Thursday, May 31, 2012

Five questions I need answered in relation to hospital chaplaincy

Questions for Lifeline
After going through orientation at St. Luke’s Episcopal & Texas Children’s Hospital this is a list of questions I have as I am getting rolling in my internship, please feel free to add wisdom and help me discern how to be a better pastoral presence to patients.

1.  Baby Baptisms
            I am tagging along with some Clinical Pastoral Education students (C.P.E.) and two are from Catholic Seminaries.  I will not have the chance to be on call (be the only chaplain in the hospital during the night)  but the C.P.E. students will be and one discussion we have had is can they perform baby baptisms, since they do not feel qualified as they are not yet priests.  I will not say much more, as I do not know much about the issue at all, but here is the underlying problem.  When a baby is not in a life/death situation can these seminary students do baptisms without compromising their beliefs?

2.  Praying with someone who believes in multiple gods and not compromising your beliefs, while meeting their spiritual needs.

            My number one concern as a chaplain is to fulfill the spiritual needs of my patients to the best of my ability.  I have not encountered a person with a polytheistic religion yet, but I am sure it is a matter of time.  There are prayers that we are taught to say for patients fitting this category, but can I legitimately say that prayer without compromising my belief?  Note:  I do not pray with every patient as well

3.  Praying for physical healing when hope is apparently gone?
            I believe that our God can move mountains.  I believe there is healing just in hearing the name Jesus.  But, when I hear news about a patient from a doctor, that is a negative prognosis how do I go into the room/waiting area with the same feeling and not be discouraged about praying for physical healing?

4.  What is their number one need?
            My question here specifically is how can I make the most out of my time with a patient?  How can I fulfill their spiritual needs in my time without overburdening them?  Patients see doctors, nurses, technicians, food service reps, social workers, and many more folks, including me, a chaplain.  How can I make the most of my time without overburdening them?

5.  How can I resist the urge to fix them?
            As I said before my service is to offer a listening ear and a pastoral presence.  Not to preach, evangelize, and especially not to fix them.  I have as many problems as my patients; mine are just not as visible as theirs.  But, when I hear certain triggers in my brain that say, “You know how to fix this situation!”  I need to back off and listen even more intently, but how can I resist that urge and truly be a pastoral presence. 
            As I said earlier please add in on the discussion.  Don’t feel as if you need to add in wisdom, you may also ask more questions as well.  Thanks for reading.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I Said I Do

Yes, I said I do, more like I did.  I went to a wedding for the first time since the engagement that is no more.  It has taken me awhile to actually go to one, I haven’t felt much conviction as of late.  But, yesterday (May 26th) was different, one of my best friends at A.C.U. was getting hitched and I couldn’t miss it.  What made it so tough in the first place was that my wedding date was indeed just two weeks later (June 9th).  As I arrived I couldn’t help but notice every little detail about the wedding and the parties.  The gifts, the colors, the set up, where the chairs were, things a guy normally wouldn’t pay attention too.  Unless of course you had planned one of these things a few months ago with every intention of following through and saying those precious words, “I do.”
            I did enjoy myself more than I expected and couldn’t help but be in awe by how classy and sweet the whole ceremony was.  There were no special revelations I received and no voice that shot down with the magical words of healing I have longed for for so long.  No, but instead a past memory came to me, more like a past conversation I had.
            In conversing with a professor at school I kept trying to make sense of what had happened.  I was trying to draw meaning where nothing made sense.  So, I came up with this metaphor:  I imagined my life as a book.  There was the beginning, my childhood, high school, everything up until now, the present.  There was about 75% of pages left.  But, to me those pages were already written and planned by a co-author the girl I was to wed.  Once again my identity was in someone else, & when the relationship fell apart, so did my book, my life.  The pages were ripped out with no warning, with no proper paper ripping authority.  There was this book, missing a lot of its pages, and that’s how I felt as I sat in this man’s office.  He took the book I had been holding and demonstrating my metaphor and then shed his light into the situation. 
            He took the book and said the beginning was written, that’s done, but these pages in the back they are still there and are not gone.  They are there waiting to be written.  He repeated to me over and over again, “Joseph, you have a destiny and it is good!” In my state of being at the time this is what I needed.  See, I couldn’t process the thought of life without another, the future moving on without plans that were supposed to be.  But, life does move on.  As simple as that phrase is, life does move on.  The man’s wedding I attended yesterday is a good bit older than me, 25, and his story is as unique as mine.  He is a testament that life does move on, that God is as present through the bad as he is through the good. 
            My God is my co-author eagerly writing away my story, and I’m sharing it as best I can with His love and mercy I can face tomorrow.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lifeline & Despicable Me

            This has been a fast paced week to say the least.  I moved into Rice Village and have been in orientation for St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital & Texas Children’s all week.  I am working for Lifeline Chaplaincy this summer, but for the weeks of orientation I am going through training with six other seminary students.  This is intimidating to say the least, mainly because I am the youngest one by about five years, but I am enjoying getting to know them very well.  The past few days have been spent getting badges to both hospitals and learning the culture and procedures of the respective establishments as well.  So, it has been a blur, and at times I just feel lost. 
            This afternoon was just what I was looking for.  I was able to shadow a chaplain resident who let me be fully apart of the conversation.  We did the rounds on a floor at Texas Children’s and this is when I knew I chose the right thing to do this summer.  We visited about fifteen rooms in all and all the visits were all beneficial.  Not everyone wanted to open up and tell everything, but it was so nice just to meet people where they are.  Being a chaplain at TCH requires you to minister to the families of the patients as much as the patient.  One visit stuck out to me today in particular.
            We visited a child and mom and walked in to the two playing a Harry Potter game to pass the time before the child could be released from the hospital.   They were both extremely receptive to our visit and refreshed to see fresh faces who were not doctors.  A Justin Beiber movie was about to come on the television and everyone in the room just gave out a loud chuckle and the TV. was quickly turned off. But, not before the daughter pointed out that my hair slightly resembled that of Justin Bieber’s.  (It might be time for a haircut). The little girl then showed off her stuffed animal that she never let leave her sight.  My first thought, “It’s so fluffy!”  (An iconic quote from the movie Despicable Me).  Quickly thereafter her mother shared that when her daughter gets out of the hospital and has enough energy the first thing she is going to do is do that same impersonation.  I couldn’t contain my smile in how simple a goal was, but how much meaning it has.

Please visit to link to further your knowledge of "It's so Fluffy"

            In the hospital settings I have learned that goals and signs are key to making it in the hospital.  When you meet with people it is important to embrace the good, and the embrace the progress in any way.  When we prayed together I honestly asked God to grant her the energy and strength to get out of the hospital, and for the doctor to come in and say, “You may now shake the fluffy animal!” 
These kids are going to pull on my heart all summer and I hope they keep doing it.  I have plenty of room to grow and Lord knows I need it.