Archive for May, 2013

the lick of GOD

May 24, 2013 32 comments

I’m sure there was a lot of conviction and excitement about the practice when the hospital opened its new campus in 1989.  I wondered if they understood that daily prayer was still important, valid, and effective.  I wanted to thank them and confirm it to them in case they had forgotten.

dum dumThe place is well-kept and looks newly remodeled everywhere inside.  Soothing colors, lush carpets, leather furniture, and a wide assortment of fake and fresh flowers everywhere.

For a Catholic hospital, I saw few images and icons.  They’re there, but nothing overbearing.  You were free to ignore them or embrace them, but they scattered about.

Overall the hospital is inviting and busy.  The halls are jammed with nurses, aides, and administration people doing their thing.  Everyone is on task.  Few walk slowly.

Ever noticed that people are generally pleasant and smile when you greet them in hospitals?  It’s like a positive attitude and a smiling face is part of the healing culture and mission of the place.  It can really be nice to visit that environment.

First, I went back upstairs to see if I could find the nurses that had taken care of my dad for the 5 days he had been admitted.  I recognized no one.  It was a different shift.  So I jumped back on the elevator and went back to the lobby.  The Chaplain’s suite was right around the corner.  This was my primary mission for this visit.

When you entered the door, there was a little stained glassed chapel to the left.  I knew it was in there because my mom told me she had visited the place.  She had begun to connect the dots on my dad’s failing condition by how the orders were being issued concerning his lack of ability to ingest food and liquids.  Once the dominos began to fall, the room shrank considerably for her, and she needed space and air.

Mom had found herself in that chapel.  A very small black woman was sitting in a pew when mom entered.  She noticed that mom was weepy.  She immediately grabbed mom’s hand and told her that God was with her and that she’d get through whatever it was that she had to face.  Mom said that little woman prayed soothing words and unintelligible words in the Spirit.  Peace moved back into her heart.  My mother’s report was simple:  “Once she prayed, I knew everything was going to be ok.”

To the right were 3 doors.  Only one of the doors was open, so I went inside.  All of my stereotypical notions were satisfied in a moment.  His back was to me.  He was staring at a computer screen while holding a steaming Lean Cuisine.  The whole room smelled like whatever that once frozen “dead thing” was in that plastic container.  Gross.

I cleared my throat.  He spun the chair, swallowed hard, and set the plate and fork down in a single move.  A napkin was near, and he finished up nicely.

While all that was going on I made my assessments.  Why do we do that?  We look at someone and begin to make decisions.   It’s just dumb.  But, I did it anyway.

Powder blue, short-sleeve dress shirt.  Check.

Navy blue, powder blue stripe tie.  Check.

Navy blue, polyester slacks.  Check.

Black belt.  Check.

Ivory colored Rockport walking shoes.  Check.  The image was complete.

“Can I help you?”

“No, I do not need anything today, but I want to tell you how important it is for you people to do what you do.”

Now he’s assessing me… thinking:  “Geez we get all kinds in this joint”.

I made a short introduction of myself and recounted the lick of God.

“I’m pretty sure you guys have had thoughts of:  Is anyone listening?  Does anyone pay attention?  Is this helpful… at all?” 

His tired smile said it best.  He knew exactly what I was talking about.  I had read his mail.  I had read every pastor or minister’s mail.

I quickly briefed him on what had happened.

Three days before dad died, the doctor showed up early in dad’s hospital room.  Probably around 7:45am.  I had gotten up early and drove to the hospital because I wanted to be there when he showed up.  I didn’t think he had good news, and I didn’t want mom to be alone.  I was right.

This doctor was a kid.  Under 35 years of age, but a stud.  Serious, yet in tune with the emotional weight of what was going on.  He greeted dad briefly but wasted no time in pulling mom, my sister, and myself outside into the hall.

“I got nothing.  He’s in bad shape, and it’s not going to get any easier. He’s on the tail-end of this recently diagnosed disease.  He needs to go home with hospice.  They’ll make him comfortable.  It’s not going to take long.  I’m sorry.”

There was more, but none of it trumped the message I just shared with you.  When you need to lance a boiled-up infection, you want a sharp knife.  He was absolute perfection for what we all needed.

He hugged my mom and my sister and then shook my hand.  It was a deep stare into my eyes and heart.  He didn’t say it out loud, but we both knew this news sucked, yet it was liberating altogether.  It was time to let dad go.

As he walked off, mom and sis both buried their heads in my chest.  It was a clinch that had never happened between the three of us… ever.  My words—their words were useless.  We needed each other to get through this.

All of a sudden (15 seconds after our initial embrace) another voice entered our conclave.

Hallway1Apparently, every day at 8:00 a.m. a chaplain prays for the patients, staff, and visitors over the intercom system.  I can’t tell you what he prayed on that day.  All I can tell you is that God licked us.  Licked us?

Picture a root beer Dum-Dum sucker in your hand.  You lick it wet.  Confirming indeed that the taste matches the wrappers advertisement.  You then plunge the sweet morsel into your mouth, even spinning the sucker to enhance the flavor!  It was created for that very purpose!

As prayer bathed down upon our little triune huddle, I felt the lick of God’s heart upon our hurting souls.  It wasn’t the words or even the style of the prayer—it was the Spirit—the heart of the one who prayed.

It was perfection.  I even opened my hands to receive the gift.  It was a prayer so tender, yet equally pointed and obscurely generic.  It was what we needed in that moment.  That sterile hallway became church, His body, His blood—life in the midst of a message of death.

It was more than a guy squawking into a microphone some religious duty.  It converted that corridor into the very presence of God.  It was sacred and it was holy.   God had indeed licked us, kissed us, and held us well.  We all knew it.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever appreciated a single prayer more than that one.

The chaplain grabbed the dirty napkin as he was blinking away tears now.  I hugged him and thanked him again for the thankless job he was committed to.  We said goodbye, and I left.

There are other things I could tell you about that day, and maybe I will at some point.  It takes a long time to process this kind of life interruption, and I don’t want to be in a rush to get over it.  Savor is spoiled by sensational hurry.  God is still talking to me, and I want to honor the righteous work of grief that is stored up in my heart.  The loss of my dad has me touching my own mortality—once more.  More than ever before… I want to finish well.

BUT may I remind each and every one of us that when we pray, we have no idea of how deeply it might touch a situation.  People frozen in fear have trouble interceding for them selves.

Prayer can be packaged as sensitively as my mom’s interceding mystery friend, or it can be generic and out of the sphere of personal touch altogether, but opportunities are everywhere to unwrap what needs to be unwrapped so God can lick what needs to be licked.

I need this message more than anyone!

Hopefully you and I will be reminded and encouraged to spill our prayers often and faithfully.  Our prayers DO avail much.  Probably much more than we ever dream or imagine.  Never doubt the lick of God.

On April 26th my dad died.  I really haven’t had a chance to thank all of you properly for your calls, cards, emails, text messages, flowers, memorials, FB messages and other personal touches.  The whole family felt very loved and valued!  Patti and I want to thank you again for being Jesus with skin.  It means more to us than we can ever express.   YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY THE BEST!  From the heart… Thank YOU!  -MDP- xo

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