You’re in My Thoughts & Prayers

I will keep you in my . . . thoughts and prayers.

I’ve said that phrase. I’ve written it to those who have experienced death or disaster.

Isn’t it a good phrase? While it’s become a cultural cliché, isn’t it also a true enough and honest enough—but never adequate enough—response when another is hurting?

Thoughts? Please, invite in the agnostics and atheists, along with the cynics and critics. Everyone, even the most self-centered or isolated, thinks about others. Especially when tragedy befalls individuals, groups, or regions, we think about them. Mostly, people wish to share kind, tender thoughts. Often, we have no idea what to say, other than to express some form of hope.

Prayers? In our multitude of faith traditions with dramatically different beliefs, prayer is common ground. One believer may openly pray to “change” the ways of the divine or human subject. Another’s prayer may be expressed silently to “lift up” or “honor” someone. And a third may recite a formal prayer or sacred, ancient text. There are many diverse forms of prayer and praying.

Public events inspire our reactions . . . Read More →

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Demanding (Hospice) Decisions: Care vs. Cure

A singular vowel makes each word distinct from the other. They are among the simplest of four-letter words in English . . .



However, the choice between the two represents one of life’s toughest decisions. There are a few core basics when explaining hospice. None are easy to hear. All can make someone, and those who love that someone, unsettled, scared, angry, numb.

  • Entering hospice means there are six months or less to live.
  • A hospice doctor you’ve never met, along with nurses, social workers, and other “strangers,” will now help make your health-related decisions.
  • For many hospice patients, the medications given—morphine, Ativan, methadone—are the “bad” drugs. Aren’t these so-called medications addictive or for “crazy people” or only offered when pain is unbelievably unbearable? Addiction, craziness, and pain never appear on anyone’s bucket list.
  • And, of course, hospice means care rather than cure.

Care vs. Cure. That’s the kicker. That’s the hospice gut-check. Abandoning a hopeful four-letter word over that other one-syllable word changes . . . everything. Your life now has a clock ticking away. Strangers arrive at your door, claiming to “help” you. The medications you’re offered are never featured on the pharmaceutical commercials with happy families and well-behaved dogs and a voice-over racing through the nasty side-effects that promote the newest drug for the best cure. Read More →

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Why Do Patients Refuse to Meet the Hospice Chaplain?

My boss and I had a brief, pleasant disagreement about the title of “chaplain.” She (I hope this is a fair summation) worries that certain hospice patients refuse a chaplain’s visit because of the title.

Could introducing someone as a “chaplain” lead to a closed door?

I think my boss is right. And . . . wrong.

Even though she’s correct 98.3% of the time (please tell her I said that), I wonder if the stumbling block is what a chaplain is perceived to represent. Wasn’t Shakespeare correct in “Romeo and Juliet:” What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet? Whether the chaplain is Jewish or Buddhist, a layperson or professional clergy, volunteer or paid, they all carry the fragrance (or stink) of . . .


Since ordination in 1977, I’ve had various titles: deacon, elder, minister, pastor, associate pastor, senior minister, lead minister, new church start pastor, campus minister, hospice chaplain, and currently a bereavement support specialist. When a new hospice staff member or a grieving family member asks about my background, I’ll mention I’m a United Methodist clergy.


Not good? Good? An open door? A closed door? Read More →

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