Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I hate to leave him here...

I work for Hospice as a chaplain and make regular visit on our patients at the local institutions that care for the the elderly, i.e. rest homes, convalescent facilities, etc. Today I recognized one of our church members at a convalescent care facility with her father. She was reluctantly leaving him there because his wife can no longer care for him as he wrestles with memory loss and its related debilitation.

As we live longer the potential of extended life care looms on the horizon for all of us--if not for ourselves, perhaps for our parents. I have seen the physical toll of caring for a needy family member and watched as a loving mate, sibling, or child, sacrifically gave of themselves until their own health was jeopardized. I have observed, as well, the frightening terror of aggravated injury when someone who needed greater care was left on their own, and have noted the guilt it triggered for the party who had taken a rest break, or, turned their back just for a moment.

Making decisions that impact the care of elderly parents and family members is a horrifically difficult one. I have gone with families as they have transferred a member to a care facility and watched the etars flow freely as they drove away. In the majority of cases I have observed, the family's primary concern was centered around, "What is best for my loved one?"

There were tears today as the family left the premises of the care facility. I hung around for awhile and watched kind nurses direct the new patient on a tour around the facility and when I had to go he was sitting comfortably with another patient visiting and smiling.

God, grant us all wisdom if we ever come to the time we have to make a decision like this. May it be motivated by love and concern, and may we rest in the decision knowing we have sought to do what us best for the one we love...even if we have to leave him there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The battle for a health plan that works

Our church has graciously sought to provide health care for our family. It is currently being re-evaluated as costs and coverage are an ever-changing commodity in the health care market.

The debate about health care--who gets it, how they get it, why some don't get it, who should pay for it and where all the money is going--is raging. And it is being waged across party lines witha diversity of opinion on both sides of the political aisle.

For me, the battle recently became intensely personal. I have a high $3500 deductible policy and with recent cataract surgery facing me, I was trying to be proactive (a critical word) about the cost of my procedure. I called the local surgery center and was told that if I submitted a claim for the procedure--1 hour and twenty minutes there--my insurance company would be billed $5,150; if I wanted to pay cash the cost would be $1136! With a $3500 deductible I was faced with the dilemma of not submitting my claim (so it could be counted against my deductible) and paying $3500 or shelling out $1136 for the same service as a cash-paying customer.

Here's the dilemma. With a $4000 differential between the insurance claim cost and the actual cost for the cash customer...where does that extra money go?

I am not complaining. I was able to pay the bill and my right eye sees much more clearly, having been declared "legally blind" in that eye weeks before.

What I still cannot see clearly is how it is as a well-paid professional I still cannot afford my health plan and its suggested "benefits"...?

And then I remember, there are many who make significantly less than I do, and are faced with the same gripping questions.

As Christians, we should have a deep concern for the hurting. There are many who simply cannot afford health care, even though they come from responsible, hard-working families. In a country where our health care is excellent (if you can afford it), it is a challenge for all of us to beseech our congressmen (and women) to take a hard look at the options that are being laid before us and to take off our "party" hats and pray that we can find a way to direct the trillions of dollars spent on health care so those who work hard can utilize a plan that works!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

do you remember vacation bible school?

My wife and I are huddled together today in a classroom that has been converted into a camp site. All the walls are covered with blue sky, as well as the ceiling, and a faux campfire sits in the middle of a large room. Fifteen fifth and sixth graders are seated with eager eyes waiting attentively...for me to share the story of the day!

It is a moment pregnant with all kinds of emotion for me. I have known some of these children, after thirteen years of pastoring here, since they were babies. Today I have the privilege of telling them how they can know Jesus and what an adventure it is to live for Him. For just a moment I can imagine them six-seven years from now, graduating from high school. What chocies will they make? Where will their lives be headed? Will they still be interested in spiritual things?

Ecclesiates 12:1 encourages us to "Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth..." I am not sure the kids are hearing every word I am saying--though they are listening intently--but I know this. Today they will hear the gospel, the "good news" about Jesus. they will hear it in the context of a decorated Sunday School classroom at "Son Rock Camp".

And they will hear it, however imperfectly, from me.

I am for the moment overwhelmed but hopeful that they will always remember this week of Vacation Bible School.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Learning to live with less...

The very thought of "cutting back" carries the idea of pain and discomfort. Still, it is my conclusion that it is the season for financial pruning at the Barrett home.

I am embarassed sometimes by the sheer number of shoes, shirts and pants I have neatly stored in my closet. I recently assauged some of my guilt when I discovered someone else in my church family who wore size thirteen shoes and I handed off some of my overflow to him (there are still more to give away).

I am disappointed by my whining and complaining when something I have planned goes awry and I have extra unexpected expenses or work to meet the demands of the situation. But I always find away to muster the resources to do what I have to do (because I have the resources...duh!).

Beverly and I often rehearse how God has blessed us. Our chidlren and grandchildren are all well, both of our mothers are bright and fucntional at age 85, our home is a "paradise" to us, we have vehicles that run, I have a great job, and we even have some "toys" that we enjoy (a travel trailer we could live in some day), etc.

So I Timothy 6:3-10 reminds me of a critical point--"...godliness with contentment is great gain". The secret to learning to live with less is being grateful for what we have, and content in what God has provided for us. I am still learning this. Paul writes young Timothy, "But if we have food and clothing we will becontent with that." The problem is that I am not "young" any more and I am either a slow or reluctant learner...or both.

There is an integral link between "godliness" and "contentment". To be godly is to seek after the things of God, to take seriously His Word, to be aware that He is in the process of molding us into the image of His Son. When we are in that mindset, it is much more easy to be content because when we realize the faithfulness of God in meeting our needs our "wants", I believe, are less compelling.

So I am challenging myself to learn to live with less--I don't need another pair of shoes, I can wear that shirt another year, I won't die without a morning Starbucks, I can function without a membership at the local gym (that's why I bought my treadmill in the first place), and I would rather eat at home than eat out in Amador County anyway (I live that "home cookin'").

And if I live on less, I can do more. I'll share more about that with you in my next blog. Read I Timothy 6:11-21 for the rest of the story!