Category Archives: Learning Material

Understanding How Perception Informs How People Cope With Illness and Loss

Each of us has a unique set of perceptions, based on our life experience, our upbringing, and many other factors.

Perception is when we understand, comprehend, and judge what one has gained through one’s senses. fb post 11.16.17 cont.

Perceiving is “the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation.

The interpersonal communication gap is the difference between the message you intend to communicate and the message that is actually received by another person. The ICG is influenced by the feelings, intentions, attitudes, and thoughts of both the speaker and the listener.

Narrowing the Interpersonal Communication Gap (ICG)

There are three primary communication modes used by people to transmit information from inside themselves to the external world.

  1. Words
  2. Tone of Voice
  3. Body Language

When receivers hear and see the speaker’s communication, they must decode that message and figure out its meaning.

Major ICG  occurs when the listener infers something different from what the speaker intends.

It is possible to decode different messages from the same encoded message.

Words do not mean the same thing to everyone.  (The same is true for tone of voice & body language. Connotations vary from individual to individual, and also from culture to culture.)

Awareness of the ICG allows:

  • More effective use of lag time. (We listen at a faster rate than we speak; lag time is the difference between the two rates.)
  • Reduction of errors in communication
  • A means of testing our perceptions for accuracy
  • Fewer errors in messages sent. We never reach perfection.

Recognizing The Importance Of Validation As A Tool For Spiritual Healing

validationValidating Emotions:

  • Painful feelings that are expressed, acknowledged, and validated by a trusted listener will diminish.
  • Painful feelings that are ignored will gain strength.

Basic Concepts of Validation

  • Acknowledging the other person’s feelings
  • Identifying the feelings
  • Offering to listen
  • Helping them label the feelings
  • Being there for them
  • Remaining present physically and emotionally
  • Being patient
  • Being accepting and non-judgemental

This is simpler than we think!

We have found that if one just validates another, the other will usually be able to work out their own emotional problems even faster than if we were to give them our advice.

In summary the pastoral caregiver is present to help a patient and caregiver experience as fully as possible the love God has for them. Pain is often present in a patient’s room. We cannot fix pain. Emotions are always present. We can validate their emotions. We enter the room knowing we cannot fix those who are present; in fact, the pastoral caregiver should not even try. But we can love them. Loving them means “”hearing” them, that is, acknowledging their concerns and feelings as authentic. Loving them, depending upon circumstances, often means touching them; loving them often means praying with or for them. The purpose of the chart is to illustrate some of the ways a pastoral caregiver can bring the love of God to patients and their loved ones into the room.

To learn more register to our workshop below. A 15-hour intensive workshop designed to equip beginning pastoral caregivers with basic skills and concepts that will enable them to provide competent spiritual support to patients and families dealing with serious illness and loss.

Ministry In Times of illness and lossREGISTER HERE



Central Texas – Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss, Part 1 – May, 2017

Tom Nuckels our facilitator of this event and his assistant Valerie Crim snapped some pics of their training session learning together, role playing, and a group shot. It is an amazing workshop with a lot to learn and also a lot of fun. Big thank you to the registrants of this workshop.

“Ministry in Times of Illness and Loss” is a two-part training course for spiritual caregivers. Intended primarily to train Lifeline Chaplaincy’s pastoral care volunteers, the course is open to all persons who have an interest in developing spiritual care skills. Men and women involved in ministry, church leadership, and helping professions such as medicine, nursing, counseling, and social work have found this training to be highly valuable in both their professional practice and their personal lives.

Part 1

(formerly called “Creating a Healing Community”), is a 15-hour intensive workshop designed to equip beginning pastoral caregivers with basic skills and concepts that will enable them to provide competent spiritual support to patients and families dealing with serious illness and loss. Registration fee: $50.00, payable at the door. Scholarships are available if needed.

Topics include:

Loss and Crisis

From Casual Visit to Spiritual Encounter

Emotions 101

Perceptions and the Interpersonal Gap

Basic Listening Strategies and Communication Skills

Story Listening

“Why Me?”

Grief and Grieving

Self-care for the Pastoral Caregiver

Effective Hospital Ministry




Understanding Emotions

Degrees of Emotions

Behavior is driven by emotions. Emotions are driven by thoughts. Thoughts are underpinned by beliefs, and the human mind can believe anything!


How Emotional States Play Out in Life

The tables demonstrate how various situations produce emotions that in turn cause behavior. The search for the emotion or feeling behind the behavior (and hleping the patient or other recongnize thier own feelings) is one of the pastoral caregiver’s primary tasks.

Slide 2

Expressing your feelings can be demonstrated directly or indirectly through various behavior; commands, questions, accusations, name calling, and sarcasm. For example: Using a command – Directly: “I hurt too much to hear anymore.” or Indirectly: “Shut up!”

Understanding the concept of “Emotional Intelligence”

Defined in 5 dimensions:

  • Knowing one’s own emotions (self-awareness)
  • Managing one’s emotions
  • Motivating oneself
  • Recognizing emotions in others (othe-awereness)
  • Handling relationships

A primary goal for he pastoral caregiver is to help the patient and family acknowledge and understand their emotions.

Register HereCTx Registration

Effective Personal Coping Resources During A Medical Crisis

Each of us is responsible for developing the innate characteristics that have been provided by our Creator.  Some areas that may be most useful to focus on are listed below.

  1. Spirituality.  The development of our spiritual dimension is unquestionably the single greatest determinant of pastoral effectiveness.  As one deeply spiritual chaplain has said, “I want everything I come in contact with to be affected by the presence of God in my life.”  This statement lies at the core of the pastoral relationship, especially when interacting with those in crisis and loss.
  2. Religion.  How we connect our spiritual dimension to our religious tradition is another key component of effective coping with the crises that come our way.  Religious practices and community can be sustaining during these times.
  3. Family.  Those who have the blessing of a strong nuclear and extended family will be able to draw on these bonds during times of disruption.
  4. Personal Foundation.  One recognized school (Coach University) that trains personal coaches emphasizes the need to develop (in advance) a strong personal foundation.  “One can go further with greater ease if one first takes the time to build a strong personal foundation.”  In coaching language a personal foundation includes the following.
  5. Life experience.  There is no substitute for having experienced the realities of life’s ups and downs.  The more one has experienced in the past, the more one can trust that the current situation will work itself out.  Trust generates peace.  In Christian terms, if we know God has been with us in the past we can more easily trust that He will be with us in the present and in the future.  Philip Yancey has said, “Faith is believing in advance that which will only make sense in reverse.”


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.      

Hope for the Journey: He Will Direct our Paths through Illness

It’s not easy being seriously ill. Those I encounter at the cancer hospital will concur. As will those with heart failure, faithmental illness, addictions, long term stays in nursing homes or rehab centers. Or those who self manage chronic, some -days-are-better-than-others, illnessess.

Hospital patients can learn to flourish in trying circumstances, but it’s not easy. Being uprooted from one’s normal daily schedule forces us to tap into resources we’d rather not use. When health crisis hits, faith, family, finances, and future plans get shuffled. Even going home can be traumatic, for lifestyles must be adapted to accommodate limitations.

But perhaps our greatest life lessons are learned here. A normal, rarely uprooted routine can keep us self-satisfied and shallow. We might be lulled into failing to be a good family member, or good neighbor, or friend to the friendless. We might expect, or even demand, that God keep our lives smooth, trouble-free, and distant from suffers.

And then faith becomes a means to manage routine, rather than a means to encounter God deeply.

Once I was privileged to minister to Jane, an educator whose husband as in the final stages of leukemia demise, Jack had tried every medical option available with limited success. by the time I met him, he was comatose and unresponsive. Jane and her mother kept constant vigil over Jack, filling me with wonderful stories of this dying man’s incredible life of public and personal service to troubled adolescents.

At his death, we joined hands around Jack’s now restful body to pray and read the 23rd Psalm together. Gathering her belongings from the bedside, Jane began to relate how hard this battle had been, how consuming the hospitalizations were, how disrupted their lives had become.

Then she revealed her source of stamina as she quoted her favorite scripture: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your path. (Proverbs 3:3-5)

For Jane, the rough journey had been manageable because of the grounding of those words, the deep commitment of her marriage vows, the emotional support of family, friends, and church members back home. It was not a battle she and Jack choose, but it was one they fought together.

May we all, with God’s help, find such grounding when turmoil strikes. May we also be grounding for others who need words of encouragement.

By, Virgil Fry D.Min., BCC