Announcement of Lifeline Chaplaincy Summer Interns

By David Martin

For the fourth year in a row, Tarrant County is hosting interns in our local hospitals.  This year’s interns are Sarah Ritchie, Molly Minor and Paul Figel, all students from ACU.  They are energetic and eager to learn.  Paul is pre-med.  Molly is majoring in Speech Pathology, and Sarah is a nursing major.  None are planning to be chaplains, but all are entering some area of medical care or rehab.  In our training, they are learning how to listen more emphatically, and to recognize spiritual distress.  Further, they are taught how to provide spiritual support and comfort.

During the summer, they will visit:  Cooks Children, Plaza Medical, Mansfield Methodist, Harris Methodist, and John Peter-Smith (JPS).

JPS is a level one trauma center and the interns have been invited to shadow the ER chaplains one evening in addition to their regular rounds in that facility.

One week in June, they will serve as counselors for Camp Star Trails.  This camp serves pediatric cancer patients and their families in a beautiful location near Brenham, Texas.

All of these activities stretch the participants, both mentally, spiritually and physically.  Please keep them in your prayers.

Why I Like Working with Interns

Why I Like Working with Interns

By Paul Riddle

Since 2002, one of the highlights of each year for me has been supervising Lifeline’s summer interns. University students (most of them undergraduates) come to Houston for twelve weeks to gain hands-on experience as pastoral caregivers in the hospitals of the Texas Medical Center. Two weeks ago, my 13th class of summer interns began their work.

Our interns receive intensive instruction and orientation, have lots of interaction with professional chaplains and Clinical Pastoral Education residents in several large teaching hospitals, and they spend many hours visiting patients and reflecting on their pastoral encounters.   Like all students, they read books and write papers (mostly verbatim and weekly reflections). They also spend considerable time processing the visits they have made – internally, in writing, and in group discussion and individual supervision.

Pastoral care is hard work – physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our interns become skilled listeners as they come alongside persons whose lives have been upended by serious illness. They learn to be fully present with the people they visit, to pace themselves, and to practice appropriate self-care.

Perhaps the most important skill our interns learn is self-awareness. They learn to listen not only to the patient, but also to their own inner voice – the thoughts and emotions that the visit evokes in them. They then reflect on these thoughts and emotions in light of their life experience and personal theology, and out of these reflections come insights that help them grow as persons and become even better equipped to provide support to those who are hurting.

Lifeline’s internship is not only – or most importantly – about learning to do hospital visits. It’s mainly and most importantly about becoming a certain type of person – the kind of person who is able to come alongside a person who is going through a difficult time, and to be the presence of God for that person in that moment. As the Apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 1:3 (as rendered by Eugene Peteson in The Message), “He [Jesus] comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be thee for that person just as God was there for us.”

Why do I like working with interns? Because I get to watch them grow into the kind of people Paul describes above – the kind of people who “come alongside” when it counts. The kind of people whose “coming alongside” makes a difference for good.

A wise person once said that there’s no such thing as teaching, only learning. No one can force knowledge or wisdom into another person. The role of a teacher is to create an environment in which learning can take place. That’s what the Lifeline internship does, and that’s why I like working with interns.

Drought and Flood – By David Martin

Drought and Flood

Written By: David Martin

Last fall
Diagnosed with cancer
Texas was dry
And hot.

But this spring
In my fourth series
Of chemo,
Rain pours from the sky.

Night after night
Rivulets etch the window
Of my hospital room
Mirroring the tears
That stream down my face.

I am tired, O Lord.
The lightning from the storms
Feel like the pain
In my body.
Flashes of disruption
To my peace.

Is it so much to ask
For the storm to cease,
The pain to stop
And calm to return.

Yet the rains come.
The storms rage
While my body feels dry
Hot and parched.

So I pray, Dear God!
Dear God, how I pray.

Let the storm cease
And spring to come.
When new life bursts forth
And song comes again.

On Sacred Ground

ON SACRED GROUND

By Paul Riddle

As a hospital chaplain, I am often privileged to stand with patients and their families on the sacred ground that marks the threshold between this life and the Eternal. One afternoon, during my clinical rounds at Methodist Hospital, I was called to the bedside of Son Tran (names and identifying details have been changed to protect privacy), a 45 year-old Vietnamese man dying of cancer. I had visited Son several times during this final illness. He and his family were people of strong Christian faith. Son was on mechanical life support and was in a deep coma.

When I arrived, Son’s wife, Van, two children, and several other family members were present. Van welcomed me, introduced me to the group, and told me that she had decided the time had come to withdraw life support. All of the family were in agreement, and they had gathered to be present at the end.

Son died within minutes after life support was withdrawn. When he breathed his last, Van, who had maintained her composure up to this point, collapsed in a heap, sobbing. Family members helped her onto the couch, and then into a wheelchair. We all withdrew to a private family room while the nursing staff prepared the body for a final viewing – a process that took the better part of an hour.

I spent that hour with the family, and was privileged to watch them support one another as they adjusted to the reality that their loved one had died. The first few minutes, everyone was in shock, and there was little conversation, just weeping and hugging. Slowly, the tears dried, and people began to talk. Most of the conversation was in Vietnamese, so mainly what I observed was body language. What struck me was how over that hour the family seemed to come back to life after having been cut down by their loved one’s death. The progression was very clear: shock, weeping, supportive conversation, discussion of details (funeral arrangements, etc.), reminiscing about the deceased, and finally more relaxed conversation and laughter. Van, who at the beginning of the hour was curled up in the wheelchair almost in a fetal position, gradually unwound, assumed a normal sitting posture, listened with increasing attention to the conversation, began to participate in the conversation, and, by the end of the hour, was able to actually to laugh at an amusing remark made by a family member.

At long last the body was ready. We returned to the room, Van now walking under her own power. She caressed her husband’s face and kissed it tenderly, an expression of peace on her face. At her request, I offered a prayer, commending Son to God’s eternal care.

Double Amputee

Six weeks from surgery that took both my legs, I lay in the front room of the house.  My wife has gone to work, having arranged all that I need within reach of my bed.  I have a new electric wheelchair, an unwelcome addition, that I am beginning to embrace with less resentment.  It is a mighty struggle to maneuver into the chair from my hospital bed, another intruder.  Have I not slept by my wife’s side for 25 years?  Yet, I am secluded in the spare bedroom so that she may sleep without interruption.  The burden of our finances now lay entirely upon her.  My disability check has yet to be approved.  The lawyer assures us it is not a question of if, but when.  This does not comfort me now, however, and I doubt the added income will be much help to our mounting bills.  I am truly an invalid, unable to provide my wife her due in these waning years.  The TV set drones the latest news.   Dust particles float in the sunlight streaming through the window.  Time slows.  Sleep, impossible at night, now overwhelms me.

I awaken as Doris comes into the house at 6 PM.  There won’t be much sleep tonight.  Though I had promised to get in my wheelchair during the day, and do all my exercises, I could only mumble an apology, then quickly change the subject with Doris.  “How was your day?”  I ask, with a deep jealousy creeping int0 my chest.  She told me all about it in her usual good cheer, and I held onto each word as if it were her last.  What would I do without her?  Yet I envy her freedom.

A New Day

Doris drives away in the blue Ford.  Enough with pity parties.  Today was going to be different.  I swung to the edge of my bed, having already put on the fresh clothes Doris so thoughtfully laid out.  I grabbed the arms of the wheelchair and swung over, missing ever so slightly, and landing with a thump.  With a struggle, I managed to center my rump in the middle of the seat, and had exerted enough energy to break a sweat.  My upper body had always been the weakest part of my body.  I wish I had spent more time at the gym before the accident.

One Year Later

Things are better.  I have learned that I am not defined by my job, my lack of legs, or my role in the family.  I am defined by God.  I am a child of God.  Nothing can take that away from me.  I have lost my identity as a provider, and a “healthy” person.  I am no longer an engineer, but I am a child of God.  In that, I have found the strength to be who I need to be to my wife and my family.  I serve her in every way that I can, for she has loved me and stayed with me.  Life is more than better.  Life is great!  That’s not to say I don’t have my bad days, but when I get depressed, I begin to remind myself who I am, and who I belong to, and that has made all the difference.  Keep me in your prayers, would you?

Written By: David Martin

GOD’S PRESENCE IN TIMES OF PAIN: TIM’S STORY

GOD’S PRESENCE IN TIMES OF PAIN: TIM’S STORY

By Paul Riddle

In early 2012, Belinda Curtis was diagnosed with a brain tumor; it was found that she had a highly aggressive form of cancer, and that her prognosis was poor. Within a few weeks she had lost her ability to walk. Despite the best interventions modern medicine had to offer, her condition steadily worsened, and in less than two years she was dead.

In a remarkable nine-minute video that can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/89197196, Belinda’s husband, Tim, minister of the Church of Christ in Georgetown, TX, tells her story and shares his reflections on how her illness and death affected him. What came through for me in Tim’s story was his and Belinda’s abiding faith in God, and their sense of God’s being present with them and walking with them through this ordeal.

Tim does not deny or minimize the sadness of Belinda’s decline and death, but for me his story is ultimately one of hope. Speaking of his sense of God’s presence, he says, “I think God is most present when we’re hurting and when we’re grieving… That’s when he is most with us… We don’t always feel it, but looking back, we will.” In the “desert” time of Belinda’s illness and the aftermath of her death, Tim experienced God in a new way. He discovered that God had not abandoned him but had come alongside him to walk with him through the desert, and that he would not be in the desert forever.   Tim’s story strengthened my faith, and I hope it will do the same for yours.

One Great Day

One Great Day

Great Physician

For healing we pray,

From Cancer

From Diabetes,

And Alzheimers.

How they afflict us

Wreaking havoc

Upon our bodies

Minds and families.

How long?

How long, O Lord,

Will the people suffer

Pain, loss, and sorrow

The failure of our health

To these dreaded foes.

Is all of life to remain

Under threat from disease

That bring grief and frustration

To all who bow under their weight?

We plead, O Lord

For a cure from these afflictions

And wait upon The Healer

While growing in His spirit.

Longing for the consummation of creation

When health is unending

And life never ends.

The Lion will lay down with the Lamb

And your people will leap with joy!

Written By: David Martin