The Objector

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You could have put a potato peeler in his hand for the duration of the war, but you could never have convinced him to pick up a gun. 

While not as well-known as Desmond Doss, the American medic whose heroic efforts were memorialized in the movie, Hacksaw Ridge, Laurence Morton, too, was a conscientious objector who served in the Great War. 

“There’s no glory in war,” he would tell me during the many visits I shared with him, sitting in his window sill in the nursing home where he lived, listening to his stories.  “The medals are worth nothing.  The war was worth nothing.” 

This particular conversation took place during the planning stages of a pilgrimage back to the place where it all began-Vimy Ridge.   

Morty (as his friends referred to him) had been invited by Veterans Affairs Canada, to return to France to observe the eightieth anniversary of the Armistice, where he would also receive the Legion of Honour Award, France’s highest decoration for his contribution in the Great War. 

While he was excited at the prospect of seeing France during a time of peace, there were some obvious concerns, too, both physical as well as emotional. 

“I’m too old to travel,” he argued. 

“That’s kind of an eligibility requirement for this trip, Morty.  You have to be old.” 

He gave me “the look” that said I was pushing my luck with this centenarian. I gnawed on my bottom lip to keep from laughing.  I knew he would go and he knew he would as well; it was too good an opportunity to pass up.  

Without prying too much, I asked how he would feel about visiting his brother’s grave.  While Laurence had been vocal in his refusal to take another man’s life, his brother Louis, ironically, had been a sniper. He had been killed by the enemy three weeks prior to the signing of the Armistice Agreement. 

Nodding, he whispered, “I need to see him one last time. Yes, it’s the right thing to do.” 

Laurence Morton had been born in 1896 in Rat Portage, in northern Ontario.  When war broke out, he said he “prayed with heart and hand” that he could serve his country. In 1917 he headed for France. 

“We thought it would be the time of our lives,” he had told me wistfully many times.  

Unlike Doss, it didn’t appear that Morty took too much flack for being a conscientious objector.  In fact, he was revered among his comrades.  

“I remember one night in the bunk house,” he recounted.   “I was just kneeling beside my bed, praying the way I always did.  It got real quiet all of a sudden.  I looked up from my bunk, and I saw all these fellas just staring at me.” 

While definitely different than his fellow soldiers, his integrity and compassion appeared to make him stand a head taller than the rest.  They knew that he was the one to come to for support, advice, and just about anything, when in need. Apparently this included cash, when their army pay was denied.  This would happen when the soldiers would go into a brothel for a night’s entertainment and leave with a case of syphilis. 

“I always got my money back.  I was good at keeping things quiet and I didn’t judge them boys.” 

Refusing to fire a gun did not preclude Morty from hauling its ammunition for the 16th Canadian Infantry Battalion. 

Referring to gun cotton, he laughed, “I hauled that blooming stuff all over the country.  We never thought of it exploding.  If it ever blew up, they wouldn’t have had to dig a grave for me!” 

 

So, that particular Remembrance Day, I played hooky from work.  Determined to catch a glimpse of my friend, I set up on my sofa, tissues in hand, to watch the event coverage from France.  I was not disappointed.  The camera scanned the veterans, and, as if just for me alone, the camera zoomed right in on Morty, looking older than his 101 years, if that were even possible.  He suddenly appeared fragile, something I had rarely seen in this man.   

I learned later that Morty had become somewhat of a celebrity in this, his second trip to France. Being relentlessly sought out by reporters to tell his story, he learned to dodge probing questions and to answer the mundane ones with his quick wit.   

When asked by Sunday Star reporter, Laura Bobak, what his secret to long life was, he responded, “I like to breathe, as it satisfies the necessity for living.” 

Morty satisfied the necessity for living for another three years after returning home from France, but he just wasn’t the same. Wounds believed to be long-healed had resurfaced with his visit to Louis’ grave.  I couldn’t begin to surmise what thoughts were going through his mind in his last years, but I’m sure there is no glory in war was one of them. 

 

 

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Getting your Praise On

Worship.  Most people see it as singing hymns or spiritual music in church but it goes much deeper than this.  Singing in and of itself is not worship, it’s just music.  I remember hearing a story of a choir master who dies before his choir’s biggest concert.  In heaven, he asks God if He would permit him to see the performance, to watch his church choir worship.  God grants him his wish, and from his heavenly view the choir master is astonished to see only four singers on the stage. He turns to God and says,

“I don’t understand, there’s over fifty people in that choir.  Why do I only see four?”

God replied, “You said you wanted to watch those worshipping Me. There they are.”

God is not looking for singers who create perfect harmony, guitar players who can play a sweet  riff, or songwriters who can come up with the most biblical lyrics. He’s looking for worshippers, not performers.  This goes for the congregation as well.   Belting out a Bethel tune with eyes closed and arms raised, all the while wondering if you remembered to turn on the crock pot before leaving the house that morning. So not worship.

I’m not saying any of this to bust anyone’s chops, otherwise mine would be first on the chopping block.

I have gone through seasons where I looked like I was just going through the motions.  Living out the first half of Proverbs 13:12, I would force myself to the front of the church during worship.  Hands jammed in my pockets, eyes staring into space, I’d be thinking, ‘I’m here, and that’s all You’re getting out of me today.’   And in those rare times of my own personal worship-boycotting, I got back exactly what I put in.  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.

True worship doesn’t come out of duty, but of desire. WorshipToOne

God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” (Writer, John Piper)

What I’ve learned through these dry spells is to push past that sense of God’s silence, beyond the void of unanswered questions and unfulfilled promises.  The enemy of our souls would love nothing better than for us to give up and stop doing that one thing that he knows is one of the greatest weapons we have in our arsenal-worship.  It may feel awkward, stiff, and fake. But that’s not how God sees it.  When you choose to praise when you’re going through a storm, God doesn’t see your worship as fake–He calls it faith. ThanksgivingPraise

Bill Johnson, in his sermon entitled, The War of Peace, said that ” A sacrifice of praise makes it easier to get access to His Presence.  Sometimes it’s going beyond what is comfortable–it’s violating the suggestions of the enemy….”  

When your life is in turmoil you have to force yourself beyond what’s happening in the natural to get into His Presence.  In order to enter His gates,  sometimes you have to push.

 

The Lord inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3)   Think of this for a moment.  When you and I truly worship, focusing our affections and devotion on Him alone, we create a platform for God to land on.  Essentially, we’re like a landing pad for heaven to come to earth.  He wants hang out with those who know how to worship in spirit and in truth –He makes it a party (at least at my church!)

Worship isn’t only packaged in music.  Author Rick Warren says that “anything we do that brings God pleasure is worship.”   This gives me hope.  That means that when I’m out for a run in the forest and I say, “Wow God.  You sure knew what you were doing when You put this river here.  It’s beautiful!” it’s worship.  When I take the time to speak a word of kindness to a stranger, it’s worship.  Talking to God while I clean my home (which may or may not sound more like, “Oh, Gawd!!!”) technically, is worship.  Be happy in what you’re doing, and God will meet you there.

He loves to hear us gush  over Him.  He doesn’t have an ego that needs to be stroked, but when we say, “I love you, Lord. I think You’re awesome,” it gives Him something to respond to. Our praise moves things.  It moves Him.  It’s like we’re showing Him a mirror.  Whatever we show Him, He reflects back to us. We tell him how wonderful He is and he reflects that “wonderfulness” back to us. This kind of  worship opens the door to revelation and prophesy; when you are in His Presence, you become more intimately aware of what He’s saying to and about you.

This is what I want.  More of Him, less of me.  Worship not performance.

Yes and amen.

 

 

Letting Go of the Reins

I needed to shake things up in my quiet little life, so I signed up for an improv class at the local arts center this fall. It was not something I had a natural instinct for; quite the opposite.  The very idea of getting up in front of people and acting,  purposefully pretending to be someone different from who I was, scared the b’jeebers out of me.

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Truth be told, I wanted to do something that scared me, and this definitely was meeting those requirements.  This is my idea of a roller coaster.  Slowly going up, up, and up, looking over the sides to see how far the drop, and then inwardly screaming as I go careening headlong into the unknown.

I’m five weeks in, but I still get butterflies at the beginning of each class.  Our instructor, Susan,  a local actress and singer, is a feisty 5 -foot- nothing power house who has made it her personal quest to ensure that no one sits on the sidelines as a casual observer, but to fully engage and tap into our creativity.  You never know what exercise she’ll have you do to get warmed up.  Last week it was the “hunting expedition.”  You are partnered up with someone and in character, you decide it’s a good day to go hunting for… (whatever pops into your mind), and your partner has to become whatever you decide you’re hunting.  Last time I was hunted by Elmer Fudd and I was a daffodil.  Yeah, try acting the part of a flower that’s being shot at.  Definitely out of my comfort zone.

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The whole premise of improv is to not be in control and to get out of your head, two things I desperately needed to do, both spiritually and emotionally.

In improv, there is no guarantee that where you think a scene is going, is where it will end up.  You may begin with a line, having an idea of where you want it to lead, but your fellow actors invariably have different plans, and you have to abort your mission and go with the flow. Sometimes it feels like a tug-of-war. Susan taught us that we are “Not to sabotage our fellow actors, abandoning the scene because it’s not going in the direction we want it to, but to cooperate and just go with the flow.”  This is advice for life!  How many times has God tried to direct my path, but leaning on my own understanding, I yanked the reins and tried get things back on my trail?

Giving up control is not easy for me, I’m always wanting to know what the risks will be before hand.  But this is not how God sees our relationship with Him. He longs to give us an abundant life, but it is a free choice we’re given; we’re not being forced.  He promises that He is good, His heart is for us and that He will never leave us, nor forsake us, but we want to know ahead of time what the risk of following Him will be.  Imagine if He felt the same way before He sent Jesus to die for us on the cross; if He wanted numbers, averages, and percentages of who would follow before He handed over His son to die on our behalf.  Yikes.  I’m so glad He would have done it for even one.

I’m learning that just going with the flow is scary yet exhilarating at the same time, both on the stage and in real life.  I don’t know my fellow actors or my instructor very well, but I do know that we are all there for the same thing–to enjoy the process and to learn and grow  in a safe environment.  God is kind of like our improv instructor.  We do share the same goal–getting me to a life of surrender and joyful abundance.  He knows what He’s doing–He’s the instructor and has a pretty impressive resume replete with success stories.  We’re not promised that there won’t be trials and tribulations, in fact we’re promised that there will be.  But like Susan, He is there coaching us, championing our efforts and will not leave us standing alone on stage.

So for now, the show must go on.

Yes and amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lamb in Wolf’s Clothing

Mr. Unruh was a bully.  Having perfected the eye roll generally reserved for petulant teenagers and wearing a permanent sneer, he had succeeded in planting fear in just about every child who had attended our rural elementary school. Quite frankly, it was hard to believe he had landed a job teaching children in the first place.

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He particularly enjoyed picking on the shyer and the slower kids, the latter of the two, I believe, because he saw them as simply lazy.  I could never figure out what possessed him to become a teacher in the first place—had he drawn the short straw, or was he living out his parent’s dream? Regardless, I had made it my mission to avoid being on the receiving end of the sarcastic barbs that he doled out like cheap Halloween candy- the hard- to- swallow kind.

I learned early on in my elementary school career to fire back when he came at me with his insults. I was the youngest of four tomboys. Mr. Unruh had taught all of us and I was judged based on the behaviour of my predecessors. I was just another Catto girl.  I had honed my skills with the come-backs, a comedienne with razor-like wit.  For the most part, it worked too.  Much like the vicious dog who backs off when it realizes that you’re not afraid of it, Mr. Unruh was developing an unusual respect for me. Dare I say, he may have actually begun to like me?

There was a game that the boys liked to play on the school yard in the winter. Pouncing on unsuspecting girls, they would toss them face-first into the snow and proceed to wash their face in the frigid white stuff.  I hated this rite of passage with a passion, so when Brian McDermid chose me as his victim, I saw red—of course after I saw white. Once I had wrestled myself free and caught my breath, I instantly began plotting my revenge. Brian assumed I was off nursing my wounds, but this is where assuming made an “ass” out of him, but not of “me”.  Catching him off guard, I lunged at him. I sailing through the air and landed on his back, forcing him face first into the snow.  But this wasn’t the fluffy stuff.  No, I purposefully chose the hard packed snow that had been trampled by hundreds of adolescent’s boots.  Deliriously drunk with the promise of blood, I straddled his back, and grabbing him by the back of the head, drove his face repeatedly into the hard snow.  I imagine I sounded like the father in the seasonal favorite, “A Christmas Story” whose unintelligible cussing erupted when the neighbouring blood hound ate their Christmas turkey.  girlwrestler (1)

 

Pummeling his face as he begged me for mercy, I looked up to notice Mr. Unruh watching on with rapt amusement.  I was sure I was in trouble.  Instead, he let me get in a few more blows.

“Ok, Monica.  That should do,” he finally said, stifling a laugh, as he pulled me off by the back of my red quilted parka.

Expecting to be disciplined, I was surprised when I heard him say to my victim, “Stop your damn whimpering,” and motioned with a head nudge and a wink for me to high-tail it out to the far reaches of the playground.

Exhilarated, I found a hiding spot behind the snow hill where I caught my breath and considered my two victories.  While I don’t advocate violence against anyone, I have to admit that it had felt pretty good-and now I had an ally.

Mr. Unruh, or “Freddy”, as we referred to him behind his back, was starting to grow on me.  I still had a healthy fear of him, but I was beginning to see him in a new light.

My own father was very quiet and didn’t really know how to stand up for his kids.  I suppose this was largely in part because his own father, my Grandpa Jack, had returned from the Second World War, a shell of his former self, emotionally unable to resume an effective role as a parent.  I didn’t blame dad, but it was a relief to have someone who would call forth my excellence—and call me out on my crap.

I had never been great at public speaking, so when speeches surfaced in the yearly curriculum I turned into an anxious, doubt-filled mess.  Most years, I struggled just to find a topic for my speech.  But grade eight, my final year in elementary school, was different.  It was 1981 and Terry Fox was my hero. I was glued to the evening news to catch a glimpse of him and the Marathon of Hope, and even my parents knew enough to not yell at me to get in the kitchen to do my after-supper chores of clearing the table.  It was clear that I had found the topic for my speech.

Mr. Unruh unbeknownst to him, was to become my editor.  He wasn’t even my teacher that year, in fact he had been demoted the position of school librarian (go figure).  I would spend my lunches and recesses sitting at a table closest to the window overlooking the playground to create the illusion of playing, while taking in the musty yet comforting smell of the library. Writing and re-writing my speech, I would repeatedly hand it over for his perusal after completing a draft. He was not a kind editor, but he was at the very least, honest.  I could have been easily offended by his blunt criticisms, but somehow it felt like he cared enough to correct me, so I would follow his instruction and go back to re-wording, cutting out redundant information, and correcting my spelling. He still wasn’t soft-spoken nor necessarily kind, but I wasn’t seeing that eye-roll anymore, and the sarcastic comments were slowing down to a trickle.

After weeks of missed recesses and lunches, spent with my unlikely friend, my speech was finally complete.  And, for the first time ever, I had made it to the public speaking finals.  I was nervous—actually terrified. Writing the speech was one thing, but giving it was quite another. In the audience were my fellow speakers, teachers from other schools acting as judges, my mom, and of course, Freddy Unruh. I glanced at him now and then for support as I tried to project my voice to fill the expanse of the school gymnasium.  He feigned a look of indifference, but I knew he was secretly cheering me on.

While I did not win the public speaking competition, I did have one victory under my belt.  I had won over Mr. Unruh.  I’m sure he would deny it to his dying day, but he really did like me-I’m sure of it.

Footnote:   Ruth Ann Gordon took home the prize for her speech on her family vacation to northern Ontario.  I saw Mr. Unruh’s eye roll that time; he couldn’t stand that girl.

 

 

Who do You Say I Am?

My sense of identity has taken a bit of a kicking lately.

After some lengthy reflection I realized that I had allowed my dominant characteristics as an encourager and responder to sit in the driver’s seat of my life and we almost crashed.

I am a natural encourager. I think I may have even born with pom-poms in each hand. Although it is biblically described as a gift, I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to leave you feeling empty.

I had one of those “ah ha” moments while talking to a dear friend.  I heard myself saying, “When you allow another person to decide what role you play in their life, you’re also giving them permission to decide when you no longer fill that role.  If your identity is wrapped up in it, you’re screwed.”

Here’s a painful example. My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, but before I lost the baby, I had taken on the role of mother.  I began to see myself as a mom, a nurturer, a protector, a teacher and everything that goes with motherhood.  When the baby died in my womb, so did the identity, and that loss took the longest to get over.

In such painful seasons, we need to know who God says we are as the main part of our identity, so when roles are removed for one reason or another, we are not shaken.  Yes, it can be painful, but our firm foundation built on Christ remains.

I have had to take a step back to re-evaluate my true identity.  In my  role as an encourager, I should have felt refreshed in pouring out and allowing the Holy Spirit to replenish my supply.  Instead, I felt much like an apple tree that had been stripped bare of all of its fruit without receiving anything to generate new growth.  God asked me, “Did I ask you to do this?”  emptyappletree

 

I had to answer honestly, that in entering performance mode, seeking approval from man, rather than Him, I had allowed myself to be depleted.  It wasn’t God’s fault or anyone else’s; it was my own doing.

God’s timing and orchestrating is perfect, however.  A trip gave me time to disengage and allowed God to hit the reset button.  In an unfamiliar environment where I had no agenda nor grasp of a foreign language, I was given plenty of quiet time, even among people. Because I didn’t speak the language, I could zone out and just commune with God while conversations went on around me. This time in the secret place had my dream life and receiving of revelatory words going through the roof.  One morning I woke up with the words, “Let the dead bury their dead.”  ringing in my ears.  I knew the bible passage where Jesus  referred to what was required of those who wanted to follow Him, but I wasn’t sure what He was specifically saying to me with those words.  I did a little research on the passage; Jesus was obviously not being literal.  If I’m understanding the commentator correctly, He was suggesting that those who were spiritually dead and had no real burning desire to pick up their cross and truly follow, should just stay behind with their excuses.  I saw this as a personal invitation to stop trying to coax and encourage others to be who God called them to be, but to get on with the Luke 4:29 mandate in my own life.  My job is to be about my Father’s business,  it’s not  to play Holy Spirit.  Praying for others is fine, but the obligation stops there. We are called to pray and intercede as the Spirit leads, but not to keep looking back to make sure others are following and slowing our own pace so they can catch up.

During this season, I asked God, “Who do You say I am?”   His response was so much kinder than my disparaging self-talk.  I knew the answer came from Him because it lifted me up and every kind word could be traced back to scripture.  That’s God for you- the Affirmer, the Proud Papa, the Protector, and Lover of our soul.

Through this revelation, I learned more about my identity than I ever knew before.  He has given me laser-like focus on where my gifts are to be used.  Yes, the encourager  still plays a lead role in my character, but He assigned me that role and He determines when and where it’s deployed.  When I go into the strip clubs as part of a women’s ministry team that supports and loves on women caught in the sex industry, the encourager and healer show up manifesting God’s power and mercy in abundance.  This is where I feel His presence and know that I am in His perfect will, doing what He has called me to do.  I see His approving nod and sense His grace and compassion partnering with me when I take time to share the gospel with a homeless man.

When we steward the gifts He’s given us and use them for His designed purposes, we are not left feeling empty or like a tree picked of all of its fruit.  The river of living water bubbles up inside us and the flow is not interrupted by our emotions and our feelings because it’s Christ at work in us, not our flesh.

I’ve decided to hang up my pom-poms.  I’m still the consummate encourager and I suspect I always will be; I’m just going into stealth mode.

Yes and amen.

Hey, it’s Me, Jesus…

I’m discovering that God doesn’t speak in the way I expect or through those whom I expect.  That isn’t to say that those nearest and dearest to me don’t bring edifying words when I’m down, but God has His own way of really getting my attention, to let me know He’s there. Angels

It’s a sunny day outside the nursing home where I work, but inside, it’s raining.  Millie is crying again, having learned for the umpteenth time that day that her mother is dead.  Like some twisted version of the movie, Groundhog Day,  she learns this piece of information daily and grieves afresh daily.  Millie is in her eighties and her mother has been dead for years.

Feeling a little crappy myself, I veer off my normal job description.  My mandate in the Home is to provide physical exercise, restore residents in areas of their activities of daily living.  I had long-decided that restorative care  includes restoring  joy and peace, so I take Millie outside for a change of scenery.   I hold her hand as I listen to her cry yet again over her loss.  My shirt is already covered in snot from her crying on my shoulder.  I don’t care.  It’s just been that kind of day. We find an unoccupied bench outside sheltered from the direct sunlight.  Her tears have subsided for the time being and we’re both just sitting there in silence, each of us with our own thoughts, mine swirling between self-doubt and waiting for fresh revelation in a life that seems void of purpose of late.

Millie breaks the silence, ” Jesus loves you, you know that?”

I just look at her and feel my own eyes fill up with tears.  Isn’t it just like God to use the foolish things of life to confound those who are wise in their own estimation? Millie isn’t foolish, not by any means, but as her brain cells atrophy from the dementia, it is a rare moment to get such a profound statement. I don’t even know what her faith life was like before her illness. Truly deep calls out to deep.  I hug her and tell her that was the best news I’d heard all day.

There’s something about God speaking to you in this manner that makes you more aware of Him.  Just when you think He’s not listening, that He’s not even aware of what you’re feeling or going through, He sends someone who, on a good day, can’t even string a few words to form a sentence, to hit your reset button and remind you that it’s going to be okay.

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I love spending quiet time with God and to read the Word, but to be honest, Jeremiah 29:11 has been getting a little wearisome.  I know God has a plan for me; for my good and not harm, I get that.  And I know that God knows my heart, so I also know that I’m not shocking Him with my meh  attitude here. I am no surprise to God.  He knew what He was getting when He created me. I talk to God like I would talk to a friend–He is my Friend.  So when I tell Him that a particular situation sucks,  or ask Him when He’s going to get a move-on  in a certain circumstance, I am not afraid of, nor anticipating His disapproval. He knows it often takes more than a scripture or a well-meaning sister/brother in the Lord to give my head a shake, so when God does finally decide to speak to me,  even reveal Himself to me in unconventional ways, I am all ears.  For whatever reason, God chooses to use those with limited mental capacity to speak to me.  Maybe it’s His way of saying, ‘Get out of your head, Monica.’

You’ve already met Millie.  Let me introduce Jordan, another unsuspecting spokesperson for God.

I meet Jordan at the grocery store (seems to be where God likes to show up).  Jordan sits on the sidewalk by the grocery carts with most of his belongings.  I spot him one day as I’m doing my sporadic grocery shopping.  Unlike Elizabeth from All Who are Hungry,  I have no expectations nor ambitions of what our interaction will be like.  I make my purchases with no sense of urgency and head back to my car to place the bags in my trunk.  Jordan is still sitting on the sidewalk when I approach him.  I ask if the piece of sidewalk next to him is taken.  He laughs and assures me it’s free and invites me to cop a squat by patting the cement beside him.  Jordan is intellectually challenged, I learn, and in some way, it’s a blessing.  He’s so innocent and carefree; it’s nice to not have to carry on a in-depth conversation .  I ask what he’s doing, just sitting there.

‘Mooooney,” he says in a sing-song voice without looking at me.

“But you’re not even asking people for any.  Are you just relying on your good looks to get people to come to you?”

“Yup,” he giggles, covering his mouth.

Jordan is dirty and he smells, but sitting there on the sidewalk beside him is the most liberating thing I’ve done in a while.  For a pocket full of change and a promised bottle of fruit punch, I have the pleasure of experiencing the life of Jesus for a short time.  No, I’m not exulting or elevating myself to Jesus Christ Superstar fame, it’s just that I get a sense of how it feels to just go low, to sit and listen to people for whom no one else will take the time. I tell him about Jesus and share the gospel in much the same way you would a five-year old.  People walk by giving me odd stares.  I just smile and wave.  I don’t care.  This is the real deal.  In this moment, Jordan is Jesus and I am too:

Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?…And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”  (Matthew 25:44-45)

For this moment,  all is well in my world. My cares and concerns disappear, and things are put in perspective.   Hanging out with Jordan, smelly and all, is heaven on earth.

Yes and amen.

The Trust Factor

She couldn’t trust me as far as she could throw me. We were four days in of a five-day battle, and it was taking its toll on both of us.  We eyed one another with certain wariness.  Would she concede or would I just give up trying?

I had been asked to provide care for the elderly and frail Helena for a week while her regular caregiver was away on vacation. Although I’d spent some time getting to know her routine, there were certain features of her regular gal that couldn’t be duplicated.

It didn’t help that her near-six foot frame towered over mine.  Add to that Parkinson’s disease, and a myriad of other maladies which I soon learned, included anxiety.

I attempted to guide her and her walker a mere three metres from her dressing room to the shower. It was more of an athletic feat than part of one’s morning routine.  She didn’t care that I had worked providing physical exercise and training to seniors for over thirty years; she balked at the simplest of instructions.

“Lift your left foot, Helena,” I coaxed.  “Good. Now the right.”

“No, no, no!!” she shrieked, grasping at anything within reach.  “You’re going to let me fall!”

Trying to maintain a sense of calm, I responded softly, “No, Helena.  I will not let you fall.  I promise.”HelpingHelena

She wanted to believe me, she had said, but she couldn’t.  The day prior while helping her outside to enjoy her breakfast overlooking the lake, she’d had a freezing episode, a common occurrence with Parkinson’s sufferers.  Her legs had buckled and things were quickly heading south, both literally and figuratively.  ‘Not on my watch’  had been my mantra when it came to falls and other calamities in my work with seniors, so I used every ounce of strength I could muster to keep her upright, pushing the walker out of our way so she could rely on me alone to guide her down the step to the field stone terrace.  We made it safely, but we were both trembling, and I was drenched in sweat from my efforts.

Her look said it all.  “Thank you, Monica.” I knew I had been dismissed.

That was the previous day, and this one wasn’t turning out much better.  We made it as far as the shower room and she decided that she ‘just couldn’t today.’   I knew it wasn’t about being too tired.  I had learned enough about Helena to know that she loved her shower; the steaming hot needles of  the water pelting her painful joints and having the shampoo vigorously massaged into her scalp were the highlights of her morning.  She just didn’t trust me to get her safely over that one tenuous step into the shower. I pondered the dilemma of how I could assure this woman who, if she would just trust me, lean on me, would not fall.  The voice in my spirit immediately said,  “Let me know what you come up with, Monica”

Huh.  Yet another teachable moment.

I know that you cannot be made to trust someone–even God. We go based on past experience, and if you haven’t given Him enough of an opportunity to prove Himself, there won’t be much to draw on from your memory banks.

As with Helena, despite my best efforts, she didn’t have enough experience to make the decision that I was not going to fail her either.  We came to a compromise and I gave her a sponge bath where she could sit on the shower chair and feel secure without having to take that one step that held her in fear.  Singing softly (something I do when I need to find my own happy place), I could feel her relax as I massaged lotion into her back, her head falling forward in surrender.  I was realizing that it was not for me to feel like a failure, nor that somehow there was something inherently wrong with me that I couldn’t be trusted.  I knew I was competent and trustworthy.  She just didn’t know it-yet.

God too, is more than competent and trustworthy.  We can’t make Him feel insecure about His abilities, but He longs to show us His goodness if only we’ll let go of our own crutches and props.trustingJesus

“I cried out, ‘I’m slipping!’ but Your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.”

Psalm 94:18

 

 

Yes and amen.