For anyone who is struggling with the frustrating sense of uselessness let me tell you about my good friend Ann. Ann* (not her real name) passed away just before Valentine’s day. For the last three years she came almost every week to our church service in the respiratory unit at the nursing home. Because of her trach it was hard to understand much of what Ann said. But Ann has changed the world. Her consistent faithful presence was noticed by her daughter who also began coming many Wednesday afternoons.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Luke 15:4-5 NKJV
Hi! “I’m Helen*. I’m from Kaiser Valley!” she greets me every week. Helen (not her real name) is perky, funny, and she now lives in
the Alzheimer’s ward at the nursing home I visit. Helen has an amazing memory for the verses of all the hymns. For most of her life, Helen attended church,sang in the choir, gave her offerings and like so many others she never once receives a visit from her pastor.
Being a pastor isn’t an easy job. Most people don’t understand the pressures, the demands and the temptations that we face every week. But pastors are also shepherds and as shepherds we are called to help to take care of sheep. Some sheep pay their tithes faithfully, dress nicely and shake our hands to tell us they loved the message. But some sheep lose their way. In this parable Jesus is talking about a lost sheep just like my friend Helen from Kaiser Valley. She is a sheep who has wandered off a little too far. One day she looked around and the rest of the flock was gone! There were no familiar landmarks. She cannot find anyone to help her find her way home. What all the Helens and Bobs and Alices and Marys need are shepherds who will come looking for them. Do not take this message as just another guilt trip, but rather as a gentle encouragement to remember how joyful it is when Jesus finds any one of us. Remember that the business of finding lost sheep is a great joy for both the shepherd and the sheep!
And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury Mark 12:42-43 KJV
I had felt frustrated by the small number that came to our little nursing home service. It seemed like I was just rushing in, doing my duty and then going home. Then one afternoon God chose to change my outlook. As I was passing around shaking hands saying,” God bless you” to everyone, one woman slipped something into my hand. I opened up my palm and discovered two shiny quarters which she had given me. “No I can’t take this’” I protested. She just smiled widely and said “You keep those; there are lots more where they came from!”
I was instantly reminded of the widow’s two mites in the Bible story. I remembered that Jesus had said that the widow, “put in more than all these…” When God sends us the widow’s mites He is putting into our hands what he values most. I would not at all be surprised if some of the people standing near Jesus might have laughed. Those pitiful worn out copper coins were nothing to compare to the golden shower being poured in by the rich. But that afternoon God gave me a golden shower of laughter to lift my spirit. In that moment a light clicked on in my heart and I saw the preciousness of that woman in God’s eyes.
The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him. Exodus 15:2
Never underestimate the power of music. No matter how plain (or just plain off key!) there is a force that flows just below the surface of the notes. A melody is a lot like one of the stones in David’s sling in the Bible story. Goliath had a serious size advantage over the puny teen-aged David. In spite of Goliath’s awesome armor and weaponry, the power of one smooth stone guided by God’s hand was able to penetrate his defenses. Music can be an armament for good if we ask God to guide it to ears that long to hear from Him.
I discovered the simple power of music from two dear shut-in friends, William and his wife Joaquina. For about two years I visited them every Wednesday afternoon and came to affectionately call them “Mom and Dad”. William began to slowly lose the use of his arms, then his legs and he became confined to his bed and recliner. William loved to hear the hymns especially the lively ones. But William didn’t only listen to music. He found that he could still whistle a tune so one of his pass-times was to whistle to his parakeets whose cage sat in the corner of the living room. Whenever William whistled the parakeets chirped loudly. Near the end of William’s life his family filmed a brief video of his two parakeets hopping on his chest while William whistled a song. In the battle of his life William still used the smallest melody to fight.
For those, who like myself, have chosen to do nursing home ministry, I would encourage you to prioritize music. Music’s purpose is often unrecognized and its value underestimated but in its proper place it has the power to touch the hearts and minds of people as nothing else. Whether you are an accomplished musician or an amateur. Simply share the songs of the church and God’s message will take wings and fly!
Excerpt from Music Matters in Nursing Home Ministry: