Tag Archives: hospital

The Church is a Hospital, Part 2

30 Apr

In my first “The Church is a Hospital” post, I talked about how the church should function as a hospital, but often does not.  I also introduced you to my friend, who was treated poorly by the church “triage” team.  While the church as an institution got it wrong, the Church as a people surrounded my friend with the love of God.  But sometimes the church gets it right.

My friend, while being initially mistreated by the triage team at a local church-hospital, found much support in senior staff members, who listened to her, prayed for her, and supported her as she continues through her difficult time.  The time these pastors, these shepherds, took with my friend impressed me so much that I decided to give this church a visit.  My heart, so broken and hardened in places, yearned for the closeness of God’s people and corporate worship.  Still, I was afraid.

After abandoning church (but not my faith in God) altogether in 2004, I developed a major fear of the church.  It was so bad that even walking in a church would cause major anxiety, usually developing into a panic attack.  I remember attending a wedding at my old church a year later, and I was choking back tears as my mother’s friends were united in holy matrimony.  Fortunately, one is allowed to cry at weddings, but I was trying to swallow my fear.  It was bad.

The Church did a number on me, that’s for sure.  However, I realize that I also did a number on the Church.  The foolish pride of youth, arrogance, and a know-it-all attitude made me just as a deadly a viper as the many I despised.  It took me years to realize that I was part of the problem.  Of course God could not advance someone who was not humbled before Him.  He had to bring me to my knees to show me how desperately I needed the Church.

So this past Sunday, I visited my old church, where I am still a member.  I also attended this church on Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday with my mother.  (When did I become a C & E churchgoer?) If you put two and two together, you will remember that this church is the one that proudly displayed “The Church is a Hospital” on the back of their church bulletin.

And let me tell you that this church is a hospital, and it is also the hospital that has been treating my emotionally bruised and battered friend.  This church is a hospital.  All along I hoped it would be the church I knew it once was, I hoped its people would come along side my friend, and secretly I hoped I could believe in the Church as a whole again.  I was not disappointed.

What I didn’t realize was this—how the church-hospital’s actions would affect my own withered heart.  The Cardiologist (God) reached down and massaged my hard heart back to life.  I started crying as the pastor prayed for those in the congregation going through rough times.  I knew the sermon was one I needed to hear.  I knew the songs were ones I needed to sing.  I knew the church I left so many years ago was home.

The church-hospital is effective when it functions properly.  Even when one of its hospital staff falls short, the rest of the treatment team is there to cover his weakness with grace (and as a fellow Christian, should we not offer this person grace?)  It’s a funny thing though.  I sought help for my friend and found healing myself.  I guess I don’t have to live my life in the morgue of the church-hospital anymore.

I also want to mention a new organization called Throw Mountains, which is a group of authors/speakers making a case for 20/30-somethings to give the church another chance.  Sarah Cunningham, author of Picking Dandelions [read my review of her book] is one of the ladies heading up the effort.  Check ’em out at ThrowMountains.com.

Note: This was cross-published on AtypicalMusings.com.


The Church is a Hospital

17 Apr

Recently, I attended a local church. As I read the bulletin, I noticed a mission statement of sorts on the back that started out stating, “The church is a hospital.” Immediately, I wondered if the mission statement was inspired by the late Mike Yaconelli who wrote in Messy Spirituality, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.” The church is a hospital…hmm…. Sadly, often times I think of it as a morgue.

I am asking God to help transform my mind from this dour way of thinking. I mean, we all know the Church has her problems, right? Obviously! Because she is composed of flawed people made perfect by a righteous Bride Groom. Still, that does not mean the Church can get away with shirking her responsibility either. “Sorry, I’m sinful” just doesn’t cut it.

Now I don’t recommend this, but wouldn’t it be interesting if we could rate the care programs at churches the way we rate hospitals? For example, Lehigh Valley Hospital rates high in heart and cancer care, while St. Luke’s is known for its ever-changing technologies. So, I imagine I would choose LVH if I needed a heart transplant and St Luke’s if I needed, uh, something cutting edge. Should we choose churches the same way?

It seems to me that all churches have their strengths and weaknesses, but they should all be about the business of heart care because it seems that Jesus was always about the business of heart care. Why, then, do so many churches seem to sacrifice the heart in sake of the law? For example, why ignore the needs of unwed pregnant teens when Jesus’ own mother was an unwed pregnant teen? (Shout out to TastyFaith.com!) Or why do women continue to live in abusive situations because verbal, spiritual, physical, financial, and sexual abuse are not “biblical” grounds for divorce? (Don’t worry, I have a ton to say on these issues in coming weeks.)

Yes, teens shouldn’t get pregnant and marriages shouldn’t end in divorce, but guess what? That’s life here on planet Earth. I think if the Church can get off with imperfection, her people should be doubly excused. And anyway, isn’t it our sins that drive our souls to the E.R’s of the church-hospital? Isn’t it when we are at the very end of ourselves that we often come crawling to God and out of desperation we go back to church? I think so.

Someone I love dearly was recently treated poorly by a member of the triage team at a local church-hospital. I kept thinking to myself, “The church is a hospital. They have to help my friend. She will not make it without them.” Unfortunately, the church as a institution came up short…again. But the church as a people (especially in the form of other women) have been tremendously supportive. I hope one day the institution will catch up with her people because that’s where disillusionment begins and ends.

The church is a hospital for everyone, not just sinners, because sometimes the saved take it in the heart. And sometimes the Church shoots her wounded.

[This was also posted on Atypical Musings.]

Spiritual (and Physical) Hypochondria

19 May

A few months ago, I was diagnosed with “moderate hypochondria” which came as no shock to those near and dear to me. Hypochondria is one of those things that can be tremendously funny and horribly terrifying. The funny part is that it’s completely irrational, but the horrifying part is that the fear is terribly real.

Hypochondria is a psychosomatic disorder which revolves around the fear of getting or being sick. While it varies in intensity from person to person, a hypochondriac will get something simple like a headache and believe or fear that she has a brain tumor. Normal bodily sensations and pains are intensified and even imagined. Some hypochondriacs go to the doctor too much while others are terrified to seek treatment. I used to be the former, now I’m the latter. I hate going to the family doctor, but I go when I must.

The Internet makes it easy to find new and interesting diseases from sites like WedMD or the Mayo Clinic. In trying to find cold relief, a hypochondriac can “end up” with pneumonia. For me, the hypochondria comes in bouts of anxiety. Sometimes I’m relatively OK as long as you keep me away from “E.R.” and “Grey’s Anatomy” but other times a commercial for “House” can freak me out. Plus, there’s the power of suggestion. If someone close to me has a bladder infection or a kidney stone or an ovarian cyst, then I suddenly “develop” one as well (or rather the symptoms).

Hypochondria hasn’t always been part of my life. As a child, I had surgery on my ears due to fluid in my cochlea (“tubes in the ears”), my tonsils removed, and knee surgery at 16. Despite terrible allergies, terrible sinus infections, and ovarian cysts (painful!), I was OK. That is until March of 2001, when I had the worst sinus infection imaginable. I kept going to the doctor trying to find relief for the pain, which wasn’t even lessened by prescription pain medications. After several tests including a spinal tap (those are HORRIBLE), it was discovered that I suffered from a rare condition called psuedo tumor cerebri. I was rushed to Philadelphia for emergency surgery–a shunt was inserted into my body to drain the fluid causing pressure in my head. This pressure was crushing my optic nerves, not only giving me terrible headaches, but causing me to go blind as well. I survived that ordeal and didn’t realize I was in for another.

A couple of weeks later, my right arm flailed about uncontrollably and went numb. Since my appendage was hanging on my body like dead weight, my mom drove me to the emergency room. After a few minutes, I suppose I just got tired of waiting, so I had a grand mal seizure (you lose control of your entire body) right there in front of everyone. I got rushed into a room where I had another seizure. Apparently, I was out quite a bit and there was fear I was brain damaged, but I was OK. The room looked like a scene from “E.R.”. Cabinets were open, stuff was thrown all over the place, a big blue breathing tube was popping out of my face, some weird thing was going out of my nose, and there were electrodes all over my chest.

After getting yet another spinal tap and other tests (which weren’t nearly as unpleasant as the spinal tap), it was discovered I had a blood clot in one of the main arteries of my brain. So I had to be put on blood thinners, which meant that the thickness of my blood was checked several times a day. I was in the hospital a week the first time and ten days the second. I became very good at stretching my arm and getting blood drained out of it. I also became very bruised.

Finally, I went home but I was terrified I would have another seizure. I had to wear a medical identification bracelet because I was on blood thinners and anti-seizure meds. And for a while my balance was off, and I had to use a cane. Plus,  I had frequent doctor visits to neurologists, the family doctor, the eye doctor, and everyone else that needed to see me. It was definitely not the way I wanted to spend the spring semester of my junior year.

Now it’s seven years later, and I’ve had sinus surgery due to chronic sinusitis and been diagnosed with several other chronic disorders which I don’t wish to mention, and now I hate going to the doctor. It seems to have worsened into hypochondria after the lingering deaths of both my grandparents.

Hypochondria makes life difficult at times, but fortunately I don’t live in a constant state of fear. I have random cycles in which I am forced to deny how I feel physically and rely on what I know to be true mentally. I have to trust that God is in control of my health and my life, which is something with which we all struggle. The problem is that my body ACTUALLY thinks it is sick, except that it isn’t. It actually feels pain when nothing is wrong. The pain is very real, but the underlying pain problem is not.

At least I have a diagnosis, but I tend to think that we as Christians often live as spiritual hypochondriacs. Instead of trusting God, we carefully analyze every situation to gain control. We feel the sting of others more deeply than we should and take on “illnesses”. We look around and say to ourselves, “The world is not safe. God is not in control.” We despair and fall away from truth.

During times of physical and/or spiritual hypochondria, I take comfort in Psalm 46, especially verses 1-4,

1 God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.

I don’t know about you, but if I saw the mountains fall into the ocean (an earthquake perhaps?), I would be scared out of my mind. Yet this psalm urges us not to fear because nothing escapes the watchful eyes of God. I like how verse 4 contrasts the volatile ocean with the “river whose streams make glad the city of God”. Completely out of  our realm of control is God, who invites us to be still and know Him (vs. 10). There is so much comfort and power in these words, especially in times of trouble, anxiety, and yes, hypochondria.

While I’ve tried to pray my hypochondria (and other ailments) away, so far I haven’t had any miraculous healing. But I have learned a lot about being still and knowing God, the value of praying and encouraging others, and living in situations I would have never chosen for my life. Since I can’t change it, I simply (or not so simply) accept it, rail against it with the truth, and trust God with the rest. It sounds easy enough, but it’s the fight of my life. Fortunately, thought sometimes I feel like it, I am never alone.

Sharon, the Oklahoma Rose

10 Jan

On April 13, 2004 the official state flower of Oklahoma became the “Oklahoma rose”. Since Sharon was an avid gardener, it is only appropriate that this blog entry be titled after one of Oklahoma’s most beautiful roses, Sharon Hart.

UPDATE 1/10/07 @ 2 PM EST: Jen’s mother, Sharon Hart, was ushered into the arms of Jesus this (Thursday) morning. She has run the race, and her journey is finished.

I interrupt my usual commentary for something highly important. I am asking you all to pray for my friend, Jen Hart, who is getting ready to travel a couple of hours to her parents’ house. It’s a trek that Jen has made fairly often over the past few years to visit her parents, especially her mother, Sharon, who has been battling cancer for the past decade. After countless surgeries, hospitalizations, and procedures, Sharon’s battered body is slowing down.

Today a hospice nurse informed the family that Sharon’s death is imminent, and the family should be brought in to say their final goodbyes. Naturally, Jen has had the important conversations with her mother and knows that she will be ushered into Jesus’ arms when she passes from this life to the next. Yet this only eases the burden; it doesn’t take away the heartache.

Please pray for Jen and her family during this difficult time. I asked Jen’s permission before posting this on my blog, as it is a deeply personal matter, and she said it would be OK. Feel free to leave prayers or encouragements for Jen and her family.

Jen told me that her favorite thing about her mother is her hospitality. Her mother’s love of people and life spilled over into contagious laughter as she planned parties and get-togethers. Sharon is a deeply committed wife and mother, who is an encouragement to her children, especially Jen. Pray that Sharon’s life will be a beacon of hope for all who know her.

I will keep you updated on this post, so check back.

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