1. Have a sense of humor about my illness if I do.
I know you're trained to search for if I'm in denial, but sometimes a good laugh about a situation or health challenge is my way of coping so feel free to laugh with me.
2. I will likely tell you I go to church more often than I do.
You're a chaplain, so I have to sound somewhat disciplined if I am a spiritual person, right? (Never mind that lying to you isn't exactly "spiritual.") Honestly, as much as I may want to go, I get there a lot less. If you have any way to get my church to put the service online or on a free CD I will listen to it.
3. Skip the platitudes.
You probably already know that but it's easy for anyone to slip into saying things like "God won't give you more than you can handle." As you can imagine, I get enough of that from friends and family already. Feel free to "be real" with me and I'll be a lot more receptive to what you have to say.
4. Find some new material.
I've heard all those verses about faith and healing and hanging in there. If you want to give me scriptures, dig up some I probably haven't heard of before. And try a new Bible version like The Message to keep my attention.
5. Comfort my family.
A lot of time I am handling my illness pretty well, but my parents/kids/spouse aren't and they don't have anyone to talk to. They want to talk to me about my illness and I just can't talk about it over and over. It's draining both physically and emotionally. Can you offer them some comfort or even just listen?
6. Don't just pray for healing.
Everyone prays for my healing, so hey, I'm covered there. Instead, ask me what I'd like prayer for and I may surprise you. I need prayer for how I'm going to pay for all of this treatment, the right doctors, my kids' mental health in dealing with my illness and even my spiritual health to just hang in there.
7. Tell me something about yourself.
I know, I know you have to draw the line between personal and professional. But I've been poked, rolled and told to sit up or lay down so many times I feel like "the patient" twenty-four hours a day. I'd love to just hear about your day or your family. Where do you like to go on vacation? Treat me as a human being and not one more bed and it will help me more than you know.
Read a free 50-page excerpt of "Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend" by Lisa Copen! For the download link, sign up for Rest Ministries monthly newsletter at http://www.restministries.org. "Beyond Casseroles" is the perfect pocket-sized book for chaplains and congregational care pastors to refer to or to give family members to flip through for creative ways to say, "I care."
If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, http://StartAnIllnessSupportGroup.com for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!
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