Tuesday, August 26

Don't remove the hope....

"Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on soda, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart." Proverbs 25:20 (NIV)

One of what I thought would be my least favorite 'chore' as a Chaplain didn't take too long to manifest itself in the ministry, a short five months after becoming the Senior Chaplain of Meadowbrook, I had to minister to one of the founding members who was dying. She was an Epischopalian and I was asked, as her chaplain, to minister to her Last Rites. I spent the remaining few hours at work preparing....and dreading coming to the death bed of one of my dearest members of my congregation.

Yet when I got there, this dear saint (who would struggle against the graduation into her reward for another week) smiled at me, happy to see (as her son said) her Chaplain come to minister to her. There were no words that I could say to the gathered family members; the children, the grandchildren, and the great-grandchildren.....nothing to take the pain away that their cherished family member was going to be separated from them....for a little while.

There was not some fancy prayer that I could orate that would soothe the ache of losing a loved one. Her age, 86, spoke of a long life but did nothing to remove even her desire not to leave this world, much less the desire of those who loved her (myself included) that did not want to let her go. Time is always the enemy there, where once it seemed like a lifelong friend.

But I could do one thing; remind her and those she loves of the hope we've all been given and the destination that we all long to see. Giving her hope, not only in a voice trembling with emotion, but in a touch, in a smile full of tears, and in a breathlessly whispered prayer between us two.

The HBDevotion today spoke of just being with someone in a insurmountable place like that, not speak words of encouragement or sorrow, but just being there....to show that person that they are not alone, even in the silence of sorrow. But to me, this proverb speaks even to the living in the fight and struggles in this broken place called "society".

Those families within your congregation; hungry for food in a real way and in a spiritual way. Those individuals who fall over and over into sin's deadly embrace, rising above momentarily only to trip and fall again. Fathers who struggle with the fear of not being able to provide. Mothers who face a world alone, raising children they were meant to nuture but in the absense of the father, have to be all to them. People who continue to struggle in the face of never-ending defeats; a car breaks down, a house lost, a loved one abandons them.....

People to whom Christ calls us to have compassion, to come along side and love. People who have to hide their lives because of those who think they 'have' to fix instead of lovingly helping them. No questions asked, no judgment given. Maybe in a perfect world.....

God came through in a big way at the depth of my despair, when my voice cried out in pain for solace and peace, understanding and guidance. Monetary support from those in the body of Christ whom I haven't had the honor of fellowshipping with, but who stood in the gap....raising my family to God for supplication. That was the true blessing; to know that I am not alone. Even when the voices around me seem to shout otherwise.

God's provided a landlord who is willing to look beyond my immediate situation and give me a chance to restart and rebuild. But, instead of seeing the provision of God's hand, I am hearing so much grief from those around me. "An hour's drive to work in that car (I found a vehicle in great shape...but older...that I could afford to buy)?! You need to rethink that!" "Are you a moron?" and so on.

I face the same thing when it comes to my decision with my daughter; to let her spend the school year with her mother and give her the time to heal in a less stressful environment. "Are you nuts? What are you thinking?"

The Gospel message is one of hope; we condemn sin but show the sinners (ourselves included) that there is hope. Every word in the Bible speaks of hope.....hope for salvation, hope for redemption, hope for blessings, and hope for our Savior's return. When we drive the hope out of the message, we become a shadow of the One we represent, hazy and unclear. Too often, hope is cut down as we move in to provide what assistance we think others need.

One of the questions I am being taught to think about when I face someone in a struggle, in a need, or in fellowship is; "What is God doing in this person's life?" Seeking God in all things, instead of trying to trample Him in the process of 'looking good' for His kingdom. Only the woman who came out to my job last Friday....in the immediate past....approached me like that. Showing me the things she could see God doing and the things He had yet to solidfy. But looking for God instead of trying to fix me.

Instead of worrying about what YOU can do, say, or think in a situation you are called to minister in (and we are all called to minister in a degree), why don't you stay silent....and listen for God's voice to point out His plan? Why don't you listen....and show the person who stands before you the hope in a seemingly hopeless situation? God's hope and promise. God's power and mercy?

The greatest replies to the situations I am facing wasn't, "Are you sure? Is this the right thing?"....it was rather,

"I will pray that God continues to show His plan to you and give you discernment in these tough choices."

"You can provide the blessing to someone else when you are strong again."

God in the reflection shining from the faces of those who are involved in my life and know my difficulties, my fears, and my overwhelming hope...to be a servant of God in everything.

Will I make wrong choices, I would hope not but know that I will......fallen and broken is my human nature.

But, more and more, as I bring my vision into alignment with God.....I make more difficult choices with His will in mind.

I dont' know if this makes sense to anyone............kinda jumbled in my thinking today.

God bless and keep you.

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