Gerald May: The Chaplain as Physician

I’ve been reading the excellent book Simply Sane by Dr. Gerald May, primarily for my personal benefit but secondarily for professional benefit. It wasn’t recommended to me by anyone, and I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but I’m glad I did.

Dr. Gerald May

It’s an excellent book for those doing pastoral care as well as teachers and educators. I recently read a passage that struck me as to how well it spoke to the position that many Chaplains find themselves in: wondering what to do.

I had an older woman come on service a few days ago who appeared to be greatly depressed. When I introduced myself and gave the usual opening “how are you today?”, her response was “I want to die. Can you give me a shot?” Continue reading

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Kelsey Dallas: “What caretakers can do when their patient believes God has abandoned them”

Deseret News National reported a study in which the health outcomes of those with positive beliefs about God were compared to those with more negative beliefs and found some striking differences. Reporter Kelsey Dallas wrote:

Researchers behind the study, published this past summer, concluded that caretakers should try to intervene to help patients gain a more positive spiritual outlook to guard them against harmful physical and mental health consequences. However, experts who have studied how people cope with negative spiritual beliefs said shifting someone’s spirituality is a difficult process, which can’t be undertaken lightly.

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Chaplain Tom Becraft on Caregiver Burnout

***Update*** Additional resources added below: 2/7/18

I recently read a fantastic article by Tom Becraft on managing the seemingly unmanageable barrage of stress and grief that can come in heathcare chaplaincy. He begins with the summary of the first hour of one day:

  • 6:30 a.m.   The morning shift is just starting. I have just entered the office and am taking off my coat. The desk phone rings. It is from the nighttime hospital supervisor regarding an unfolding situation in Room 1040. A 34 year-old mother of four small children has had a massive stroke apparently caused by a sudden dissecting carotid artery. Brain death is likely. Considerations: how to emotionally and spiritually support this large non-English speaking family; how to facilitate the organ donor requester process; how staff, some of whom are young mothers, might experience this death; how to prioritize. I clip my cell phone and pager to my belt and head out.

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Balancing grace and growth in the ministry of the church

I came across an interesting discussion on LinkedIn regarding the state of the American church, namely that the “seeker” model has failed to create real disciples and failed to make an impact in our culture. “Felt needs” (always a poorly defined term) have replaced authentic discipleship, and the church and culture are sick because of it.

There is a pretty fair divide between those who see the role of pastor or church (not “the body of Christ” Church, but local body “church”) as to evangelize and bring people into the body of Christ (the Church), and those who see the main role of the pastor/church as teacher or pedagogue.

The first will use any means necessary to get people through the doors because it sees salvation as the end result. People come to church, hear the gospel, and get saved. If it takes a light show and Starbucks in the lobby to get them in, so be it. I worked at one of these churches for a time and saw the good and bad of it. They were great at getting people in the door, but it didn’t know what to do with them afterward. Growth was secondary. It was part of the program, but was not a primary driver. The church grew and became very influential, and still is. But the leadership had difficulty seeing themselves as something other than a youth group for adults (thankfully I can say that has changed). Continue reading

Problems in Caregiving Relationships: Neglect of God

We’ve seen how neglect can happen in caregiving relationships between the Chaplain and the person being cared for. For example the caregiver can neglect the other in the relationship by taking away their power and authority regarding healing, and the caregiver may neglect their own needs as well. These problems often show themselves in co-dependency, overcompensating and undercompensating, burnout and meaninglessness.

Now to the third member of the therapeutic relationship, God. It’s interesting to note that we tend to relate to God similarly to how we relate to others, yet God does not relate to us in the way others do. Perhaps this is why our relationship to God can be so puzzling and frustrating at times! Continue reading

Chaplaincy and Evangelism: Is “Sharing the Gospel” the Same as Proselytizing?

So in reading a few other blogs yesterday looking for other comments and thoughts on faith and chaplaincy I came across the following clip.

I found this clip interesting on many levels and got in to a discussion with the blog poster who brought it up as an example of how postmodern Christians, especially mainline chaplains, seem unable or unwilling to present the Gospel to those who need it. But I found this clip very interesting regarding the skills a chaplain needs as well as whether or not it is considered proselytizing for a professional chaplain to share the Gospel. Continue reading

Pastoral Care and Advanced Dementia

When I first started chaplaincy, I would walk out the door with bible in hand and a planned reading for the day for all my patients.

That lasted about two days.

The reason was not that I gave up or got lazy, but rather that I quickly found that the majority of the patients I saw didn’t benefit from it because they simply couldn’t understand what I was doing due to advanced dementia of some kind. Even if end-stage dementia was not their primary diagnosis, I’d say at least 2/3rds of the people I saw suffered from this. Many could communicate and talk with me, but lived in a world of their own. They would often misinterpret their environment, and in many cases couldn’t remember what I had just said to them a few minutes ago. Some were truly end stage, confined to a chair or to bed, nonverbal or nonsensical, and having no apparent understanding of what was going on around them. Organically, their brains were slowly dying, leaving them trapped in a world that I didn’t know how to enter.

That’s what makes dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease so tragic. A person can otherwise be relatively healthy, but as their brain deteriorates it can seem as if they are lost to us already. Continue reading

Self care is part of your work

As important as self care is for Chaplains and other caregivers, it’s probably one of the most neglected parts of our job. And self care is part of our job, because if we don’t care for ourselves we will be unable to do our job.

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Jesus loves you, but you’re still going to die

Every so often in hospice you get asked a baffling question, one that you don’t have a ready answer for. Sometimes it’s because the answer is simply beyond fathoming or beyond a simple explanation: “why is this happening to me?” or “why does God allow so much evil in the world?” Other times I’m baffled because the answer seems so obvious that I’m trying to understand why it’s asked at all. Such was the question I had posed to me a while back:

“Why does God have to take my mom? She never did anything wrong!”

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Keep your friends close, and your “-ism”s closer

yes, that's Geneva in the background

I’m trying to work on a new post on Calvinism and having a bit of a hard time, so I thought I’d take a break.

I grew up Calvinist but only because that was the only pool I could swim in at the time. During and after seminary I questioned things more but still held on to a lot of it. Now I’m investigating the other side of the fence – that would be the more Arminian traditions including the Anabaptists – and even the contemplative Catholics like Thomas Merton. All of this has been great, and disturbing at the same time. Continue reading