Thy Will Be Done

Camping at Sandi’s bedside at the nursing home, watching her helplessly lie in bed, sleeping much of the time, struggling to give her drink with a straw and solid food with a spoon, is causing me to reflect more on life. I’m coming to grips accepting the fact that she’s dying.  There are few precious moments when she smiles, converses, and sometimes even jokes, with her own brand of humor. 

Although I’ve been helping Sandi, she’s given me much. She’s admonished me when I’ve expressed sinful anger at people who wronged me. When I started gloating over someone who hurt me having a difficult time, she reminded me “they are people.”   

Inside I’ve been screaming. Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream doesn’t seem to express my angst about what’s happening.     Man at bridge holding head with hands and screaming 

The Serenity Prayer helps comfort me: 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.” 

My problem, my dilemma, is that I want the world as I would have it. In the 2 ½ years I’ve known Sandi, I’ve become very attached to her. Seeing her lying here, now sleeping, I’ve forgotten what a pain she can be sometimes, and how I wanted to get rid of her and how I took her for granite. This is a game changer! 

I ask “why”! I then realize that we will not always know why, but in faith remember that God works all things together for good for those who love the Lord. I have, however, realized some good in this situation.  People at the nursing home are amazed, touched that someone would stand by a loved one this much in this situation.  Jesus is reflected. God continues to teach me compassion for others, to put myself in their shoes. 

What I can change, is Sandi’s attitude. As our pastor told me, it’s good that she knows she’s loved. During this last health episode, when I asked her, Sandi said “Jesus is in my heart.”

Sandi was part of a population that is forgotten by society, especially in Bucks County, PA – the homeless. They do not contribute to the surface glitter of those hung up in personal peace and prosperity. As Detective Frank Thorn shouts as he’s taken away in the sci-fi movie Soylent Green, “Soylent Green is people!”, the homeless are people. 

People have intrinsic value; we are made in the image of God, who breathed life into us. 

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.… -Genesis 1: 26-28 

Are You a Victim of Circumstances?

“I’m a victim of circumstances”, chirps Curly of the Three Stooges. Your circumstances shouldn’t make you a victim. You can make the best of your circumstances by doing things to make things better or you can just accept them.

This is the message of the serenity prayer:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. “

Homeless people in lower Bucks County, PA deal with their circumstances in different ways. Some escape through booze and drugs, even cigarettes. These things cost money, which homeless people have in short supply. They are not necessities; they are vices, except for wine, which in moderation is very good for you.

One homeless person once remarked “you have to have at least one vice.”  Really? This is probably why he’s still homeless.

Live within your means is an adage my parents impressed upon me. Like the general population, some homeless people can’t distinguish between their needs and their wants. When people go beyond their budget, they go into debt. Homeless people don’t get credit, and they make up for their excesses by getting things from the government or directly from other people and private organizations.

One homeless person bragged “I’m the king of the panhandlers!”

Recently, when I gave two homeless people a ride, one of them asked me for cigarette money for the other. The one who asked me had just bought some music CDs.

Among the homeless in lower Bucks County, I found tobacco to be the Holy Grail. They seem to be always on a quest for it. During hour long meals, they can’t wait to go outside, and signal from across the room to ask others for a smoke.

While some homeless people spend their time smoking, boozing it up, doing dope, gossipping, others improve themselves by reading, engaging in intelligent discussion, looking for work, volunteering, and sharpening their skills and learning new ones.

Being homeless is tough. You don’t have a home to call home, where you can cook, sit down at a table, watch a movie, read in your favorite chair — be in a place you can call your own. All the homeless have to go home to is either the confines of a car, a tent, or a makeshift place where you throw blankets, pads and sleeping bags along the sidewalk for the night.

This doesn’t, however, give you a license for bad, destructive behavior. Going to a community meal drunk, ranting and raving and threatening other people is unacceptable. Some hosts evidently think that this is the way homeless people are supposed to act.

This was evident when a character I call T-Rex came to a dinner at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Penndel, PA, spouting fowl language, roaring and going after people like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. It had to be restrained. After another guest discussed a court case he sat in on, T-Rex went ballistic.  Evidently, he felt threatened by civilized speech.

The guy he attacked showed unusual restraint, even doing a verbal rope-a-dope.  Yet, when the police came, he was asked to leave immediately.  What’s more, the next time the community meal was held at  Redeemer Lutheran Church, he was turned away at the door. The hosts snapped that he had said bad things about the homeless.

The community meals are not just for the homeless, but for those with homes but have trouble putting food on the table. The victim of T-Rex’s attack has a home. Some people made things up about him and the gossip spread like wildfire. Instead of trying to discover the truth, the Pharisees at Redeemer Lutheran reasoned that the natives were just restless, and they blamed the victim, thinking that he shouldn’t be in the jungle with dinosaurs, who are not supposed to be civilized .

I’ve befriended a circle of homeless friends who are very civil and are thinking and acting in a way to deal with their situation and possibly get out of it. Many of them have turned to God They help one another sort things out and have intelligent, enlightening conversations, but maybe with a little gossip.

Lately, the community meals have been civil, even a blessing. A place where friends can get together.

I was also a victim of misinformation, as well as a T-Rex attack. A guy who was bewildered and a little steamed about something I allegedly said sat down at the table at a community meal with me and the other victim and we reasoned together. He realized that the rumors were wrong and once he realized the truth, the three of us got on well together and discussed problems in the homeless community.

Know the truth and it will set you free!

The homeless, like everyone else, need to know that someone cares and everything will be alright. God cares for and watches over his children. We have limited vision, but God is working in the background, doing what’s best for his own.

Psalm 103

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;  all my inmost being, praise his holy name.                                                                                     2 Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—                                                                                                          3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,                                                                                                                4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,                                                                   5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.                                                6 The Lord works righteousness  and justice for all the oppressed.