Kevin’s Downward Spiral

February 3, 2019

It saddens me to see Kevin misusing Vicodin. Yes, I am now in season 2. What a slippery slope prescription painkillers have become for so many people. But not everyone. Not even most people. In his groundbreaking article, “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think,” Johann Hari writes that despite what is widely believed, addiction is not about will power or moral failing like the conservatives think, nor is it a disease like the liberals think.

it is all about bonding. Hari quotes Professor Peter Cohen who argues that “human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find—the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.”

This rings true to my experience, and is also what I learned from a course called Restarting written by Life Model leaders Ed Khouri, an addiction specialist, and Jim Wilder, PhD. That is why some people who take narcotics as painkillers for medical reasons do not become addicts while others do. Some have joyful community. People they love with whom they have formed a deep attachment. They are not in attachment pain. They do not need to turn to drugs for a source of solace. They have enough resilience to not get sucked in. It’s not a matter of willpower, it’s a matter of joyful attachments.

Do you have enough joy in your life to resist the pull of powerful drugs? At one point I wondered if I did. Fifteen years ago, I hurt my hip and was prescribed oxycodone. It was my first experience with powerful painkillers and I within minutes of my first dose I could not believe how euphoric I felt. Not only was I not in pain, all my worries and woes seemed to fly away. It was a glorious 24 hours until my second dose begin to wear off and I realized I had not picked up my children from school.

They were 5 miles away at a small Christian school. What is especially crazy is that the thought that they needed to be picked up had gone through my mind many times, but because I was in such a state of no-worries-be-happy I simply dismissed the thought that I needed to get them as being unimportant.

Imagine my shame when I realize that I had not gotten them. How would I explain it to the rules-oriented faculty?

Fortunately I was only about 20 minutes late and I managed to get there before anyone in authority noticed. But my kids noticed. They were used to being one of the first to be fetched. “What happened to you? Where were you?” they groused.

Here was the turning point, the pivot point for me. I had not behaved responsibly or taken care of the people I loved (thank God it was not more egregious) while under the influence of a painkiller. This caused me to feel valid shame. And by this I’m not talking about the kind of shame that makes you feel like not only have you done something bad but you are bad – – I’m talking about the kind of shame that we all experience that helps us adjust our behavior so that the people around us want to be with us. Like learning to not pick your nose in public. Or lowering our intensity and backing off a bit when we are overwhelming people or not pressing so hard for what we want. The small shame that we experience that socializes all of us to behave in ways that are life-giving to those around us.

Toxic shame is another issue which I will address another time.

All this to say, in that moment of shame when my kids were whining at me, and realized I had let them down, there was a great temptation to take one more pill so that I didn’t have to feel the shame. Therein lies the slippery slope.

Instead I went home and flushed all the pills down the toilet, which of course I now know is not something we are supposed to do because it’s adding all kinds of chemicals to the water system. (My pharmacy has a container where you can bring medications you’re not going to use. So don’t flush them down the toilet, like I did).
Back to my story I needed to make those pills vanished so I wouldn’t be tempted to take them again so down they went.

Sadly Kevin has not only taken the entire bottle but has gotten more refills then he probably should have and has now done with many addicts do: He has found another doctor who is willing to prescribe for him.

I’ve seen this happen over and over again. It is incredibly easy to go from one Urgent Care place to another getting more painkillers. I was in an ER with a dear friend when I realized that that was precisely what she was doing. I darted out after the doctor to say that I was pretty sure she was misusing prescriptions painkillers. The doctor changed the prescription to one pill and sent her home to see her regular doctor.

I knew Kevin was on the slippery slope when he lied to Sophie about who he was talking to on the phone. He told her he was talking to Kate but in truth he had just left a message for his doctor asking for another refill. Being a medical professional Sophie would have known that he was in trouble and probably could have helped him then. Before it got worse.

But that’s not how addicts act. They lie. They steal. They reach the point where getting the drug is more important than the people they love.

It’s a huge tragedy and it’s happening all around us.

Kudos to Don Fogelman for tackling such a difficult topic and showing it so realistically. Soon Kevin is not only lying to Sophie about small things, such as who he was talking to on the phone, but he’s letting her down in big ways by not showing up to her charity event when she’s in the middle of introducing him because he’s drunk. We later see him with yet another bottle of prescription meds and he’s chasing them down with beer, in great pain because he did not rest up and take care of his knee after surgery.

It’s easy to judge Kevin, to analyze what he did wrong. But if the root of addiction is attachment pain—and I believe it is—then Kevin has got to deal with the root. When you are in attachment pain the only thing that will help is the one you love. Kevin has not processed his grief over the loss of his father. He has a huge attachment pain hole that is just waiting for him to slide into it.

I can only imagine that the idea of processing the loss of his father would seem completely overwhelming, too daunting to face.

It’s not surprising since we live in a land were very few process their grief and get to the root of their attachment pain. They just keep choking it down. There are few guides, few road maps, and fellow travelers. We don’t know where to begin. I’ve had people tell me that they’re afraid they will lose their mind or never stop crying if they begin to look at their grief.

What about you? Are you ready to begin the journey? Most of us have an absolute mountains of suppressed grief.

For Kevin it may go all the way back to having lost his triplet brother at birth and be compounded by the loss of this father at a vulnerable age. Only Kevin knows what hurts and what he believes that drives the pain. When we don’t grieve our losses they simply accumulate. I see it as a train. The locomotive, or current loss, may be pulling the train down the track but the cars being pulled represent all the past losses we never faced. That train has a lot of momentum. It takes a lot of energy.

If this blog resonates with you, what should you do? You might want to consider a grief therapist. Or if you have safe people in your life, people with whom you experience a lot of joy– because you’re going to need that joy to give you strength to begin to look at the pain—people with whom it is okay to be weak and vulnerable–you might want to form a group and begin working through my most recent workbook: Facing Life’s Losses. Slowly. At your own pace, being careful to take very good care of yourself while you’re doing this hard work. Pausing as you to get therapy or prayer ministry.

Although not everyone is comfortable with Jesus he is an amazing fellow traveler who has actually seen all your losses and felt your pain. I pray that God would teach each one of us to grieve well. As a nation we are carrying a staggering load of unprocessed grief that most of us don’t even know is there. As we surrender our sorrow to Jesus and let him lift off the trauma we find ourselves amazingly resilient. Lighter. We find our capacity for being able to regulate emotional intensity increases, as well our ability to see our fellow travelers with compassion.

I am praying for you dear readers and believing God has good things for you.



How Prince Harry Got it Right

May 7, 2017

Last week the Daily Telegraph released a podcast of Prince Harry that was picked up by various news outlets in the U.S. including the Washington Post, in my home town.
I read various versions of what Harry said online, but was then blown away by the actual recorded 30 minute interview which you can listen to here:

I think many in our culture would see Harry as a man’s man—hard drinking, adventure seeking. In his twenties he was flying helicopters, fighting in Afganistan, playing polo, partying hard—and keeping his emotions tightly zipped.

But three years ago something happened to Harry that I think we all can learn from. He recognized that he had not processed the death of his mother, Princess Diana, and that that bottled up grief was at the root of his restless ways. But let me start at the beginning.

The first question his interviewer asked was, “How are you really?” Harry gave a great answer right out of the pages of our books, by reporting on both his body and his emotions. He said, “I am a little bit nervous, a little bit tight in the chest, but otherwise fine.” Bravo Harry for being aware of your body and emotions and not saying, “I am fine!”

His interviewer did not validate his response. Instead she said, “Don’t be nervous.” I know from the tone of her voice that she meant to reassure him, but Harry stood up for himself, with a quick response, “It is understandable.” Go Harry! Good for knowing that is it okay to be where you are!

Harry, his brother William, the future king of England, and his sister-in-law Kate Middleton have formed a public charity called Heads Together to focus on mental health. Why is mental health is so important to him personally? Harry shared candidly: “I lost my mom at the age of 12. My way of dealing with [was] to stick my head in the sand, and refuse to think about my mom because [I thought] “Why would that help? It is only going to make you sad. It is not going to bring her back. So from the emotion side [I thought] don’t let your emotions ever be part of anything . . . I shut down all of my emotions for the next 20 years. [It] had quite a serious affect, on not only my personal life, but also my work.”

That 20-year emotional shut down was followed by what the Prince calls “two years of total chaos,” where he came “very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions . . . All kinds of grief, lies and misconceptions were coming at [me] from every angle.” It was only when his older brother the future King of Great Britain, and other friends, told him, “You really need to deal with this. It is not normal to think that none of this has affected you,” that Harry began to consider getting help. Harry had wondered if the way he felt was just part of growing up but he admits that he couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.”

Harry explains, “I started having a few conversations and all of a sudden all of this grief that I had never processed starting coming to the forefront. [I realized] there is a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with. Go Harry for listening to those who love you and getting help!

He says that being in the public eye, having to take part in “certain public engagement from which he could not escape,” would trigger his flight response. Because he could not flee, his body would kick into fight and he found himself wanting to punch someone.

As he got help he found that his mates began talking to him and “started to slowly unravel their own issues because they knew that I could relate to it and there is nothing better than being able to share your experiences with someone who has actually been through it rather . . . someone who doesn’t get what you’ve been through.

As a volunteer with the Army’s Personal Recovery unit, Harry was meeting with emotionally and mentally wounded vets. He was also meeting with terminally ill children and their parents. He wondered, “How . . . am I supposed to process this?”

Harry spoke to a psychiatrist who said that even they need to process. “The rule is that for every three hours of listening, they need a half hour to talk to someone else and process it themselves.” His conclusion: “We’re not cut out to take on everybody else’s emotions . . .”

At age 28, when Harry began to really care, it was “really uneasy, trying to find a path in life.” But by the age of 30, he realized, “Wow this is a much better way of life–dealing with all [my own] grief,” as well as “sharing other people’s grief and knowing what they’re going through.” Now he enjoys interacting with others making it “lighthearted when necessary, but . . . also being the person holding their hand and being a comfort for them when they cry.” Sounds like our mission at HCI, to share the joys and sorrows of life.

Harry says that sharing each other’s grief is “a fascinating process for me, not just for me, but all of the people that I get to meet. I’m so fortunate to get to meet these people who have literally turned their live’s around. It’s all part of a conversation–being able to talk to a brother or sister or parent or colleague or complete stranger . . . some of the best [people to talk to], the easiest people . . . are, shrinks.”

“I’ve done it,” he admits. “It’s great.” “You sit down on the sofa and say [to them], ‘You know, I don’t actually need your advice, just listen to me, and let it rip.’” Did the Prince of Wales just admit that he sees a shrink? Go Harry.

“I think everyone should do it,” he continues. “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone [who] has a stressful week . . . had someone [they could] speak to where they could offload all of their week’s grief or all the day-to-day ___ that everyone has to put up with? If you could dump that on Friday, how much better would our weekends be? . . . once I offload my stuff to somebody else, I feel so much better.”

“There’s huge merit in talking about your issues,” continues Harry. “Keeping it quiet is only going to make it worse. Not just for you but for everyone else around you as well, because you become a problem. [During] my twenties I was a problem. I didn’t know how to deal with [my issues].”

“I had to find the right person to talk to . . . One of my biggest frustrations . . . over the last few years is how hard it is to find the right person . . . But Harry urges everyone to “just have that conversation. You’ll be surprised, firstly, by how much support you get; secondly, by how many people literally are longing for you to come out. You’ve got so much more in common with other people than you ever thought.”

Their new charity Heads Together is for “every single person out there [who is] suffering from daily stress, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, alcoholism and depression . . . What we’re trying to do is normalize the conversation to the point where anyone can sit down have a coffee and say, “You know I’ve had a really ____ day. Can I tell you about it?” Once you’ve had a chance to share, Harry says, “Then you walk away and it’s done.” You don’t have to wait a week or 20 years. [If you wait] what could’ve been small can grow into this beast of a snowball that you can’t dislodge. Or you can dislodge it, but it’s going to cost you a load of money, a lot of time, a lot of heart ache, and probably a lot of grief for you and your family and friends.

Now Harry says he is in a good place. He acknowledges that being a prince has many benefits. A house, a car, a job that he absolutely loves. But what has really made a difference is learning how to process grief. “Now, because of the process I’ve been through over the last three years, I’m able to take my work and private life seriously. I’ve been able to put blood, sweat, and tears into things that will make a difference. For me, none of this would have ever gotten off the ground if I hadn’t dealt with [my own grief].”

It was this desire to make a difference that motivated Harry, William and Kate to start Heads Together. They are hoping to “remove the stigma and pave the way for people to be able to talk about issues . . . [such as] day-to-day stresses, homelessness, and HIV. It’s all connected. Everybody struggles. We are not robots. We are human.” Hearing this from the land of the stiff-upper-lip is quite encouraging.

Harry then casts a vision for the future. “Imagine if everybody is . . . wandering around at 50% mental capacity. Imagine what we as a country, we as individuals could achieve by unlocking the next 25%? Now that, I’ve cleared my head of all that rubbish . . . I can function at 25% more at my job, at home–whatever it be. It doesn’t matter whether you are a prince or a mother or the CEO of a company or a white van driver or a kid–it doesn’t matter who you are mental health, mental fitness relates to every single one of us.” Imagine that!

When you make it better for you, you make it better for everyone who cares about you, better for everyone who worries about you.

What about you? Do you want to see 25% of your capacity restores by offloading the grief that weighs you down? Think what might be possible if you did.

Anxious? Upset? Angry? Relational Circuits and how to get them back on

October 27, 2013

I continue to be impressed with Karl Lehman’s book, Outsmarting Yourself, Catching Your Past Invading the Present and What to Do About It.  Karl is the psychiatrist in Chicago who developed the Immanuel method which we use to connect with God and process pain. According to Karl, there is specific circuitry in the brain that is active when we are relational.  When we are relational we feel connected to others and we want that connection. When our emotional intensity stays within the limits of our capacity, we are able to engage well with others and stay relational.  When the intensity or duration of an emotion exceeds our capacity, we become overwhelmed and we lose the ability to stay relational to varying degrees. This is like plugging too many appliances into an electrical circuit.  If we exceed the capacity, we will trip the circuit and electricity no longer flows.  In the same way we can overload our relational circuits. Healing increases our capacity so as we heal we should be able to stay engaged at higher and higher levels of intensity without becoming overwhelmed. Capacity is limited (except for God) but it can grow throughout our lifetime.

Many factors can reduce capacity. One of the primary ways is lack of sleep. We’ve all experienced how hard it is to deal with even minor bumps in life when we are tired.

There will be times when situations exceed your relational capacity. It is okay. But it is really good for us to be aware when this is happening so we can get our circuits back online.  The circuits affect all of our relationships including our ability to connect with God and people.  By now all of you who are familiar with Theophostic Prayer Ministry will recognize that having your circuits off is similar to being triggered.

In his book Karl outlines an objective way of recognizing when your relational circuits are fading or going off. How many of you have gotten into an argument with a spouse or friend about who was more triggered?  It’s you! No, it you!  Well here is an objective way to know if you are triggered.

When you are upset ask yourself:

1.  Do I feel connected to ____________? (Fill in the name of the person involved).

2.  Do I want to be connected to ________?

3.  Do I experience them as unique, valuable, relational beings?

4.  Am I aware of their true hearts?

5.  Do I feel compassionate concern regarding what they are thinking and feeling?

6.  Do I want to offer attunement? (More on this below)

7.  Am I able to offer attunement?

8.  Am I free of judgment?

9.  Do I experience their presence as a source of joy? (As opposed to a problem to be solved or a resource to be used).

10.  Am I glad to be with them?

11.  Am I comfortable making eye contact with them? (Other than angry glaring).

12.  Am I flexible and creative (as opposed to rigid and unable to think outside the box) with respect to thoughts and behavioral options?

13.  Am I patient and tolerant (or impatient, intolerant and irritable)?

14.  Do I perceive others as allies, and want to join, explore, understand and collaborate?  (As opposed to perceiving others as adversaries, tending toward judging, interrogating, and focusing on trying to “fix” the situation).

15.  Can I recall past positive experiences with the person and do I feel the positive emotions that should be associated with these good memories?

16.  Can I think of things I appreciate about the person, and do I feel gratitude as I think about these specific appreciations?

Note that these questions are not asking about how you ought to feel but what feelings spontaneously and involuntarily arise.

Karl’s book and hundreds of page of essays are available at and at


If your relational circuits are offline, how do you get them back online?

 According to Karl, one of the fastest ways to get your circuits back online is to have someone attune to you. To do this they should have their circuits on, have the capacity to do so in that area, and be willing to help you:

  1. feel seen
  2. feel heard
  3. feel understood
  4. feel that he/she is with you
  5. feel that he/she cares about you
  6. feel that he/she is glad to be with you

Karl notes that friends with the capacity and maturity to attune to us are not often available when we need this kind of help. If you are able to experience the Lord’s presence you can also let him attune to you.

 2,  Do the Shalom For My Body exercise, followed by Shalom For My Heart and Soul worksheet from the Belonging workbook.  This may be the best option if you both are highly triggered or don’t have access to TPM.


Shalom for my Body Demonstration on You Tube




3. Practice appreciation. Think of three things you are grateful for and remember those things in detail. Enter into the memory of what it feels like to savor a favorite meal, a time with a friend of a beautiful landscape. As you dwell in a place of gratitude, your relational circuits will come back on. You can do this even if difficult circumstances. My husband is fighting MDS and as he had his first transfusion (which took 13 hours!) we came up with a list of ten things we were grateful for. Right. In. the. It lifted our spirits and helped us realize that God was with us in the midst of our pain. Here is our list from December 23, 2016 when we were trying to get to Asheville to celebrate Christmas with our children and granddaughter:

1. Nurses and doctors have been great.
2. Sam feels better after the transfusion and his color is better.
3. I was able to walk to a Harris Teeter and get us both lunch. I “mistakenly” bought Sam a huge a sub but he needed it because he ate half for lunch and half for dinner.
4.  We are all packed and ready to go so that big job is done.
5. I drove home around 4 o’clock and loaded the car.
6. We have a great car, a one year old Prius.
7. Our kids have been incredibly supportive. Interacting with us by phone and FaceTime. Our daughters are both in Asheville with their husbands; our son is in Charlottesville and is willing to meet us and drive us the rest of the way to Asheville, if we need him to.
7. We took our dog Darby to Sam’s brothers yesterday because we thought we were leaving and we’re so glad we didn’t have to worry about him today while we were at the medical center.
8. We have tons of people praying for us.
9. Were able to hear from God who is comforting us in our distress. God is good. He loves us.
10.  We’re trusting that Sam will feel better for at least two weeks. We are grateful for that.
All this just to demonstrate that even with everything seems to be going south–you are heading out of town when the calls comes: Don’t leave, you need a transfusion!–you can find things to be thankful for and that can make all the difference.
After the transfusion we were so tired that we went back home and slept. In the morning I drove us to Charlottesville, our son drove us the rest of the way. We got there Christmas Eve at 6:00 PM, just in time for dinner. It was wonderful to be together. God is good.



Believing Promises

June 16, 2010

This was written on October 7, 2009

When I think about my dad, it seems impossible to believe that years of resistance could melt away, but then I remember God’s promises. The Bible is full of promises. I know that God is not willing that any should perish. And I know he has loved my dad since he formed him in the womb, but I am speaking of promises more personal, ones made directly to me and my family.

The first one is an old one.  Some years ago, a decade or more, our mother told us that God had promised her that one day our father would come into the kingdom of God.  My brother, Bob, reminded us of this three days ago while when me and my siblings–I have two sisters and two brothers–were on the phone together during one of our regular conference calls.

During those calls we talk and pray.  And feel a little lost as to how to best help our parents.  Or Dad now that Mom has died.

Back in June, when they were both alive, I sat on the steps outside their home, my family home, crying. I was in shock over my father’s condition and what was required of my mother to take care of him. In that moment I felt that I would never be able to go home to Virginia, for how could I leave them, when Dad was so ill and Mom so weak?

They had canceled the Meals on Wheels my sister, Kathy,  set up for them and fired the caregivers we hired to help them, yet could not take care of themselves and in the midst of all that pain, I heard God say to my heart:  Some day you will look me in the face and say ‘Well done.'” And with his words came the sense of His presence as the tight spot in my heart unwound and peace settled on my soul.

At that moment God brought to mind a time, just months earlier, when he had protected us, while we were blissfully unaware of the danger we were in. We had bought a car from my parents in May and then had let the most accident prone member of the family–my 20-something son, Sammy–drive the car for weeks while the car was uninsured because I did not realize that my mom had canceled insurance on the vehicle the day the moving truck fetched it from her home. I had mistaken assumed that I could not add it to my policy until I owned it, until we officially transferred title. I won’t bore you with the details but it took weeks for us to transfer title at first, because Mom could not find it, and then because she could not get it from the dining room table to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Yes, it was that bad. Walking 30 feet down a slope was beyond her.  God reminded of that season, by saying, “I protected you then, I am protecting your parents now.”

A few days after that fateful day where I cried out to God on the steps, I went home. On the plane I prayed, “Lord, you promised me that I would look you in the eyes and say, well done!  I marvel and your capacity for pain!  It is beyond me.  Help me to trust in your love. I know you love my dad, help me to see your plan and move in harmony with your Holy Spirit. Help me to carry your presence.  Help me to dance before you, to draw strength from your love.”

A few days later my dad fell and the paramedics who came to lift him from the floor to the bed took his blood pressure and decided, instead, to take him to the hospital. It is hard to imagine that going to the hospital was a moment for rejoicing but from my point-of-view the particular nightmare of parents-home-alone was over.  They were no longer alone, barely able to get food in their bellies.

Now our occasional sibling conference calls, which my sister, Kathy, set up when my parents first grew feeble, have gone to every other night since the doctor told us on Sunday, September 20th, that my dad has days or weeks to live.  My sister, Laurie, who is with my dad in West Covina, reports on his condition. He is afraid, not ready to die, too weak to say much–he communicates by nodding or shaking his head, or uttering a few words.

All of us wonder, Should we go to West Covina? We live in Toronto, Virgina, Michigan, Tempe and Los Altos.  My brother who lives closest has nine children, one just born this summer. My sister, Laurie, has been there weeks and weeks but since she is the only one us who does not have a job and actually wants to sort through the belongings of two depression-era pack-rats, it is all to easy to let her shoulder to burden.

My sister Kathy is there now, having flown in on October 2.  We talk almost daily. She is doing a marvelous job taking care of Dad.  On October 6th dad slipped from consciousness and she called me, as Sam and I were driving home from church, to discuss options.  Should we let him die or try to intervene?  We prayed together on the phone, but neither of felt any heavenly illumination and then there was the advanced directive. Sigh. As schizo as it seems my dad was never willing to sign an advanced directive. He was saying in essence: don’t give me medical care that would keep me alive but don’t let me die without medical intervention. Yet there it was. After talking, Kathy and I agreed that the best courses of action was for her to go to the nursing home as ask him if he wanted to go to the hospital. Even though the nursing home nurses said he was unconscious he might be aware under the surface and might rally to respond. Just days before we had tried to convince him to go to the hospital at the nursing homes urging and he had refused.  We often experienced him as non responsive, then suddenly he would say a word or two or even nod and we would realized that he had been tracking the whole time.

So Kathy went and asked but this time there was no response.  Zilch. Nada. So she asked to have him taken to the hospital.  By now I was home, in bed and we were on the phone back and forth, praying together, calling out to God for wisdom. We are a dynamic duo in these hard times. We listen, process, talk, pray and then stumble forward towards what, in hindsight, seems right.

When the doctor tried to insert an emergency port in his neck, so they could start dialysis, my father began to die.  This was the view from California.  What I experienced was a ringing phone and then a voice saying, “I am Dr. Smith. Your father is taking his final breathes.” And I heard Kathy, in the distance saying, I love you Dad, I am right here,” over and over. I began to pray and the doctor handed the phone to Kathy. We prayed in tongues, a heavenly language unknown to us, and in English. We began to sing to him–me singing on the phone, Kathy there in the room. And . . . he rallied.  We were confused and did not understand what was happening at first. The doctor had left the room and the next thing we know, someone came in to report that they were moving to a room.  “Isn’t he dying?” my sister asked.

God had given us an opportunity to try to save him, but the answer, which we had surrendered to God was, “Not yet.”  The door had closed on dialysis, but not on his life.

After 30 minutes they transferred my dad to a hospital room and I rolled over and went back to sleep. He never regained consciousness. As I was driving to work the next morning, I felt strongly that we should move him to hospice and then my cell phone rang. It was Kathy.  “I’m going to move him to hospice.”  Had we not been three thousand miles apart, we would have given each other high fives.  A month prior Kathy had found a beautiful hospice. A spacious room with light and gardens and like-minded people.  We had tried to convince dad to move there but he had not wanted to leave his familiar nursing home even through they were focused on helping him get better by prodding him to do things he did not want to do–like eat in the dining hall and exercise. But since he was going to have to leave the hospital, why not take him to a place that would support what he was already doing–dying. He was unconscious and could hardly protest, so we did what seemed best to us.

As soon as Dad was settled into the hospice a man named, Leon, brought Kathy a CD player loaded with worship music and Kathy began singing over my
dad and reading him scripture. He did not responding. His kidneys were barely working. He refused food and water.

Kathy notes that he is smiling now and says, “I wish I could see what you are seeing now Dad!”

Every day we talk and I offer to come out there to join her.  I was there on Friday, now it is Wednesday, five days later, and she has asked me to come so I
will leave tomorrow afternoon.
Everyone says he cannot live long, yet he continues to live.

Several months ago when I was discouraged, God said to me, “Dear Heart, do
you really think all your prayers have been for naught?”  We have been
praying for my dad for forty-five years.  There have been moments of hope. I remember when he asked me why in dark moments in the middle of the night, when my mom sat up in bed and shouted, “No!” the darkness had fled.

I remember him wondering why his nose healed when we prayed to Jesus but not when he practiced his religion.

Yet, he has stayed steadfastly attached to his faith, though the congregation has shrunk to a handful and we have not had a single visitor from the church where he gave his time and money for more than 40 years.

I was distraught when my mother died a year ago. A month ago when I cried out to God and asked, “Why did my mother die! Why did she die first?” It seemed like a terrible mistake. I was not ready.  I thought she was going to live and then there was the estate. We were selling the family home to finance the massive medical bills that had accrued, in part, because my father had eschewed Medicare.  In a rage a decade earlier, my father had altered his will, leaving the house to his cultic church.  Our hearts sank when we learned this bit of news.

Had he forgotten when he gave us the go-ahead to sell the house? It would not have been an issue if Dad died first, but then Mom died suddenly, so the entire estate now belonged to Dad.  What was God thinking when he let my mother die?

Then God showed me a picture of a tunnel between heaven and earth. At one end I saw two figures bathed in a bright light– my tiny mom standing next to Jesus. My dad stood sideways in the tunnel of decision, hand his chin, pondering. Then I saw him turn and walk toward the light. Was this a picture of what was to come?

A few weeks ago He said, “HE IS MINE!”
Then last week He said, “When your mom got to heaven, I said, ‘Well
done.”  When your Dad gets here, I will say, ‘You made it!'”

Another time when I asked God, what are you doing? he said, “Securing
the perimeter,” then a few hours later, “Storming the beach,” then
later “Having the victory.”

The view outside these conversations did not seem to jive with what I was hearing from God.  When I said to my dad, “You are nearing the end of your earthly journey and will have to choose.  Jesus will be there. He loves you, Dad.”  He only looked frightened. Did he not realize that he was dying?

He altered his will, a relief to us all, yet showed such fear over dying that I was downhearted. Yet again, I heard God whisper, “I am mighty to save.”

And this morning when I asked, “Lord, how should I pray for my dad?” He answered:
“It is no small thing to save a man. It is no small thing to save a
man who has thumbed his nose at God, who has said, ‘I can heal
myself’. Who has hardened his heart to the Lord. But I am Mighty to

My heart cried out: “Lord, we stand in awe at what you are doing. You are at work in my father’s heart and mind. You are bringing him to the end of himself so that he might cry out to you. I believe. Help my unbelief.
I believe God will save him. He is not willing that any should perish.

Author’s note: My father died the following morning before I boarded the plane that would have taken me there.  I believe he entered paradise, because I believe God’s promises.

A Way Where There Seems to be No Way

September 21, 2009

Strategic thinking is one of my strong suits: my mind often ticks through options automatically. But my father’s situation: sick and in a Christian Science nursing home seemed like a brick wall at the end of the road. I was afraid that he would worsen and his fellow Christian Scientists would let him languish and even die all the while proclaiming him healed. Yet once he decided to opt for Broadview, the Christian Science home an hour west of my parent’s home in Los Angeles, there seemed little I could do . . . but pray. Why does prayer seem so wimpy? The last resort when all my heaving and hoeing has come up empty?

So pray I did. And I heard God whisper to my heart, I am still with him. I am there.  I still love him. I also heard God say one morning as I rose to consciousness, Buy plane tickets now. I agonized over the dates, praying, God, show me when to go. When you run a busy Healing Center it is not easy to leave town on short notice. It is not easy to cancel appointments, skip leadership meetings and tell your boss, my rector, that you are headed back to Los Angeles for the second time in a month. The best time seemed to be the week set aside for our family vacation. I asked my daughter if she minded going to Los Angeles and ask my husband if he minded being left behind. He reported that a tight deadline was going to make it impossible for him to go to the beach anyway. He urged me to go to Los Angeles and Sarah said she did not have a preference.

So I booked tickets, then proceeded to be dogged by nagging doubts. Should we go? After all, things seemed to have settled down. Dad was in the nursing home and Mom was sleeping a lot, recovering from months of battling cancer while simultaneously taking care of a husband who could not carry his dirty plate to the sink much less help cook a meal or carry out the trash.

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Letters from Africa to my intercessors

July 26, 2009

July 26th, 2009

Dear Ones,
I want to thank each and every one of you for being willing to cover us in  prayer.  We leave at 6:10 PM today on KLM flying first to Amsterdam and then, at 11 AM  tomorrow on to Entebbe, the
airport in southern Uganda made famous by the rescue of hijacked hostages by Israeli paratroopers in 1976.

Entebbe Airport at dusk

Entebbe is on a peninsula that extends southward into Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake.

Three days ago I learned that my mother has cancer in the pleural cavity which surrounds her lungs. We have not told her yet, so she believes she has pneumonia and congestive heart failure. This particular cancer is even more insidious than most because it produces large amounts of fluid which keep her lungs from expanding. The doctors drew a liter of fluid from her plural cavity a week ago.

According to her favorite doctor at City of Hope, the plural effusion, or excess liquid showed up on X-rays in May, so my dear little mother has four to ten months to live.

But we are going to doctor Jesus for a second opinion. Cancer is not too much for Him as he reminded me about a week ago. In the last year we have not lost anyone to cancer. None of the people that we have prayed for have died. We’ve had some amazing miracles including the healing of my sister-in-law whose cancer markers dropped faster than her doctor had ever seen before. She recovered from advanced ovarian cancer; Joe K. who many of you know is healed, along with Jeanette T. and many others.  We are grateful.

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Drawing to a close

June 25, 2009

Years of pain and grief are drawing to a close as my father entered the hospital last night with acute renal failure. His kidneys have ceased to work.  With a mixture of sadness and gratitude, I have begun to mourn.

I am grateful that I was with him June 3 to 10, grateful that back in May I heard God saying, Go to L.A., your dad needs you. Grateful that I heard His voice and obeyed.  It was a shock to see how he had declined since early March when I was in L.A. because the doctors had decided my mom was too frail to stay alone in the little bungalow at City of Hope where they sequester patients being treated for thyroid cancer with radioactive iodine.  We enjoyed our time together in the peaked roof cottage with the little garden out front and giggled like school girls at our inability to keep the rules–stay six feet away apart and wear gloves whenever touching anything the other might touch–to avoid my being contaminated by her radioactivity.

I saw little of my dad that visit, as I was only home a day or two. His shuffle made me suspect Parkinson’s disease.  You could head him coming, schurch, schruch, schruch for minutes before he appeared, head forward tortoise-like.

When God said, Your dad needs you. I was surprised. Then I heard from my sister that he was walking around the house wearing only a diaper. Gulp!

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