Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Altered State

It has been a while since I have written. Even now as I sit here I am having a hard time knowing what to write. I think most of all I wanted to explain what has been going on in our lives. Ministry continues to emerge for us: slowly, prayerfully, carefully. Robbie with writing and working at summer camp, Jake as an encouragement to all he meets, and Tom (me) as a chaplain/pastor in the community.

Having missed last summer, Jacob is truly enjoying this summer. June 28th was the 1 year anniversary of his accident and it was just a normal day - nice to be able to say that. We did not really talk about it being the 1 year anniversary - we didn't need to. Last Sunday was harder though. Debbie and I took Jensen up to Camp Hammer and dropped him off like we did last year - that was the night we got THE phone call that radically altered our lives. No phone call this year - Jake came home that night, Jensen and Robbie remained safe at their camps. 

Throughout his recovery, Jake has just wanted things to be normal. We have commented over and over again that "normal" has been redefined. Things will never be the same. Yet I realized recently that I am having a hard time accepting "normality". I want more. Our lives have been altered. How do I operate in this altered state? We have stood in the presence of miracles and have been forever changed. But now what? I have been waiting for the next bad thing to happen - the next tragedy - the next trauma. Debbie mentioned it and it woke me up to this underlying nagging pain in my heart that is waiting for the next time of alarm - the next phone call - the next hardship.
(Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that's triggered by a traumatic event. You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you experience or witness an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror. - Mayo Clinic)
Why is there guilt that Jake is doing incredibly well? He is surfing, driving, preparing for college, and working at Freeline again. He is able to be where he wants to be - with his friends (and sometimes gracing our presence too).  It is a daily discipline to walk with an expectation that God is going to show up and that no matter what happens - good or bad - he is in control and is present. Miracles by definition are not "normal" but supernatural alteration of normal. We are dramatically altered when God shows up and we abide with him. But we can also abide and in God and be altered in the "normality" of life - because God being present is never normal, never boring, never staying the same. Check out 1 John 3: God loves us and calls us his children and how we are right now is not how we will be in the future - he is shaping and developing us to become like him - we are in the midst of being altered.

Jake still has some altering to do - not just spiritually but physically. He is still dealing with wound care issues and back pain. At some point there are procedures to restore hair and free up movement on his arm. Most likely the back pain is due to the missing lat muscles and he just needs to intentionally strengthen the other muscles to support that valuable spine.

My path continues to be altered as well. Twice a week I am a "volunteer chaplain" at Valley Medical Hospital (where we spent almost 3 months). I am focusing my ministry here on ICU and Emergency Units. There is a tremendous need for spiritual care and it is a priority for the hospital and yet there is little funding. So I am in the process of raising financial support to allow me to do this as a ministry. Kind of crazy to me that this is where God is leading me. I was a huge cry baby when I was here last year. I remember through tears listening to doctors and nurses as they explained Jake's condition. My first visit as a chaplain was in the Burn Unit. Going to the Burn Unit first was intentional on my part but what was not intentional was that the first room I would go in was Jacob's room. I was intending to go into the one next door but after I gowned up (hat, mask, gloves, gown) the nurse whispered delicately showing me I was using the wrong cart. So I boldly, nervously walked into Jacob's old room. Strange how different it looked. Awesome to be able to make a new friend. Redeeming to know that life can come in the midst of ashes. 

I am learning that being a chaplain is mostly about "showing up, shutting up and staying out of the way." A co-worker shared that with me and it is constantly on my mind. I have called it "purposeful presence" and added "point out God." It is less about what I say and more about being there - being available - listening - being open to God's lead. Just showing up is huge. Like so many that visited us - showing up meant a lot.

I have thought a lot about the familiar story that Jesus shared about he man beaten and left for dead on the street. Religious leaders passed by but the lowlife, unclean Samaritan stopped and went out of his way to help. Though it was a parable or made up story - it happens and that man who was dying has a name. He is the man in ER who fell and broke his rib, overdosed, can't breath - Arthur. He is Peter who had been clean and sober for 3 years but took a drink last week - his father is dying, brother-in-law just died, lost his job and was trying to find a handle on hope. The bottle of whiskey seemed like it was a familiar friend and an easy handle but that hope disappointed. Peter is ready again to start at step one, day one to be clean and sober again. There are so many stories. I was able to be there last week to help Maria as her mom had just died. And to listen to Mark's explanation of why he was on drugs and why a stranger had cut him. There is so much tragedy at the Inn where the Samaritan brings the wounded.

The conversations continue. Jacob's story is still a source of encouragement - people amazed at the miracle. God continues to make alterations - snipping away - creating us into who he wants us to be. I pray that we will continue to abide in Him, hope in Him, look for Him.

Please continue to pray for us as our ministries expand. If God is leading for you to support us financially, I am partnering with MIC (Medical Institutions Chaplains). The donation information and address is on the left hand side of this blog. I will soon have a web site up and a newsletter available that you can choose to subscribe. I would love to have you continue to join our journey in prayer and conversation.

Also look for a post here from Jake soon.

In the Hope of His presence.

Tom (daddy)


Anonymous said...

Dear Tom...We want you to know that we are continually praying for you...I still remember,
and can relate the experiences you are having there in SCVMC...I walked those hallowed halls for 30 years, and still think of the many sad and needy hearts I was given the privilege of ministering to...Now at 84, my ministry is prayer, and I do pray that your needs will be met so that you can continue there..That is a very needy ministry, and I have faith that God will supply your needs, as He did ours for all those years...God bless you dear brother, and know that God is able....
In Christ,
Rev. Merlyn L Fordice....Chaplain

Tom Kirkendall said...

Thanks Merlyn - so very encouraging. Awesome to know that you are praying for me. Blessings.

John Hixson said...

Dear Tom, I, too, am continually praying for Jacob and you. And volunteering as a chaplain is great for both you and all those you minister to. My prayers for your future are similar to ones I pray for other jobless folks: that God will lead you to the place that will provide for you all that you need. It may be a job that's not your "favorite", but you have good things to pass along to anybody anywhere. God bless you and all your family. Love, Judy Hixson