Another last visit

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Photo by Justin Schüler on Unsplash

I got the phone call last Tuesday just before I headed out the door to visit some church members. But it wasn’t the person whose name showed up on the screen. It was her daughter. Mom wasn’t eating, couldn’t get out of bed, and was receiving twenty-four-hour hospice care. I knew I had to get out there later in the afternoon before they started a second form of medication to get ahead of the pain. It would probably be my last chance to talk with her.

When I arrived I thought, “This must be the place to be.” The driveway and cul-de-sac were full of cars. Inside, I was met by the hospice chaplain, the daughter, and two other hospice workers were in the kitchen. The only thing that surprised me was the quiet. The little Yorkie didn’t come barking to greet me at the door. Yes, this was a different visit.

Just six days before, I had been to this very same house. When I knocked and walked in, the dog came racing to find out who it was and got dibs for my attention. Inside, P. was sitting on the pale green living room sofa, waiting for my arrival. We talked and laughed and caught up on all that had happened since my last visit about a month ago. She was tired from a busy day before, but glad to have some company.

As the usual afternoon storms rolled in, the Yorkie found a secure spot on my lap, nervously shivering after each clap of thunder. She wasn’t going anywhere.

She wasn’t going anywhere during this latter visit, either. Lying quietly at P.’s feet, she was subdued though glad to see me. I can tell. And I know exactly where to scratch.

After a quick conversation with a daughter and the hospice chaplain, I went to the bedroom, where P. was now camped out, on oxygen, wondering when the pain medication would do more than make her feel sleepy. At the side of the bed was a picture of her late husband, whose hospice bed we had sat beside just eleven months ago. It was his retirement picture, signed by all of his colleagues. In a way it was his chance to repay the favor and sit by her bed.

P. had a smile for me and chuckled, “Well, here we go. Not a pretty picture, huh?”

“Looks like you had a rough weekend,” I said.

She said, “Yeah, but what are you going to do?”

We talked a little about how she felt, between sips of ginger ale. Since she was starting to doze off, I didn’t hesitate to ask, “Would you like communion?” As always, she said, “Yes.” As I got the bread and wine ready, I suspected it would be the last time I would bring the sacrament to her. As I spoke the words of our Lord, she closed her eyes to listen. I touched her hand, she opened her eyes, and ate and drank her Savior’s gift of grace and life. I assured her of God’s forgiveness and we prayed.

It is easy to pray in situations like that. We thank God for the care he provides, we commend ourselves into his hands, and speak the prayer our Lord taught us. A quick benediction, and I knew it was time to go.

I got the call Thursday night that she had died after a few days of being unresponsive. I was thankful for the opportunity to visit her that one last time.

Two years ago, I did a memorial service for P.’s mom. Last year for her husband. And now it will be her turn. I am impressed and moved by how she graciously handled both life and death, kind of like Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). The worst this world dishes out is nothing compared to the grace God pours into our lives. I am thankful for people like P. who lived out this truth.

The only thing P. worried about was her two grandsons. How she loved them and how they loved her! I wonder what they’ll remember the most about their grandparents. Knowing them and the family, it will be something that brings joy not sadness, and that’s just the way it should be.

The Yorkie didn’t see me out as she usually did. She had work to do. And I understood,.

 

 

 

 

The pros and cons of reading an analog Bible

img_9267.jpgBy analog, I mean a Bible printed on paper rather than the (digital) bible app on my phone or computer. I’m thankful for each. I also thankful for having the Bible at my fingertips in any of its forms. Remember, just five hundred or so years ago, virtually no one read the Bible. Until the Reformation and the invention of the printing press, few actually had one.

On my phone, I usually read from my Accordance app. On the computer, I also have Accordance, and I’ll often go to Biblegateway.com.

Anyway, here are the pros of an analog bible:

  • You can underline, circle, highlight, make notes, and draw pictures on the page for future reference. I can’t do nearly as much marking on my phone.
  • It’s easier to catch the context with a couple of pages right there in front of you. Scrolling through the text on my phone is more difficult.
  • Spill coffee? No problem with the printed version. Panic time with a phone. With an analog bible, it’s a badge of honor. Yep, I was up reading my bible this morning while I was drinking my coffee.
  • It’s easier to focus. My analog bible never interrupts my reading with texts, weather alerts, or phone calls. Yes, I could turn all those off, but I rarely do.
  • It slows you down a little. It’s good to slow down and think about what I’m reading. I can read much faster on my phone. I set the font larger, so there are fewer words on the page, and I can really zip along as I scroll through a passage or book.
  • I can actually look up passages more quickly with a printed bible.
  • No one has a problem with someone paging through a bible in church. Everyone is suspicious if you claim you are using your phone’s bible app in church!
  • Battery life is never an issue with an analog bible!

The cons of using the analog bible are also the strengths of the digital form:

  • It’s slower. I can read on my phone much faster. When I want to, I can really cruise through scripture.
  • With a printed bible, I don’t have the resources at my fingertips that are on my phone or computer. In the digital world, I can immediately see a word in the original language, read a passage in another translation, find a word or phrase in other verses, read a commentary, find out where a place is, or find out who a person is. I can find all that info in some books I have, but it takes a lot longer. A study Bible is helpful, but I can’t fit it into my pocket.
  • I like a larger print bible now, and they aren’t as easy to find as the ones with minuscule font on extremely thin paper. The footnotes and cross references are even smaller. On my phone, I can really ramp up the text size so I almost don’t need my glasses.
  • After a while, all the pages are marked up, stained, folded, torn here and there, and falling out. Some pens and highlighters bleed through the pages. It takes a while, but it eventually happens to all my bibles. I never have to duct tape the binding of a digital bible.

So, for me, it’s a tossup. It depends what I am doing. I always use an analog bible for preaching, teaching and visits. I always use a digital form for preparing sermons and bible classes. I use both for my daily devotional reading.

That’s one of the things that has changed in ministry. When I started, everything was in a book. Now just about everything is online. In act, I can even have Alexa or Siri read the bible to me! Pretty cool.

 

Father’s Day advice

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Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Father’s Day is in two weeks. I am writing this post partially in response to a TV commercial I just saw while working out while watching some UFC on TV. Yes, my wife is at work, so any channel is fair game.

Anyway, the commercial was for the WeatherTech Ready-to-Wash System. This is a Father’s Day gift of a bucket on wheels with some car wash soap, a mitt and a towel. Really? You love your dad so much that you will just get him something to clean up the family SUV? Oh, come on. Like you would get your mom a vacuum cleaner or a gift basket of Pledge, Lysol, and Fabuloso for Mother’s Day? Yeah, you’d be out of the will for that, big guy!

I’ve decided to do you all a big favor and steer you away from terrible Father’s Day gifts and get you on the right track for the guy who flips your pancake. (I made up that euphemism.)

First of all, a few gifts to avoid:

  • The RadiaShield Men’s Boxer-Brief. Supposedly, this guy-hugging apparel will ensure your guy’s swimmers will make it to the finish line. As for me and my house, I cut them all off at the pass. Pass.
  • T-shirts, mugs, hats, key fobs, whatever, proclaiming me to be “The World’s Best Dad.” Since there is no real prize for that honor, I’m not interested. Besides, it just sets me at odds with my neighbor whose boxers proclaim the same honor.
  • I heard some DJs talking about A1 Steak Sauce scented candles. One commented, “Could be a good Father’s Day gift!” No. Just no.
  • Father’s Day cards that focus attention on our flatulence. Yes, we’re pretty good at that. And we are proud of it. But is that the only superlative you can think of for your dad? (My suggestion: Make a card. Write a quick poem. A limerick. Haiko, You’ll do better than most of the cards at the store. Trust me.)
  • Honorable mentions to avoid: A crazy tie, personal hygiene products (remember: would you get that for your mom?), an exercise program (remember: would you get that for your mom?), flowers (oh, come on!)

What to get instead:

  • Bourbon or scotch (you should know what your dad likes!)
  • Craft beer (you should know what your dad likes!)
  • Sunglasses (you should know what your dad likes!)
  • Sandals (you should know what your dad likes!)
  • Beef (try butcherbox.com)
  • Something to do together (movie, supper, fishing, drinking whiskey, eating beef, sitting on the beach; you should know what your dad likes!)

OK, I confess, I received a Shop-Vac for Father’s Day 22 years ago and I still use it today and I still really like it. OK — long shot and you won. But you were a looker, and I was a sucker. Still love you, too. And I still love my Shop-Vac.