The Cleveland Clinic has rendered a significant public service by producing a series of short videos on empathy. The first installment of the series, Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care, which runs about 5 minutes, presents shots of a dozen or so patients, family members, and hospital staff going about their business in the hospital. In each shot, a phrase appears describing the person’s situation, for example, “Seeing Dad for the last time,” “Waiting for heart transplant,” “First vacation in years, starting tomorrow,” “Too shocked to comprehend the news,” etc. The video ends with a question, flashed on the screen, “If you could stand in someone else’s shoes – hear what they hear – see what they see – feel what they feel – would you treat them differently?”

Empathy – the ability to see the world through another person’s point of view, is among the most fundamental skills pastoral caregivers, whether volunteers or professionals, bring to their encounters with patients, their loved ones, and the hospital staff members who care for them. The Cleveland Clinic video illustrates empathy with power, and challenges all of us to see things as others see them, and in so doing, practice the love of Christ. To see the video, go to

By Paul Riddle



MAY 15 – AUGUST 7, 2015


By Paul Riddle

One position remains available for the 2015 summer internship in Houston.

For program description, qualifications, and information on how to apply, go to

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, to gain first-hand experience providing pastoral care in the Fort Worth area hospitals 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.

The Heart of a Child

The Heart of a Child

Paul rocks back and forth in church.  He’s tall and stocky.  His appearance does not belie his developmental deficits.  I like Paul.  He has the heart of a child.  While singing hymns, his rocking swings in pendulum to the beat of the music.  He shows no embarrassment.

A couple of weeks ago, the congregation was led in a soaring song of praise for the majesty of the Creator.  Paul fell to his knees, then put his face on the ground with palms down on the floor.  I wanted to fall down beside him in this unabashed display of affection, but self consciousness prevented me.  That was my loss. I believe my new friend,Paul, has it right.

Jesus, in Matthew 18:3, told his audience, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

I don’t suggest that I’m not going to heaven because I don’t fall on my face as my friend, Paul, did in worship.  I am suggesting that such displays are a pure example of what Jesus is suggesting to each one of us.  We are to come to God with unrestrained adoration in our prayers and actions.

And yes, we could cut loose from time and let out some hearty praise.  Of course, life is scarred by pain and death.  I wouldn’t pretend otherwise.

Yet there is much for which to be thankful.

As we approach Christmas Day, give some thought to the most precious of gifts, and like the wise men, fall down and worship.

David Martin



By Paul Riddle

“Coming alongside” is a key image we use in Lifeline’s training to describe the art of spiritual care. We come alongside persons who are hurting where they are, not to fix or make the bad go away, but rather to support, to be the embodiment of Christ’s love, and to walk with them awhile on their journey. The story below illustrates what coming alongside looks like in practice:

One day I was called to “come alongside” Serena, a young woman whose baby boy had been born with serious complications. Serena took pleasure in showing off her new baby. She spoke glowingly of her love for her baby, what a blessing he was, and how good God had been to the family through this ordeal. Despite her upbeat tone, I sensed that there was a lot of anxiety just beneath the surface. We were standing by the side of the baby’s bed in NICU, looking down at him, and I placed my hand on Serena’s shoulder as she spoke. At one point in the conversation, when she made a remark about how good God had been to her and her family, I said, “Yes, God is good, but I imagine this is still pretty scary for you, isn’t it.” Serena, who had been standing very erect and seemed somewhat tense, relaxed visibly. Tears came to her eyes and her face reddened. Nodding, she wordlessly buried her head into my chest. I held her as she cried quietly, and after a few moments she broke the embrace, reached for a tissue from a nearby box, and dabbed at her eyes. “It sure is,” she said, “Thanks for understanding. Would you please pray for my baby?” After the prayer, we visited a few more minutes, and as I was preparing to leave, she said, “I really appreciate your coming. God sent you at just the right time.”



By Paul Riddle

People who express interest in Lifeline’s pastoral care training often say things like, “I want to know what to say when I visit someone in the hospital.” Behind this question is often a desire to find a “silver bullet” that will make the patient’s situation better. Experienced spiritual caregivers have learned, however, that what patients and families need most is not “healing words” but rather a listening ear. This poem, from an anonymous author, has been in Lifeline’s training curriculum for years. It embodies as well as anything I know the spirit we seek to instill in those who come alongside persons who are hurting: LISTEN.

Author Unknown


When I ask you to listen to me,

And you start giving advice,

You have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me,

And you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way,

You are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me,

And you feel that you have to do

Something to solve my problems,

You have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen: All that I ask is that you listen,

Not talk or do – just hear me.

When you do something for me

That I need to do myself,

You contribute to my fear and feelings of inadequacy.

But when you accept as a simple fact

That I do feel what I feel, no matter how irrational,

Then I can quit trying to convince you

And go about the business

Of understanding what’s behind my feelings.

So, please listen and just hear me

And, if you want to talk,

Wait a minute for your turn – and

I’ll listen to you.

One Holy Night

Twas the night of Christmas
And all through the loft,
The mice fell silent,
Not even a cough.

For here in their barn,
A little baby lay,
Where cows chewed their stubble
And fleas had their way.

A young mother shivered
Worn out by her labor,
But God looked down
With pride and sweet favor.

This child she had borne
Was destined for death.
A terrible lance
Would draw his last breath.

Yet the power of heaven
Would triumph at last
Jesus was raised and
His salvation held fast.

So in this Christmas Season
If ill you may be,
Look again at this story
And joyful you’ll see,

That death is defeated
And suffering will pass.
Jesus is here
His glory will last.

David Martin

Ice Storm at Grandad’s House

An overcast sky makes the leafless shrubs even more drear it seems.  Winter has settled into North Texas and that is a good thing.  Scripture reminds us that a seed must fall to the ground and die, if it is to be renewed come spring.  These winter days remind me of an ice storm that shut down the electric power in both my home and the home of my cousins across the pasture.  My Granddad had gas heat and so the families converged for several days while eight children gleefully rejoiced in the forced reunion.  I’m sure our parents were not as thrilled, but they made good use of their time cooking on the gas stove in the kitchen.  Smells of cornbread and bacon cooking in an iron skillet can’t be beat.  The cows were milked twice a day as the chores didn’t stop on the farm where we all lived.  Granddad had an attic above a flight of narrow steep stairs.  Tucked away in the closets and “cubby” holes were old clothes and hats from days gone by.  Once we found some loose change in an old purse.  To the young mind, it felt like pirates treasure!  Our training in right and wrong compelled us to report this to Granddad, and to our delight, he said, “Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers!”  Now that was a glorious day.  Tales were told of the depression years from the adults.  Granddad could spin a yarn, and he would preach an old timer’s sermon, which we could scarcely understand, as he put it in a brogue so thick you could practically ladle it with a spoon.  The fun was in his telling, however, and how he would grin with delight as the grandchildren would laugh at his antics.

Those days are gone, fallen to the ground as leaves fall from a tree.  Grandchildren have been born into our brood, and miles make reunions rare.  A new generation chats back and forth on social media proclaiming how they will never have what the older generation have now.  I seriously doubt this as they hold in their hands computers more complex than the one that put men on the moon.  The future is theirs and us “old” folks do what our parents did when we tried the latest gizmo…shake our heads in wonder at what spring may hold.  It is part and parcel of the great dance of life, winter and spring, summer and fall.

May your Christmas bring you new memories that you will cherish for years to come.

And just think, spring is right around the corner!