Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Moral Courage


Moral courage is needed in the State of Iowa as we address the need for funding adequate coverage for mental illness for the crisis centers, mental health courts, residential centers, and long term care. We have been going backwards to long and the new starts need to be adequately funded.

The West Point's Cadet Prayer is now my prayer continually.


What Happens When Our Leaders Lack Moral Courage
By Wesley K. ClarkMay 23, 2019

Over the years, thousands of cadets at the United States Military Academy, myself included, have memorized and recited West Point’s Cadet Prayer. “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong,” the prayer goes, “and never to be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won. Endow us with courage that is born of loyalty to all that is noble and worthy, that scorns to compromise with vice and injustice, and knows no fear when truth and right are in jeopardy.”

The prayer describes the value of acting for good, and how moral authority is itself the deepest source of power. Cadets are taught that one’s values ought to be the primary reason to seek power, and its only justification for use. This is the essence of the “courage” described in the prayer, the courage that should be a part of every leader’s core.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Who is winning?

Mirror Mirror on the Wall …

Who is winning in our society? Legalized gambling? 

Wednesday’s, Mar 22nd, QCT, had a sports gambling article with two Casino pictures, one worth a thousand words, and a big headline with the article continuing on page A7. 

And what was sidelined?  Mental health in small letters was on the right hand column with a small headline, “Providers prepare for cuts.” The article continues on A6 with less lines than the Casino.

Watch for root and orientation metaphors in every story you read or hear. They are the keys to the message. Casino gets, “WIN BIG,” and mental health gets, “prepare for cuts.”

At least the paper put the contrast on the front page for all to see. Those who have eyes to see can face the depths of our reality.

People with mental health issues and the people who serve them are not winning. The source of the imbalance is the State Legislature and the voters who put them there.  

It is time to get a new mind and act to correct the imbalances in our State.

Marlin Whitmer, BCC (ret.).  

I took a picture of the front page of the newspaper. If I had more skills and I understood Google I could make this more graphic and drastic. 

P.S. Monday, May 27th. This opinion page letter is in the Quad City Times on the opinion page. I made it in print. I hope I get some response. I have a blog in the works on my effort to make contact with the legislature. I am establishing a beachhead as my brother says.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Cyberspace: The New Nineveh?

The story begins many years ago when I was still an active hospital chaplain. I retired in June of 1992, so I am in the era of the 1980's. Old as it is I say it is a relevant today even though I am out of the hospital loop. health care is everywhere.

A man after open heart surgery is non compliant with the recovery program. He is staying in bed not wanting to move. His wife is feeding him. He is heading toward becoming a cardiac cripple. 

I get a referral to visit. The first and only visit begins without resistance. He is open and friendly. He complains about the food. Not eating is not like him. He has always been an eater. His appetite is gone. Hunger has vanished. Discovering himself to be complaining he says, "I don't know why I am complaining to you." I say, "You can complain about anything you want." Now that gives a person permission and he runs with it. "Why is there so much pain in the world anyway?" "You must have had a lot of pain?" says I, going with his lead. "I didn't know there was so much pain. When I woke up from the surgery I was one ball of pain. And the only word that came to my mind was Jonah." Now there is an interesting remark. I have only heard it once in all my 88 years. Every story is unique. I ask, "What do you know about Jonah?" He gives me a Sunday School
answer. "Fish ... swallowed," etc.  

I ask if I can tell him something about Jonah. Jonah is the symbol of coming back to life. Jesus uses the expression, "Sign of Jonah". It has reference to death and resurrection. His eyes are wide open. I have his attention. We talk a little more about his call to a new life experience, "a ball of pain" and the word "Jonah."

I leave his room shortly afterwards. Later in the day I pass the nursing station and they want to know what we talked about. I said, "Jonah." They are not interested. They are interested in the fact that after I left he decided to get up and start walking. He started feeding himself. A friend of his wife told me the next day the wife appreciated my visit. Since he had a Church and a Pastor I did not stop in again. I had been Jethro. My work was done. I went to new territories.

A number of years later a Lutheran Pastor told me about an Alban Institute Conference where Roy Oswald shared the Mutual of Omaha approach of paying heart patients $3500 to participate in the Dean Ornish Heart Program. The Dean Ornish approach is low fat, exercise, support group, and stress management with meditation. At the time I was part of heart rehab phase 3 for my high blood pressure. I asked the nurse if anyone in Phase 3 was doing the Dean Ornish Approach. She said one person. I said, "introduce me." Guess what? It was "Jonah!" Richard! He had no remembrance of my being present 17 years before. That is not unusual. But he knew I knew what no one else knew when I told him of our visit. He now referred to the experience as a mystical experience. 

He was trying the Dean Ornish program on his own. It was hard. We negotiated to organize a support group with meditation. And we did. He said he brought up the Dean Ornish approach to his doctor who said, "That is what they do in the lab, this is the real world." I said on the spot, "The real world is also a lab!" It is hard to believe how doctors of scientific medicine can be so unscientific. I started my college education to be a chemical engineer so I know a little about the scientific method. Besides Dr. Selye said, "The scientific method never made any discoveries. That is the way you write them up. Discoveries are made by asking the question no one else is asking." That is what Dean Ornish did.  

In the meantime I found the manager of the cardiac program at Genesis was involved with setting up the Mutual of Omaha approach. His name, can you believe this, Steve Fish. When you work with a big system like Genesis Regional Medical Center and a Cardiology Group of 8 doctors it is a little like David and Goliath. But this gets me into another story and away from Jethro, a bottom up approach. The Cardiology Group wasn't interest but it still, to this day, leads me to think about Jonah and Nineveh. 

The book of Jonah confronts my resistance to being called. 

My question: Where is Nineveh today? Where are the places we resist God's call to exercise ministry? For many a years the hospital and medical science was Ninevah for the Befrienders and I. Now I say Ninevah is the health care industry. Or even the obsession with health as well as the ways we abuse ourselves and our health. What kind of yo yo, roller coaster, are you and your family experiencing these days?
Part of my mission and call was to ask health care professionals of all persuasions to remember the basic in our relationship with God, which is the story, the word, the Word made flesh, in Christ, and in all of us. This is where all healing begins and ends.

Back to the rehab unit, the heart patient and I set out to get permission for a meditation time as both a spiritual discipline and an exercise to lower blood pressure in the cardiac rehab program. We said, "We are going to Ninevah!" His cardiologist had told him that the Dean Ornish program which includes meditation were things "they do in the laboratory, but this was the real world." My reply, "the real world is also a laboratory." We did get permission to do the meditation exercise. We did demonstrate meditation reduces blood pressure even after exercise.

Later I tried to get a heart rehab (prevention) program going at the  DeWitt Fitness Center. Nothing happened

Now I say the blog is a laboratory for learning. Could the internet be our new Nineveh? What a city we have in cyber space? The city is getting more connected all the time with new technology. Is there a need for a new mind, repentance, in the way we relate?

Marlin Whitmer

Friday, May 17, 2019

Sports Page: Paris, France

I went to a sports page in Paris, France, on the internet to look for metaphors since I have a number of page views from France this week and since the Befriender listening model is all about the art of story metaphor listening. 

One can easily teach metaphors from the English translation of the French sports page. 

This is a title from the internet search on Sports Page from Parish, France. From a quick glance I can see the sports writer of this article, maybe others do the same, use strong words to make the point, both root and orientation metaphors. Here we have epic (root metaphor) moved from literature to a new place, and comeback (orientatin metaphor) of the Spurs. Within the article itself the word heroic is used which goes along with epic plus a number of other orientation metaphors to highlight the excitement of the game.

Spurs beat Ajax 3-2 in epic comeback to reach Champions 
League final
Nail biting provides an orientation metaphor to go with tension as well as a number of others describing the match.

“The celebratory mood in the jam-packed Johan Cruyff Arena turned to one of nailbiting tension after Brazilian Moura scored twice in four minutes early in the second half to put Spurs within a goal of going through.

Ziyech hit the post for Ajax who appeared to have weathered the storm but Moura struck past Andre Onana to flatten the Ajax players and send the away fans into delirium.
Tottenham, playing in their first European Cup semi-final for 57 years, arrived in Amsterdam on a run of woeful formhaving suffered three successive defeats in all competitions.
Ajax, by contrast, were buoyant after winning the Dutch Cup final at the weekend, and they began on the front foot with Dusan Tadic forcing a flying save from Hugo Lloris.
When the resulting corner came, Tottenham's marking was non-existentas De Ligt glanced his header home.
It did not change the basic equationfor Tottenham who knew they needed to score twice and Mauricio Pochettino's side, so disappointing last week, responded in spirited fashion.
Son Heung-min, back after missing the first leg because of suspension, deceivedkeeper Onana with a cross that hit the post and Son then forced another save from a flowing move.
But Ajax were cool, calm and collectedand bided their time before striking again in devastating fashion.
Tadic, who moments earlier had dragged a shot just wide, was released down the left and he cut the ball back perfectly for Ziyech to whip a left-footed shot inside the far post.”
When I was preparing for a workshop in Glasgow, Scotland, I went in search of a sports page in that town and found the metaphor, cold plate. I was fortunate to learn from the high school literature teacher the expression comes from Shakespeare and means revenge.I  doubt if an American sports writer would venture with that metaphor, perhaps the French would avoid the word for the same reason. What we do have in common in the source is literature like epic, heroics, and cold plate. Culture and context make a difference, although I will have a short reflection coming up on the seven deep metaphors in every language and culture.
Repeating myself, I have found the sports page a ready made read for identifying metaphors we hear in ordinary conversation. As the story involves more emotions and depth the metaphors will reflect the same as do the sports page.
And since France has provided the major page views this week, to my amazement, a French sports page was in order. Maybe you have some other sports pages that are every better exhibits for our learning.
Marlin Whitmer, BCC, (ret.)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

When does a person begin to die?

The Psychological Autopsy monogram was written by Avery Wiesema and Robert Kastenbaum. Both are remembered for their work in the beginnings of grief work. I heard both years ago at grief seminars. This was published in 1968 so we are going back a few years. I was three years into my experience as a full time hospital chaplain. I had already begun to train lay people as story listeners in the hospital. We were finding grief stories in some form as the theme in the majority of stories heard by the Befrienders. We started a grief resource group in January 1975 as a result to stody grief in its many aspects. Then in 1976 we started a grief recovery group which went through many different phases before I retired in 1992. Genesis Hospital has continued the grief recovery program. 

I came across Psychology Autopsy in 1971 on a Clinical Pastoral Education sabbatical at the Alcohol Treatment Unit, the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa. This was a very helpful learning experience providing deep insights into the issue of both addiction in our current culture and idolatry in Scripture. Also how alcohol is used as a pain reliever in handling grief and losses of all kinds in the craving of being better, even perfect. 

The counselors at the Alcohol Treatment Unit talked about fractional suicide. Addictions take their toll on our life expectancy, lowering the years we will live. And with Alcohol Addiction, the terminal phase is either DT’s or Kidney failure. The terminal phase would be different for others. Smokers often have pulmonary obstructive lung disease or cancer. with the obese often have a diabetic condition with complications followed by loss of a foot.

Sometime after my reading of the Psychological Autopsy I had a situation in the hospital emergency room which was a classic example. A man working at the Rock Island Arsenal had a cardiac arrest. A young medical intern who was assigned to the Arsenal began procedures to resuscitate. He worked during the ambulance ride to the hospital and continued in the emergency room. The wife arrived and I spend some time hearing her side of the story. Her husband removed himself from relating to his family, even his wife, although they lived in the same house. Work was his only activity. 

I had a chance to visit with the doctor after the wife had left. I heard his lament about not being able to save this man’s life. I then shared with him the story I heard from the wife and the monogram on the psychological autopsy. The question was evident, when did this man begin to pull away from life and relationships. I do not have that story. What I have is the story of his dying process which began long before his cardiac arrest. Was his cardiac arrest part of a broken heart experience, loss of purpose and meaning, etc. We have questions without answers other than there is an in depth way of studying our dying process: the psychological autopsy.

I know about this first hand. When the family farm was lost in 1938 under questionable legal circumstances and my father’s inability to get an automatic calf feeder on the market he began to register a depression that became chronic and then became physically manifest as a heart attack leading to an early death. His unresolved grief could be called a broken heart. 

My grandfather who lived long, 86 years, was very active mentally in a home with several men his age. They played cards for enjoyment, sheepshead. When he fell and broke a hip and was required to go to the home that met regulation standards, no more card playing with his friends, he gave up and died within six months. My effort to revive his interest in life was rejected.

When does a person begin to die? is a valid question and the psychological autopsy is a way to examine the life.

Marlin Whitmer

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A New Mind Continuously

Lectionary for Easter 3C 
Today’s Scripture is a preachers paradise. We have Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, the Restorative Psalm, A Worship experience from the book of Revelation. And Peter’s reconciliation and assignment after denying Jesus three times before the crucifixion.

With this background my sermon has three points, 1. Scripture and verb forms, 2. Worship and the mystical, and 3. a new mind for ministry in daily life.

1. Starting with Scripture and verb forms. You may say I’m wasting our time with verb forms. I would have agreed a few years back. Bear with me and you can tell me later if you think this is a waste of time. 

My 63 year Daily Office Scripture reading habit has gone through different phases. Recently I decided to do something different.  I would build my own interlinear of the Gospels and some epistles. Doing this verse by verse, a Greek verse with the English verse underneath, revealed Greek verbs in a new way. Jesus often uses the present imperative. An action command to continue in the present. This Greek verb form appears four times in today’s Gospel reading, unrecognized in English.

When Jesus commands Peter to “Feed” my sheep, “Tend” my lambs, “Feed” my sheep. Feed, Tend, and Feed, are all in the present imperative. The command is to act continuously in the present, feeding, tending, and feeding. Nurturing, relating, guiding, all clustering to emphasis a continuous action in the present. Love is the foundational principle for the journey, we also have the word follow in the present imperative. We are to follow continuously. Believe and follow appear in the first chapter of the Gospel in this verb form, The image for this relationship appears in the 15thchapter, I am the vine and you are the branches. We get meno, abide, He in us and we in Him. This unitive is also in our worship liturgy. Continuously.

Each Gospel will have Jesus using different present imperative verbs to emphasize some point, in this way the different Gospels become exactly alike in stressing an action as continuous. Today Peter gets his instructions. They are our instructions for our time as well. Peter is the representative disciple. We all deny Christ at some point. We all are welcomed back to the action mode in the figurative language of feeding, tending, and feeding. 

2. Moving to Worship and the mystical, My cousin invited me to come and see the Xmas Eve Eucharist at Trinity Episcopal Church, Muscatine, in 1943.  I initially had no interest. I was a 13 year old agnostic and depressed. Our family had just moved to town from the farm. I wanted to continue on the farm. I had learned to plow corn with a team of horses that summer. I was learning farm work. She persisted. I went. The worship made a lasting impression. Even though I wasn’t a full participant I can still see in my minds eye the people in the pews, the brightness of the white walls, the Altar up front. It was a grail experience. I was soon invited to sing in the men and boys choir. A new life was underway where I was being fed, tended to, and fed again. The Priest who came to town a few years later became my mentor as my father became ill with a chronic depression. 

Fast forward to March, 1973, in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Bettendorf, while celebrating the Eucharist I heard a voice during the consecration prayer. “Broken is not the last word.” I don’t find it strange that Paul, then Saul, heard the voice of Christ on the Damascus road. I heard stories from hospital patients who experienced the intense white light, at the end of the tunnel. With one man it was in reverse. He had the white light experience during a cardiac arrest. Now before open heart surgery he was afraid If he had the white light experience again he would not want to come back. He had the surgery and he recovered. A more frequent mystical experience includes the word “yes.”  An affirmation.

Lest you think you have to have such an experience to be a mystic, they can be simpler, and often missed, when you experience something that is more than oneself, a transcendent moment, to feel a oneness with what is happening in a task, with others, with nature, in a quiet time, a crisis resolution, at worship, knowing this is where I needed to be. There is a range of knowing and feeling to the mystical much of which is hard to explain other than “you know.” The experience moves one beyond and yet includes meaning at a deeper union with Reality.

“Broken is not the last word” was a message of hope in all kinds of pastoral situations, not by having to say the words to another, but by being present with another as the Word of hope --- The Word made flesh. The voice goes with one as strength in the present. 

3. Reflecting on the Scripture verbs of Jesus, knowing what I have experienced while at worship, I am led to a new mind for ministry in daily life. My life is continually under-going change. There is new every day alongside the mundane, the struggles and the pain. I know all of these. Lately they center on issues of mental illness. Some say our treatment of the mentally ill started going backwards in 1965. The book Insane Consequences: How The Mental Health Industry fails the Mentally Ill details the history. Improvements have begun. And one place for the renewal and ministry is the mental health court where lives are being changed.

May is also mental health month, in the Easter season, and on the 24thof May there is a graduation at the Mental Health court at the court house where those who have stabilized after two years of recovery in a therapeutic support community. My thanks to members of Trinity Cathedral for supporting the Mental Health Court.   

The word repent in Greek is meta noia, new mind. A new mind doesn’t always happen in an instant, a gradual revelation is equally true. The disciples new mind in John’s Gospel begins with an invite, come and see, Come is a present imperative, your invite is continuous. And see is an aorist imperative, see in specific situations. where we see as we have never seen before. This new mind set makes all the difference.  We can never go back when we live continuous with Christ. Pray for new minds in caring for others.  

When Christ says do this in remembrance of me in the consecration prayer, the Do is in the present imperative. Do this Continuously. 

Thanks be to God.

Marlin Whitmer