Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Befriender Time Line Updated

  

Befriender Forum

Story Metaphor Listening

The Befriender Time Line

 

Supervision, debriefing, and reflective learning were the keys to follow up and service. This is where community programs often break down, refusing the take the time that makes the difference. 

 

The Grief Resource Group started in 197 5and the group is the main source for the pastoral innovations that followed.

 

The Befriender program, a group trained in story listening, begin in 1966 with a question, ““how can we change the rule, don’t talk to patients when you take the notions cart around”? I think patients want to talk?” A person from the hospital Auxiliary, Mavoreen Briggs, came to my office with this question. I went to work on getting approval from the medical, nursing, auxiliary, and administration. Mr. Stuhler, the Administrator, said I would need approval from all four groups before beginning a separate group to visit patients. The Medical Staff had the longest discussion before approval. I began with three people from Trinity Cathedral who had been discussion leaders with the youth groups. I had given them some prior training in listening.  

 

The challenge was I needed to know more about training. I consulted with 2 nearby Clinical Pastoral Education supervisors, Paul Swanson, Moline, and David Belgum, University of Iowa. Paul Swanson had some experience in training volunteers at Massachusets General Hospital.

 

I began with twenty weeks of training at the start, increased to 30 weeks as the interest generated participants, training 12 - 15 people each year. The first ten weeks, a two hour evening session each week, was on story listening using active listening skills, the second ten weeks focused on the various situations in the hospital, and the last ten week focused on three verbatim conversations each was required to write. The group started patient visits during the second ten weeks in order to write the verbatims reviewed these as part of our learning. When metaphor listening came into being we would identify the metaphors and explore their meaning for the patient during the discussion. 

 

Our morning schedule included chapel, shortened Morning Prayer with Scripture, discussion on the text, and intercessory prayers starting a 9 AM. Next, assignments of visits to patients. When they went to the nursing station to get updates from the nurses they asked another question, “do you have names of other patients who may need a visit?” Over a five year period that question changed the culture to a more story listening culture. Nurses began to refer patients to Befrienders realizing the value of story listening in patient care.  

 

At the end of the morning each Befriender wrote a short summary of their visit followed by debriefing with a chaplain before leaving the hospital. Discerning follow up was made as well as reducing the Befriender stress from more involved visits. Time was built in for periodic reflection on the stories being heard. This was an important learning time for increasing listening skills and connecting the dots between Scripture stories, the stories of others, and our own story. 

 

In 1973 I made a presentation of the Befriender Program to the College of Chaplains meeting in Atlanta, GA. Ron Hasley, Chaplain at Lutheran Hospital in Moline, was there. We begin joint training of Befrienders for five years. Their Befriender program continues to the present under new merged hospital named Unity Point now located on both sides of the Mississippi River, Bettendorf, IA. and Rock Island, IL. We joined training again for three years with Chaplain Joe Robb when he took Ron’s place.

 

1975 – The Grief Resource Group begins in January at the suggestion of Edith Meier, a Befriender who reviewed the stories Befrienders heard and found most were grief stories, loss and change, of all kinds. We concluded that we don’t know much about grief. We started a Wednesday morning reflector group to learn, 7 to 8:30. The hospital furnished the coffee and rolls. We would invite people to instruct us, every other week and the intervening Wednesdays would be time for sharing our own findings. The group was interdisciplinary, professionals and non-professionals, mainly Befrienders. We had community clergy, social workers, nurses, and anyone who wanted to attend. We had around ten or twelve regulars. The group met continually until June of 1992 when they took on the task of learning the needs of the community. With the unexpected death of death of Chaplain Johnson the group was disbanded by the next chaplain manager of Pastoral Care and the name of the Department was changed to Spiritual Care.

 

In 1975 year I had a pre op surgical visit with a follow up. (See the Aha! Story in the Befrienderforum.org for more detail) I recorded the conversation with Harry Geibelstein after the surgery and a new listening model was born, the art of story/metaphor listening. We had a portion of the Noah story in chapel, he said “A friend said you have to stay with the boat in order to survive.” … And again after I said, “I have the bow to the violin, but the strings are worn out.” His reply, “O yes, we all wear out.” Words were being moved about to provide meaning, and a new insight in how metaphors work in conversation came to light.

 

1975 – The Episcopal Diocese of Iowa and St. Paul Lutheran Church begin to make yearly contributions to the Befriender program. We are becoming an established program at the hospital.

 

1976 – At the suggestion of the Grief Resource Group a The Grief Recovery Program began with two co-leaders.

Six participants were in the first group meeting once a week for ten weeks. We have ten week sessions periodically for a couple of years when the participants told us the ten week sessions were to short. We changed to every other week year around. During the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s we started a holiday blues workshop which drew more people for a single session.

 

The First Presbyterian Church expanded Befrienders for their Congregation. We become the training unit for their program. They started with several people who had already been trained at the hospital. St. Paul Lutheran Church did the same although later they opt for the St. Stephens Ministry which was more parish based than hospital.

 

I rewrote the Befriender training language with the help of the Nursing Education Department to conform to their language and approval. The State approved the curriculum and I begin training nurses in the Art of Story Metaphor listening. They received Continuing Education Units which were part of maintaining their license as nurses.

 

In 1977 a discussion on starting a hospice program was initiated by Bev Kreiter, a social worker and Befriender, in the Resource Group. She had visited St. Christopher’s Hospice in London while on vacation. She said we already had three components of a Hospice: Befrienders as volunteers, chaplains, and a grief recovery group. We were missing the medical team of nursing and a medical doctor. We began inviting doctors to get their opinion. They were in favor. We signed the Articles of Incorporation in November of 1978. Dr. Wilson became our first medical advisor, a nurse from the Visiting Nurses did home care, and Anette Benjamin was our first social worker.  The Hospice Pilot Project had its first year at St. Luke’s hospital. In our second year The Visiting Nurses and Mercy Hospital join us. After five years the Visiting Nurses takes charge to become a government funded hospice where patients can receive money for their medications. In time the free- standing hospice, Clarissa Cook Hospice, was built. They are getting ready to celebrate 15 years after the beginning 43 years earlier.

 

1979 - Sister Connie Nadue from the Wilder Foundation, St. Paul, MN, visited for a day. She returns to St. Paul,MN., to start a Befriender Program at the Wilder Foundation. Later she went to St Thomas College where a Befriender Ministry program is marketed starting in 1982. Our contribution is not recorded in their history but it is documented by a letter from Sister Connie Nadue.

 

 In 1980 Health Central from Minneapolis conducted a survey where Befrienders were named by the community as one of the ten most positive activities connected with St. Luke’s Hospital.

 

In 1980 Ron Hasley and Marlin Whitmer wrote a book on the Befrienders at the Suggestion of Dr. Howard Clinebell. It was to be published by Fortress Press. Instead it was published by St. Luke’s and Lutheran Hospital.  We didn’t make the grade with the publishers since he thought the readership would be limited by our being hospital oriented. In honesty we could not say we were parish oriented.

 

Jeanie Olson, a Befriender, becomes the coordinator of Grief Recovery group. We are now working with over 200 people a year in the grief recovery group. She later becomes the coordinator of the Umbrella For Caring, providing continuity of care from hospital to home through lay ministers from churches. 

 

The big surprise in 1980 -  The Saturn Project, they are seeking a plant location for manufacturing a new automobile.  Scott County was on their list. The Chamber of Commerce asked me to write one of fifty letters about the community. My topic was how the programs of pastoral care, including the Befrienders, contribute to the Quality of Life of the Community.

 

This was an eye opener to realize we were having a systemic influence on the community systems. I asked a person from the Chamber of Commerce to come to the hospital and speak to the Befrienders. They needed to know about the unseen impact they were making.

 

1988 – I presented the new program on the Umbrella for Caring at the College of Chaplains

 

An article on the Umbrella for Caring was published in the College for Chaplains Journal  The Diocese of Iowa had contributed $10,000 to the pilot project called the Umbrella for Caring.

 

The Umbrella for caring took six illnesses where people are apt to return to the hospital. Upon discharge we connected them with a Befriender from their church. Six churches participated by signing a memorandum of understanding listing their responsibilities in the program.  A quick summary: In churches with a well-established and supportive Befriender program patients stayed out of the hospital for a longer time and benefited from the relational ministry.

 

The Grief Recovery group underwent a change. People are coming to the group within the first several weeks after their loss. Word had spread that we were helping. Many are too emotional for the group experience. Previously people came either after the fourth month or after a year and a half.  To adjust I added a six sessions over 12 week for beginning new people. We went through the alphabet, four letters at a time, naming their grief experience. They could identify with others in the group on the basis of these words. Telling their story would come later. They named the pain, paradox of opposite feelings, and a purpose (where they wanted to be in the future.)  Over time I expand the exercise on naming words for our feelings during grieffor any life transition. We discovered 50% of the words wouldl be alike regardless of the transition.

 

1990 - Quad City Labor Council expresses an interest in Befriending. 

 

Sharing the Befriender Discoveries with Others begins in various settings.

 

1992 Rick Johnson takes over the training and supervision of the Befrineders as Marlin Whtimer retires. The Grief Resource Group becomes more oriented to the community with a focus of juvenile issues and children’s grief. Rick’s House of Hope is the outcome for children. 

 

Now retired, in 1993 I have a summer meeting in St. Paul, MN, with those involved in the Befriender Ministry Program. They are surprised to find my part in the beginning of their program. To participate I would have to start as a beginner. No thanks. They give me their thick training manual. Ugh!

 

I continued to offer workshops in retirement until my hearing became a disability. 

 

2003 - 9   I am given the opportunity through The Wayne Oates Institute to do a distance learning seminar on The Healing Power of Stories. Professional Chaplains could obtained CEU credits. The computer overcomes my hearing disability.

 

Break time for illnesses, my own and Bobbies fourth cancer. She died on July 30th, 2011. She was very supportive of my work with the Befrienders, being a Befriender herself. She was in the Clarissa Cook Home the last four months of her life. We lived the hospice program as intended.

 

2013 in April, on three Saturdays, made a DVD on the Healing Power of Stories. I rewrote the six seminar presentations for the Wayne Oates Institute into a creative writing mode. Instead of footnotes my best stories become the footnotes. Patty Blackman, Befriender, was my coach.

 

Now at age 91 I am now retired and an active gardener.

 

We have lived in our own way an article from the Harvard Business Review, The Culture of Originality. (March, 2016, page 86) 



·         How to Build a Culture of OriginalityMAGAZINE ARTICLE

 

 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The lie as metaphor

-When the lie becomes the metaphor

This is definitely an issue in the United States and perhaps world wide as well. The metaphor is the way language functions regardless of the language. The book Metaphoric came about by first recording conversations world wide and after transcribing they came up with 7 deep metaphors that are universal. I am ready to learn more.

As a Board Certified hospital chaplain I have pursued the way metaphors function in a conversation since 1975 when a patient made me aware of what was happening in our conversation. I was already tuned in to story listening from my training In clinical pastoral education, and I had been training lay people to make patient visits as story listeners since 1966  but now I had something more specific, the metaphor. I changed the way I trained Befrienders to the art of story metaphor listening.  The way we move words from one place to another to explain something else is a metaphorical process. Metaphor from the Greek, meta - new and phor -place.  When you change the metaphor you change the story. When you can the story you may be changing the culture.

The lie can begin as a metaphor. The lie is moved to a new place where it has not been verified by any court of law. Our election system. The repeated usage is a way to literalizing a metaphor. The lie then becomes petrified and pathological. An alternative story not grounded in reality. When used as the unspoken major premise all conclusions become flawed.  Study Aristotle who provides an early philosophical understanding.

A more recent resource provides a more detailed explanation. The Metaphoric Process: Connections between Language and Life, pages 55-61, "the pathology of literalness." The author is Gemma Corradi Fiumara, an Italian philosopher and psychoanalyst. 

Most people use metaphors unaware. You cannot communicate and make sense without using metaphors. They are the hidden words in our conversations. Signs of our symbolic nature.

When I was doing workshops on the healing power of stories and presenting metaphor I would say, “I am going to help you know what you already know but don’t know you know.”

Marlin Whitmer, Ret. Hospital Chaplain

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Out of the Tunnel and into the Woods

Out of the Tunnel and into the Woods. April 13, 2121

I have had both shots of the vaccine (Phizer) and I am beyond the two weeks recommended before any adventures.

I went to the senior exercise class at the Bettendorf Fitness Center this morning. More people were present, several are back who attended before the shut down of the facility because of the high number of virus cases back in March of last year. I am sure without asking that almost all in the group have now received their shots. We are an older group. Older group was showing up In another way today. Usually the majority used the large balloons to sit on during a segment of the hour for various exercises, especially bar bells. Today people were bringing in chairs to sit on. People have fallen off the balloons. A few months back when one man fell off the balloon and hit his head on the window. He had a gash that required some attention.Even our instructor today had a chair. She had fallen some place and is recovering. She was using bar bells of two different weights. Her right arm must still bother her. Another man who always exercises near me was going for the balloon. He would have been the only one with a balloon. He changed his mind and found a chair. I uttered so he could hear, "conformity." Another change, for the first time in my memory, there were more men, six, and five women. I had no explanation for that. I have been part of the group for at least five years. I have always used the chair since the herniated discs in my back would not like a soft balloon to bounce on.

I have missed as few sessions since a couple of Wednesdays back, tomorrow will be Wednesday again. I went to the hospital with a stroke. I suppose you could add that to the woods. At age 90 one lives with the unpredictable. If a stroke can be fortunate I can say I had a fortunate stroke. I missed the virus so far but not a stroke. The stroke I had was a loss of words. I couldn't talk. I tried but I could not make sense to myself or my wife and a friend who was visiting. It happened all of a sudden. No preparation. Sudden onset they could say. The Emergency Room doctor first wanted to know if I was hemorrhaging in the brain so they did a CT scan. No bleeding. That saved me from a risky medication that can stop the bleeding. After some waiting I was transferred to a room in fourth floor in the new part of the hospital.  I found out later that I was kept in a isolation area if the hospital until the virus test showed neggaive. Late the next day they moved me to another room, out of the woods. 

This hospital has undergone a major renovation. It is more like a hotel.  And all the testing equipment is super modern. For 28 years, from 1965 to June 1 of 1992 I was the lead chaplain here. I haven't visited very often since but I now have experienced the new hospital and the nursing team and completely new is the  doctors called hospital. I had two on two different days. Very knowledgeable and ready to keep you up to date on what is happening. With a stroke I can see that is very important. I should say in case you are wonder, my words and thoughts were back to normal at the end of the first day. By noon I was doing better but best by that night before my wife left for home. She being a nurse was most relieved.

I was given every test on the page under stroke. All turned out negative. On the last day the neurologist had taken over. She wanted to know what caused my stroke. She order two  tests  on Friday including a brain wave test. All were negative. I Wass to be discharged then with one more test the next week. I wore a heart monitor for a week. A new technology. It was taped to my chest, the size of a half pen. No leads. If I had encountered any stress I was to touch the button on the top. In case you wonder what caused the stroke. They gave me a fancy name. Trans Ischemic Activity, cause unknown. They can be the forerunner of a larger stroke. Although in my case I am a very healthy 90 year old with a good normal blood pressure and blood work that Is all in the normal range. I am working with a urologist to see if my bladder stays clear of cancer. Good so far. Frequent trips to the bathroom are not unusually for my age.

A separate comment from my professional bias. The staff and the team of doctors were all very professional and relational. I look for that relational characteristic. From the English medical journal Lancet, I don't remember the year, but I have the quote. "The relationship the doctor has with the patient is as important as the treatment." 

Today then was my first day back at the exercise group. I had gone to the Fitness Center to ride the stationary bike and use the weight machines one day last week. Otherwise there were too many complications in both of our schedules to make the sessions.

Since the virus count in rising in our Quad Cities among the younger folks, under 30, and hospitalizations are going up, I continue to wear to mask and keep social distance when I do go out. I have a new mask from my seminary that says on the front. Virginia Theological Seminary. Seminary is in big letters  No one has asked my about the mask up to this point. I have started to do some grocery shopping again. I also can go into the lobby of my IH credit union .I am going to a different branch since I am getting better service. The clerks are much more helpful. It is a smaller branch and it may not be as busy. That may make the difference. It is also a newer branch.

This Friday evening will be our first big outing. We did go to Church on Easter. My wife has a couple Aunts, one lives in Dubuque. they are hosting a family gathering. We will be there. I will take my mask but I may not wear the mask. They have all received the vaccination. They are both retired from the medical field.

Enough from the woods at this point in time,

Marlin Whitmer, a retired but active hospital chaplain.



The Virus Tunnel Continues: Monday, February 8, 2021

The vaccinations brought new expressions like a "light at the end of the tunnel" and "hope." One person after being vaccinated even did a dance. For myself at age 90 and living in Iowa and in Scott County the tunnel continues. Rightly so, health care workers and nursing home patients and staff have taken precedence with the first shot and enough needs to be saved for the second. My wife as a clinical nursing instructor has received the first shot with the second next week.

A number of issues extend the dark. The department of health is in charge in Scott County. They are only taking 500 persons a week, the number of vaccines available. That is for a population of 25,000 age 65 and older, along with police, fireman, teachers. I tried to get on the list. I did register but to get on the list you have to log in for the appointment. So far our attempts have reaped the message that all appointments have been filled. And then because of lack of vaccines last week they didn't give shots to the appointed list, postponed for a week. For me that means a two week wait. 

Part of the issue with the department of health is they are understaffed after being under funded for several years. The decline in slippery slopes are eventually rewarded in some way including disaster. The lack of vaccines is an additional issue.

Help is on the way. The President and his advisors are making pharmacies available as places to be vaccinated. We often receive the flu shot at our nearby Walgreens. I have inquired and they have given me the procedure to register. The procedure is to much for this 90 year old. My wife is more adept. She has registered me with Walgreens. Again they are not taking appointments since they do not have the vaccines yet. I am sad for other elder and the poor without computers or the tech skills.

Another possibility from the President is to have a 100 sites with Federal Emergency Management Agency with military assistance deliver vaccinations. The County Supervisors approved a letter last Thursday to apply. Time is of the essence. 

Now we have a new strain of the virus, a variant of three kinds that is spreading. Nine cases in Iowa already, The variants are said to spread faster. The race is on as the tunnel darkens and continues. Stay tuned. Updates coming. I am hopeful,  in between and not yet realized hopes. 

Tuesday, February 9

The dark of the tunnel is fed in more than one way. The lack of vaccines is one way. The decision by the Governor of Iowa is another. On the day of the Super Bowl she opened bars, restaurants, no mask, large gatherings. She did not consult the Department of Health in making the decision. She made it on the slight decline in the number of cases reported. She even went against the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control.  The director said as much when asked. Opening up on the day of Super Bowl to allow for super spread extends some darkness. We shall see. 

A point of light was shown on the editorial page of the Quad City Times. Ed Tibbet commended the people of the state for doing masks, social distancing, and not attending places that spread the virus. The remarks of the Governor did not distort the good sense of the everyday folk. We knew better when she did not.  Hopefully that will continue. I am definitely in the group, mask and limiting my going out. The Fitness Center in the afternoon has few people there and that is when I go three afternoons a week.. I had the machine weights and the stationary bike in separate areas almost to myself the whole time. They are busier in the morning and evening. Where leadership is lacking each person can lead responsibly. 

To be continued,

Marlin Whitmer




 

Monday, February 8, 2021

The Virus Tunnel Continues

Monday, February 8, 2021

The vaccinations brought new expressions like a "light at the end of the tunnel" and "hope." One person after being vaccinated even did a dance. For myself at age 90 and living in Iowa and in Scott County the tunnel continues. Rightly so, health care workers and nursing home patients and staff have taken precedence with the first shot and enough needs to be saved for the second. My wife as a clinical nursing instructor has received the first shot with the second next week.

A number of issues extend the dark. The department of health is in charge in Scott County. They are only taking 500 persons a week, the number of vaccines available. That is for a population of 25,000 age 65 and older, along with police, fireman, teachers. I tried to get on the list. I did register but to get on the list you have to log in for the appointment. So far our attempts have reaped the message that all appointments have been filled. And then because of lack of vaccines last week they didn't give shots to the appointed list, postponed for a week. For me that means a two week wait. 

Part of the issue with the department of health is they are understaffed after being under funded for several years. The decline in slippery slopes are eventually rewarded in some way including disaster. The lack of vaccines is an additional issue.

Help is on the way. The President and his advisors are making pharmacies available as places to be vaccinated. We often receive the flu shot at our nearby Walgreens. I have inquired and they have given me the procedure to register. The procedure is to much for this 90 year old. My wife is more adept. She has registered me with Walgreens. Again they are not taking appointments since they do not have the vaccines yet. I am sad for other elder and the poor without computers or the tech skills.

Another possibility from the President is to have a 100 sites with Federal Emergency Management Agency with military assistance deliver vaccinations. The County Supervisors approved a letter last Thursday to apply. Time is of the essence. 

Now we have a new strain of the virus, a variant of three kinds that is spreading. Nine cases in Iowa already, The variants are said to spread faster. The race is on as the tunnel darkens and continues. Stay tuned. Updates coming. I am hopeful,  in between and not yet realized hopes. 

Tuesday, February 9

The dark of the tunnel is fed in more than one way. The lack of vaccines is one way. The decision by the Governor of Iowa is another. On the day of the Super Bowl she opened bars, restaurants, no mask, large gatherings. She did not consult the Department of Health in making the decision. She made it on the slight decline in the number of cases reported. She even went against the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control.  The director said as much when asked. Opening up on the day of Super Bowl to allow for super spread extends some darkness. We shall see. 

A point of light was shown on the editorial page of the Quad City Times. Ed Tibbet commended the people of the state for doing masks, social distancing, and not attending places that spread the virus. The remarks of the Governor did not distort the good sense of the everyday folk. We knew better when she did not.  Hopefully that will continue. I am definitely in the group, mask and limiting my going out. The Fitness Center in the afternoon has few people there and that is when I go three afternoons a week.. I had the machine weights and the stationary bike in separate areas almost to myself the whole time. They are busier in the morning and evening. Where leadership is lacking each person can lead responsibly. 

To be continued,

Marlin Whitmer





Tuesday, December 15, 2020

A Light at the End of the Virus Tunnel

 I don't know how often I am hearing or reading that expression in relation to the vaccine for the virus. People receiving the first vaccine have been saying it as well as others in health care and politics. 

In 1955 while in my last year of seminary at Alexandria, VA, I said it and my fellow classmates said it. We had heard it from those who graduated before us. The first year of seminary you entered the tunnel, the second year was the darkest, where am I and what am I doing here?. And during the third and last year one began to see a light at the end of the tunnel and then graduation into the full light of day.

I am sure this metaphor has been moved to countless places. You can add your own observations and story.

The pandemic complicates the expression. While the vaccine my be the light at the end of the tunnel the virus competes by providing the greatest number of new infections, over loaded hospitals and exhausted medical caregivers, and a rising number of deaths in nursing homes and among the poor. We have not had the cooperation of some people to wear masks, keep the distance, and wash their hands. The coming together of families over Thanksgiving is now showing up as more people come down with the virus illness. Christmas and other religious gatherings are ahead of us. What will we experience before the light is the light. I have heard it said the night is darkest before the dawn. True or false. In our experience with the virus it may be true. 

We have a language that provides metaphorical short cuts. You move a word or expression to a new place to communicate a lot of meaning by piggy backing when you move the expression or word to a new place. We are image makers.

Close off for now as I start collecting. Now adding on the 25th of December with people traveling and families gathering. Not here. We are celebrating separately while keeping in contact texting, iPhone, and Zoom on Sunday. 

The light at the end of the tunnel disappeared fast as a popular metaphor only to be replaced by the word hope. Hope is the big word this Christmas. You can find the word countless places. I will not try to name them. 

The most unique was the Doctor and Genesis Medical in Davenport who started dancing after he received he shot. I had to look up the words to a folk hymn, The Lord of the Dance. I heard the author sing the song in a folk song gathering. He is an English Quaker. Those interested can find the words by engaging the internet that has more information that the Public Library.

The light at the end of the tunnel and hope seems to have skeptics with reservations to taking the vaccine. I will be ready myself and so will my wife who is a nurse. She is critical of the pictures showing nurses giving the shot to special people.  They are doing it wrong. I have received instructions for doing it the right way. So far she hasn't seen anyone doing it right and since she is a ob/gyn nurse she knows how important the right was is for babies. I will try to arrange to have her give me the vaccine shot the right way.

I haven't seen this metaphorical expression but there is the term "a shot in the arm."

Shalom,

Marlin Whitmer, retired hospital chaplain

Founder of the Befrienders and the art of story metaphor listening.







Friday, December 4, 2020

Immigrants all, starting with Abraham


The Quad City Times carried a lead story in their Celebrate Section onThurs., Jan. 14, 1999 that is a Genesis 12 story. Genesis 12 begins the journey of Abraham when he is called by God to leave the city of Ur. 

 

The Call of Abram

1The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”  (NIV)

 

I encourage your reading about Abraham starting with the 12th chapter of Genesis. I have been reflecting on the Genesis story of Abraham more than once in these blogs.  

 

The headlines in the QCTimes read"Strangers in a friendly land." The stories by Paula Parrella begin with this line, "Imagine yourself in an unfamiliar country where everyone around you speaks a different language." I wonder, did Abraham know the Egyptian language? Or did everyone speak Arabic? When did Hebrew come in?

The article documents four families: Two are from Bosnia and two are fromVietnam who left the familiar for the unfamiliar. As America becomes more multi-cultural Genesis 12 takes on more meaning. America has been a place to dream, vision, learn, work, etc., a promised land. Have we not been agathering place for Genesis 12 folk? Thomas Jefferson wanted to have "acloud by day and a pillar of fire" on the dollar bill. We do have “a new order under heaven.” He was proposing a direct image from the book of Exodus andthe way Moses and the Hebrew people traveled in the wilderness for the promised land ... another journey story and a continuation of the journey of Abraham.

All my ancestors left the familiar as Abraham to come to this unfamiliar land of promise. They came for different reasons and from different places, there is more than one Ur. The Whitmer’s came to escape religious persecution before the Revolutionary War, coming out of Switzerland and arriving here from Holland. Another Great Grandfather came with his wife from Germany to escape military conscription or jail. We have more than one story. My Irish Great Grandparents came to escape starvation, the potato famine. My Scottish Great Great Grandfather, I am not sure about the reason. He came early but moved along with the Whitmer’s to become a well know blacksmith in the early days of Cedar and Muscatine Counties, Iowa.   

 

The result, my mother's first language was German. She grew up on a farm near Louden, Ia. When I went to the Krienbring Reunions as a boy I heard the elders speaking German. My mother understood. My father did not speak German. He felt out of place. Plus he didn't play cards or drink beer. There was one other man with a German background and a farmer who did not play cards or drink beer. They would visit about farming. 

 

During WorldWar 1 my mother abruptly stopped speaking German while in grade school. America’s participation in the war brought criticism to Germans for using their language. Iowa passed a law forbidding the spoken language. The trauma of that event continued for my mother’s lifetime. She would not even share a German word or phrase when asked. 

I remember going to a Japanese New Years party in Chicago. I was the only Caucasian. My friend George Hayashi, seminary classmate, had invited me as we were on our way back to Virginia Seminary. It was agreat party. They had plenty of food, mostly pickled. The women said they had been preparing for months. I like pickles and it all tasted good even if I didn’t know what I was eating.  They had plenty of drinks, warm saki. Wow! Laughter was also plentiful although I didn't know what they were laughing about. George would occasionally translate. It must have been funny in Japanese. A number there were survivors of the Japanese internment camp. George had been in the Japanese internment camp during WW11 as a young boy. Another story. Another harsh treatment of immigrants.

 

This reflection was first writing in January 14, 1999. Now under some revision I submit this with the acknowledgement that Donald Trump is the President of the United States. He must have an entirely different interpretation to Genesis 12 with the rhetoric of the building of a wall along with deportations and severe limits on immigration. He reminds me of our previous mistakes generated by fear and the impact it had on people's well being, like my mother.

Do you have any Genesis 12 memories and/or current Genesis 12 happenings in yourneighborhood? I think it is important to reflect on these stories as we struggle with our post 9/11 world that lives in fear of the “other.” We were once the “other.”


Shalom,

Marlin

 

Founder of the Befrienders in 1966 and the Art of story metaphor listening in 1975. 

Read the blog "Comfortable with the Uncomfortable."  

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Reflections at 90 years of age. (becoming a wise old man???)

Surprise! How did I get here so fast as the time goes faster at my age and I move more slowly. Does moving about slowly make the time go faster?  

I don't plan to complete my reflections today since I am planning on another day and another day with frequent updates and revisions. The frequent updates and revisions have been few but we have now moved from June 1, 2020, to January 3, 2021. I am on my way to becoming 91. 

When I was in high school I read a book filled with essays on different topics. I found the book under what we called a library table. It was a monstrosity. How the book came to be there I forgot to ask. Along with two other books. That constituted the extent of our home library. Perhaps the small number of books was an advantage, I kept reading the book on essays and the chapter that caused continued interest and rereading was entitled wisdom. Then and there I decided I wanted wisdom. Now at 90 years of age, what can I say? I lost the book. I don't know what happened to it. I don't even know what happened to the library table. I am sure my mother sold it when she sold the house after my father died. 

Shortly before coming down with chicken pox I started a library of my own by joining a couple book clubs. One on the classics (Plato and Aristotle) and another a religious book club.  They sent a book a month and my library grew rapidly. Just in time. I came down with chicken pox sometime in the middle of my sophomore year. Itchy time. The book that came for me to read was Richest of the Poor, a book about the life of St. Francis of Assisi  A sickness changed his life. I began to identify. Afterwards I became a more serious student, my grades improved immensely enabling me to graduate from high school with a B average. Quite a jump from my freshman year and first half of my sophomore year. During my senior year I took to heart a repeated phrase from my Civics teacher, "become a life long learner." That phrase can be heard more frequently now, 70 years later. My seminary uses a similar language for their Continuing Education Program. I added a book entitled some time in the mid-60's, 

What is strange is the reaction taking place with some in authority who are listening less, ignoring, even denying those with specialized training and expertise in all kinds of health care modalities, research, infection control, epidemiology, public health, etc. Where is our wisdom during a very serious pandemic?  I would count our local infection control doctor with Scott County Public Health, Dr. Katz, as a wise doctor.  I worked with him in the hospital during the HIV crisis. He writes for the newspaper and his comments are not to reflect the public health department where he works. Sad. He would mandate wearing a mask and our governor refuses to issue a mandate. As a result Iowa still have a high number of folks with the virus, that includes our Scott County where I lived.

Perhaps a wise saying would be, there is a certain amount of resistance to gaining wisdom.

Time to look for the definition of wisdom. Sophis in the Greek language, an ultimate kind of knowing. The word is in the background of our word sophistication. Somehow I think something was lost in translation. Being sophisticated is not all that complimentary. 

More to be added here.

I have been interrupted by an email question. How to get rid of whiteflies on tomato plants? To be continued. Also from another time. Aphids have attacked my new Chinese cabbage plants and lettuce leaves. Investigation and purchase. Neem oil in a spray bottle is now on my shelf. After a couple of days, to be applied every 7 days, it seems to be effective. I am an avid gardener at 90. Growing up on a farm provides a love for the land. With a three tierd grow light stand I can start seeds for transplanting to the garden And lettuce can be grown to harvest and well as micro greens. Now I see the seed company has  another kind of lettuce I will try out. (as I edit I notice I ended the sentence with a preposition. An unconscious slip revealing my background comes from what is known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. I will leave the sentence instead of editing  to illustrate who I am.) 

Back from advice on whiteflies, aphids, and Neem oil. In the meantime I sent off an email about a Greek passage in the Acts of the Apostles that became a discussion point during our Saturday morning gathering. I went to the Hub interlinear which had Peter's sermon in chapter 2.  My email about the passage in question received a quick reply with the words "Thanks for your wisdom." Timely. Maybe what I have a hard time acknowledging others can.

Another break for an email of a person going through a difficult grief.  A reply to her pain. She wrote back, "That helped so much." 

As a retired hospital chaplain who facilitated a grief recovery group for 17 years, 1975 to 1992, I am still involved. I have a sermon on the Trinity Cathedral web site on the grief of our time, and one on this blog. Recovering from our losses is a seed bed for wisdom. Wisdom grows out of our relational experiences including all kinds of losses.

When I come back to this blog I will acknowledge the mystical. At this age I call myself a Christian mystic. To describe myself as such did not happen over night. The journey tells the story. Someone else was helping to write the story I will tell, The story is told by many others down through human history and in different religious traditions. Each has their own story. My experience comes out of the Christian tradition in the Episcopal Church. 

On the 3rd Sunday of March in 1973 I celebrated the Eucharist at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bettendorf. The sermon was a summary of a paper I would present at the Chaplain's Convention in Atlanta, GA. The paper was on training lay people to be story listeners in a hospital setting. I was nervous about the presentation. The paper was a ground breaker to some extent and I didn't know how my fellow chaplains would accept it. During the consecration prayer in the Eucharist I came to the word broke and I lost my voice. My brain was reviewing my father's losses and rejection. I was reviewing my own. The time lapse was long enough for people in the congregation to start wondering if I was sick. Some later told me I turned white. Another was ready to come forward and help. Then I heard a voice: "broken is not the last word". I regained my voice and finished the service. The talk in Atlanta went better than expected with a small turn out. But a chaplain from as hospital across the river resonated. He an I began training Befrienders together for a number of years. We even wrote a book about our work. Fortress press rejected our manuscript but the two hospitals published a limited edition. 

Now I am ready to talk about mystical experience and learning from the margins. The Befrienders were a learning group from the margins starting in 1966. And yesterday, 9/27/2020, Richard Rohr reflection was on St. Francis of Assisi, mysticism and the margins. There. I tied a few things together. Riches of the Poor, a mystical experience, and margins as a part of journey toward wisdom.

Besides my on going reflection on wisdom I am adding the importance of balance. I have a physical therapist who is helping me by providing exercises to improve my balance.  When I started the program I could nob balance myself when I put my two feet side by side. Now, no problem. The problems comes when I put one foot in front of the other without holding on to anything but having something nearby to grab. I am improving. I have better balance on my right leg, not so good on the left. I am doing exercises to strengthen my leg muscles. 

Yesterday I read in a Harvard Medical newsletter that different medications can affect balance. I have more to read and learn as I continue to improve my balance. Older people like me fall easier and having better balance is a preventative approach. Hoping for better balance for all who read this. You may have gained some wisdom in the process.  I am a blog on being helped by a physical therapist. My wife is presently being helped by that same physical therapist. She has had extra training which helps her to have a wisdom about the exercises she offers. She has given me some exercises to help with balance, my herniated discs in my lower back, and the neuropathy in my feet. She would not be able to remove the cancer tumor in my bladder as the urologist did in October of 2019 and the subsequent bladder scopes which say clear. He shared wisdom brings more comfort and management skills each day I continue to live. 

During the pandemic my wife and I are most fortunate and blessed to live in a large house with a big yard. We both have our hobbies and interests. Mine is growing foods to eat from a three tiered grow light stand. I am specializing in micro greens at present, several herbs, impatient rooting from a parent plant five years ago, and etc.  I write for a blog and the listening reflections on Trinity Cathedral's web site. At present I am facilitating a Saturday morning Zoom meeting on the letters of St. Paul. I like to bring out the Greek language meanings that get lost in the English translations. The rhetoric in Paul's Greek doesn't always get translated accurately. Also in the Gospels with the Greek pecan being an example. It gets translated more than on way, crossing over and other side. Folks that only read the English are unaware to the same word being used more than once which is a way of saying, pay attention, peran is the introduction to something very important, only revealed after peran.

Shalom,

Marlin Whitmer