Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care

Life IS Hard!

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care on October 13th, 2010 by Jim Hughes – 2 Comments

These days I tend to spend time with people going through tough times in their lives. I now hear stories and details that in the past I wouldn’t have known. Because people know that I provide pastoral care, they tend to tell me things that they don’t share with others.

It has made me a lot more sensitive to the fact that life is hard.

And I recognize that for most of my life I was not as aware. Not that I wouldn’t know that people were dealing with life issues — cancer, death of a loved one, caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s, etc. But I was not in a position to know the details, to hear their stories. So I didn’t recognize how very hard what they were dealing with was.

You may be one of these people for whom life is hard right now. If so, then you know, and can empathize with others going through similar times.

If you’re not, then just be aware that there are folks all around you every day for whom life is hard. And that a gentle word, a gentle touch, can mean so much, even if you don’t know all the details.

DNR: Not the Result We Prayed For

Posted in cancer, Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Grief and Grieving, hospital visits on March 9th, 2010 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

Yesterday as I was making my chaplaincy visits, I visited a man and his wife whom I’ve grown to respect greatly. He was in the process of signing his out-of-hospital DNR for entering hospice care. He has battled a very rare type of cancer valiantly, but the cancer is winning in this life. His words were few. “It’s time,” he said, speaking of entering hospice care.

This is not the result any of us wanted.

We have prayed with great faith for healing, knowing it was against the odds of nature all along. If pure willpower could win this fight, this man would have won. If being greatly loved by so many people could make a difference, it would have.

After he signed the paper and the witness and the hospice representative left the room, we didn’t have words to give each other in conversation that would make any of us feel better or deal better. So we prayed to the One who understands how we feel, the One who can carry us through these difficult times.

The prayer I spoke was one of lament, telling God that this was not the result we wanted, admitting our pain, our frustration. But I also found words to express our love and faith to God in spite of not getting what we wanted, our total trust in Him to provide for our best good. And I also uttered a number of requests — for His care and protection and love for this family as they continue down a most difficult road.

As people of faith, we frequently pray for healing even in the face of long odds. We are praying for a miracle, for an outcome that flies in the face of logic, of reason, of grim statistics of nature.

Sometimes, admittedly infrequently, God grants our deep desire. I rejoice, and my resolve to keep praying for divine intervention is strengthened.

More often, He doesn’t. Then I express my lament, my sadness at the pain of this life. My resolve to continue praying for divine intervention is not lessened, but I am reminded that I, like Job of old, don’t know the answers.

I was reminded of Job yesterday, that in spite of pain and frustration, that he didn’t lose his integrity.

And that it was time to give that helpful book a fresh read.

What I learned from visiting just one patient today.

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care on December 14th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – Comments Off
Young People Singing in M.D. Anderson Lobby

Young People Singing in M.D. Anderson Lobby

Visiting just one patient wasn’t why I went to the hospital this afternoon.  I went to visit six patients.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have enough time to visit six patients today, although sometimes situations arise where I can’t visit everyone on my list. But today wasn’t one of those days.

Today only one patient was available. The patients in the first two rooms had been released. The third person on the list was out of the room for a procedure. The fourth patient’s room was also vacant. I did get to say “Hi” to the fifth patient as he was being wheeled away for a test.

When I reached the sixth room, the patient was in! In fact, she, her husband, her son, and the nurse were apparently having a conversation about chaplains coming to visit. As I introduced myself, the nurse said, “See, I told you that we have people from all different groups that come!” I came as a representative of their faith tradition, and for many of us, that’s like having family show up. It was for them. It seemed like they had just been waiting my arrival.

As I got to know a little about them, the husband reached over and picked up a Bible. He wanted me to read the handwritten inscription signed by the elders of their home congregation. It was a message of honor and belonging. We talked about prayer, about moving from hopelessness by the physicians over her condition to hope that led to surgery with a hopeful report. We talked about the importance of faith in times like this. And we prayed about what was on her heart — getting well enough to be with family and church. Even so, it was a short visit — maybe 10 minutes total.

Later I was talking to a colleague who is much more experienced in hospital visitation than I, and he remarked about how unusual my day had been.

The day was unusual enough that I spent a little time reflecting on what I should take away from it. I decided it’s really just one thing. Numbers don’t matter. But being there to represent God and church does matter. A lot.

Helpful Thoughts on Here and Now and Holding vs. Clinging

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Grief and Grieving, hope on December 4th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment


My friend Virgil Fry, Executive Director of Lifeline Chaplaincy, wrote a really good post on here and now this week. I especially found his words about holding those we love vs. clinging to those we love helpful.

I hope you enjoy it!

Self Care: Turning it Over

Posted in Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care, Personal, Self Care on October 19th, 2009 by Jim Hughes – 1 Comment

I’m just a work in progress.

Sometimes I forget that.  I get busy dealing with situations, trying to help others, and don’t work on Jim, or more accurately,  allow God to work on Jim.

That’s been happening lately.  What brings it to consciousness is usually a combination of emotional and physical symptoms: feeling tired, struggling to get things done, feeling overwhelmed, wanting to pull the sheets over my head, looking for things to keep my mind occupied.

When this alarm goes off and I become conscious of what’s going on, I know pretty quickly what the problem is and what I have to do to reverse course.

I have to very intentionally turn control of all of the things that are weighing me down over to God. It’s not that I haven’t prayed often about all of the situations and all of the people, or that I don’t have faith that God will provide exactly what’s needed. It’s just that I have unconsciously retained a portion of the responsibility for the outcome.  I haven’t completely given these things to God, robbing myself of the peace that comes from doing so.  And of the joy of watching how He works and allows me to participate.

So today I began the day intentionally by doing just that — naming names, and listing situations, verbalizing my trust in Him to provide and lead. And I feel more peaceful, more able to respond to His urges for these situations and these people.

I’m adding “Turn Over Control” to my daily calendar.  I need daily explicit recognition that I am not in control, but that the One I serve is.