How working as a hospital chaplain shapes the way one writer approaches the Biblical text. (Hermeneutics)
As a pastor then, as a chaplain now, I often navigate in a space bounded by positional obligations and patient (and family) expectations, and God’s invitation. So in that space, when it occurs in hospitals (or other places of pastoral care), what does it look like to talk to God on behalf of and in the presence of other people? And, perhaps, to talk to people on behalf of, and in the presence, of God.
What if you and four friends said, “No one is eating alone after a funeral. Churches have meals for members. We’re going to offer meals to families who don’t have churches.” And you became known as the people who were there in the hardest moments of life, not with answers but with presence. What if you provided potluck and pie?
What do you say at the grave of a stillborn baby? A person who was moving in the womb and then wasn't. A person who was part of a story that parents were writing and dreaming and decorating for, and then that story stopped. I'm not sure what you should say. But I thought it might be helpful to tell you what I said once.
If you've sat with a family in an emergency room, you've faced hard questions. And you've struggled to figure out the way to navigate hope and despair. It doesn't matter if you are a chaplain or a pastor or a friend that showed up in a hard time. You get questions and you have to answer. Sometimes, it sounds like this.
Because I see a lot of death as a hospital chaplain, it makes sense for me to look for ways to help people think about how to make decisions about medical and other interventions near the end of life. How to understand what is going on in the hospital and in the body. How to work within a framework to make decisions. This is a review of books I've been reading.
“What do we do?” The dad was holding the baby. About 30 weeks in the womb, the first 28 of those growing, moving. The last two motionless. Now, this couple was thinking about the services that would honor their child who had no list of accomplishment to eulogize. Here's what I told them.
How can I get better at pastoral care? I can pay attention to my own practice, my own interactions with husbands and wives, parents and children, moments of excruciating difficulty. In each of those moments (or immediately after) I can ask myself, "What am I learning that will help me with the next one of those moments. What questions can I ask myself and others? What can I learn about attending to bits of information and infusing them back into the care all of us provide?"
I think they were nine and twelve. But I’m terrible with figuring out the ages of kids, and I’ve decided that asking isn’t helpful. Instead, I start listening and start talking and calibrate my vocabulary and concepts to the responses I’m getting. Thirty feet away, through an open door, a public hallway, and a closed … Continue reading A conversation with kids about death.