Visit the Sick – Prayer and Music

When we visit a patient in a hospital or a shut-in at home, how do we draw prayer and music into the experience? Note I did not ask “Should we?” Music and, especially prayer, are important ways to minister to the suffering. (Click here for the first in this series on visiting the sick.)

Prayer during a hospital or shut-in visit

Christians want to pray about visits to those who suffer because we want to minister in the Lord’s strength and not our own, to the Lord’s credit and not our own. In addition to daily prayers for the patient, pray shortly before your visit. That might mean before you leave home, in the car on the way, or before you exit the car to walk into the facility. I’m sure that all three would be fine, too. Ask the Lord for wisdom to assess the situation so that you are sensitive to the need of the moment, that the Lord would guide the conversation and your own words, that He would use you to encourage this person.

During the visit, ask the person for prayer requests or be alert to identify needs or troubles on her mind. Keep these in mind or even write them so as to remember to pray about them. If you include them during your prayer with the patient it communicates that you listened and that you care.

Ask permission to pray. Besides demonstrating respect it prepares the other person for a time of prayer.

Don’t use the prayer to preach or it won’t really be a prayer.

Pray specifically. Instead of “God, undertake for Fred” make it, “Lord, You care about Fred and control all things. Please encourage Fred to stronger hope in You by bringing Scriptures to his mind, by moving people to say what will encourage him, and by providing grace by Your Holy Spirit.”

Pray realistically. Rather than, “Lord, heal Janet,” make it, “Lord, although we ask for immediate healing, we know that You have a purpose for Janet’s present state. Please give wisdom to everyone involved, make the treatment effective, and while he waits for healing remind her over and over of how much You love her.”

Keep it short. The patient may be tired. Even if he isn’t, an interminable prayer by one person demands extra effort from others to listen.

What do I pray?

You can pray the gospel. Admit our human frailty and God’s holiness and goodness. Confess our sinfulness. Thank God for His compassion and mercy, for Jesus who took our penalty and then rose from the dead so we could have His righteousness.

You can praise God for His character. Sovereign, He is in control even in our afflictions. Omniscient, He knows all that we suffer, knows more than the doctors do. Omnipotent, He can provide what we need and nothing can harm us without His permission. Omnipresent, He never abandons us. Faithful, He keeps all of His promises. Loving, He cares for us with compassion. Trust in Him is well-placed.

You can thank God for His promises. His promises are priceless jewels, valuable for comforting those who suffer. He promises that nothing can separate us from His love (Rom 8:39)! God promises strength and protection. He often describes Himself as a refuge, a place of safety and strength in difficulties (Ps 46:1; 59:16). He promises to supply all that we need to live godly amidst our trials. And God is not a minimalist. He supplies not just the minimum required for spiritual subsistence, but “according to His riches in glory” (Phil. 4:19).

Music during a visit

Music is a wonderful gift from the Lord. It lifts the spirit. It comforts. It expresses thoughts and emotions for which we don’t always have words. It leads us into thanksgiving and praise even in the times when we don’t feel like praying.

Choose a song or hymn full of solid doctrine. The use of music in a visit is not just for fun; it should minister to the mind as well as the emotions, to renew and build faith.

Choose a song or hymn that the person is likely to know. Many people enjoy singing along. Even if he can’t sing he may be cheered by listening.

Can’t carry a tune? Carry some music on your electronic device specially selected for your visits. Ideas include: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” “Alone Yet Not Alone” sung by Joni Erickson Tada.

Be considerate of roommates.

~~~~~

Sources: See end of this post.

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God Still Speaks – Discussion After Josiah’s Fire

One of the panelists at the G3 conference in January 2017 said something like, as long as we have church members who profess to believe the doctrine of sola scriptura and yet also think that Jesus Calling is a good book we have much work to do in this 500th year of the Reformation. In other words, far too many Christians profess to believe the doctrine of sola scriptura while simultaneously believing they hear from God apart from scriptura, and don’t perceive the contradiction.

I would say the same about Josiah’s Fire, a book I reviewed here. I think one reason these books are so easily believed and enthusiastically accepted is because of the strong appeal to sentiment and good feelings. Applied to hearing God, what underlies that vulnerability to sentimentality is a presupposition that feelings can be revelatory. It is normal to hear from God in subjective, private revelations through impressions, nudges, dreams, interpretation of coincidences, etc., and these feelings carry actual messages from God. In other words, many believe that we can hear God speaking from inside ourselves. Since the message is inaudible, the way we sense or perceive His voice is primarily through internal feelings. This is actually subjectivism.

I believe that many who accept this premise and heed their feelings love God and want to honor Him. Many sincerely profess that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, authoritative, and even that it is sufficient. Yet, if it were sufficient, they wouldn’t be seeking more, seeking additional personal revelation. Therefore, in practice Scripture is not sufficient for them.

With this inconsistency in mind, I’d like to use my book review as a springboard to discuss this practical abandonment of the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. Over several posts, I will debate with my own book review using challenges I, in the past, have raised or heard from others.

Let’s start with a definition. The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture teaches that in the written Word of God God has provided all of the revelation that we need for knowing and loving Him and for living a godly life, all that He intends people to have for each era of redemptive history. One basis for this definition is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

This passage is very clear that the written Word of God is sourced in God, His words, carrying divine authority. It authoritatively tells us that the written Word holds revelation sufficient to save, teach who God is and how to please Him, rebuke for sin/going the wrong way, correct back to right living, and train to make it habitual–that covers every aspect of living. The Bible is “able to equip for every good work.” “Every good work” covers all God-pleasing decisions and actions in every circumstance. There is no decision, no situation, no relationship that is not adequately covered by what we already have in the Bible. No one needs extra-biblical messages from God.

One challenge raised in response is:
But Jesus said, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

I appreciate the desire for intimacy with God, but the John 10 passage has nothing to do with subjectively hearing God talk to you through the day or telling you what decision to make. It is a lesson on the identity of Jesus. The Jews said, “If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus already had and they didn’t believe. Why? “You do not believe because You are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me.” The predestined, hearing the gospel, will repent and obey Christ. (10:24-30)

But “God is the same yesterday, today and forever.” He spoke to people in the Old and New Testaments, so He’ll speak to people today.

We agree that God speaks today. The question is not whether, but by what means.

Unchanging nature does not require unchanging methods. God destroyed the world with a Flood but He never will again. God burned a bush without consuming it, but He’s not doing the same today. God spoke to Balaam through a donkey and donkeys aren’t talking today. God’s character is unchanging but His methods can change.

I think it possible that because in the Bible we see God speaking to various individuals we get the impression that it is normative for all. Rather, the receivers of divine revelation are, naturally, in the foreground of the record. In the background and, therefore, unnoticed are the world population of the era, the local population and family of a main character–a 99% majority of people to whom God did not personally speak. For example, aside from the world’s population at the time, in the family of Noah God spoke personally and directly only to Noah, and very little at that. Abraham lived amidst family and many servants yet to whom did God speak? To Abraham, only a few times, years apart. He spoke to Sarah once and Hagar a couple of times. He didn’t speak to Lot at all except through angels, one time.

If we’re looking for a pattern of God providing personal, direct messages to everyday Johns and Janes as a norm it isn’t there. It is true that 4,000 years ago God audibly spoke to all of the people of Israel–once at Sinai. The purpose was to authenticate Moses so that from then on the people would believe that Moses’ subsequent words from God were indeed from God (Ex. 19:9; Deut. 4:9-13). After that, there walked two million of His followers who didn’t hear directly from God, only through Moses.

After Moses, God spoke personally and directly not to many believers but to Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, and other prophets, who then conveyed His message to the people. Eventually, He spoke only through Jesus. While Jesus walked the earth, no one heard directly from God unless they were in the presence of Christ. If He was in Galilee and you were in Jerusalem, the only communication from God available to you was the Scripture.

Hebrews 1:1-2 plainly states this pattern of using designated spokesmen:

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things…”

God spoke to the ancients primarily by means of prophets and finally by His Son (with the apostles whom He specially commissioned). The vast majority of God’s people have never had the privilege of personal, private, direct revelation from God.

There are also eras when there is no evidence that God spoke to anyone at all, such as between patriarchs, between judges, and between the testaments. So it is quite in keeping with God’s ways that after He founded the church and gave His sufficient Word through validated spokesmen, He would stop speaking directly to people and again work through the Holy Spirit’s use of His written Word and providence.

In all, Scripture records God speaking to very few people in any population of any era, primarily leaders, prophets, and finally His Son with apostles–people key to His plan of rule, redemption, and the provision of written revelation. So, according to the biblical record of how God spoke “yesterday” it is not normal that God would speak apart from His Word subjectively and privately to individual believers today.

This discussion will be continued in the post But I have impressions!

Resources:

Articles on Cessationism:
http://thecripplegate.com/three-reasons-god-is-a-cessationist/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheCripplegate+%28The+Cripplegate%29

https://hipandthigh.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/articles-on-cessationism-continuationism-and-spiritual-gifts/

Articles at Grace To You on Inspiration of Scripture: https://www.gty.org/library/resources/any/topic/1?topic=28&cat=all

Articles at Grace To You on Sufficiency of Scripture: https://www.gty.org/library/resources/articles/topic/1?topic=29

 

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Visit the Sick – Using Scripture

In suffering it is so easy to forget to trust God. Focusing on our pain, loss, or troubles, the difficulties loom large. God recedes into the blurred background not because He is any less important but because we turn the dial on our mental lens to focus on the trouble.

One vital reason to visit the sick is to encourage the their trust in God by gently dialing the mental lens to bring the love and goodness of God into crisp focus so that, as much as possible, the circumstances fade into background blur. We want to shift his focus from his pain to Christ. As Paul said,

For we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Since Scripture is self-revelation from God, it is the resource for renewing the mind by looking at what is not seen with the physical eyes.

Using Scripture during a hospital or shut-in visit

So, when you visit the sick, should you read Scripture? Certainly that would be ideal. By the Word of God the person in need will hear the words of his loving Maker and Preserver, trustworthy words of hope and comfort. However, there is no requirement to read Scripture at every visit. You can weave a pertinent memorized verse into your conversation or just speak a Scripture-based truth in your own words.

Two topics important for a sufferer are the character of God and His love for the person. For example, knowledge of His omnipresence reminds the patient that he is not alone in his trial, or the compassion of God that God cares about his suffering, or the sovereignty of God that God is both in control and that even sufferers need to submit to His will.

Direct attention to the love of God for the person. God has given this person life, gifts, talents, family, friends, good times in living and so much more. Most of all, God has given His Son who, even when we hated Him, loved us so much that He gave His life to pay the penalty we deserve and freely gives eternal life with Him. Trials are more bearable when we know we are loved. Love comforts. Love inspires trust. Love leads us to reciprocate love to the Lord even when we hurt.

When you state a verse, use one that is relevant to the situation. For example, is the person discouraged? Psalm 42:11 speaks about discouragement and despair and tells us what to do:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance, and my God.

When despairing, we need to talk to ourselves and tell ourselves to trust the Lord. Believing in the hope of heavenly joy with Him we can also praise Him now. (If the patient with the help of the Holy Spirit applies this verse even when his feelings tell him otherwise, that grateful attitude will show on his face.)

Another great verse for almost any trouble is Psalm 46:1.

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

Our only sure hope is in God. Yes, the Lord has granted to men the power to cut and sew flesh, replace joints and organs, alleviate pain, kill germs, and kill or hinder rogue cells in our bodies. These are all mechanical actions or destructive operations, not the power to heal. It is God who causes cells and tissues to actually re-knit in healing. Even if man could make cells, God is the one who gives us each breath that keeps us living, the only one present with us for every one of those breaths, present with us in every trouble. He is the only one on whom to place our whole trust. We can ask Him for strength to endure in a way that pleases Him. We can make Him our refuge.

If you don’t have a grasp of key verses, think about carrying a 3×5 card with a short list. Need some ideas?

  • Gospel Passages: John 11:25-26; Rom 5:6-11; Eph 2:1-10; 2 Cor 5:17-21
  • Anxiety, Fear, Nervousness:  Phil. 4:6-8; Ps. 46:1
  • Comfort:  Ps 23; Ps. 34; Ps. 46; Heb 4:14-16; Ps. 130; John 14:1-6
  • Weary:  Ps. 139; Lam. 3:22-23
  • Disheartened:  Ps 42
  • Hope of Eternity with Christ:  John 10:27-30; John 14:1-3; 1 Pet 1:3-5
  • Pre-surgery:  Ps. 56:4; 138:8; Phil. 4:6-8
  • Surgery recovery: 1 Pet. 5:5-7; Ps. 34:1-3, 8

How much should be read? It depends on the situation. Often, a hospital or rehab setting can hinder a patient’s ability to focus. A long-term care facility or a home environment may be conducive to more reading unless illness or pain is distracting. Generally, keep it short, a verse or few. Better a single sip to savor than a deluge that swamps.

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Josiah’s Fire

Written by Tahni Cullen with Cheryl Ricker, Josiah’s Fire: Autism stole his words, God gave him a voice begins with the story of Josiah Cullen’s decline into autism and his resumption of communication in 2012 by typing on an iPad. The book then traces Josiah’s iPad writings of experiences with God from 2012 to 2014 (approximately ages six to eight, pp. 17, 99, 100).

The story of Josiah is written with passion that connects quickly with readers through feelings of warm sentiments. We are drawn to empathize with the emotional pain of his parents and then the joy they must feel as communication is reestablished. Autism can be devastating to parents. I am so glad that Josiah resumed communication, giving his parents the joy of reciprocity in relationship. I also appreciate the apparent desire of his mother to do what she believes God wants her to do. However, I find the book troubling on a number of counts.

– Claims to Visit Heaven

According to Cullen and Ricker, Josiah claims to be taken by angels to heaven, sometimes nightly. On his iPad Josiah wrote, “We swoosh up through the clouds to nestle in mental feathers of the miraculous” (163). There, he has been taught by Abraham Lincoln, seen Renoir paint, talked with King Josiah, and heard Bach “sound it out with rich opuses…” (164-165, 244). Descriptions of his experiences in heaven can be found on many pages in the book.

Does Josiah visit heaven? Jesus said, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13). But didn’t Paul go to heaven? There are four biblical authors who were given visions of heaven–Isaiah, Ezekiel, Paul, and John. Josiah’s descriptions deviate drastically from theirs.

On the topic of heaven tourism I suggest http://www.challies.com/articles/heaven-tourism. A history of the heaven tourism genre of literature is at http://www.challies.com/articles/greetings-from-heaven-a-modern-history-of-heaven-tourism.

– Talking with the Dead

According to the authors, Josiah claims that in heaven he was instructed by King Josiah, received new revelation about heaven from Abraham Lincoln, and received a Bible edit from Moses.

“I talked to him [King Josiah], Mom. He told me nominal kings not only make names for themselves, but they name their kingdoms to be their buildings…Basically, King Josiah told me times vanished when business became God, when…” (244-245).

“I was led by Abraham Lincoln and his angel to be spiritually aware of what happened on the other side of the veil that was earth’s” (164).

“Moses tells me that standing on the rock, the angel lifted up his arms, not merely Aaron and Hur” (164).

May I state the obvious? Lincoln, Moses, and King Josiah are dead! Jesus said that it is not possible for the dead to talk to those on earth (Luke 16:25-26). Scripture expressly forbids consulting the dead (or trying to, Lev. 19:26; Deut. 18:10-12; Isa. 8:20-22).

– False Teachings about Christ

Mrs. Cullen accepts, even requests, Josiah’s instruction on topics as momentous as Christology and the Trinity (chapter “Trinity Talk”). Josiah says, “King Jesus said vines are your heart’s salutations toward sending foliage, bringing all the answers you need from your heart” (183). On the contrary, about the heart Jesus says the opposite, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts…deeds of coveting…pride and foolishness” (Mk 7:21). The heart is no place to look for answers.

Josiah says, “Jesus educates me in school” (in heaven) and taught him about lizards (88). This idea is childish, frivolous, and false. The Bible says that in heaven Jesus is ruling from His seat “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” (Heb. 8:1-2). Jesus is preparing a place for His own (Jn 14:1-3). Jesus is interceding for His followers (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 9:24).

Jesus warned that some people would falsely claim to see Christ and commanded that we not believe those people (Matt. 24:23-27). The next time Christ is seen it will not be in secret, private viewings. He will be seen by the whole world.

– Undermining the Doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture

According to the authors, Josiah claims, and his mother affirms, that his messages are from God (174, 183). If so, then those messages must be classed as revelation because, by definition, God revealing something is revelation. Josiah says he hears God, Jesus, and angels, learning from them spiritual truths “without your studying it,” in other words, apart from the Bible (160). Revelations beyond that already given in Scripture is, by mere math, additional. It is extra-biblical revelation. Now, if there is more revelation, then the Bible cannot be sufficient; more is needed. This book undermines the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture.

But 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is very clear that Scripture holds enough revelation for us.

All Scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

It’s sufficiency was true of the Old Testament and is also true of the New Testament since all Scripture is God-breathed. The written Word of God is sufficient to save a person, to teach who God is and how to please Him, to rebuke for sin, to correct from sin back to right living, and to train a person in godly living. What more to living is there? The Bible is “able to equip for every good work.” Every good work covers all God-pleasing decisions and actions in every circumstance. In the Bible we have all that we need in abundance to understand the character of God, the nature of man, sin, salvation, how to do relationships, godly speech, decision-making and problem-solving. The Word of God is sufficient for every situation, enough to know how to please God in every way. No further messages from God are needed.

– Undermining the Authority of Scripture

The claim presented by the authors is not only that Josiah receives extra-biblical messages but that his messages carry divine authority. The chapter title “Divine Directives” is unequivocal. Reinforcing the title are examples of Josiah telling his mom “directives” from God and she obeys them, even to the quitting of her job which was bringing in half the family income. Dad submits, too. (I can hardly believe a parent would publish this admission. Besides ignoring mere common sense, this turns Ephesians 6:1-4 on its head in a parent-child role reversal.) Josiah also gives directives to other people. While the book uses the word “directive,” a directive is a command and a command implies authority.

This is not a matter for just the Cullen family. It is a matter for all. Why? Since God is divine, all that He says is authoritative. Every word is necessarily equally authoritative; some of His words cannot be less authoritative than others. Therefore, Josiah’s claim puts his messages from God on par with the Bible.

The assertion of the authority of Josiah’s message is not only implied; it is overt. Besides the chapter title “Divine Directives,” on page 160 he says,

“A dream is a sleeping ordered to ring in truths only the spirit says to you without your studying it. So work it out to voice boundless dreaming, western church, because you are so stuck in logic. Trial this truth: God uses all of these to talk to us” (emphasis added).

In other words, Josiah scolds the western church for using logic (for using the mind) and calls upon the western church to seek revelation from God “without your studying it,” without the Bible! His extra-biblical revelations are not just for him and he is giving all believers a “directive” to seek private revelations.

– Undermining the Inerrancy of Scripture

Apparently, Moses made an error in Numbers 17 and finally, 3,500 years later, he corrects the record through Josiah Cullen:

“Moses tells me that standing on the rock, the angel lifted up his arms, not merely Aaron and Hur” (164).

The Scripture says nothing about angels upholding Moses’ arms. When we dare to accept extra-biblical revelation, we make ourselves vulnerable to the hubris of correcting the Word of God, even by addition.

– Trusting Experience for Truth

The blurb on the back cover claims that “Josiah’s eye-opening visions, heavenly encounters, and supernatural experiences forced his family out of their comfort zone and predictable theology…” From Josiah’s experiences readers can “Follow a trail of truth into Josiah’s mysterious world…” and “Learn to hear and trust God’s voice. Identify the roles of Father, Son, and Spirit. Be aware of the workings of angels.” This promotes experience as a trustworthy source of truth.

Proverbs 28:26 says “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool”–he who trusts in his own interpretations of his experiences has misplaced his trust. Isaiah commanded the people to stop trusting those having miraculous experiences and return to the written Word of God, “To the law and to the testimony!” (Is. 8:19-20). When Jesus said,

“Sanctify them by Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17),

He exalted the Word of God, not someone’s supernatural experiences, as the source of authority for our sanctification (growth in godliness) .

Josiah may be quite intelligent, retaining a great deal of what he hears and sees so that he seems to know more than one might expect. I do not doubt that Josiah has had experiences. What I do not believe is the interpretation of the experiences. No one can prove the claims. It is Scripture, not someone’s extraordinary experiences and knowledge, that is to be trusted.

Besides the untrustworthiness of any human perceptions, Josiah is a young child. The Bible says that children begin life thinking foolishness (Prov. 22:15). Sincere as children may be, they lack discernment, are gullible, easily deceived, and extremely susceptible to appealing suggestions (Eph. 4:14). They innately perceive, reason, form conclusions, and speak immaturely and unwisely (1 Cor. 13:11). Josiah needs loving, gentle instruction from the written Word of God that will exalt Scripture over his perceptions, correct his vain imaginations, and renew his mind (Rom. 12:2).

Summary

One aspect amazing about this book is how many adults are accepting the imaginations of a mere child as profound spiritual truth. Any adult should know better! Christians ought also to remember that it is not just Christians who claim dreams and visions from God; people from other religions experience the same phenomena and make the same claim for their source–divinity. Furthermore, the Bible says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). For these reasons and more, shock-and-awe should ring warning bells, not draw our fascination. Appeals to sentimentality, like in this book, should put us on guard.

This book continues to expand trends in heaven tourism, subjectivism, and sentimentalism among Christians. It contradicts and adds to Scripture. It is an example of how listening to subjective impressions, dreams, visions and the like can lead away from the “more sure word” of Scripture and supplant the Bible (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Elevating experience as authoritative, this book undermines the doctrines of the inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture, of sola scriptura.

(A discussion of challenges to this review begins here.)

Here are some helpful links that bear on the issue of whether God communicates today through private revelations.

Why Do We Say, ‘God Told Me’?
Apologetics Press – Is the New Testament “Given by Inspiration of God”?
What is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture? What does it mean that the Bible is sufficient?

Posted in Book Reviews, Discernment, Strange Fire Conference | Tagged | 3 Comments

Visit the Sick – Etiquette

Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12). Providing social time and spiritual encouragement to a suffering loved one, friend, or church member is one application of this command. With just a short visit you can brighten the day of another person and encourage them to greater trust in God.

So far, my posts on visiting the sick have been intended to motivate you to visit, provide a plan of action, reassure you who are hesitant, and facilitate ministering conversations. Now I’d like to highlight some practical courtesies. At what time of day should you visit? How long should you stay? Should you stand or sit? What if the nurse is in the room? What should you wear? What if you are sick?

Go healthy. If you are sick, DO NOT visit the sick. Sick people don’t need another illness. “Consider others more important than yourself” (Phil. 2:4).

Make your personal appearance clean and neat. I know we live in an age of “I’m comfortable in these tatters and you should accept me as I am” but consider that the patient already has so little beauty around him. He has to look at you even when you don’t. Sloppiness and grunginess will not enhance the view.

There are already many unpleasant odors. Brush your teeth, but don’t apply perfume. The sense of smell of patients in hospitals can be more acute than normal and applied fragrances can irritate and even nauseate.

Clean your nails. Your cleanliness and how you dress communicates your values to others. Honor the patient by caring what he has to see when you walk in the door.

Generally speaking, avoid first thing in the morning or late at night. Of course, variables like the type of facility and your work schedule will be factors. Not knowing exact schedules, you might arrive during a meal. Assess the situation. Is he feeling uncomfortable because he thinks it rude to eat when you have nothing? Do your best to put the patient at ease. If necessary, shorten the visit.

Keep visits short. Patients tire easily. In a hospital, plan on five to ten minutes, especially in ICU. A home can usually last longer, like twenty to thirty minutes. In any case, relax. If you watch your watch it may seem to the patient that he is inconveniencing you. If you assess that a longer visit would be pleasing to the person without draining his energy, you can stay.

People in long-term care or shut-ins may enjoy longer visits. I’ve had a resident in assisted living give me a tour of her new digs; since she was slow-moving it took awhile–and made her happy. One facility near me has an outdoor patio where not many residents go; it makes a pleasant private place for us  to talk and pray and sing. Another has a fish pond where we feed bread to the critters. These locations entail more time. Still, sometimes the fun needs to be cut short because the patient grows tired even though he tries to hide it.

Be sensitive. It is better that they wish you’d stayed longer than that you’d left sooner.

Enter the room with a calm, congenial cheerfulness. Overdone happiness won’t compensate for the sadness of others. Nor should you start with sadness even if the case is sad; it doesn’t encourage and may communicate that the patient is worse off than he thought.

As you enter, announce or introduce yourself. Even a friend may forget names and faces if he is medicated and/or in a strange environment. If your arrival wakes him from sleep he may be disoriented. Introduce yourself also to other friends or family who may be in the room.

Wash your hands so as not to carry little varmints into contact with a person already sick. Either apply sanitizer from the dispenser at the room or wash at the sink. You don’t need to scrub like a surgeon.

If you enter a room in ICU, you may be required to put on a gown, mask, and gloves. There will be signs explaining the process of putting them on and taking them off. You can also ask a nurse.

Generally speaking, try to be on the patient’s eye level. Standing to talk to a patient in bed places you higher; that is a power position. Try to be seated. If no chair is available, go find one or ask a nurse for one.

Respect the roommate and staff. If it is a semi-private room pull the curtain between the beds. This provides privacy for both patients. Speak with the lowest volume that is still audible to your friend. This honors the privacy of your friend. It also is a kindness to the other patient. It frees him from having the problems of his roommate thrust upon him unwanted, reduces distractions from his rest, sleep, or reading, and allows him to listen to the TV or have a conversation on his side without being drowned out by your conversation.

What if medical staff arrive? Offer to step outside the room until the doctor or nurse is done. You may ask how long it will be and, if necessary, make your exit right then. Sometimes the nurse or the patient will urge you to stay in the room.

Leaving the room, wash your hands again. With so many sick people, hospitals are full of germs. Wash your hands so as to not carry microscopic varmints to your next stop or home. If you had to mask and gown to enter the room, remove them in the proper manner.

Leaving the room, give farewells to the patient and each person involved with him. Even though you came primarily to visit the patient, it demonstrates respect if you don’t exclude others in the room.

Extra: Minister to the medical staff. If you minister to someone with a visit, may the Lord be praised! Consider also the idea of ministering to the facility staff. Pray for them on your way to the building or as you walk through the halls. Stop and thank a staff person for his care of your friend or loved one. You can ask if they have a request for which you might pray. Consider writing it to help you remember. Pray for the person that day or week. Upon your return, ask the staff person about his request.

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Sources: See end of this post.

Posted in Christian Living, Suffering, Adversity | Tagged , ,

Top Ten Posts for 2016

Please accept my thanks for reading this blog in 2016. I hope that the posts have been encouraging and edifying to you. Below are the top ten posts that you read in 2016, listed from least to most read.

10. Chemical imbalance? Considerations Regarding Psychotropic Drugs. Until a few years ago, the theory of a chemical imbalance as the cause of an emotional problem not otherwise medically diagnosable was ubiquitous, especially for depression. Even though this theory no longer has the supposed scientific support it once had, many people still believe they have a chemical imbalance in the brain and take psychotropic drugs to gain relief from emotional problems, unwittingly also finding the theory an excuse for not taking responsibility to deal with problems God’s way. This posts offers some rethinking.

9. Prayers for Unbelieving Children

8. Rejoice in the Lord – How to Put On Joy. God desires that His children enjoy great joy. Christians want to rejoice. But how do we do it?

7. How can they be so remorseless?  This post discusses the idea of committing evil without remorse. Since it is a sequel to They Say He Has No Conscience, number 4 below, I suggest reading number 4 first.

6. Marriage: Procreation is Important, But Not Primary

5. A Purpose for Marriage: Oneness

4. They Say He Has No Conscience. This post examines the popular idea that some people lack a conscience. We hear of some extreme evil and that the perpetrator carries no remorse for what he has done. From our perspective, lack of remorse seems unreasonable. Surely, normal people would feel remorse for such acts. Since the perpetrator does not, he must be mentally ill or not even have a conscience. But is this what the Bible teaches? This post goes best read with its partner post, How can they be so remorseless?.

3. Parenting the Difficult Child  This page introduces my book and gives some background on it that is not in the book. The book is being used by parents whose children are often disobedient and oppositional. Additionally, it appeals to adoptive parents and parents whose children behave according to the psychological label Reactive Attachment Disorder. Although some observations and ideas of psychology fit, the label is not biblical. So part of this book contrasts this man-made view with the Word of God, seeking to help the Christian increase in discernment and put on biblical thinking about other psychology-constructed models.

2. No Trust, No Love. Really? It is a popular notion that a person cannot love another unless they first trust him or her. Trust is, in certain relationships, extremely important and enhances love, but trust is false to believe that you must trust before you can love another. This post is one of a series. The related posts will set it in a broader context.

1. The Secondary Primary Purpose of Marriage: Companionship Marriage was the topic of three of the top ten. These posts all deal with purposes for marriage. Everyone who marries does so for a reason, often not realizing that God has purposes for marriage far more important than ours. Our purposes, if they are not in agreement with God’s, lead to problems because we are basically selfish. Knowing God’s purpose helps us to set daily interactions with our spouses into an eternal context. Living for God’s purposes rather than our own transforms how we view our communication, decision-making, sex, child-rearing, finances, socializing, and relational conflicts. Taking God’s view for our own will change our behaviors, which usually results in a more satisfying relationship with one’s spouse.

I wish you a 2017 full of God’s grace and peace!

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