Thursday, December 26, 2019

From the Edge

I am remembering back to my senior year in Seminary, 1955, when Weaver Stevens preached his senior sermon to the Seminary community gathered in the chapel. The time was near Christmas and he talked about the dirty, smelly stable where Jesus was born. A writer for the newspaper who lives in Jackson County recently made the same observation about the birth of Christ being in a smelling place along with unwashed shepherds.

My own experience, raised on an Iowa farm, has no difficulty with the imaging. And I would take the image a step further to say  has truth and learning has a pattern of coming from the margins. In mechanical drawing I learned the vantage point is always off the page. Thinking outside the box makes sense. Some of my best pastoral programs came from the margins, unexpected comments that generated our imaginations for possible outcomes. Having done so in various ways I continue to do that because that is the way to gain wisdom and wisdom gives life meaning. The vision and pursuit were introduced in one of the few books we had in the house when I was growing up. I was a junior in high school and the book of essays with a chapter on wisdom becoming my favorite.

Continuing in a poetic fashion here is a poem for Christmastide;

Christmas on the Edge by Malcolm Guite

Christmas sets the centre on the edge:
The edge of town, the outhouse of the inn,
The fringe of empire, far from privilege
And power, on the edge and outer spin 
Of turning worlds, a margin of small stars
That edge a galaxy itself light years
From some unguessed cosmic origin,

Christmas sets the contre on the edge.

And from this day our world is realigned
A tiny seed unfolding in the womb
becomes the source from which we all unfold
And flower into being. We are healed.

The end begins, the tomb becomes the womb

for now in him all things are realigned.

 to be continued from the edge,

Marlin Whitmer
Retired Hospital Chaplain, now a community facilitator. Maybe global? Ha!

I read this poem before our gatherings of friends and family this Christmas. The twelve days of Christmas makes a good setting. The poem was well received. 

A book received this Christmas as a gift could be said to be from the edge. A gift from an artist who knows of my interest in metaphors. Your way of conceptualizing the world is imbedded in the poem.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Holy Scriptures as parakaleo/Sabbath time

Holy Scripture as the “Called One Alongside" 

It took me over 65 years of Scripture study and reflection to get here. 

That is the exciting part of a relationship. There is no way to know everything in the beginning about another person or the living Word.

I have a story to illustrate. When I was first ordained I was assigned as the curate at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Sioux City. Father Shaner was the priest in charge. Since he had been there 25 years some thought he needed an assistant. There may have been other reasons.

C. B. Chesterman, who had both the coca cola and seven up franchise in Sioux City, Iowa, paid my salary at St. Thomas. To oversee his investment, he and his wife invited me out for dinner once a month at the best restaurant in town, the Normandy on the north side.

I was half time at St. Tomas and half time at St. George’s in LeMars, Iowa, where I lived. The distance between the two was 25 miles, meaning a lot of driving in a year. On Sunday I would have an early service in LeMars and drive to St. Thomas to help at the later service. t 

Back to the Chestermans. I was a newly ordained single clergyman, 25 years old, with a couple in their 80’s, married 60 years, having dinner together. You might wonder if we found anything to talk about even though he was finding out about me and checking up on his investment. After a couple invites I looked forward to our fun evening together. They were a delight. At some point during the first year I asked, “What is the secret to your relationship? You have so much fun together.” Without any hesitation he replied, “We don’t know each other yet.” 

Aha! I have known that about Holy Scriptures over the years. We don’t know each other yet. New revelations have continued to unfold over the years.

A couple weeks ago preparing for the Saturday morning Bible study our reading was from the 15th chapter of Romans.  

These verses jumped out at me. Romans 15:4-6

4 “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. 5 Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6 that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
With comfort we have the Greek word parakaleo, a called one alongside, para / alongside and kaleo / called.
The Beatitude from Matthew’s Gospel, “blessed are those who mourn for they shall have a parakaleo." They shall have a called one alongside.
With parakaleo our relationship with the Scriptures takes on an intimate and personal dimension. I can say after 60 plus years with Scripture, “We don’t know each other yet.” The excitement of the relationship continues with patience, or as other translations say, endurance. 
I relate to Holy Scriptures as a person, I (and there are many personalities and stories there) have an ongoing personal relationship with many, including St. Paul. Like him I too say “through the patience and parakaleo (called one alongside) of the Scriptures” ….  . 
Sabbath time, the time when we gather together, we re-member, we member again, all those who have gone before us. re means again. We use re a lot. rerun, renew, etc. How many can you name?
Marlin Whitmer

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Recovering from Illness

Recovering from illness is a progressive experience depending on the illness. I had a cancer tumor removed from my bladder on the 22nd of October. I had a bladder infection post op which was the worst part of it all and the most debilitating. The infection necessitated a trip to the emergency room where they found considerable inflammation in the abdomen. Before I recovered my electrolytes needed a boast. Drink liquid IV which is a powder I put in a glass of water. The electrolyte deficiency effected my brain for a couple of days. Low sodium they said. My family doctor came to the rescue. My wife, a nurse, was a godsend. This past week I can say I feel better. I am more back to normal going to the Fitness Center exercise group twice a week. I can use the 5 pound bar bells again.

I don't know if I can use the word normal again. The doctor says he is 98% sure they retrieved all of the cancer tumor. The 2% makes the word normal vulnerable.

In the meantime I am grateful the tumor did not invade the wall of the bladder. That seems to be what the doctor verbalizes and that is apparent since his approach with my future care is nothing like a good friend whose cancer tumor was invasive. He is going to the University of Iowa Hospital. He starts chemotherapy next week.

I will have a biopsy on the 7th of January as part of getting a better picture on the future. I have opted to have this done at the Urology Clinic. I opted out of the full surgical approach by going back in the hospital again. Having a catheter in for a time is running the risk of another infection. If nothing turns up from the biopsy I will be monitored every three months.

The surgery for the removal of the tumor did have an unexpected opportunity. I asked for a spinal as the anesthesia. And the doctor who administered the spinal was a doctor I knew. He had given me several epidurals from the herniated disc in my back. That meant I was awake through the procedure and afterwards although they said they gave me something to cause me to not remember. I don't think it worked. When I turned my head left during the procedure a television screen showed the inside of my bladder and the apparatus they were using to remove the tumor. Amazing. I do believe they got it all even the stem that could have caused more damage. After the removal of the tumor I did receive a chemo therapy wash.

I will be back writing blogs again. I will do some reflecting on recovery. Psalm 80 would be a good start. I am going to add a verse from Psalm 90. verse 12

"Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." This is us and we, I am not doing this alone. You are invited to join in the journey.

I see the number of page views hit an all time high with China and Japan providing readers. I hope they found them a benefit. (back in November now) Now the numbers have dropped off. Perhaps not adding a blog for some time makes a difference. My blog needs recovery time. Recovery becomes a metaphor one can move to more than one place involving more than one aspect of life.

Now in day 28 of January, 2020,  I had the scope procedure in the bladder to see what is happening. There is scar tissue but no cancer or tumor. Again it took over two weeks for the bladder to get back to some normal. Better again. Recovering from a procedure is part of the journey. My next scope is on the 7th of April. The story continues.

retired hospital chaplain