A-Croc-Alypse Now, Apocalyptics, Prayer

Prayers for the A-Croc-Alypse

See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:1-2a, NRSV)

Okay, God. 

Let's talk.

I've been avoiding some things, sticking to careful mentions of the names of people I love, or people I worry about or find challenging, but not so many of the latter these days, for fear of the rabbit hole I might find myself down if I mention the truly challenging.

Even if they are the people who need you most.

But I've been avoiding telling you that people who are mean tire me out and make me wonder what the world is coming to, and even though in happier personal times I have assured others that on the whole people have always worried that the world they love is coming to an end, soon, I am the one carrying that feeling right now.

I'm trying to bring you prayers more articulate than "Help!"

But I hate to be one of the people praying "How long, O Lord? How long?"

I hate it.

I want to be one of the people praying, "Thank you."

Right now there are certainly things to thank you for, and I've tried to focus on them, I really have. You know that.

And even though Malachi speaks of a bad end for the arrogant and the evildoers, my prayer is not that vengeful. I really would like it to turn out well for all concerned.

But I also need to say "No, thank you," to some of the events of my life.

I hope you can understand, and can hear my "No, thank you," in the spirit in which I offer it.

(I hope you can accept a moment of silence here as part of our conversation.)

Okay.

Meanwhile, today I want to thank you for people who keep reaching out to me, ever-so-kindly, and especially for L, who sent me this card, designed by a special person in her life, as a gesture of encouragement that I received thankfully. 

Leah's card "

"The power to lift up is stronger than all that holds us down." I believe that is your power. I'm depending on it. There's no dancing bird in this drawing, but I feel connected to that little turtle, somehow.

And I don't know if this counts as revering, but thanks for listening.

Songbird

A-Croc-Alypse Now, Call, Chez Songbird, If I Were Preaching, Interim Ministry, Ministry of the Meantime, Preaching

Saturday Night Thoughts

  • Communion WafersIt's hard to know what to do on Saturdays when I'm not preaching.
  • I wonder where I will end up next?
  • When I hear young people singing beautifully, as I did at LP's District Honors Chorus Festival today, I feel hopeful for the world.
  • When I come home and read news about the Tea Party Convention, I don't.
  • Really, it's hard to figure out how to structure my week when I'm not preaching.
  • I fear I sound whiny, which is not nice to some of my pastor friends who are between engagements, so to speak.
  • Leaving is an inevitable part of life, but in Interim Ministry, it comes with alarming regularity. 
  • Maybe I ought to be less mopey and watch TV with LP instead.
  • We have that "What Not to Wear" with the Episcopal priest on our DVR.
  • Next week I'll try to find a writing rhythm, but at the moment it feels pretty pointless because…
  • it's not for preaching or the associated preparation.
  • And maybe I need a writing project.
  • But I don't know what that would be.
  • Except I did suggest to Pure Luck that maybe someone might be interested in the story of a pastor married to an atheist, and he said sure, and I said we could write it together, and he suggested I could interview him, which is to say, do the work myself.
  • Lastly, in response to the ways we have tried to accommodate various worries about Communion (germs, gluten, etc.), LP suggests it's getting to the point we will be handing people a plastic wafer to hold, contemplate, and then return to us.

A-Croc-Alypse Now, Call, Church Life, Emerging, New Church

Thought for the Day

"The time will come when the Christian faith will have to fight for the right of way among crowding antagonists as vigorously as in the times of Athanasius and Augustine. And in thoughts like these all genuine Christians must rejoice. Without the call to high adventure, the faith has never flourished."

~Vida Scudder, 1912

(As cited in "A People History of Christianity," by Diana Butler Bass)

Mulling this over, friends.

A-Croc-Alypse Now, Health Care, Politics

Can it be done?

Proper comportment in the Capitol building happens to have been part of my upbringing. I was five years old when my daddy won election to the U.S. Senate. During his one term as a Democratic Senator, he voted his conscience, often to his detriment politically. He did not speak rudely to his opponents because his mama, Miss Emily, raised him not only to be a gentleman but to do unto others as he would have them do unto him. 

I'm not sure what the Mom of Congress will
have to say about it, but where I grew up, we knew better than to call
the President a liar in the middle of a joint session of Congress, whether we agreed with him or not.

Reading the comments of my friends on Twitter after the speech I saw some who were pleased and others who wondered why the President continued to encourage the Republicans to work with the Democrats on health care reform. They remain convinced that the President will never win over the other side.

But I am encouraged that he still wants to try. I want to think there is hope, and it seems to me that such a public statement cannot be refuted.

"Is bipartisanship feasible," asks my TV boyfriend Keith Olbermann, "when there's this kind of almost blind reaction from the other side?"

The President's advisor Valerie Jarrett says, "Yes."

What do you think? Can it be done?

A-Croc-Alypse Now, Health Care

Uninsurable, Part 2: The Voice of the People

I'm grateful for the more than 30 comments on yesterday's post about health care and particularly health insurance. Since some people will read only the post, I will excerpt some of the comments here. (I apologize for not linking to your blogs, if you have them, but Typepad kept trying to turn big blocks of texts into links.)

revmaria, who is like me a clergywoman, writes:

I'm
a cancer survivor and it's hard even to get life insurance! We don't
have a house or substantial savings so any illness could spell disaster
and homelessness for us.

LaReina, one of my first Internet friends from way back at alt.tv.homicide (Vale, Usenet!), shared a story about her sister who, like their mom, had breast cancer:

…my
self-employed sister's policy with a MAJOR health insurance company was
terminated the first/only time she reached her deductible, which was
when she was diagnosed with cancer.

It took them six months to red flag her case and find an excuse to
terminate her coverage. It was mid-way through chemo (and about two
surgeries into what would eventually be five or six) when they dropped
the bomb. She was far more stressed about the insurance situation than
she was about the cancer.

Ten years later, thank God she's healthy, but she's still paying off
the $200K-plus medical debt. It ruined her credit score, making her
ineligible to refinance her house which, ironically, would have freed
up more money each month to pay down the debt.

Auntie Knickers responded to Pam's comment (about being afraid in a British-type system care would be rationed away from people in their 50s) with this suggestion:

I
think Pam might want to check out this website, and I've quoted the
relevant answer to what her physician told her. Although many
physicians are strongly in favor of health care reform, there are those
who for ideological reasons or just plain greed are spreading
misinformation about the health care in other countries.

http://www.ptca.org/forumtopics/topic_health_care_reform.html

Mrs. Redboots, writing from Across The Pond, adds:

I
don't know where your physician got his information from, but he is
totally and utterly mistaken. It is, in fact, mostly older people who
need – and receive – heart operations like stents. My father is 85,
nearly 86, and has recently had two minor operations for carpal tunnel
that he arguably didn't need, but which have improved his quality of
life enormously (to say nothing of the shape of his hands). Is this a
system which denies medical care to its elderly?

Quite frankly, we here in the UK are shocked that people in the USA are denied health care as a basic human right.

Sisterfilms added a younger person's perspective:

If I got
to make the decision, I would hope that America's universal health care
were something like the state sponsored care I have in Land o 10,000
Lakes – I rarely pay a copay and my dental is covered in it's entirety
(OK, I can't get braces or a metal crown, but now all my teeth are
intact!). I pay $29 bucks a month and not much else. Of course, I am
poor, and it would be more if I weren't.

Liz, who knows where I'm coming from, writes:

I'm still
amazed how many people have no idea that they're just one immune system
malfunction or cancer diagnosis away from being uninsurable (and how
many people think neither of those things could ever happen to them
because they eat right and exercise).

We heard from several self-insured free-lancers, both writers and an editor. I cannot imagine earning enough money to lay out $800 a month for insurance when the deductible is $2500, but that is what they are facing. Ruth writes:

I try not
to think about what will happen if one of us develops a serious
condition. We could be so easily dropped and never be insured again.

We worry about the future for our children, for as Deb says:

Our
older daughter takes a maintenance medication that, without insurance,
would cost us hundreds a month. Her regular check ups would cost
hundreds more. It's not a stretch to say that when she tops out of our
health insurance in 7 short years, that I don't know how she will be
insured…

And yet people say that they don't see the need for reforms…

Dr. Sherry is a pediatrician and shared a letter to the editor she wrote last month, which stated in part:

In this
world we ration all our resources. We ration food, gasoline, land, law
enforcement resources, educational resources, the time we give to each
of our children, the attention we give our spouses and much more. All
of this occurs based on the availability of resources and our
individual and collective means to pay for these resources. If you do
not think that Healthcare Resources are being rationed right now, than
you are just not paying attention. What this country needs is to become
more mindful and intentional in how this rationing occurs…

We need
Universal Health Insurance, whether it is through a well regulated
private insurance market that prevents taking of huge profits by
insurance companies at the expense of people's lives, through a public
option plan that competes with private insurance to make them more
accountable or through government provided universal healthcare
coverage..I Do Not Care. But, it must be done, it must be done soon.
What is happening now is amoral.

Finally, I would like to mention that Typepad's spell checker declares that "uninsurable" is not in the dictionary. We should live so long. All of us.


A-Croc-Alypse Now, Health Care, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Uninsurable

I've been watching the news of health care reform town halls and listening to the way a minority whips up hysteria to avoid having an actual conversation about where we are as a culture and whether we have responsibility for one another and who deserves priority care and even what would be effective and efficient.

I keep hearing that most people are happy with their health insurance and therefore see no reason for anything to change. It seems to me they're neglecting to consider the possibility of losing their insurance and being unable to get more.

In the UCC we have insurance that is portable, which is to say we can take it from one job to another without having to be examined for various conditions, and that keeps us in the system whatever we may think about its cost to the churches we serve and to us in out-of-pocket charges.

I want my health insurance, more even than some people because I have a
dreaded "pre-existing condition." It's become crucial to my life and my family's security that I continue to serve in the UCC and to bring home the health insurance for all of us.

Meanwhile, churches are facing the same kind of economic downturn and financial concerns that we see in the rest of the world. They want to downsize. They wish they didn't have to pay for health insurance for pastors. Even in less independent-minded denominations, local churches are seeking ways to get out of covering a pastor.

That's bad for anyone but for a person with a pre-existing condition it's potentially disastrous.

I'll write more about churches later in the week, but for now let me say I worry that there will not be enough gainful employment for pastors in the not-so-distant future. I look out into a future of no church
jobs and see not only unemployment but poverty and uselessness.

Even if
I figured out some other work to do, I would be uninsurable.

It's hard,
in fact nearly impossible, for me to picture a future that isn't
catastrophic without my health insurance, and therefore hard for me to
separate my sense of call from my fear of being on the street. For me,
it won't matter if my husband can get another job with health
insurance, because no one will take me.

And if you are reading this and saying, wow, I'm glad that's not me, well, it could be. 18 months ago I was in vigorous health. I had lost a lot of weight and was exercising regularly and eating right. I felt great.

After shoveling a large amount of snow, I began to notice some shoulder pain, and then some knee pain. I thought I had injured myself, and I saw a doctor and then another.

Then one morning I woke up and could not bend my fingers. I had trouble getting out of bed. I could not open my bedroom door to get out into the hall and had to call my daughter to free me. Another night an 8 pound cat on the bed was enough to make it impossible for me to move the covers.

I'm lucky. My family practice doc got me right in to see a sports medicine doctor, and she listened to the physical therapist who urged her to send me to a rheumatologist. I responded well to baseline treatments that are relatively inexpensive compared to some of the newer medications. I work a regular, in fact a demanding, schedule. If I need the more expensive medications, it seems they will be covered, too.

Sometimes I feel crappy, but mostly the pain and stiffness are mild and I consider them to be background noise.

You wouldn't look at me and know I had a chronic illness. Well, I don't think you would. I'm not a Bible-era leper. No one is ringing bells as I walk along. I'm not contagious.

But an insurance company would look at me and see someone they did not want to know. On paper, it can't be hidden, this invisible illness.

So when I read stories about people who lost their insurance, I feel close to them. I know things must change. I want the people with the power to make the changes to stop being distracted by yelling and, frankly, to stop catering to people who will never do things differently or see the need for progress.

(Yes, that has a parallel to church life, too.)

With insurance and appropriate continuing care, I am a contributing member of society. But should I face a period of unemployment, I would lose the capacity to pay for those medications. I would become a burden to my family, both physically and financially. And when the money runs out–when the house is sold to pay for prescriptions–when there is nothing left–then I become a burden to the rest of you.

There has to be a better way.

A-Croc-Alypse Now, Children, Living in This World

Things Change

Sometime in the past five years, while I was clearly not paying attention, they changed the policies about bus routes in City By the Sea. In trying to search for the high school bus routes, I discovered that at 1.5 miles away (according to Google Maps, though it seems further in traffic), we live too close for LP to ride a bus to Downtown High School. At least I think so. Gone are the days when the local paper publishes all the routes. Now you go to the website, which links to a school website, which announces "High School transportation policies are being revised." The page is copyrighted 2007.

I also think the chances she'll make that walk in a timely fashion in the morning are pretty slim. Good thing I was planning to drop her there in the mornings, eh?

What I wasn't planning to do is pick her up in the afternoon. She gets out at 1:55 p.m., and that frankly isn't always a free moment in my schedule, especially in these days when I don't work in the same town. I suppose it's possible she can join a wave of young people walking down the hill and through the park and there picking up the same route she walked from Renowned Middle School. If everyone is doing it, I suppose that's okay.

And there is a city bus, for which we could buy a pass, I guess, though I'm not sure why people who pay property taxes out the you-know should have to also shell out for bus fare for a high school student.

My guess is this all results in more kids taking cars to school when they reach driving age. This does not seem like a solution to the problems of economics or consumption or pollution in our fair city.

#1 Son got up and hiked a few blocks to get a bus to the same high school. I frequently picked him up in the afternoon. It gave us time together before the younger children got home. It's weird to realize he started high school before Pure Luck was part of our family, while I was in the midst of my return to seminary, before I had a ministry job. I would go downtown early and hang out at the Public Market, reading a book, an actual bound book. I had no laptop. I had no Kindle. I had no iPod of any kind.

I sat with a book. I watched the people. I got a coffee. (Okay, that's not a change.)

You could buy vegetables at the market, which had a fabulously high ceiling and beautiful rustic rafters, and little stalls for local businesses. There were restaurants at either end and other food purveyors. The downstairs seating area had a big fireplace.

It's closed now. The owners could not make a go of it. It's been empty for several years and is currently undergoing remodeling to be a call center. Some of the anchor tenants moved across the street into a storefront, but without an attached parking garage, it has less attraction as a destination.

Parking in general is a headache near Downtown High School. That's one thing that does not change.

Another is that the end of summer means a renovated sleep schedule. It's 7:24. Tomorrow we'll be heading out the door for the first day of school. Today LP lies abed. She needs to finish an essay about "Animal Farm" today, as well as proof-reading her assignment on "To Kill a Mockingbird." She's been working on these since July. She likes to take her time. That needs to change, too, I fear, as the doors of Downtown High School open to receive her.

We'll figure out our new routine. We'll throw ourselves into the morning, somehow, and after Pure Luck leaves for a job in the southwest (2 months this fall), Sam and I will drive LP to school and circle around to Greyberry Woods and Star$$ before I go to work. Eventually I'll figure out a place to meet her on my day off. I'll wait for her at a coffee shop, reading a book on my iPod Kindle ap.We'll order a chai or a green tea, then make our way home.

It's a new year. Who knows what other things will change?