A Chaplain’s Hospital Holiday

[Based on Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem: “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”]


‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the hospital,
our patients were struggling with things theological.
The pager was hung on my lab coat with care
in hopes that the number of calls would be spare.
As patients tossed and turned in their beds,
spiritual crises played through their heads.
The evening drew on with nary a mishap,
and I longed to relax and grab a quick catnap.
When, suddenly, the pager went off with a beep,
it startled me out of a momentary sleep.
Springing out of the plush chair, I flew like a flash,
flipped open the log book and recorded the night’s first car-crash.
As I ran to the ED, I uttered a prayer
for God’s presence to be felt in the midst of despair.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
but a patient whose injuries would soon prove severe.
With x-rays, CT scans, and of course, needle sticks,
I knew that this visit would not be too quick.
But rapidly, then, the pages they came
and summoned me elsewhere (in a ten minute time-frame).
From TCU right down to trauma bay two!
From a death to a code to another crisis call,
I dashed frantically down nearly every hall.
After sitting with patients and offering support,
I scurried away to make my report.
So, on to my spiritual assessment I flew,
and this one was charted a crisis of faith, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I came up with a plan,
I’d call in my backup to lend me a hand!
As my energy faded and I started to tire,
I turned toward a power eternally higher.
“My God,” I said, “I am so overwhelmed,
but to this ministry I’ve been compelled.
So fill me with strength from my head to my toe,
that your grace I may always continually show.
Help me to listen, to hear with intention,
so that I can provide the right intervention.
Remind me again that what patients most need
isn’t for me to take over the lead.
So, instead, let’s walk alongside them in love
as your Holy Spirit descends from above.”
With a whispered “Amen,” I grinned like an elf,
knowing I could rely on much more than myself.
So with a deep breath and a promise of coffee ahead,
I soon realized that I had nothing to dread.
Without another word, I went to my work,
not even an advance directive did I shirk.
As morning descended, the next chaplain arrived,
and I shouted, “Oh, wow, praise God, I survived!”
My one last remark as I drove out of sight:
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Engaging Mystery

There are days, O God, when your ways elude me.
Moments when your Advent promise to make straight paths for your people
is so obstructed by hairpin turns and hazardous road conditions that I cannot see beyond my own two feet.
Just when I think I know where I’m going, you detour my course.
But the signage on this new route is woefully inadequate,
and I quickly find myself lost and bewildered,
far from home in a foreign land.
No maps in-hand to guide me home.
No compass to steer me in the way that you would have me go.

There are days, O God, when “I don’t know” is the most authentic confession of faith I can muster.
I don’t know the way forward.
I don’t know where you’re calling me next.
I don’t know how this world you say you love keeps on spinning amidst all this violence.
I don’t know. I can’t fathom. I won’t even hazard a guess.

O Mysterious God,
I believe.
Help my unbelief.