Helpful Thoughts on Here and Now and Holding vs. Clinging

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Grief and Grieving, hope on December 4th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment


My friend Virgil Fry, Executive Director of Lifeline Chaplaincy, wrote a really good post on here and now this week. I especially found his words about holding those we love vs. clinging to those we love helpful.

I hope you enjoy it!

Hope, In the Midst of Pain

Posted in hope, Illness, Personal on July 30th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

It’s been a difficult summer at our house.  I really haven’t written about it, but I’ll share a few things now.

Eloise, my sweet wife of 42 1/2 years, hurt her knee in late spring (from playing with the grandchildren of course).  It was so painful for a few weeks that she could barely walk, and actually it hurt too much to drive.  Difficult stuff for a very independent woman!  It certainly changed her day to day life, and naturally mine too.

She had begun experiencing wrist and arm pain even before she hurt her knee.  Because she works on the computer so much, we naturally assumed it was carpel tunnel.  But not working on the computer brought no relief.

Her first stop was her internist.  He wasn’t quite sure what the knee injury was, but he recognized the wrists and hands as Rheumatoid Arthritis, and recommended she see both an othorpedist and a rheumatologist.

While waiting to get in to see the orthopedic guy, the knee began to improve.  He diagnosed it as a torn meniscus and prescribed exercise.

While waiting to get in to see the rheumatologist (8 week wait — underserved specialty you know), the pain from the arthritis continued to get worse, and began showing up in more joints.  Almost you name the joint, it was painful.

Eloise is a professor of education, and thankfully had the first part of the summer off.  She had regained her ability to walk and drive by the beginning of July when she began teaching two graduate classes.  While it’s been quite painful, she has taught like a trooper.

Yesterday was a big day.  We got to go see the rheumatologist, praying that she would offer us hope of relief and improvement.  And thankfully, she did exactly that.

From across the room, she told us that there was no doubt that Eloise had rheumatoid arthritis.  Her physical exam revealed that it is affecting most joints — not a surprise to us.  But it was great to receive a definitive diagnosis, to know that treatment could begin, that relief was on its way.

The most encouraging thing to hear was the doctor saying, “My goal is to help you get back to 100%, and I have every confidence that we’ll be able to do just that.”  She talked to us about treatment plans, what the starting point would be, and how we could expect things to progress.  The plan included some things that would help in the short term while the meds that will control the RA begin to work.

Eloise asked for and received a handicapped tag.  Those of you who have watched her trying to get around have no questions about her need for one.  But the doctor told her that it would only be a temporary tag because she was going to get better and not need it.

Hope.  It’s a huge thing.  Eloise doesn’t feel better today physically, but she certainly does emotionally because of hope.  We’re thankful beyond words.

When Faith is Challenged by Tragedy

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Grief and Grieving, hope on April 19th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 6 Comments

Amy VanHuisen writes about faith and struggle, and I often find that her blog makes me think.  Today she wrote about the loss of a young mom in their community who leaves behind a husband and three young children, the youngest only 8 days old.  She titled the post, “God, How Could You Do That?”  Amy’s writing is honest, and you’ll be blessed by clicking over to read her post before coming back to read some thoughts that occurred to me.

The first thing that jumped into my consciousness was a conversation my daughter Sara, a nurse practitioner, had with a colleague this week.  They are members of a palliative care team, and deal with patients and families suffering tragedy daily.  Faith nearly always becomes a part of the conversation with the patients and families, and sometimes among the medical staff.

The conversation went something like this.  The colleague said, “I don’t believe in God because if there were a God, he wouldn’t let the things that we see happen to people every day happen.”  Sara’s response was, “Do you really believe that God is the only force active in this world?  What about Satan?  What about the free will God allows people?”

This is a good summary of the faith struggle that we all go through as we experience events like Amy writes about, and our question often becomes like Amy’s, “How could God…”

I don’t have the answer.  But I will offer a couple of thoughts.

  1. God has not yet won the final victory.  The Bible makes clear that we live in an active battle ground with God on one side and the forces of evil led by Satan on the other.  Until that final victory when God creates the new heaven and the new earth, this earth that we live on will continue to experience injustice, tragedy, illness, poverty, and all of the other things that are wrong, that are unfair.  And these come equally to all of us, whether we are people of faith or not.
  2. When I read what we call The Beatitudes in Matthew 5,  I see Jesus talking about people who have suffered and who are suffering what’s not fair about this world.  He doesn’t say that we won’t have to mourn (v4), for example, but he says simply that those who mourn will be comforted.  Jesus seems to be offering hope for those of us who suffer in this life.

Which leads me to this final thought.  The more of life I experience, the more I look forward to that point in time when God claims the final victory, when all the bad stuff ceases, when God is fully in control.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love this life and getting to experience it with my family and my friends –  just that more and more often I am aware of how flawed this world is, and how wonderful heaven will be.

Hope Is Everything

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, hope on April 13th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments
Expression of Hope

Expression of Hope

I read a lot of posts this weekend that expressed in one way or another the hope of Easter.

Here’s one from my friend John Dobbs that retweets a post by @LongBeachMH about family being all together more often, and talking about the hope of Heaven.  Knowing some about John’s life, his added amen to the post says volumes.

I recognize that the central hope in my own life rests in the resurrection.  This life is not the end.  It’s the preparation for what’s coming.  And this hope is indeed precious.  Everything else in life flows from it.

Tomorrow as I visit folks dealing with cancer, I am aware that while we will  pray for healing, that the ultimate hope we share lies in the resurrection.

I can’t imagine my life without the hope of resurrection.  I can’t imagine how I’d deal with the pain and suffering I see in patients’ lives, much less how they’d deal with it.

This Easter, I’m thankful.  And tomorrow I’ll be thankful again.  Because hope is everything.

Living in the Present?

Posted in hope on December 29th, 2008 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off

The episode of House is on where they tell the guy that he doesn’t have cancer after all.  And he’s mad.  Because he sold his house, had three good-bye parties, and is fixing to leave on the trip of his life.

He’d cleaned up all the loose ends of his life and was in the process of doing what was most important to him with the time he had left.

But now he has to go back to the messiness of living daily life.  And now he’s no longer special.  And this mistake has cost him money.

So the doctor is getting sued.  Not for the money.  But for this:

“For the first time in my life, I was living in the present.  And you took that away.”

We seem to have a hard time living in the present, living today to its fullest without really worrying about tomorrow or re-living yesterday.  Human nature, maybe.  I’m convinced that some people must miss living their lives completely because they’re so focused on the future or the past.

Sometimes it takes a life-shaking event like a cancer diagnosis to help people focus on the present.  One of the most common phrases I hear from cancer patients and their families is, “We’re just taking it a day at a time.”  That’s another way of saying that they’re living in the present.

So as we prepare to head into the new year, here are a couple of questions to ponder (and comment on if you like):

  • How “present-focused” is your life right now?
  • How do you feel when you’re living in the present vs. living in the past or future?
  • What if anything needs to change to help you live more in the present?