In Memory: Cora Miller

10 days ago, Cora died.  Today, her memorial was held at Hwy 36 Church of Christ.

10 years ago, Cora lived. Well, that was when our paths first crossed.  It was at Hendrick Hospital in Abilene, Texas that I saw her.  A friend of mine had been preaching at Oplin Church of Christ and after I had visited once, her husband Chuck (whom I treasure as a mentor in faith and friendship) had lunch with us at Subway and then invited Bryan and I to go visit Cora.  I still to this day marvel at how Chuck and Cora invited me as a stranger into their room, in a strange place that is effective in making you feel even more disconnected.  Yet she welcomed me with a smile, sainted of course with the typical West Texan humility of not being decent enough or apologizing for not looking at her best.  She welcomed me.

Welcome indeed.  4 years later I left that church as I began life in Houston as a hospital chaplain, but during my 4 years there I attended that church faithfully.  She welcomed me and in all of our bible classes and sermons always responded with welcome.  Regardless of her differences of opinion, she wanted to welcome the stranger, the immigrant, the poor, the orphans, the new neighbors, the Muslims, the people who didn’t look like her, the Republicans and Democrats alike, the crabby and crusty and nice and neat.  She loved to welcome with her customary thoughtfulness and West Texan hospitality. She loved to welcome theological conversation and storytelling about drawing closer to God.  That’s what Cora really did in her welcoming spirit.  In welcoming all, she welcomed God.

She sought God in all different ways and drew life from her gardening, farming, animals, chickens, dogs, and her husband Chuck.  She loved to laugh.  She was earthy and had a refreshingly sweet but spot on honesty.  I always remember her way of talking about Scripture in a way of wonder and curiosity and openness, and the way in which she welcomed discussion that reflected the love and uniqueness of that little country church.

Yes, she welcomed, and she loved.  She loved Chuck so much, and welcomed him into her life through thick and thin and with all her bruises in life. (He will be in my prayers for his journey of grief) She loved God more though.  With welcome of all that could mean too. Her welcome always reflected love.

I will remember Cora, for the way she welcomed Oplin, Chuck, God, and many students at Oplin along the way.  She welcomed us with open arms and the enduring and gentle love of a God who says ‘Come!’

I still remember her invite to me into the hospital.  “Come! Come in! Welcome!”

You will be remembered Cora from many here in gratitude and love.  Thanks for your love. May you hear the words from God now, “Come! Come in! Welcome!”

Morning by Morning (5/31/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Watching my jubilant son jump off the couch onto pillows with high energy.  So full of life!
  2. Amanda Vargas, an RN who led the care of the patient and family during a very difficult and challenging death yesterday.  I was particularly moved as she shared about how fulfilling it is to be there for those families and then to connect that with the gentle and loving way she cared for the family.  I think the world of Amanda and her energizing compassion.
  3. MR, a teenage girl that I had a great opportunity to connect with in our hospital last fall and then she moved on to another hospital closer to home.  I always marvelled at her faith, her desire to pray, her laughter, and her positivity that was grounded in her faith in Christ. M died a couple weeks ago and her memorial is today in DFW.
  4. Honey sriracha brussels sprouts.  Yeah, I know BJ’s serves this but I made them on my own yesterday and loved it!

Morning by Morning (5/30/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Returning to work after a long but good 11 days.  I can’t wait to see my PICU and PCU friends!
  2. Caprese salad.  I used my own home grown basil for the salad yesterday and that was really cool.
  3. NPR and the public radio that brings great perspective and good reporting.  NPR has provide both news and podcasts that I have really appreciated.
  4. The wonderful sunshine this morning.

How To Honor Those Who Serve?

It’s Memorial Day.  A day created with an intent to honor the ones who have served our country and now lay fallen.  It’s a day for remembering. 

But remembrance is often complicated.  

Do we remember all of those who fell? Do we celebrate one wars servicemen and not another? Do we remember the compassion and heart of blacks, Muslims, LGBT, or Southeast Asians who served as much as we remember the heart of other service men and women? Do we remember men and women with appreciation and humility or just fireworks and unquestioning loyalty to freedom isn’t free bumper stickers?

I ask these questions because I got to watch an incoming honor flight at Baltimore this past week.  I watched older, hurting, frail but committed men and women who had served in WW II come through the gate and be celebrated with applause and care by the crowd, many of whom (including myself) have no clue what those eyes have seen or experienced. Remembering must be humble in acknowledging the profound awful experience right? 

I ask those questions also because my grandfather fought in Korea and told me the couple times he talked about war- that he knew he had to serve out of duty but never wanted me to fight in a war, and never wanted me to fight period.  He was clear to me that war was terrible in that he felt like there is no moral high ground in that space. Remembering could be bold enough to acknowledge that not every one who died in service died for a good cause (we have been aggressors and committed our own atrocities) I wondered then and wonder now how we, or I, should honor those who have died and fallen, to make sure I honor their life, not the ideals of our country.

My grandfathers service is worth remembering. It’s worth appreciating.  The men and women who have died in World War I, WW II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraqi War, and other battles and encounters deserve to be remembered. But with fireworks and Memorial Day sales for washers/dryers/cars or barbecues and alcohol? That seems to whitewash what sacrifice and cost have meant to so many.  It also seems to memorialize our country’s innocence and economics rather than memorialize the sacrifice of physical and mental health of those men and women.

I will remember my grandfather and others today by considering ways to support the VA’s or veterans mental health.  I will tell my grandfathers story with the honesty he shared to me.  I will remain humble knowing I don’t have all the answers and that those who choose to serve are gifts and people too, not just numbers on battlefields.

So I ask those who are out there who have served and protected and cared for those who share our borders and culture:

How would you like to be honored today? What would dignify the service of those who have fallen?

Morning by Morning (5/29/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Waking up feeling better than yesterday.  That was probably the worst I’d felt in a while, so this morning is quite welcome.
  2. The beginning of Ramadan, which is always a window into faith I always appreciate.  
  3. My mother in laws care for me yesterday.  She came and watched kids, got me Gatorade, washed our sheets, and made me go nap in my room.  It was so nice to be taken care of, but much more importantly, so sweet of her to come over and show her care.
  4. Houston Dynamo tie on the road.  First road point of the year, albeit quite late!

Morning by Morning (5/26/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. My stunningly beautiful wife. I’m proud of her working really hard both professionally and personally to always be a better person.
  2. Ann Haywood Baxter’s hospitality and accompaniment on my flights in and out of Grand Rapids and also our long layover in Baltimore.  She made the trip not just less long but pleasurable. 
  3. Snuggling with Ryan after a long week away.
  4. The comedy of Hasan Minhaj that helped me laugh some and also challenged some cultural assumptions too.

Morning by Morning (5/25/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Random pics texted to me from my mother in law that make me smile. 
  2. The kind words of everyone after my plenary session at PCN yesterday.  I know it was not a mind blowing session, but it was integral to my developing identity as a pediatric chaplain.  The support was great.
  3. The “Cure Violence” program that treats violence as a contagious disease and works with those in the community to heal its spread. I’m fascinated by this group and what they’ve done so far.
  4. PCU (intermediate pediatric care unit) staff who so wonderfully engage developmentally delayed or technology dependent children who cannot communicate in traditional ways.  Those nurses give such dignity in their engagement with the child.

Morning by Morning (5/24/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Elana, Aiden, and Ryan whom I miss so much while at my conference.
  2. Mark Brown, Ann Haywood-Baxter, Bob Flory, Molly Garnett, Patrick Jinks, Gloria Kroeze, Kate Gerne, and Stacey Jutila. They provided great relaxing conversation tonight.
  3. Late nights at PCN!!!
  4. No more presentations for a while.  I can rest easy for the first time in a couple weeks, and I feel my body starting to lean in to that tiredness now.  But some fantastic opportunities have come in these weeks!

Morning by Morning (5/23/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. Pediatric chaplains whose humor and compassion is renewing, refreshing, and sustaining for me both personally and professionally.
  2. A beautiful walk in Holland Michigan this morning.  I loved the Dutch homes, the beautiful architecture, the crisp air, and the beautiful trees.
  3. Tiffany Riley, a Funnyatrics clown and fantastic leader of our session last night.  Her familiarity and honesty with the power of play and improv in the lives of the hurting was inspiring and full of joy. But as important as the skills of play for our families, it was joyful and fun! See this clip if you want to know more about Funnyatrics: 
  4. Pics of Elana and Ryan and Aiden that sustain me while I am away!

Morning by Morning (5/20/17)

My daily gratitude for:

  1. My wonderful wife Elana who has held down the fort for lots of my schedule adjustments, my late nights, and my upcoming conference.  What a world beater and cute to boot! Thanks love!
  2. Playing strategy board games.  I love Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Dominion, and Carcassone.  I love being tactical and being competitive.
  3. Watching Ryan mimic me- fixing his car like I fix mine, saying nursery rhymes like I do, sitting similarly, and learning to love what I love.  That is special and humbling.
  4. PCN Conference is here!!!!! Leaving in 7 hours…