Thursday, September 24, 2015

Pure Religion

You all, I am not Catholic, but I really like this new Pope.  He's visiting the United States today and instead of breaking bread with leaders in Congress, he's dining with the homeless.

That. Is. Awesome!

The news is all over Facebook, as if it's somehow shocking.  And I suppose it is when you stop and think about it.  In our upside down world it's strange to forgo the opportunity to rub elbows with the powerful and instead minister to the needy.  So when someone actually lives his faith, we're surprised.  Even when that person's job is to live their faith.

James 1:27 says "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world."

How many of us who claim to be Christians do this?  Who among us would chose the homeless over the leaders of the Senate.  Not too many I think.  Especially considering that in the U.S. we seem to have equated being Christian with our political party.

Now I am all for voting your conscience.  And I'm aware of how blessed we are in this country to be able to vote, especially when so many in the world don't have a say in their political process.

But as a Christian, I'm even more in favor of  living our faith than talking about it or mixing it up with politics.   We talk a lot, but we're not doing much of anything.  We're way too comfortable.  Pure religion, actually living our faith makes us uncomfortable.  We don't want that.

Can I tell you something?  God doesn't care about our political affiliation.  He cares about the way we treat each other.  Over and over again, Jesus told us to love each other.  I don't see very much of that today.  In the story of the Good Samaritan, the religious leaders crossed the street to avoid the injured man.  It was the Samaritan--someone the religious people shunned--who helped the man.

Jesus changed the world through his radical love.  As Christians, we have to ask ourselves whether our love is radical.  Are we reaching out to those in need?  Are we walking out our faith?  Or are we just yelling at anyone who disagrees with us, and then sitting back in self-righteousness?  In effect, crossing to the other side of the street when we see someone hurt and bleeding.

I'm afraid that most of us in the U.S. would choose dinner with Congress as opposed to dinner with the homeless.  And before we get all self-righteous and say, "No way.  We'd pick the homeless," take a moment to really examine that statement.  If it were true, we'd be out there feeding the homeless right now.  Nothing's stopping us.  In fact, Jesus even said, "when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." Luke 14:13

Very few of us do so.  Why is that?  Why are we so shocked when someone actually lives his faith?  Has pure religion really become that rare in our society?  I hope not.  I hope that more of us will be moved by the Pope's example and choose those in need over those in power.

"But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."  James 2:18

You all, let's stop talking and start doing.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Thank You Nurses

As someone who's racked up frequent flier miles in hospitals, I feel like I need to weigh in on the recent nursing controversy.  In case you missed it, I'll summarize for you.  Last week during the talent portion of the 2016 Miss America pageant, Miss Colorado came out dressed in scrubs with a stethoscope around her neck and gave a monologue about her career as a nurse.  The next day on The View, Michelle Collins and Joy Behar not only ridiculed Miss Colorado (saying among other things that nursing wasn't a talent), they showed a surprising ignorance about nursing in general.

From their comments, I can only surmise that neither Ms. Collins nor Ms. Behar have spent much time in hospitals.  If they had, they would know that nursing is definitely a talent.  I have Crohn's disease and I've been in the hospital more times than I can count.  In the past six months, I've been in the ER twice and spent 2 weeks in the hospital, followed by a lengthy recovery from surgery.  This is not unusual for me.  

When you have a chronic disease, frequent hospitalizations are par for the course.  You learn quickly that a good nurse is a God send.  I can't count the number of times one of my nurses has saved my life.

Twelve years ago when I was pregnant, a nurse practitioner who realized that something was very wrong.  Because of her, my son and I are alive today.  When I told the doctor about my abdominal pain, he ignored me.  The nurse practitioner took one look at me and said, "Get to the hospital."

Once there,it was a nurse who realized that my son's heartbeat was dropping.  She made the decision to rush me to the operating room.  Doctors later told my husband that I was in multi-system organ failure and I would have died in 12 hours if not for that nurse's quick thinking.

As it was, I spent six weeks in the hospital.  While there, nurses watched me round the clock.  When I was in ICU, a nurse came in at least hourly (if not more frequently) to check my vital signs.  When my blood pressure was too high, a nurse noticed it.  When my fever raged out of control, a nurse noticed it.  When the NG (naso-gastric) tube that ran down my nose and into my stomach backed up, nurses took care of it.  They emptied the two drainage bags that were attached to my stomach and the catheter bag.
In ICU. My husband took this pictures because this was one of the (many) times doctors told him I might not make it through the night.

Then there were the non-medical things they did.  I had about 18 inches of open incisions on my stomach (not stapled or stitched shut, they were just packed with gauze so that the infection could drain) so walking and sitting up were difficult for me.  So again, nurses helped me.  They helped me stand.  They helped me walk from my bed to a three feet away, and when I was shaking from the pain of doing so, they eased me into that chair so that I wouldn't fall.  I couldn't shower so they draped towels over my pillow and poured water over my hair, washing it for me.

They took pictures of my son in the NICU (nurses were taking care of him there too) and brought them to me.  I was too weak to get out of bed, so when I was finally off of the ventilator, a team of nurses pushed me, in my ICU bed, up to the NICU so that I could see my son for the first time.  He was three days old.

When I finally got out of ICU, a nurse would bring my son down to my room every day so that I could see him.  I found out later that her shift had ended and she stayed late just so that I could hold my baby.

Nurses who had treated me on different floors of the hospital, would stop by and visit me as I got closer to being discharged.  And when I was finally able to walk again (tethered to a canvas leash with a physical therapist walking behind me), the nurse who had rushed me to the operating room saw me in the hallway (she worked several floors up and had come down to visit me).  When she saw me walking, she rushed over and hugged me, saying through tears, "We didn't think this day would happen!"

All of this happened during just one of my many hospital stays.  But it's the same every time I'm in the hospital.  Nurses have held my hand as I cried because I just can't stand one more day in the hospital.  They've sat with me when I was bored during a blood transfusion, telling me the places my husband and I should visit on our upcoming trip to San Francisco. They've helped me to the bathroom and somehow managed it so that I wasn't embarrassed.

It takes more than medical know-how to be a nurse.  It takes skill.  It takes talent.  It takes passion.

So to all of the nurses who have helped me (and to those who will help me in the future), you have helped me through the hardest times in my life, and I thank you for it.