This week is a time set aside by organizations and individuals around the world as Pastoral Care Week, to recognize the contributions of professional chaplains and pastoral counselors. Each year, a different aspect of pastoral care is brought to light with the annual theme. This year’s theme is “Prophetic Voice.” I have to say, this is not my favorite. Being a prophetic voice — a truthteller — is one of the most anxiety-producing parts of being a chaplain for me. I can listen all day long. I can be a supportive, non-judgmental presence. I can celebrate diversity of beliefs. I can sit in silence with the dying. No problem! But speaking truth, even getting confrontational? That’s something else entirely. I have had to learn to do it, and it is still not easy. Continue reading “A Most Reluctant Prophet”
I won’t say I’ve heard it all, but as a hospital chaplain, I hear a lot. There are things people say in the midst of crisis that they wouldn’t say otherwise. Things that a few years ago would have made me blush or left me speechless, I now take in stride. When I was called to the room of an elderly patient who was actively dying, I found his children and grandchildren gathered around the bed. I expressed my sympathies, listened to their stories about him, and at their request prayed for a peaceful passing for him at the right time, as well as comfort and strength for his family. Before leaving, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do?” The patient’s grandson, a few years younger than me, asked, “I don’t guess you do lap dances, do you?” His mother used his full name as she smacked him in the back of the head, looking at me apologetically. “What?” he said. “Not for me, for Grandpa! You never know what might help.” Continue reading “I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)”
I was sitting at the bedside of a tearful patient, a woman hospitalized with pain and bleeding after her fifth consecutive miscarriage. A few hours after she checked in, she got a phone call from a family member telling her that her youngest sister had been killed in a car crash. Her nurse asked me to visit her that evening, and so I sat, holding her hand, telling her how sorry I was. Then she said it. “I know they say God won’t put on us any more than we can handle, but I . . . I just . . .” She fell back against the bed, sobbing too hard to speak.
“But it feels like more than you can handle right now,” I offered. She nodded and squeezed my hand. Continue reading “Why You’ll Never Hear Me Say “God Doesn’t Give Us More Than We Can Handle””