Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?

Like millions of other people, I’ve spent the past few months obsessed with the soundtrack to the Broadway musical Hamilton. If you’re not familiar with the play, it dramatizes the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, telling the story through modern American musical styles. It is brilliant and funny and moving. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to it, and I still cry every time. Before he puts young Hamilton in charge of a battalion of soldiers to fight a crucial Revolutionary War battle, General George Washington sings words of paternal wisdom and caution: Continue reading “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story?”

Thoughts from the Via Dolorosa

In 2007, I spent two weeks in Israel and Egypt as part of a group from my divinity school. It was the trip of a lifetime, one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever received. Being there, seeing the places where so many stories I’d read in the Bible actually happened, was overwhelming. Sometimes I go back and read my journal from that trip. I filled almost the entire book in those two weeks. During Holy Week, my mind takes me back to the places Jesus walked, where I got to walk, too. I shared my experience of the Garden of Gethsemane two years ago. On this Good Friday, I’ve been re-reading some of what I wrote after walking the Via Dolorosa:

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Loosing Hope

This can be a tough time of year for hospital work. As a chaplain, I often see the most tragic situations, and they take on an even sadder air around the holidays. Nobody wants to remember Christmas as “the day Dad died” or “the anniversary of Gramma’s stroke.” But it happens. It’s easy to get pulled under by the seemingly hopeless situations. So I wasn’t surprised when I saw a dear friend and fellow chaplain post her status update on Facebook: “Christmas Eve in a Level One Trauma Center may cause me to loose all hope.” Continue reading “Loosing Hope”

P is for Prayer

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(This post is part of the ongoing series ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy.)

“Why do we look down?” I asked my grandmother one Sunday after prayer time in church. “Isn’t God up in heaven? How come we don’t pray looking up?” My childhood question was a sincere one, but I don’t worry so much now about the right posture for praying. As a hospital chaplain, I have seen and participated in countless forms of prayer. I no longer think that God would be more likely to hear us if we looked in the right direction. Anytime we pray — and I believe we all do, whether or not we call it prayer — we are somehow looking for, reaching out for God.  Continue reading “P is for Prayer”

K is for Kids

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

Working closely with children is one of the best and worst parts of my job. Sometimes it means I get to hold a new baby and speak a blessing over her, as I did with my friends’ daughter, Elli, in the above photo. It means playing Legos with the kid whose mom is working one of her three jobs and who just wants some company while he recovers from another round of chemotherapy. It means talking to the very tall 12-year-old boy in the emergency room in a way that lets him know I understand he’s still a kid, and that it’s okay to be scared or to cry. I love being with kids in those moments. Continue reading “K is for Kids”

Advent Conspiracy Week 4: Love All

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It’s hard to believe, but we’re coming to the end of Advent already. And that brings us to the hardest part of Advent Conspiracy. Man, I thought Spend Less was tough. But here we are at the final theme, Love All. Really, all?? “Love some” I can handle. Even “love most” would probably be doable. But “all,” everybody – surely that’s going too far! Some people just make it so hard to love them. I met one of them a few weeks ago in the parking lot of a Lowe’s home improvement store. Continue reading “Advent Conspiracy Week 4: Love All”

D is for Death

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(This is the fourth in my series, ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy. Read other posts in the series here.)

“He then greeted Death as an old friend and went with him gladly, departing this life as equals.”

Sometimes I forget how different my perspective is from that of most “normal” people. Then my roommate asks me, “How was work last night?” I reply, “Not too bad. Just two deaths and a trauma.” She laughs and I look at her quizzically. “Sorry,” she says, “but you’re the only person I know who would call two deaths in one shift ‘not too bad.’ Your job is so weird.” I guess she has a point. Working in a hospital, encountering death on such a routine basis, is more than a little weird. Continue reading “D is for Death”

ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: B is for Bible

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I’m sure it’s not true everywhere, but since the hospital where I work is located pretty securely in the Bible Belt, we chaplains get a lot of requests to bring Bibles to patients. Our office also contains copies of other sacred texts — the Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Torah, and more — but rarely do we get a request for one of those. Instead, we regularly get calls from nurses whose patients say they left their Bibles at home when they were hospitalized and would like to borrow one. We have a steady supply of Gideon Bibles, so it’s okay that we almost never get them back. One patient told me not long ago, “I just can’t fall asleep without reading God’s word!” I wondered which parts she wasn’t reading, since I have found a lot in there over the years that would keep me awake nights.  Continue reading “ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: B is for Bible”

When Game of Thrones Came to Sunday School

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This was the second week of the Sunday School class I am teaching on Anne Lamott‘s book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. This week we finished discussing the “Help” chapter, and things got really interesting. Lamott writes about her past experiences of prayer, even as far back as her childhood, and in class we talked about our own prayer histories. One thing I love about the author is her honesty; she doesn’t sugar-coat the hard stuff. She admits that it is sometimes very difficult to connect in prayer with a God who is so mysterious, whom we can’t see or touch and whose descriptions in the Bible can be both comforting and troubling. That’s why, she says, God gave us imagination. It can sometimes lead us astray, but it can bring us closer to God, too, and she writes about how we can know the difference: Continue reading “When Game of Thrones Came to Sunday School”

Living Up to My Name

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I’ll never forget the day I got called out in my Greek class. My mind had been wandering as the professor went over the vocabulary words on the white board, and I thought he had caught me when I heard him say my name. “Stacy! Did you know,” he asked, “that your name is the diminutive form of Anastasia? And that name comes from anastasis. So the root of your name is -” He tapped the board where the Greek word was written, and I read the English translation next to it. “Resurrection,” I said in wonder. No, I definitely had not known that that’s what my name means. I’m certain my parents didn’t know either when they chose the name. But all these years later, I’d like to think it fits. Continue reading “Living Up to My Name”