Pay it forward

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.

Dear David,

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!

Love, Paul

Photo (Paul Figel – 2015 Lifeline Chaplaincy intern and patient from Hondurasintern Paul Fiegl

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.      

Expecting the Unexpected

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

Eternal Music

I am a song

Color bursting

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

The song.

The singing

Of joy to the world

For which we all long.

                                                                                         -David F. Martin

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

faith

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, illnesses.

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Finding God in Our Mortality

 

With each passing year, death seems more tangible.  Physical losses shout loudly to those of us who have traveled not years, but decades.

I noticed weakness first in my hands.  In the first half of life, hermetically sealed bags of food were torn, ripped and defeated with aplomb.  Now, scissors find their way onto my fingers before morsels can be applied from bag to tongue.  The strength is no longer accessible, and though I dutifully squeeze a rubber ball, time and age seem to have their way.

Gary Shandlin, a comedian of note within my generational orbit, recently died.  He was just 66. I say “just” because, at 60, it seems so “around the corner.”

Why do we begin to notice obituaries?  Our mortality beckons us to consider the kingdom of God, and how we participate in its existence.

I am drawn to the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25.  Here Jesus describes his followers as those who visit the sick and those in prison.  Often modern preaching focuses on negative aspects of those who will miss the kingdom of God, while omitting the theological fact that kingdom work is in place to happen now!

Bono, of the band U2, once said:

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house.  God is in the of silence  a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives.  God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war.

As a hospital chaplain, I might add:  “God is in the hospital room.”  It is there that the sick…people just like me, like you…consider their mortality.  When we arrive in those rooms to connect, God is already there.  The kingdom of God is among us.

So join me in re-imagining communing with God in the everyday—sometimes mundane, sometimes dramatic—daily lives we live.  There we are invited to find a most uncommon Presence, one already blessing us in surprising ways.

–David Martin, D.Min.,BCC

david fb post

Meeting Fellow Journeyers

Meeting Fellow Journeyers

JULY 31, 2016 / LSELLISBLOG

 

Note: Laura Ellis served as an intern at Lifeline Chaplaincy Houston in summer, 2016.

 

I truly love my job this summer. I get be a part of something

beautiful. I am often invited in on the most intimate moments of

people’s lives. I get to share in their vulnerability, pain,

frustration, joy, and hope. I get to meet people from all different

walks of lives and hear a part of their story. These moments are

precious, and they are sacred.

Sometimes however people are less than willing to open up even

after they are handed the talking stick. I have to be honest, not

every person I visit feels the urge to reach for the boxes of tissues,

because they are so touched by the incredible conversation that

we had. Some people invite me in, and then we interact in a few

moments of uncomfortable small talk until it is evident that my

time to leave has come. Patients are constantly bombarded by

people who storm into their not so private space at any and all

hours, and some do not want a chaplain added to that list. Some

patients are in the hospital for quick check ups, and do not need

spiritual guidance in their less than dire hour of need. Most all of

these patients however are polite.

There have been a few patients though, who were not so cordial. I

was doing rounds on my normal floor, following the normal

protocol of what rooms to visit first. It was a routine day. I had

seen a couple people already when I walked into her room. I have

a bit of a litany of an introduction, one that includes the words, “I

Sacred Spaces: Encountering God in the Unexpected

am one of the chaplains here.” Once I said these words however,

the reaction of this particular patient was far from anything I was

used to.

Before this summer I got my hair cut for the sole reason that I

thought shorter hair makes you look older. As it is I look like I am

  1. Maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. I used to

work in a middle school, and one day a teacher stopped me in the

hall and asked what class I was supposed to be in. So I was really

hoping the haircut would at least make me appear that I legally

drove myself to the hospital. For someone who was planning on

playing the role of spiritual caregiver to people usually much

older than myself, I could take all the help I could get. Sadly this

haircut had the opposite effect that I was hoping for. I went from

being 15 to 12 in a matter of a few quick snips. It is possible that I

am being mildly dramatic, but not by much.

Some of the people I visit are acutely aware of my youth. Some of

them even comment on it. Many are excited that someone so

young is interested in hospital ministry. Some seem a little

skeptical. But almost everyone comes around in the end.

My age is something essential to my being that I do not have

much control over, and I had grown accustom to people asking

about it. For some people, there was another elephant in the room

about an aspect of myself that they do not like to see in a minister.

Most people do not mind it, but on that routine day I met

someone who did.

I entered the room and introduced myself as a chaplain to the

elderly white haired woman in the bed. She sat up abruptly,

furrowed her brow, and snarled her upper lip into a face. “You’re

what?” she spat out. I moved closer to her bed and explained

again who I was and why I was there. I thought maybe she did

not understand or hear clearly what I said the first time.

“No. You’re not a chaplain,” she said with wide eyes.

This was a new one for me. I was unsure of what to say in

response. Fortunately, or unfortunately as it was, the woman

filled the empty quiet space for me. She spent the next 5 minutes

informing that I could not be a chaplain because I was a woman.

She told me that she knew the church was changing, but she did

not know it had fallen so far. She was very clear of her disgust on

the subject. She was even generous enough to back up her belief

with Bible verses, which I found very thoughtful of her to really

go the extra mile.

The only comfort she took in our visit, was finding out that I did

not preach sermons or lead my own church. Even though she

became slightly less hostile, I honestly was still pretty eager to get

out of room. I asked my typical parting question about whether

there was anything I could do for her. In my panic, I made the

terrible mistake of mentioning prayer.

“You cannot pray for me,” she said with a laugh as if I had told

the world’s funniest knock knock joke.

This was an incredibly alarming visit for me. As a religion major, I

am used to being in the all-boys club. Up until this point however,

my arguments for women in ministry against someone who

believed differently were always theoretical. The person I was

debating was not attacking me, but an idea. This encounter

however was a personal rejection, and I have to say I did not

enjoy the way it felt.

Even though every fiber of my defensive self screamed to fight

back, and to insist to this 70 year old woman that my beliefs were

right and hers were wrong, I knew that debating would be

incredibly harmful to the visit. More importantly, it might have

been harmful for her relationship with God.

Rejection sucks. I’m certainly not pretending that it doesn’t. I am

slightly disappointed by the fact that I was not able to have a

meaningful conversation with her. And I am incredibly annoyed

by the fact that if I were male, that conversation might have

happened.

But here’s the slightly hard to swallow truth. The truth is that her

understanding of a woman’s role in the church went against my

belief system. The truth is that I wanted nothing more than to

offer my well-rehearsed counter argument. The truth is that her

words personally offended me a little bit. But the truth is that her

beliefs did not harm her relationship with God. And the truth is

that my belief system did not really matter in the situation,

because ministry is not about me.

During training, we were taught to come alongside and meet

someone where they are. This stranger and I were not in the same

place. But as I stood in that dimly lit cookie cutter hospital room

trying to pick my mouth up off the ground at her blatant rejection

of my well-meaning attempts to care for her, I was reminded of

why I was there. It was my job to meet her where she was in her

journey. As much as I wanted to drag her over to where I was on

my personal path, I realized that desire would only appease what

I wanted. The difficulty, yet beauty of our calling to genuinely

love others, is that it is selfless. Or at least it is supposed to be.

May we embrace the people we encounter by meeting them

exactly where they are on their unique life journey. Not to

judge, or to correct, or to pull them over to our own shiny path,

but to meet them where they are as a fellow journeyer and to

ask, “Can I walk with you for a bit?” And let God do the rest.

 

 

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