June 10, 2016
Today is just over two months since I had surgery to insert the ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) unit in my chest. They tell me I have a “State of the Art” unit. It is actually quite large and is taking a little getting used to.
On Monday I went to have the two-month ICD check up. Technology is fascinating. They lay a device just over my clothes where the titanium box is bulging and the computer inside the box downloads all the activity that has happened in the box to a computer that measures if I have needed the pacemaker or defibrillator. As the nurse was watching the download she says to me in a cheery tone, “You are pacing 99% of the time!” I asked her if that was good news to which she replied, “It is very good news, your pacemaker is keeping you alive.” She then went on to tell me that if I kept pacing 99% of the time that the battery life would last seven years! So even though my heart needs the pacemaker 99% of the time, the defibrillator has not needed to restart my heart – very good news!
I am feeling stronger every day. I don’t feel sick, I don’t look sick and the reality is I have limitations on my physical capacity. The doctors tell me it will take some time for my body to adjust to my heart’s capacity. Next week I have another echocardiogram to see if the retraction rate of my heart has improved since leaving the hospital. Any improvement is good!
Last night I officially resigned as Lead Pastor and Board Chair of VCC. It is so bittersweet. When change happens this quickly it takes time to get in touch with all that goes with the change. I am more than grateful that VCC can continue on under the leadership of Jessica Ketola. I have no doubt Jess is ready and it is her time. At the same time, this transition is happening so fast I have feelings of loss that have to be processed.
Loss, so much loss so quickly, so what do I do with all this loss? First, I thank God for all of the people that love, care and pray for me. So many people that I cannot even fathom. Prayers, encouragement and gifts from all over the world and from people I have never met. Prayers and love from family and friends. There has been and continues to be an outpouring of generosity and kindness that brings me to tears and humbles me to no end.
Secondly, I have an amazing support system. My family beginning with Rich, the kids, the grandkids, my sister, Fluf, nieces, nephews and cousins have loved me so well! VCC, Vineyard Church communities, pastors, colleagues and friends have literally made personal sacrifices on my behalf and for that I have no words to express the gratitude I have. A good friend taught me a meditation for my heart. She had me put my hand on my heart and think of what I am grateful for, she had me try to be in touch with holding that gratitude in my heart. That is the best way for me to express my thankfulness and it makes my heart happy! My therapist has literally saved my sanity, walking me through the last year and helping me see what is true and what is right and good. I could not be more thankful for him and the time he has taken with me. Lance Pittluck is my overseer in the Vineyard. He has been so supportive as he has brought needed pastoral care to me, VCC and the NW Region.
Last for today but not the end of it, my faith in God. The presence of Love from the Spirit of God is an experienced and living reality in my life. I am not afraid to die because I believe without any doubt that I would be in the fullness of Joy if I were to pass from this life to the next. Don’t get me wrong, I want to live and I am grateful I am still here! I am so grateful for all the ways Jesus has loved me, graced me, strengthened me and in the midst of so much surrender has sustained me. I love the Triune God with all my heart!
If you do pray, I have two requests. First, that the echocardiogram will show improvement and second, for the NW Regional Conference June 22-24 in the Portland area. Please pray for me for strength through the conference. I am so looking forward to being with everyone!
For every prayer said on my behalf, every text message of encouragement, every visit, every FB message and post, every phone call, every good thought and well wishes for me I say, thank you! There is an old song we used to sing and today as I write this post it comes to mind. “Every good and perfect gift comes from you, Father of Lights.”
P.S. I am still coloring like crazy!
June 3, 2016
Sometimes life happens and the way forward seems like driving through dense fog in the mountains. Years ago I was driving home from Kelowna BC with a van full of teens. It was late at night and as we drove through the mountains the fog was so dense I could literally only see a few feet in front of us. I had to turn on the brights and slow down to about 10 mph. In some ways my life these past few months has mirrored driving that van with passengers through the fog in the mountains.
On April 4th my life came to a sudden halt with the discovery that I had had a heart attack in February. I was misdiagnosed and thought I had bronchitis for two months. I learned that after a flight to San Diego and then to Thailand it was a miracle I am still alive. Since that day I have been in a recovery process that will continue for the next while.
After the fog cleared a bit, I was told by my doctors that the last year had taken a heavy toll on my heart and that they were disabling me permanently from pastoring the church. As Rich and I talked with my cardiologist, the doctor was adamant I not return to the lead pastor role. After hearing about what the role of regional leader and teaching at The Seattle School entails he said I could continue with those roles. My plan is to continue as long as my health and those that oversee those areas think it is a good idea.
Rich and I knew immediately who we would want to take the role of lead pastor of VCC, Jessica Ketola. Jess has worked closely with me the past four years. Jess has had a lifetime of ministry experience and to us, the Board and our congregation she is the obvious choice. Jess and Dave also believe that the invitation was from the Spirit and Jess accepted the role. Jess was unanimously approved by the Board and set in on Sunday night as the lead pastor of VCC. I am so grateful because Jess carries the dream of God for VCC deep in her soul. She has already led the church twice in our absence for extended periods of time. She is not a novice and she is ready to lead us forward.
Most churches take at least a year if not more to transition. This transition is happening overnight. Please pray for Jess and VCC that it will be as smooth as possible and the way forward will be full of new life. I can already see the signs of new life sprouting and I am very, very thankful for Jess, Dave and the amazing community that makes VCC the special place that it is.
For me, I am already sensing the stirring of what it means to have more time and focus on the region, my teaching and some writing. I still take this path one day at a time as I continue to recover. I feel stronger every day and still spend most of my time coloring, praying and now dreaming with faith and hope about what life is going to be like. A new chapter is starting and I want to savor every day being alive loving my family and friends. I am not in a hurry about anything and I feel miraculously graced to live without daily anxiety. I have to brag about my family. Rich works every day, comes home, makes me a heart healthy dinner, cleans the kitchen and then dreams with me while I color:-) He has been amazing! My kids have been so supportive – and my grandchildren that pray for their Nonnie and love to see my owie. I love them so very much!
Again, thank you to so many who have loved, supported and carried us through this time.
I love this poem by Mary Oliver – The Journey
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
Today I am five weeks post surgery. The past weeks have been filled with visits from family and friends, cards in the mail almost daily, meals prepared for us, unexpected gifts, an abundance of prayer, well wishes and good thoughts sent to and for me and my family.
I am on a two-month medical leave of absence from VCC. The VCC Board of Directors along with Jess and Dave Ketola have graciously picked up the reins to everything VCC related and continue to move forward with VCC’s purpose for existing. Jess and the team carry the vision that we believe God has given us. They are unrelenting in continuing on in spite of all that has occurred. I could not be more grateful for them and for everyone’s love, support, and encouragement. I don’t even have adequate words. So, so many people have shown love and support through so many means.
The update on my health has not changed. I will be monitored closely for the next while. In a month or so I will have another test to see if I have stayed the same, improved or if my condition has worsened. As I am tested and monitored my medical team will advise what is needed. Right now the biggest need is for rest to give my body a chance to heal and adapt to my heart’s capacity. It is a slow process. If you are someone who prays and I come to mind would you continue prayers for healing, for my blood pressure to stabilize (I run very low) and for VCC that Jess and the team are graced with strength, provision and most of all direction and decision-making? Thank you!
I spend most of my time coloring. Some people binge watch TV, I binge color! My recovery is going well. I have been surrounded with help. I definitely have moments of worry, anxiety and wondering about the future. I cannot stay there. I have to take this one-day at a time for now. Coloring has become a practice for me to focus on something in the present moment. Meditation and prayer also have become super important practices for me to help stay focused on the present.
Rumi’s “The Guest House” speaks volumes to me these days.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Again, thank you so much for all of your prayers, good thoughts, encouragement and love.
Today Rich and I saw one of my cardiologists. We made a list of questions before going. It was good, honest and hard news all at the same time. He basically said that he doesn’t see my heart getting any better than it is right now. Once heart muscle is damaged there is no amount of meds that repair it. Unfortunately for me, my heart is damaged all the way around not just in a few places. The good news is that my body will eventually adapt to my heart’s capacity. He said the meds, the ICD (Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator) and the pacemaker will all help to stabilize the heart failure I am currently still experiencing.
Now that I am recovering from surgery he would like me to begin taking short, regular walks to get my body adapting to my heart’s capacity. I asked about something I can’t remember what exactly and he looked at me and said, “You have a very high tolerance for pain, you didn’t even know you had a heart attack and with the shape your heart was in when I first saw you only tells me that you have a high tolerance for pain.”
Days like today are hard. Rich and I had anxiety even going. We are both still in a bit of shock that this is our reality. The doctor talked with me about attitude. His patients that face this challenge embracing the fact that life will have a new normal do much better than those who can’t accept it. For Rich and I this is a process. We are in that liminal space of not knowing all that even the near future holds.
My friend Julie Clark came to visit me yesterday. She has a blog and a few years ago she wrote a poem she thought might fit for me. It resonated deeply with me. You can read it at https://backfromtheborderlands.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-eye-of-the-needle/
Again, I cannot express how cared for, loved, supported and encouraged I feel carried by prayer, well wishes and all the kindness of family, friends and colleagues.
Today is three weeks since I found out that I had a heart attack in February. I had a heart attack February 18th. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with acute bronchitis. April 4, 2016 I was diagnosed with Left bundle branch block, Coronary artery disease and Acute on chronic congestive heart failure.
I see my cardiologist weekly to monitor progress. I had a defibrillator and a pacemaker inserted and I am on meds to help my heart beat. I am on two months medical leave from VCC although I will be attending our gatherings. I am not teaching Leadership I at the Seattle School this May. I have to take life one day at a time.
I am not going to lie. Slowing down to an almost complete stop is hard for me. What else is hard for me is wrapping my head around the fact that I should not be alive. I am not trying to figure it out, it’s more trying to embrace and sit with what now? What today? If ever the words of Jesus ring true for me it’s now. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I don’t feel sick, I feel fatigued most of the time. I am home every day. I am doing a few outings now and then and afterwards I need to rest. On days I do something, the next day I usually rest all day. I want to read, write, study but honestly, I cannot concentrate right now. I spend most of my time coloring. My main work is to get well, follow the doctor’s instructions and get well.
Yesterday, as I was praying the thought came to me, if every doctor I have seen has made it a point to tell me how lucky or what a miracle it is that I am alive, then I can absolutely have faith that a miracle can heal my heart. With soooooooo many people praying for me, sending me well wishes and good thoughts I hold on to the hope that my heart will heal.
I read this quote yesterday:
“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what to hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.” Barbara Kingsolver
My hope is for my heart to be healed to the point I can return to normal activity.
Thank you again for all of your kindness in all its forms. I feel rich in relationships that love and care for me.
When my doctor ordered an echocardiogram I was not terribly bothered. I was wondering why I wasn’t getting better, in fact, my breathing was getting worse daily. I was hoping they would begin to rule things out and in doing so get to the bottom of what was going on with my health.
My friend Sharon offered to come along. I thought, great, she and I can go to lunch after and catch up. As we sat in the waiting room, I began to wonder what if they find something? The imaging tech called me in and explained that he was going to use ultra sound to look at my heart from all angles. I asked him how long before the cardiologist would read the results. He said they usually read them within 48 hours or if they are really busy within a week. Then he said, “Don’t worry, if I see anything concerning I will get a cardiologist in here right away.”
When the test was over, the tech told me to get dressed and wait for a minute. There was a knock on the door. A nurse was at the door with the tech. The nurse said, “Mrs. Swetman a cardiologist would like to speak with you, he will be in in just a minute.” The tech looked at me as if to say, “I am so sorry.”
The cardiologist came in and reported to me that the test showed my heart was enlarged and working way too hard. He said, “We are going to need to do something about this right away.” He asked me to wait an hour while he finished his rounds and then he would meet with me and go over the test results.
Sharon and I sat in the waiting room trying to remain positive. It was good they found something and would be able to take care of it. I called Rich and he was on a job over an hour away so couldn’t come to the appointment. I called my sister Karla and she came right away. The three of us, Sharon, Karla and I sat waiting, trying to think the best and remain positive.
When the three of us met with the cardiologist and he ended up making the statement, “I don’t think you ever had acute bronchitis, I think you had a heart attack that night in February,” needless to say we were all in shock.
He stepped out to make arrangements to admit me to the hospital. Immediately tears were streaming down my face. Sharon and Karla came and hugged me. I said, “I am only 49 and I had a heart attack?” Sharon, said, “I know, this is hard and you can cry, do what you need to do right now, but one thing, you are 59 not 49. Not that 59 is not bothersome for a heart attack, but you aren’t 49.” We all three laughed through tears. I have no idea why I thought I was 49…
I am so grateful for Sharon and Karla. They stayed with me all day as the whirlwind of being admitted to the hospital with all the doctors and nurses coming and going inserting needles, getting history and making decisions. Sharon took notes because crazy information was coming so fast! It’s all kind of a blur but I remember at some point that day having to let go. Surrendering to the doctors, surrendering to help from Sharon and Karla and others that arrived and mostly surrendering to God for whatever this was going to mean. Beginning then taking it one day at a time.
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“I don’t think you ever had bronchitis, I think you had a heart attack.” Everything the cardiologist said after that pretty much sounded like, “blah, blah, blah.” I was in shock. It was Monday, April 4th. I had a heart attack on Friday, February 19th. Later every doctor and nurse that talked with me always ended with, “You are very lucky to still be with us.”
On Thursday night February 18th I woke up in the night with coughing fits. Dry coughing fits that woke me several times. The next morning I went to a seminar I was attending at The Seattle School. I was not feeling well and getting worse as the day went on. At dinnertime, we were walking up a hill. I walked a half of block and was out of breath and couldn’t go on. I went to dinner and then home. That night as I went to bed, laying down I could hear myself wheezing so loud I sounded like a coffee pot percolating. I was coughing and at one point felt tightening in my chest. I felt the same tightening I had become accustomed to over the past year. I thought it was anxiety. I tend to carry anxiety in my chest. All I remember was it was a horrible night. I could not lay flat, I could not sleep and I was coughing all night. I stayed home on Friday thinking I must have the flu or something. I went to the doctor on Monday the 22nd. The doctor spent about five minutes with me and diagnosed me with acute bronchitis. He prescribed antibiotics and told me that acute bronchitis takes a long time to get over.
March 1st I had new insurance and had to see a different doctor. I went in to follow up because I was not getting better and I was leaving March 18th for ten days on a trip to Thailand. On March 4th I saw my new doctor. She worked off of the diagnosis of acute bronchitis, listened to my lungs, etc. and prescribed inhalers to help me breathe.
The day I was leaving for Thailand, March 18th, I called my doctor and told her my breathing was getting worse. I wondered if she could prescribe antibiotics for my trip in case it kept getting worse. She had me come in for a chest x-ray to make sure I didn’t have pneumonia. Her assistant called me late in the afternoon and told me I was clear of having pneumonia but the x-ray showed my heart was enlarged compared to a test I had seventeen months prior. She wanted me to follow up as soon as I got back from Thailand.
I went to Thailand hoping the sun and rest would help clear up the bronchitis. My breathing got worse every day. I would have shortness of breath just walking a few feet.
I got home on Easter Sunday evening – called my doctor on Monday went in for an exam and she ordered more tests. The labs came back and said something was going on which then led to the echocardiogram on Monday, April 4th and the result being I had a heart attack, I never had bronchitis. The cardiologist that read the report said my heart was at 15% capacity meaning when pumping the release was only 15% – normal is 55-60%.
I was admitted to the hospital and basically told, “a) You are lucky you survived the heart attack and, b) You are lucky you survived traveling to Thailand and back, you are lucky to be alive.”
They immediately gave me meds to drain the fluids that had built up (I was literally drowning) and within five hours I lost six pounds of fluid. The next morning, I had another echocardiogram and it showed my heart at 20%.
On Friday, the 8th I had surgery to insert a defibrillator and a pacemaker. I did not need bypass surgery as the original blockage had healed itself. The damage was around how my heart was pumping and the rhythms. The doctors have said that this is all they can do for me. That we will know in a few weeks, months if I am improving, staying the same or getting worse.
I have been home a couple of days and I think it is really just dawning on me how serious this is and how my life has been spared. I am praying, reflecting and thinking about those words I heard over and over again over the past week, “You are lucky to be alive.”
November 2, 2014
As a Seattle pastor for over twenty years I want to publicly apologize for the way in which the entire Mars Hill Church debacle was allowed to unfold in our city.
I’m sorry that one man and the men in leadership at Mars Hill Church were allowed to treat men, women and children in the most scandalous way possible while acting as representatives of God. The fact that it went on for years and years without any intervention from the Church in Seattle is mindboggling.
Together, as a city we’ve had a front row seat on what it looks like when power is abused by a religious leader. This is not what Jesus meant when he told his church to bring “Good News”. I pray that God will forgive those of us who call ourselves pastors. I pray you will forgive us. I pray that you will give Jesus another chance.
I’m profoundly sorry that His message was so badly twisted by Mark Driscoll and the men who led Mars Hill Church.
I forgive them. But I ask for your forgiveness as well. Those of us who call ourselves pastors waited too long to speak up. Our silence makes us complicit with those we criticize today. None of which excuses the spiritual abuse that Mars Hill leadership has engaged in. I am grateful for all that have tried to intervene, especially Warren Throckmorton.
Like one of their pastors Steve Tompkins has already modeled, I pray these men will own their sin and get the help they need so that real reconciliation will be the end of this story.
Rose Madrid Swetman
Vineyard Community Church
September 10, 2014
I don’t have the time or space to fully think this out and edit it. I want to respond so here goes…
The last time I wrote publicly about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill church on this blog was in December of 2006. That was right after a small group of us met with Mark and his then right-hand man, Leif Moi. You can read about those meetings here and here
What I wrote in my blog after meeting with Mark and Leif was the most gracious way I could describe what I discerned and learned from the meeting. I was really hoping the best and that the future would turn out very differently for Mark and the church than what is unfolding minute by minute of late and within the public square (aka social media, the papers, magazine articles, blogs and more). What I said to my husband and a few trusted friends after the meeting in private was in the same spirit but was more direct, “From what we just observed and after working with many, many addicts, if Mark does not get help he and Mars Hill Church will implode someday.”
I think that day may be here. What is our response suppose to be? There is a mix of opinions within the Church and between followers of Christ on what is the correct response, the biblical response, the Christian response. I think if we are honest, anyone can make a case for what they think the correct response should be: silence, no social media responses that have any negativity about Mark or Mars Hill Church, don’t share links of what Mark has said in private whether years ago or recent, protect the man of God, don’t touch God’s anointed, share everything in order to get him to resign and get the help he needs, use every public space possible to uncover the abuse, sin and toxicity of the Mars Hill culture in order to be a voice for the 100’s of stories of abuse, give the victims the space to tell the truth so the public can bare witness, allow the victims to tell their stories, expose the illegal and unethical behaviors of the leaders of Mars Hill Church so that the abuse can stop, I could go on and on but you get the point.
There are many sides to this very tragic and complex story. Here is how I think about this. I am a female pastor in the Seattle area. I am the lead pastor of a Vineyard Church. I am a Regional Leader for the Northwest Vineyard Churches. I want to make it very clear that my thoughts and viewpoint in NO way represent the Northwest Vineyard or Vineyard USA.
These are my thoughts as a pastor in Seattle that has watched this up close and personal. After the 2006 meeting with Mark I have sat with and listened to countless stories of spiritual abuse laced with misogyny and twisted theology to endorse the abuse. I have listened to countless leaders from around the country and some in my own area ask me why I don’t think Mars Hill Church, its leadership and its theology are good for people, men, women and children? Some have even argued with me because Mars Hill Church is a success story! I have explained to people until I have been blue in the face that we are seriously off track in the American church when we measure success by the number of people attending any church. We have a lot of redefining what it means to be successful in our time in our context. That’s for another blog post.
The stories of abuse and unethical behavior have not just happened in the last few years, this is and has been the culture of Mars Hill Church for a very long time.
I was raised with a violent, abusive father. My mother was the victim of domestic abuse. I have born the cost of naming the truth about my story. I view Mark as a leader that had so much potential for good but went very, very wrong. I know that Mark’s twisted theology and lust for power comes out of his own story of brokenness. For that I have much compassion and grace. What I don’t think is helpful at all right now is for anyone to be told to be silent. I know of many, many people that have tried (including me) to talk to Mark about what could be in his heart and story that he would have such vitriolic rants filled with misogyny and get healing. He has never to my knowledge responded to that plea. This is evident by where he is today with all of the stories coming out of lying, cover up and continued abuse, shunning and bullying of anyone who tries to get at the truth or confronts him with truth in love. Numerous past and current elders of the church have tried to get at the truth so healing can begin for Mark, his family, those that have left and the church they love.
To tell people to be silent is in my opinion complicit with on-going abuse. That’s something to think about isn’t it? Telling victims and advocates that have been forced to public intervention to stop is abusive in its own right. These folks have gone public so the madness will stop and so Mark, Grace, his children and every victim of this tragic situation can get help.
In over eight or more years what we have learned is that there is absolutely no internal system that can hold Mark Driscoll accountable. That is why this was taken to the public sphere. Is that tragic and an embarrassment to Jesus and his Church? YES it is. But no more tragic than when Jesus walked this earth and publicly lashed out at the religious people of his day when they were abusing the people of God. I think a good case can be made that when all else failed, a public intervention is absolutely necessary for God’s sake and for the sake of everyone involved, not in the least being Mark Driscoll.
I pray for every victim of this tragic story. I pray Mark will resign and get the help he needs. May God’s mercy and justice (justice meaning putting things right) be the last word in all of this.
July 4, 2013
This Summer we (VCC) are reading through Mark Scandrette’s book, “Practicing The Way of Jesus” in order to guide our faith community into imagining more and more ways in which we can live into our faith.
We want to provide a space here for discussion around the book’s ideas. So, with that in mind let’s begin with thoughts, inspiration, questions about Chapter 1, “An Invitation to Experiment.”
Some of my thoughts:
1. I love the language of “experiment.” A friend of mine once said that when he meets Jesus he hopes Jesus will say, “Good try!” It suggests that formation happens both in the wins, the losses and the simple attempts we make.
2. I was inspired by the Have2Give1 experiment. I actually could see Leslie leading some folks from VCC in this type of experiment! I liked that it was time-bound (8 weeks) and I really liked how it led those that participated into asking deeper questions about their heart posture toward money, possessions, and consumption (pg 12). The idea being as we participate in these practices it leads us to the heart of the formation questions. I also love that they gave thousands of dollars to benefit others out of what was clutter in their lives. Beautiful!
3. The idea of doing tangible experiments taking us out our heads and into our bodies with a group of others wanting to change and grow by exploring how to integrate the teachings of Jesus into our everyday lives is very, very appealing to me. How about you?
4. “Through surrender and practice, Jesus expected his apprentices to be like him.” (pg 16) – I want VCC to be a community of practice that can experiment, will be inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus, that will commit time and energy to practices that can form us in this way of life, and will have the courge to reflect on what it means to be a counterculture community that is finding a new way to be human – together.
5. We are invited to live into the Kingdom of Love, a kingdom characterized by love that is both present and progressing. I like the idea of our church community gathering in small groups to imagine how they are being invited to experiment together practices that could actually make a positive difference in bringing a holistic view of what it means to be truly human.
What are your thoughts, questions, inspirations?