Thursday, June 23, 2016

After burn-out, what next?

If a Chaplain becomes so emotionally and physically exhausted that he or she experiences burn-out, there still remains one very powerful tool that will right the ship and head in another direction.  That tool?  Self-reflection.  As the Chaplain reflects on the experience, certain questions rise to the surface.  Why did this happen?  How did I get to this point?  Did I ignore warning signs?  Did I speak with someone?  Why didn’t I speak to someone?  How am I now?  Do I need help?


If you’re in burn-out, may I suggest that it might be wise to see a therapist.  There are many layers to an onion and there are many layers to our inner person.  The skilled therapist will help you to be pull them back to help you heal internally.  Yes, you will think of a thousand and one reasons not to see a therapist.  Pride is a brutal task master. 


For me to say more would be inappropriate as I would only speak is generalities.  I will say that you will want to take some time to heal before you jump into something else so you don’t repeat the process.


With blessings for a renewed sense of hope and well being.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Horrid and Cruel Counselors

In light of the Orlando slaughter, I thought it fitting to re-run this article, Horrid and Cruel Counselors.  It has shocked me and shaken me to the core to read some of the opinions of pastors and others with unbiblical rants about the occurrence.  As Chaplains we seek to bring peace and healing to the emotionally and spiritually patient and family member.  To use this event as a platform for preaching hatred is beyond my ability to comprehend.  Come to Orlando, see the brokenness of family members and the brokenness of all involved.  Come to Orlando Regional Medical Center and hear the stories of the brave and highly competent medical staff.  Use that to inspire your hearers to greatness.  It’s interesting how when one writes on various subjects, there is a need to hear it again. 


I taught a Bible study recently on the subject of suffering.  My take-away was the shocking reality that this group of men either had never been around those who were suffering emotional trauma or were simply of the mind that those who suffer deserve it.  “Well, they must have brought it on themselves,” was a comment that left me flabbergasted.  Facial expressions and body language indicated that others believed the sufferer either deserved it or they should buck up and take it.  Thankfully, there were two that seemed to get it and had a more merciful view of suffering.  Since we just celebrated Easter, I wondered if some of this group believed Jesus deserved crucifixion, but I didn’t have the courage to ask. 


Comforting the suffering is part of what a hospice Chaplain does.  In the Book of Job, we come across three men, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  At first, they modeled outstanding pastoral care skills when they sat in the dust with Job and remained silent for 7 days and nights.  I invite you to read the previous article on this subject (March 24, 2016)


Something changed their attitudes.  They became harsh and cruel in their diatribes as to why Job suffered.  Why someone suffers is far secondary to treating the wound.  Who can argue with Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”  People need comfort and rebuilding.  When David reflected upon his life in Psalm 23:4, he said, “He restoreth my soul.”  Restore in Hebrew has the word picture embedded in it that portrays something of value broken into many pieces…so many pieces that it would take a master-fixer-upper to put it together.  God restored David’s soul…not once, not twice, but many times.  Since David was elderly when he wrote this Psalm, his reflections on God build our souls.


Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar went from excellent comforters to horrid comforters.  Paul Tautges is a kindred spirit when it comes to this subject.  He writes in


Be like Counselor Eliphaz.

  • Automatically assume that sin is the cause of your friend’s suffering and, therefore, God’s hand of corrective discipline is upon him, thus implying that even the death of his children was somehow his fault (Ch. 4-5).
  • When your spiritual friend, who is experiencing deep suffering, tries to explain his situation to you, assume he is just putting spin on his story in order to justify himself. Tell him he is full of the wind and will ultimately come to destruction anyway because he is so wicked (Ch. 15).
  • Be sure to remind him that he is a great sinner who is greedy, cruel, and needs to get right with God. Leave no room for grace (Ch. 22).

Be like Counselor Bildad.

  • Conclude that—because the wicked do not ultimately prosper—your friend is wicked and be sure to tell him…just in case he has forgotten (Ch. 8).
  • Only use fear to motivate him to repent by repeatedly drawing his attention to the future destruction of the wicked (Ch. 18).
  • When you run out of things to say then resort to name-calling; Maggot is always a pretty good choice (Ch. 25).

Be like Counselor Zophar.

  • Have no mercy upon the sufferer and don’t empathize with his difficult situation. If he dares to open his heart to you—revealing his deepest doubts and fears—don’t give him a patient listening ear followed by gentle, probing questions. Instead, tell him he talks too much (after all, he is just whining), is lying, and only getting half of what he deserves anyway, therefore, he should repent (Ch. 11).
  • Be sure to remind him that he will suffer the fate of the wicked man. Whatever you do, don’t give him hope (Ch. 20).

In a nutshell, if you want to be a miserable comforter then nurture a hyper-active connection between personal sin and every form of suffering and be sure to remind your spiritual friends that they are the ultimate cause of their suffering (that they are sovereign) and that the one-word answer is always “Repent!”

Getting back to my Bible study group… Great damage is done both in families and churches when errant views of suffering and how to engage the sufferer prevails.  I have several powerful and painful patient stories that reflect this horrid and cruel way of treating one who was recently bereaved.  Is it any wonder that elderly John the Apostle concluded his worship services by exhorting his congregation to “Love one another, for love is of God.” 

Chaplain colleagues, comfort your patients and their families.  They need what you provide. 




Monday, June 13, 2016

5 Ways Chaplains Help Others Respond to the Orlando Shooting

At hospice we respect patients and their families.  What does that look like?  It is a Chaplain holding the hand of an HIV/AIDS patient and listening to the pain of his story.  It is a Social Worker providing counsel to a troubled family member who desperately wants to resolve deep inner conflict.  It is a nurse mopping the brown of a patient suffering from end-of-life fever.  It is a physician collaborating with the IDT about the best course of medical action to take for a patient suffering breakthrough pain.  It is that and so much more. 


When an atrocity the likes of which this nation has never seen takes place, hospice team members mobilize to embrace a city with the love that called them to this noble occupation.  So, how do we respond?


We pray.


Did I go from respecting other people’s religious beliefs or no beliefs?  No, as I have spoken to those who claim to have no faith and they tell me the same thing, “you better pray.”  So, I do pray for the families of the murdered, the wounded, the families who as of this writing still do not know the whereabouts of their loved one, for the first responders, the medical staff at ORMC, the staff at Cornerstone Hospice who gave of themselves, and for Orlando to heal.   I’ll let you  build on the prayer list…


We pause for stability.


When something like this happens we aren’t sure what to think or feel.  Confusion sets in.  Our souls are deeply in pain.  Rather than engage in a call-in show or write a letter ot the editor or jump on Facebook or other social media and vent our anger and outrage, we need to stop for a moment to gather ourselves. 


We love.


I remember the week after 9-11.  Everybody loved everybody else.  Old fashioned manners returned.  People waved to one another.  We felt a nationalistic pride that we were Americans.  Soon after; however, we got back to life as usual.  Our fellow man, our fellow countrymen lie slain.  Their families have been brought to their knees in grief. Therefore, we love.  Not just these, but as many as we meet, those we work with, those we live near, those we go to worship with.  You disagree with the lifestyle of those involved in the atrocity?  Love anyway.


We grieve.


Our inner person writhes in pain as we are reminded once again that this is not the America or the world it used to be.  Gone are the Mayberry’s, gone are the simple days, gone is the safety we thought we lived in.  It is the ugly now.  Yes, we grieve with the bereaved whose sons and daughters were taken from this world at far too young an age.  We grieve for this and so much more.


We heal.


We place a poultice upon our wounded souls.  We recall the words of Psalm 23:4, “He restoreth my soul.”  The word “restore” pictures something extremely valuable being dashed to pieces with no hope of being restored.  David, the author of Psalm 23, reflected on the moments of great tragedy in his life and declared his God put the pieces of his broken soul, his broken heart back together.  He was not the same after his tragedies, he was better. We are not the same, either.  As we heal, we will be better as well.


This is the hospice way.  We pray, we pause, we love, we grieve, and we heal.  If you or a loved one needs someone to come along beside you in this time of tragedy and turmoil please call us at 866-742-6655.  We’ll be there for you.  It’s who we are.

Knowing your personal “stuff”: Naiveté

Yes, Chaplains can have an astounding penchant for naiveté.  It is characterized by a lack of discernment and understanding of the human condition.  Naiveté can lead to serious boundary violations. In hospice, the Chaplain can be immersed in a number of challenging situations, many that deal with gifts of appreciation.  Since a Chaplain more than likely has come into hospice work from a pastoral type of setting where congregations give gifts at holiday times and other special days, the Chaplain must be aware of the possible challenges with accepting gifts.  For example, Hank is a hospice Chaplain. For some reason that is not clear, one of Hank’s elderly patients wants to give him an extra computer printer that he has. When Hank comes to visit, the patient has the printer packaged in a box and ready for him. Hank accepts the gift without reservation. He doesn’t really need a printer, but if he doesn’t find a use for it, he will just give it to his neighbor. It seems innocent enough—after all, it is just a computer printer. However, several days later, the patient’s son calls the executive director of the hospice for which Hank works and is nothing short of irate. He tells the executive director that he just found out his father has given one of the staff the computer printer and in the box, along with it, was $100 in cash. The son wants the money and the printer returned immediately. (adapted from Put yourself in the place of the executive director…He has to confront Hank.  He did. Hank stated there wasn’t $100 in the box.  How could Hank prove that?  He opened the box by himself when no one else witnessed it.  And, he did not report the gift to his Team Manager.  As a result, there was $100 missing and a computer printer that needed to be returned.  What a conundrum!  Who would repay the $100?  (in the Comment Section, tell me what you think should be done to repay the $100)  What would the executive director do to resolve the issue?  Hank received a written reprimand for violating boundaries.  Solution:  Know your organization’s policy on gifts and never, ever, violate the policy.  Remember, you are not in the pastorate any longer.  You are in a professional place of business that has policies and procedures.


Based on the above, the Chaplain must shed his or her naiveté and be aware of the potential for problems. 


Here are several wise guidelines to keep yourself out of boundary violations:

  1.  Do I know my company’s policy for accepting gifts?  If you don’t, find out right away.
  2.  Could I discuss my patient interactions with my Team or would I need to omit some of the patient/Chaplain interaction because it had to do with a boundary violation?
  3.  Do not see your patients after work hours for any reason.
  4.  Do not engage in any business related endeavors with a patient or patient’s family ever.
  5.  Never withhold information from your Team Manager about a gift.  Example: A patient that I had had a particularly good relationship with was an artist.  His skills had diminished due to his illness but he desired for me to have a painting.  I thanked him and told him the organization’s policy on gifts and told him I would explain the offer of the painting to my supervisor.  I met face to face with my supervisor and explained the gift offer.  I was given permission to accept the gift. I then told that to the patient on my next regularly scheduled visit.  That painting adorns my office.


At your next Chaplain’s meeting, discuss the matter of gifts.  Get it out in the open.  Have your Manager or Director explain the gift policy to the Chaplain Team.  Whatever you do, respect the patient-Chaplain boundary.  Your integrity and reputation are at stake.  


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pray for Orlando

Please offer prayers for those wounded and at the various hospitals in Orlando.  Also, pray for the families of those slain in this tragedy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Knowing your personal “stuff”: Forgiving

You notice the title is not “forgiveness” but “forgiving”.  Forgiving is an active process.  Forgiveness is the end result.  It is an interesting phenomenon for the Chaplain to think that he or she may hide their more dark side under the cloak of the ministry or chaplaincy.  To do that promotes a façade and makes the chaplain a phony.


Who are you angry with?  Who have you yet to forgive?  Why are you holding a grudge?  Do you think that your bitter spirit is hidden from view because you are a chaplain?  Others may not know what is wrong but they do know that something is wrong.  And, your patients know.  How interesting it is when we make the discovery that those in the land of the dying (our patients) have a sensitive spiritual sensor.  They are beyond the cover-up that so characterizes us in the land of the living.  What you never want to happen is for a patient to say to you is something like this: “Chaplain, how are you?  I detect something is just not totally right with you. I’ll listen if you want to get it out.”  Oh me.  The roles reversed.  That is your job, Chaplain Friend, to listen to inner pain and sorrow of the patient.


So, let’s get this out in the open.  If you are bitter, figure out why, and get rid of it.  If you need to forgive someone, do it.  In fact, I urge you to get your inner person straightened before you see your next patient.  That’s how strongly I believe your inner turmoil affects your outward spiritual care provision.  Let me lighten the mood a bit and invite you to go to   Look up the video titled, Bob Newhart-Stop It.  It is great counsel.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Knowing your personal ‘stuff’: Insecurity



Many ministers/Chaplains suffer from insecurity.  Just ask.  Insecurity finds problems where they don’t exist.  Insecurity promotes a feeling of failure, ruins personal morale, and hangs a dark cloud over the best Chaplain position one could ever have.  Part of  your CPE experience dealt with knowing yourself.  I urge you to know yourself well enough to recognize/identify your own insecurities and do something positive to rid yourself of these troubling feelings.


Let me suggest the following as ways to diminish those feelings.


  1.  Practice the “pause”.  When in doubt, pause.  When angry, pause. When stressed, pause.  When feeling insecure, pause.  And when you pause, pray.  Good adage.  Too often a Chaplain will read a performance review that provides constructive criticism and take a nose dive or worse yet, make a phone call to the supervisor and get defensive.  Yes, there are supervisors who lead with shame, guilt and condemnation.  And, that doesn’t help a Chaplain’s insecurities.  But, do not read into something what is not there.  Believe me, if a supervisor wanted to “get you” there are easier ways to do it.  So, before you do or say something you will later regret, slow down, take a pause, breathe a prayer, count to 100, re-read what was written and you’ll see it wasn’t as bad as you first thought.
  2.   In case you didn’t do it in CPE, explore where all these insecurities come from.  They all had a genesis, so figure out where you were in life and what was said or done to you.  Once you discover that your insecurities were learned and have become a way of life for you, you are at a crossroads.  Will you choose a healthy emotional state or stay where you are? 
  3.   Insecurities don’t give up easily.  There will be times when they rush back like a torrent.  Believe me, other people know it when you act on your insecurity.  No one is fooled.  Your peers are aware of it and, also, your supervisor.  What gives it away?  Your body language, the tone of your voice, and your writing, as in writing an email. 
  4.   Three keys to emotional security:
    1. STOP comparing yourself to others.  You have your unique strengths.  Celebrate them and invest them in your work.  Polish your strengths.
    2. We all have weaknesses.  Don’t let them win over your strengths. 
    3. What is your self-talk?  Change it from putting yourself down to celebrating the good you do.
  5.   Do not ever give up.  There are plenty of experiences in the life of a Chaplain that will sap you of energy and cause you think poorly of your performance.  It happens to all of us.  It’s just the way it is.  Ever call for an appointment for a home team patient only to be told the patient died a day or so ago?  Ever misunderstand what your supervisor told you to do?  I could go on about typical things like that.  Fact is, we’ve all made mistakes.  The only mistake that is fatal is the mistake to choose to remain insecure.  You’re too valuable to allow that to happen.