Summer Intern Article

Take a look at the write up about Lifeline Chaplaincy and our intern program.

Used by permission, Heritage Magazine, York College.

Words Aptly Spoken to Me at the Bedside!

Words Aptly Spoken to Me at the Bedside!  

While at her bedside, an elderly woman speaking to me about injustices and the challenge to trust others said this to me, “He who sits high, looks low, – – – and takes inventory.” It was short, but expressed strong feelings in our country today. Her quote gave me courage and hope and reminded me to trust the righteousness of God when I am mistreated.

On another day I entered a patient’s room. The patient was out the room, but his wife was in the chair by his bed.

“My name is Jesse, a chaplain with Lifeline Chaplaincy.”

She said, “I am Diana.” “I remember you from Patrick’s two month stay in the heart hospital.”

I thought I remembered her. As our conversation was winding down, I said, “This is a passage that means a lot to me. May I recite it?”

“Sure,” she said.”

“A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit, who can bear?” Proverbs 18:14

Her husband returned and was transferred to his bed. We talked and then Diana said, “May I quote Psalm 139 for you? It speaks to my heart and sustains us.” She began “Oh, Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. . .” and on she went for twenty-four verses. In a difficult circumstance this person used her time to prepare herself to speak God’s Word. And she was willing to share it with me!

I had prepared myself to minister with words, but in these cases, I was the one blessed by people who had prepared themselves with words and aptly spoke them to me. I was encouraged and gained insights in both circumstances; and I think they were too.





Camp Star Trails was my first non-Christian camp experience. I felt relieved by the counselors in my cabin. In the span of almost a week, I became really close to them. That should be expected since we lived together, but there is definitely a friendship there that extends beyond camp. My cabin girls were wonderful for the most part, considering the fact that their ages ranged from 12-14. Their complaints and questions started with “When are we going to _____?” or “What time is it?” and “Can we go do this?” To which we would respond accordingly with, “I don’t know,” “I don’t know,” or “No.” As cheesy as it sounds, every girl’s relationship with each of the counselors was unique. I made my closest bonds with a pair of Spanish girls and Reyna. I saw myself reflected in Baylee, Stella, and Cadence. Baylee is a go-getter. She always takes on a challenge and cares deeply for her siblings, to the point that she would disappear so frequently we sort of knew where she would be. Stella was the smart, sarcastic, and insightful book worm who took her Harry Potter book, that she claimed to have read “68 times because I have no life”, to every activity. Let there be no confusion, she would always dominate the activities and continue reading her book after their conclusion.  Cadence was quiet and sweet, somewhat how I remembered myself at her age, mixed with Stella.

My role as a chaplain was not so much a spiritual one; I was more of a listener. I bonded most with the girls who felt like they needed to be heard. One special experience I had was with Reyna. She has the quietest demeanor, but after a couple of days, we found out she is fluent in Spanish. After some days into camp, the girls really enjoyed the late night cabin time before bed. They spent the time to make bracelets or play cards with each other. It was the ideal picturesque image of a camp for everyone, except Reyna. I was translating the idea of sororities to one of the Spanish girls, which took a long time, but at the corner of my eye I saw the Counselor-in-Training, Rosalie, comforting Reyna who had been crying and looked distressed. Rosalie came over and whispered to me that Reyna had been crying about her brother she had lost to cancer. Reyna had mentioned this to me sweetly earlier that day, and how she couldn’t hang out with all the girls because she was feeling extremely sad about him. Rosalie asked me if I would go over and talk to her, since she knew we had bonded, to which I replied, “Of course.” I walked over, invited myself to sit on her bed–which was the bottom bunk and stood in a dark corner of the cabin– and told her that I could see she was upset. I told her it was okay to miss her brother, and that it is a painful loss. I also told her that if she wants to cry right now, it is perfectly acceptable. I told her that we understood if she wanted to be alone but that we cared and loved her a lot, so we wanted to invite her to hang out with us. Then, I asked her brother’s name and she told me and I asked her if we could make a bracelet with his name on it so she could wear it and remember him. She nodded and picked her head up a little. I went with Rosalie to get the beads for her bracelet, keeping in mind that this was for her brother and for her as well. Rosalie looked relieved and we went back with the beads and started the bracelet for her and gave it over to Reyna to finish. She worked quietly, sort of in her own world, as Rosalie and I talked and sat with her. Once we finished, I asked if she liked it and she nodded happily, despite the tears on her face. I asked her if she would give me a hug and she grabbed me and I told her I cared a lot about her and that she should never forget her brother. Touch is not necessarily my instinct for comfort, but in this moment, it was perfect.

I felt my Spanish steadily progress as the days went on and I became closer to the Spanish girls. It is amazing how much people will tell you about their pains, in an attempt to be saved or understood in their pain. They talked to me about the strains of their household, which I related as typical Spanish-speaking family household struggles. It’s funny how comical people are when they think no one can hear them, which is exactly how the Spanish girls acted almost every day. I told the counselors how I felt they were like my younger cousins and how I was disappointed with how the camp did not allow us to remain in contact with the campers. It definitely felt like the opposite of Christian camps, where relationships with leaders were promoted as mentor-mentee friendships.

Overall, I met a lot of interesting people, with whom I connected with differently. Camp was relieving and stressful all at the same time. I definitely enjoyed it, but I was happy for its conclusion.


A camp memory by Rita Rodriguez, 2016 Tarrant county intern.





He knows not his own strength

that hath not met adversity. 

–        Ben Johnson


Lord God,

It’s one of those days.

The kind where everything surges, leaving me overwhelmed.

The kind I try to avoid, try to suppress, try to muster my energy to fight back.

But somehow, today it’s not working.


When others ask how I am, I answer, “Fine.”

When they question my aloofness, I smile.

When they push for honesty, I hesitate.

When they express concern, I thank them.


Why is it Lord, that there are days like this?

Do I dare ask? Do I really want to know?


In my mind’s eye, I rehearse other overwhelmed strugglers.

Like Moses, fed up with exasperating fellow wanderers.

Like Hannah, praying so earnestly that she was deemed drunk.


Bless them, Lord. May they be guided by the wisdom of You, the Great Physician. May they find fulfillment through investment of themselves in the care of others. May they continue to learn skill, patience, and worth for all Your creation. Bless their families who adjust schedules to accommodate the needs of others.


Lord God, Thank you for those whose vocation is medical care.


Through the name of the Ultimate Healer,




Dr. Virgil M. Fry

from his book -Disrupted



Sympathy vs. Empathy

Sympathy vs. Empathy

By Paul Riddle


The metaphor that forms the core of our approach to spiritual care at Lifeline is the image of coming alongside. Coming alongside is about practicing empathy. It’s about being willing to sit with another person and share their pain for awhile. In order to do that, we have to be able to tap into our own experiences of pain, not so we can tell the other person our story to make ourselves feel better, but so we can relate to the pain the other person is feeling and lean into it with them.


Brené Brown, a counseling professor at the University of Houston, produced a brilliant, short video that depicts the empathic response as well as any I’ve ever seen. You can find the video here:


In the video, Brown draws a distinction between sympathy, the typical response of the well-meaning person, and empathy, the response of a person willing to come alongside the hurting person and lean into their pain with them. Give it a view, and think of a time when you’ve experienced empathy when you’re hurting. Didn’t it feel good to have another person leaning in to the pain with you, rather than just standing on the sidelines shouting encouragement?


Good to remember the next time you encounter a friend, co-worker, or family member who’s going through a tough time.



Meet Our Summer Interns 2016


By Dr. Paul Riddle, Director of Spiritual Care

Lifeline Chaplaincy Houston

As I write, we are in Week 2 of the 2016 summer internship, which began on May 13 and ends August 5.

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, and two interns in Central Texas, working in hospitals in Austin and Temple under the supervision of 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.

Houston Internshouston.png

Left to right: Matt Gastineau – North Platte, NE – Pre-Med – York College; Laura Ellis — Abilene, TX – Christian Studies – University of Mary Hardin Baylor; Bradlee Carls – Bakersfield, CA — Biology & Chemistry – York College

Fort Worth InternsFTW.png

Left to right: Rita Rodriguez – San Antonio, TX – Bible & Pre-Med – ACU; Zach Douma – Indiahoma, OK – Preaching / Youth & Family Ministry – Oklahoma Christian; Benjamin McCoy – Catoosa, OK – Bible – Oklahoma Christian; Luke Schumann – Sugar Land, TX – Biblical Text & Missions — ACU


Central Texas Internsct.png

Left to right: Nicole Gates – Centennial, CO – Psychology – York College; Tanner Robbins – Greenwood, AR – Psychology & Vocational Ministry – Oklahoma Christian






Articulating Your Personal Theology of Suffering and Loss

Articulating Your Personal Theology of Suffering and Loss

By Paul Riddle

This exercise is drawn from Lifeline’s training course, “Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss, Part 2.” It’s an exercise in “working” theology, not academic theology. While academic theology is valuable and has its place, most of us don’t carry the collected works of Karl Barth some other noted theologian around in our heads.


In my mind, a person’s working theology is the beliefs and resources he or she draws upon in time of need to make sense of or to cope with a particular situation. A working theology answers the question, “How does my faith inform the way I…”


Ready? Here goes…


The following questions are designed to help you identify some key elements of your theology of suffering and loss – i.e., certain specific beliefs that you hold about God that help you make sense of and deal effectively with suffering and loss in your life.



  1. Think of a time when you personally have experienced significant suffering or a major loss.





  1. Name specific resources from your religious/spiritual tradition that you turned to for comfort or assurance, or that otherwise helped you cope. (Examples: Passages of scripture; biblical images or stories; biblical exemplars like Joseph, Job, or Jesus; Psalms; songs or hymns; prayers; religious or spiritual art)


– How were these resources helpful to you? Be as specific as you can.




  1. Name specific spiritual practices that were helpful to you. (Examples: Prayer – individual or corporate or both; meditation; listening to religious/spiritual music; contemplative practices such as lectio divina; worship; special worship services such as healing services)


– How were these practices helpful to you? Be as specific as you can.




  1. Name specific people who nurtured your spirit. (Examples: A trusted friend; a prayer group; your church; a loved one or significant other)


– How were these people or groups helpful to you? Be as specific as you can.




  1. Reflecting upon your responses to questions 1-4, how might you express your theology of suffering and loss in a brief paragraph?