Tuesday, September 25, 2012


 Preface: Let me include a preface, that hopefully keeps me from too much criticism, but I do accept whatever comes my way. I love the College of Business Administration, my professors, and I love ACU.  It has changed me for a better person.  All of my professors know me by name, and most of them are grateful to know my background, baggage, and ambitions.  They don’t just teach me, but love me.  All of my professors are knowledgeable in their field and deserve the highest respect.  This post will delve into my problem in the classroom and the results of it, not towards the competency of any of my professors.  Enjoy the read, and add in your thoughts, whether constructive, or negative, I’m a big boy I can handle it.
How Would Jesus Conduct That Audit
Last week I posted a status that drew some criticism, but I also received several messages from people asking me the same thing.
Here’s the status I posted last week:
            When I went through the admissions process for ACU, I was told how big religion & faith were to play in the classroom, but, I just don't see it in my classes. While I love my professors & believe they are all spiritually grounded, I believe money plays a bigger motivation in teaching what success looks like than integrating our faith in the business world.”
I started out as a freshman at Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, a small Division III school in the hill country.  I went there for a lot of the wrong reasons, another story for another day, but when I arrived at Schreiner I knew I wanted to be an accounting major, I knew I wanted to make money.  Then I started taking Jesus seriously.  I was baptized early in my life and have been Christian since I could properly pronounce the word, I was in speech therapy until 6th grade, but calling yourself a Christian and following Jesus are two different things.  So, when I started following Jesus intentionally, and looking for ways to love others, best I could I found money wasn’t everything. 
            Now, this is where Abilene Christian University comes into the picture.  Schreiner was a good place, but for me, it wasn’t what I needed, I needed an intentional community living out a life for the Kingdom.  Concan Church of Christ , mainly the Bennetts, told me about this school in Abilene, Texas.  So, I went on a visit in the Fall of 09’ while still a student at Schreiner.  I fell in love with the place, but there was one thing I was told that I don’t know has been true.  I took a tour, and as we went through the College of Business Administration, COBA, our guide went to about how this isn’t a regular business department, where you just learn to do taxes, and start a business, but how you learn to follow Jesus in the business world.  Our guide said, the thing that I had been trying to do in my life, follow Jesus.  I didn’t take it lightly. 
            Let’s fast forward to my arriving at ACU.  I loved it, I still do!  Singing praises in Chapel every day, singing people on campus who you knew truly cared for you, having professors know your name and find out what you want in this life.  In the spring, I didn’t have any business classes, I had English & Art with Dr. Joe Stephenson, Astronomy with Dr. Head, Finite Mathematics with Dr. Kerebegov, and Life & Teaching of Jesus with Steve Austin, with the exception of Dr. Kerebegov I got close to all of my professors and these classes, with the exception of Finite Mathematics all of these classes integrated faith into the classroom.   I loved being in class, and diving into faith questions in different disciplines.  Professor Joe would take prayer requests several times, and in all we read we would try and reconcile that with our faith tradition.  Dr. Head would look at creation in such a unique way that brought me as a disinterested science student appreciating all we had in a way that helped me learn and grow.  And Dr. Austin, I just call him Steve now, well he convinced me to go to Israel in the summer of 2011, so I would say his class was effective. 
            The next semester I was in the business building nearly 80% of the time, to now where I’m there 100% of the time.  I would like to clarify what this post is about out, and what I it is not about.  This post is about my time in class, not outside of class.  This is my account of my time while inside the classroom.  We have exceptional professors here at A.C.U.  that know accounting, business, management, finance, marketing, and etc.  We have professors, who are of the Church of Christ tradition who are devout Christians.  I will say this over and over, I love my professors, I love C.O.B.A. and all that it has empowered me to be.  I just believe there is conflict in teaching success.   We are taught in the Bible to not be motivated by this world.  Romans 12:2 is a wonderful coffee mug verse, that says clearly, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world…”  But, walk around the business department, look at some of the success stories, yes there are great stories about social entrepreneurship for example with Mission Lazarus, but look at some of the other posters.  

            “COBA Graduate starting salary..  $$$$

            “% job placement rate…

            “acceptance rate…

Again don’t get me wrong, I love those numbers, and I want a job, acceptance to grad school, and a salary at a job, hopefully above the poverty line.  But, if we want to live this Jesus thing out as much as we say we want to, I want to see sign around COBA that say,

“Tom Jackson preached in the name of Jesus wherever he went.  “

“Lauren Smith took less money to work at a company that was ethical.”

“Jack Todd was a disciple of Christ in an organization that never knew His name.”

I believe the classes at COBA are preparing us for great business leadership in the workplace, and I know by COBA’s teaching I will be able to be successful working at a firm one day.  That’s not all I want, our success is not measured by what our job performance, but by King Jesus who spoke truth into all of us.  In COBA for every class, the professors choose a Bible verse for their respective syllabuses.  One time, a professor told us his verse he chose, and said, (in a sarcastic tone) “Yeah this course will really change your walk.”  The problem I have is not exactly with what the Professor said, but that I was promised my business classes would integrate faith and religion in all fields.  I want my professors to take on the stance of:

 “If Jesus was a tax accountant how would he go about his job?”

“If Jesus was in the field conducting an audit what would that look like?”

“If Jesus was a CEO, what would be his leadership philosophy?

These questions may seem odd, even strange, but we cannot all be Bible majors, there is business and I believe ACU wants to send Christian men and women in the field, which they are, but are being as intentional as possible.  When we take this Jesus thing seriously, our thinking tends to change.  We ask tough questions about what we are doing and no better way to inform us then by our professors in the classroom. 
            Wherever I end up in the business field I want that to be my mission field.  I don’t want to look at accounting and sarcastically say I’m working for Jesus.
            I don’t want to see the new accounting grad fall victim to the American dream of 250K mortgage, car payment, and 80” t.v. when the church only gets the crumbs.
            I don’t want a girl working for a marketing firm when given an assignment that goes against living her life out for Jesus, fall along the wide path, and forget the narrow. 
            Fellow students, how do you feel?  Is this thinking too radical?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why O Lord...

Why is it when I try to do good, people reject it?

Why is it when I feed a man and pour my heart out to him, pray with him, he still asks if I could open my wallet.

Why is it when I’m single, my friends think there’s something wrong with me?

Why do some think me being in a relationship is healing?

Why does life tell me to be successful I need to accumulate possessions?

Why do people question me about why I won’t drink alcohol with them?

Why do I find more fellowship in a prison of inmates than in some churches I’ve been at?

Why did You send us all here, if only some were to never hear of Him, or experience His Love?

Why do You trust me so much to handle bad circumstances?

Why do I have to hide my scars to please your standards?

Why did she give me back the ring?

Why are my shoulders so heavy?

Why can’t love be preached more on t.v. than being republican or democrat?

Why do people use the name of God to commit acts of violence and oppression?

Why do I feel alone in my hometown?

Why is Your Kingdom not here?

Why when I prayed at her bedside she passed away within minutes?

Why are we plagued with sickness and illness?

Why do Your arms feel so far away?

Why is heaven a destination, and not a reality?

Why is it okay to preach love and inclusion, yet exclude those who believe differently?

Why do those who preach love and humility walk around with the biggest heads?

Why do You stand by when your children die?

Why am I hear, O Lord, answer your child…

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dear ACU Freshmen

Dear ACU Freshmen,
            Welcome to Abilene, Texas!  A place that will change who you are, and at times make you wonder, “Why on earth, did I come to west Texas?”  I remember as it was yesterday arriving in January of 2010 as a transfer student from Schreiner University to Abilene Christian.  I was looking for a fresh start, somewhere to make a difference.  This is a letter I wanted to write to you as you consider your time at ACU and what choices to make, and what Abilene Christian is all about.  Following are questions that have been asked to me during the previous Welcome Week.  Please ask any more questions that you wish for me to answer.

            Is there a bubble surrounding ACU?

Plastic?  No, but at times there feels like there will be a bubble surrounding campus.  Embrace it at times, and more often than not, get out and discover Abilene.  Go do neighbor to neighbor in a poor part of town.  Go do Meals on Wheels and visit with the lonely, with which you could be their only interaction all day.

            Do I need to join a social club? 

I will point out before I answer this question that I am not in a social club.  But, I am not against them either; I’m in fact quite neutral on the issue.  First, you do not need to join a social club to be successful on campus or to get involved, I tend to think I came out okay, and I didn’t join a club.  But I live with a club guy, and have friends in all club, they are all wonderful people.  When you consider pledging your sophomore year ask yourself why do you want to join a club, and truly evaluate your reasons, because each club is different, as are you as an individual.  I have seen several people who truly had wonderful club experiences, and have seen others where club truly changed them as a person and what they stood for. 

If you do choose to pledge, remember your identity is not in a club.

            Do I have to go to chapel every day?

Technically, no you do not have to go every day.  But, you do need to go the majority of the time, you have to achieve the highly sought after target of 55 credits a day.  There are also forums at night, where you can receive up to 3 credits at one sitting, and there are ways in which you can serve in replacement to going to chapel.  For example you can deliver meals on wheels once a week instead of going to chapel.  Also, if you are working during that time, (usually it has to be off campus) you can get a chapel exemption.  You will never be exempt from all of your credits, you will always have to go to at least 12 days of chapel, or get 12 credits in some form or fashion. 

A quick note on how I feel about chapel:

Chapel is wonderful, and you will at times get bored with it, be distracted by others on their phone and their talking, but remember when you walk into chapel you are entering into a time of worship, a time of community worship where we get the privilege to take a break from our busy days and worship God.  Think about the God you know and love when you walk into Moody.

            Where should I go and eat?

This is one of my favorite questions, but I will just target food styles on this one. 

For Mexican food, go to Los Arcos on Ambler, it is amazing!

For a burger, go to Wholly Cow on Judge Ely or Lucy’s on Treadaway

For a date, take her to Beehive in downtown Abilene

For a cheap place, go to Little Panda & Rosas.

For a place where you will not be able to move, go to Bells Chicken House on the west side of Ambler, all you can eat sides with fried chicken, or my favorite the chicken fried ribeye.

            How are you a business major at a Christian college?

When I first arrived at ACU I went through the whole “Should I be a Bible Major panic?”  One thing that allowed me to be a peace with the decision were two quotes I heard one was from A.W. Tozer:

             “It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular; it is why he does it.”

The second quote came from Dr. Rick Lytle, dean of College of Business Administration when he said, “More people go to work, than church.”

These two quotes have made me come to peace about not being a defined Bible major, but I do consider myself to be a missions major, and that is what’s so great about ACU.  The professors and staff make you think missionally about anything you want to do in your life.

            Are girls coming here strictly for their Mrs. degree?

Of course there are some here, but don’t let that be the focus of any dating relationship you get here on campus.  Also, this is going to sound radical, you do not have to date and get married here, or ever.  There is a huge myth that to be successful, on graduation day, you need to have 1. A diploma 2. A job and 3. A spouse.  I would highly recommend getting the first two, but the third do as you want, and live your life how you want to live it.  Not how your parents or grandparents want you to live your life.  If that is something you desire in the short term, my blessings on your search, but don’t force anything.

            How do I find a church home?

There are over 600 churches in Abilene, with all of them uniquely different.  From Beltway that has 1,000’s of members to Hamby that has less than a 100.  From a church that is deaf and uses sign language to a church that is charismatic and speaks in tongues, you will find plenty of diversity here in Abilene.  Go and explore and find community.  If you have one bad experience, do not let that discourage you from going somewhere else, or even trying that church again.  Go to a place where you don’t just sit in a pew, but you help contribute to that churches growth.

Remember, you will never find a church that looks exactly like you. 

            What’s the best piece of advice you can give me?

1.         Enjoy your scraped knees.  You will fail, and fall down, and hurt, and cry maybe in the first week of school.  Embrace it, embrace the change.  This is a new chapter of your life and you need to reali ze all of your comfort zones are gone.  Get out there, and do not fear the unexpected, the rejection, and the possibility of failure, embrace it and strive for success.  Your education and time at ACU is an investment, you get what you put into it.

2.         Meet your professors, they are here for you guys, us.  They want to get to know you and learn about you and help you achieve all of your goals.

3.  Discover the God you know and love in a new setting and environment. 

In conclusion, enjoy your time here at ACU.  You never get these four years, or five for some of you, back.  Get involved and discover your dreams and live them out.  Abilene gives you the opportunity for you to reach your potential in a Christ-centered environment.  There are great things here, and there are bad, but remember you can make a difference not just in Abilene, but wherever you go from here.  As a senior, I can truly say ACU has blessed me to go on and do great things wherever I go, I will always be thankful to this community and the knowledge I have gained here.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Program Evaluation

Joseph Austin
The curious adventure of a business major, aspiring lawyer who took a job as a chaplain, and what he learned from it.

Self Evaluation

1.  Discuss a significant pastoral experience you have had during this internship, how it affected you, and what you learned from it.

            One visit that impacted me at the time and still does, was with a woman named Nikeva.  Nikeva was in the hospital due to an allergic reaction she had with some over the counter medicine she took.  The reaction took her eye sight.  We had two visits and the two visits were very opposite.  On the first visit I discover her eyesight was gone and felt great sorrow for this woman of twenty-eight.  The first visit she felt very confident that God was using this to strengthen her in ways she could not see, literally.  During this time there was the possibility that her loss of eyesight could be temporary.  So, her spirits were very high in the visit, and she seemed very positive, given the circumstances, and I validated her where she was and left.  The visit was about twenty minutes long. 
            I visited her again about two or three days later, I wanted to check with her to see if the doctors had given her any update on her eyesight.  The doctors had and I knew so, by her demeanor when I walked in the room.  I came in and tears flooded out with her.  That faith that seemed so strong a few days ago, was not shattered and pouring out.  This visit lasted nearly an hour and I sat with her, sometimes in silence, sometimes talking, but mainly listening.  Giving her a fresh set of ears to listen to her stories and hear her out.
            These two visits affected me in a number of ways.  One obvious way, was thinking about a song I had and still do sing so many times, “Amazing Grace.”  The one line, “I once was blind, but now I see” has such a new meaning to me as I prayed with this woman twice, for well sight.   To be able to see, to have what she once had.


            This young man was just three years older than myself, 24, and was non-verbal during all of our visits, but his eyes spoke so much to me.  I saw so much hope, pain, and just love in his eyes.  I would pray with him; witness the priest anointing him, and my heart would break when doctors continually gave me and the family bad news.  I continued to hope and pray for him, and when I found out that he died, my heart broke.  This was one visit that I’ll always remember, seeing Ryan in CV recovery was one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Sometimes there are no words for pain so great.

2.  Name and address your pastoral strengths and weaknesses.



            One of my great pastoral strengths that I have developed over my life is a sense of empathy due to previous life experiences.  I believe when I walk into a room, I can show attentiveness and awareness to the situation without directly stating what I’ve been through.  This has helped me when patients are maybe weary of my age when I come into a room.  I believe I’ve been able to bring a good presence into the room.


            I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am now an extrovert, but I do still have a lot of introvert in me.  This allows me to be able to match the patient’s moods quickly and be able to meet their spiritual needs wherever they may be that day.  This has been critical working between Texas Children’s and St. Luke’s Hospitals this summer.  I have been with kids who want nothing, but laughter that day, and that’s what I give them.  Many times at St. Luke’s I have had several patients who are going through difficult times and need that solemn mood to let go of some of their issues as best they can.


            I made a point to get to know everyone I worked with really well at St. Luke’s and Texas Children’s.  I remember shadowing Chad on one of my first days, and he brought up a great point about really getting to know the staff on your floor.  The time spend on each floor should be almost 50-50 with patients and staff.  I was kind of like wow!  Chad, hey you loafer!  But, I started to realize this about the third week after RN’s, PCA’s, and PT’s were giving me referrals.  Also, the staff is with the patients 100% of the time, and we are a team working to make their stay in the hospital as comfortable as possible.  Many staff would stop me and let me know so and so could really use a visit, and I really appreciated that.  Also, I would minister to the staff as well, they would share stories with me about previous patients they had lost, and I could tell that sometimes I was the first person they were telling these stories too.  Staff needs support too!


            While I did list this as a strength it did come back to be a negative at times.  In one verbatim it was noted that I was pushing an agenda with a patient that I saw my dad in.  This man and my dad both shared the characteristics of recovering from drug addictions.  I needed to work a lot on my subconscious and what my past was trying to do in some of my visits;  both the good and the bad.

God is there whether I bring Him up or not

            Exactly what I said, I can’t force it in a visit, and learned quickly the guilt I would have if I didn’t bring up God or prayer that those feelings were unwarranted.  God is there!  God is with me, wherever I go!

3.  What aspect of your theology was challenged the most?  Explain.

            My theology was most challenged by being accommodating of multiple beliefs and theologies.  It is hard enough to have a firm and full understanding of all of my beliefs in my evolving surroundings, but it is much harder when you have to accept and validate those you come in contact with.  I entered the summer knowing I would come and visit with patients whose beliefs are much different than mine.  I also came into the summer, and still struggle with this, believing I was responsible for people’s souls, whether they would get into heaven or not.  I knew not to evangelize in the rooms, and definitely not to push my beliefs upon others, but I would leave rooms questioning.  I wasn’t necessarily questioning their beliefs, but I left questioning my beliefs from when I was born.  When I would meet in rooms of Jews and Muslims, the verse from John 14:6 would stick with me so much as I left and reflected on the visit: Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
            I was raised with this verse instilled in me and being taught that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.  I’ve never battled with this verse before me, because I haven’t really needed to.  But, this summer in the hospital I had several visits with people not professing Jesus Christ as their savior, and I would walk out puzzled.  These people had faith and showed it to me, but my beliefs told me they were going to hell.  Now, I do know I am not the judge, and I do not make the decision on where these people will spend eternity, but it does make me think.  It makes me wonder, and hope, and doubt, and really question the God I know and serve.  Does God get what He wants?

4.  Name and describe something you have learned about yourself as a person this summer. 

·         I learned that I could possibly be a chaplain full time as a profession.  I discovered I really enjoyed doing this, and I loved the people I worked with. 

·         I am extrovert!  Virgil told me, I thought I was an introvert.

·         I love people and sharing with them in their pain.  I believe God has called me to a life of grief, I really do.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

·         I don’t want to preach, I never really wanted to, just thought I would say that.

·         I learned looking at people in their eyes in a visit and being totally there for them is exhausting.  I was more tired after some of my visits, than I was after some of my football games in high school.

·         I learned that trusting in God, doesn’t necessarily mean you know all the answers.

·         Your faith is stronger and wiser when you realize you don’t have all the answers.

·         I learned the right thing to say sometimes, is to just sit with a patient, in silence, grieving together.  Sometimes there are no words when grief hits so suddenly.

·         I learned it is okay to laugh at death.  One afternoon I was sharing a visit with Brother Francis in the Chapcave and he got a call to go to a room at TCH.  I went with him to tag along, and when we got to the room, the room was empty.  He then said in the most straightforward voice, “Well looks like she’s dead.”  I just looked at him in bewilderment, and he just started laughing.  She wasn’t dead, but in another location.  But, he shared with me that you develop a sense of humor that helps while working in the hospital, you can’t be so serious all the time it will drive you crazy.  I learned to laugh at death, at that moment. Ha!

5.  What were your learning goals for this internship?  How well did those goals serve you and what would you do differently if you were to do another internship?


1.  Work on grief counseling in relation to people in crisis

2.  Deal with grief of Rebekah

3.  How to handle my baggage for future relationships

These goals served me very well, as you all know, except for Chad;  I was supposed to get married in June, and plans changed so I had to find something to do this summer.  Not only did I find a wonderful job, but this program allowed me to process my grief while helping others process theirs as well. 

“It’s almost as if God had planned this” - a preaching friend told me this, I could only chuckle

I will also include two questions from the program evaluation. 

Program Evaluation

1.  Overall, how would you rate the effectiveness of this internship as a learning experience?  As a personal growth experience?

            I thoroughly enjoyed this internship. Numbers & comparisons cannot tell how much I learned, and how much I enjoyed, but I am an accounting major so let’s give this a shot.

 If this internship was in the NBA, it would be the Miami Heat of internships.

If this internship was a medal, it would be gold.

If this internship was a number it would be 9.75, why?  Well 9.75 raised to the power of 5 = 88,109.569 and that is how many questions this internship has provoked in me. 

Also 10- 9.75= 0.25 also know as 25%.  25% is the percentage of these questions I tried to answer and I exhausted myself.

Numbers aside, this internship allowed for the freedom of questions, and the environment for these questions to be asked without fear of being judged. 

2.  What elements of the internship did you find most helpful?  Why?

            I enjoyed the freedom of the internship in relation to the afternoons.  I enjoyed having lists, but not being required to see an exact number of patients or specific patients each day.  I would get there around 12:30ish to 1 each day and leave anywhere from 4-5:30ish each day, I loved how flexible it was and how I didn’t have to meet any quota.  I was able to give what I had, and if I had a patient who took it all out of me one day, such as a Latter Day Saint who read the book of Mormon with me, then I could take a nice breather before stepping in the next room. 
            I loved not only having my Church of Christ patients, but having a floor I got to share with Chad.  Fun Fact:  I never had a Church of Christ patient on the 24th floor.  But, I had every religion, denomination you could think of besides the CoC, except for Hindu. 

            I loved getting to know my Lifeline friends, but I also loved getting to know the fellow CPE students at St. Luke’s.  On Tuesday and some Thursdays I would spend all day at Texas Children’s Hospital and I loved telling the kids jokes.  They loved it as well, and it really opened the floor for conversation.  The CPE interns would be my audience to test out my jokes, before I used them on the floor.  This was our bonding time, I also tried them on some of the residents, but Glenn and Johnna weren’t the most supportive of my stand up career.  Here is a sample of some of the jokes I used:

 What did the magician say to the fisherman? 

Why did the elephants get kicked out of the pool?

Why did the scarecrow get a promotion? 

Joke answer key

A: Pick a Cod and Cod!

A:  Because they kept dropping their trunks!

A:  He was outstanding in his field!

Thank you for reading, and if you or someone you know would like to get involved with Lifeline in the Houston area, or if you are a ACU or Pepperdine student and want to do what I did, I would love to talk to you more about what I did!  Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Losing Faith in the hospital

One of the things I love about working with Lifeline Chaplaincy is the diversity of the patients I get to visit.  I have two main assignments with the hospitals I visit, St. Luke’s and Texas Children’s, which both have their own cultures on their own.  I also have a floor assignment and of course the Church of Christ census list and the patients I get to visit. My floor assignment at St. Luke’s is entertaining, I have several unique patients who have 100’s of stories, and most of them can do their best in telling them all to me throughout the week, and I love it.  My Church of Christ patients are no different and the connections we make with our common denomination are very enjoyable, but a lot of time I don’t feel needed in these rooms as I do my floor assignment at my different hospitals.
            When I enter a lot of the rooms that are Church of Christ, I’m going to stereotype here, the patients usually have a great support system, their family is around, their church has made great contact and I’m there in the hospital as an extension of their support group, which is not a bad thing.  I love visiting anyone regardless of their current faith stage and family support.  I minister to everyone I come in contact with in however I can. 
            But, one thing that I really enjoy about the Church of Christ patients I get to see is I get to see them on all the floors they go on.  Wherever they go throughout the hospital I se e them from the emergency room to the 26th floor at the top I visit with them and really get to walk with each patient through their stay in the hospital.  These past two weeks I had a patient I been tracking with, that just broke my heart.  Let’s call this man,  Thomas, to protect his identity.  Thomas is above the age of 50, but below the age of 100.  I met Thomas in Cardiovascular recovery after having a chest procedure one day that left him unconscious at times and under intubation.  The first day I came in I thought Thomas was under, and unable to speak, but the nurse explained to me to go in and talk he could hear fine.  I came in and introduced myself, and my background with the church and why I was there.  I then asked if I could pray with him and hold his arm before I left which he couldn’t speak his eyes lit up at my request of prayer and our bond grew.  Each day this man would be on my mind as I would visit him and get to know him and his family.  I followed him as he progressed and got better each day, I loved seeing his progress and he always asked for me to close our time together in praying.  I was so encouraged by our visits, there’s nothing better than walking in a room and seeing the smile of a patient and knowing they want you there. 
            But, in our last week together, his prognosis declined.  I sat with him at times just in silence, allowing us to reflect on the change of events.  Allowing grief, well to be grieved.  Allowing the heart to hurt, and not having anyone tell you it’s not okay.  I was there to share the pain with Thomas.  Then my heart broke.  One day the visit was coming to close and I asked Thomas if we could pray and he then stopped me.  He said, “Not today, maybe not anymore, anytime I pray things just get worse.”  I know I could have talked about the strengthening of faith, and what pain can do the Christian and the building of character.  But, Thomas didn’t need the God talk at that time.  He just needed someone to sit with him, and feel his pain.  That’s what I did, I sat with him, and looked at him with the eyes that he gave me when I first offered prayer for him two weeks ago when he was intubated.  He saw that I cared and that was our time together. 
            Thomas has left the hospital now, and is recovering in rehab, and is getting better, not only physically, but emotionally, and spiritually.  As I left the room that one day, a song came to my mind by a band that I love, The Brilliance, the song: “Does Your Heart Break?” 

When you see us all alone
Can you hear your people Lord?
Can the blind have sight, have sight?

The world is burning as you're standing by
Are you watching, as your children die?
Did your heart break?
Does your heart break now?

            I prayed for Thomas after I left the room and I prayed this song, and asked God where was He when people lose faith?  When people give so much to God, but lose hope in the battle?  I’m coming to know God more and more, and unfortunately I do it sometime by seeing others lose their faith.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Should you pray with this patient?

            This week we, myself and about fifty other chaplains in the Texas Medical Center, spend two days sitting around circle tables listening to an English professor from St. Thomas, go on about well I couldn’t give you a clear concept of exactly what she spoke on.  She came with an agenda and notes, but we engaged in good conversation, but got off track several times.  We talked about violence in patient’s rooms by allowing our stereotypes and assumptions to come into play when we minister.  Of course, there are obvious stereotypes, let me point out a few that I know you should never assume:  1.  Every patient believes in God  2.  Every patient  has a type of spirituality, and knows what their spirituality is, these are two important stereotypes I’ve learned to keep in check when doing my rounds at St. Luke’s.
            The conversations were good at times, and at times redundant with the speaker.  As most everyone in the room had been trained in some capacity to be able to handle their own biases and baggage chaplains bring into the rooms.  So, in a sense the education was redundant in a way, but it was needed to reemphasize things that I can so easily forget in the tedious and emotionally draining days.  But, there was one thing that the professor did, and that was present an ethical dilemma, that before this conversation, I didn’t even consider an ethical dilemma.  She asked us (all the chaplains in the room) what do you do when you encounter a patient who is in comatose.  That’s a loaded question on its own, because so much of what I do as a chaplain is facilitate and lead conversation.  It’s not me talking all the time, but I need the patient to be on my team, the team of conversation.  So, in dealing with a comatose patient I reach a conflict in not being able to routinely visit the patient that I usually do, with the verbal communication that I find so critical to developing rapport and trust during the visit.  But, that’s not where the ethical dilemma ended; the professor proceeded to elaborate on the previously mentioned scenario.  What if you had a patient in comatose, no one else in the room, and on their chart the patient had no listed religious preference.  We then had a few chaplains state that they would say a quiet prayer in the room for the patient.  That offended one chaplain in general who wanted to know more and more about the prayer.  Was it a generic prayer?  Was it a generic, prayer?  The way I believe in the power of prayer, and when I think about what prayer did and has done in my life, I felt agitated to call prayer, well generic. 
            That does raise a great question, should you say a prayer for someone, who is unconscious, with no one in the room, and with no religious preference?  Are you hurting the patient, or violating their rights by saying a silent prayer on their behalf?  That the ethical dilemma I present to you this moment.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My response to Homosexuality and why I'm Sorry

I know this blog will offend some, but I feel the need to ‘come out’ and share something close to my heart and reach out to the LGBT community.  As many of you know I stand strong in my faith and am currently working in the hospital as a chaplain, but there’s been one thing that’s been near to me for some time and I’d like to share my thoughts, and raise awareness about the LGBT community and what I’ve seen in my life in relation to the development of my faith.
            Growing up I was taught that homosexuality was a sin and besides that there wasn’t much more conversation beside that.  There was no conversation, or dialogue.  In fact I remember sitting in the church I grew up at hearing the word sex and gasps coming out of the audience.  The issue was never really talked about, and growing up I didn’t have a strong stance on the issue either way.  Honestly my first experience dealing with the LGBT community was when I arrived at Abilene Christian University as a transfer student and learned of a group called Soul Force that came out to A.C.U. to raise conversation on the subject of homosexuality.  I attended most of the sessions honestly just wanting to learn more of the issue.  I felt ignorant on the issue and sheltered about never participating in conversation delving into the issue.  My interest continued as I found when I dove deeper I found people that had stories, and testimonies about love.  Most importantly I discovered individuals with a passion deep for God and faith seeking to be understood. 
            Then the issue of homosexuality became more personal in my life as I saw the journey firsthand.  One of my best friends, Brent, came out to me and shared what his story had been.  I remember the day like it was yesterday, we took a walk on the Lunsford Trail around A.C.U. and he told me with a voice that showed authenticity and deserved respect like none other I had ever heard about his experience with homosexuality.  I then listened for an hour or so as he shared his experience and where he had been in his journey.  I listened in awe and amazement as he shared his life that I had never heard.  It was at that moment, this spot, where I knew homosexuality was much more than a black and white issue.  When I saw Brent, who I knew as a man of God, someone who truly desired the will of God in his life, I knew that homosexuality was so much bigger than what we had been making it out to be.  The issue could not be defined as we Christians so desperately seek to do. 
            I also became aware of my past feeling towards the word gay and homosexuality.  The way I had used those terms in the past, now seemed much more than just words, I was hurting people with my language and I had not even comprehended the pain of my words.  When I called something gay, I was degrading my friend.  When I called someone a fag for the way the person acted, I wasn’t loving that person.  I want to say I’m sorry for the things I have said.
            I then knew that I needed to learn more and more about the issue, and that is something I believe the church needs to do as well.  I am not asking for you (the church) to immediately support the LGBTQ community and start your own parades.  I’m asking you to evaluate those you know who are a part of this community and get to know them, not just their sexual orientation.  God created us in His image, we are His beloved, and we are all loved.  When God said come to the table, He wasn’t talking about a select few, because if he was I know for sure I wouldn’t be accepted.  I have stains I’m ashamed to mention, and a past that needs more prefaces than birthdays, but God is sovereign.   I’ve come to know a God that desires to love all of His creation, not just a select few.  Because truth is, if it was a select few, how many of us would get an invitation?  The God I’ve come to know and love is a God who welcome all to His table. 

            I’m here to say I’m sorry for the things I’ve said in the past in ignorance and hate to the LGBT community.  I pray I can do a better job raising awareness and furthering the idea of love towards all in my life, because if my faith has taught me anything, it is to love all, without question. 

            “I've seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you.... But be assured that we'll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.A Christmas Sermon for Peace on Dec 24, 1967

-Joseph D.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

To love without hate

            What is the meaning of life?  We ask that question so often, and get so many answers.  Sometimes people give you elaborate drawn out answers.  Others just shake their heads and laugh off the question.  But, I am one who thinks about the meaning of life.  I question a lot of time, what am I doing here?  Why did God choose to put me on earth?  Couldn’t I just end up in heaven?  That sounds pretty nice, right God?  But, I accept where I am and I have found something I believe to be the meaning of life, well at least for me.  Drum roll please……  To love without hate.  That’s it!  That’s the meaning of life I have come to personally discover in my life that I try to live out.  It’s pretty easy to do as well.  I’ll show you how!
            Simply, don’t get emotionally involved with anyone.  It’s easier to love that person just on the surface.  You don’t get involved in their life and vice versa, it’s for the best.  You meet and greet and you keep it on the surface, it’s pretty easy!  You are loving that person, just by getting to know them sharing a bit of your faith, and that’s it!  You just loved that person and showed no hate!  Congratulations, you have completed Joseph Austin’s meaning of life and will be cherished! 
            You see, it’s easy to love from a far, not just in distance, but in terms of emotional attatchment.  It’s easy to love people on the surface, because we are taught to present a very nice surface of ourselves.  We are taught to keep our emotions in check and when speaking to others we tell only what we want others to hear, we want them to leave thinking what a great guy/gal! 
            Working in the hospital has showed me again and again what it means to love without hate.  You see I go into rooms, where others confide in me, tell me things they wouldn’t tell their own families.  They share secrets, sin, and hate that has built up for decades.  These are the people are society loves to hate.  These are the people I love to love.
            I believe everyone has demons.  Everyone has scars.  Some are more visible than others, some are physical, while others are emotional, and of course there are many that are spiritual.  Confessing these scars and demons and sharing my own not necessarily verbally, but by just offering a listening ear, by coming alongside my patients is one of the main reasons I enjoy being a chaplain.  When we do this, share our demons, to some we become unlovable, to me we become capable of love. 
            One demon I battle with is explaining my past,  family and past engagement.  Does someone want to make the effort to love me?  I feel as if I have to apologize for my past, to preface others, specifically girls, when one will enter my life, I will have to apologize for my past.  But, that’s not what I will do.  I will and do embrace my past, every scar I have, it is what makes me who I am today.  Last June, I was supposed to get married, instead I’m working in the hospitals going door to door to discover stories behind each door.  To uncover the hearts to the voiceless and the sick.  To bring the good news and the good of hearing to those who need to share. 
            Love those who are near to you, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  As Mother Teresa said,” “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

Thanks for reading


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A visit with a Muslim

A few weeks ago I visited with a Muslim patient.  I was excited as I entered the room and the visit lasted about 45 minutes long, and I was blown away by our conversation.  I went in the room just wanting to build trust and make a connection for a follow up visit where there could be an invitation to talk about religion.  Now I can’t go into specifics of the visit, or even tell you much more than that.  But, I left feeling burdened, so much on my shoulders as I stepped away from his room and moved on to the next rooms.  I left with the thought; this was a man of God.  As I left the parking garage, the visit and the dialogue continued to be pressed in my heart. 
One thing I will share the patient told me as I was leaving the room,” I know we have differences in our two faiths ( I never once indicated my particular faith tradition to him)  but we serve a God who heals all and is mighty , no other can compete.”
The problem I was having was this man impressed me with his heart, his faithfulness to God through all of his trials that he had endured.  I know I am just hearing one side of the story and do believe there is two sides to every story, but the patient really spilled his heart to me and his words spoke honesty. Now, I’ve never been one to judge,(at least I try not to) I try my best to leave that up to God, but everything I had learned said clearly that this man was going to hell because he did not profess Jesus Christ as Lord in his life.   This struck me and has convicted me to discuss the issue and talk about my thoughts.
My faith is not changing, and I’m not pulling away from the notion that Jesus Christ is Lord in my life, I believe that with all my heart and it continues to build in my life.  The problem I have is the God I know and worship is a God who can be defined by so much, but the God I’ve come to know is a God of love and mercy and kindness, one who is faithful in His love to me.  Can’t God be loving to those who love Him? 
I have this man expose all in his life, and my traditional beliefs tell me this man is going to Hell, I have a hard time accepting that notion. Especially since Jesus himself said it so clearly in the gospel when Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Clearly this man needs Jesus I keep telling myself, but how do I show Christ’s love to this man, without preaching and forcing my beliefs?
The question I have is what if I said this verse to the man, and started preaching to him and told him he was going to hell that the only way he could speak to God was through Jesus Christ.  Well I can tell you I would have lost all trust and rapport I had worked so hard to develop and I also would have received some puzzled looks as well, because this man clearly showed he had a relationship with God.  How do I reconcile this thought that someone can be faithful to God without professing Jesus Christ?  Is it possible to love God without knowing the Son? 
Another point I would like to bring up is that many would say I missed an evangelizing moment here with this patient, but I cannot reiterate enough in my work as a chaplain that I come to meet patients where they are and meet their spiritual needs.  My job is to minister to those I come in contact with, not minister to my own needs and desires.  But again I feel convicted by scripture that instructs me to preach the gospel to all I come in contact with, but my job is not evangelizing but comforting.  I worry at times when God looks down at my work, and He doesn’t hear His name once in a visit if I let Him down.  I’ll be honest I have several visits where God is never brought up.  I have many visits where I have lonely people looking for ears to hear their stories.  I am there for all I come in contact with, and I pray that they see the love of Christ in my words and in the way I present myself. 

O Lord, have mercy on my soul when I do not know the answers to the problems I encounter on my walk. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Women in the Church, my thoughts

Disclaimer:  I am young, and I’m still learning.

            One thing that keeps coming up again and again in conversations around campus, in our churches and in my relationships with friends is the role of women in churches.  What is their role in our churches in today’s culture?  In most churches you will find that women do not publicly speak, pray, or lead any type of worship in our churches.  Many women today in churches teach children, and some are children’s ministers.  But, we never allow women to teach ages older than elementary school.  Why is that?  Why do we let them teach the future at a young age, but not when they are older than, say 6th grade?  It is also very rare for a woman to be over the high school ministry, campus ministry, and especially over the whole church.  I posted a status on Facebook asking for their opinions on the matter and I am going to share a few of theirs on my blog.
            It is almost as if there is a glass ceiling for women today in our churches.  Three Sundays ago I attended Highlands Church of Christ and they had women helping pass the break and fruit of the vine for the Lord’s Supper.  Wow!  That was a change, but I didn’t mind one bit.  I enjoyed it, because I believe we can all serve and pass the bread as one church body.  In talking with a friend at lunch, he told me about a view one Bible professor at ACU shared. 
            She said, (greatly paraphrased) isn’t it funny that women serve when food is involved at every occasion.  At potlucks they set up and clean up. When there are any type of baked food drives women will provide the food, work the shifts needed to sell, and will clean up everything.  But, when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, it is all of a sudden not okay for a woman to pass the bread during church.  Most of the time the women are preparing the trays in the back of the church; some things just don’t make much sense.
            Another comment I got on Facebook from a professor reads…
                           “Paul writes "it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" he also writes that women should wear head coverings when praying or prophesying (I Cor 11:5). Two things about this verse: (a) that women were in fact praying and prophesying in the early church, and (b) that there is a direct command for women to cover their heads, a command we do not observe. Thus, we immediately realize that the hermeneutics are not so simple as we might think at first. "it is shameful for a woman to speak in church" he also writes that women should wear head coverings when praying or prophesying (I Cor 11:5). Two things about this verse: (a) that women were in fact praying and prophesying in the early church, and (b) that there is a direct command for women to cover their heads, a command we do not observe. Thus, we immediately realize that the hermeneutics are not so simple as we might think at first. “

Basically this says that we interpret scriptures the way we want to. As my Bible professor, Bob Strader, says we need to read the scriptures with Jesus’ glasses on.
The problem I believe we have with women leading in the church is not that we do not believe in it scripturally, but that we are not comfortable with it at all. If a woman was to get up and preach and say the same message a man would say what would be our problem?  Would we say, “Whoa? That’s not in the Bible.”  Or would we be uncomfortable with the fact that we have not had a women speak to us before. 
            Still at times we have women who are leading in a church and find themselves wondering if what they are doing is right, a women’s minister commented on my Facebook saying

,” Being a children's minister I am often put in sticky situations. I always want to be under my husband's & the elders authority. I whole-heartedly believe it has to do with your motives & heart. Even a man has to be aware of his motives in the church. Are you doing it b/c you're power driven, money hungry, attention grabbing, etc. or for God?”  I believe in this very much so, why do women want to lead in a church?  The same goes to men, why do men want to lead in the church?  Do they want power, fame; it’s definitely not money, or just a voice and someone to listen to them.

 My point is that whoever goes up to speak to me, pray to me, give me communion, is doing it out of love and kindness and not for some ‘Jesus Points’ I am all for it.  God made us ALL in His likeness that we may go and spread the message.  God didn’t say to go and spread the message, Men Only!  He didn’t say, hey this a guys only club!  But, what it does say is that Men are called to lead our churches, and how we interpret those scriptures is how women are viewed in churches, and there are many views and many churches that take them in different ways.  Putting the scriptures in today’s time is very difficult and I can’t do it, but what I will say is when we do get to Heaven God will say, “Man you guys worried about a lot of stuff that didn’t really matter, and missed the bigger picture.” We need to focus on what our motives are for leading and what we are saying is for the kingdom. 

In Him

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Can you be comfortable in a hospital?

           What a week it has been as I have finished my second week at Lifeline Chaplaincy.  This was my first full week on the floors by myself with no one shadowing me, and not needing directions to get around the two hospitals.  I get a very big grin when someone asks for directions in the hospital and I can help them, I’m starting to feel at home.  This brings me to a point that I’m not comfortable with: The feeling of being comfortable at a hospital. 
            Should I feel comfortable that I am walking around in a hospital where sickness and disease are the reasons the doors are open in the first place?  The fact that I have a job because people get sick.  I have a slight upset feeling in my stomach when I think about this.  This thought I have really reinforces that fact that I look to so much in explaining the meaning of my life, and that is we live in a broken world that is not our home.  I struggle with being immune to the fact that illness is just a part of life.  What if someone I know, or even I, gets an illness how will I respond.  Where being sick is the norm and people walking around in pajama scrubs is an every minute sight. 
            How can I keep my heart soft to the unique lives of my patients and their stories?  Let me make clear the fact that overall empathy and differentiation are two different points I am trying to make.  I believe I my  empathy has been unchanged since working in the hospital full time and I still want  nothing more than to have those that I am  visiting open up to me in a helpful way for both their sake and my practice as chaplain.  But, the question I raise is how can we keep each patient a separate and unique child of God?
            This thought was prompted by a visit I made to cardiovascular recovery by a referral from a family.  The patient was unconscious at the moment and I later realized was paralyzed.  I met with the nurse and she explained to me the situation, which was like nails on a chalkboard.  The news and prognosis was dark and quite discouraging.  But, I just nodded and thanked the nurse as she gave me the news like she had to so many other friends, families, and chaplains as in previous cases.   Of course I wasn’t able to process what I had heard due to the business of the unit (cardiovascular recovery) so I stepped outside in a separate hall to gather myself.  I realized that I was starting to take illnesses, accidents, and disease as the norm.  I knelt down in the hallway and prayed for the patient who I could not see and then prayed for myself.  That I could continue to believe in a world where there is no sickness and no disease, where Kingdom Comes, mean no pain, no sorrow.  I need my heart broken as much as possible.
            I go to as many as fifteen to twenty rooms a day, yet must treat them all differently with their unique talents and gifts they bring to the kingdom.  Can I remember that as I step into each room?  I’m glad I can find my way around a hospital, but I never want to be comfortable working there.