The Jug

Sometimes, in the hot summer months, I visit patients who cannot drink fluids (NPO). I cannot give them water, but we often pray together as we ponder that water, when received, satisfies like no other.
A few years ago, after one of these visits, I tried to think of a time when I was as thirsty as my patients. This came to mind.

The Jug

Simmering summer days
Bring back memories of cotton fields
In West Texas on Dad’s farm.
Cracked earth, agape and begging
For a drink while
My own thirst pushed me faster
To the end of the row
Where a burlap jug waited
In the shade of a careless weed
Tall and broad enough
To cast its own shade,
For my precious cache of water.

John 4:10 “Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Psalm 42: 1-3, 11b “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?…Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”


David Martin

DNR: “It doesn’t mean, ‘Democrat, Not Republican!’”

I entered her room with the knowledge that she had had a heart attack. She looked like she was improving. Even though she looked okay, the shades were drawn and the room was dark. That should have told me something, but I forged ahead. She pointed out that I had visited her before in another hospital. Soon, she began to tell me her story which I summarize here:

She began about her kidney failure, with a fistula in place (in order to assist with dialysis), but now doctors aren’t going to do dialysis or any heart surgery, since they found a heart valve problem. At her age of 88, “they aren’t going to do anything. I’ve survived cancer, lived with lots of health problems, but now they can’t fix me anymore. I’ve been put on hospice and now I’m ready to go.”         

I realized that this was more than a routine hospital visit. This woman, this servant of God, was saying goodbye. She began to give what grief experts term “life review.” I have learned in my fourteen years as a hospital chaplain that if we will just listen long enough, we might be privileged to hear an incredible life story…that life counted for something…‘why I am here, after all.’

So, I just sat and listened, nodding from time to time, to let her know I was paying attention. She spoke of being a charter member of her church. She rehearsed her stories of her love for her husband, now deceased. She smiled as she told about moving back to Temple, Texas, “three times…but, the last time I came alone.” There was a gleam in her eye as she discussed her love for her children, saying, “I raised them all to be believers in God…I did my best.” Thinking about her family, she chuckled when her son-in-law told her that the Do Not Resuscitate order depicted on her wristband, “DNR”, meant ‘Democrat, Not Republican!’ “I told him that’s surely NOT what it meant!’”

Finally, she shared her love of church. Her eyes sparkled as she recalled visits from elders, church members and favorite preachers who had come not just once, but many times to check on her. The conversation concluded with her love for God and a forward look toward heaven where, as she said, “my husband and a son are waiting.”  Family. Friends. Church. God. These were important markers in her life.

Desiring to say something helpful, I shared I wished for a magic wand to take away her pain. Sensing some anxiousness in my voice, she reassured me, “It’s going to be okay, for I know I’m okay with God.” I thanked her for allowing me the privilege to sit with her. She reached for my hand, and together we prayed for her courage, for her faith, and for being a blessing to others and to her children as she looked forward to going home to heaven.

As often happens with someone who is nearing death’s door, I sensed God’s presence while talking with this great faith pilgrim, to spend a moment with her at the end of her journey. I was invited into her sacred space, with an invitation to see the face of God.

Thank you for helping Lifeline Chaplaincy to be present in such powerful, holy moments.

By Tom Nuckels, Director of Spiritual Care, Central Texas

Measuring Success in Spiritual Care

Measuring Success in Spiritual Care
By Paul Riddle

One afternoon I was having lunch with Ruby (not her real name), who was interested in becoming a Lifeline pastoral care volunteer. At one point in the conversation, an expression of thoughtfulness, mixed with concern, came across her face. “You look pensive. What’s on your mind?” I asked. “I was just wondering,” she replied, “How do you know when a visit has been a success?”

I thought for a moment and said, “If you communicate the love and care of God to the person you’re with, through your presence, the visit is a success.” Ruby’s face brightened, and she looked relieved. “I can do that!” she declared.

Ruby was worried that she would be expected to offer deep words of wisdom, or have answers to her patients’ profound spiritual questions, and she was afraid she might not be up to the task. It was liberating to her to hear that what mattered most was for her to show up and care, that her presence (actually God’s presence in her) was sufficient.

It seems to me that presence is what spiritual care is all about. We have the impulse to care because of God’s presence within us – and because of our awareness of God’s presence for us at many points in our lives. Our presence with patients and their families provides a tangible reminder of God’s presence with them.

May each of us be open to God’s presence, and open to the opportunities God places before us to be present with and for others.

Song of Love

Song of Love

I listen to the song of God’s great love
In morn as birds sing.
I see this song in leaf of green
From weed to majestic tree.

I listen to this song of God’s great love
In purple Martin melody.
I see this song in sunlight’s beam
Falling fresh ere’ early dawn.

I see this song of God’s great love
In colors shade and hue,
And wonder that Creator loves me;
Always, and ever loves me.

David Martin

Meet Our Summer Interns!!

Meet Our Summer Interns 2014


By Dr. Paul Riddle, Director of Spiritual Care

Lifeline Chaplaincy Houston

We are in the midst of the 2014 summer internship, which began on May 16 and ends August 8.

According to Lifeline’s mission statement, we are:

“Dedicated to providing compassionate support to the seriously ill, their families and caregivers, and to being an educational resource for crisis ministry.”

One of the ways we fulfill our teaching mission is through our summer intern program. This summer, three students have come to Houston to gain first-hand experience providing pastoral care in the Texas Medical Center Hospitals. Additionally, we have four interns in Fort Worth, working in hospitals in that city under the supervision of Dr. David Martin, Director of Spiritual Care for Lifeline Tarrant County.

Our interns learn by doing, and then by reflecting on what they have done. Each is assigned to a particular hospital and gets to know that hospital intimately through daily visitation with patients and caregivers, and through regular contact with hospital staff members and Lifeline volunteers assigned to that hospital.

Interns spend half their day in classroom instruction and the other half visiting patients in their assigned hospitals. Classroom sessions include case studies, discussions of books and articles pertaining to spiritual care, and other activities.

Weekly reflection essays and periodic case studies drawn from interns’ visits provide opportunities for them to integrate what they learn in the classroom with their ministry practice and their personal spiritual growth. In addition to these activities, the interns spend a week at Camp Star Trails, a camp for children with cancer sponsored by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Even though our interns are with us for only twelve weeks, they enrich the permanent Lifeline community – staff and volunteers alike – immeasurably. We trust that their experience with us will enrich them as well.


Lindsay Anderson – Plano, TX
Ministry to Children and Families – ACU

Ministry to Children and Families - ACU

Ministry to Children and Families – ACU


Kaitlin Pegoda – Huntsville, TX
Social Work – ACU

Social Work - ACU

Social Work – ACU











Carleigh Wieder – North Richland Hills, TX
Family and Youth Ministry – ACU

Family and Youth Ministry - ACU

Family and Youth Ministry – ACU












Mykayla Gunderson – Spring, TX
Nursing – ACU

Nursing - ACU

Nursing – ACU



















Erik Masci – Denver, CO
Christian Ministry – ACU

Erik Masci

Christian Ministry – ACU












Cameron Morris – Alvin, TX
Family and Youth Ministry — ACU

Family and Youth Ministry - ACU

Family and Youth Ministry – ACU

Descent Into Darkness

Descent Into Darkness

“Alzheimer’s,” she said.
“Scary.”  I said.
“Terrifying,” she said.
I said nothing.

The silence hung in the room like a rain swollen cloud.

Then, “What part terrifies you the most?”
She said, “Not being aware that God is there.”

I chewed on that one for a moment.
Then, “Can you think of another time in your life when you were not aware of
God’s presence, but later discovered He was?

It was her turn to mull it over.
I pursued.  “How about when you were 6 months old?  Was God there even
though you were not aware of it?”

She said, “I never thought of that!”  So we got into it together, exploring
the lengths to which God pursues us, even into Alzheimer’s.

It was a blunt conversation, but sacred in its honest assessment.  When we
prayed, she extended her hand, and together we plunged into that space where
God is always present.

Even in our darkness.

By – David Martin

Tiny Deeds. Eternal Consequences.

The patient told of her mother’s unexpected death, followed by her father’s
remarrying two months later. Then he abandoned six children to move to
another state. Her aunt took them in. All they had to sleep on was a
linoleum floor covered with a thin blanket.

The children noticed children’s rhymes scribbled on the linoleum. There!
“The Cow Jumped Over the Moon.” In another corner, “Jack Sprat.” On the
hard surface, this patient learned to read from nursery rhymes, as the older
children would rehearse them each night to the younger. So they comforted
one another. The adults had abandoned them.

Her favorite poem was a prayer. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the
Lord my soul to keep. And should I die before I wake, I pray The Lord my
soul to take.”

I never said this prayer to my children as it seemed frightening.
To abandoned children, however, it seemed a possibility they might not make
it through the night.

Years later the patient taught her grandson about God through this simple
bedtime prayer.

I wondered about the person or child that wrote this prayerful rhyme on the
linoleum back in the early 40’s. Could they have known it would comfort
others three generations hence?

Tiny Deeds. Eternal Consequences.

David Martin