Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. John 11:25 ESV
Somewhere between “I Am the Resurrection and the Life.” and “Yet shall He live” each of us must live in the picture frame of life given to us by God. Yesterday I preached at a memorial service for my friend Mary ay one of the nursing homes I visit. It reminded me that even our best plans matter far less than the people with whom we are passing through this life. While we have sorrow when a friend’s life is suddenly gone it makes us realize how just much what they did to touch our life matters. The limits of each of our years on earth give meaning to the things we choose to paint inside our frame.
Our friend Mary was quite a character and a memorable lady at Life Care Center. Almost everybody knew Mary because she talked with anyone who would listen, from the cleaning lady to the facility director and they all showed up for her memorial yesterday. What I remember most about her is how she not only participated in singing hymns, but she also wanted to give and would slip a few dollars into my hand on occasion. We remember how she wore bright red hats and gave her opinion on everything, but most important was that because Mary put her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, He became her resurrection and life. His grace painted what mattered most inside the picture frame of Mary’s life. How appropriate that after our service, we joined in the courtyard to plant a Purple Glory Tree. Now, when it flowers, we can catch a glimpse of the glory the life she is experiencing in the presence of Jesus today. Are you struggling with the limits in your life? Do you wonder what will matter at its end? Why not simply allow the hands of Jesus to take control of your life and ask Him to paint the picture that He had in mind for you? God bless and keep you always in the palm of His hand!
On my first time into Watermark Assisted Living since the beginning of the pandemic, it was great hearing my friends sing, taking their requests for songs and finding out that one elderly lady took on leading Bible studies once a week since they had been closed down. We often hear or even say things about God being in control but it is amazing to actually see how He has been doing it!
Here is a photo of just visiting with some of my friends at Watermark after church. The room was almost full during our first church meeting we have had after 14 months of COVID. What a blessing. If you have been vaccinated, live in the North Tampa area and would like to help out let me know. For now we have been invited to meet every other Sunday at 11 AM. God has been faithful! So much to tell but space will not allow here!
Some years ago my friend Darryl suffered a major stroke. This was the worst in a series of strokes each leaving him weaker and so this time after a brief hospital stay, he was moved into a nursing home. At our church we often prayed for Darryl, but for me praying just wasn’t enough. I knew that God wanted me to visit. I did work in the city where Darryl was staying and passed fairly close to his nursing home on my way home, but each time the thought came to my mind, I gave the Lord a different excuse of why that day wouldn’t work. I was too tired, my clothes were too dirty, or I was way too busy! It is amazing how creative I could be in avoiding God’s will. But the Holy Spirit was gently persistent. He just wouldn’t take “ No” for an answer. Every day God would remind me again that I needed to visit Darryl. Finally after weeks of procrastinating I gave in. So that morning I brought with me a fresh change of clothes and after clocking out at four-thirty I cleaned up in the wash room and changed. Half an hour later when I entered Darryl’s room and saw his face and the face of his wife Beverly, God’s peace settled in my heart and I knew something special was beginning.
One visit became a regular weekly get together and at Darryl’s request, I began to bring along my guitar to play a couple of songs for him. Soon other residents joined us for the singing and over a period of a time we began an informal prayer meeting. Like the opening of a rose changes came gradually, one petal at a time as one opportunity led to another. The staff gave us a small activity room for our meeting but sometimes we were preempted by a nurse’s meeting and on others only a one or two people would show up. On one of my most discouraging days as I was leaving to go home I found myself alone in the elevator complaining to God. Once the doors closed the Lord clearly spoke and asked me a simple question, “Would you do it just for one?”
I suddenly felt ashamed and remembered that Jesus had left the crowds to meet one rejected man who was wandering through graveyards at night and cutting himself with stones. Jesus had made the longest journey of His life to visit a Gentile woman and bring deliverance to her child. Little did I know that when I answered “Yes”, to Jesus just before those elevator doors opened that 25 years of nursing home ministry and hundreds of “Only ones” were waiting for me on the other side.
Today in the midst of this Covid-19 crisis the homes have all been closed. Not even family can get in to visit their parents. This disease has created a wall that feels more impenetrable than the iron curtain. But all is not lost! We still can pray. We can still call on the phone; send video messages, cards, flowers and small gifts. We can sit outside windows and blow kisses and as we do whatever God gives us to do remember the question, “Would You do it for One….Would you do it for me?”