Let It Be

Let It Be

“Modern medicine has become an exercise in doing, while healing is mainly a matter of being.”  Larry Dossey, M.D.

Disease in an inevitable part of life.  Unless Jesus returns first, each one of us is appointed a time to die.  Some of us may die quickly and without warning, but statistically speaking, most of us die of infirmity, or old age.

The question I am often asked as a chaplain is, “Will I be cured?”

A better question may be, “Will I be healed?”

Today a patient told me that her husband had died from cancer, but prior to his death, he wanted to be baptized.  He had attended worship with his wife for years, but had never taken this public step.  The hospital officially said no, but among the staff were those sympathetic to their need.  They filled a large whirlpool with warm water, told the family where it was, and disappeared from the scene.  Four strapping grandsons picked the patient up by the four corners of his bed sheet, carried him to the rehab room, and lowered him into the waters.

“This old railroad man is going to heaven,” he exclaimed rising from the makeshift baptistry.  A few hours later, he breathed his last.

Now, was this patient cured?  No, but he was healed.  The real heroes at the hospital were not the doctors, but the staff willing to be present for the family, and listen to their spiritual needs.  It took caring and compassion.

You can’t fix death, but you can help others toward healing.

David Martin



A Modern Day Job

A Modern Day Job

By Tom Nuckels, Director of Spiritual Care, Central Texas


I recently met a modern day Job, a patient who had been referred to me via the Lifeline website.

As we talked, Mary rehearsed a history of illness, beginning at age eleven months, when she was hospitalized with pneumonia with temperatures spiking high for hours. She described her very concerned parents. Doctors didn’t think she would live. They informed her parents that because of the high fever, if she survived, she would probably have cognitive issues. Mary laughed, saying, “See, if I hadn’t had pneumonia, I would now be a genius!” She was pregnant in high school. She also had cancer at age sixteen. Her baby went through the radiation treatments with her, she said. Most recently, she had an auto accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down, burns on her arm and leg resulted from landing on top of the hot engine following the accident. One leg had to be amputated. On top of all of this, her husband divorced her, leaving her to raise three daughters alone.

Rather than being bitter because of all that had happened to her, this woman exemplifies steadfast endurance. Mary’s attitude demonstrates a true model of what chaplains call “positive coping skills.” How one copes with the cards they have been dealt in life determines their emotional and spiritual well-being. She chooses, over and over, to trust in her God through the pain. Time and time again, Mary said, “I know God was with me, because without Him, I would be dead already.” She rehearsed events of her life where tragedy was overcome because of people surrounding her. She is convinced these were “God’s angels” caring for her.

I entered Mary’s room that day a stranger. I left as an edified sojourner. She reminded me to face difficulty with joy and trust in a God who is present, even when all evidence appears to say otherwise; and to depend on God, to have faith, plus to have a dash of humor in the midst of trouble. Faith of this kind only comes when life is severely tested.


A Night Prayer

A Night Prayer


Let nothing, O Lord, disturb the silence of this night.

 And here in the gathering darkness, let me relax in your presence.

 There is nothing to be afraid of, there is everything to hope for.

 I may not become perfect overnight or be instantly blessed

 With the joys and consolations of the great saints, but little by little

 I will grow in the knowledge of the road that leads to heaven.

 Remind me that here in the closing moments of this day,

 I am in your Presence.

 I do not need to court you with great thoughts or profound insights.

 For the good of my soul consists not in thinking much

 But in loving much.

 If I love you, God, I will want for nothing.

 You alone suffice.



Teresa of Avila, 16th Century


Submitted by Tom Nuckels





“I am with you always…”—Matthew 28:20

First Seek to Understand, Then To Be Understood

First Seek to Understand, Then To Be Understood


How annoying.


Walking into a country retail store dressed in suit and tie, I approached the counter to give (yes, give) an item I no longer wanted in my house. The object had some monetary value, but cleaning out the garage was a higher priority. Trouble is, two clerks looked right behind me and addressed not one, but two customers that had walked into the store after my arrival. As I said in the beginning…annoying. (Did I have a sign on my forehead that said, “Ignore me, please”)?


Yet my need remained. I could be ugly, or swallow my pride and accomplish the reason for visiting the store. (It does take effort to act like Christ, and not my fleshly self)! After some explanation, the two clerks were dumbfounded. “You want to give this to us?”




Fortunately for me, a pawn shop was connected to this particular store. The owner came in and said to make it legal, she had to fill out some paperwork, and give a bill of sale. So, for the mighty sum of one dollar, I sold the item. The pawn shop owner had to be thinking, “This guy is a nut.”


For those that know me, this is not far from the truth. But I digress. There is a spiritual application.


Christians practice the upside down kingdom. Instead of seeking our own profit, we seek the good of others. Instead of seeking to be heard first, we seek first to understand.


I really wanted to tell those clerks they had looked right through me, but I sought to understand why they had turned first to others. You see, I wasn’t dressed like one of the locals. I was an outsider…not a comfortable feeling since I was born and raised in the country, but at that moment, I wasn’t dressed the part!


The desire to get my “two cents in” is nearly overwhelming. More often than I care to admit, I scarce can wait for others to finish their story, before I break in and tell my own. Yet Jesus fills this need, does He not? “Come unto Me, all ye who are weary, and I will give you rest.”[1] So when we pray, “God fill me completely,” we find our need to give them a piece of our mind subsides. We have nothing left to defend. God is our defense, “a very present help in times of trouble.”[2]


More and more we can find the grace to be on the short end of the stick, or conversation, which is the real point of the story above. I’m not talking about “casting our pearls before swine,”[3] but rather having a confidence emanating from a deep interior life with Christ.


Listen and reflect, and you will find that your story will be told by others.


“She/he is the one who listens.”





David Martin



Scripture References:

Matthew 11:28,29

Psalm 46:1

Matthew 7:6

Internship Program Information


MAY 13 – AUGUST 5, 2016




For program description, qualifications, and information on how to apply, go to http://www.lifelinechaplaincy.org/intern.htm.

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. Students come to Houston to gain first-hand experience providing pastoral care in the Texas Medical Center Hospitals supervised by Dr. Paul Riddle, Director of Spiritual Care, Houston. Likewise, we have students coming to Fort Worth and Austin, to gain first-hand experience providing pastoral care in hospitals in those cities. Fort Worth interns work under the supervision of Dr. David Martin, Director of Spiritual Care for Lifeline Tarrant County, and Austin interns are supervised by Dr. Tom Nuckels, Director of Spiritual Care for Lifeline Central Texas.

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.

One Weird Night

One Weird Night

Dan shivered despite the layers of clothing:  an inner garment, a full length robe and a coat of sheepskin.  Only 13, Dan was careful to hide his discomfort.  An invitation to join the adults watching over the largest flock of his tribe was a great honor.  He smiled in satisfaction when he saw his Uncle Jacob grin at him.

Jacob knew what excitement ran through his nephew. Could it be twenty years ago that he took his place beside the men of the tribe to guard the sheep?  Jacob remembered the pride he felt on his first night with the adults.  He also recalled how tired he became as the night wore on.  Staying awake was a challenge for them all.  Once his nephew took his position on the perimeter, he would surely lay back and admire the stars on this cold winter night.  “No doubt, I will have to kick his shins to rouse him from his dreams,” Jacob thought with good humor.

Four hours later, everything seemed to be going well. The sheep had settled down and only the occasional bleat from a lamb punctuated the quiet.  The fires of the evening meal had died out.  The smell of mutton still hung in the air.  Jacob licked his lips and considered pulling some jerky out of his pouch, but the nodding of Dan’s head distracted the shepherd.  “Now is my chance to have some fun,” he remarked to a friend nearby.

That’s when the night sky split apart!  At first, looking to the side to check on his nephew, Jacob could scarcely keep his eyes open.  The light was painfully bright at first, but there was no question it emanated from above.  No need to pester Dan now.  The whole camp was stirring.  The sheep began to stand and trumpet in alarm.

Then came…music?  The song from above…what was it?  But then, they all saw…them!  Angels!  Thousands of them singing, “Glory to God on the highest!  And on earth, peace and good will to men!”  Over and over they sang their chorus, how long we could not tell.  It was as if time itself stood still, and then…they were gone.

The 13-year old boy looked at his uncle and all the shepherds, now standing and looking upward, mouths agape.  “Uncle Jacob, did you see them?”  And after a few moments of silence, “We saw them nephew.  We all saw, and we all heard.”

So changed the world over 2,000 years ago.  “And unto us a child was born.”  This child lived a life so beautiful and pure that even today, He is regarded by many as the greatest person to ever live.  Though murdered by the very people he came to give peace, this Christ offers us all a precious gift of living forever with Him.  This is without question, the best Christmas present ever.

We at LifeLine Chaplaincy take this message of hope into the hospital room every day of the year.  We have nothing to fear from illness, injury of death.  Though we may struggle with the failure of our bodies, we still rejoice at the victory won for our souls.  When the angels announced his birth, that victory was assured.  May you and your family celebrate God’s gift this Christmas, and throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

David Martin

A Whole Lot Better When Done Right


By Paul Riddle


I received this letter from a local minister a few weeks after the minister attended one of Lifeline’s training workshops in Houston:


Dear Paul,


Since my first training just a few short weeks ago, I have been asked to sit with a new widow whose name I did not know. Today, I visited a man in the hospital that deeply cut his foot while getting drunk and high on glue under the bridge, only to be swept away in last week’s sudden floods. He had to tear off his clothes in order not to drown, and while running naked and dripping wet down the street, realized he was severely bleeding. 


May I sincerely Thank You and the Team for the excellent training. I had a good sense of timing, waiting, not talking or the need to fill in the blanks because I learned what to do at the Lifeline Chaplaincy training. 


Thank you, brother Paul. I am sure that the Lord was pleased either way, but it was a whole lot better when done right.




Name Withheld


This letter offers eloquent testimony to the value of Lifeline’s training in spiritual care and crisis ministry.


For information on Lifeline’s training offerings, go to http://www.lifelinechaplaincy.org/train.htm.