A Day in the Life of a Chaplain

I was asked to write a guest post for Baptist Women in Ministry’s blog, and it was featured today on their Wednesday Words. Check out “A Day in the Life of a Chaplain” on their website. And to read about a whole year in the life of a chaplain, be sure to get my book, Being Called Chaplain: How I Lost My Name and (Eventually) Found My Faith.

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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”

What Chaplains Don’t Do

Because this is Pastoral Care Week, I’ll be part of an event at my hospital which includes a reading from my book, and a question and answer session on the role of healthcare chaplains. The event is co-sponsored by our Pastoral Care department and the hospital’s Humanities Committee (of which I am a member), and has been advertised all over campus. Someone who saw the flyers was concerned that in a hospital committed to diversity and inclusion, we were promoting Christianity. I had to laugh at the irony. Such misconceptions of what chaplains do are exactly why such an event is needed! Continue reading “What Chaplains Don’t Do”

#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets

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This is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and I’m proud to be participating in this synchroblog to celebrate the launch of Sarah Lund’s new book, Blessed Are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and ChurchI come from a family in which mental illness — especially depression and anxiety disorders — and addiction have had a huge impact. As a little girl, I remember the great lengths my family went to in order to protect the secret that my mother had been hospitalized for depression. I felt the shame of it, even before I understood what it meant. I was afraid other kids at school would laugh at us if they knew, and any time a group on the playground was whispering, I was sure it was about me and my family.  Continue reading “#BlessedAreTheCrazy: No Longer Protecting Secrets”

ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: A is for Advance Directive

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How do you want to die? Have you ever thought about it? It’s a line of thinking most of us would probably like to avoid, but as a hospital chaplain, my job involves a lot of thinking and talking about death. And in the hospital where I work, chaplains also have conversations with people who are not near death about what they want to happen when they get to that point. Upon check-in, every patient is asked whether they would like information about Advance Directives. If he/she says yes, a chaplain will go visit him/her within the next forty-eight hours, carrying a blank South Carolina healthcare power of attorney form. Where I work, it is one of the basics of what a chaplain does.  Continue reading “ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy: A is for Advance Directive”

How Many Have You Saved?

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It happens sometimes when I am introduced to someone new, a friend of a friend perhaps.  They ask what I do, and when I tell them, their responses vary widely.  I’ve gotten blank stares when the person has no idea what to say next.  I’ve been thanked and congratulated on my decision to go into ministry.  I’ve heard all the reasons why the other person thinks religion is only for idiots.  And not long ago, when I told someone new that I am a chaplain, she hit me with, “That’s wonderful!  How many have you saved?” Continue reading “How Many Have You Saved?”

Worse Than Death?

Recently, a friend of a friend asked me a question about death.  She is a new employee at a hospital in another state.  Though we haven’t seen each other in years, she remembered that I was a chaplain, got my number from our mutual friend, and wanted to talk.  “I’m not a religious person,” she began.  “I’m not even sure I believe in God.  But if there is a God, I need to know if he’ll judge me for this.  I’ve killed three people already.”  Confused, I asked her to explain about these killings.  She told me how she had been the one to remove the breathing tubes and turn off the ventilators for three terminal patients.  “I know it’s my job,” she said.  “And it’s what the families decided to do, and the patients probably would have died anyway.  But they died sooner because of me, you know?  I’m the one who took them off the vent.  They stopped breathing at that moment because of me.  Will God punish me for that?”  I could hear the tremor in her voice.  “I wanted to do this job to help people.  And I do.  I help a lot of people.  But I didn’t count on being the actual instrument of death for some patients, you know?  I don’t know how to deal with that.” Continue reading “Worse Than Death?”

A Most Reluctant Prophet

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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”

What’s Saving My Life This Week

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As you might have guessed if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, my job can be pretty stressful at times.  Those of us in caregiving professions can easily become exhausted — physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually — by the constant demands of helping others.  Sooner or later, inevitably, we will experience what is known as compassion fatigue It happened to me during my first year as a staff chaplain.  (Actually, I’m sure it was happening to me during CPE as well, but it just felt like part of the gauntlet of that year of chaplain residency that we all had to endure!)  I had not yet learned to recognize the signs.  I was not getting enough sleep.  I was eating unhealthy foods at strange times of day.  For a while, I would burst into tears whenever anyone outside the hospital asked me how I was doing, because I was working so hard to keep my emotions in check at work. Continue reading “What’s Saving My Life This Week”