Among the many challenges in our time, there is one potential crisis that our church can have a big and positive impact on, both locally and nationally. And if we follow God’s lead, we just might discover that we are becoming part of an important awakening to the power of compassion that can then lead us into new depths of soulful integration through spiritual discernment.
This past Wednesday Dr. Tim Bruster, Linda Abel, Melinda Smoot and others from First Methodist went to Grapevine to hear Teepa Snow, an expert in a deeply compassionate, person-centered approach to caring for people with Dementia.
We are in the midst of a serious and growing challenge that affects every one of us. And Teepa Snow is an important catalyst for a very important ministry that is emerging in response throughout our community.
With the help of modern science, we have come to a time when people live longer than ever before. Yet we have not grown enough in our capacity to care compassionately for an increasingly aging population, nor in our ability to make loving, deeply discerning, end of life choices. It has become one of the biggest challenges in our healthcare crisis.
Unfortunately, in times of crisis, it is natural for our ego to try to take control (with a “fight-or-flight” reaction from the brain’s amygdala.) As anxiety goes up, we tend to tense up. And as there are limits to what we clearly can fight, we often take flight by turning to denial. But unfortunately we tend to make really lousy decisions when we base them in our denials.
But there is a much better way.
- insist on being more honest with ourselves and others about our situation, and
- insist on not overreacting with the ego’s attempts to control or deny… then
- something miraculous often emerges.
In such circumstances, we can be awakened to a kind of “sixth sense of the soul”, and the deepening wisdom of compassion. When we are prayerfully able to “let go and let God”, our ego’s over-active, controlling assumptions dissipate. And if we wait for it… God opens our heart and soul, and we witness anew with eyes of wonder.
Too often we become separated and our vision is blurred by our rushing about and being quick to judge. In that state, we seem to miss the main point and the opportunities for connections God is inviting us to discover. How many times does the Bible address the importance of having eyes to see or ears to hear? (One of the most familiar passages is probably Mt 13:15.)
Lately in hospital visitations, I have been amazed at how often I am regularly surprised by grace and see things I could easily have been blind to. When in the hospital, it is a time of tremendous vulnerability for patients and their families. Many of them are dealing with some of the most difficult challenges of Dementia, and can feel disconnected and almost invisible. I’ve discovered over and again that when I enter a room, let go of my expectations, and become open to the mystery of God’s presence, I am guided by grace.
Teepa Snow’s deeply compassionate, person-centered approach to caring for people with Dementia can help open that soulful seeing and understanding.
Recently as I entered the room of a patient with Dementia, I saw her arms moving aimlessly about. I moved closer and saw an anxious confusion in her eyes. As I moved closer still, I gently smiled and said “God Bless you.” She spoke some words I couldn’t understand, but I kept smiling and tried to be open to the way of grace. I spoke to her softly awhile, and recited the Lord’s Prayer. As I prepared to leave, I smiled and again said ”God bless you.” This second time she weakly yet more clearly said back to me “God Bless you” and smiled. I left with her benediction for me, giving thanks to God and smiling in my reawakened soul.
Teepa Snow and this emerging ministry are helping us understand, that rather than being stuck in the ego with judgments about missing words and forgotten memories, we can choose to follow the way of acceptance and grace in the present moment. And as we do so, we can discover a deepening, soulful connection beyond words.
Grace and peace throughout your life-long faith-journey,