Saturday, July 14, 2012


No one has died near me recently.  That's not necessarily what this post is about.

But, I'm coming more and more to realize that I think about death A LOT.  I find myself wondering if this is a natural thing, what with this "line of work" and all, or if I'm half a bubble off or something.

I've been around lots of death in my lifetime; people I knew and people I didn't.  I have seen it come quickly, and I've seen it lurk in the corners for a long time before actually happening.  I have seen old people die "well," and I've seen young people succumb to freak accidents. 

So...I think about death.  Now, no one freak out...I'm not planning my own or anything.  I like living and all that jazz.  I don't live in fear of death.  Death is just something that I ponder.

My cousin, Brian, is very sick with cancer.  He's not old.  I am not sure how old he is, but I don't think he's more than 40.  The surgeons and doctors have said that surgery is not an option anymore.  Brian has to decide if he wants to take chemotherapy to slow the progression or not.  From what I hear, he's handling his illness with humor and grace.  I don't know what's going on in his mind right now, as HE faces death.  I don't know what's going on in his siblings' minds as they face the fact that their brother is dying.  I don't know how his mom and dad are handling this turn of events. 

I just find myself wondering if THEY are thinking about death.

For better or worse, we live in a largely death-avoidant culture.  We don't want to think in these "morbid" ways, but instead live without thinking about how we will meet our "end."

Now, I'm not a "pie in the sky" theologian.  BUT, considering I AM a theologian, a pastor, and a teacher, I can't help but think about how embracing death helps us embrace life.  You know that old saying, "You don't know what you've got til it's gone."  Well, similarly, I think we sometimes miss what life is about when we don't realize that someday life, as we know it, will be over.  But, when this life is done, I don't think that's our end.

In seminary, we had a big discussion on "When you're dead, you're dead."  I had never heard that before I went to seminary, and it was a bit of a shock when I heard of it.  But, after much thinking, I think that's the way I go too...When you're dead, you're dead.  However, I also believe Jesus' words very much, "I am with you ALWAYS, even to the end of the age."  Not just OUR age, but THE age.  And I think that because of this promise, we don't have to fear death.  We are never alone.  Neither life nor death or things present or past or future, or any of that STUFF can separate us from the love of God.  And if we're never separated from the love of God, that means that we're never alone, never forgotten, and never without hope.  So, I think that when we're dead, we're dead, but God is still with us.  There is no place Christ has not been, and so Christ is with us everywhere, even in death.  There is still hope.  For Brian, for me, and for all.  So maybe it's not so much "Death" I think about...Maybe it's hope.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Just a Little Theory I Have

Today, I read an article written by a man whose mother has pretty severe dementia.  He was talking about long term care insurance, about the HUGE medical expense the aging population is facing, and about how Boomers (Baby Boomers) are seeing this in huge numbers.  This is not new information for me.

The first wave of Boomers turned 65 last year.  65 is typically the age when people start having "dementia" on their list of worries. The younger Boomers are also often a part of the "Sandwich Generation," where they are taking care of their own young children and their aging parents at the same time. 

So, since 65 is the age doctors start "looking" for signs of cognitive decline, it stands to reason that there WILL be a significant increase in Alzheimer's Disease, Vascular Dementia, and other dementias in the near future.  There are over 5 million people with Alzheimer's right now, and that number is set to almost triple by 2050.  That's A LOT of people.  And, it's A LOT of people who will have SEEN what dementia does to a person. 

I am often heard saying that the unknown is the hardest part (of virtually anything stressful in life).  But, I think, in the case of dementia, KNOWING what is to come might be worse.  These Boomers will have seen the physical, social, and financial effects dementia has on people, and they're not going to like facing it themselves (duh).

So, here's where my theory comes in...

I think that with the aging population, especially the aging of HUGE WAVES of people (Boomers), our country is going to start debating physician assisted suicide, HOTLY.  I think that with the impending epidemic on our hands, we're going to see a significant increase in suicides of people who do not want to go where their parents went.  And I think that various socializing institutions (schools, media, churches), along with politics will struggle mightily.  We're already seeing it a little (Accusations of President Obama's healthcare reform instituting "death panels"). 

So, the question becomes, "If this happens, what are we going to do about it?"  As a pastor, I wonder what our theological response will be.  Maybe that's a blog post for another day.  But, today, I find myself wondering about this theory.  We'll have to wait and see, and pray for a cure so that this epidemic doesn't happen!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Crazy dreams...

Last night, I had not one, but TWO crazy dreams. Well, actually they were more nightmare like than dream like. It's been a while since I've had dreams I really remember, but these two fit that bill.

The first dream had me at my congregation. I had failed to prepare a sermon, but had talked with a seminary mate about their sermon from the previous week. The topic was about sin, and I got a good idea from either Shannon or James, I can't remember which. So, in the dream/nightmare, I was reading the Gospel lesson, and then I took 8 bouncy balls (you know the kind-you put the quarter in the machine and turn the lever til the ball comes out) and bounced them into the congregation. I said something like, "Think of sin like this...The balls are sin. Even if they don't hit you, you still duck." Then, I started talking a little more, and I was looking at the bulletin insert. When I looked up, EVERYONE was gone except for three young girls. The funny thing is, only one of them actually goes to my church. It was strange, and one of those dreams that is just unpleasant. I have always had "inadequacy dreams," even when I worked food service. I used to have a recurring dream where I was SUPER DUPER late for work at Restaurant, and my boss always sent me home. So, I'm hoping this isn't going to be a recurring dream!

My second dream was actually WAY worse. I had a nightmare then. I don't remember the WHOLE thing, but here is what I do remember:

There was some kind of HUGE earthquake. It wasn't just limited to a city or state. The way that I was "thinking" in the dream was that this was a world-wide earthquake that seriously changed things...This was like an APOCALYPTIC earthquake. It knocked out roads and phone wires and cell towers and everything. I couldn't call my sisters and brothers and I had no way of finding out if they were still alive.

When the earthquake happened, I was up at one of the Bible camps, and we were having to help the campers stay safe, and get someplace where we could get them food and water and safety. I saw a seminary friend while we were up there and I said, "Is everyone in your family okay?" She got a sad look on her face and said everyone was fine except her dad, who died. I was so sad for my friend, and I think if I'd have woken up right then, I might have been crying, but instead, I kept dreaming.

Next, I saw a United Airlines sign, but the earthquake had broken it. But, either I was able to fly out, or my sisters were able to fly in. Suddenly, I was back at my childhood home, standing out in the yard. I was trying to find my sisters, but I couldn't move. So, I just started yelling my younger sister's name. She called out, "I'm here!" So, she came over to me and I said, "I'm so happy you're alive! Is everyone else okay?" She said everyone was fine except for Oldest Brother. His wife had wanted him to go under the stairs to pray during the earthquake, and they fell on top of him and killed him. Then, we were in my old living room, sitting on my mom's old couch, and the treasurer from my congregation was sitting there. Then, the dream ended, I think.

Dreams are weird. I have mentioned before that I've ALWAYS had very vivid dreams. Usually they're just weird, and not scary. But this second dream was very scary and I didn't like it. I don't feel particularly stressed right now, and I like my call (and I think they like me), so I don't really know what brought these dreams on. The subconscious is a very weird thing. Anyway, here's hoping tonight's dreams are better.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Well, I've decided to try to kick up my physical fitness regimen. I used to really like walking around SeminaryTown with some good friends. I like hiking and bike riding and playing on my Wii Fit Plus. BUT, now that I'm in North Dakota, it's a little LESS fun walking around (though I still walk most places I go when I'm in the town where my church is). I don't have a functioning bicycle anymore (much to my chagrin), and Wii Fit Plus, while fun, is not that great a workout when you're trying to lose weight and tone up. Oh, and pretty much everything around here is flat, so there aren't a whole lot of hiking opportunities (this probably makes me the most sad because I LOVE hiking).

So, I was up late one night (big surprise) and was watching some t.v. infomercials. The one that came on was about a fitness DVD set called "Insanity." The people on t.v. said that the program comes with the DVDS, nutrition guide, and calendar that tells you which workout to do on which day. The infomercial showed all these people with fantastic results and lots of pounds lost and amazing six pack abs. I was a little skeptical, but it got me thinking.

 A little while later, I saw another infomercial for Insanity. The guy who leads the work out is named Shaun T. My husband has Shaun T's "Hip Hop Abs" DVD workout. I tried doing that once, but since it is dance based, and because I am the most clumsy person you will EVER meet, I didn't like it. But, seeing the infomercial again just got me thinking EVEN MORE about it. So, I Facebooked Older Brother the Younger because he recently became a licensed fitness instructor. I asked him what he thought about these DVD workouts. He told me that they work really great if people don't get too discouraged or frustrated or injured. You have to STICK WITH THE WORKOUT, and because they're so intense, a lot of people drop it after a week or so.

THEN, I was on Facebook and two of my friends were talking about working out. I butted in on their conversation and asked if they were doing Insanity. They said they were, so I asked how it was working for them. They both said that it was going really well, even though they can't do it every day like you're supposed to, due to work or school related things. That finally clinched it for me; that there were actual people I ACTUALLY knew who had good things to say about the program. I decided to order the program, but off of Amazon, because I'm cheap.

I bought the DVD workout. It didn't come with the calendar or the nutrition guide, but I was able to download the calendar for free off the Internet, and I already have a pretty good grasp on nutrition. I was doing really well, but then I injured my leg a little and had to take a break for a couple weeks. Then, I got back into it, but was not doing it every day. But, that wasn't working for me because I need to make things a consistent habit. I just got done working out about an hour ago, after not having done it for three days, and WOW could I tell. So, I'm going to restart.

But, I HAVE noticed some physical changes. I feel really good (even though WHILE doing the workout I feel like I'm going to DIE). I'm not losing weight, per se, but the way that I look is changing. My cardiovascular health, I think, is improving, and I have more energy. I'm excited. I'm also looking forward to EVENTUALLY getting to month 2 (you do the same several workouts through month one, then in month 2, it ratchets up a bit. From what I've read, a lot of people see more drastic change in month 2). But, for now, it's basically back to Day 1. Here's hoping I can do this whole thing!

Anyway, if you're bored with your workouts and you want to sweat, sweat, SWEAT, I would recommend Insanity. I like cardio workouts, but self-directed ones are too boring for me. This is definitely NOT boring. It's a challenge, every SINGLE TIME. But, I like it! Also, those who have followed my blog might be happy to know that I waited until AFTER I got the results of the Echocardiogram to buy Insanity. I wasn't going to risk it. Oh yeah, and I recently decided to start seeing an endocrinologist again (it had been about...10 years since I last saw one and every general practitioner I've seen since has suggested I go back to see one.  I decided to finally follow their advice). During our time together, I mentioned the echo and the results and she said that could be because I am under-medicated with my thyroid meds. So, she bumped me up a little, and that is also helping me feel better. Good to know! That's what is on my mind right now, anyway. This was a really long post. A lot of times, I don't like reading long posts, so if you've stuck with this one til now, good for you! Have a great day.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I don't plan on dyin' anytime soon.

The results of the echocardiogram are in: Slight tricuspid and mitral valve insufficiency. Not enough to cause a whole lot of problems. Otherwise, the heart looks really good. The doc is thinking the chest weirdness was maybe something muscular or anxiety related (though I don't consider myself to be an anxious person. Maybe I am, and instead of manifesting outwardly, it goes inward. Who knows?) I'm supposed to monitor it and if I don't feel better, come back in for some more testing. No more action is needed at this point, and my activities are not restricted. I can get back to working out!


This is good news. I've been a little nervous about it, but not too much since the Echo tech didn't run screaming from the room, and because they didn't call me right away. I'm glad it doesn't seem to be anything serious. If you were praying or thinking of me, thank you.

I hope you all are having a fantastic Easter. He is risen, indeed! ALLELUIA!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adventures in Hypochondria

Well, friends. Today has been an interesting day. It all started last week...

I woke up with the flu or something on Friday morning; body aches, headache, chills, sore throat, and nausea. I'm pretty sure I had a fever, but not having a thermometer, I don't know. I took it easy Friday and Saturday, and thought that would be that.

So...Saturday night, I was lying in bed, when all of a sudden, my chest started to feel funny. It didn't hurt. It wasn't even really uncomfortable. It just felt...funny.

A couple more days went by, and the chest weirdness continued, and also spread to my back. So, with my family history of heart disease, I decided to call the doctor and get an appointment. I felt a little silly, what with not even being thirty years old, but I thought, "rather silly than dead."

I thought I would go in, talk with the doctor for a few minutes, and hear her say that I pulled a muscle or something. When I got there, I was talking with the doctor and I told her I felt silly for coming in, and she told me that it's not silly. That's one of the great things about my doctor: she doesn't treat me like a hypochondriac, even when I feel like one. It's not like I think I have every illness and problem out there. I don't think that at all. But, it seems like I've had a bunch of problems this past year or so.

So, she listened to my heart and asked me some general questions and all that good stuff. Then, she suggested that we have an EKG. I thought that I'd be heading over to the hospital, but she pulled out a hospital gown from the exam table and told me we'd be doing that in the office. So, she left and the nurse came in and did the EKG. When we were done, she told me to wait and the doc would be back in to talk about what she saw.

I waited. And then, she came back in, and I could tell by the look on her face that all wasn't well.

She sat down and said, "The EKG was abnormal. Basically, the line went down in places where the line should have gone up. I am ordering a Troponin blood test to see if you are having a heart attack, or if there is other acute damage happening right now. Sheri will be in to take you to the lab." I asked her what I needed to do after the blood test, and she said, "Come right back here. I'm not letting you leave my office until I see those results!" (She tried to keep it all light. She wasn't being an alarmist or anything, even if my writing makes it seem that way). She then told me that it might be a little while until the results came in, but that I needed to wait.

So, Sheri took me to the lab (Just a short walk down the hall. The doctors' offices are connected to a rehab hospital, and they share a lab). I got my blood drawn, and then I went back to the exam room and...waited...

I waited, watched out the window as the ambulance service came and took one of the rehab patients to the main hospital for a procedure (my congregant!), and waited some more. About half an hour later or so, the doctor came in and told me the good news that I DIDN'T have a heart attack or other acute damage, but that she would like me to have an echo-cardiogram next week so she can see the mechanics of how my heart is working so she can see what we're dealing with.

So, echo-cardiogram is scheduled for Wednesday at the main hospital. I'm hoping that this ends up being something stupid, but if you would like to offer some prayers, I'd appreciate it. I'm a little nervous about it; not overwhelmingly so, but enough. Doc said that if I feel worse before then that I should go to the hospital. Thankfully, for the most part, things are staying the same. Just weird feeling.

I guess I am glad that I was willing to look silly. The doctor asked me again about my family history; about when my parents started having heart problems. Since my dad had his first heart attack when he was 44, I think that sealed the deal for her to pursue this more. Plus, my total cholesterol isn't that great. She said since my HDL (good) cholesterol is great though, that she feels pretty okay about where I am at. Plus, I exercise, try to consume a lot of fiber, and try to avoid cholesterol, trans, and saturated fat.

The point, I suppose, aside from asking for your prayers, is to say that if you're having bizarre symptoms, RISK LOOKING SILLY. Now, this echo could come out benign, and if it does, I'll be happy, but it won't change that I'm grateful that I finally sucked it up and got an appointment. Our health is important. YOUR health is important. Be well, Friends.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Hard doesn't mean bad.

Here I am, about six months into this whole "being a pastor" thing. It's pretty amazing most days, for sure. I'm called 3/4 time at BLC, but I still keep really busy.

Some of the things I do as the pastor are that I develop confirmation lessons and then teach them; I write prayers and sermons; I visit people in the hospital and pray with them before and after surgery, and during illness; I attend council meetings and talk about what's been going on; I go to text study with other area religious leaders so we can "talk about what we're going to talk about;" I go to my youths' sports and musical events; I visit people in their homes or occasionally at the cafe or at their place of work; I visit people in nursing homes; and I lead worship at one of the memory care communities in Bismarck.

I am amazed at the ways people have let me into their lives, and I give thanks for community in Christ.

When I was in seminary, we talked about our "FOOI," which means,"Family of origin issues." We ALL have them, which isn't necessarily a BAD thing, but it IS important to be able to be aware of them and how they affect the ways we minister. Obviously, one of my FOOIs is that both my parents are dead. My dad has been dead since 1995, and while I still grieve his loss, it's a little less poignant by now. However, my mother has only been gone for not quite two years. She was sick for a LONG time with dementia, which was very hard to see.

So, what's the deal? Where are you going with this, Trish?

Well, here's the thing-I'm finding it to be difficult work to minister among the cognitively disabled people. At the memory care community, I give thanks that "my" person always knows me, but I also grieve that some of the other people I see repeatedly don't remember. They have no clue who I am, other than I am a pastor (they know because I wear my clerical shirt when I lead worship there). AND, it's hard to see their cognitive decline, too. I really like these people, see, and I don't like that I "know" what's coming for them, and I don't like that it's ACTUALLY happening (and isn't an abstract "someday" thing). Every time I leave there, I am sad. BUT, I also leave with gratitude that I can minister to them. These people are so amazing. They sing the song I pick with exuberance. When I say, "The Lord be with you" they reply, "And also with you!" When I start, "Our Father," they chime RIGHT in. When I move around the table to administer Holy Communion to them, they stick out their tongues so I can place the wine-soaked wafer in their mouths. And then they say "Thank you." Now, I know "Thank you" isn't a "proper liturgical response" but I can't help but be humbled that they think they have to thank ME for administering what Christ freely gives for them. I'm humbled that they let me come and preach and preside in their midst, and I'm humbled that they are so warm to me when I stick around to visit after worship.

So, when I leave, I pray a lot for them. And I find myself saying a lot of, "God bless these beloved people. God bless 'em!" It's hard work, ministering in a memory care community, but hard doesn't mean bad. The wounds I still nurse in reference to my mother are still pretty fresh, but I think she would be glad to know that I can go because of these two things: The Holy Spirit's work within me, and my love for her.

It's weird; you don't expect a horrible, dreadful, no-good, rotten, memory-stealing disease to have ANY good come out of it. Don't get me wrong, I would STILL punch dementia in the face if it were a person, but dealing with dementia up close and personal has helped shape me into someone who really cares about these beloved ones who are afflicted with dementing illnesses. I can listen to the man who says the same sentence over and over. I can nod at the person who speaks non-words. And I hardly flinch when the F-bomb drops out of a sweet old lady's mouth like she's saying "chicken pot pie." It's hard work, but it's not bad work.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This is me...Updating my blog...

Hello, Dear Readers (if there are any of you left!!!).

Something has been on my mind a lot lately, due to various circumstances in the lives of some of my friends (the joy of keeping track of people due to Facebook and other social media!). This thing on my mind is, "What happens to people when they die?"

I hear a lot of the sentiment that when someone we love dies, they become our "guardian angel." My intent here is not to be a gigantic jerk-wagon, but instead to look at this idea a little bit.

I do not believe that people die and become an angel who looks after their loved ones. Why? For several reasons. One of the reasons I don't think this is what happens is because angels are a horse of an altogether different color. We are HUMANS. Angels are ANGELS. In some places in the Bible, angels are described as having multiple sets of wings, though at other places, they are described as being human-looking. I don't know exactly what angels look like because to my knowledge, I've never seen one. The point is, though, that there IS a difference between humans and angels. They have a similar purpose, I think, and that is to give glory to God, but I think they do it in different ways. Anyway, that's a whole other post.

The main reason I think that we do not become angels when we die is because that would insinuate that human beings aren't "good enough" in God's eyes. Sure, we're not good enough in our own right, but because of CHRIST, we are made holy in God's sight. Jesus came to live among us as "Emmanuel," as "God with us." That means that God came as a human being in Jesus the Christ. That means that "regular old humans;" humans like you and me, are redeemable and worthy to God. God makes regular, sinful human beings into beloved children because of Jesus, who came, not as an angel, but as a human. And Jesus REMAINS as a human today. When he ascended into heaven, he remained human. Today, Jesus sits at the right hand of God as a HUMAN. This is an AMAZING thing. This is a humbling thing. This is a loving thing.

I don't mean to be a jerk and dash all the thoughts about "Grandpa being my guardian angel" or anything of the like. What I DO mean to say to you is that Christ is FOR you, even and especially as a human. You don't need to become "extra holy" by becoming an angel when you die. Christ redeems all things, including what we are as flesh and blood.

I figure that the people I've been thinking about when I wrote this won't be reading this blog post. But, I still wanted to think about this subject a little more, and get it out there. What do you think?