Archive for May, 2011

CPR and Salvation

Last week, I was writing about my experiences in performing CPR, and that experience is proving fertile ground for thoughts and posts. One of the things it made me think over was salvation, because a word you’ll hear tossed around in relation to CPR is save. You know, you learn CPR in hopes that you might be better equipped to help save a person’s life. It’s all about saving a person from death. It’s about preserving their life for a bit longer.

I guess there are all kinds of ways to run with that tangent, but what got me was how people – good, ol’ human beings – approach the goal of saving someone. Do you remember what I said last week about the resuscitation effort? I said it was a privilege to be a part of it, and I also said there were a lot of people involved. Yeah, lots of people… The room (and they’re pretty big rooms which are much nicer than the rooms in our former location) was crowded with more people out in the hall. There were so many people making so much noise that anyone trying to be heard had to yell loudly. It reminded me of the story of the tower of Babel. Are you familiar with it? Let me paste it in to make it easy to read.

Genesis 11

The Tower of Babel

1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward,[a] they found a plain in Shinar[b]and settled there.

3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

There are two things in particular that made me think of this story. One is the confusion of speech. *laughs* Everybody helping with that CPR I talked about last week was a highly trained and motivated professional. We practice to make sure we get things right – we even all speak at least some medical! – but in an emergency, there’s usually plenty of noise and at least some confusion. You expect it. Things just get repeated, and stuff gets done. It’s okay, just blah, blah, blah, babel, right?

The other thing that I think is more interesting is that we’re talking about groups. If you go to CPR training, they’ll tell you that one of the first things you’re to do is to get help. You must “activate the Emergency Response System!” You don’t try to be the Lone Ranger and save somebody all by yourself. Bad idea, bad plan – you probably won’t be able to do it. You’ll wear yourself out, and that person you’re trying to help might very well need medication and to be shocked. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep amps of epinephrine or an AED in my purse. It takes a team to help save a life, like it takes a group to build a tower. I think perhaps that this is how people operate. When we are at our best, when we accomplish the most using our own resources,  we work together in a group. It allows us to bring in skills, knowledge, talent, and other resources that are simply not available to every individual.

However, I am not so sure that this is how God works. When He created the earth and plunked people on it, how many did He use to populate the planet? Er, Adam and Eve, right? When He decided the descendants of Adam and Eve were too far gone in wickedness and must be destroyed, did He save many folk on Noah’s ark? It was one man and his wife with their three sons and their wives. When He began to make the nation of Israel, how many people did He call out of Harran and promise to make of their children a great nation? I think it was only Abram, who became Abraham. When Israel was ran over by the Midianites, and Gideon decided to follow God and get rid of them and their idolatry, how many men started out with Gideon? Assuming my math is good, it was 33,000. How many did Gideon actually have with him when they assaulted the Midianite camp? 300 (those Spartans copied!). That’s just a few examples from the book of Genesis. Fast forward a few thousand years. Christ is born to a couple in Bethlehem. Did God send His innumerable host of angels to make us all be good and save us from our sins? If they’re innumerable, I’m sure that is more than enough to make us behave. Nope, instead He leveled an assault of one, His Son, who somehow was fully God and fully man here on Earth. God’s plan to save us, to preserve our lives, was through one Man. When I stop – like, just stop, take a deep breath, hold it for a moment, let it out – and consider it, I am in awe. It does not make sense to me.

Can you imagine what salvation would look like if we were in charge of it? It would be very, very different.

You see what I’m saying here? I don’t think God does the group thing. I don’t think He thinks like we, da people, do. I am not at all sure that we da people are very well equipped to understand His methods, because our most shining moments and our greatest triumphs revolve around our ability to work together and to use work done by others. Working together, by the way, I think is a good thing. I’d guess that’s how God designed us to function, and it is what makes sense to us. We’re made to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. God, however, appears to be capable of operating outside of groups. He obviously can use them (after all, Gideon did get to take 300 men with him), but He doesn’t need them to accomplish great tasks the way we do. No wonder He confuses the heck out of us sometimes!


I’ve had a couple of opportunities in the last week to practice CPR. One was expected. That would be today’s card renewal, and, no offense to the instructors or the AHA, it was boring – a definite non-event. That’s how it should be. You really don’t want too much excitement at a routine renewal course.  After all, you’re working with dummies, and the idea is to practice and perfect technique.

The other opportunity was an event with lots of excitement. I was working, and we had a new patient come in. Things happened fast, without warning. The patient was fine – the patient was not, and we’re suddenly involved in resuscitation efforts. I mean, the patient had literally been up walking and talking 15 – 30 minutes prior. Things seemed well in hand. I’d left the room and gone down the hall to help other patients only to have to turn around and run back thinking, “Oh, no! What happened?”

It was a well attended event, with representatives from multiple departments and disciplines. I bet at least 40 people showed up to help. Lots of people were in the room. More waited outside. The noise inside was incredible at points, people shouting over the clamor as we fought to get ourselves organized and accomplish our tasks. I was part of the chest compression team, which was an energetic assignment. Unfortunately, resuscitation was not successful. We had to stop, let the patient go, and help care for the patient’s spouse. The spouse, right before leaving, said, “You guys sure tried hard.” We did. We tried very hard.

As I stood in line waiting to do chest compressions, I couldn’t help but think about the renewal class I had today. I’ve done the renewal many times. I knew it would feel very different from the focused chaos that occurs at a real event, and I started to compare and contrast. Renewals are boring. You’re just working with dummies, inanimate lumps of plastic and rubber. Far as I know, dummies don’t have relationships. They don’t have loved ones sitting behind watching you try really hard. Dummies never drew breath, and there’s something faintly ridiculous (and sometimes frustrating) about trying to give them rescue breaths. Dummies never had or have heart beats. You can lay your head down on their chests and listen for as long as you like, and you’ll never hear one. They don’t miss it. You won’t, either. At the most, for a renewal, you’ll have 3 people participating in a resuscitation practice. It’ll be something like an instructor and 2 people working on a dummy for the practice. It’s pretty calm and controlled. In fact, it’s difficult to get people to take it very seriously. There tends to be a lot of dummy jokes! Dummies are also forgettable. You don’t bump into people later and discuss how CPR on the dummy went. Well, maybe if you heard a REALLY good dummy/CPR joke, you might, but otherwise, no.

And then you have people, the real event and why you go to BLS (Basic Life Support) renewal classes. Someone had breath and now does not. Someone’s heart is not beating. Help is needed! The need is emergent, the call goes out, and staff drops what they’re doing to run to help. I did. I ran. My body started putting out adrenaline, and my feet flew quick and sure as I responded. I’ve heard some people say that they love that adrenaline rush, and that’s part of what keeps them working where traumas and resuscitation efforts are more common. I thought about that, too, while I stood there waiting. I thought it over and rejected it as my motivation. That rush is a good feeling, but it’s not enough. There’s something more there. I thought about it and thought about in the last couple of days, until I realized how privileged I felt to be there. “Privileged!” Yes, that is the word I was wanted.

Despite the hardship involved (and it is hard, make no mistake – it can be very physically and emotionally wearing), it is a privilege. Think about it. If someone is in need of CPR, it is probably one of the most significant moments of their experience. They are in profound need of assistance, and relative strangers show up to help them. How is not a privilege to be able to show up and try to help someone in desperate and immediate need? It is a burden and part of my job, ’tis true, but it is also a privilege. What makes it even more amazing is that it’s a group of people. It’s not just me, overcoming my fear and weakness and selfishness to respond. It’s a bunch of people, leaving stuff behind to gather around one person’s bed and work as a team to preserve that one person’s life. Should efforts fail, the group tends to mourn the loss as well. Curiously enough, one of the people in my renewal class today was present at the real event earlier this week. He remembered the patient and talked about it. The patient – that person – was not forgettable. That patient’s presence and absence was felt. We couldn’t help, and now someone’s family will never again hear that person’s voice or heartbeat. It’s worth grieving for them all. Again, how is this not a privilege?

Perhaps the most important difference between practice and people is that in real life, there aren’t any dummy jokes. People are too busy demonstrating that they care about other people, and that they are there for that person who is in need. To be a part of that… to get to respond… to say yes… to sacrifice and show up is most certainly a privilege.

It’s My Birthday!

And it’s sunny, so no post this week, I don’t think. I’m going outside for a bit!

I’ll leave you with this bit of wisdom, handed to me this morning by a younger sister:

Turn Off the TV and Read a Book! It’s called thinking outside the box.

Have a good one, folks!

I think what’s making it difficult for me to progress through my post is that unlike my revelation about I Corinthians 13, I don’t remember having a specific moment where I quit fighting God’s discipline and accepted it as loving behavior. In trying to write about it, I’m having trouble tying it up in some neat package. I don’t have that handy dandy, I Corinthians 13-like moment to write around. The learning itself was and has been a more gradual experience with plenty of frustration and setbacks.

Honestly, while it’s frustrating my attempts to write it into a nicely tidied story, I do think that it’s a good thing. It’s life. It’s so (insert clip of huge smile spreading across my face) life. Sometimes, you bet, we stand on a mountain top and have an epiphany. We get to see a transfiguration or something equally cool and awe-inspiring. We gain a revelation that can drop like a bolt of fire from heaven and burn through our hesitancies, rebellions, and misgivings. As awesome as those moments are, they are only sometimes. Revelation can also come through the passage of seasons, through the growth of a summer, through the slow, wearing action of a stream upon a stone. It can feel like no progress at all as we stumble forward, one step in front of the other, or even take two steps forward and one step back. It can grow and ripen slowly, and that’s all right. It’s okay if life and learning take time. Not everything is, “Beam me up, Scottie!” Considering that learning to trust God about love and discipline took me a while and was a very frustrating process (and I’d be silly to claim to be done learning it now), it seems appropriate that writing a story about it would also take a while and be, at points, frustrating. In fact, it makes me smile, because here for me is another small moment of revelation and remembrance. To overcome, to finish well, life will demand something more than, “Eureka!”

I do think that revelation received more slowly and perhaps less dramatically is just as awesome as the quick and elevated types. Actually, in some ways, I like it better. It makes me smile and smile and smile some more to see God at work, slowly and methodically, in all the little things of our lives. Little things are important. Little things are what make up all the big things in our lives. Hebrews 12 starts out by saying this:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

“Run with perseverance” – wow, doesn’t that make your heart go pitter-patter with excitement! *laughs* Maybe I’m projecting me onto you, but I would guess that it probably does not. Perseverance, the “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition” (thank you, Merriam Webster), is not something that seems to come naturally or easily. Simply trying to develop it ensures that a person will run into “difficulties, failure, [and] opposition.” The development of perseverance seems to go something like this: “EW… EW… Ew… ew… ew… oh… Oh… OH… Hey! Huh, maybe I am progressing.” Perseverance is so often about the little things that try to stop us, like blisters and aching feet and sore muscles. To acquire perseverance is to acquire the belief that practice makes perfect, that failures are actually an opportunity to learn, and that you don’t arrive all in a rush right now.

It tends to be a frustrating process. It’s also deeply rewarding. Mountaintops make me feel exultant (they show off God’s glory in a special way), and that’s good. However, perseverance is satisfying the way cold, clean water is on a hot day, and I personally like that better. It lasts longer. It enables me to live every day with the hope that I am progressing, and that the difficulties and disappointments and frustrations through which I suffer are but part of the journey I am making toward joy. Perseverance is what helps me cling to faith and love especially when they don’t make any sense to me. Perseverance moves me past this “now,” this moment in which I doubt and struggle and fail, into moments of deepened trust, joy, love, and, yes, even discipline.

So I’ve struggled to tell a good story about accepting the discipline of God coming from His love for me. Okeydoke – so be it! Apparently, writing and story telling mirror life. I shall persevere and see what God has for me in this process. He’s always up to something. This, too, can be an opportunity for growth and to learn more of Him!