Thursday, March 28, 2024

March Madness: Basketball 2024

 The metaphors are different this year since Caitlin Clark has changed the way women's basketball is being played and watched. A few of the metaphors she has generated are entertainment and circus.

The records she has broken are phenomenal. And the records for attendance provides another broken record not only at Iowa but in the other Big Ten schools as well. Folks went to see Caitlin. 

Fran McCafry, the Hawkeyes Men Basketball coach says she is a "generational player." A player like Caitlin appears once in a generation. She has the highest number of 3 point shots on record in a year.

Annie and I went to Iowa City, to the Carver Field House, to see her play in a game against Michigan. We were fortunate to get tickets at a good price. We were in row 6, center of the court.

Fran McCaffry the Iowa Men's coach was in the row ahead of us at the end seat. 

At the start of the game Caitlin only need 8 points to make a record. She did that pronto with two three's. and a lay up for two points.

She is a tall thin lady, maybe 6' 1', who has strong arms the way she throws the ball across the court to another play who is open. She now holds the records for assists. When she shots for the basket sometime near center court she jump up and shoot. She defies gravity. A number of games the has over ten rebounds, ten assists, and an average of 27 points, most of the time more than that. How about 37. 

We are down to the sweet sixteen for the women's games. 

There will be more.


Marlin. I have been watching basketball since high school, 1945-7 Murray Weir was the outstanding player in our high school. Who went to Iowa and became an All American.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Spiritual (mystical) experience


Reflecting on a spiritual experience continues. What was the setting?  What were the outcomes, still continuing.

The year was 1973, the third Sunday in March, and I was the guest celebrant at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bettendorf, Iowa. The next day I would be leaving for Atlanta, GA, where the College of Chaplains would gather for their workshops. I was scheduled to give a paper on the training of lay people to be story listeners in a hospital setting. We began in 1966 and I now had enough experience to let others know about our adventure.

Since I could not find other like programs in the journals I was anxious about the reception. During the prayer of Consecration and the words “he took bread, gave thanks, and broke it”. I lost my voice. I could not speak. My mind went into a life review of rejections.  I don’t know the length of time, enough time for many in the congregation to start wondering if I was getting sick, faint, etc. Then I heard a distinct voice and words. “Broke is not the last word.” My voice came back and I finished the service. The paper was well received. A chaplain across the river in Illinois asked to join me in training lay people for his hospital. We worked together for five years and wrote a book at the request of Howard Clinebell who came to do several workshops for clergy and laity in the community.

The words and experience were the beginning of a creative pastoral adventure culminating (2013) in a six session DVD on the Healing Power of Story Listening. The art of listening for metaphors became the key for the spirituality of deeper listening. The initial words are also metaphorical, moving to different life events, my mantra for living in crisis, grief, conflict, any transition. They are meno. “He in us and we in Him” from John’s Gospel.

Marlin Whitmer, BCC (Ret.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Florence Nightingale: Observations Make a Difference

On August 12th, we remember Florence Nightingale in our Episcopal Church Year Calendar. My years as chaplain generated interest in the founder of modern nursing, often called “the lady with the lamp” from her work in the military hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War.

What few realize: she was a religious mystic. Two mystical experiences set the course for her life. A call to service at age 17 brought great frustration on two fronts. The first was service with nothing specific and the second was her land-owning family who sought the social life for her as prescribed at that time. It was near age 30 when another mystical experience in Egypt gave resolve and specifics, “service without reputation.” “Think only Thy will.” She connected with Jesus beginning his mission at 30. 


Her desire to be a nurse brought great resistance from her family. Nurses not part of a Religious Order were either prostitutes or drunkards. She refused to be a slave to marriage and a social life. She would be “nailed,” her word.


This resistance from family and her inclination brought on periodic depressions, suicidal thoughts, and trance like states of dreaming she called her enemy. Friends of the family would step in to revive her by furthering her interest in the world at large. She was well traveled, France, Italy, Germany, Egypt, and Greece by age 30.


Her father home schooled his daughters in a classical education, including his interest in mathematics. This resulted in Florence becoming an early statistician using research and numbers to make her point and convince others. Her image as the lady with the lamp and getting nursing started during the Crimean war overshadows her huge accomplishments over a fifty year period afterwards. She sought the numbers, studied the numbers, and used the numbers to argue for change in lowering the death rates in hospitals, among soldiers in the army, the slums, and in child birth. She was concerned about prevention and collected data on diet, sanitation, ventilation, over crowding, helping found the Red Cross, the Geneva Convention, etc. She developed the first pie chart diagram to prove her points.


She influenced the health in England, Africa, and India. In England nurses under her direction started public health. She even influenced health care in Davenport, Iowa, indirectly, as Miss Craig Anderson, head nurse and administrator of St. Luke’s Hospital for 20 years, was English trained. When I started as chaplain some still remembered the hymn singing and worship before nurses started their morning duties.


As late as the early 1900’s nursing was not thought of as a socially acceptable occupation in Davenport. When St. Luke’s hospital began and a school of nursing was formed they kept the name of the nursing school separate to not reflect on the hospital. I am talking about changes within the last 150 years. 


For Florence Nightingale we are talking about changes that met with powerful resistance from the military doctors and politicians of her day. The changes made in her time were accomplished by a few influential people working within a society that wanted to keep things as they were. 


Upon her return from the war her health was such that most of her work was done from her house and bed. I am sure we would call her condition post traumatic stress syndrome today. People still came to her for council and direction and she wrote copious notes, letters, and books to communicate her concepts and always with plenty of statistics to back them up. She lived to be 90 dying in 1910. Her grave has a simple cross with her initials and the two dates: born 1820 and died 1910.


My remarks about Florence Nightingale are all too brief. The Scripture chosen for her day is most appropriate.


       Isaiah 58:6-11  Matthew 25:31-46 Psalm 73:23-29


Special prayers and thanks for all the health care workers who served through the pandemic. The stressful times cost lives and those living. The stats apparently are 2.3 million retired, etc. The nursing shortage will take some time to recover and the experience lost even longer. Hard to measure the loss from experienced nurses except it is real and makes a difference.

Prayer for Florence Nightingale: Life-giving God, you alone have power over life and death, over health and sickness: Give power, wisdom, and gentleness to those who follow the lead of Florence Nightingale, that they, bearing with them your presence, may not only heal but bless, and shine as lanterns of hope in the darkest hours of pain and fear; through Jesus Christ, the healer of body and soul, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen


Marlin Whitmer, B.C.C. (ret.)



Sunday, July 9, 2023

Fitness Exercise at age 93

I had a number of session with a physical therapist to help me deal with balance. Neuropathy made balance an added challenge. I have given up wearing socks so the numbness is a little closer to the ground. This provides me with more assurance whether it is true or not. What I did take away from the physical therapy was the need to strengthen my leg muscles and core.

The Fitness Center I had attended for 7 years closed. The city of Bettendorf decided it was too expensive even though a sizable number of elderly retired attended as well as a middle age group doing pickle ball. We went to a public hearing. But that was a farce. You could tell the decision had been made. The YMCA bought the building for a gymnastics program. It took me some time to decide to go the the big Y in Bettendorf.   The building is overwhelming. I did get a membership but I didn't use any of their equipment.  I decided to go the the new Y in Davenport which was funded in part by the Bechtel Trust. The new Y is a beauty. I knew the Bechtel. Marie Bechtel had been a Befriender at the hospital.

The membership at the Y, paid by health insurance, allowed me two free sessions with the fitness trainer. The first 1/2 hour was a review of my health. The second was an introduction to the resistance machines he recommended. He directed me to the machines he said would be best. We started with three that worked on my leg muscles. He said you start with the long muscles. Then four for my mid section, shoulders, and chest. Last were the two machines were for triceps and biceps .  What I discovered when I starting doing the exercises twice a week on my own. I was forget the breathing in and out part. I have made the correction. I am starting to experience an energizing at the end of the exercise time. That is what I was hoping for.

I will meet with him again in a month to review and get further instructions.

My schedule is adding a three day week,Monday, Wednesday,  and Friday. I am working on a time of day. The place is busy with younger people by and large. A very diverse group. After 10 AM and after 3 PM seem to be times when fewer people are present. Many exercise in pairs or if alone they seem to need the iPhone for a longer break. That means waiting for the next machine at time. Amazing how many people seem to be addicted to the iPhone.

Since I have only been at the Fitness Center for a couple months I have much more to learn and discover in terms of benefits. What I can say, I strongly recommend the activity for myself. While gardening provides movement and enjoyment my muscles do not get the workout they seem to need.

I sometimes wonder about growing up on a farm where there was a lot of physical labor even for a boy, carrying buckets of feed, shelling corn with a corn sheller, etc., establishes that need and frequency at an early age. I am talking about the 1930's and 40's. Then athletics in high school, wrestling and track. Not much physical activity during college. Although I did get a Red Cross Life Saving certificate and served as a life guard for church camps. Seminary did have flag foot ball and an a required afternoon for a work detail. That did turn out to be fairly heavy after the hurricane went through our campus with 40 acres of timber.

After seminary and out in a parish I went to the Y and took up hand ball. That put me in shape. When I came to Davenport Paul Mendy and I became the doubles champions one year. At age 52 in a tournament I strained my sternum. I decided to hag up the gloves and take to bike riding. 

I could take long rides out into the country in the evening after work at the hospital.

After retiring as a hospital chaplain and moving to a lake home there was a great five mile ride to another town on a back road. The total ride made 10 miles with breakfast in between. My wife and I were going to the Fitness center in DeWitt. She went to a water exercise group and then beach ball water pollo. They seemed to do a lot of laughing as I walked around the track.

After her death I kept the fitness routine. Now remarried, my retired Army Nurse, is also into exercise as part of retirement. Mutual support is an added advantage.

More to learn and experience. The body is a teacher as well. Since I have periodic bladder scopes that have led to five surgeries to remove tumors I know how weak you can feel after a surgery. The physical therapy provided some specifics but the fitness center has helped to restore strength as muscle loss increases with age.

Three times a week isn't working out. I will stay with two times. 

I am on a continuing journey, stay in touch.

Marlin Whitmer, BCC, ret.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Updating Virus Metaphors 4/12/23

The time lapse since checking out the orientation metaphors has been considerable. During the interim the response to the vaccine has been politicized into distinct divides. 

As a result of the divisiveness the metaphors seem to be in constant flus on both side of the divide. This may be a reflection of the virus which is continually mutating. There may be another set of metaphors that describe when there is a lull. 

Whether lull,  huge divisions, and flux, metaphors permeate out of each location. Metaphors confirm their necessity of our need to communicate where we are. And we are all over the map with possibilities. 

In the lull Dr. Wren from The Washington Post reviewed her life as a new mother during the pandemic. Context still makes a difference. A time of pause allows for a life review. 

The Government has its own metaphors. A booster for the high risk. And the uninsured need vaccines as they wind down. 

Mandates have been controversial with Red state showing more opposition. Employers can still require employees to be vaccinated.

A vaccine resistant newspaper provides headlines that appear to give misinformation while they claim to be a truth newspaper. They claim the vaccines are causing unreported health problems.

Masks to wear or not wear, required or not required is no longer a main discussion. I am not wearing a mask these days. I hospitalizations or the number with the virus or mutation increases I will wear a mask. They are no longer required in doctor's offices or the hospital. Individuals still are wearing masks. Fewer all the time, but I know people who constantly wear them in public, whole families.

Another conflict is how the virus began in China. China has its own metaphors with a severe lock down. The completely open and a number of deaths.

The statistics from ethnic groups and locations show who had the highest death toll. Life expectancy has been lowered as a result.

Updated to 4/20/23. If a prominent metaphor appears I will try to publish. I can say with accuracy the metaphors are in flux. Flux is my metaphor to describe the scene.

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Women's March Madness Metaphors.

 Metaphors are are gradually becoming more a part of how communication works. I know nursing programs at the masters and doctorate level are teaching metaphors to understand the experience of patients and how nurse interact with patients. This is true at the University of Wisconsin nursing program.

Recently I learned the Western Illinois University Counseling Program relies heavily on an understanding of metaphors in the communication process

My introduction began in 1955 in Philosophy in a NewKey by Susan Langer and her chapter on Language. I underline a number of her comments on metaphor.

I didn't change on until 1966 when I reviewed a patient visit and found how metaphors were at work.

I had already been training lay people to be story listeners for hospital patients. Now their listening approach was the Art of story metaphor listening. 

To learn metaphors I sent them to the sports page.

The sports pages of the final games of the women's March Madness basketball will not disappoint you. I found metaphors I had never seen before in the sports page.

In two separate sports articles I found the word giggle three times. Never in 50 years has I seethe word giggle on the sports page. More about the context as I write and revise.

I will invite you to go to the internet and ask for sports pages to the final games. See what you find. I will be adding more. This is a short introduction.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Conversations with Strangers (stories)

Introduction: Beginning a series of stories that focus on "conversations with strangers." I will be adding stories one at a time until.... This series is open ended at this point. Initially I am writing for the TT-PiSTLE weekly newsletter sent out to members of the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Davenport, Iowa.

Story 1: A Ghana and Nigeria Coffee Hour

A fascinating coffee hour conversation took place a Sunday ago. Two strangers, one from Ghana and the other from Iowa City began a conversation. After a few exchangers between these two strangers it was revealed the one from Ghana caused the other to say my husband and I lived in Nigeria. Both are countries in West Africa and the connection changed the dynamic of the conversation. They were now more animated in the continuing exchanges. Conversations are for connecting our stories in order for new revelations to be revealed on a variety of levels, some surface and some in depths.

Years ago I had a short conversation with Sir Roger Banister, the man who broke the four minute mile. He had become a neurologist specialist of the autonomic nervous system which includes the Shy Dragger Syndrome. My question before we were interrupted was what is going on in the autonomic nervous system that causes the facial expressions to change during a conversation? He said the placebo effect. I was left with perplexity. A year later in a journal I found an article on placebo and nacebo. The English define placebo differently than Americans. “The relationship a person has with another is as important as the task.” 

Coffee hours become places of healing where we live out our Baptism. Our well being can be enhanced. The Holy Spirit is among us.  

Story 2: We don’t know each other yet. 


After being ordained Deacon in June of 1955, Bishop Smith assigned me to be vicar at St. George’s, LeMars, IA., and curate at St. Thomas Church, Sioux City, IA. I soon learned it was C.B. Chesterman (owned both the 7UP and Coca Cola franchises) who was funding my salary. Not only that, he wanted to meet with me once a month. That had me more than curious. The once a month turned out to be a dinner at the best restaurant in town. I was the guest of CB and his wife. Picture a 25 year-old at dinner with a couple in their 80’s. We soon were comfortable with each other and the evenings were great. He didn’t pry too much into what I was doing as a curate. I don’t remember when it was, but they were an amazing couple and I had to ask, “You both seem to enjoy each other, and you have a lot of laughs, what is the secret to your relationship?” Without hesitation, CB replies, “We don’t know each other yet.” I had to repeat that to see if I understood correctly. I remember we briefly explored what that meant. I have kept that one liner in my consciousness, and I hope the line resides in my sub conscious as conversations move to a deeper level beyond the casual. I extend this invitation to all of us, “we don’t know each other yet.”

Story 3: We knew each other before we met


When pastor Lavin was at St Paul’s Lutheran Church in Davenport, IA., back in the 1970’s, he had a number of small groups that met regularly. They were called koinenia groups. They were patterned after books written by Howard Clinebell, a pastoral theologian. 


A Lutheran pastor from the Netherlands came to America to learn more about the small group movement. When he visited St. Paul’s, Pastor Lavin told him about our Befriender program. I soon had a visitor in the pastoral care office at St. Luke’s Hospital.  We began to share information about our training lay people in pastoral care. Each of us understood the other since our programs were almost identical. They were so much alike we began skipping thoughts since we knew what the other would say. I have never had a conversation like that since. He said he had written a book about his work. I said send me a copy. He said it’s in Dutch. I said that’s okay. He did send the book. And in the front page he wrote, “We knew each other before we met.” I had a Palmer student from Holland translate certain pages that helped me know about his pastoral work. We were definitely ground breakers at the time in our separate countries.

Story 4. Two Iowa Farmers give me a Lesson in Metaphors.  

(part 1)


Back in 1976 I was still seeing people before surgery. I called on Mr. Giebelstein who was from the same Cedar County farm area where I lived for 8 1/2 years. While focusing on his surgery I learned he had gone to barn dances where my father was the fiddle player. The new information caused me to negotiate a visit to tape record some stories. He agreed. I concluded with a prayer and left.  In a few days I was back to record. 


To introduce my father as a fiddle player I said, “I have the violin and the case. It needs some strings, the bow needs to be restrung.” 


He said, “Well you know they wear and give out with age. Just like we do. Wither away.” I provide an open-ended response. “There is wear and tear to us.” 


He said, “Yah but you gave me quite an encouragement. You know when I came to the hospital I had given up all hope and faith of coming out of here. …”


There is more. No stories about my father. I am being called to respond as a chaplain. He has moved the broken bow strings to his own life, wear and tear, and not surviving. A metaphorical move of the first order. 

(Part 2)

I was hoping to record information about my father as a fiddle player for barn dances during Mr. Giebelstein’s recovery from surgery. Instead he kept moving the conversation to other topics. 

He had been very nervous before surgery thinking he might not survive. My visit had been helpful he said. Now he reviewed a different approach provided by his friend, he said, “you have to stay with the boat.” I countered with “there is no large body of water in Cedar County.” He continued with his friends approach, “you have to stay with the boat in order to survive.” We had been reading the Noah and the flood story in morning chapel and now the story becomes a summary for support. After surgery he had an update, “So you just stay with the boat and you’ll come out of it.” I suggest, “Maybe the boat is a kind of religious symbol.” His reply, “That could be. You know, Noah used the boat.” He makes the connection.

Transcribing the recording provided a metaphorical conversation with strangers. Remembering the chapter on language in a philosophy book, there I found underlined passages on metaphor 24 years before. Aristotle is correct. “Find the metaphor.” I experienced a paradigm shift (1976) in how to listen and I changed the way I trained Befrienders to be story listeners. I reviewed my conversational life and found I had already been making decisions based on metaphor without knowing. The Lord works in mysterious ways. The door was now open for many more revelations and healings. Aha! Thanks be the God!

Chaplain Whitmer, BCC (Ret.)