and the brightest clinicians saw the poorest of the poor inside those walls, but there were a number of physicians and their families I knew who received their care there as well because they knew the people who worked there were devoted to the patient, not to profit.

When the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of government refuse themselves to participate in a health care system they have constructed for the people, then it is not created of the people, by the people, for the people for they are people who get sick and injured just like the rest of us.  What is best for them must be best for us all.

All citizens, and non-citizens inside our borders for whatever reason, should have easy access to affordable health care.   All health care providers should have opportunity to work off the costs of their training to keep the debt load from crushing them for decades to come.

I am grieved that health care has come to this impasse, with government now in a take-no-prisoners mode that clear-cuts us all down to the bare roots.
We need to lean in together for support and quit the fighting that only creates more injury.

We need look no farther than our own commissioned corps of health care officers.  It is an idea whose time has come.

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A Splintered Wreck

photo by Josh Scholten

“The new is always present with the old, however hidden.  I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breath delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty beats and shines not in its imperfections, but overwhelmingly in spite of them…”
Annie Dillard

Once every few years one of our horses gets hurt and had I made different decisions, I know I could have prevented it from happening.  I feel deeply responsible for the pain experienced by a creature I love and have cared for over two decades; I am a splintered wreck, unable to sleep, sick with guilt.

When the bird chorus began as the clock flipped to 4 AM this morning, my eyes had been open for hours, listening for sounds of distress from the barn. I knew I needed to check on her as soon as daylight dawned.  I walked to the barn in my bathrobe and rubber boots to make sure she had made it okay through the night.  As I approached, I heard her greeting me with her usual morning nicker, welcoming me back into her home, showing me grace despite her misery,  her eyes shining bright and expectant despite her cuts and bruises.

The barn contains a world of forgiving despite horses never ever forgetting.  She still loves me in spite of my imperfections.  I wander awed into her stall, touch her tender body and weep.

So, because of this, because of love that surpasses understanding, I am getting along, washed through my tears moistening her dried blood.