BASS 2017

Ministering at BASS 2017

Ministering at BASS 2017

I just spent the weekend ministering at BASS 2017. What is BASS? It’s the Bay Area Sunday School Church Workers convention. Held in Castro Valley the first weekend in March every year. This year I had the privilege of keynoting in the counseling track. That meant doing five workshops over Friday and Saturday. It was exhausting at one level, but oh so invigorating at a much deeper level. I love ministering at BASS. It’s a wonderful picture of the church in the Bay Area, filled with hungry people eager to learn more about ministry.

This year I taught five workshops, all of which were well received:

  • Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging People
  • Obstacles to Healing
  • How to Talk so Others will Listen and How to Listen so Others Will Talk
  • Survival Tips for the Wilderness Journey: When the Itinerary You’re on Isn’t the One You Signed Up For
  • How to Get Your Warrior Back

Can’t wait for next year!

Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control

"Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of control from Seven Women in the Bible" by Shannon Popkin

“Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of control from Seven Women in the Bible” by Shannon Popkin

What do Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, and Miriam have in common? According to Shannon Popkin, they are all “Control Girls.” And what is a “control girl?” It’s a girl (or woman) who, one way or another, believe that it is good, right, or necessary to take control. They take control over their husbands, their kids, their circumstances, and try hard to control God. Their motives and methods are different, but the result is always the same – tragedy.

In Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, Popkin has taken a topic I’ve seen little written about and tackled it well. She is an excellent writer, skillfully blending solid biblical study with personal examples. She goes deep by lesson 2, which I appreciated. And every lesson was peppered with good strategies, penetrating application questions, and depth I seldom see in a women’s book. Great job for her first book. You’ll want this book for yourself, your women’s group, or for someone you love.

My only complaint about this book is that she aimed it squarely at and for women. Sure, we need it. But her points are equally pertinent to men, and I’m sure she could have found a half dozen men to write about. I would love to use a book like this for a co-ed Bible study or in ministry with male clients. But hey, let’s get the women in line and pray for the men!

 

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Angel

What a year this has been! I haven’t posted much since August when my mother passed away. I haven’t been hit with much grief, but oh so many responsibilities! I don’t think I’ve stopped for the entire four months, between memorial services and estate duties. And now we are in Texas celebrating not only the birth of our Savior, but also the birth of our first grandson. Jack joined his two sisters on Saturday. We were delighted that we arrived in time for the birth, and have been ever so busy taking care of the girls, ages four and two, while their mom recovers from an unexpected C-section. We are trying to maintain as many traditions as possible, but many are going by the wayside as we simply try to maintain some semblance of normal. That’s hard since we don’t know their routines or even where things are in the house.

I’m sitting here tonight with the cutest little boy lying next to me. I look at him and am in awe that this is how our Savior, the Light of the World, came to earth. We’ve heard it all before. He laid aside his glory and came as an infant. But for those of us not generally around infants, it’s all too easy to forget what that means.

Jack is utterly helpless. Utterly dependent on the adults around him. He eats, sleeps, and poops. He makes the most wonderful array of faces, but in the end, he’s awake or asleep. He controls nothing. He lights nothing. He lacks power, authority, or gravitas. Yet when Jesus was born, many recognized this infant as Messiah, or at least as someone very special. The wise men recognized a king. The shepherds recognized the savior, Christ (Messiah, anointed one) the Lord. Hefty titles for one who undoubtedly weighed under 10 pounds.

I am once again in awe that the Lord and king of the universe would come like our little Jack. That he would entrust himself, his life, to very young, first time parents in a primitive part of the world. That would whimper, cry, and expect to have his needs met. The God-man, making his debut as an infant. That’s Christmas.

May yours be blessed.

Waiting for Wonder

Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God's Timeline by Marlo Schalesky

Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timeline by Marlo Schalesky

Full disclosure: Marlo Schalesky is not only a friend, but also one of my favorite fiction authors. She and I attended the same seminary, although not at the same time. I’ve know her for many years and have watched her live out an amazing Christian life. But I must say, Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timeline is a giant leap forward in her writing. In this book, Marlo has combined her remarkable fiction skills with her academic prowess – a Master of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary. That may sound like an odd combination – and it is. But Marlo pulls it off with aplomb. The result is an engaging read, peppered with historical and theological facts. And then she tops it all off with personal application and challenging questions.

Waiting for Wonder: Learning to Live on God’s Timelineis the story of Sarah. I’ve heard many sermons and read a few books on Abraham, but few on Sarah. Who was she? What was her world like, and how did she navigate it? How did she respond to being essentially a pawn in Abraham’s drama? How did she manage the twenty-five year wait between the promise and the fulfillment?  And so what? Why do I care?

A Compelling and Scholarly Saga

Marlo weaves a compelling saga, laced with insights from scholarly authorities. Her theme is, of course, waiting – and finding God in the wait. Imagine being infertile and then in your old age, being promised a son. A son from your womb! Imagine the roller coaster of emotion as month follows month, year follows year with no son. Imagine the frustration of being a woman in that culture, a woman whose husband leaves home, family, and a good life behind and becomes a nomad to chase a promise from his God. His invisible God, by the way. Did Abram really hear God? Is this invisible God really able to pull off his promise? If so, what is taking so long?

Admit it. Sarah’s story is all too often our story. Sarah’s wait reflects our seemingly endless wait. Sarah’s flimsy faith and attempts to help God out – well, yeah…..

This book is well worth the read. It’s an excellent devotional and would also be a meaningful book for a small group.

Marlo Schalesky’s ‘Waiting for Wonder’ Giveaway (12/6-1/23)

Waiting for Wonder Marlo Schalesky

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Being Cultivated or Pursuing?

Thanksgiving Blessings

I’ve been quiet for far too long (more about that soon), but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to wish all of you a blessed Thanksgiving. I’ve come to realize that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love autumn in California. I love the fellowship. I love the food. And I love the reminders to be thankful, both historically and present tense.  Yep, I love Thanksgiving.

I'm thankful for Jesus -- the Light of the World

I’m thankful for Jesus — the Light of the World                                                                           Photo Credit: Chris Potako

We have so much to be thankful for in this nation. We’ve just experienced, or are experiencing, one of the greatest of these – the peaceful transition of government. Sure, it’s been a little rocky this year, but seriously, we still have so many freedoms that are unique both in today’s world and in history. And folks, we have these freedoms because of the blessings of God.

And we have a responsibility to pray for our government – whether we like the players or not. The reality is, some of us have not been happy with the present administration, and some of us will not be happy with the next administration. But if we are Christ-followers, that doesn’t relieve us of the obligation — yes, obligation – to pray for those in authority over us (Rom. 13:1, 1 Tim. 2:1-2) – whether we agree with them or not. It is the prayers of the Church, the prayers of the saints, that will give us a peaceable and quiet life. So may I encourage each of us to pause this Thanksgiving, and every day, to pray for our leaders – outgoing and incoming. To pray for peace in our land. To pray for the electoral process to proceed peaceably as it has for 228 years. To pray that the hidden forces of darkness be hindered. To pray that the Church will move into its God-ordained position in the country.

But most of all, may I encourage each of us to thank God for the privilege of living, here and now. To thank him for the many blessings, tangible and intangible, that we enjoy. To thank him for our nation and the freedoms we enjoy. To thank him — just because…

So friends, enjoy the turkey, the pie, the autumn leaves, and the fellowship. But while you are enjoying, remember to thank our heavenly Father for all of his many blessings.

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life

Jesus and the Beanstalk: Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life by Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Lori Stanley Roeleveld started with an intriguing idea: using the story of Jack and the Beanstalk as an outline for a book on overcoming our giants and living a fruitful life. After all, who doesn’t have giants threatening and sometimes even overcoming our lives? And after all, who doesn’t feel that the tools we have are indeed small, perhaps even worthless? And who hasn’t been surprised when Jesus takes our little tokens and turns them into a mighty beanstalk of power, capable of slaying giants? Now that’s a good story!

Roeleveld started with a great idea. Unfortunately, it fell flat for me.

There were so many directions she could have gone with the theme of “small” people overcoming huge giants. Sadly, she didn’t go to them. In the first two parts of the book, she loosely used the theme of Jack and the Beanstalk to characterize this very issue in the lives of believers. It was a fairly effective allegory. But she didn’t finish the story. She didn’t slay the giant. Then, leaving us longing to kill the giant, in Part 3, she switched over to the list of virtues from 2 Peter 1:5-8. Except she didn’t…

Each of these virtues constituted a chapter. But in exegeting the virtue, she wandered all over Scripture. I didn’t sense any glue holding each chapter together. I was never sure if she was in 2 Peter or somewhere else. And to make matters worse, she used a six-day devotional structure for each virtue but it wasn’t a consistent structure. Every week took a different approach. I know her intent was to switch things up and keep the reader interested. But it didn’t work for me.  I hadn’t realized how important a linear structure is to me until I read this book. I felt lost in the wilderness most of the time!

To her credit, the writing is excellent. Her ideas are good. I liked the “One Stone for your Sling” summary sentence at the end of each chapter. And I even liked her discussion questions at the end of each chapter, even though I couldn’t see using this book for a small group for the reasons mentioned above. Overall, it’s a fair read for someone who doesn’t need structure.

Thanks to Litfuse for offering me this book for review.

Hospital Duty: Dealing with Nurses (Part 5)

Nurses are the Backbone of Your Loved One's Care

Nurses are the Backbone of Your Loved One’s Care

The nurses serving your loved one can be you ally or enemy. They can work with you or keep you in the dark. It’s always my aim to work with them, to support them in any way I can, and to be as friendly and gracious as I can be. When I arrive I the morning, I check the white board in the room and find out who is staffing my loved one. There is always an RN and one or two other staff. These others vary by facility, but are always lower levels of licensing. In California, you will find Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs). As soon as possible, I make contact with each of these people and introduce myself if they don’t know me. I check on what’s happened through the night and any scheduled procedures for that day. I always try to be positive and upbeat. It will pay off when I need something.

Know Who does What in Your Hospital

It’s important to know who does what in your hospital. For example, only an RN can give medications, start an IV, or do certain other procedures like complex dressing changes. If you ask one of the other staff for this, all they can do is give the message to the nurse. Generally bed changes, grooming, and toileting are done by the other staff. Don’t ask the RN.

Show a Little Appreciation

Nurses these days are overworked and under-appreciated. Many work 12 hour shifts. They may or may not have time to review the patient’s full record, especially if things are changing quickly with the patient. This is where my notebook and I shine. I’m often the only person in the room who knows the what’s been done and what the history is. I assume that they know what they’re doing until I see something that concerns me. Then I’ll ask a question. Either, “what” or “why,” or if I’m sure something is not right, “Are you aware…?” The what’s and why’s educate me. For example, one nurse mentioned that my sister should not have an IV because the antibiotic she was on was hard on the veins. There were two IV nurses checking her arms for a good IV site. After a bit I said, “By the way, are you aware she’s on vancomycin?” They obviously hadn’t checked her chart. “Oh, that changes everything!” they said as they rushed out of the room to order a picc line. Incidents like this happened several times per hospitalization.

I always try to check out with the nurses when I’m ready to leave. And I always try you be upbeat and gracious. It usually pays off with both information and suggestions, and better care for the one who often doesn’t feel well enough or alert enough to be gracious. So work with your nurses. Be their asset, not a nuisance. You’ll be glad you did.

Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

Photo Credit: Christiana Care

Hospital Duty: Dealing With Doctors (Part 4)

Communicate with Your Doctor

Communicate with Your Doctors
Photo Credit: Yuya Tamai

My goal is to talk to every doctor on the case at least one a day. This isn’t as easy as it used to be. In the good old days, your primary care physician or your specialist was in charge of care. You knew her, had interacted with him, and knew where to find her. No more.

In the hospital system Sis and Mom are in, a hospitalist has primary responsibility for inpatients, with specialists being called in as needed. Hospitalists are hired by the hospital and provide the first level of care for all of the patients in the hospital. They usually work 12 or 24 hour shifts, so your loved one won’t have the same doctor throughout his or her stay. But the good news is that there is always a hospitalist available if your loved one needs attention at midnight.

If your hospital uses hospitalists, your job may be more complex. I’ve worked with some who have been fantastic and true advocated for my loved one. But I’ve also worked with those who have clearly missed a serious problem, those who don’t want to “waste” resources on an older or seriously ill patient, and those who were less than caring. I’ve had to fight hard to get a CT scan and once Mom was discharged with a clear blockage in her leg that required readmission the same day after I observed the problem and took her back. I asked for a different hospitalist for the readmission…

I’m often able to get the hospitalists to agree to come while I’m there since they are in the hospital all day, unlike a primary care physician making rounds at a specific time. Specialists, on the other hand, are coming from their practices and they come when they come. However, I would ask them to give me an estimated time or tell each one when I expected to be there and many have accommodated me. I keep a list of questions for each provider so I can use their time efficiently.

By being the constant voice for the patient, I find that most physicians not only work with me, but even appreciate my participation as long as I don’t try to do their jobs for them. Again, the patient is usually too sick to ask good questions or remember what’s said. They need an advocate who is tracking for them.

Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

 

 

The Power of Presence

The Power of Presence: A Love Story by Neil T. Anderson

The Power of Presence: A Love Story by Neil T. Anderson

Neil T. Anderson is well known in the Christian community for his ground-breaking books: The Bondage Breaker, Victory Over the Darkness, Freedom in Christ, and others. So I was intrigued when The Power of Presence: A Love Story was offered for review by Kregel. It was promoted as being a book about his care for his wife of 50 years, now gripped with agitated dementia.

My heart goes out to Dr. Anderson. He has served the community well, and is now serving his wife well. There are few things more draining than the dementia of a loved one, and he is devoting this part of his life to her. I wanted to hear more about that journey.

I’m not sure what I expected. Perhaps something like Henry Nouwen’s later writings as he moved from being a professor to serving in a facility for the physically and mentally handicapped. His books from these years speak to and offer hope to those who have been sidetracked by God. As a person who has been involved in family caregiving for over a decade and “looking forward” to many more years, I hoped that Anderson would have words of wisdom for the weary and confused. I hoped that he would bring alive the ministry of presence—both God’s and the caregiver’s.

I was disappointed. While he used his and Joanne’s shared story as a common thread, the bulk of the book was theological. And I had a hard time finding the unifying theme or purpose of the book. I didn’t gain better ideas of how to be a better caregiver, and I often couldn’t draw the connection between the story of Joanne and the theological ramblings. I’m sure if I had had my theological hat on, I would have found the book interesting. But I had my caregiver hat on, and the book was promoted as a “luminous meditation.” I wasn’t meditating and I wasn’t illuminated…

Hospital Duty: Keep a Notebook (Part 3)

Keep a Notebook

Keep a Notebook

One of the keys to my effectiveness as a patient advocate is the spiral notebook I maintain for each patient. This is simply a chronological record of everything I learn and questions I have. On the inside front cover, I list the names and telephone numbers of each physician. This was particularly important in my sister’s case where she saw at least a dozen docs—maybe more—over a period of a year and a half. I also keep track of the names of office staff I’ve talked to. They appreciate being called by name the next time I call back and I quickly learn who to talk to in each office to get what I need.

Each day I’m at the hospital I note the date and anything of importance that happens that day—tests, physician consults, med changes, allergies, answers to questions, problems, names of helpful staff, … anything. I also log telephone calls both during and between hospitalizations. I use highlighters and different colors of ink as needed to be able to find information quickly.

This binder has been invaluable over time. I’m often the only person in the room with an accessible record of care, especially over multiple hospitalizations. I can’t tell you how many times my notes have prevented duplicate tests or treatments or more important, treatment errors. This not only protects the patient, but also helps the staff do their job better. So as soon as you know you’re in for hospital duty, grab a notebook!

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here