Author Archives: paulriddle

VOLUNTEERS “COME ALONGSIDE” THOSE WHO ARE HURTING

PR shipAll praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah!  Father of all mercy!  God of all healing counsel!  He 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 there for that person just as God was there for us.                                                                     2 Corinthians 1:3 (The Message)

Earlier in my career, I served almost a decade as a chaplain in the United States Navy.  During those years, I spent a lot of time aboard warships at sea, supporting the sailors and Marines who form the backbone of our sea services.

One of the indelible images that remains with me from my years at sea is that of an operation known as underway replenishment (or, in Navy jargon, UNREP).  When a Navy ship needs more fuel, food, or other supplies, it doesn’t always have the luxury of pulling into the nearest port like you or I would pull our cars into the nearest gas station or convenience store.  It has to be able to get what it needs through underway replenishment.  During an UNREP, the ship comes alongside a support ship, hoses and lines are strung between the two ships (which, by the way, are moving), and the support ship provides whatever is needed.  It’s thrilling, and a little scary, being aboard a ship during an UNREP.  The ships are close together, and the operation tests the nerve and ship-handling skills of both crews, but the result is worth the effort.   

“Coming alongside” is an apt image for the spiritual care Lifeline’s volunteers provide to the patients and families we serve.  In underway replenishment, each ship is fully seaworthy and has its own captain and crew.  The supply ship doesn’t take over the mission of the other ship.  It simply comes alongside and provides the support that is needed.  Similarly, in pastoral encounters with patients and family members, our volunteers come alongside, not to fix or to take over, but to listen, to pray, and to engage in caring conversation.  By doing these things – and even more importantly by simply being there – our volunteers offer reassurance of God’s steadfast love and abiding presence.  This is the unique contribution spiritual care makes to patients’ healing and wholeness.      

A Whole Lot Better When Done Right

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.

 

Blessings,

 

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.

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.

HOUSTON Interns

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FORT WORTH Interns

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

Coming Alongside – By Paul Riddle

COMING ALONGSIDE
By Paul Riddle

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He 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 there for that person just as God was there for us.

2 Corinthians 1:3 (The Message)

Earlier in my career, I served almost a decade as a chaplain in the United States Navy. During those years, I spent a lot of time aboard warships at sea, supporting the sailors and Marines who form the backbone of our sea services.

One of the indelible images that remains with me from my years at sea is that of underway replenishment (or, in Navy jargon, UNREP). When a Navy ship needs more fuel, food or other supplies, it doesn’t always have the luxury of pulling into the nearest port. It has to be able to get what it needs through underway replenishment. During an UNREP, the ship comes alongside a support ship, hoses and lines are strung between the two ships (which, by the way are moving), and the support ship provides whatever is needed. It’s thrilling, and a little scary, being aboard a ship during an UNREP. The ships are close together, and the operation tests the nerve and shiphandling skills of both crews, but the result is worth the effort.

“Coming alongside” is an apt image for the spiritual care Lifeline’s volunteers provide to the patients and families we serve. In underway replenishment, each ship is fully seaworthy and has its own captain and crew. The supply ship doesn’t take over the mission of the other ship. It simply comes alongside and provides the support that is needed. Similarly, in pastoral encounters with patients and family members, our volunteers come alongside, not to fix or to take over, but to listen, to pray, and to engage in caring conversation. By doing these things – and even more importantly by simply being there – our volunteers offer reassurance of God’s steadfast love and abiding presence. This is the unique contribution spiritual care makes to patients’ healing and wholeness.

This contribution is reflected in the following lines from a patient, who wrote to express her thanks to Lifeline’s volunteers who came alongside her and her family during a long illness:

Thank you all for such a wonderful ministry. I appreciate all the visits, prayers, communion, and support for my family during my lengthy 2-month hospital stay. It was so nice being so far away from our own congregation, but having brothers and sisters in Christ to visit. Special thanks to [several named volunteers] and all the others that continued to pray for us. In Christian love…

Book Recommendation

I want to commend a book to you that came to my attention at a Palliative Care Grand Rounds session at Methodist Hospital a few weeks ago. The book is entitled, Mastering Communication with Seriously Ill Patients: Balancing Honesty With Empathy and Hope, by Anthony Back, Robert Arnold, and James Tulsky (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-521-70618-6).

This book is written by physicians for physicians, and it addresses a pressing need in healthcare: The need for better communication between doctors and patients. The authors acknowledge that, for many physicians, communication is not their strong suit. They then proceed to lay out a practical, positive approach that doctors can use to relate more effectively with their patients. What impressed me, aside from the very fact that the book exists, is how similar the emphasis of Back, Arnold and Tulsky is to the emphasis of our training of volunteers and interns at Lifeline.

The authors articulate seven principles which illustrate their overall approach (pp. 6-7):

1. Start with the patient’s agenda.
2. Track both the emotion and the cognitive data you get from the patient.
3. Stay with the patient and move the conversation forward one step at a time.
4. Articulate empathy explicitly.
5. Talk about what you can do before you talk about what you can’t do.

Chapters are devoted to such thorny doctor-patient communication issues as: Talking about serious news; discussing prognosis; conducting a family conference; dealing with conflict; transitions to end-of-life care; talking about dying; and saying goodbye. In each chapter the authors lay out the problem, illustrate it, and lay out a “road map” for the physician to build communication skill in that area. Especially helpful are verbatim-like text boxes in which samples of a conversation are laid out under two columns: “What Happened” and “What We Can Learn.”

The authors function as empathetic, though uncompromising, coaches, providing their fellow physicians with practical tools, challenges, and encouragement in improving their relational skills.

Even though the book is written for physicians, I found it to be a very helpful review of basic communication skills and strategies. It merits close attention by anyone who works closely with persons dealing with serious illness and loss.

Author: Paul Riddle

A Happy Girl!

Lizzie’s energy lit up the room. When I walked in, she greeted me with an enthusiastic, “Hello, Paul!” She was sitting up in bed, bouncing with excitement. Jen, her art teacher, had just arrived and they were about to begin a watercoloring session. Lizzie’s face was bright, and her zest for life was infectious. Everyone in the room was warmed by her glow.

So different from the sad, frightened child I had seen a couple of months ago when I first met her. Injured in a serious car accident that had claimed part of one of her limbs, Lizzie was traumatized not only in body but in spirit as well. What a shock for a child of seven to go through! What a shock for anyone to go through. At our first meeting Lizzie was huddled under the sheets, tentative, almost afraid to engage anyone new, like an injured animal licking its wounds.

Slowly at first, she began bit by bit to adjust. Her mother, Sarah, was by her side constantly, encouraging, supportive, present. And the medical staff couldn’t have been better. Not only the doctors and nurses addressing her physical injuries, but also the child life specialists, physical therapists, chaplains and others who provided emotional and spiritual support. Also family friends, relatives, and her church community all stepped up.

Today was to be our last visit, and we both knew it. Lizzie was to be transferred later that day to a different hospital, where she could receive additional, specialized care. It was a joyful visit, and when it was over she gave me a hug.

Walking away from the room, I felt a sense of joy at the progress Lizzie had made, along with a twinge of sadness that my role in her care had come to an end. I also marveled at God’s ability to mend that which is broken – to bring healing and wholeness to injured bodies and spirits.

I treasure my brief association with Lizzie. In our visits, I sought to provide spiritual support, but I also received a blessing from God through her. For that I am thankful.

Blessings to you, Lizzie. May God strengthen, sustain and guide you all your days.

Author:Paul Riddle

New Beginnings

As we enter a new year, I’m involved in several projects that have to do with making a new start. First, I’m involved in my church’s search for a new preaching minister – always a time of renewal for a church. Second, I’m writing letters of recommendations for three former Lifeline interns who are applying to graduate programs – one in medicine and two in ministry. Third, I’m serving on a Board Certification committee for a new chaplain.

I’m excited to be a part of helping to launch these new beginnings in the lives of people I care about. Not only do I find this work personally satisfying, I also find it spiritually uplifting. At the core of my personal theology is the conviction that God’s main line of business – at least as far as human beings are concerned – is redemption, the making of new beginnings. When I serve on a selection committee, when I help a new chaplain or a former intern launch a career or begin a course of formation, I feel that I’m participating in a small way in God’s Kingdom work of making all things new, and that leaves me with a feeling of deep satisfaction.

God’s blessings to you this week.

Author: Paul Riddle