Tag: counseling

5 Questions About Walking With People in Pain

I roll over at zero dark thirty this morning in a hotel room in Hanoi to see a missed call on my cell phone. In my heart I know why. It was a call from the husband of my best friend from college. Patty was diagnosed with ALS (that horrific disease that gradually takes away your ability to speak, eat, move and breathe) 3 years ago. Last night she was healed and greeted in heaven where I’m sure she is having a blast. She always was a party waiting to happen. 

Patty was fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and had all-together the best laugh ever. God took her on an amazing life-journey where He used her to come alongside people in pain or resource counselors helping others in pain around the world wo were experiencing trauma. This picture was taken when our paths crossed in London. Patty had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh? In a post 4 years ago, after this picture, I asked her 5 questions about helping people in pain. I’m posting it again today in her honor. IMG_6973 Continue reading

Not My Thing

All of us have some “my things” and some “not my thing’s”. We all have stuff that in the Christian faith we call “gifts” – areas where the Holy Spirit has given us an extra oomph. Call it spiritual special sauce.

Hospitality, communication, encouragement. Those might be my things.

Counseling is not my thing. At. All.

In our family we like to say that somehow not one of us got the mercy gene.

Flat tire? So sorry. Buck up and carry on soldier.

Dog died? Sucks to be you.

Flunked a test? Your problems are so real.

Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but almost.

The thing is, even if something is not our thing, Jesus still wants us to step up. We may not major in the areas of our weakness. We may call in folks who do have that thing for the heavy lifting, but we’re still called to learn and grow.

When someone comes to me with a problem, I can’t just say, “So Sorry. That requires mercy and counseling. Not my gift! Buh-bye now.”

We may not all be Mother Theresa, but our Jesus says mercy is always called for. Mercy isn’t just for people who think it’s “their thing”.

So I try really hard to pay attention. I have so much to learn from people who have the gifts that I don’t.

And God has a way of coaching us in the areas where we want to say “Not my thing!” 

I became a little more compassionate when God allowed me to experience deep pain, and loss.

I became a little bit better listener when God sent others to listen long to me, absorbing my tears.

But I still don’t have the gift of counseling (or administration, or helps, or wisdom, or…)

I wrote recently that John and I spoke on baggage in relationships and it seemed to strike a chord with a lot of hurting people. There was a lot of heavy baggage that they wanted to share with me.

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As people poured their hearts out I wanted to yell “9ll! Where is Rich Phenow (the most gifted counseling pastor I know)??!”

But here’s the deal…In those moments that aren’t your thing, you do what you can, and you get help.

I’m learning how to listen deeply. I’m learning how to be present to God and the other in the moment. I’m learning how to validate the experience of others and affirm their good choices, so that’s what I try to do.

But then I say, “You are facing huge challenges that I can’t begin to totally understand. I have some friends who are really kind and brilliant at untangling stuff like this. They have the gift of counseling. They would love to help if you’re open to that.”

That’s why Jesus gave us to each other. Together we’ve got our things and not our things covered.

Which means together we can do hard things.

What’s not your thing? What is God teaching you in that area? 

 

 

5 Questions About… helping people in pain

The next in our “5 Questions About…” series!! Patty McGeever is my best friend from college.  When John met her he said, “I can sure see why you guys are friends!”  She’s fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and has all-together the best laugh ever.  She has been on an amazing life-journey where God has been using her to come alongside people in pain, or resource people helping others in pain around the world.  This picture was taken this May when our paths crossed in London.  She had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh? 
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You have a background in counseling and social work.  How did you discover that God had given you gifts in this area? 

I didn’t discover this. My father was the one who recognized this for me.  He was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and treated for 9 years at MD Anderson in Houston, TX.  During that time, he got to know 2 Social Workers and shared with me that he thought I would like their job.  As I began studying this in college, it was the one subject that I made good grades in without a lot of work.

Upon graduation as I sought where God might want me to work I read:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Suddenly, it was like all the pieces of the puzzle were put together.  This was a job I could do well and God had created me this way because He knew the path my life would take. He had equipped me in ways I had not realized.  

2.  Can you share a story of a time when God used you beyond how you felt you were capable?

Always.  

But you asked for one.  

My family and I had moved to Papua New Guinea to serve with a nonprofit organization there.  I was a counselor in a community of over 300 ex-pat workers from over 14 different countries.  The students had gone on their annual retreat.  Early one morning, I received a phone call informing me that a 17-year-old girl had been gang raped by 3 Papua New Guinea men.  A helicopter would be bringing her back to our compound and I was to meet her with our doctor at the clinic. 

I was overwhelmed.  How could I help this young woman, her family and the youth on the retreat and then the entire community who would know that this event had taken place?  

I had not received any training that would prepare me for this type of scenario.  But I was the counselor there. I had to cling to God to provide the words I did not have. 

In looking back, I realize that God could have picked someone else who had experience in this but He didn’t.  He picked me with all my weaknesses.  He must have His reasons for doing that and I just need to show up.

3. What’s one lesson you’ve learned over the years about helping people in pain?

Bad things happen to good people. So much of the time I encounter well-meaning, really wonderful people who are experiencing really challenging things. There isn’t an easy explanation for this either.  Somehow telling people that ‘in all things God works for the good to those who love him’ just wasn’t helpful or appropriate.  The truth is that so much of the time the good seems very far away.  I had to learn to trust God even when I didn’t understand why things were happening in a certain way.

4. Even those of us who don’t have specific gifts in this area want to help friends who are hurting.  What are some mistakes you see people making?

People try to fix the other person’s problem when most of the time the best thing we can do for a friend is listen.  

People worry about saying the ‘right’ thing. Often there isn’t anything to be said. The best thing you can do is be there and stop thinking about you.

5. What advice do you have for those walking alongside others in crisis?

  • Listen, listen, listen.  
  • Ask questions to help them continue to tell their story… like ‘what happened, what was the hardest part for you, or what else happened’?
  • Don’t make judgments.  No one needs to hear that they are doing something wrong in the midst of their crisis.  
  • The process of telling their story will bring healing.  

Additional resources Patty recommends:

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