Posted by: karljfeller | June 10, 2015

Felix Culpa -Oh happy fault

This week I found the lyrics to a song that captures well the wrestling match of sin and Christ’s grace. As we sometimes run and often stumble through this journey of life, how I, how we all need God’s great grace. Our fall, tragic, yet oh Felix Culpa, oh happy fault that brings me to the grace of Christ. I am nothing without Jesus.

Felix Culpa:
Turn the lights on, look at what I have
See the twisted trophies of a dead man
Countless stories, tell of sin and pain
But they sing the sweetness of my savior’s grace

I’m a torn man, spirit fighting flesh
There’s a battle raging deep in my chest
But all that haunts me, all that leaves a stain
Only sings the sweetness of my savior’s grace

A fortunate fall, my sins are stories of grace to recall
A fortunate fall, I glory in my sins forgiven

Jesus bought me, and now I am His
Dying with Him, in His death I now live
All my vices, to which I was chained
Only speak the sweetness of my savior’s grace

And still I’m a wicked, wretched man, I do everything I hate
I am fighting to be god, I seethe and claw and thrash and shake
I have killed and stacked the dead, on a throne from which I reign
In the end I just want blood, and with His blood my hands are stained
See the God who reigns on high, He has opened His own veins
From His wounds a rushing torrent that can wash it all away
Grace upon grace, upon grace upon grace

[Lyrics to Felix Culpa by Kings Kaleidoscope]

Posted by: karljfeller | February 10, 2015

Help him see…

Lincoln Motor Company sponsored a video by Diego Contreras called ‘Open Your Eyes’ that caught my attention recently. It tells the story of an elderly man who had lost his sight. His wife had passed away and his daughter had moved into the city to pursue her dream career. Now, on his seventieth birthday, his daughter has planned a surprise adventure with her father to all of the places that marked his childhood. Though his eyes could not see, she helped his heart see those places again, bringing back the hope and joy of the life he once knew.

As a chaplain at East Valley Hospice, I’ve spent most of my time with patients who are losing their lives to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. They once were able to make the best biscuits and gravy, dance the night away with their wife, or arrange the most beautiful of flowers. All that has changed as they now sit-up on their bed, barely able to talk, or shuffle their way through the living room, barely able to walk.

How do you connect with someone like that? Their way of showing and even receiving love has changed so much. Moments of peace, hope, joy may now come through sitting next to them, holding their hand, a simple smile, or a quiet lullaby as they drift off to sleep. Maybe their heart can see again as you play that favorite song they used to dance to, bring a beautiful flower for them to hold, or help them experience once more, the sunshine of a warm spring day.

Open Your Eyes from The Lincoln Motor Company on Vimeo.

Posted by: karljfeller | February 3, 2015

She is Beautiful.

I found a gray hair the other day. It wasn’t just gray actually, it was bright white. Some of my friends give me a hard time because I can’t figure out how to use snapchat sometimes, saying I’m too old. Getting old is not usually something anyone looks forward to. There’s always a new moisturizer, a new hair dye, a new surgery coming out to avoid looking older.

Just yesterday, my friend Anne Marie Miller  posted a picture of her grandmother’s hands. Her hands, marked by 90 years of a life filled with countless stories. Those marks can serve as reminders to slow down long enough to hear her story. You may never meet my friend Anne or her grandma, but if you take some time to sit down with someone over seventy years old in the next few days, I’ll bet you’ll learn something pretty amazing.

Working with patients at East Valley Hospice, I often have people ask me- “Why am I still here?” Maybe a family member or friend still needs to hear their story or gain some wisdom as they spend time with that individual. Maybe that patient can exhibit or even experience love with someone one last time before they are gone from this life. Don’t wait for that season though. Find someone, listen and learn from their story…

Maybe next time I won’t pull out that white hair….

Posted by: karljfeller | January 27, 2015

C is for Cookie… a cookie thief.

A year ago, I had a patient that was mad at life. She could no longer live in her own home and had been separated from her boyfriend, now living 6 states apart. Not able to sleep in a normal bed, she had slept in a recliner for months.

When we signed her on to our hospice services, we had a hospital bed delivered the same day. In our minds, this would be perfect for her. She would finally be able to sleep in a bed again. When it got delivered though, you would have thought we were destroying her room. She didn’t want it. She about threw out the delivery company.

The staff at her assisted living had told me that she was usually pretty unhappy in general. As I sat and talked with her that day, I realized it wasn’t the bed, it wasn’t the people in the assisted living, she was unhappy because her choices were gone. As the months went by, I would visit from time to time and offer to sing a song or two. Usually I could get her to smile, at least a little bit.

With so many of her choices gone at this stage of her life, we as a staff at East Valley Hospice offered her opportunities to be included in more decisions about her care. What were her goals? Even though the bed was there, she slept in her chair instead, and that was ok. She got to choose.Cookie_Monster

Checking with the staff at her assisted living facility from time to time I found out that my patient was a little more cheerful. After digging more, I found out that one of the other residents had been sneaking into the food pantry to get cookies. He would wait until the caregivers had stepped out of the room for a minute, wheel himself into the pantry to grab a few cookies and before anyone noticed, he would bring them over to our patient. There in the living room, they would enjoy an afternoon treat.

That little tradition of theirs was special to them. It brought her joy, comfort, independence. The guy who was bringing her cookies was so proud to do something for a friend. Did he love the cookies too? The crumbs on his lap were enough to prove that. But more importantly, they were able to make memories together, to find a moment of joy in their independence.

For our senior friends, it’s hard to help them navigate a season when so many choices are gone. Watch for opportunities, big and small to give the choices. I got to know my patient’s cookie monster friend, even encouraged the caregivers to leave the pantry door open a little more often.

Posted by: karljfeller | January 13, 2015

Is that Turkey or soup? Preserving dignity for seniors.

moldy_appleYears ago, when I was just out of college and working at my first job, I often shopped the clearance aisle at a local grocery store to save money. I know, scary, but I was young, a bachelor and my stomach could handle it. One day after dropping off my groceries at home, I ran out to meet some friends. I came back home to find that my ‘new’ groceries were gone. My roommate said yeah, he cleaned all of the old stuff out of the fridge. ‘Frustrated’ is the word I’ll officially use on my blog, but probably doesn’t paint a true picture of my blood boiling that day.

Recently, I heard the story of how a well meaning friend went through her grandparents fridge and cleaned all of the old and expired food out for them. At first thought, it seemed like the perfect gesture. As I remembered my ‘well meaning’ roommate though, I was reminded of how frustrating it was for me when someone threw out my ‘expired’ food. Did it need to be done? Sure, but my friend hadn’t involved her grandpa in the process. What would her grandpa think when he opened the fridge the next time?

Our whole lives we move towards more responsibility, more independence, more respect. Often though, in the later years of life, our independence is taken from us. Put yourself in their shoes: Failing eyesight means that the drivers license you worked so hard for at age sixteen is gone, your doctor tells you what you can and can’t eat anymore, maybe they’re asked not to use the stairs to their basement anymore, the list goes on.

Is change necessary in later stages of life? Sure. Change is necessary in every stage of life. But how can you help someone who has worked so hard for their independence keep as much dignity in the later stages of life?

Involve them in the process. Was my friend saving her grandpa from some serious stomach issues? Probably. But that well meaning friend forgot to ask him to be a part of the process. Maybe a fitting conversation would be: Grandpa, I noticed a few older things in your fridge that are going bad, can we go through the fridge together?

So much independence gets taken from our seniors. It’s important to involve them in the process, give them choices. Ask how you can help, rather than making the decision for them. As a hospice chaplain for East Valley Hospice, I often see patients lose choices as well. It’s hard to give someone choices when they can’t verbally respond. A few ideas in that stage of life, are to knock on the way into the room, ask questions and watch to see if they respond with a head nod or hand gesture.

Was it quicker for my friend to go through the fridge on her own? Sure. But slowing down long enough to involve her grandpa in the process helped preserve his dignity and engaged him in the process. After some conversations about this with my friend, they were able to involve their grandpa in some other upkeep around the house. He responded by readily and got involved in the process. Did it take longer? Sure, but he was involved in the process.

Posted by: karljfeller | June 18, 2014

Mary Poppins and a Flashlight

As a Chaplain for East Valley Hospice, I have visited a lot of patients with dementia. I often come across spouses and family members of these patients that struggle to communicate with their loved one as they deal with Alzheimer’s and or Dementia. One of my patients could barely walk and the only thing that came out of his mouth was the song, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-” but that’s where he’d stop. I had to learn the rest of the words before I visited him the next time. When I returned, I was able to help him finish the song.

I continued to ask his wife questions about what he had enjoyed doing earlier in life. After some digging, she told me that he liked to spend time in his workshop. “What did he do in there?” I asked. She told me that he enjoyed working with all sorts of lights. Light intrigued him earlier in life. After some brainstorming, I decided to bring a flashlight with me to my next visit.

On my way to my next visit with him, I had picked up an older looking flashlight and brought it to my patient. He looked at it. Looked at me then he turned it on and began shining it around the room. Sometimes in the eyes of the other people in his home.Image

Eventually, with childlike wonder, he opened the flashlight and only one battery fell out. The original version of these flashlights used two batteries, but this newer one used an LED bulb and only needed one battery.

As the battery fell onto his lap, he looked at it, he then looked down the barrel of the vintage looking flashlight. Silence.

Then he looked up at me and said, “Where’s the other one?” This man who could only sing the first line of a Mary Poppins song asked me a question. Engaging in activity with him, brought him just a moment of clarity. Comfort. Peace.

I left the flashlight with him that day. Although, I never heard him speak again, we’d pull out the flashlight whenever I’d visit, and a smile would come across his face as he flashed it around his living room.

Karl J Feller, Chaplain and Marketing Director at East Valley Hospice


Posted by: karljfeller | December 25, 2012

Plastic Manger Scenes

Last week, Something caught my attention at a Christmas Party with some old friends from College.

In the middle of talking with some old friends and getting to know some new ones, something caught my eye. I looked over at the dining room table where I had set the gift I won at the White Elephant Gift Exchange. Laying amongst used plates and half eaten pieces of pie was a faded plastic Baby Jesus from a manger scene.
Yep, I won a Baby Jesus!

I love Christmas, the lights, EGG NOG and most of all the reason we celebrate -Christ’s Birth. This season commemorates the truth of how God, coming from Heaven to Earth and being fully man, yet fully God was Emmanuel. “God with Us!”

As I stared at that plastic figurine, it felt so funny to me that we would try to make a symbol of Christ out of plastic. Yet, here it was -Baby Jesus from someones manger scene sitting on the table surrounded by so many other symbols of the Christmas Season. For a moment I thought, what an understatement, the God of the Universe represented in a small plastic figurine. Very simple, small and actually kind of funny looking without the rest of the Manger Scene (I hope this is just from a retired manger scene and not somebody’s front yard).

But then I think of the true story of Christmas, of how a OMNIPOTENT GOD came to earth in the humble form of a Baby. A simple little Baby. He humbled himself to die on the cross for our sins. -Yet through His humble life, He OVERCAME our sin.

I felt weird seeing that figurine in the middle of the table surrounded by Christmas decorations and other presents that people had won at the party. But I have to think back to how Jesus really did come into this world -in the middle of regular life. “There was no room for him in the Inn” so Mary and Joseph did what they could. They found a stable to stay in. There, among farm animals, Jesus, the Messiah, Savior of the world was born and placed in a manger. In the middle of our mess, He came to us.

Do you want to read the Christmas Story?
Here’s a link to the Christmas Story in Luke 2:1-20


Posted by: karljfeller | November 27, 2012

Overestimate, be Idealist, overate your fellowman

This is a clip of Viktor Frankl -Holocaust Survivor, psychiatrist & neurologist.

We must dream for those we lead: If we overestimate our fellowman, and look at them above where they are living, we promote them to what they can be.

What can you help someone be capable of becoming rather than what they are. I’m doing research for my message tomorrow night at H2O aj and came across this great mans story!

The Church is the Hope of the World. What could happen if meet our fellowman as Christ does in the middle of their search for meaning in life.
It’s messy, it’s dangerous, it brings hope and CHANGES lives.
Christ did this for prostitutes, thieves and each one of us.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Posted by: karljfeller | November 19, 2012

Ironman November 17, 2013 Here I Come!

Ironman November 17, 2013 Here I Come!

In an act of craziness, I stepped out and signed up for the Arizona Ironman early this morning before heading to work at East Valley Hospice.
Immediately after signing up, I realized, there was no turning back on this. I’ve got to get training.
What could happen if you stepped out and set a goal, made a commitment, did something today that would consistently effect the next year of your life.
Do it. Sign-up for that college class, learn how to scuba dive, walk across the street from your house to meet your neighbor, register for that race. Do something to MOVE forward.
It seems so hard and that’s why we put it off. Once you’ve committed, you’re one step closer.

Posted by: karljfeller | June 21, 2012


We haven’t had a lot of Internet access other than my phone on the tour so I’ll be posting more blogs soon… Tomorrow we already ride into Portland!

l’ll be sharing some more pics and a funny video soon…
However, tonight after the team went to sleep I found myself sitting in an old Lutheran Church pew, with street lights illuminating the stained glass windows… Quiet moments like these seem to register so loudly in a world that makes so much noise. It was a good reminder to find moments of sanctuary in the midst of life’s noise.

A red candle burned in the front of the sanctuary reminding me God’s presence is always there.
What could happen if we all stopped a little more often, to breath in deep, no matter what challenges we face, and trust that God is right there with us, ready to journey the road ahead.

Also, here’s a quick pic from a cabin we stayed in on the beach Tuesday night and a picture I took during our ride on Wednesday of Lake Quinault.

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