Thursday, March 5, 2020

Coronavirus.


Friends and Family;

It is time to ask for prayers for myself, as well as for many other people in the United States and around the world.

Some of you know that I was participating in a Migrant Trails Study Tour with the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in Central America and then at the U.S./Mexican border.

I arrived Feb. 15th in El Salvador and spent two days with a friend and her family that I had not seen in 14 years!  I met her during my Europe Year, 2006, in Northern Ireland on the North Irish Sea at a place called Corrymeela.  We have kept in touch through the years thanks to Facebook!

I joined the group of Presbyterians and others that I was to travel with on Monday the 17th of February and began the program with them learning about migration to the United States and the causes of it.  We were in El Salvador for several days before we traveled on to Guatemala by bus late in the day on ---------------.  I participated in the program for three days, including visit to CEDEPCA, a place that I have heard about for years and was wildly excited to finally see in person!  On the fourth day I came down with a bad cough and asked if I could be taken to see a doctor.

I was taken to a private hospital in Guatemala City.  The doctors there took blood and did a thorough workup on me.  The verdit:  a virus and pneumonia.  I had taken traveler’s diarrhea antibiotics a few days earlier and apparently the culprit was E-Coli, so the medication had not helped.  I admit being quite shocked about the pneumonia diagnosis. 

The doctor’s wanted to admit me to the hospital and I said that was not going to happen.  I would not be in a hospital in a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone and did not know the language.  Checking with the leadership team for the Study Tour the decision was made for me to fly out of Guatemala and home to Seattle as soon as possible.

I was taken back to the hotel and I got myself packed as quickly as I could.  It was unnerving calling the airline reservation line and undoing the reservations I had made with such hope not all that long ago, in order to reschedule by plans.

I was to leave the next morning for the states.  Sunday the 23rd of February I spent the day traveling.  I had help at the airport which was wonderful, checking in and getting a wheelchair.  I am so thankful that I made it home without incident.  I was coughing quite a bit and trying to keep it to myself, but I am certain it was irritating other people. 

I arrived at Sea-Tac, had help picking up my checked in carry on and found the woman who serves as a private taxi who got me safely home.  I was not home for long when my daughter drove me to the local Swedish hospital Emergency Room.  At that point I checked out okay and was sent home. 

The next day I simply did not feel well.  I wasn’t able to begin unpacking and putting things away (that still hasn’t happened).  My daughter again took me to the ER.  I had hardly grabbed anything on my way out of the apartment, not even my backpack.  I had a little pile of belongings with me. 

Apparently the chest x-ray they took in ER showed that the pneumonia was not diminishing.  I was admitted to the hospital that Monday night the 24th of February.  I spent the next several days hospitalized, gratefully, and was released last Friday the 28th of February.

I ended up having to take an Uber home from the hospital.  It was not a good experience and I hope to never have to use one again.

Since I got home there have been multiple and growing cases of the Coronavirus.  I began to hear of this new virus long before I ended up back home in my apartment with a case of pneumonia that is on the mend. 

This has been an anxious week.  The primary reason that this is so is because I am now in the High Risk group for catching and also dying from this virus.  I keep hearing that 80% of people will be fine, there is just a small group that will need hospitalization if they are inflicted.

I am now over 60.  This is one high risk criteria.  And I have a chronic lung disease.  Last November, 2019, I was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, known as COPD.  I am now in two high risk groups. 

I had not decided when to share this medical diagnosis with my Face Book friends; this now seems like an appropriate time.

I am in self imposed quarantine.  CNN just said that for people in self imposed quarantine it should be for at least 14 days. 

I have not seen my mail since February 14th.  I think I will have to request for the post office to hold my mail again, perhaps until the end of March.  I will not be able to vote in the Washington State Primary for president. 

I am waiting right now for a call back from a nurse at my primary care physician’s office.  I cancelled my one week check back appointment that was scheduled for yesterday.  After a discussion with someone in the office I decided there was too much risk of exposure to sick people.  Meanwhile I have realized that I do have some questions.

I would ask for prayers both for myself and for all of the other people worldwide who are in high risk groups and are experiencing anxiety over what will happen in the days and weeks to come.  Sojourner’s Magazine has a powerful article that is on-line right now addressing the inequalities that this illness is laying bare.  Loving Your Neighbor in a Time of Coronavirus by Jim Wallis. 

I am going to post this blog entry before I have had time to go back through it thoroughly.  I may at a later time discover typos!
Blessings to all who take the time to read this,
Debbie




Thursday, January 16, 2020

Foreign Policy

So this is my take on this. 45 got out of a deal that was working with Iran to limit their ability to gain nuclear weapons. This because of his jealousy and resentment of President Obama. Then the 45th administration began to hamstring Iran’s economy in an effort to force them to negotiate a new deal since the perfectly good original deal was gone, poof. Then 45, probably under the influence of Pompeo who has wanted this for years, assassinated via drone a top Iranian military figure who was at the moment in neighboring Iraq. Thereby violating Iraq’s sovereignty. In a perfectly understandable retaliation for this action Iran sent middles to a base in Iraq where Americans are based. No one was killed. Now 45 is putting even more punishing sanctions into place against Iran in retaliation for responding to an assassination of an Iranian citizen. So 45 can kill someone anywhere he wants to and no one can respond to that action because he is all powerful. Right.

And 176 innocent individuals died...from my perspective due to 45's actions.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Struggling to make sense of those things that may never make sense.

I have spent some time listening to/watching CNN this morning. I am concerned by this administration's approach to Iraq and Iran. The two central concerns are: Iran is an ancient civilization, I believe that this is the Persian Empire that occupied ancient Israel in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). The United States is less than 300 years old, at least the European invasion/occupation part of it...clearly the indigenous peoples have been here for probably thousands of years. 1. I am concerned by what I perceive as condescension on the part of this administration towards this empire with a long and proud history. 2. I am concerned by how I perceive that this administration thinks about Iraq, it's policies towards and concerning Iraq. If Iraq is a sovereign nation isn't it really and truly up to them if they choose to have foreigners like the United States on their soil or not? Why does this administration act as if Iraq has no choice? Is what we as a country are doing in the Middle East only for our benefit, or is it also a positive thing for the people and civilizations that we are rubbing shoulders with? I think that I am somewhat confused by this administration's willingness to totally interfere with what is going on in the Middle East and yet 45 threatens to take away desperately needed funds from Central America. I believe that according to Michael Moore's 9/11 the answer would be it's the oil, when it comes to the Middle East. I am still working all of this out in my heart and head.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Antisemitism signals something deeper.

In light of the latest antisemitic attack in New York this morning I decided to repost this book review. Again, I highly recommend this book.

" There is a book that I read a number of years ago, during the same time period as my reading Dark Money by Jane Mayer. The book is by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. It is called : Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence. On page 70 he says the following: 'antisemitism is important because it illustrates more clearly than any other phenomenon the psychological and social dynamic of hate. It helps us understand what may be operative in human conflict over and above the normal clash of principalities and powers, nations and interest. Its return within living memory of the Holocaust signals more than a danger to Jews. It is, as it has always been, the first warning signal of a world order in danger of collapse.' I commend this entire book for reading by anyone who is interested in learning from the deep wells of wisdom from a Rabbi who is well read and intellectually well rounded. What we are in the midst of today in the United States is not normal. It is perilous."

Friday, December 27, 2019

Questions

December 24, 2019

I have a question. If the Economy is so sizzling hot why is this administration taking children off of free school lunches, medicaid and food stamps? Why is ICE not allowing children at the border to be immunized against, say, flu? Why is homelessness increasing? Why are safety nets being cut up and tossed aside? Why are rent prices skyrocketing across the country so that the “working poor” (an oxymoron) cannot afford to raise their children in a decent place to live? Why is unhealthy food cheaper than fruits and vegetables? How can so many people not afford the basic human right of health care and dental care? Why is it called a sizzling economy when it is not sizzling for every single person? Why are people more interested in their very own economic situation than removing an immoral, godless president from office? When did we become a nation of naval gazers?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Review for the book Democracy in Chains.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for AmericaDemocracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is readable, articulate and eye-opening. I have read Dark Money by Jane Mayer before this, a couple of years ago, and this is a follow up of sorts by a different author.

The book talks about Libertarianism. This is a frightening political POV. As I understand it, the main
tenant of Libertarianism is liberty. However, liberty to this faction means liberty from government. The ability to make their own decisions without public obligation, without environmental constraints, without public schools, social security and Medicare, without anything that takes money out of their pockets to benefit community.

I can't imagine that there are too many poor Libertarians. Instead this political POV has no hesitation to stripping basic help away from people who they deem unworthy. Note the recent headlines that the 45th administration will pare down the food stamp program, SNAPS. I think that the Public Charge regulations that have been in the headlines are also of the Libertarian ilk. The 45th administration threatens to "make it harder for immigrant persons with legal status in the United States to obtain a green card if they use benefits such as Medicaid, food stamps or other public benefits. U.S. immigration law already screens out those that might become a burden on society, but this new rule greatly expands the definition of public charge and who might become one. While use of cash assistance has traditionally been a criteria that might disqualify someone from legal immigrant status, it has now been expanded to include Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps, and housing assistance like Section 8 housing vouchers." From the Witness in Washington from the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness.

While Public Charge regulations are not cited directly in this book, it is certainly where my mind went when I read about the Libertarian philosophy. A synopsis of this POV would be: "If someone has failed to save for their own retirement, tough luck. Why should I put money towards their care?" There is no sense of civic duty, no compassion. Many of these people have inherited wealth but, like Donald Trump, believe that they are self made million/billionaires and do not see how our society has enabled them to grow their wealth. There is no understanding, or desire to know, about systemic poverty that comes from racist and other policies that are intentionally designed to keep marginalized people marginalized. i.e. redlining African Americans to prevent their ability to purchase homes which is a traditional method of investment.

The book is indeed deep. However, it is well researched and the author writes well. I strongly urge those who read this "book report" to obtain your own copy (library or purchase, including used which is how I got mine) and read it. The end of the book cautions that at some point these values will become irreversible and will change our American society permanently. Just seeing what is happening under the 45th administration is a foretaste of what that change could mean. To me, it is unacceptable.



View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Generations.


Friends,

It has probably been at least a year since I have written here.  I know because recently it was the one-year anniversary of Senator John McCain’s funeral and Aretha Franklin’s funeral.  At the time of the funerals (the general time, not specifically when the funerals were happening) my daughter and I were spending time at the family storage unit that is about 20 minutes away from the community in which we live. 

I was going to write some things that came to me while we went through some family things and I had written a list, and guess what?  Somehow the list got lost and I never did get around to writing. 

I am going to recall some of that and segue into why I decided to post on blog today, which is somewhat thematically the same if not a different content.

I retired from the Presbyterian Church (USA) on August 31, 2018, it has been just a year.  It was a poignant time for the United States, and it was a time of reflection for me.  Unlike a private company that gives material gifts to people when they retire, the church does not give things like a gold watch.  I don’t know if that is the go-to gift anymore, but that is what as I grew up seemed to be the marker for that major event in someone’s life.

My daughter and I were going through family belongings including many pictures of deceased family members.    She and I, and my son are pretty much the family that we have left.   Joyfully she is married and I have a granddaughter, so the next generation of the family has arrived.  I do have living cousins and am grateful for their presence in my life and for the gift of technology that enables us to stay in touch.

Frankly it was hard to see pictures of so many that have gone before us.  I was certainly glad to have my daughter’s company during that time.  It was intensified as our country focused on the preparations for and the funerals themselves of two beloved people who were and will continue to be so important in the culture and history of the United States. 

I also reflected on how different those two funerals were!  One the funeral of a Statesman.  The other the funeral of an iconic singer who not only touched our hearts by her music but also led a colorful and inspiring life.  A picture of her casket that I saw showed high heeled shoes that had been placed above the top.  John McCain’s funeral was much more dignified and special in its own way.  Don’t think I am insulting Aretha by saying that JM’s funeral was more dignified.  The two people and the two funerals were just significantly different and that is how the United States is!  We are diverse and colorful and somber and ceremonial. 

So all of these ribbons were floating around in my heart and head and life at the time of my retirement last August.  The joy of knowing that I had served well and loved my work in China and Africa tempered the feeling that something significant in my life was ending.  When I left South Sudan, the circumstances were such that neither I nor the Nile Theological College where I served nor World Mission in the Presbyterian Church (USA) knew that I would not be returning to my post.  There was no going away lunch at a South Sudanese restaurant by the Nile River as had happened for other colleagues, so there was no real sense of closure.  I couldn’t give hugs and in-person good-byes.  I lost a precious opportunity to let the community that I participated in know how much they meant to me, in the flesh.

I am retired.  I see the pictures of those in the family who have gone ahead of myself and my children and now my granddaughter.  There is such an awareness of life ending and new people coming in and both the continuity and also the endings.  And at the same time all of this is going on in my heart and my head there are two important national figures who have died and the country is in mourning and their endings are being celebrated and the closure is on the television set for all to see.

I remember a commentator at the JM funeral saying, so many of know that when we die this is not the kind of funeral that we are going to have.  Yes.  My belief, as a retired Presbyterian pastor, is that God gives each of gifts and mission.  Some are well known on the public and perhaps even world stage, and others are well known and loved by a small band of people known as their community.  Sometimes it can lead to a person feeling somewhat insignificant.  That is not the truth and yet a person can be forgiven for feeling such.

So now today the 2020 Democratic Presidential Climate Town Hall on CNN is taking place.  I am being discerning in who I watch on this particular stage as I am also doing other things today, dishes, laundry, you know, the normal stuff of life that one does when one does not have household help.  (Which I did have when I lived overseas.)

I watched John Yang and Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar.  I will turn the TV on again for Elizabeth Warren and some of the others after her. 

I must say that I really like Amy Klobuchar.  She is from the Midwest and I always think of something that I heard in seminary as many of us were preparing to discern calls in specific churches by God and the larger church.  There is always such a mix of people who are geographically limited and people who know that they will have to relocate in order to answer a call. 

In the mix of all of this I distinctly remember someone telling a group of us that women in ministry in the Midwest would not be impossible.  “Men and women are used to working in the fields together.”  Amy is down to earth.  She feels to me connected to the pulse of the place where food grows, the earth that we walk on, the earth that Jesus walked on.  She has very practical solutions for things and I like that.

As she talked I realized that there is going to come a point where I will no longer be here to see how her, or someone else’s vision, plays out in the United States and from there, the globe. 

I recently went to a beautiful and informal memorial service of a woman who had been for years in a church I attended as I went to college and was called to seminary and then was ordained and began a call to another church.  It was essentially a picnic with tables and chairs on one of the islands that we have here in the Pacific Northwest.  I was grateful that another church member had called to ask me if I would like to go.

I can’t remember exactly when it was to be honest.  What I was so aware of on the drive were the leaves of the trees.  They were so green and it was a beautiful day.  I had a time of being in what is known as a “thin place”.  As a thin place it was one of those times of experiencing the feeling that comes when there is a perception that the distance between heaven and earth has shrunk and time and space seem to be in a different dimension for a period of time.

 I kept thinking about generations.  I now know people who have great great grandchildren.  Amazing!  This will likely happen less and less as people in the United States seem to be having children later and later in life.  For much of the country the days of having kids at 19 or 20 and then the next ones doing the same where there really could be five generations at once, possibly six?  Is not probably going to be something that we see very often.  While there is a continuity of generations the modeling and mentoring and sharing among older and newer is not going to be as common. 

So there was that.  There was also a sense, not in a morbid way, that someday I won’t be here any longer.  The generations will pass on.  Someday my daughter will be a grandma and so on and so forth.  I have a place in this continuity, and at the same time, my place gets vacated at some point and a new person takes that spot. 

I am still fairly young.  I have been told that my life expectancy is for another twenty years.  I also am facing the possibility that I may be facing some health issues and that is a little bit scary.  In awareness of that I am realizing that for so many years I knew that of course people die, but it seemed so far away.  Now, not so much.  Twenty years can be a long time, but not so long when you know it is the last twenty years.  So I know that the awareness of my mortality is sharpened now and is a real thing. 

I also have realized as I contemplate these things that I feel for me facing death squarely in the here and now, whenever that is, would seem to be a little bit easier when one is of a perhaps more expected age for death.  In other words, at 64 I don’t feel like this would be a natural time to die.  Twenty years later it would be seem to be more so.  Of course, in twenty years I might not feel like that at all!  But it does have to end sometime.

I certainly know that I am not ready to leave right now even though, ironically, it is not my choice when God would choose to call me home, so to speak in Christian parlance. 

I wrote in my journal recently that perhaps when one is closer to death one is more ready for it to occur.  By that I mean, at this moment (not withstanding what results of medical tests may be in three weeks) my body is reasonably healthy and my mind is reasonably present.  In twenty years perhaps this will not be so and I will be more ready to let go of this earth and the people I love, in order to join the generations who have gone before me and have someone else, another generation, fill that hole, that space, that was once me.

I hope that some of this makes sense.  I also hope that perhaps someone that is reading it will have been helped by it.  For me sometimes it is reading something that someone else has written that I have been thinking that helps me. 

I need to preach again.  I need to experience the “kernel” again.  Sermons are for me first and then a gift for others.  The kernel is when I am present with the Spirit in the Scripture and there is a “conversation” occurring and in that moment I see what the kernel is in the Scripture.  What the meaning is.  That becomes the repeatable line in the sermon that people can follow and understand what the Spirit is conveying.  The funny thing is that often times people hear something entirely different from what the preacher says!  Because the Spirit uses the words to say to the person what their own kernel is.

Blessings to you all.  Thank-you for allowing my processing and my journey to be a part of your time and your life.
Debbie