Talking about Mortality

November 24, 2014

Being Mortal“Am I going to die?” Doctors are often uncomfortable with the question and generally respond with a variety of treatment options that ultimately may be ineffective, costly, and detrimental to the quality of a patient’s life.

Dr. Atul Gawande wants to change this. His new book, Being Mortal, identifies how the medical system fails the dying by not addressing what truly matters to the patient at the end of life. He writes, “Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul.”

“I am in a profession that has succeeded because of its ability to fix,” Dr. Gawande writes. “If your problem is fixable, we know just what to do. But if it’s not? The fact that we have had no adequate answers to this question is troubling and has caused callousness, inhumanity, and extraordinary suffering.”

Dr. Gawande recommends that families and health care professionals ask these key questions of someone with a serious illness:

  • “What is your own understanding of your condition or your health?”
  • “What are your fears and worries for the future?”
  • “What are your goals if your health worsens?”
  • “What are the trade-offs you’re willing to make in your life?” or “What outcome would be unacceptable to you?”

Understanding a patient’s answers provides guidance for what really matters to the person and how to move forward with a valuable treatment plan. Many of these questions are used by palliative care and hospice providers for people facing the very end of life. Dr. Gawande lobbies for asking these questions earlier in the healthcare process as a positive contribution toward patient care.

Dr. Gawande makes his point clear: “People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.”

A gifted of storyteller, Dr. Gawande introduces readers to people in difficult, critical situations and invites us into the deeply personal discussions of navigating the road ahead. Through these real experiences, he shows us how we have the opportunity to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of people’s lives.

Dr. Gawande concludes, “Our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death but a good life to the very end.”

Atul Gawande does not write from a Christian world view, but we are recommending the book for nurses and other healthcare practitioners because of his practical and affirmative support of the dignity of human life and respect for each person in making decisions about medical treatment.

Blessing in Disguise

November 20, 2014

Tire AngelLast year in the midst of a blustery winter, I walked out of a store and found a note on my windshield that I had a flat tire. I was running errands and could have thought, “Really? It’s 30 degrees out here!”

However, I actually smiled when I thought of how God had already prepared the way ahead of me. Here is my list of reasons to be thankful:

  • God always knows what is best for me, so He was delaying me for some reason, maybe to prevent me from being at the wrong place at the wrong time. “My times are in your hands, God” (Psalm 31:15a).
  • God graciously provided this “tire angel” to warn me. Sometimes I get so focused on what I am currently doing that I can miss what is blatantly obvious in front of me. Without that note, there is no telling how far I would have driven on that damaged tire. “Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you, God” (Psalm 5:11).
  • God had just kept me safe and the tire didn’t blow out while I was driving 45 miles, even on the freeway, “The God who…saves me from my enemies” (Psalm 18:47a, 48a).
  • I have a membership with a road assistance service. Very simply, my husband told me I needed this a year ago since we live in rural America and I travel two hours to work (one-way). So, God not only provided through this company and my husband’s decision, but also because I decided to take my husband’s advice and sign up for it. “…and the wife must respect her husband” (Ephesians 5:33).
  • While I was waiting, I walked into a children’s resale shop and found it was a non-profit ministry to reach out to the young mothers and babies of the community. In fact, it was exactly the type of vision I’ve had for our community where there is no pediatrician or OB for the entire county. “You, God, go before me and follow me. You, God, place your hand of blessing on my head” (Psalm 139:5).
  • Those thirty minutes gave me much needed information, written resources, and contact information for those who founded this ministry 11 years ago. I’m not sure how God will utilize that information in my future, but I’m sure He is preparing me in some way. “For I know the plans I have for you’, says the Lord, ‘plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
  • After the flat was fixed and the spare was put on, I was less than a mile from the chain store tire center where I had already paid for road-hazard when I bought the tires: “Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow” (Psalm 25:4-5).
  • They had time to take care of my car right then. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
  • I arrived home safely, singing praise songs all the way and thanking Father God for his precious care for me. “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Today may you also see how much God cares about you, even in the little things, and trust His provision in whatever form it may take. “Now my God shall supply all things through His riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

- by Cindy Carter, NCF member and guest contributor

God is Wise

November 20, 2014

ExamWhen I was preparing to enter a graduate nursing program, I took the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). When I finished, I knew that I had not done well. Weeks later, I received my test scores in the mail and my feelings were confirmed.

I called my husband immediately to let him know that I had failed miserably. After I finished describing my despair, he quietly said, “Add the language and math scores together and that is your total exam score.” WOW! I wasn’t as ignorant as I thought I was, and my composite score was high enough to meet the school’s requirement. I went on to graduate school and discovered that I had much to learn.

Thankfully, God has put some very knowledgeable people in my path over the years. In addition to being knowledgeable, these people have demonstrated an ability to apply their knowledge in very practical ways; they are good decision makers, problem solvers, and planners. They have helped me do the same. They are wise.

A.W. Tozer explains that true wisdom is “the skill to achieve the most perfect ends by the most perfect means.” It is “the ability to see the end from the beginning, to see everything in proper relation and in full focus. It is to judge in view of final and ultimate ends and to work towards those ends with flawless precision.” Even the wisest people I know do not fit that definition most of the time.

Fortunately for us, God is infinitely wise. And his wisdom is quite different from worldly wisdom. It is holy, full of love, and it is pure. God’s very creation is a testimony of his wisdom. Proverbs 3:19 states, “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place” (NIV).

God’s wisdom is also revealed in his plan for redeeming his creation, and that includes us. Tozer says that “God has planned the highest good for the highest number for the longest time.” God always has an eternal focus, and he desires for all of us to share in his eternalness and enjoy him forever. We only have to accept his free gift of salvation that comes when we trust that Jesus sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for our sin.

God has planned for us to be his children forever. But we must decide whether or not we will trust in his wisdom and in his right way, or in our own way. According to Tozer, when people insist on their own plans and ambitions, they jeopardize everything they have because they do not have wisdom to know how to run their lives. God’s wisdom must be the foundation for our thinking, reasoning, and believing.

Tozer offers this prayer for all who desire to give their lives to God and trust in His eternal wisdom:

Oh, God the Father, forgive me for doubting. You are infinitely wise, and I need infinite wisdom in my ignorance. Take over my life and be my wisdom, my righteousness, my sanctification. From here on, I acknowledge that you are eternally wise. Be my anchor and my Guiding Star.

Praying this prayer might just change your life!

–by Jane Hall, NCF National Director

All quotes from: A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God, Volume 2

This is the seventeenth post in a series by NCF Director Jane Hall on God’s attributes. She is inspired by the writings of A.W. Tozer in The Attributes of God, Volume 2

Looking for Fellowship

November 14, 2014

Phone CallWhen I was a new nurse working in a hospital, I was shocked at the negativity that some of the nurses had towards their patients and their profession.

I was excited to be a nurse and knew that the Lord had brought me through many personal trials to be able to graduate and become an RN. There were very few Christians around, so I also lacked fellow believers to guide and support me.

So, I prayed. I prayed against acquiring a bitter, complaining attitude (Ephesians 4:31), and I prayed to keep the passion for nursing and the heart for patients that God had given me (John 15:12).

Then one day I was reading a nursing periodical and I saw an advertisement to connect with Nurses Christian Fellowship locally in my area. I knew this was an answer to prayer. I immediately called the number and connected with other Christian nurses. This was over 22 years ago. Through my need and my prayers, as well as the group’s prayer, Jesus connected me to NCF-USA. I am now part of NCF-International and I am connected to nurses around the world who love Jesus and love nursing!

I tell this story to remind all of us that there are nurses everywhere who need fellowship and support in maintaining their faith and passion for Christian nursing. They may feel discouraged and challenged to live out their love of Christ in their workplace. Jesus taught us to leave the 100 to find the 1 (Matt. 18:12). Thus we need to pray and actively find ways to seek out those who need encouragement.

Whether it is personally, locally, or nationally—seek out a sister or brother who needs you!


Carrie Dameron, MSN, RNBC, who is a regular contributor for Nurses Christian Fellowship International and Journal of Christian Nursing. She provides resources for Christian nursing on her blog

The Healing Work of Jesus

November 14, 2014

The Healing Work of JesusNatalie Kwok pursued the field of occupational therapy because one thing was abundantly clear to her: this is the work of Jesus. Many nurses pursued nursing as a career for a similar reason.

Unlike nurses, it’s harder for Natalie to explain her work to others. “I love that I actually can’t explain what I do without talking about Jesus. I can’t separate my ministry from his because they are one in the same,” she writes in her article, “Pursuing the Healing Work of Jesus,” published by our InterVarsity coworkers at The Well.

Natalie writes, “Jesus is the master of meaningful life. He cares deeply about each person’s soul. When we read about him performing a miracle of physical healing, he wasn’t just restoring function — he was rejuvenating hope and renewing the person’s spirit.” We see this is true in our work as nurses.

“Jesus is a holistic, life-giving king,” Natalie says. “He cares about every part of our being: spiritual, physical, emotional and social.”

This is good news for everyone in a healthcare profession.

Read more of Natalie’s reflections in her article, “Pursuing the Healing Work of Jesus.”

Encountering the Untouchable

November 7, 2014

UntouchableMy patient was a convicted murderer who tried to hang himself after a life sentence. Someone found him in time and he survived, but he was severely brain damaged and bedridden with muscle atrophy and contractures.

When I was called on to care for him, I found a man covered in tattoos with long, dirty hair. His only verbal responses were guttural moans. His eyes seemed to follow you everywhere, yet no one knew if he was processing anything we said to him.

Many nurses scorned him and believed he had gotten justice for the murder he had committed. Some felt he was possessed and refused to care for him. Those who did attend him provided the least amount of care needed, and it showed in this man’s neglected appearance.

It was tempting for me to also judge this man and agree with the assessment of my coworkers. But I believed he was someone created by God, a sinner like the rest of us, and a patient who needed full care.

Whenever I remember this untouchable patient, I reflect on how Jesus was not timid about touching someone with a repulsive illness in Luke 5:12-13. Jesus extended a touch of love to a man with leprosy, a vile disease that invited ostracism and contempt from the healthy. Jesus provided a healing encounter for an unloved, unclean and chronically sick patient who came to him. As Christian nurses, we are called to follow his compassionate example.

In my nursing unit, a few of us took the time to treat our condemned patient gently and care for him with as much dignity and respect as we could. I hope that somehow he sensed God’s love from us.

~ by Bonnie Hann, RN, BSN, BS-Missionary Nursing, NCF Campus Liaison


Healing Encounters with JesusSee “A Touch of Love” and other Healing Encounters Bible studies from NCF. Invite your friends, classmates or coworkers to discuss these gospel stories using the questions designed for those in the nursing profession. Learn how to do a nursing assessment on characters from the Bible and how to apply Scripture to nursing by putting faith into practice.


Hope in Thankfulness

November 4, 2014

Give thanks to the Lord forLike love and faith, our hope grows and blossoms as Christians (1 Corinthians 13:13). One of the ways we can nurture hope in our lives is through thankfulness. Identifying the simplest things and thanking our Father God for them fosters hope, even when we are buried beneath the trials of life.

This is also true for our patients struggling with illnesses and diseases. When we struggle to find something to be thankful for, we can pause and thank the Creator for our existence and the necessities of air and water for life. No matter what our situation or our patient’s circumstances, there is always something to be thankful for.

An excellent passage for thankfulness is Psalm 136 with its famous repetitive refrain, “his steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm states, “Give thanks to the Lord for…he is good…God of gods…does great wonders,” etc. The psalm continues with a history lesson of the relationship the Israelites had with God.

This is our Lord, who has written, and continues to write, a historical narrative in the lives of his people, including us. We discover sustained hope when we remember how the Lord has worked in our past (Lamentations 3:21).

Take time this week to read Psalm 136 and “give thanks to the Lord for __________________,” filling in the blank with how the Lord has demonstrated his “steadfast love” recently in your life.

Want to discover how to encourage hope for your patients?  Check out three articles from the Journal of Christian Nursing Importance of Hope; When Hope is Lost Part 1 & Part 2.


Carrie Dameron, MSN, RNBC, who is a regular contributor for Nurses Christian Fellowship International and Journal of Christian Nursing. She provides resources for Christian nursing on her blog

People to People: Sharing God’s Revealed Truth

October 31, 2014

Martin LutherAlmost five hundred years ago, Martin Luther (a priest in the Catholic church at the time) was reading the Word of God and began to understand for the first time (by God’s revelation) that we are “saved by faith” through God’s grace as a “gift of God, not by works, lest any one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).

As Luther began to understand, he realized that the legalistic requirements to get to God did not line up with the Scripture. Eventually he felt so convicted about those stark differences that he challenged people and the church to follow the teaching within God’s Word. On October 31st, Luther posted his 95 thesis statements about those differences on the door of the church and thus started the Protestant Reformation.

Ever  since the fall of Adam and Eve (when they chose to trust in themselves and others, not God), humankind’s relationship with God has been strained, if not broken. Now, we all have a tendency to believe we can be good enough or do enough of the right things to get back in God’s good graces, but until then, we stand aloof, unsure of where we stand with God. Within that belief system, church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, and giving becomes little more than a checklist, and when all of the boxes are filled, we are then able to approach God and have fellowship again.

Yet, the precepts of God’s Word don’t teach that. In Romans 5:8, it states that “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The gift Martin Luther discovered is that although the sin of Adam separated us from God, Christ’s death on the cross reversed the penalty: “For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But ever greater is God’s wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

Today, we have the opportunity to walk in that gift of God and from God. I praise our Heavenly Father that Martin Luther, one of his children, read and studied God’s Holy Word and then was courageous enough to share what he learned with others.

As believers in Christ, may we do also.

- by Cindy Carter, NCF member and guest contributor

Hitting Home with JCN

October 23, 2014

Living Will“Every JCN has great articles, but several in this issue touched me deeply,” writes Kathy Schoonover Shoffner in her editorial, JCN Articles Hit Home, from the recent Journal of Christian Nursing. In her job as editor, Kathy chooses and edits all the articles in each JCN, yet several family situations gave two articles very personal meaning for her.

One JCN article pointed to the critical need for Advance Directives Education. “ADs made all the difference in my father’s death,” Kathy recalls after she was called upon to make a difficult DNR decision. “Making an AD is a tremendous gift people can give to themselves and to their families,” Kathy said.

Yet, most adults do not have ADs, even though people are living longer. Despite the growing need for advance care planning, many healthcare providers lack the education needed to provide teaching on advance directives. Learn more in the JCN article where you can earn 2.5 CE contact hours.

The second JCN article that hit home with Kathy was Nursing Students’ Perceptions of Adoption (article free for a limited time) about the need for educational preparation to talk compassionately with those impacted by adoption. Nurses in every area of practice will encounter adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth parents who relinquished a child.

As an adoptive parent, Kathy has had many awkward moments with nurses who asked about her child’s “real” mother, or insisted on an unobtainable family history. “Knowing how to communicate appropriately is one of the most compassionate gifts you can give us.”

As a daughter, a mother, and a nurse, Kathy found something in JCN that resonated with her heart and nursing practice.

As the JCN editor, she hopes you will, too.


Read more of Kathy’s editorial, JCN Articles Hit Home, in the Journal of Christian Nursing, October–December 2014. Become a member of NCF and receive every issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Christian Nursing as one of your member benefits. Or, subscribe to JCN.

God is Omniscient

October 17, 2014

horseAs a young girl I loved to read books about horses, and I thought I knew everything about them. But then I had a chance to ride one, and I realized that some things cannot be learned by just reading books.

This lesson really hit home in my nursing fundamentals class when I needed to learn how to take an accurate blood pressure reading. I had a good basic nursing skills manual and the demo film was life-like, but it didn’t matter. I still had to practice this skill correctly over and over to become confident and competent.

Thank goodness our great God does not have to read books, watch videos, or practice skills to know anything! God is and has always been all-knowing — he is omniscient.

The apostle Paul wrote, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11). According to A.W. Tozer, this means that God knows himself, and that he is divinely omniscient. He is the source and author of all things, and he contains all things. God does not have to work or strain to understand anything or to know the past or the future. Tozer writes that God’s awareness, knowledge and intelligence are beyond space, time, matter, causes, and effects.

Thankfully, God knows everything about everyone. He does not lose us or forget us. He knows our every need, our every move, our every thought — everything about us. David described this in Psalm 139:1-6.

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Even if people do not know God, he knows them. He knows if they will accept his love and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, or if they will decide to live their lives without him. But regardless of their choice, he loves them still. In Hebrews 4:13 we are reminded that God is never surprised or fooled by people or events because “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

In view of God’s unfathomable knowledge, people might wonder why God’s very Word instructs us to pray, even as Jesus did. Tozer explains that when we pray we are not telling God anything new, but we benefit from casting our cares on him, sharing our joys and struggles, and humbly acknowledging that he is the all-knowing God. God is glorified as we depend on him, and he gives us his peace in return. Don’t delay for a minute in trusting our omniscient God.

–by Jane Hall, NCF National Director

All quotes from: A.W. Tozer, The Attributes of God, Volume 2

This is the sixteenth post in a series by NCF Director Jane Hall on God’s attributes. She is inspired by the writings of A.W. Tozer in The Attributes of God, Volume 2


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 202 other followers