First Summer reflection from Kate Herring – Abilene Christian University student
I have some new shoes, a new outfit, a new bow, new teachers, new classmates, new schedule, new normal. The first day of school no matter what year of school it is always a frightening time, but that was the least of my worries. The first day of fifth grade was spent clinging on to the hope that my uncle would wake up. My little mind sits silently in the waiting room of the ICU because I am too young to go back and see him. I pray and plead with God for Him not to take my uncle away. I sing and promise that if God does this for me I will spend the rest of my life serving him and doing the work of the Lord. I am only 10 years old and my uncle is the one that tells me I am beautiful, makes me laugh with his silly jokes, and is a father figure to my cousins who needs one. My little family needs him. The nurse gave clearance for us to go back to his room clinging to the hands of my loved ones we sang “it is well” as a family around his bed. But, it was not well with my soul. I need him. My family needs him. But, a couple moments later God took him from me. When my mom told me he passed, I did not cry nor let out a scream. I just stood in disbelief. My precious Uncle left this earth and now is with Jesus, probably singing off key. I don’t understand this, and I don’t know what to think. My ten year old brain is going insane. He is gone. His body is dead. We won’t see him on earth, but we will see him again. It wasn’t until eight years later, I came to terms with my uncle’s death.
I never thought about God weeping. I never thought about how He comes and hurts alongside of us. In John 11:35, Jesus’ friend has passed and “He wept.” Jesus came and broke down just like I did when my uncle passed. But earlier in the passage in John 11: 25-26, Jesus is comforting his friend’s (Lazarus) sister and he makes a promise, Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
As I read this, the song ‘It is Well’ popped into my head and the memory of my uncle. Form this learned: it is okay to weep, it is okay to mourn, but it is not okay to forget the promise. Jesus resurrected my uncle from his sins, so death is not the end of his life… but maybe just the beginning. Jesus has resurrected me from my sins, so that I may live after death and one day see my uncle again.
Until then, I am stuck in a broken world that can foster pain. In this pain it is okay to weep, it is okay to grieve, because this world is only the beginning and it is not my home. So with a longing in my heart to see him again, I patiently wait on this earth clinging on to the promise that Jesus is the resurrection and life… So, death where is your sting?
Listen to this 30 minute Pod Cast: Self-care for caregivers featuring licensed counselor Jennifer Christian interviewing Dr. Virgil Fry.
This thank you note and photo was sent from Paul Figel one of our 2015 interns to David Martin our Spiritual Care Director – Tarrant County. We are so proud of Paul and all he is accomplishing in His name. As you read this note, you’ll hear the impact that the Lifeline Chaplaincy internship continues to have on him.
Thank you so much for your contribution to our medical mission trip through your donation as well as your prayers. God did amazing things thru us as we made ourselves available to Him. We strive to bring quality holistic care to the poorest of Honduras, not focusing on the number of patients but instead on allowing the Spirit to lead each visit and conversation. God came through and allowed us to do more than I ever could’ve imagined! [Eph 3:20 – Now to Him who is able to do infinitely more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us]
We were able to reach, treat, and pray either over 1000 patients, all of whom will continue to be served and encouraged by fellow believers living in Honduras long term through Sparrow Missions. I gained great medical experience interviewing, examining patients and collaborating with Physicians on diagnosis and treatment plans.
More importantly, the spirit showed me several valuable experiences and lessons to take away form the trip. I learned that though medicine is a wonderful service, it has an end as there’s only so much you can do and its healing is temporary. The relationships, trust and conversations however provide opportunity for the spirit to work through believers, bearing fruit that will never perish. I pray to keep an eternal focus throughout my journey and to trust God rather than myself or medicine. [Psalm 20:7 – Some Boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God.]
Thank you David!
Photo (Paul Figel – 2015 Lifeline Chaplaincy intern and patient from Honduras
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 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.
It may be counter-cultural, even in some churches, but lamenting is truly biblical. Bible readers find that faithful followers of Yahweh all encountered seasons of distress. And more than a few of them openly, verbally, took their distresses and disgusts right to the ears of their God.
They knew, they loved, they trusted in a God who was not immobile, not impotent, not distant. They knew God as one knows an actual loving parent, one open to all expressions: praise and dismay, thanksgiving and frustration.
And they are called faithful.
By: Virgil Fry
I am a song
Upon the ear
Sometimes a song of quiet strings
Haunting melodies or flowing streams
Sometimes a piercing blast on a trumpet
Calling “awake! Awake!
Come play and dance
To the song I hear
It is joy or sorrow
Glee or pain
Do you dare to dance with me?
Or choose your own melody, but dance.
Dance with abandon
Stare deep within
And don’t be afraid
Of the wildness there
That seeks a melody
Your melody to aria bring
And chorus swell
With angels throng
Of joy to the world
For which we all long.
-David F. Martin
It’s not easy being seriously ill. Those I encounter at the cancer hospital will concur. As will those with heart failure, mental 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