Monday, December 11, 2017

20 Years of Relational Care

On this day (December 11, 1997), 20 years ago, I graduated with the group pictured after spending 2 years with them at Brookhaven College in Farmers Branch, Texas. We all received an Associate of Applied Science-Associate Degree Nursing. Our diplomas, however, read El Centro College, that’s because the Nursing program belonged to El Centro College, we were a satellite group.

I haven’t seen this picture in years. What a ragtag looking group by today’s standards, all wearing outdated uniforms and hairstyles. Much of what we were taught would be considered outdated as well. I wonder what these people are doing today. Are they still nurses? Are any of them still at the bedside?

After graduating I was hired to work on the Medical/Surgical Unit at Doctors Hospital in Dallas, Texas. Doctors Hospital is located at Garland Rd and Buckner Blvd on the east side of White Rock Lake. None of the nurses that graduated with me came to work at this hospital.

In the summer of 1998 Darlene and I decided to move to Colorado, we were both hired to work at the Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colorado; I in the Cardiac telemetry unit and she in the operating room. After 1 year on the telemetry unit I decided that I wanted to work in the operating room, but something was missing; therefore, after 1 year in the operating room I went to work in the ICU stepdown.

In the summer of 2001, Darlene and I decided to move back to Texas. We were both hired a Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler, Texas; now Christus Trinity Mother Frances. I began working in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit and she in day surgery. While at Christus Trinity Mother Frances, I spent a 3-year period in the Cardiac-Cath Lab and Electrophysiology labs, but have spent the majority of the past 16 ½ years in the Cardiovascular ICU.

A little over three years ago I decided to go back to school and obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington on December 19, 2015. During that time, I also obtained certifications as a Critical Care Registered Nurse and in Cardiovascular Surgery Recovery.

I am a sinner fallen short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a mercy seat in His blood through faith. (cf. Rom.3:23-25) In April of 2003 God saved me from the penalty of sin which is death, He is presently saving me from the power of sin which is the law, and I trust that on a future date He will save me from the presence of sin which is the resurrection of the body. (cf. 1Co.15:50-58)

On March 14, 2016, I began taking classes at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I am working towards a Master of Theological Studies, because my desire is to know God. I have 6 classes remaining to obtain that degree; Lord willing, I should graduate this time next year.

What to do after graduation? For some time now I have been telling people that I believe nursing is a practical theology. Theology is the study of God. Practical theology is the right application of that knowledge. I recently learned of a branch in practical theology called Relational Care:
The theology of relational care pertains to ministering to the personal needs of others, primarily individuals going through crises of a temporal nature. ... Addressing these needs in relation to theology is generally facilitated in a religious or parachurch environment. (Wikipedia, n.d.)
That description sounds a lot like the way hospitals and nursing began. Why do so many hospitals have a Christian name attached to them, but have no apparent connection to that name today? The theology of relational care is modeled after the ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ. (Wikipedia, n.d.) Jesus spent a great deal of time caring for and healing the sick. (cf. Mar.6:13, Luk.4:40) Jesus taught His disciples; then after rising from the dead He commissioned them to make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Triune God, and teach them to observe all that He commanded them. (cf. Mat.28:16-20) Hospitals and nursing came forth from the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Florence Nightingale is credited for modern nursing theory; her care model was highly personalized with an emphasis on personal touch, fresh air, and silence; she organized a unit of 38 women in 1854 for service in the Crimean War. Today’s hospitals are highly structured, technical, and reimbursement-driven; this is a far cry from Nightingales care model. (Ferrell & Coyle, 2008)

A person that I know who is involved in the ministry of evangelism recently said to me, “For the record: it’s not my responsibility to change the world. It’s my responsibility to preach the gospel to people.” Here is the problem with that kind of logic; you cannot divorce the Great Commandment from the Great Commission, they are inseparable, one would die without the other.

Therefore, I plan to spend the next year working with patients and nurses in the Cardiovascular ICU at the Christus Trinity Mother Frances Louis and Peaches Owens Heart Hospital. Then I plan to obtain a post-graduate nursing education certification and begin teaching at a nursing school in the fall of 2019. I am considering the possibility of continuing my education towards a PhD in Nursing, because this would give me a public voice to reform nursing back to a relational care model. Whatever I do, may it be for the glory of God and the good of my neighbor.

Works Cited

Ferrell, B. R., & Coyle, N. (2008). The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Nursing. New York: Ocford University Press.

The Holy Bible: Updated New American Standard Bible. (1995). La Habra: The Lockman Foundation.

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved December 11, 2017, from Theology of Relational Care:

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

God's Providence and Governance

I see a great deal of human pain, suffering and death on a weekly basis. Often patients or family members ask, “Why is this happening?” My answer, “I do not know, but I can tell you what I do know; there is a great God in heaven who knows everything about you, who is sovereign over His creation, who is with us now and is at work in us and in the world. He empathizes with you, because He became a man in the person of His Son Jesus Christ and died a painful death on a Roman cross in our place for our sins.”
God’s governing activity within His creation is universal. You remember the childhood mealtime prayer, “God is great God is good let us thank Him for our food.”1 God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscience of all that is happening within His creation.
Besides being great, God is also good; He is gracious, compassionate, and patient. Both believers and the unbelievers alike benefit from the benevolent goodness of God. Jesus said of the Father, “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mat.5:45b) To a person living in an agrarian culture like the one Jesus was speaking too, the sun and the rain are both good.
God works in His providential governance for good. Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” But this is connected to God’s purpose which is indicated in Romans 8:29, “to become conformed to the image of His Son.” This at times may seem painful, but it is for good because it is conforming us into the image of His Son.
One of my favorite theologians is Irenaeus of Lyons who referred to God as a Shepherd who guides His sheep with His two hands; His word and His Spirit. God has a personal concern about those who are His, in Luke 15 and John 10 He calls them His Sheep and He is the good Shepherd.
God is active all the time. God is using the very things that we do, or others do for His purpose. We may not even know that this is occurring at the time, but everything that happens has the purpose of good as the ultimate goal; conforming us into the image of His Son.
God is sovereign in His governance. We cannot nor should not dictate to God what He should do or how He should go about doing it. We may not understand and may think that things would be better done in another way, but we must remember that we are not God. His purpose is to conform His people into the image of His Son.
While everything is under God’s sovereignty not everything is necessarily good. Human sin and natural evils are at work in this world; sometimes God prevents evil, but sometimes He permits it or even directs it or limits it; remember that God’s purpose is for His glory and to conform us into the image of His Son.

1 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 384.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Already Not Yet

During the month of October my wife and I went to the State Fair of Texas held in Dallas, Texas. As we were browsing some of the exhibits, we came by a group who seemed to be very focused on dispensational eschatology. I did not realize this at the time, but a young woman said, “Sir, do you know what age we are now living in?” I looked up and there was a large poster with different time periods depicted. She offered me something that she called a map of the ages. I did not really give an answer; for one, I was with my wife going through the exhibits, and two, I wasn’t sure exactly what she was asking. Later I thought about what she had asked, and put together the brief pictures of the scene. I would like to answer that young woman’s question today, though she will likely not read; someone else who needs to hear it may.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living creature that moves on the earth.” (Gen.1:1,1:27-28) Thus, the kingdom of man was inaugurated on the earth, but soon fell into sin and death. (Rom.5:12)
From the time of the fall of man the Lord began to prophecy of a new and better kingdom to come. (cf.Gen.3:15) The prophets spoke and wrote of the coming kingdom of God and His Messiah. Micah wrote,
But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity. (Mic.5:2)

Joseph while in “Bethlehem, because he was of the house of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luk.2:4-7) The babies name was Jesus, “the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.” (Luk.2:21)
“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mar.1:4) John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. (Mar.1:9) The time of waiting for the kingdom of God was over, “Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mar.1:14-15)
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1Cor.15:3-4) After His resurrection, Jesus sent His disciples into all the earth to make disciples, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe His commandments. (Mat.28:16-20) These men witnessed His ascension into heaven and were told by two angles that He would return in the same way in which they saw Him go into heaven. (Act.1:9-11)
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.” (Mat.25:31-33)
In this text of Scripture, the nations, the sheep, and the goats are all metaphors. The nations represent every single person who would ever come to live on the earth. The sheep represent the redeemed citizens of the kingdom of God. The goats represent the condemned citizens of the kingdom of man.
The age that we are now living in is the already not yet. In this present age, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man exist side by side. The kingdom of God is eternal, but the kingdom of man will come to an end “when the Son of Man comes in His glory.”
Are you a citizen of the kingdom of God or are you a citizen of the kingdom of man? The citizens of the kingdom of God have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ through faith; (Rom.3:24-25) therefore, they hear His voice, and He knows them, and they follow Him and He gives eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of His hand. (Jn.10:27-28) The citizens of the kingdom of man reject Jesus and do not receive His sayings. (Jn.12:47-49)
The kingdom of man was inaugurated in the beginning, but condemned to death because of sin in the garden. The kingdom of man will come to an end “when the Son of Man comes in His glory.” The kingdom of God was inaugurated when Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Mat.28:18) The kingdom of God is eternal.

Of that day and hour of His return no man knows. (Act.1:7) At some point, in time your life will end “and after this comes judgment.” (Heb.9:27) The goats will go away into eternal punishment, (cf.Rev.21:8) but the sheep into eternal life. (Mat.25:46) The age that we now live in is the already not yet; the kingdom of God is already among us; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mar.1:14-15)