Ministering to the Poor!

One of the most difficult aspects of my work as a hospice chaplain can be in ministering to the poor; whether the poverty is poverty in the economic sense, poverty of the spiritual realm or poverty in the emotional aspect. Poverty is often generational, which makes it all the more a mystery, because this way of living and thinking is something that has very deep roots. In addition, our time with patients and families can be very limited, and we must respect that we are guests invited into a sacred time and space in their lives.

Like any situation, a chaplain is called to leave our own agenda at the door and not bring any preconceived thoughts to the table. When we pull up to a house, we can pretty much tell the economic state of how someone lives by a quick assessment of the home; is it maintained or showing signs of distress and neglect, is the yard maintained, or are the weeds choking the life out of what has once been planted and groomed? Even with a quick assessment we need to be open minded and not think that we know an individual based on a curb side assessment.

The difficulty in ministering to the poor does not come because I don’t want to reach out and minister to that particular individual or individuals. It comes because I don’t know how, or perhaps because I want to “fix” their poverty. I haven’t quite figured this out yet.

I can read a book about different cultures and religions and gain insight as to what is acceptable and what is not, so I can “Be a Perfect Stranger” and I can even read about the aspects of poverty. Often a Hindu or Islamic family will invite the chaplain in and be very hospitable in sharing their beliefs and cultures, because their beliefs and values are important to them and they want to share them with others also. As a result, I gain wisdom and insight in order to minister more respectfully and effectively to a particular culture.

When you are dealing with a culture of poverty however, there is no sharing, no disclosure of the realm of poverty. One must walk beside as best as we are allowed and navigate through some often difficult paths in order to bring the love and hope of Christ to every encounter.

All I can do, at this point, is to accept, like I do with every individual I encounter, that I am invited in for a specific time frame and reason. That reason is to walk with an individual and their families through the valley of the shadow if death. To be present without any preconceived notions or mindsets. To bring the Incarnational presence of Christ and to love. Nothing more, nothing less.

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The Sacred Work of Grief.

In the matter of life and death, there is a sacredness of all human beings. We are created in love and created to love. We are created to be in relationship and community with others, and we are created to be an active participant in this world. When we find that the people that we love have died, it is then we begin the sacred process of grieving.

Working in hospice, we see death and grief on a daily basis. As unique as we are as individuals, so is our handling of death and grief. For some, death can be painful, and for others, death becomes a time of transition from life as we know it to life with God. No matter how you process death, our grief can become actual work. If you have ever been there, you will know what I am talking about. Often individuals question God, or get angry at God or their loved ones. Sometimes individuals live in denial and won’t allow “Doom and Gloom” to be spoken in front of each other. Still, other individuals seem to have already processed the reality of their own mortality and are able to recognize God’s presence in their lives from birth to death.

The goal of grief for any individual, whether we realize it or not, becomes an alternation between remembering and a time of hope.

Some of my most cherished memories as a hospice chaplain have been created when we sit together and remember. Remembering the mother, the father, the wife, the husband, the child, sister, or brother, that was love, laughter, strength and beauty; someone who cared, someone who loved, someone who was the glue and the backbone of the family. When we witness a family or an individual that is able to remember, we are able to witness a family that has hope.

Hope that God is right there with us in death, in our grief, and in our sorrow. Because, if God is the Creator of life and the One who determines our life on earth to have a final day, then we have hope that God walks with us through all of life, from birth to death.

Hope, then, is what helps us to believe that our death, or the death of a loved one is not the final destination. Remembering, therefore, should eventually lead us to being thankful. Thankful for having loved at all, or thankful for a career that provided, or for our memories that are no longer painful and can become cherished memories.

Grief is sacred. A Turkish Proverb states “He who conceals his grief, finds no remedy for it.” Walking through the “Valley of the Shadow of death” can be painful and might cause us to raise some big questions in the process. This is normal. We find that we are individuals learning to live with limits in the process of our grief, and we find we have hope that the death of a loved one, or our own mortality, is good, because God is present from birth to death.

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At The Foot of The Cross

Today is Good Friday. The day that Jesus walks His Path of Sorrow! During this Lenten Season I had an agenda of working on a personal item with the intent of laying that at the feet of Jesus on this day, as Jesus walks his walk towards Calvary.

God, however, had something different for me to work on during this time of prayer and reflection.

God has brought to the forefront of my mind these past 40 days something that I thought I had made peace with, and showed me that I was still holding onto a hurt; a betrayal. I had experienced a betrayal!

I had never categorized this personal hurt as betrayal, but when that was revealed, I was instantly taken to Jesus’ betrayal and realized that Jesus had felt what I had felt and was able to forgive with grace and love. The Incarnation of God, The Word Made Flesh had experienced, to a much greater degree, what I too had experienced, and was able to continue with His Father’s business instead of getting bogged down in the muck and mire of his emotions. Amazing!

Isn’t this what God calls us to do; forgive with grace and love? Lay offenses and hurts down for Jesus to deal with instead of wallowing in the muck. Why is this so difficult for me, for us?

What are you willing to lay at the feet of Jesus this Good Friday as He walks The Path of Sorrow? Are you willing to let go of something that you have been holding onto, a hurt, an offense, a betrayal; and allow Jesus to take that to the cross today?

May you find complete surrender this Blessed Easter season.

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A Journey Towards Healing and Wholeness

This blog was actually started back in December, but I have not been able to bring it to completion, mainly because of the emotions that I faced as a result of being a patient for two short days in the hospital.

After 30 plus years in the healthcare field as a nurse and a hospice chaplain, I now have a better grasp and understanding of the emotions and feelings that the patients are experiencing. As a result, I have a different understanding of my journey towards healing and wholeness.

I have heard that all medical personnel should have the experience of being a patient and I applauded that line of thinking, but now I know first hand that it should be a mandate for any who are thinking about entering the healthcare field.

I had the privilege of experiencing what it means to be admitted inpatient and spend two short but very difficult days at the hospital.  I have been a patient before for rapid in and out surgery, which did not seem to have the impact that this two day stay did.  I went to the hospital in the middle of the night for Atrial Fibrillation and ended up staying for two days, and those two days were two of the most difficult days I have ever spent, emotionally.  Not only was I at the mercy of those who came into my room, but I also was dealing with my own mortality and the feelings that my body had betrayed me in some fashion.

First and foremost, I had to acknowledge that I am human and that I am not infallible.   Working as a nurse for over thirty years and as a hospice chaplain for five, one would think that this truth would not have escaped me, but there I was trying to work through my own emotions in a not so private place. There was no place to run and hide, which made it all the more difficult for me.  When I am in crisis mode I have a tendency to withdraw until I have processed the situation with God, and there was no way to withdraw, no way to retreat!

Second, I was completely out of my element and seriously not in control. I just wanted to run and scream and go home, and I was never able to truly relax while I was there (can anybody relax in the hospital?).  I never knew that I was such a controlling person, but being at the mercy of others for a two day stay at the local hospital brought that reality to me in a challenging way.

My down fall in this arena is that I am a caregiver and I preach caregiving to those I work with, and yet, I have failed to practice what I have preached, always putting others first and myself last.  This may be humble, but in retrospect, surely not wise.

The reality of this hospital stay brought my humanity fully into focus and I was reminded that God is the only infallible One. My challenge is how to BEGIN the journey of truly caring for myself, in order to embrace my prayer of “Being a vessel that brings honor and glory to God.” I covet your prayers as I seek how to practice self care daily.”

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Gifts at the Table

In this life, each one of us will encounter a time that is difficult to navigate through. This might be walking with another individual as they transition from life as we know it to life eternal, or perhaps it is our own journey through a difficult season in our lives. My own personal “Dark Night of the Soul,” was most difficult to walk through but was life changing as I grew in my knowledge of God and myself as a woman and an individual.

There was one area, however, in which I was left with some unanswered questions where I ended up with two broken relationships during this time because I tried to fit these friends into a role that I needed them to fill, not the role they were designed to fill.  Of course I didn’t realize that at the time.

A couple of years ago, I attended a conference by Alan Wolfelt, who is an author and speaker on grief.  His message was so simple, yet profound for me. I wish I had this information while I was going through my own personal crisis and wanted to share this with you today.

Dr. Wolfelt spoke about the importance of being able to help others in a crisis identify what their friends bring to the table.  Not everyone is gifted with the potential to sit and listen or walk through a personal crisis with another. Everyone has gifts, however, and it is in knowing ahead of time what gifts they bring to the table that will allow for friends and family to feel useful, and will allow for the individual to feel as if they are being cared for in a crisis.  Like me, however, individuals often try to fit friends and loved ones into roles in which they are not suited; in which they are not comfortable, because that is what is needed at the moment. As a result, the person in need ends up feeling abandoned and uncared for and the friend or loved one ends up feeling inadequate and uncomfortable, as if they are unable to help.

His advice was simple; make a list of friends and list the gifts that those friends bring to the relationship. Are they good listeners or are they are the friend who will sit beside you at the beach and allow you to be still before God. Perhaps they are the one friend who is carefree and loves to laugh or is the friend that loves a good movie.

Then, when the individual in need has a day when they need laughter, or a meditative day for the beach, they will already know which friend is best suited because they have intentionally thought this through.

Perhaps you are walking with someone through their own journey and you are hearing them say that they feel alone or they feel as if nobody wants to listen to them. Take the time to encourage them to make their own list of friends so they can identify what their friends bring to the table.

In Genesis we learn that we are each created in the image of God. That image is not a physical image but is a moral or character image. Each one of us have gifts that we bring to each relationship, which make us uniquely divine, and whether we realize it or not, we reflect those gifts back to the world around us.

I encourage you to remember this simple tool which can also help us as individuals to become more aware of ourselves and what gifts we bring to the table. 

Shalom

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Beginner Blogger

 

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It has been on my heart and mind for some time now to begin to write!  A professor in seminary encouraged me to explore writing and I have not been able to let that idea go for a couple of years.

Today, I just want to write about where this will be going and what you might expect from me.

As a hospice chaplain, I am called to bring healing, hope, and hospitality with God as a god of relationships as my foundation, based on Genesis 3, and by bringing the Incarnational presence of Christ with me as I travel.  As a woman in ministry, it is my desire is to serve God’s people without doing harm.

For many years I have had a personal prayer about being a vessel that brings honor and glory to God’s name based on the passage from 2 Timothy 2:20 “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use.”  There are many areas of our lives, as humans, that we could improve on, myself included.

I often find that I am in need of healing myself, therefore I must take a look deep within to see where I might be bringing harm instead of healing.  It is not always a pleasant journey, but it has been my desire to allow the work of God’s Holy Spirit access to the inner most parts of my heart, in order to bring healing, in order that I might be a vessel that brings honor to God, through my thoughts, my words, and my actions.

There is a second reason for my desire to blog and that is my profession as a hospice chaplain.  We are all people on a journey towards healing and wholeness, and seeking hope and hospitality.  Often in hospice we are invited into some of the most sacred and holy places in the lives of others.  For this I am honored and blessed beyond all measure.  I will not allow myself to taint that sacred space by blogging about the specifics, however, I will share common grounds that we all walk as humans with one foot in this world and one foot on Holy ground.

I pray that you will join me on this journey.

Shalom

Gay

 

 

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