The Woman With One Of The Most Important Jobs In The World

Her ancestors were slaves.

The word ancestors doesn’t seem appropriate. It wasn’t all that long ago. Her parents spent time being educated in segregated schools and drinking from segregated water fountains. Her father was called cruel, racist names by respectable pillars of the community. Once, her mother was assaulted for daring not to move off of the sidewalk when four young white boys came walking by. Her mother still has a small scar under her right eye to remind her of that day.

But those were different days. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is no more. We all drink our water from the same fountain and share the same sidewalk. After all, it is 2017.

But not for her.

No, when she goes to work, it’s 1955 all over again.

She always did well in school. Helping others was what drove her. She knew what it was like to face one roadblock after another. She saw how bitter it made some of the people who she loved. She was determined not to let that happen. She wanted to serve the weak, not keep them down. As she saw it, there was no better career path for her to take than nursing.

She dreamed of working in a busy emergency room in one of the big city hospitals. That didn’t work out. But she never gave up on nursing. She got as much education as she could. It just wasn’t enough to get her out of her small town. Eventually, she came to accept that small towns need nurses too. Sure, there’s no big hospital or busy emergency room where she lives.

But there is a nursing home.

So that’s where she went to work.

For the better part of four decades, that’s where she’s been picking patients up off of the floor, distributing medicine, cleaning out bedpans and helping folks go to the bathroom. She does it with a happy heart, even when smiling doesn’t come easy. She’s not much for talking but when she does speak, it’s never negative. The same can’t be said for her patients.

Every time she walks into room 4A, she gets greeted with a racial slur. She always responds with a smile and some comment about how this is the day that the Lord has made. She sees the irony in helping a man go to the bathroom who in his younger days wouldn’t use the same water fountain as her parents.

The lady in 1C frequently tells her in a creepy, whispery voice, “If you steal from me again I’ll have you killed and no one will care.” Of course, she never has stolen from the lady in 1C. But she has picked her up off of the floor five times in the last two months and gave the lady’s son a strong talk about coming to visit his mother more often.

3B is the hardest. She used to have nightmares about 3B. The guy in that room knew her parents. He’s the one responsible for that scar under her mother’s right eye.

She thought of recusing herself from that room, sort of like judges do when there’s some sort of conflict of interest. But then she thought better of it. She decided that instead of running away from the man responsible for her mother’s facial scar and countless other emotional scars, she would run toward him in his weakness. She remembered the passion that drove her into nursing. Instead of keeping the weak down, she would try to help them. This wasn’t what she had in mind. It is what God had in mind.

The man doesn’t know who she is. She thought about telling him once. It wouldn’t matter. He’s a shell of his former self. His memory, his strength and his family are all gone.

 

She doesn’t think that her job is all that important to the kingdom of God. If you asked her, she’d tell you that the ones with the really important jobs are the pastors and missionaries and famous Christian authors. She’s wrong. As far as the kingdom of God goes, this woman has one of the most important jobs in the world.

Every day before she walks into room 3B, she prays for strength. She asks her Lord to give her the strength to be like family to the lonely man who did so much harm to hers. She asks for God to give her the power to resist the temptation to turn a blind eye to the man’s suffering and let him get what’s coming to him. Day after day, God answers her prayers. And day after day, the light of Christ shines when a nurse walks into room 3B. By the time she walks out, she has loved her neighbor, loved her enemy and ministered to the least of these.

Just like Jesus did.

And he is pleased.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 (ESV)

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They Have Seen Better Days

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This afternoon I’ll preach at a Good Friday service. It’s not at the Georgia Dome. No one is selling tickets to it. No Grammy winners will be there. But there’s is a very strong chance that a lot of the people there have been called Grammy a time or two in their lives.

This Good Friday service will be at the nursing home in the community where I live and work. There will be people singing off key. To be fair, I’ll be one of them. There will be people there who can’t hear or see very well. There will be strange requests for strange songs I’ve never heard of before. But, like the other years that I have been a part of this service, I’m really going to like it.

Being at that nursing home on Good Friday reminds me that Jesus didn’t just die for me. He didn’t just die for the younger generation. The cross wasn’t exclusively for church kids. Jesus didn’t die only for the young, fit and popular crowd. He also died for the old, the feeble and the dying.

He died for the lady struggling to play the role of mother for her aging mother.

He died for nurses and administrators who refuse to cut corners, even if no one else would notice, because they do their work as unto the Lord.

He died for his Church and some of the people who belong to his Church spend a lot of their days in a nursing home. Some because that’s their place of employment. Others because it’s where illness has left them.

But Jesus didn’t just die for his Church. He rose again for it. And that gives us a living hope, no matter how dire our circumstances are here on earth.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (ESV)

I’m guessing that five minutes or so after I’m done speaking to this group, most of them will forget what I said.

Their memory isn’t what it used to be.

They have seen better days.

But because of the grace of God and an empty Middle Eastern tomb, the folks in that nursing home who belong to Jesus have not yet seen the best days.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

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67th Birthday

Monday, December 3, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

If my mother was still alive she would have celebrated her 67th birthday today.

Even though she wasn’t around, I celebrated the day for her without even knowing it.

You see, I’m not good with dates.  Pretty much every night before I go to bed I have a mini-panic attack.

“Wait!  Was today my anniversary?  How do I get out of this one?  Oh, it’s still six months away.  Close one.”

On my mom’s first birthday after her death a lot of people seemed really concerned for me.  They asked me how I was doing and told me to hang in there.  But it wasn’t a hard day for me.  As much as I love my mother, to this day, I couldn’t tell you the date that she died or even how long she’s been gone.  This isn’t some form of suppression.  I still have no problem with grieving.  I’m just not good with remembering dates.

Just like every other year, my mom’s birthday snuck up on me today.  It didn’t even register that today was the day until I saw my aunt, my mom’s sister, post something about it on Facebook.

The response blew me away.

People I haven’t seen or heard from in years left comments talking about how much they loved my mom.  We joked about her love of Clint Eastwood and his movies.  Some people mentioned her quirks, like her disdain for shrimp.  She thought that shrimp tasted like rubber bands.  I agree.  Others mentioned her sweet spirit and how much they enjoyed spending time with her while others wished that they could talk to her today.  One friend said that she really could’ve used my mother over the past few years.

Sometimes I think that the sign of a great person is not so much what they do while they’re alive but how they’re remembered when they’re gone.  My mother was a great person.

I planned on going to the nursing home today to visit a few of my church members.  I didn’t purposefully plan my trip to fall on my mother’s 67th birthday.  But as I walked down those hallways I couldn’t help but think about her.  Her last breath was in a nursing home.  She took that last breath before she ever got to know what it was like to be a grandmother.  Today, I walked around our local nursing home with two of her grandsons holding on to each of my hands.  They drew pictures for the people we visited.  Mom would have been real proud.

One summer when I was home from college I was complaining a lot about there being nothing to do.  My mom had heard enough of it.  She demanded that I visit a nursing home before I came home from work the next day.  For both good and bad, it’s impossible for me to drive by a nursing home without thinking of my mother.

My wife is out of town for a few days so late last week she planned out and precooked a few meals for me and our sons.

“What do you want for dinner on Monday night?”

I answered like 98% of all men would who were presented with this question under these circumstances.

“Chili.”

On the evening of my mom’s 67th birthday I ate chili with my two sons.  My mom’s chili was famous.  Friends would come home with me from college and ask for it.  A few months ago a friend called to get my mom’s old recipe.  Ours has changed over the years but I couldn’t help but smile with each bite.  An unplanned chili dinner for my mom’s birthday.

One of my favorite authors, Lewis Grizzard, wrote a book called Don’t Forget to Call Your Mama I Wish I Could Call Mine.

As much as I love Lewis, I can’t agree with him on this one.  I don’t wish that I could call my mother.  For the last several years of her life my mom would mask her suffering during our phone conversations.  Now, she’s free of that pain in the presence of her Lord as she awaits her glorified body.  I miss my mom but I’m glad I can’t call her.

Happy birthday, mom.

Now, before the day’s over, I’m going to watch a good Clint Eastwood movie.

Just for you.

Don’t know how else to say it, don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away from fighting life out on my own
Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t but honestly won’t someone stop this train