Archive for Religion

Christmas Promise

On a long-ago Christmas Eve, I did my last visit to a patient as a hospice chaplain.

I was honoring a promise.

All I did was hold a hand in a dark bedroom while storm clouds trudged across the night sky. In the nearby houses, seasonal lights flickered in the rain, inflatable Santas and snowmen waved their greetings, and outdoor ornaments sparkled as the gusting wind teased them.

In the patient’s room, it was quiet.

In the patient’s room, she now mostly slept.

I’d already started working as a church’s “new minister.” It had been a tough decision to leave hospice—an intimate ministry—for a mid-sized church with hundreds of members, a sprawling budget, and endless obligations. So many decisions are a combination of guesses, selfish and selfless reasons, and trying to do the right thing at the right time of life. I didn’t know then (and I don’t know now all these years later) if it was the best choice . . . but it was my faithful risk to say “yes” to serve a congregation.

Some of those “endless obligations” during the first days of church work were the Christmas Eve services. There I would preach. There I’d read the ancient stories of Jesus’ birth. There I’d seek to connect an old, familiar tale to the daily hurts and hopes of modern folks. There I’d help a congregation light candles and proclaim the “light of the world.” Read More →

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Religion Can Help (Or Hinder)

"Empty Chair" by Anthony Ulinski

“Empty Chair” by Anthony Ulinski

She answered the phone.

Her sister had recently died. Soon, I was sharing what our hospice offered for the bereaved.

Like many hospices, we have grief counselors. It would be easy to schedule a one-on-one session . . . but she didn’t sound interested. I suggested our support groups.

“Maybe later on, I guess, but I’m not a groupy kind of person.”

An upcoming workshop on grief wasn’t appealing. And then, since this conversation occurred near the start of autumn, I mentioned several upcoming annual activities. One dealt with facing the holidays without a loved one. Another was an outdoor memorial service between Thanksgiving and Christmas, open to everyone in the community. Read More →

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Everyone is an Expert

expertWhen first admitted into hospice care, one of the patients mentioned they looked forward to the chaplain’s visit. In recent years, before and especially during his illness, this person told the admitting nurse about reading (and re-reading) the Bible cover-to-cover.

“There’s nothing the chaplain can say that I don’t already know about the Bible.”

Really?

Did humility, humor, or hubris influence our new patient’s claim? Were the words a boast . . . or a clever way to avoid deeper, and more difficult emotions? Read More →

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