Monday, March 29, 2010

'If You Need Anything Call Me' - Not Helpful

How many times have I said to someone who was struggling, 'Let me know if you need any help. Really. I mean it.' Hundreds? At least. Turns out that is NOT actually helping those who suffer.

I am not a naturally empathetic person around the sick, suffering or hurting. More like 'concerned but awkward'. So this post by Ed Welch on CCEF's webpage really helped me deeply.

I need this prescription. Hope it spurs you on to go on and simply help people who are suffering rather than thinking they will ask.

"Here is something that I have heard a number of times on the “Not Helpful” list. I have heard it often enough that it deserves to become part of our body of pastoral wisdom.
“If you need anything, please call me—anytime.”
"Sufferers are usually gracious and give us a lot of slack for thoughtless remarks, so I was surprised when this became a theme. Those who mentioned it didn’t say that the comment was meaningless to them, though it was. They said that it was actually unhelpful. Why? I usually don’t ask that question, but I can piece together some of the answers.
  • If “comforters” knew anything about real hardship, they would know that sufferers usually don’t know what they want or need.[surprising to me but makes sense]
  • If comforters knew anything about the sufferer, they would know what the sufferer wants or needs. [guilty of not looking too hard]
  • If comforters really knew the sufferer, they would know that he or she would never make the call. Never.
"The speaker is not giving any real thought to the comforter’s needs and circumstances, and the suffering person knows it.

"That’s the bad news. The good news, of course, is that the same people who have heard the “call me” comment have also been blessed by friends who do the opposite: these friends don’t wait to be called, they just figure out what needs to be done and they do it. [Wow! That is smart and kind!]

"First, they listen and understand the suffering person. They pick up on to-do lists that are growing and impossible. They identify tasks that are especially important. They don’t barge in and do trivial work or serve in ways that leave more disarray....  A good friend can identify what would be truly helpful.

"Next, they do it. They get the dog groomed, do the dishes, drop off a meal, cut the grass, baby sit the kids, bring a meal over and eat it together, clean the house, give a ride to small group, drop off a note of encouragement and then another and another, arrange for a hair cut, and so on.

"Any of these acts of love and service make life easier for the suffering person. That certainly helps. But a meal is never just a meal; maid-service is never merely maid-service. These say to the suffering person, “I remember you,” “I think about you often,” “you are not forgotten, you are on my heart,” “I love you.” That, as they say, is priceless.

"When in doubt, and you are concerned that you might unknowingly rearrange the library; you can get ideas from those who know the sufferer best. There is nothing wrong with the direct approach and ask the suffering person, “Would it help if I ______?” That’s great, but realize that he or she will demur.

"What commends the approach in which you ask friends and family is that you give even more thought to the suffering person’s interests and needs. It is the time you give to creative strategizing that is the power behind these acts. That is unmistakable love that mimics the strategic planning of the triune God’s rescue mission. He planned and acted even before we knew our real needs. [Wow.]

"We can say that there is indeed more misery around us than we know, but may those who experience misery be able to say that there is more comfort available than they imagined, and may they say that God often uses people as angels of comfort."

That is actually helpful.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Praying for Families and Churches of Cancer Fighters

More from my other cancer fighting friend.
Pray for her family. If there are kids particularly pray for them no matter the ages. My kids had to watch me become weaker and weaker. I could not do all the mom things I had always done so they picked them all up. Hard for me to watch, but I have never been prouder of them.
It was also scary for them to watch me sick and bald, yet at the same time we grew closer than ever. Protection for the kids from having to watch the worst moments.

Pray the church family and friends will help without having to ask. When people ask it is hard to come up with ways to help...and awkward to ask. I had people call and tell Bill [ed. her husband, the best man in our wedding] when they were coming to clean the house. It is very humbling when someone comes and cleans your toilets.
People would take the kids to their events for us and have them over to spend the night so they could forget the cancer for a bit. They brought food. They sent cards which were a great encouragement to me. I still have them all. Some shopped for us and just showed up with stuff. I was amazed and completely humbled by it all.
Most of all pray for her to find the place where you totally commune with God even when they are stealing your life with chemicals. It is a place that God holds your hand and gives you peace in the midst of the trial. It is a place where your spirit thrives and grows closer to God. It is a place like no other. It takes you deep.

Pray she will draw close to him and allow him to hold her up during the weak moments. I would never wish a cancer journey on anyone, but if you are in one it can be a time of tremendous spiritual growth which will deepen your relationships with family, friends and Christ.

Also I have a blog that I wrote throughout my journey. It is quiet raw with emotion but it might help her to read it. She will have to go back in the archives to the beginning...I started it right after my surgery.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More Cancer Fighter Prayer Requests

Another cancer fighter friend of mine sent my wife some wise prayer requests. Thought they might help you all know better how to pray for Karen D and anyone else who is fighting.
The needle thing is a very real request for someone who hates needles. There are a ton of needles involved. Not just the chemo, but also blood work seems like every day as they watch your 'numbers', then shots to regulate yous and if you have to have a transfusion even more.

Courage is a great prayer as well, because it is like being dropped in a foreign country and not speaking the language. You learn by immersion. Everyone seems to know what is going on but you and you are constantly behind the curve. They explain it but your brain doesn't comprehend what they are talking about you and your body. It is like culture shock. Eventually you learn what all the numbers have to be but even then it is hard, because you also know what low numbers mean and it can get scary to watch them drop.

Pray for the caretakers. If I had not had my husband Bill to hold me up in my frightened moments I don't think I would have survived. He learned things faster because he wasn't in the brain fog. He cleaned up after me and held my hand every time they had to find a vein. If she doesn't have someone to do these things for her, find her someone...or multiple someones. The caretaker is pray for his/her strength and wisdom since many decisions rest with them.

Pray for finances. Cancer is expensive. My treatments were $6,000 per chemical and I got three bags each time. The shots were $2,000 each to keep my blood holding strong, each time I had 2 between treatments. I had scans and still have scans regularly. I now have a host of doctors that I have to visit regularly. Just because I am cancer free doesn't mean it no longer is an expensive thing.

Pray for her brain. Chemo kills all fast growing cells...hence the hair loss. But also brain cells. I still have chemo brain. I cannot remember things. I have a hard time finding the right words. I continually mess up schedules by showing up at the wrong doctors office or the wrong soccer game. It is frustrating, and annoying.

It gets better over time but it has been three years since my last your friend will need understanding from friends and family members if it happens to her.

more later...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Annoying in Our Courage Together

Brothers Encourage one another through arguing, annoying and fighting.... What?

Yes, here's why I say so. Any of you have siblings?
'holy brothers... fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest'
'See to it, brothers... encourage one another daily.'
My siblings and I annoy, argue and fight with each other but we are fiercely loyal and real with each other.

Real. When I lived at home I tried to fake out my mom and dad (didn't work much), but I knew it was harder to pull anything over on brothers and sister. I can't point to a verse to prove this, but I see hints of it with Jesus' disciples.

As we live together as family, increasingly our Older Brother Jesus and our churchly brothers and sisters will and should call us to be honest and real.

Yep, in the process of being church family, we'll fight, argue and annoy. But in the end, by the grace of God, we'll be loyal and real.

That's why we fix our thoughts on Jesus our Brother and courage each other each day. It matters that we are real. Brothers and sisters make you real.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Curious about a Valuable Life

What else does en-couragement look like? Sharing In and About a Heavenly Calling

Sharing Important Details. Foundationally, we are 'holy brothers who share in the heavenly calling.' That is not sharing in theory. It's not future sharing. It's now sharing.

Your brother/sister in Christ has a heavenly calling. A God-given, detailed life so valuable Christ Jesus redeemed them. Wow. That is worth more than gold.
True or False: I like it when someone shows a genuine curiosity about the important details of my life. True? True!

Sharing life starts with simple curiosity in someone who's eternally valuable.

And being known well protects best from the danger of hard-heartedness (v.13b). It is an honor and a joy to KNOW and to be KNOWN!

So, who are you curious about now? 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrating Our Small (or Large) Successes

What else does en-couragement look like? Yesterday we mentioned affirmations. Noticing something good someone did - and telling them. Out loud or in writing. Here's another part:
Celebrating Our Small (or Large) Successes. 'See to it (you all) that none of you (individuals) has a heart that turns away from the living God' Hebrews 3:12. Celebrating the little (and big) things together keeps us focused on God's great kindness.

Now, there are a million ways to celebrate - but the ones that mean the most are when someone who KNOWS you celebrates WITH YOU. They give you courage to keep on going.

We face real dangers, battles with unbelieving hearts, an adversary who seeks to discourage. So...

KNOW each other. Then give away some high fives or a YES! or a hug or a fist bump. Each is part of a celebration. If you can't be there, a call, a text or email works too. Be creative!

Tune your ears to what small hurdles we face and ask, 'How did it go?' Then do a victory jig, play a banjo, dance or if you are as cool as William Rodriguez, you can say 'That's cool.' And it feels like you scored a goal. BOOM!

We are in this TOGETHER. Find a YES! to celebrate with someone today.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Hold Fast to Our Courage Together

We are on a multi-week-long course to encourage one another each day in the battle against unbelief (Hebrews 3). 

So what does en-couragement look like? It's 'holding on' to OUR courage in the battle (Heb. 3:6). Christ our Mediator has accomplished the most awesome vicotry ever imaginable (v.1-6). This grants us courage we didn't earn, but we have to keep the courage TOGETHER. How do we do courage together?

Passing around Personal Affirmations. Noticing something good someone did - and telling them. Ideally face to face, but a note, text, email is good. Especially if it is personal and specific. Little affirmations go a long way.

I think encouragement is the missing fuel for the emotional tank in Crosspoint. Wow. I'm guilty keeping my thoughts to myself. I just assume so much! Like I assume that Danialle knows I appreciate her jumping in to run Kidspoint for Karen. I should have told her that already. (I'm picking up the phone in a minute...)

Let's pass along an affirmation to each other. Why? Because that is how your brothers and sisters in Christ experience an 'intense sensory perception' ('fix our thoughts' Heb 3:1) of Jesus - through His church, His household. We can't get affirmed from ourselves. And there isn't much affirmation in everyday life. So we have to count on the church to en-courage.

Who's emotional tank are you going to pour into each today? this week?

Be encouraged! (Wait, that involves someone en-couraging you. See! We need each other?!)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Praying Tips from a Cancer Fighter

Karen D, the wife of one of our elders had surgery and starts chemo tomorrow. Being a young church, this is new for a lot of us at Crosspoint.

Here's What She Asked Us
Since we may not know what to pray, here's what she asked us to pray. (And for other cancer fighters you may know too.)
  1. Pray for peace and courage during the actual treatments. She gets nervous around needles. Her blood pressure can get high. Pray for peace.
  2. Pray she will not have any allergic reactions to the chemo.
  3. Pray that she will not get any infections. Her immune system will be really weakened. We don't think about how hard it would be to fight off a cold or flu. She will have to monitor her temperature all the time.
  4. Pray that the chemo kills the bad cells and leaves the healthy ones. I thought this one the most interesting way to pray for a cancer fighter.

So pray that God guards His her heart and mind while healing her body. "Do not be anxious about anything but by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:6-7)  

And Pray that God Annihilates the (Cellular) Enemy
Another family in Crosspoint that faced cancer years ago prayed that the Holy Spirit would directly guide the chemo to the cells where it would be kill the cancer. And they prayed that the Spirit would protect the healthy cells.

Makes sense to pray on a cellular level, right? God sovereignly controls every atom.

Karen too has been praying against her enemies, the cancer cells, like Asaph prayed against national enemies in Psalm 83. 'With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cheirsh.... Make them like tumbleweed, O my God, like chaff before the wind. As fire consumes the forest... so pursue them with your tempest.'

Karen is one whom the LORD cherishes because of Christ Jesus. She's not claiming to deserve to be healed or to be fighting a national enemy, but she's asking the LORD to pursue her cancer enemy and destroy it. He is LORD over all things.

Practical Help and Support

This is going to be painful and potentially lonely season for Karen. Chemo causes muscle aches, cramps and sometimes mouth sores. She's going to lose her hair quickly ("Just when I got a hair-style I liked!") which will be kind of freaky. She won't be at church as much. And David has tax season and works long hours.

So call, email and visit too. She may not feel like talking long, but it will help her fight loneliness. Visit if you are healthy. Plan to stay for just a little while. Check about bringing food too.

How do you know if you should try to visit? If the thought, 'I wonder if I should go see Karen?' goes through your mind, take that as a prompt from the Holy Spirit. Pick up the phone and see if you can come by for a minute. If there's no answer, leave a message. Pray for her out loud on the message.

Keep Her In the (Prayer) Loop
The loneliness can be compounded by the idea that she's not 'doing anything' so she asked us to send her prayer requests. She said, 'I'm going to have lots of time to pray, so let me know what you need prayer for.'

Fighting the emotional battle means keeping a focus on glorifying God in the midst of trials. Praying for others is her plan to stay worshipful and missional. Even if she feels really bad.

So Crosspoint and Church, let's have faith together that God can do big things in Karen and other cancer fighters. And in us. And in the people we meet because of this fight. Let's pray big that God will become more famous for His awesome healing power and His great love for sinners.