Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Oh yes, Thanksgiving is creeping up on us! I have read a lot of great posts about giving thanks, but people at the Nursing Homes which I visit take on a different viewpoint of the holiday. Very few will get to spend it with their family at a table filled with food. Most will get a few slices of turkey and gravy in the dining hall where we are meeting. Their thankfulness isn’t punctuated by football games, and they aren’t making plans to do Black Friday shopping. Instead, most of the thankfulness up and down the halls here is for a table that they will sit at one day with Jesus Christ. They come to these hymn singing times and either join in if they still can or just listen as the Lord lifts up their hearts to Him. Yes, we should be thankful for what we have received, but what lies ahead is so much greater and will last forever. Why not take a moment to close yourself in with God and picture His answer to your prayers before you receive them? Why not give thanks right now for what lies ahead, and then receive His peace which is greater than anything you can understand that can guard your heart and mind in Jesus?
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:43-44 ESV
Last week I posted the message, “running out of the cage” which I then gave at one of the nursing homes which I visit. If you missed it, I tell the story of a groundhog I had trapped in our garden and was trying to release him in the woods. It took quite a while, because the animal was so angry at me that he never turned around to see that I had opened his cage door. After giving the message on Friday I asked if anyone needed to run out of the cage of regret, unforgiveness or bitterness, and then we prayed. Then, while visiting with the residents, one man began to share some of the things that kept him in a cage. First, his wife and two daughters had been killed in an automobile accident. Then years later after remarrying, his second wife left him and now with his health deteriorating, he was left with nowhere to live but in a long-term care facility.
Often people who are not involved in nursing home ministry think that everyone there is either a sweet old lady or that they are too far gone to be worth our time. But the truth is that many of our friends in nursing homes are just like us. That unfortunate mindset reminds me of a time I visited a friend who was in jail. While we were just getting ready to end the visit, he said something like, “You know Pete, the only difference between us and the guards, is which side of the bars we are on.” The very same is true in long term care, it is just that their bars look a lot different. They are trapped behind bars of disability, age, neglect and discouragement. They may be invisible, but they can hold a person just as well as any maximum-security prison. The good news is that Jesus still visits graves and prisons. He is well known in hospital corridors and deeply loved nursing homes. But He doesn’t walk in on His own like He did when He was on earth. Are you trapped in a cage today? Jesus gave His life to unlock the door and it is standing wide open. Whenever we just stop biting at the bars and turn around then, just like Lazarus and my groundhog friend we run straight out to Jesus right now!
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 64:4 ESV
While the Bible tells us to lift up our hands, we rarely stop to think of why. Of course, we all would agree that we lift up our hands in praise, but here are a few others to consider. The first, is what we do what our teachers do while taking attendance. They call our name and like Isaiah when he saw the Lord, we cry out, “Lord here I am!”
Another is what we used to witness regularly when we lived in the inner city. This lifting of the hands happened when blue and red lights accompanied by sirens told us that someone was getting arrested on our block. After a shout of “Show me your hands!” another arrest gave assurance that someone had surrendered. Of course, Jesus doesn’t put a gun to our heads. Instead, our surrender is a result of His love breaking through hard hearts. We are glad to be taken into custody because we know that God has way better things in mind for us than we could imagine.
But one reason you might not have considered, is the one I discovered years ago when our children were small. After working a day that began before anyone in the house was even awake, I would wearily climb the stairs to our apartment, put the keys in the lock. Then, I would hear the pounding of little feet as our little two boys came running. As soon as the door opened, they would stretch up their hands shouting, “Daddy pick me up! Daddy pick me up!” How we need to remember this lifting of our hands to God. If we are worn out from carrying a heavy load, remember that Jesus is at our door right now. Or if we have failed miserably and are feeling ashamed, remember we are still in His house and we can always run to Him. He is with us to strengthen, forgive, comfort and light our way. So let’s lift up our hands to Him and cry, “Dady pick me up! Daddy pick me up!”
Everyone I have met thinks that memory care ministry is a great thing to do, but very few are willing to stay involved for long. They enthusiastically come for a few sessions, and just about the time that the residents start to get to know them they give up. Am I saying that these folks are bad people? Absolutely not! These are the one percent who gave it a shot, and if you are a part of that group, I applaud your willingness to do so! The problem is that for most of us our daily lives, though stressful, are fairly organized, and life in memory care is many things, but organized is not one of them! But as believers in Jesus, we are called to go into our chaotic world and share His love and message. Is this easy? Jesus never said it would be – but in today’s verse, the Apostle Paul gives us a strategy on how to do exactly that. We are never to change the message of Jesus, but we are asked to enter into the world and emotions of those to whom we are bringing it.
As for me personally, I like a ministry opportunity to be prepared, planned and flawlessly executed. The reality in memory care is that people fall asleep, ask questions in the middle of prayer or a nurse walks in to bring medications to a resident while we are trying to pray. That’s memory care ministry. But don’t give up, get discouraged or quit. Jesus didn’t call us to always be organized, He did command us to love. Loving means weeping sometimes, when someone no longer remembers their children as well as laughing when they knock over your camera while you are filming (happened yesterday!) But when we stick it out through all the weeping and laughing for long enough, then the amazing miraculous love of Jesus Christ will begin to make a difference, both in their hearts and in ours. Don’t give up, walk out or turn away. Memory Care Ministry doesn’t always smell good, it is usually noisy, and restricted by lots of complicated rules, but Jesus loves them, this I know, for the Bible tells me so! Are you ready to go on an adventure with God? Then the mission field of memory care, might be the place that you will find it!
Today’s song was recorded this week at Sunshine Christian Home memory care. Paula is a volunteer who comes in to sing with me regularly and she lives in an independent living apartment nearby. I hope you enjoy hearing the voices of our Thursday morning memory choir. The blackened area on the left of the film was an edit to preserve the privacy and dignity of one of our residents. Have a blessed day everyone!