Monday, February 9, 2015

Ready Or Not...

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 
~ 1 Peter 3:15

"Honey, your phone is buzzing." I had forgotten to turn the ringer on, but Sandy heard it and stirred me out of my sleep. I looked at the caller I.D. and saw that it was from one of the area hospitals. Someone was in crisis, and I was being called to their bedside. The clock told me it was just before 1 a.m., so I put on a pair of khakis, a blue oxford shirt with button down collars, and a leather jacket.

As I stepped outside the house, the air was crisp, the moon's face was aglow, and the light from the stars were only slightly muted by its brightness. The headlights of my pick up flooded the fields and gravel crunched under its wheels as I headed down our long driveway. The automatic gate gave its high pitched squeak as it swung open.

From the moment my phone rings in such instances there is a routine I go through. I begin to give thought to what kind of situation I will soon step into. Accident? De-escalation? Suicide? Premature birth? What will be the frame of spiritual reference of the person or persons I will soon be ministering to. Often, due to the catastrophe, they can be swirling in a hundred different spiritual and emotional directions.

In such times, the apostle Peter's words at the top of this post are never far from my awareness, so I pray that God would grace me with wisdom, gentleness, and respect. As a believer I know I must always be prepared, and the only way I can be prepared is to be cheerfully submitted to Christ's Lordship. That's not a given in the wee hours of the morning. Also, I learned long ago, that I cannot see into the heart and mind of the people I meet. That is God's territory. He alone knows if the people I meet are prepared to invite Him into their situation. But my part is to always be ready.

Last night's couple were seeking some kind of understanding of how to avail themselves of God's comfort and presence. They asked me the direct question "How do we pray?" Neither of them came from a "church" background. I took the time to tell them of God's over-arching mission of redemption, and we made our way to the gospel's invitation to call on Christ. They did. No pressure was needed. There was a true sense that they recognized God's gracious Presence in the conversation. Their's was, I believe, a real encounter with the living God. Before leaving, I assured them that I would continue to pray for them, and that I was available to walk with them in their new adventure.

Arriving home, I couldn't sleep. Sharing the gospel has never gotten old. How could it? It ever remains the starting point and focal point of knowing God.

On Sunday…

My phone buzzed again, but this time I was in the middle of a message at Emmanuel Baptist Church. I had my phone in the pulpit to keep track of time. The caller I.D. told me it was another call from an area hospital. As soon as I finished the message, I returned a call, got the information I needed to respond, and soon after I was at the hospital.

Outside the patients room, in this instance, I was required to put on latex gloves and a gown, before entering. I quietly cracked the door open. In the dimly lit room, I could see the patient propped up on the bed. She stirred awake as a band of light from the widening gap in the door crossed her. One glance revealed that she was extremely ill. I introduced myself, and we began a conversation. Having been bedridden for months, she said the thing she missed and wanted most was to have a church service.

"How about you and I worship together?" I asked her.
"Really?" She seemed surprised.
"Absolutely!" I said.

I told her I had just taught about a central theme in the Lord's Prayer: Forgiveness. I asked her if she knew the Lord's Prayer. She did. "Want to recite it together?" I asked. And we did. Then I asked her, "Do you want me to share with you what I learned from that passage?" She said, "Please do." So, I compressed a thirty minute message into a ten minute one.

When I finished, I asked her if she had any questions or wanted to add anything to it. She did, and then for the next ten minutes she witnessed to God's forgiveness in her life, the forgiveness she had extended toward others, and her confidence in God's Providence in spite of her condition. It was beautiful.

"We can't have church without singing." I smiled. "How about you and me worshipping God together with a song? Would you like that?"

She literally lit up, and responded, "Oh yes!"

I started singing Amazing Grace, and my sister in Christ joined in. Her version was a soulful spiritual. She was singing and grinning, as I tried to octave surf with her and find a harmonizing part.

When we finished I took her dark skinned hand into my blue latex covered ones, and we prayed. After the amen, she said to me, "Thank you. I needed a church this morning."

"Thank you! I needed church like that, too!"

I got out of her room before I started crying...

   

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