Browsed by
Category: Personal

The Healing Hands of Jesus

The Healing Hands of Jesus

My brother, Dr. Robert Neufeld, preserved a recording of our father preaching, something he did not do all that often. Dr. Raymond D. Neufeld spent his life in service as a doctor. He didn’t talk about it a great deal. He just kept doing what he believed was right.

In this recording, the final 2 minutes and a bit were lost, and my father re-recorded it at my brother’s request.

I hope you enjoy and are blessed. The presentation is titled “The Healing Hands of Jesus.”

My mother was an RN and served with my father in various places. You can learn more about their experiences in the book Directed Paths.

I’m Taking a COVID-19 Vaccine

I’m Taking a COVID-19 Vaccine

Back in 2016, I was interviewing my mom about her experiences as a nurse. At the time she was 98 years old. She lived to one month short of her 100th birthday.

She had the opportunity to watch as many of the vaccines we use today were introduced. There were many moments of passion, but one of the strongest was when she discussed vaccines.

“Can these people imagine what it was like before these vaccines were introduced?” she asked. “I can’t imagine that anyone would like to go back to what we had before.”

I have a simple point here. Experts make mistakes. Indeed they do. Medical opinions can be wrong. Just so!

But those mistakes and missteps are nothing like the arrogant ignorance of the non-experts.

I get to observe this with people who are ignorant on subjects in which I have some expertise. Jody says she avoids meeting my eyes when a preacher is using Greek or Hebrew in a sermon, because she knows how frequently I will have a fixed expression on my face, trying to avoid revealing what I’m thinking about what is said.

I have read and studied about vaccines, and I’m convinced my mother, and so many other experts, are right. But my conviction isn’t the issue. I’m so very not-an-expert. What I am doing is relying on those people who are.

When I get the vaccine (2nd dose as applicable), and the appropriate time has passed so that I can reasonably expect immunity, I will continue to wear my mask and social distance until we have a level of vaccination that I can expect the persons I come in contact with will not be threatened. Again, I will do this because the best expert opinions say it is likely possible to spread the virus. I see this not as an infringement on my rights, but as my Christian duty.

I could, of course, be wrong. But experience and mountains of data suggest that the best option is to follow the consensus opinion of those with the appropriate expertise.

And on a humorous note, no, I do not include Facebook posts that start out “I am a doctor” or even “I am an epidemiologist.” I have no way to verify that the person making that claim is actually what they claim. But more critically, that single opinion is not the consensus of the experts.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

My Hippopotamus for Christmas

My Hippopotamus for Christmas

Several years ago our friend, Erin McClellan, found out that I like the song, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Don’t push on the reasons. I just like it.

Since Erin has a well-developed sense of humor, she gave me a plastic hippo that Christmas. I was delighted. Jody and I are generally light on the decorations, but we like to have a manger scene in the house. That year, as I recall, it centered around a clay manger scene I had picked up for Jody in Costa Rica.

Jody immediately put my hippo in the manger scene.

Inevitably, questions arose. To switch to active voice, visitors asked questions. “Why is there a hippo in your manger scene?” Some commented: “I’m pretty sure there were no hippos there on the first Christmas.”

Jody also produced the answer: “Because here, everyone is welcome. Nobody is out of place.”

I’ve used that illustration in sermons multiple times, usually accompanied by the manger scene with a hippo.

We often miss some of the messages that come with God appearing in a stable. Yes, everyone is welcome, but it’s the proud and the powerful that are unlikely to come. It’s the onlookers who usually question the ones who are there.

And each year, Erin gives me another hippo.

This year Erin brought me a ceramic hippo, and when I saw it my face lit up. We don’t have the manger scene, because Mo. Mo is our young cat. We have added a new word to our vocabulary — to Mo! Things that are Moed are no longer useful for their intended purpose. Mo is thorough. He loves little figures in a manger scene and removes them.

But in my mind the hippo has stood in for the manger scene. I can imagine it all around him. And as for Mo, he belongs too.

God is there with the lamb, the ox, the goat, and all the out-of-place hippos in the world. And with the young, rambunctious cats.

Changing Perspectives

Changing Perspectives

From time to time during my work day I’ll stop and play a (hopefully) quick game of Sudoku. For this purpose I usually choose an easier puzzle, one I can do quickly.

The purpose for a break like this is to unlock my brain, so to speak. When I’ve been working on a project too long, I can lose track of what I’m doing and become unproductive. There is activity, but no work. So I stop. Sudoku is just about right to distract my mind from what I was doing without tying me up for a long period of time.

This lets me refocus and reorder my thoughts, and I usually return to work ready to move forward.

The other day I was noticing something as I worked the puzzle. It’s not new. I just hadn’t thought of it.

In filling out the puzzle there are two ways I look at the board. I’m either looking for a list of possibilities for a particular space, or I’m looking for spaces that are blocked for certain numbers. I naturally do the first. The second usually works faster.

So why do the first?

In a word, habit. That’s how I’ve done it time out of mind.

Now I frequently switch tactics because I am failing to fill out what I know is a reasonably easy puzzle. It is unlikely that there is no clear move. On a complex puzzle other mental gymnastics might be useful.

Yet often I find myself running through rows, columns, and blocks repeatedly while finding nothing. Then suddenly I think, “Why am I doing this? Why am I not changing my perspective?”

Habit. Ingrained habit.

Changing perspectives can be hard. Learning to regularly look at something from a different perspective is even harder. Our habits intervene, and we can end up doing something repeatedly that isn’t working.

Usually when I change perspective on my Sudoku puzzle I almost immediately spot something that is obvious, but that I missed because I was in a rut.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to apply this to life. Try out a different point of view. Check for answers that are not on the list you had in mind.

It might help!

A Note to Headline Readers

A Note to Headline Readers

Don’t!

Before you share anything, read the whole article. Check your facts.

But even before that … before you believe anything, read carefully, check your facts.

Headlines are often misleading. Their purpose is to get you to read, and in social media, they are aimed to get you to share.

In an emergency, misinformation can kill. Be the place where it stops!

Featured image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Fear, Prayer, Trust, and Action

Fear, Prayer, Trust, and Action

As I write posts and various notes that speak against fear, I want to make sure some things are clear.

There are two quotes that have been going through my mind. The first is: “Prayer is not a substitute for anything, and there is no substitute for prayer.” I know I first heard this from a friend and author who was once my pastor, Bob McKibben, but he attributed it to someone else and I can’t locate it.

The other is from C. S. Lewis:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear. But so do several other things – ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity. It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear.

C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night

I first heard that one from my teacher and undergraduate advisor Alden Thompson, who has it memorized and can trot it out at a moment’s notice.

I’ve gone into detail elsewhere, but I want to restate a few things.

Fear shouldn’t control us, but it should get us moving. The fear one feels at the edge of a cliff, for example, needs to be sufficient to keep you from jumping or coming closer than your manual dexterity permits, but not so great as to paralyze you or make you take unwise, uncertain steps.

Trust is a great thing. It is something that lets us walk with confidence in dangerous times. When our trust is in God, we can have peace, even in very frightening circumstances. But trust, even in God, can be dangerous. In politics I tell people to calm down and trust God. I also ask, even beg them to go vote.

Prayer is great. One of the greatest things prayer does is change our hearts so that we will take more action, and more effective action to help others. Praying for your enemies is also a means of softening your heart. Be prepared for God to use you in response to your prayers.

Right now, the question is carrying out actions in response to the pandemic, such as social distancing. This is a decision to be made rationally. You can make it without fear. I’ll simply note that the numbers are convincing to me, but that isn’t a real argument. I’m not an expert. The experts are nearly unanimous that this is a good thing. Your decision should be based on this information.

Fear of sickness and dying and fear of harming others by carrying infection can get you to the point of taking that action. Prayer and trust in God can help you with your peace as you carry out those actions. Calmness as you trust will make it easier to make each decision. Is this a necessary trip? Is this contact safe and important?

We’re human, and each of these elements plays a role. Live wisely!

Remembering

Remembering

Each time I hear a news item that I know will involve members of our armed services being sent into danger, I am jarred just a bit. This wasn’t so early in my life.

I formed many political opinions without ever thinking of the individual human cost of those actions. The fact is that if we’re going to “teach ______ (country, group, etc) a lesson” someone is going to pay for it. Perhaps they will just lose time with their families or comforts. Some, however, will lose everything.

I do not say this with the intent of paralyzing our thinking. As a nation, we will sometimes have to do difficult things for freedom, yes, but also for security. But I pray that I never lose that jolt that I feel each time, that tells me, “With this policy, or this action, or in response to this threat, people are going to die.”

With that realization comes the responsibility to make those deaths count and to take care of the people who were willing to make those hopes real.

Somebody has to be willing to risk it all.

I’ve always thought of my own military service as relatively painless. Yes, there were plenty of things to complain about. Besides, what would one do in the boring hours between various activities if one couldn’t moan and groan?

On the other hand, I had the undeserved privilege of serving with some of the finest people I have every know. Rough, rowdy, sometimes difficult, yes. But at the same time totally dedicated, totally ready to serve, and totally committed to their crew and their unit.

I recently commented to someone regarding a movie scene in which guys who had moments before been yelling at one another immediately came together to fight their enemy. I said this: “You don’t have to like the guy to be ready to trust your life to them. There were always guys I didn’t like personally all that much. But they would all put everything into the mission when the time came.”

To all who have served, I thank you. To those I served with, I want to say that my time with you was the greatest privilege of my life. To those who have passed on, and there are plenty of you, your place in my heart, and I believe in all our hearts, is secure.

Featured image is from af.mil.

Generations!

Generations!

My theme text for ministry is Psalm 78:1-8, particularly verses 5 & 6 which talk about passing the message down through generations.

Some see this as a simple passing on of the data of faith, but the passage is talking about relating the experience of the community with God from generation to generation. In other words, the teaching here would be less focused on “here is what I believe” and more on “here is what has happened in my life.” Yes, the focus is on that life with God, but it is still on the action rather than the framework.

It’s the “generation” idea that I have in mind here. On Thursday night (May 2, 2019) I had the privilege of watching my wife, retired RN, pin my daughter, graduating nurse. “Pinning” is a tradition amongst nurses, and that pinning ceremony is to them much more the moment of becoming a nurse than is the more academic commencement. I commented to Jody after the commencement that while Friday morning was my world, Thursday night had been hers.

Watching mother pin her daughter brought to my mind generations. I sensed the presence of my mother, who died last year just short of her 100th birthday. She too was an RN. And then I thought about another generation.

Martha Giles Blabey was my grandmother, and for some time at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, she was district nurse. She wasn’t educated as a nurse, but she had the skills, and was officially named to the post. I don’t know if there were any actual RNs around that area (Daughin, Manitoba, Canada) at the time. Certainly there can’t have been many.

That makes my daughter, Janet Lister, the fourth generation.

It’s not just four generations of a job, a profession, or even an avocation. It’s four generations of service. Four generations of people who have carried their faith, their experience of God, their integrity, their skills, and all the benefits of an education in their art and the science that lies behind it to those who need their help.

It’s a legacy.

There are those who might have a couple of objections.

The first is that my mother, a Seventh-day Adventist, believed in soul sleep. Her Adventist colleagues might be wondering how I might think of “feeling her presence” at an event.

I have come to see the soul sleep vs immortality argument as a distinction without a difference. You go from the finite from the infinite, from time to eternity, and what does the “when” of your death mean on the other side? In eternity, I suspect, our time distinctions won’t matter.

Others might comment on the presence of someone who has gone on to glory here. Protestants don’t like the idea of the “saints” praying with or for us. Why can’t we just pray to God ourselves?

Indeed we can. But I got an explanation from a member of the Episcopal church that has stuck with me. He asked me whether we wouldn’t ask other members of our church to pray for us and to pray with us. If so, why limit it? Why not all the church in all times?

While I continue to object (I think justly) to the making of “saints” or particular people—all God’s people are saints—I don’t object to inviting the body of Christ throughout time to join in prayer.

Second, one might note that Janet is my stepdaughter, and thus not genetically related to my mother or grandmother. I find that objection annoying. I regard generations as both spiritual and physical. I do understand DNA, but that’s not all that’s involved.

I think a few people might be confused listening to an extended conversation in which both Janet and I are involved. She calls me dad, and references me as “my dad” in the conversation. She can suddenly, however, reference “my dad” in reference to her birth dad who passed away.

I like this. I see my daughter as a gift passed on to me. I see other people as spiritual children and spiritual parents. None of this detracts from Janet’s birth dad. None of my own spiritual parents detract from my real parents.

DNA says a great deal scientifically, but there is a spiritual, intellectual, and emotional process that also forms us and through which we form others. There are things we can pass on to others that are much more important than our genes.

A couple of years ago I heard about a church that did multi-generational confirmation classes. Their goal was to include people from three physical generations and three spiritual generations in each group. This might be a child, parent, and grandparent and the person who first invited one to church, or who taught one confirmation, and the person who taught that person.

I like that idea.

There’s also the legacy here of each class of a profession, in this case nursing, passing on to the next generation of practitioners a standard of care, practice, and integrity. This is the generational glue that makes a profession more than just a way in which one makes money.

In this the faculty and staff of Carolinas College of Health Sciences, those nurses who have cared for and advised each new nurse, all become part of this generational connection.

It’s something we need to celebrate, nurture, and preserve in all our activities, whether we designate them as secular or spiritual.