Friday, January 29, 2016

Sabbath Coffee Tour: Fireroast Cafe (Minneapolis)

For my latest stop on the Sabbath Coffee Tour, I visited Fireroast Cafe in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis (38th Street and 37th Avenue).  This neighborhood shop serves beans from UP Coffee Roasters, who roast in Minneapolis.

I ordered a Miel, because I was in the mood for something warm and sweet.  I prefer this espresso based drink because it is made with honey instead of a flavoring shot. My drink was delicious, not too sweet, not at all bitter.

I was warmly greeted by the barista who offered information about the menu.  He made my drink and brought it out to my table, which is an excellent touch of hospitality. There is a bar across the front window, plenty of tables in two different spaces, and even some booth seating.  I did not notice any outlets from where I was sitting, but I wasn't looking too hard since my computer was fully charged.  There is free wifi, and the password is available on the menu board. There is plenty of on-street parking, as this is a mostly quiet area.

There is a large food menu available, including ice cream! I was at this coffee shop around lunchtime, and lots of people were ordering sandwiches and soup. There are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options available.

I was very impressed with my miel and with the warm hospitality of this coffee shop.  It seems to be a bit loud for working, but a great place for conversation and community.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vigil with the Word: Year C, Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

A.Kumm-Hanson, Boulder, CO 2010. 
My Vigil with the Word this week focuses on the Epistle on the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany in Year C.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

This passage is easily recognizable. It is frequently read at weddings, a day where we publicly profess love and commitment to one another. Love is patient and love is kind…sometimes.  But even the most perfect human love comes with impatience and selfishness and carelessness, because that is what it means to be human. This chapter is not an admonition to “love better.” 

As I have mentioned before in this blog, I am witness to extraordinary examples of love.  I see spouses who eat meals everyday together in memory care units, the husband tenderly caring for his wife, who has not recognized him in years.  I witness adult children caring for their parents in love, bathing and washing and changing them. I witness parents loving their dying children until the end, even as every fiber of their being screams “This is not how it is supposed to be!”

But I also see people who don’t have families to love them.  Who are tucked into care centers and adult group homes or in the hospital alone.  We refer to them as “unaccompanied patients” or “un-befriended patients.”  This burden of sadness threatens to swallow me some days as seeing lonely people suffer is the most difficult part of my job.  It is because of this that I refuse to accept that this passage is only about romantic love or familial love.  This chapter from 1 Corinthians is further illuminated if we look at what comes before it and after it. 

Immediately before the passage, we hear Paul’s exhortation that the church is one body, with many members and that each has spiritual gifts to offer to the greater body. After, Paul returns to this topic about how gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues can benefit the church. He says nothing about spouses loving each other or parents loving their children. It is about being in community and loving one another because we are first loved by a God who walks among us.

I know God walks in nursing homes and ICUs and in homes with hospital beds and oxygen tubing snaking about. Because God’s love shows up in tender nursing assistants and priests who offer communion and comfort to people they’ve never met because a strange chaplain (that’s me!) asked them to do so and in recreation therapists who design activities to stimulate slipping minds and in housekeepers who pause their cleaning to chat with those in the bed.

We are the body of Christ.  We are called to love those who are forgotten.  Not just the sick, but the imprisoned, the refugee, those who are homeless, those who are bound in addiction, and the most unlovable. Because we are made from love and with love. Because love came down and walks among us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sabbath Coffee Tour: Canteen (Minneapolis)

For today's stop on the sabbath coffee tour, I visited Canteen in  the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. This neighborhood coffee bar serves coffees from Kickapoo, based in Wisconsin.  

I had a pour-over made with the Colombia origin roast from the Fondo Paez cooperative.  This roast is medium and is a bit tart and sweet, like a cherry.  I had my coffee with a little bit of  cream. No sugar necessary.

Canteen is set on a residential street corner, with a small parking lot in the back.  There are plenty of tables and a coffee bar. On weekends there is a toast bar, with lots of homemade nut butters and jams, made by the owner Liz.

I visited on a weekday morning, and the space was pleasant and quiet for working. There is free wi-fi and there are plenty of outlets.  In addition to toast, there is a menu of smaller pastries and yogurts available. The decor is an old camp style, with wood and pine accents, and there are picnic tables outside.

The owner, Liz, warmly welcomed me into the shop and answered all of my questions about their roasts. This is clearly a neighborhood coffee shop, as Liz knows all of her customers names.

I really enjoyed this stop on my coffee tour.  What a wonderful day to spend a snowy morning!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Vigil with the Word: Year C, Third Sunday after Epiphany

The texts for the third sunday after Epiphany are:

Luke 4:14-21
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
Psalm 19

My commentary for this week focuses on the Gospel and the Epistle.

Luke 4:14-31
 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
   because he has anointed me
     to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
   and recovery of sight to the blind,
     to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

Jesus is proclaiming what he is called to do…”bring good news to the poor”, “proclaim release to the captives”, “recovery of sight”, “let the oppressed go free” and finally,
an allusion to the Hebraic concept of the Year of Jubilee, which would free slaves and cancel debts. This seems like it would be good news.  Jesus says, “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” which could also be interpreted as, “I am the one who is here to do these things.”

And yet, the part of this story that is not included in the lectionary is the part where people in Jesus’ hometown are “filled with rage” (verse 28) and “led him to the brow of the hill…so that they might hurl him off the cliff.” (verse 29)  What is so controversial about these words?  What could possibly be bad about freeing those in captivity and oppression? 

I think the friction lies in what we would want and what God wants for us.  We would like to grasp firmly onto any semblance of control of our own lives and destiny.  And we really do not have that much control at all.  I am reminded of this on a regular basis by trauma and illness and death.  We do not want a God, no matter how merciful, setting us free from anything, because that means that we are ultimately not in charge of determining our own destiny.  The promise of freedom from captivity and oppression, even if we are our own jailers, means acknowledging that we do not control everything. With that comes fear.

I meet a surprising number of families who do not want the word “hospice” mentioned to their loved one who has a terminal diagnosis. That if by controlling the mention of that word, they might hold at bay what is coming as a result of aging or illness. I met a patient recently from a family who has chosen not to use the word hospice who asked me, “Am I dying?”  And I asked her, “What do you think?”  She responded, “I think I am. God told me not to be afraid.  Soon I’ll be free from this old body. That sounds nice.”    But this patient could not talk about her joy because of her family’s fear of her death. Fear is a powerful oppressor.  What joy might we find if we approach the dying process as a year of Jubilee?  It is a time of being freed from bondage of ill health and a clearing of sight to see what matters and ultimately, letting the oppressed go free from broken bodies.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member, but of many.”

We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. But it also takes a village to help one person leave this world in peace. Whether at home, with relatives attending to basic physical needs and providing comfort, or in a nursing facility or hospital with a rotating group of nurses, aides, housekeepers, social workers, chaplains, and others providing care and comfort, someone nearing the end of their life needs a village.  We belong to each other. 

“There are many members, yet one body.” 

I recently was blessed to witness an extraordinary example of community and belonging.  A patient who has lived over a century, was admitted to hospice care. This patient far out-lived her friends and even distant relatives. Her primary caretaker is a neighbor who cares tenderly for her and brings her soup and cries beautiful tears of love for her. We truly belong to each other.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”

To be part of the Body of Christ, it costs us something.  It costs us our hard shells of self-reliance and opens up our mushy insides so that we are open to feeling the pain of others. I think the greatest gift of being human is being in relationship with others.

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

Monday, January 11, 2016

Vigil with the Word: Year C, Second Sunday after Epiphany

The texts for the Second Sunday after Epiphany are:

John 2:1-11
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 36:5-10

My commentary on these texts focuses on the Psalm and on the Epistle.

John 2:1-11

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

This is the first miracle attributed to Jesus in John’s Gospel. I think a lot about miracles. Patients ask me to pray for miracles.  Sometimes I bear witness to miracles. But a lot of the time, I bear witness to unfulfilled prayers for miracles. And sometimes, I wish I could order up a miracle.

I care for pediatric patients in one of the hospitals where I work.  I got to know a patient who will likely not make it into the double digits. It seems so miraculously unfair. This vibrant soul, who is precocious and hilarious and gentle, needs a miracle. But this little patient will most likely not see a miracle.

And this hurts. I wish I could order up a miracle like Jesus ordered up wine for this wedding. There’s very little comfort in saying, “God is with you.” I wrestle with faith and what God is up to in so much pain. But in all my frantic grasping, one of the few things I can hold onto is, “God does stuff.”  God makes something out of nothing. I don’t know how it works, but God does stuff. In the form of water into wine and in the form of joy in ICUs, despite all evidence to the contrary.  God does stuff.

1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says ‘Let Jesus be cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.
 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

I spend a lot of time working with patients experiencing cognitive decline.  Who flicker in and out of awareness.  Whose spirits are still whole, but whose minds are fragmented into memories of now, then, and never.

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

Every once in awhile, I see a flicker of vibrant spirit and of the beautiful soul that exists behind the wall of the dementia. The gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit that are still there. I visited a patient recently who was a pianist. Who was in the grip of dementia, frantically pacing the halls searching for the world, and would sit down at the piano and play a perfectly executed minuet or sonata in between laps. The river of music trickling down the hall of the memory care unit, bringing beauty into such a dark place.

All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.

Our elders with dementia, tucked away in euphemistically named “gardens” and “villas” and “neighborhoods” for their own protection and the protection of our sensibilities, have abundant gifts of the Spirit.  The mystery of what the Holy Spirit is up to never ceases to amaze me. And sometimes inspires me to sit down at the piano and play a minuet myself.

Psalm 36:5-10
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. 
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
 your judgments are like the great deep;
   you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your salvation to the upright of heart!

I get the honor of seeing steadfast love in action all the time.  Of adult children who care for their aging parents in living rooms. Of nurses and aides who wipe foreheads and offer water tenderly. Of elderly parents who sit at the bedsides of their middle aged children. Of people who show up day after day in love.

Human love is imperfect, but it is beautiful. And I think it is God’s steadfast love that helps us love one another. This psalm is one of praise, but I think it is also one of pleading with God to continue to show up. Of begging in the dark of night, “Continue your steadfast love!” Because caretaking is love all jumbled up with pain.

A son asks me, “Does it mean I love him less if I resent him sometimes?”

A daughter weeps, “I wish sometimes she would just die in her sleep, and then I don’t have to worry about her anymore.”

In your light we see light. All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

I pray a lot for deep peace and rest. For families and patients to know the deep comfort that can only be found in the divine, because comfort on this side of heaven can be so fleeting. 

Lord, shelter your beloved under your wings. Help them take refuge from the burden of loving.  Love them steadfastly.