Monday, June 30, 2008

Today (Monday) was awesome! I talked to the other chaplains at HSC about whether or not it would be a good idea to put prayer request boxes on each of the units (idea I’m totally thankful to have stolen from one of the other women in the program!). I’m getting to try it out on both my units (step down rehab and pediatric) to see what the response is. If the response is good, maybe it’ll get to be tried out on the other units of the hospital (and my units can get some kind of boxes that are more permanent...right now they are card board boxes).

When I went on the pediatric unit today, I brought a puppet that I recently remembered I had (my aunt made it for something I did in high school...and made it in a wheelchair etc. to look like me). For the most part, it was a big hit (one of the really little girls cried at first...but other than that everyone really liked it)! Even the staff seemed to like it.

Also, on the pediatric unit, when I was talking to one of the nurses about the prayer boxes, we were also talking about me possibly doing a service on the pediatric unit. I would love to do something patients and their families and the staff would all be able to come to and be a part of if they wanted to. (I started thinking about this after going to the service they already have in place on one of the other units.) The nurse I spoke with is going to talk to the head of the unit and we’ll all hopefully talk more and put something in place!

Sadly, I’m realizing we only have a month left (how did that happen?) I’m hoping everything I’ve mentioned really works out and gets rolling before this unit is over. Or if I do another unit, maybe God will open the door to my being placed there again and keeping things going. And if I don’t end up doing another unit, maybe I can still be connected to the hospital somehow and see that things continue to progress!

On a different note, I’m still struggling with the whole “interfaith” idea. Maybe that’s something the group will talk about, in light of some of the discussions that happened on Friday. But I had an interesting encounter with one of the chaplains and a staff member today. The chaplain seemed to totally be pushing her “you’re OK, I’m OK” agenda on the staff member, which the staff member seemed to me to clearly be saying she didn’t agree with. I could see the staff member getting visibly frustrated and she was late to go back to work, so the conversation was pretty short). The chaplain said that she’ll continue to “check in” etc. but even with me seemed to be pushing her agenda since she thinks she clearly knows what I believe and wants to “stretch my theology” and “make me more open”. But what she didn’t seem to see is that my comments and hopefully the encounters she has with people who don’t necessarily buy “I’m OK, you’re OK”, are to stretch HER theology and make her more open as well. She seemed to say, too, that if I wasn’t able to view things that way, maybe chaplaincy isn’t for me...but is chaplaincy necessarily only for people who buy into every view out there? And is it really possible to be the type of person who buys into everything...or is there a point where that becomes a contradiction and it’s just not possible to say that “everything” is OK. When I asked what the word “OK” meant, too, there really was no can people who SAY they buy into everything really explain what that means...or do they just not want to admit that it’s not possible to buy into EVERYTHING. Is there a point in time where, even as a chaplain, it’s better to be honest about what we believe and relate to people in that way...and is that time possibly from the very beginning? (So that patients and families etc. get an accurate picture of whom they are relating to and can decide which KIND of chaplain to go to....maybe part of the problem is that it’s all under one umbrella.) I know for me, I would MUCH rather talk to someone about faith based things (especially when I’m in a vulnerable state like being in the hospital) who shares my faith. That’s when I’m much more likely to open up. If someone were to come to me as a chaplain and not disclose what faith background they’re from and say that they serve people from all backgrounds, I have a feeling I would be less likely to open up if I open up at all.

Edit: I found out Wednesday that because DCF etc. would have to get involved, I probably won't be able to do a worship service on the pediatric floor. We're actually not even allowed to read them faith-based stories etc. unless it's noted that we have permission from the family. It all sounds complicated and frustrating. At least I can spend time with the kids and make them laugh or hold their hand when they're afraid etc., but man...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What I'm wrestling with now...

I'm not so good about updating this thing. By the time I get home sometimes, I have a lot of thoughts going on but I'm kind of DRAINED and don't feel like writing everything out.

But now I'm wrestling with something, so I thought I'd throw it out there and see what people's thoughts are.

I was the one leading the Worship service the other day in "group", and for the most part it was pretty amazing and everyone got a lot out of it. BUT even though I explained that the story I told and where the song came from was a Christian camp, people didn't like that it had "Jesus" in it. And then when I prayed in closing, "in Jesus name" just came out naturally before I could even think about it or stop it. It was REALLY interesting and a bit frustrating to see that that's the non-interfaith prayer that got the strongest reaction of all the non-interfaith things that have happened in the group.

So, how do I pray in a way that's interfaith...and leave my genuine self at the door. And how do I reconcile that with 2 Timothy 2:12?

Maybe it's in how I interpret the verse, but I feel like my NOT praying in a way that's genuine is denying Him...

Since the place that I do my clinical work is primarily Catholic/Protestant, I don't have this problem 3 days a week (even the other chaplains pray "in Jesus name" or use the Lord's prayer). And really no other non-inclusive prayer has gotten a strong reaction at all, even though it's been kind of pointed out.

Even the Christians had a really strong reaction, so that was interesting to see, too.

I'm noticing that because I'm the only Christian that isn't UCC, I'm truly the black sheep. But I have really kept it to myself.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Janet, the other chaplain at HSC, came back from FL today. I got to know her for a while this morning before Karen came and the 3 of us talked for a while, too. Then I got to shadow Janet on some of her visits and see how she does "her thing" on at least one of the floors. She and I went over forms they use and I got to be present during initial conversations with a couple of the patients so that I could not only get to know the patient, too, but get to see how the initial conversation goes (to get the information for the form they do for new patients). One of the women we met in one of these visits asked that both Janet and I come see her again, so hopefully I'll see her around again and get to witness her progress.

Since I've spent the majority of my time so far on step-down, it was a LITTLE weird not being there all day, but nice to see how the chaplains really work rather than just being in one place all day. One of the girls I usually see up there (who is a patient but also does volunteer work and is sometimes out and about around the hospital) came to the chaplains office when we were all there today, so it was nice to see how she was doing (I hadn't seen her since last Wednesday). She got to witness my accidentally jamming the shredder and Janet fixing it. :-p OOPS!

I was showing Janet the Max Lucado book I wanted to give the hospital for the pedi floor (and whoever else wants to use it...I have no doubt that adults might like his kid books, too!). She and I are going to go on the pedi floor some day, too, so we'll get to bring it then.

Oh, one of the girls I met when I was outside with Janet asked Janet if she and I would come visit her sometime soon (probably Monday since we're going to a conference on Friday all day). It felt kind of awesome that she wanted me to come even though she only knew me for all of a minute.

If I think of anything else, I'll edit...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Just a couple thoughts

I'm finding that there are a lot more complications (maybe that isn't even the right word) in this program than I thought...and maybe things are being made more that way than they need to be. Possibly both by me and those running the programs?

And the program in general is really hard to explain to those who aren't in it. I feel like I should at least be trying to explain it, but it seems to leave frustration for people who aren't in it. I kind of wonder if it would be better to not even go into it, but I want to be able to at least share as much as I can with people.

Maybe I don't even really get what's going on/why certain things are happening the way they are, so that can't be too helpful.

Monday, June 2, 2008


In our class, we have weekly reflections that we hand in on Tuesday mornings. I may have posted some of the same thoughts here (I know I was going to do that tonight with the reflection I wrote for tomorrow), so I thought I would post bits and pieces of the first two reflections. They say what I've thought about "dumping" here pretty much. But I'm taking out any references to people and "group" stuff etc., hopefully for obvious reasons...

One random side that's not in these reflections: When I was at HSC going to see patients/meet people who work on the floors today, I decided to see if I could get myself lost and then find my way back to somewhere I was familiar with. It was a little bit fun/interesting to see where I ended up and what happened when I got there. And it was nice out, so I got "lost" a little bit outside, too, before I went to my car. :-)


Reflection 1

As we have gone through this week, I have been thinking a little bit about my own faith tradition and the concept of “dying to self” or “emptying of self” to become more like Christ. I have seen and felt how counter-culture it is to be open about being drained and vulnerable...and thought about how that’s part of what we’re in our position as a chaplain for. To let people become open and vulnerable. So, I have actually been grateful to have that experience this week of being there myself. At first it felt like inadequacy or “What am I getting myself into...maybe I’m not cut out for this”. I tend to feel that way when I don’t do something exactly right at the first shot....or when it doesn’t seem like there’s one specific way of doing something (it seems like there’s a lot of “figure it out on your own” even though part of this program is class-like). Part of what has made me feel that way, too, is that I noticed that I’m the only one in the group who hasn’t already gone through or isn’t currently in seminary. Part of that is an awesome privilege to me, to get to do this program having not been a part of that, and another part of me wonders if that’s something that’s needed to be better at chaplaincy.

Maybe this emptying/anxiety etc. just a process I, and we all, have to go through before God can really use you and fill you with Him, so there is less of you and your judgments/biases etc. that may get in the way of our work as chaplains.

I have already realized, too, how important it is going to be to take care of myself fully so that I can be completely present for the people I encounter. To not do so would be a disservice to them and ultimately mean my not doing my job to the best of my ability. It’s amazing how easy it is to not do things like getting enough sleep, eating right, spending my own time with God/time for myself...and how much it takes a toll when I’m not doing those things. I was really frustrated with myself this week that people, especially patients, noticed that I wasn’t fully present because of not getting enough sleep (which I think had a lot of factors behind it), not wanting to take over or be too much in what the chaplain I was with was doing on his floors. Since they weren’t my floors and it’s important for them to be the one developing relationships and establishing himself as the chaplain on the floor, I thought it was important for me to hold back...and I had a hard time finding the balance between fully being present while holding back and letting the other chaplain do “his thing” at the same time.

Part of what these visits and this orientation so far has shown me is how much I can use what I’ve learned in school through the counseling program, and that it’s more about who God made me as a person rather than having the degree at the end of the program. It has already been interesting to see that the things we’ve talked about in this program are things I learned in classes...and how intertwined being good at what we do is with being a pastoral counselor (which is what I was doing at Saint Joe’s) or someone in that type of field...while they are different at the same time. It will be cool to see, too, how the social workers and chaplains etc. may work together in this program, especially since social work is the route I’m looking into for school.

I also realized that it may be important for the group to know how I’ve found I process things in a group setting. I have found that a lot of the time, I listen and process and come back later with thoughts when they’ve fully been developed. I don’t like to come out and say something until I’ve fully thought about it and put it together. Sometimes I have found that that means coming back the next time with thoughts from a previous time, or coming out with an email or something in between meetings with people. So, part of the way I will hopefully challenge myself more this summer will be to speak up more at the time, rather than analyzing or over-thinking situations or what I want to say about what’s going on. I just don’t want my “off the cuff” responses to things to seem silly or for me to not be able to fully explain what I’m thinking. I don’t want that to be frustrating either for myself or for the group. But I know that my holding back won’t be helpful for the group, either.

I noticed this on Friday when I felt one of my comments in group seemed random/out of place/bringing the conversation to being about myself and not about the person we were talking to/about. Once we got out of the group setting and she and I were going to our cars, I was able to have a deeper conversation with her about it and she got where I was coming from. But I was frustrated with myself that that’s one of the only comments I made in the group setting and I didn’t think I explained well that that’s what came up for me when she was talking about everything that’s been going on with/for her. I have noticed this week that when people talk about what’s going on for them (both in and out of our group setting), I’m able to relate it to something that has previously gone one for me, and I’m not sure if/when that’s OK to bring up.

There were a lot of different emotions/thoughts etc. that came up this week. I guess that’s normal for the beginning of a program one has never been involved in, though. It will be awesome to see how all of these things develop, as well as the things that are going on for others in the group, as we continue this journey together this summer.


Reflection 2

My sense of pastoral identity and authority is changing even since our last interpersonal session. I think having the conversation, both in my session with my supervisor and in our group session, about my feelings of inadequacy and ineloquence etc. opened the door for me to really deal with what I was feeling in a positive way rather than just getting upset about it at home or inside myself. I think that conversation opened the door for me to be more comfortable opening up in group, too. I’m already not really as intimidated as when we started. And I’m realizing that I’m GOING to mess up and not do things exactly right (and sometimes not even the way I plan them out) and that I need to cut myself some slack and learn from those experiences.

Also, I had about a half hour today before lunch where I got the chance to pray and read my Bible. Before the opportunity to be a part of this program came about, I had really been longing for and praying about having a job where I would NEED to rely on God. I am confident that this program was God’s answer for me at this time in my life. I have seen the times that I’ve broken down already and not felt qualified enough as a chance for God to empty myself of me and fill me with Himself. As a result, God makes me more qualified because He is doing the work through us, and we’re not doing it on our own strength. I just need to remember to look to God through everything.

I found today, too, that people sometimes relate to you in sharing their stories and struggles and being given the chance to ask about and hear about your own. God gives each of us a unique story, and we are the only people in the world who are qualified to relate it to others. Not that it will always be in sharing your story that one is able to work as a chaplain, but I found today that He will use the sharing of a part of your life when it fits. In a way, I’m lucky to have common ground with some of the patients in the hospitals that were born with a differability or have one now because of something unexpected. I know that God will use my story and my experiences in the lives of whatever patients He has in store for me to relate them to, at whatever appropriate times it comes up. And in turn, I know He will use the stories and experiences of the people I have met and will continue to meet in my life as well.