Friday, October 30, 2009

Swine Flu prevention tips

as a follow up to the last post....

Dr. Vinay Goyal is an MBBS,DRM,DNB (Intensivist and Thyroid specialist) having clinical experience of over 20 years. He has worked in institutions like Hinduja Hospital , Bombay Hospital , Saifee Hospital , Tata Memorial etc.. Presently, he is heading our Nuclear Medicine Department and Thyroid clinic at Riddhivinayak Cardiac and Critical Centre, Malad (W). The following message given by him, I feel makes a lot of sense and is important for all to know The only portals of entry are the nostrils and mouth/ throat. In a global epidemic of this nature, it's almost impossible to avoid coming into contact with H1N1 in spite of all precautions. Contact with H1N1 is not so much of a problem as proliferation is.

While you are still healthy and not showing any symptoms of H1N1 infection, in order to prevent proliferation, aggravation of symptoms and development of secondary infections, some very simple steps, not fully highlighted in most official communications, can be practiced (instead of focusing on how to stock N95 or Tamiflu):
1. Frequent hand-washing (well highlighted in all official communications).
2. "Hands-off-the-face" approach. Resist all temptations to touch any part of face (unless you want to eat, bathe or slap).
3. *Gargle twice a day with warm salt water (use Listerine if you don't trust salt). *H1N1 takes 2-3 days after initial infection in the throat/ nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. In a way,gargling with salt water has the same effect on a healthy individual that Tamiflu has on an infected one. Don't underestimate this simple, inexpensive and powerful preventative method.
4.. Similar to 3 above, *clean your nostrils at least once every day with warm salt water. *Not everybody may
be good at Jala Neti or Sutra Neti (very good Yogaasanas to clean nasal cavities), but *blowing the nose hard once a day and swabbing both nostrils with cotton buds dipped in warm salt water is very effective in bringing down viral population.*
5. *Boost your natural immunity with foods that are rich in Vitamin C (Amla and other citrus fruits). *If you have to supplement with Vitamin C tablets, make sure that it also has Zinc to boost absorption.
6. *Drink as much of warm liquids (tea, coffee, etc) as you can. *Drinking warm liquids has the same effect as
gargling, but in the reverse direction. They wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach
where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

Baptisms and swine flu

I was looking up worship ideas on the other day and came across this. It was new information to me and wasn't sure if others had heard. Having done 4 infant baptisms just a few weeks ago, it would have been good to know sooner....

Sign ups or selection?

Our charge conference is a little over a month away and we are working on filling committees and signing people up. But this year we are trying to do more than fill holes. We are trying to plug people into ministries. We want them to be active and to see ministry and service in the church as more than simply going to committee meetings, so we are trying a new tactic.

In 2 weeks we will hold a ministry fair. Each of our committees will be represented, as will each of our work areas. We are planning to entice people with food to visit each spot and learn more about the ministries and then sign up for where they'd like to serve. I've asked each ministry head to do a breakdown of how people can be in ministry (not just "sing in the choir" but also "sing a solo", "sing at the holidays" or "do special music when needed".) In other words, not all commitments need to be for a lifetime, or 3 years, or even a full year. Some people need to start slow. Others are super busy and really can't make another long-term commitment, but would be willing to help on occasion. So, we are trying to provide an outlet for people to sign up.

All of this really got started at a leadership training in the district. The only person who signed up to go with me was a 90 year old woman. Granted, she's wonderful and able, but it struck me that a 90 year old wanted to go. So, at one point in our discussion I asked her, "V, what prompted you to come today?" "Well, anything I can do to help the church I'll do it. I mean, I can do all kinds of things, but no one ever asks me, so I just keep my mouth shut." "Well, V, if that's all it takes..." "Well, what is there to do?" "Hmm....(V is already on a committee, so I couldn't suggest that type of service)..." I was dumbstruck. There are the homeless feedings we do at the shelter twice a month and Sunday morning breakfasts, but other than those opportunities, or Sunday school, which she already indicated she did not want to do, I didn't know what to say. I had to think for a bit and then offered some possibilities.

I was disappointed that it took so much thinking to think of an answer. It shouldn't be that hard. And if it's that hard for me as the pastor, I can only imagine how hard it would be for, I decided we would do something about it. And that's just what we are doing!

So we have lots of sign ups to do, and lots of opportunities to present, and then lots of follow up to do so we actually help people serve where they want to.

Now, here's the rub (potentially anyway). Some of my mentors suggest being very particular about who you nominate to serve on committees. They suggest being stragetic about where you put people for the first three years at a church so you can get people where you want them to really support you in ministry. I understand that logic to a degree, but it also feels manipulative. I may feel differently if I get burned with this open ended option, but for now I struggle to do that. It feels controlling. I feel like people should serve where they feel called, where they have an interest. And hopefully, that's what will result from this ministry fair.

I am a little concerned about who will end up on which committee, but I don't want to rule people out just because it might be difficult to work with them.

On the other hand, I've had the most amazing trustee and SPRC chairs--actually all my committee chairs rock, I've just had to work most closely with the two above. So, it's hard to imagine working with anyone else. My SPRC chair has been my primary confidant at the church, and it's hard to prepare myself to share so deeply with someone else. If we were selecting people, then I could figure out who I'd want in that position and put them there, in essence, I could insure a good fit. But that seems forced. So, for now, I will sit and wait for the sign-ups and see what we get.

Team Leadership (a.k.a. nominating) still gets some say, they will have to take the committee sign up sheets and finalize things and they may have to move people around. Finance needs 5 people and if we only have 3 sign up, we will have to find more. On the other hand SPRC may only need 3 and may get 5 sign ups, and not all can serve. So there will be at least some level of screening, just not as much deliberation as we have done in previous years. But, hopefully, also not as much teeth-pulling as in previous years...

Wish us luck!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nerve Damage

R recently had 4 screws removed from his foot. He had shattered it nearly 2 years ago and it has been a long process of surgeries, healing, more surgeries, chronic pain, healing, x-rays and more surgeries.

His last surgery was nearly a month ago and they removed the 4 screws that were there to help his foot heal straight. Since the initial break and surgery he has had no feeling in the outer 3 toes. Since the hardware was removed, he regained feeling. I regularly thank God for sensation he feels and get giddy when his foot twitches because I have tickled his toes. (He's not nearly as ecstatic that I insist on tickling him).

The renewed feeling is the good news (and the answer to prayer).

The bad news is now he gets pretty severe shooting pain from those toes. My theory is a nerve was pinched by the screws and that's why he lost feeling. Now that the screw is gone, the feeling is back. But, the nerve is also damaged from where the screw was hitting it. So, now the nerve needs to heal from that pressure/damage. I continue to pray about that healing for him and hope he won't have such pain for much longer.

But this post isn't really about that. I mean, it is and it isn't. This post is really about the theological parallel I drew from that.

I wonder if it's not similar in our own lives. We sustain a major injury (call it trauma, crisis, abuse...) and in trying to heal the injury, something (that is meant to help) pinches a nerve. We become numb. Obviously being numb isn't what we want, but we endure because that *something* is meant to help. Finally that *something* has served it's purpose and is taken away. Lo and behold, when it does, we regain feeling. We are no longer numb, which is a blessing, an answer to prayer. But we are left with the nerve damage. We endure shocking moments of extreme pain and sometimes wonder if staying numb wasn't the way to go. Ideally, the nerve will heal and the shooting pains will stop and we can regain a sense of normal, but the healing remains to be seen and the pain must be endured.

There are times in our life when we will suffer a major injury and in trying to recover, we may sustain nerve damage. Hopefully, our injury will heal and the hardware can be removed, and we will no longer be numb. Prayerfully, the moments of breath-stealing pain will end and we can move on. Hopefully. But I'm afraid that sometimes the nerve damage will be so severe that the shooting pains will never fully end. We may have to suck in our breath for those few short moments and wait faithfully for relief. And though we continue to suffer, we can be reminded that our primary injury has healed, that we are no longer numb, but able to feel, and, though severe, those moments of pain are only moments and they will fade as quickly as they came.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Last week I started to get sick. It's not surprising, really. I mean, it is the middle of October, Stewardship campaign is fully underway, charge conference is just around the bend, we had a MAJOR fundraiser on Sunday, etc, etc, etc. All of which is to say I have been working a lot of overtime and the weather is temperamental, all of which contributes to a good time of sick.

I was whiny and miserable on Thursday. Friday I laid low and generally did a whole lot of nothing. Saturday and Sunday I went full boar because there was no other option with our major fundraiser happening Sunday night. Monday I went to Bible study and then went home for the majority of the rest of the day. Tuesday, I did staff meeting and came home and by the time I was done Tuesday my voice was totally gone.

This morning wasn't any better. In fact, it was worse. No voice. I can eek out some stuff to talk if I have to, but it's painful. It actually hurts to talk.

I realize this happens to lots of people all the time, but it has never happened to me. Even in my years of yelling as a cheerleader, I never lost my voice. I got a little hoarse on occasion, but never lost my voice.

And, to be honest, as someone who speaks as a big part of her profession, it's kinda scary.

I am fairly certain this will be short lived and I will be back to talking like normal. But I also have to admit that there is a part of me that is scared out of her wits that I might never get my voice back. I realize that's not rational thought, really I do, but I can't help but go there.

I mean really, what if I never get my voice back? That would ruin my life as a preacher. What would I do then? What would I do if I couldn't be a preacher? That's my life. That's my identity. That's what I know and love and I don't want to do anything besides be a preacher. And then there's the part of what would I do? I'm bilingual and I've always figured I could rely on that for another job if I needed's marketable...unless you can't speak, then it's kind of worthless...unless I work as a translator of written works (which I've done on occasion).

I try not to dwell in delusional paranoia too long, and really do trust that my voice will return. But it has made me take a step back and think about what my other options would be if for some reason I could not be a pastor. It's weird to even imagine rebuilding my life around anything other than ministry. Impossibly hard actually.

I suppose it's one of those times where you don't realize how much you need/want/appreciate something until it's gone. If I'm honest I totally undervalue my voice. I have little appreciation for all that I am able to do through spoken word. I preach. I teach. I counsel. I bring comfort. I pray. I lead meetings. I give vision. I advocate for others. I share ideas. I give instructions. The list goes on and on.

And it's not that I have to be talking all the time either. I'm good with silence. It doesn't bother me a bit to be in silence. I don't get squeamish or anxious. But I guess all of that is because I know I could communicate if I wanted to. I always trust there will be a return to talking, so why panic? Just enjoy the quiet.

But's creepy and frustrating not being able to talk. I can't return phone calls. I can't teach. I can't check on people who have been in the hospital. I can't lead a meeting. I can't even call outside to let R know it's time for lunch. Nothing.

I suppose, for now, I need to appreciate the silence (I need to let my voice rest and find peace in not having to speak all the time). I also need to appreciate all that my voice does allow me to do so I can be even more grateful when it returns. Berta reminded me, if I don't regain my voice, I can follow the wise words of Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary, use words."

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In re: Monday's comment

So, I've thought a lot about the comment made about this post. I understand the rationale behind his comments and can get on board with that, however, I also think it's somewhat myopic in the sense that there are 1000s of ways to do liturgy--from various denominations in different styles and languages and cultures.

In support of his argument, I like that I can go to any United Methodist Church and be familiar with the liturgy. Even when the liturgy is done in a foreign language, I can still follow along because I know the rhythms of the liturgy. For that reason, I do still use the communion and baptism liturgies regularly in worship (we are using the traditional UM communion liturgy from the hymnal every other month and I used the traditional baptism liturgy at the last baptism we did).

However, I have also found God through the diversity of liturgy in seminary and in churches around the world. From simple to complex, wordy to brief, I have been able to see and understand the significance of worship (including the sacraments) in many ways. Because of that, I like to offer a diversity of experience to my congregation(s). I want them to feel comfortable in UMCs. I also want them to feel comfortable in other churches, regardless of denomination or style.

Worship is dynamic and living. It is not a prescribed formula, worship is what the church (meaning the people) make it. Creativity and imagination draw us into worship. And while the staples of liturgy help us to find the familiar and comfortable voice of God, the creative and new elements help us to encounter the dynamic and challenging face of God.

I am a United Methodist pastor and I will teach the history of the church and help my congregation(s) to learn the ways of the church. I am also a creative worship leader and will continue to bring in new experiences and offer the unexpected in hopes that we can be a flexible and open congregation rather than a stagnant and rigid institution.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Baptism Liturgy

I have to admit that sometimes (ok, maybe often) I find the liturgies in the hymnal to be distant and complicated. People get so lost in trying to follow along that they often lose the meaning of what they are saying and answering. I find this to be less true of communion, but that's in part because I've said/done/used it so many times that it's no longer complicated.

Anyway, because of my frustrations, I have rewritten the baptism liturgy. It's not super simple, but it seems clearer and less worked for my church anyway....we got to baptize 4 kids on Sunday!!

Baptism is a time when we acknowledge the redemptive work God does in our lives. It is a symbolic act for the cleansing and purifying work God is doing within us. In Methodist terms, it is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace. In other words, God acts invisibly within us offering forgiveness, new life, and salvation and we use baptism to mark that work.

For infants and children, at the time of baptism, parents confess their faith and make a covenant with God to help their children grow in Christian discipleship. Today, we will be welcoming four children into the body of Christ and the Wesley family. To each of the parents, I ask:

· Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil power of this world, and repent of your sin?

· Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?

· Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?

· Will you nurture these children in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example they may be guided to accept God’s grace for themselves, to profess their faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?

Each of you are here today because you are a part of the community of faith. As Christians, we participate in community. We are connected to one another. And even though we baptize an individual, we don’t do it in isolation because each of us needs help, support, encouragement, and accountability in our faith walk and that comes from our Christian brothers and sisters. Today, these parents confessed their faith and their commitment to their children and each of us will commit to share our faith with them and their children.

So, to all of you, I ask:

· Will you be faithful to Christ and to the Holy Scriptures in study and in practice?

· Will you live the greatest commandment: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself?

· Will you humbly give to others sharing the blessings you have received?

· Will you uplift one another in faith and in love?

· Will you nurture, care for, and teach these children in the ways of Christian discipleship?

Water is a powerful symbol. It represents purification and being clean. It is with water we wash our hands and bodies, washing away any impurities. And symbolically at baptism, water purifies our souls—it represents the way God washes us of all impurities.

Water also offers life. It is composes 80% of our bodies and without it, we die. It also surrounds us in the womb, protecting us and nurturing us as we grow. Water represents both new life and our life source. The water in baptism also represents the new life God gives us spiritually, and the source of our continued life in Christ.

Water has been powerful throughout the ages. When nothing existed but chaos, God swept across the dark waters and brought forth light. In the days of Noah, God saved those on the ark through water. When God set the Israelites free from Egypt, it was water which protected them from Pharaoh’s army. It was in water of the Jordan River that Jesus was baptized. And it is today, with water, that we baptize these beloved children.

Precious God, pour out your Holy Spirit and by this gift of water and use it to wash these children and make them new in Christ Jesus. For you have washed away our sins, and you clothe us with righteousness throughout our lives, that dying and rising with Christ we may share in his final victory.

What name is given to this child?

[NAME] I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And now I anoint you with the sign of the cross. May all who see you see the light and love of Jesus Christ in all that you do and may the cross be an eternal reminder that you are a child of God.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wellness Fund

Last week I got to take a few days and enjoy time at Clergy Convocation. The theme for the week was "Made Well" with various speakers and workshops on taking time to be well in life and ministry. As I was there, I craved a massage. But my personal budget didn't allow for it and I couldn't justify using my professional reimbursable account for it, so I passed.

As I've been back and been thinking about many of the things that help give rise to wellness (exercise, counseling, quiet time, massage, acupuncture, doctors) I've also been thinking about how much money each of them costs. Pastors aren't really known for their wellness practices (which I think we should be) and many of us are even known for not going to the doctor/dentist/etc for a variety of reasons, which sometimes even includes cost.

So, I think we should add a wellness fund to the Pastor's salary. The money could be used for doctor's visits, gym memberships, counseling fees, yoga, massage, acupuncture, or even a night or two away at a retreat center.

Maybe this sounds indulgent. Maybe you think a pastor should be able to budget these items in for themselves. But I don't think so, well, not necessarily anyway. I definitely don't think it's indulgent. I think doctor's visits and counseling are necessities and paying on the front side (think preventative care) will save us a lot on the back side (major illness--physical or mental). I also think that yoga, massage, exercise, and acupuncture do great things for your body and if your body is out of whack, well....everything else often follows.

Thinking practically about this wellness fund, if there were objections from within the church I even think you could say the wellness fund would reimburse half of your costs. (Our conference Orders will reimburse half of counseling fees up to $500 for the year....) so the church could cover the other costs. You might argue that the church pays health insurance, but if the church is paying an HMO (or even a PPO) and you have uncovered procedures, then you're left without a whole lot of wiggle room in your budget.

In the UMC, this is the season for salary evaluations and budget proposals, and I think it's worth considering.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dr. Deb

For about .4 seconds in my life I wanted to be a doctor. Technically, it was longer than that. I started my second year of college thinking I should pursue pre-med. Then I went to Chemistry class. I sat there for the entire 50 minutes thinking, “I really don’t care about this.” It wasn’t the math, I could do the work; I just didn’t care. I went back to the second class and spent that entire class thinking the same thing, “I really couldn’t care less about this.” And decided to drop the class. The end goal (Dr.) was not worth being miserable all the way until I got there. So I switched and ended up with Sociology as my major—a much better choice.

Despite that, there are days I feel like I should have gone into medicine…mostly because I see a need to help people identify health problems. Knowing symptoms and treatments and issues is extremely helpful in working with people. Knowing that dementia-like symptoms are part of a urinary tract infection (UTI) for older adults is helpful. Knowing how a TIA manifests, or what treatments are necessary for angina, arrhythmia, and pneumonia is extremely useful. I am not a medical professional and I remind people of that all the time. Nevertheless, I find that when counseling in a hospital setting I need to explain or elaborate on what a doctor has said and medical knowledge is helpful.

I know there is much debate around CPE and whether or not it should be required of incoming pastors and I tend to fall on the side of mandatory. I had an amazing CPE experience, so that obviously influences my perspective, but in addition to that, there is so much to be learned in a hospital. Learning about medical procedures and symptoms is helpful. It’s nice to know what someone experiences when they have celulitis, or have to be intubated, or have diverticulitis. It’s nice not to be ignorant and asking a million questions but instead offering understanding and awareness for what they are going through.

I often wish I were a doctor, not for the notoriety or to have the title, but so I could have the wisdom and knowledge to help people get the help they need and to walk them through the expectations of surgery, recovery, and therapy.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

On Life and Death

One of my parishioners has been fighting cancer for years. At this point he is no longer receiving chemo, the tumor is growing, and he has been given only months to live. The other day he made an appointment and asked to talk. After awhile of (relatively) idle chatter he asked me, “Is there anything I need to do?”
Umm…in terms of…?
“Before I die.”
Only you can determine that.
“What do you mean?”
I mean, only you can determine what you want to do, what your priorities are.
“I mean, how do I die well?”
Well, I think that dying well is mostly about living well.
“What do you mean?”
I mean that the dying part is pretty simple, we can’t control it…whether we have one day, or ten years, but what we can control is how well we live. To die well is to live well.
“I’m not sure I understand.”
I took a death and dying class in college, and we read a couple of books, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ and ‘The Death of Ivan Illych.’ Have you read Tuesdays with Morrie?
“No. But I think I’ve heard of it.”
Well, Tuesdays with Morrie is about a student and a professor that reunite years later. The professor, Morrie, has Lou Geirig’s and the student, Mitch, learns about it and starts visiting, and goes to see Morrie every Tuesday until he dies. Morrie embraces life and spends time with people, he works on living well as he nears death. The other book is “The Death of Ivan Illych” and he is sick and dying and won’t let anyone in to visit. He closes himself off and focuses on dying. He basically stops living as he nears death. So, dying well is really about living well.

Our conversation continued to talk about how well I think he lives. How fully he embraces life and does the things he loves. I also talked about how (if it’s known) in the last few days of life there are things he/we can do to help make him comfortable and help usher him into the next life in peace surrounded by love.

I don’t think any of us wants to die, nevertheless it can be easy to be consumed with thoughts of death (out of fear or out of depression), but dying well isn’t really about death at all, it’s about life and how fully we choose to live with however many days we are granted.

Here’s to life D.R.!