Thursday, December 29, 2011


WHAT A DAY!!! So the latest in my life would be to tell you all about what I have been up to over my term break. I haven't seen the Eiffel tower, or the Colosseum. I haven't eaten any bratwurst or had any gluhwein to drink. I have however been extremely busy. I have been working full time at White Stuff and making visits out of the chaplaincy office at Addenbrooks once a week. For those of you who do not know; I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime for my studies here in Cambridge! That being the opportunity to have some practical training out of a very large training hospital (Addenbrookes) in Cambridge. 
Every day that I work at Addenbrookes I am invited into the lives of several different people. Amazingly wonderful people! People who remind me of the richness in the gifts God gives. The people I visit all come with their own unique stories and backgrounds but all have one thing in common. They have all been taken out of the world and detained in the 'Addenbrookes bubble." If you haven't noticed already; I am quite fond of the greatest theologian, Dr.Seuss, who defines this bubble as "The waiting place." This place is a place where people have far too much time to contemplate life or perhaps lament life or even wonder when the next time someone is going to visit them. I am blessed to be that someone to visit them. 
It is a humbling experience to visit the sick and dying. It makes you realize at times that there are no words. I have found myself at a loss for words in the presence of a weeping elderly woman, in the company of a lonely old man, in a room filled with incubators filled with babies who made their entrance into the world far too early. Words are lost in the presence of young men and women who should be beginning to enjoy the fruits of their youth but instead are being injected with drugs to kill cancerous cells that have slowly been taking over their bodies. Words have no place in the company of a family who realizes that their loved one is going to be departing the world earlier than anyone had ever expected and they are not ready to say "goodbye." 
One thing I have noticed in my many visits with people is that while words may fail me, presence doesn't. There is one thing I feel I share with the people I visit and that is the need to feel the very real presence of someone. Christians and non-Christians alike all have a need to be connected. We all need to know that when all the words have been said, there will be someone there to just hold a hand, smile or even cry with us. I am learning that all the theology I have read and learned manifests itself in the silent physical presence of one who genuinely cares enough to sit through the uncomfortable silence that abandonment, loss of autonomy, sin, disease, decay, and death brings to the hospital bedside. What is more is that I get to do this. Who am I that I should be so blessed to be brought into the sacred space of these peoples grief and suffering? It is my prayer as I go and make visits on the many patients of Addenbrookes that God would allow my able body and limbs be used and taken advantage of for as long as I am given these gifts. I pray that I never take advantage of my own personal mobility, autonomy and ability to surround myself with others who love me. God has blessed me so very much, not only with the above mentioned gifts, but also with the gift of his son who emptied himself much like those whom I visit, but he did it for all those I visit and for me and for you. One day victory for the patients of Addenbrookes, for myself and all under the effects of sin will ring forth and we will no longer know the sorrow in loneliness, grief or pain. 

God bless, and may you have a Happy New Year! 

Philippians 2:1-11

 1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How the Grinch Skipped Christmas

In years past, about this time, I would record a voicemail message where I would read a bit of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss. I am no longer in possession of a phone number for people to call, so in lieu of my voicemail message I have tried my own hand at creating my own Seussical ditty. Enjoy:
 This time of year is the most wonderful time of the year. Just ask Andy Williams, he sings for all to hear. Except for some, because I’m sorry to say, that for some it can be a dreadful season of sorts. It can come without ribbons, without tags, without packages, boxes or bags. These things are not needed for the whole Christmas season, for Christmas of course means a little bit more, Christmas comes without heeding, and sometimes without warning. But even so, it comes just the same, except when it doesn’t I’m sorry to say, for some the meaning of Christmas is lacking the love and warmth in their heart. For some it will come with lives torn apart, separated by miles, or the death of a loved one, the distance of love makes this season a sad one. Even still Christmas will come just the same, it will come. Whether you be Bixbee, or Bray, or Mordichi Allen, Von Ali, or Shay. The yule log will burn without presents, or gifts, without tinsel, or  mistletoe wreaths. It will come without puddings. It will come without pies. It will come without stockings, or Rare Who-Roast Beast. More sadly than most is the ones that you love, who make this whole season the most wonderful of most. It comes without mum, it comes without dad, it comes with sisters, and brothers, and lads. It makes me quite sad to think of this season, a whole celebration without any nieces. Without nephews, or cousins or even Andy Williams. So draw near to the ones that you hold oh so dear. Just remember for some the whole Christmas season finds them far too far away. They cannot hold, or even share in yuletide joy, for miles and time find them waiting and wishing for another day far far away from the day that is today (December 25th).
Wow! I sure hope that didn’t bum you out! This is however the Christmas I face this year. It’s okay! I promise, don’t feel sorry for me, I can do that for myself well enough. The real point I wanted to make was not to make a pity party but to share a different kind of gift I have received this year. A gift of solitude. It seems like an odd thing to consider a gift this time of year when we draw the ones we love close, but it is a gift just the same. You may be wondering how this is, and I will explain. 
This summer I was excited about the idea of ‘Skipping Christmas’  (another reference to a book about Christmas written by John Grisham). I am now discovering that you can’t really skip Christmas. Christmas is quite a commercialized holiday here in England. In fact the absence of a Thanksgiving holiday allows Europe to begin marketing for the Christmas season much earlier than Americans do (Imagine that!). Santa, bows, lights, music, all the beautiful things that I thought made Christmas feel warm and fuzzy are still here. 
I must admit that Dr.Seuss and I have a lot in common, like him, I really do not care for Christmas. I think it has something to do with being childlike and not being able to recreate that innocence found in Christmas from when you were young, but that is another blog. I however do love what Christmas points to. Easter! I tried to gain a new perspective of Christmas in viewing it from the perspective of not being able to get to the empty tomb unless you fill the manger (kind of a cool image). 
This year I have discovered another facet to this understanding of Christmas. First I have discovered “Skipping Christmas” doesn’t work. Second I have discovered that presence (not presents) is so powerful for what we know and understand Christmas to be. This season we celebrate Emmanuel (GOD WITH US!) Not only does God take on human flesh and come to us (LSB-332 Savior of the Nations Come expresses this wonder so beautifully) but he has placed his image upon all of humanity. Christ surely comes to us in and through those we love. 
I recently watched a movie about C.S. Lewis entitled “Shadowlands” in which C.S. states “the pain now is part of the happiness then” This is how my solitude this Christmas is such a gift. How would I know the joy in the presence of my family even with all the stress of Christmas, without the pain of being separated from them. More importantly how would I know the gift of ‘God With Us” without knowing the need of his presence in the manger. Point is; even in my so called “solitude” this season I am not alone. God is with me. He came robed in knuckles, knees, and toes to show his infinite love that goes beyond the American borders and follows me to England and is ever with me, you, and all who find themselves without family this holiday season. I hope and pray that your Christmas is merry and bright, but more importantly, I hope you find the presence of God the greatest gift we could ever be given. 
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 
Joshua 1:9  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.