That famous line from the Beatles’ song Help, is pretty good advice to follow for anyone involved in Long Term Care. Whether you are a paid staff member, family member or volunteer, the needs (and sometimes demands) of the people far outweigh our ability to meet them. The Bible puts it this way –
God helped me to learn this while struggling to find ways to serve communion at the nursing home. With 20-25 residents coming to our services, I decided that we needed people from our church to pass out the elements. The only problem was that everyone was working during the week when we had the meetings, except for one retired couple who came only once. Every week, the director of the recreation department told me that the aides would be happy to pass around the cups and communion crackers, but I kept turning them down, waiting for someone from our church to help. I was like the guy in the funny story about the flood, who prayed for God to rescue him. When a 4-wheel drive vehicle pulled up to his porch he turned them away, saying that God would come to his rescue. As the waters rose, a speed boat stopped at his second-floor window with the same offer but again he turned them away. Finally, up on the roof-top a helicopter hovered overhead and lowered a sling, but he waved it away. At the end the man drowned and as he entered through the heavenly gates, he stopped and asked God, “I’m so happy to be here but why didn’t you come to my recue?”
At this the Lord smiled and gently said, “My child, I sent a 4-wheel drive, a speed boat and a helicopter. What more should I have done?”
I am sure you have probably heard that story many times and yet when we are faced with asking for real genuine practical help, in long term care situations, we often hate to ask for help just like that man did. It took me a year to accept the help the staff offered. I was so amazed to discover that when I did, not only did my load get lighter, but that the residents were delighted! Of course, I don’t know what situation you are facing, but whatever it is, we need to remember that God’s answer might just be a little different than our expectations. He loves to bundle the help that we need up in the most unusual packages. God’s help for me included young health aides smiling as they passed out communion. What does the package He is holding out to you look like today?
I am deliriously happy to announce that our book project for the nursing home ministry is finally finished! After six months of writing and almost another six of editing and rewriting, the eBook edition is now live on Amazon! I am so excited. The book of Proverbs tells us that:
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 NKJV
Hope deferred has been exactly my experience, since I began this project last summer. I was hoping to have the book done by Christmas. But that hope was deferred time and time again, but I am humbly grateful that here in August we are finally done! Yay!! One thing I have learned is that this project has been a team effort – and working as a team, needed far more time and patience than I had originally scheduled. My wife did some of the first edits, followed by my good friend Rob Keller who also designed the cover. After I trudged through their corrections, it was nearly Thanksgiving, and I handed the manuscript over to Sue Hyson for a more detailed edit. The final edit and formatting of the manuscript was done by our daughter-in-law’s brother, Winston Crutchfield who not only edited but also fixed my formatting mistakes and improved the older photos as much as possible. These people have selflessly given of their time for one reason – and that is to tell you the story of our many friends in long-term care. Though it is my hope that “Walking With Lambs” will prompt more people to take action in practical ways, I believe you can also just enjoy getting to know some of the wonderful stories of friends whom I have made over thirty-five years in nursing home ministry. Their stories have taught me more about life than everything I learned in college and Bible school combined! If you would like to check out the eBook version, the link is here –
Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir. Genesis 33:14 KJV
When I first wrote the poem Softly With The Lambs ; little did I know how this picture of Jacob gently leading his sheep would grow in my heart. That thought of Jacob, who was still limping along from his wrestling match with God, reminded me of the many years I have limped alongside my friends at nursing homes.
Ater writing a follow up post to the poem, and a change of the title to Walking With Lambs, I realized that I needed to do much more. But first, I want to express my gratitude for the support of my wife who worked together with me for several years in nursing homes before moving on to other things. I will always owe her a great debt of gratitude for continuing her support and encouragement as well as accepting graciously the many hours I spent visiting people long term care facilities.
So, began the writing of a new book titled, Walking With Lambs. This differs from the other books that I have written in that, itis primarily a book about friends. Each chapter begins with the story of a friend and how their lives have helped me to learn how to serve others in some aspect of long term care ministry. As of today I am not yet sure as to a release date but stay tuned, as I hope it will be before the end of Summer.
Jesus told us that whenever we care for even the least of His people, we were doing it for Him. I am reminded of the charge that Jesus gave to John, when from the cross He entrusted the care of Mary to John. When we go to people who are living in long term care settings, whether they are at home or in a facility, we are carrying on the same responsibility of John. While the other Apostles were out advancing the gospel around the world, John stayed behind to care for Mary till the end of her life. His ministry to her was private. None of us knows how many years He dedicated to her care, or what it involved. That is the same with us today. Very few will ever know the stories, the tears, the joys or the heartbreaks we experience, but Jesus does. He will ever be that friend who is truly closer than a brother. He cares. He sees and He will give us grace to Walk Softly With Lambs, even while others are thundering ahead in far more visible areas of ministry. It is a humble ministry, yet if Jesus has called you to serve His aging mothers and fathers or His brothers and sisters with special needs there is no greater blessing than knowing that He has trusted us with their care. Have a blessed day all and as an encouragement I am offering the devotional book, Grace For the Road for free in its eBook format from Thursday 6/9/22 through Sunday 6/12/22.
During song request time at our nursing home service recently; Bella raised her hand and asked; “Can we do something different today?” Then she wheeled herself to the front of our little room and plugged in a cassette player. When she pushed the play button the room was filled with the sounds of a lady’s trio from her church singing a song which she had written many years ago.
The experience was eye opening to me. As I heard the music and words I realized again that not only Bella but everyone in that room had something beautiful to give. No matter what chapter we are at in our lives today; God still has some surprises to tell us about if we will listen for them. It may be that things seem dark and confusing in your world or in the life of someone you love for whom you have become a caregiver. If the waves seem to be filling your little boat faster than you can bail them out; why not consider the words from the chorus of Bella’s song this morning?
The Raging Storm
In the midst of all this raging
Comes a loud and piecing cry
In the storm and in the tempest
Be not afraid – For it is I!
God has not forgotten us. He specializes in commanding storms and calming fears. He is with us all through every part of our journey. If we open the ears of our heart we will hear Him calling; “Don’t be afraid because I am right beside you!”On the cross as Jesus took the penalty for our sins He cried out; “Why have you forsaken me?” in order that He would have to never leave us and He has promised to be with us to the very end!