Alberts, William E. A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, 2012.
This short, easy-to-read book is a series of 54 diverse vignettes that Rev. Alberts shares about people to whom he ministered as a board-certified, CPSP hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center. He has a loving and accepting approach to all of his patients, and he models some excellent approaches and conversations to the “crossroads of humanity” who need medical care. Health care chaplains and all those who minister to the sick will relate to many stories and can learn much from his compassion and wisdom.
The book is full of touching stories and pithy quotes, such as “religion is about the Golden Rule and not about the ‘gold’ that rules,” and a patient who was transformed from “a hopeless dope addict into a dopeless hope addict.”
However, those like myself who have a conservative, deeply held personal faith will likely be distracted and even annoyed that Rev. Alberts favors those who believe that all roads lead to God, which he spells with the small “g.” He emphasizes his theological position as a Unitarian and United Methodist (more Unitarian than Methodist), and stresses his distaste for conservative politics, especially military spending. Thus it seems odd to me, as a less experienced hospital chaplain myself, that he repeatedly tells how he begins a visit by asking a person’s religious affiliation. He frequently reports that people are defensive or confused by this question, yet he continues to ask it. He even reported that patients occasionally responded with apologies for not attending church, thus showing that the question put them on the spot. Since he seems sincerely focused on serving the needs of all patients, why not just ask the patient what is happening in their lives, and let them talk about their religious affiliation if they want to do so?
The Kindle edition has a few minor errors where lines are repeated or words are missing, such as page 138.
Copyright 2014 by Bob Rogers
I was talking to a Registered Nurse the other day about “malapropisms.”
A malapropism is the use of a wrong word in a sentence, often a word that sounds like the word meant to be used. The results are often humorous. For example, I told her about the time a lady told me a church was “cosmetic” when she meant to say “charismatic.” Also I recalled the time a child in our church Weekday Ministry referred to me as “the creature” rather than “the preacher.”
The R.N. said that malapropisms are very common in the medical field. The example most everybody has heard is popular misnomer for Alzheimer’s Disease: “Old Timer’s Disease.” I smiled and replied that I had called it that myself. My nurse friend said, “That’s actually a pretty good term for Alzheimer’s.” But she had many more examples I had never heard:
— a woman who said she wanted her baby boy “circumscribed.”
— a person with gout who said he had “gouch.”
— someone with fibroids who said, “I have fireballs.”
— a woman coming to get a mammogram who said, “I want mine monogrammed.”
While it’s funny if people use the wrong word for a medical term, it isn’t funny if we get the healing ministry wrong. I don’t have to tell you that nurses, doctors and medical professionals are under a great deal of stress, because you have huge power over people’s lives.
Thankfully, Jesus Christ has given us some great lessons in healing. Jesus, the Great Physician, went around healing many diseases. In Mark’s Gospel alone, scripture records at least nine healings in the first nine chapters. Take a quick look with me at four lessons we learn from those healings.
I. Compassion. In Mark 1:40-42, Jesus was moved with compassion for a man with a skin disease, perhaps leprosy. Other people wouldn’t touch him, but Jesus did. “Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him.” (Mark 1:41). I wonder how long it had been since anybody had touched him? What a difference we can make in people’s lives, with when show them some compassion.
II. Time. In Mark 5:24-34, Jesus was interrupted in a crowd by a woman who touched his robe, hoping to be healed. Many of us become irritated with such interruptions, but Jesus stopped to heal her– and gave the gift of time. It reminds me of a dentist who examined a middle-school girl’s teeth, and then sat and chatted with her about school, cheer leading, and other things in her life. Her mother was surprised, and asked the dentist why he lingered with her. He said, “Because behind the teeth is a 13-year-old girl.”
III. Respect. In Mark 7:31-36, Jesus healed a deaf man. Mark says that Jesus took him away privately, put His fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue, and looked up to heaven and spoke words of healing. It’s unusual for Jesus to do so many visual motions, but remember that Jesus was healing a deaf man. He was showing respect for the man’s need to see things visually, since he could not hear.
IV. Prayer. In Mark 9:17-29, Jesus healed a boy suffering from demonic seizures, after the disciples had failed to heal him. Afterwards, the disciples asked why they couldn’t heal him. Jesus told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer…” (Mark 9:29). We should never forget that after all that we can do, the greatest thing we can do is pray, for all healing ultimately comes from God.
Remember the R.N. who told me about medical malapropisms, like calling Alzheimer’s “Old Timer’s”? I chuckled at each of her stories, but my favorite one was the lady who referred to spinal meningitis as “Smilin’ Mighty Jesus.”
Spinal meningitis is a serious disease; my nephew suffered from it. That’s why it is good to know that we do have a Smiling Mighty Jesus who looks down on our suffering and cares for us in our sicknesses. Nothing makes Jesus smile more than to see us bring our need before him in faith, believing He can heal us and save us. When four friends brought a paralyzed man to Jesus to heal, Jesus smiled upon their faith and He healed the man both of sin and sickness (Mark 2:1-12). As Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
So if you want to see a Smiling Mighty Jesus, pray to Him, believing He can change your life! Even if you use the wrong word, He’ll be pleased with your faith.