Things Heard Daily

When I’m actively supervising a group of CPE students, it always impacts when I can get to my unit in the intensive care where I’m the unit chaplain.

When I’m not supervising, for instance, it’s easier to be with my patients because I have more time for patient care.

When I’m supervising students, I split my time between the pastoral education component of my work and the clinical chaplaincy with patients and staff.

The other day I was in the MICU, and I heard something that I hear whenever I’m on the floor. Have you ever considered what you hear on a day-to-day basis?

It didn’t occur to me that I heard this comment so much until that moment. A nurse was talking to another nurse and she said, “I’ll help you.”

I think a patient needed moving. They may have been readying for a procedure. I can’t remember the context, but the phrase stood up and jumped into my ears.

I hear it all the time. Nurses talking to nurses. Supervisors talking to students. Fellows talking to residents. When you spend your time hearing, “I’ll help you,” it turns you into a person who expects help and, maybe, who will be helpful.

In My Own Heart and Life

We tend to condemn in the system what we do not recognize in ourselves. Sins do not exist in general; they are specific, concrete, carrying their weight measured in terms of fearful accuracy. We do not sin against humanity; we sin against persons who have names, who are actual, breathing, human beings. The root of what I condemn in society is found at long last in the soil of my own backyard. What I seek to eradicate in society that it may become whole and clean and righteous, I must first attack in my own heart and life.

From Howard Thurman’s Deep is the Hunger, p. 99

Teach Me To Look

I had a martial arts teacher say when I started karate, “You can look at me. That’s why I’m here.”

She was modeling our kata, showing us, all of us who knew nothing about what we were doing, how to do the martial form.

She was permitting us to see. She was requiring it.

I wrote in the last post that I’ve been reading about painful things lately. It’s hard to read about pain.

A lot of trauma, therefore, is unseen. A lot of pain goes un-witnessed. But I know that a lot of people go unseen, too.

There may be good reason for not seeing. I have trained myself to look in side glances rather than directly. I have been trained “not to stare.”

Who wants to offend? There is a way in which we learn not to look at one another, even when we are there to be seen. Even when that’s why we’re there.

So much so that it’s the noticing that becomes shocking, the witnessing that becomes jolting.

May God and all our teachers teach us how to look.


I walked in and saw the group of you, people I didn’t know but did. It was good to see you. Good to be with you. Good to be both known and unknown by you.

When one of you stretched out that familiar arm, draped in black and pointed to the wall, I took the invitation and the smile with it and went to my seat.

The old cushion was, like every face, a reminder. A reminder of things from before. Of organ music and hugs. Of cracked pieces of crackers and juice. Of microphones and fans. Of old people and young people. Of splendid togetherness.

Starting with you for those hours and hearing my senior colleague speak to his beloved relative about what was ahead; tracking the promise in the midst of a church’s choice to call a new pastor; praying for the strength of your emerging bond as church and leader; it was all familiar and wonderful. It was all new and unknown.

It was a faith community doing what faith communities do. It was good to be with you.

What If

What if your faith community gathered together today or tomorrow and, rather than participated in your planned liturgy, decided to claim the closest Muslim community as your neighbor?

What if you contacted the leader there, let that person know that you and your people were coming to support them, to stand in solidarity, to pray in love, and to witness to the possible?

What if your church expanded its definition of an encounter with God so that you saw the Eucharist, the Mass, the body and the blood in, now, the broken bodies of the latest victim of ever-present, simmering, structured, resilient evils representing themselves as having to do with goodness?

What if your community of faith added to its solid theology a pointed plan to always claim the latest least of these by re-working agendas in order to show up, to initiate the call to worship around that black church basement, around those riddled walls of that synagogue, and just outside the caution tape and close enough to see shreds of scattered prayer rugs?

What if you believed that God believed that being present meant going and waiting, going and crying, going and replacing your order of service in your city or your suburb so that the order came from the dizzying chaos of no order and blasted hope and suffering?

What if you took seriously the deepest pains of your folk and your people and used that pain to turn outward to the folks you have yet to see?

What if those previously unseen people started to look like you, your beautiful faith community, and your spiritual family until it became completely unsettling to do what your leadership committee planned for this fiscal year?

What if you took a risk to respond to this moment?

What if you committed to doing more as a spiritual practice, to inviting others to do more, and to staying inspired to make “more” a new setting in the face of politically nourished xenophobia?

What if you queried your people and said in an authentic, your-own-voice-and-your-own-words-kinda-way, what will we do about this?

What if that question became standard in response to such tragedy?

What if you listened to their responses?