“Why Did You Write a Book?”

booksigning16Recently my phone chimed with a message from a friend. It was one sentence: “Why did you write a book?” Such a seemingly simple question, but I thought about it all day before answering. There are so many reasons I wrote my first book, and few of them are simple to explain. I loved to read from a very young age, and loving books led me to want to be an author. That one’s pretty easy. But the whys of writing this particular book get more complicated. Continue reading ““Why Did You Write a Book?””

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A Pretty Good Month

FullSizeRender 8In its first month in paperback, my book Being Called Chaplain sold over 100 copies! I continue to get messages from readers who find something in the story that touches them personally. As I was reminded in church this second week of Easter, when we always hear the story of the apostle Thomas, doubt is an integral part of faith. My pastor quoted Frederick Buechner (one of my favorite authors) who said that doubt is “the ants in the pants of faith.” That seems to be the element of my story that most resonates with readers. One handwritten letter I received recently expressed it this way:  Continue reading “A Pretty Good Month”

Why I Write

My first book has been out in the world (at least electronically) for a little over a week now. It hasn’t made The New York Times bestseller list, or been chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. I guess some dreams (or delusions of grandeur!) I’ll have to let go. But a dream that is in many ways far superior has come true. When I first decided to actually try to get my story published, my hope and prayer was that I could do for someone else what other writers have done for me. At different times, the words of Margery Williams, Phillip Yancey, Anne Lamott, Lauren Winner, Frederick Buechner, Marcus Borg, Barbara Brown Taylor, Madeleine L’Engle, Brian McLaren, John Claypool, and other authors have literally saved my life, at least my spiritual one. God used their words to patch holes in my faith, to keep me going while I healed instead of lying down and giving up (like I sometimes wanted to do). There was such power in reading exactly what I needed at exactly the moment I needed it, of feeling that this person I had never met had reached through the page to touch my very soul and let me know I was not alone. If being an author meant the chance to do that for someone else, I thought, it might just be worth all the hard work and stress and rejection that it takes to finally get a book published. Continue reading “Why I Write”

Writing Blindly and Remembering DEG

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This is the dedication page of my new book, Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and (Eventually) Found My Faith. It was an easy decision whose names should go on that page. I wish I could tell you about Sam. God, I loved Sam. But because I met Sam through my work at the hospital, confidentiality has to be protected. DEG, on the other hand, I can tell you a lot about him. He is never far from my thoughts, and today especially, he’s on my mind and in my heart. Dr. Daniel E. Goodman, my friend and divinity school professor, died on January 13, 2009, six years ago today. Continue reading “Writing Blindly and Remembering DEG”

H is for Hope

(This is part of my ongoing series, ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

It is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, according to Emily Dickinson. Nietzsche said it is the worst of all evils. And on my dark days, I think it’s stupid (though not really). In a hospital, hope can make the difference, if not between life and death, then certainly between life and mere survival. Dum spiro, spero. “While I breathe, I hope.” Even when the people I meet in the hospital are fighting for each breath, or when they are hoping that the next breath will be their last, I watch them wrestle with what it means to hope.  Continue reading “H is for Hope”

Endings and Beginnings

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He was much too old for lullabies, already a teenager. If he had been able to speak, he may have protested, but I doubt it. His mother lay in the hospital bed next to him, wrapped her arms around him. A few hours earlier, she had been full of anxiety and anger, lashing out at anyone who so much as hinted that her son was dying. But I did more than hint. I confronted her with the reality that he was coming to the end, and that he needed her now as much as ever. The anger exploded — then disappeared. And in her son’s last hours, she did as good a job of anyone I’ve ever seen at saying goodbye. She told him she loved him, that every day with him was a gift, and then for a painfully long time, she sang him to sleep. She made sure that the last sound he would hear was not beeping monitors or her anguished sobs or his own raspy final breaths, but that first sound — his mother’s voice, singing to him the same songs she had sung when he was a baby. Continue reading “Endings and Beginnings”

I’m Hard to Shock Anymore (Even When I Get Asked for a Lap Dance)

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)”

Fat Shaming Week, Imago Dei, and Incarnation

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Social media have the power to connect people, to spread knowledge and information, to allow communication across cultural and other barriers.  I have seen such things happen during my time on Facebook and Twitter.  Unfortunately, I have also seen the dark side of social media, and another perfect example reared its ugly head this week.  Under the hashtag #FatShamingWeek, tweets like the one above (which is one of the less offensive, I’m sorry to say) attempt to make overweight women — because most of the tweets are aimed specifically at women — feel unattractive, ostensibly “for their own good.”  (I’m happy to report that there is now a counter-movement and many have posted tweets under the same hashtag expressing pride in their bodies and respect for others regardless of size.)  I don’t know who started the hashtag, or how they think this will give anyone motivation to lose weight (when in reality, fat shaming more often leads to gaining weight), or why they believe someone else’s body size is any of their damned business. Continue reading “Fat Shaming Week, Imago Dei, and Incarnation”