No spoilers here; you’ll have to listen yourself:
Are you a fan of today’s animated movies? If so, you’re going to love the most recent Bible message from Chris Carrillo, Preacher Extraordinaire for our monthly Christian Music Hour at Care-age of Brookfield. The reason? He takes as his jumping-off point the smash hit “Despicable Me,” using it to illuminate key passages from Mark 12 and Matthew 8 and 9. But even if you’re not a fan of “Despicable Me” (or if your taste, like mine, runs more towards “Bambi” and “Lady and the Tramp”), I think you’ll love the parallels and conclusions that Chris draws from this popular 2010 cartoon.
No spoilers here; you’ll have to listen yourself:
If you're reading this via email, click on the headline above to be taken to the original post, complete with audio. And if you'd like to hear more from Chris, please visit our Messages from Chris Carrillo page.
Located about 35 miles due east of St. Louis, Aviston, Illinois, is known as “a small town with a big heart.” And I guess that’s exactly right, if the folks at Aviston Countrywide Manor are any gauge.
In an effort to enhance its staff’s compassion for the people in their care, this Clinton County nursing home took a very unusual step some years ago: It held a contest, dubbed the Through the Looking Glass project, to see which staff member could last the longest living as a resident of the facility.
The first year's winner managed to make it for eight days, taking home a grand prize of $500–apparently not all that much, considering that only four employees accepted the challenge the first year, and only five the next. I was unable to find any details about subsequent years.
But I think this idea is absolutely brilliant. And the home's administrator seems to feel it has legs; she has published a book entiteld What Living as a Resident Can Teach Long-Term Care Staff: The Power of Empathy To Transform Care.
I hope this idea catches on. Just think what would happen to the quality of care–and the level of compassion–that nursing-home residents would experience if their caregivers really understood, from personal experience, exactly what they were going through each and every day.
At my church, we are often taught us from scripture what it means to consecrate our lives to the Lord, to set ourselves apart in service to Him. After all, we were bought at a price, and we belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20).
This particular subject invariably makes me reflect on the people I’ve known who have led consecrated lives–a line of thinking that always seems to lead me straight to a wonderful woman named Lil.
Lil was 98 when I met her at the nursing home, and was just three months short of 100 when she died, eagerly and peacefully, in a local hospital, a few months after being baptized at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin. (Alas, she was not immersed in the enormous pond as a dozen others were. Getting her down to the site in her wheelchair was challenge enough; safely immersing her would have been almost impossible. But there’s no doubt that the Lord saw her submission to a good dousing, following her heartfelt testimony to a huge crowd of witnesses, as “an appeal to [Him] for a good conscience,” as the apostle Peter put it in 1 Peter 3.)
Having been saved at age 17, when she responded to an altar call in her family’s church, Lil had never gotten around to believer’s baptism over the decades. In fact, she had not quite put the Lord on the throne of her heart for many years.
But when she did, look out! I doubt that the Lord has had many bolder, or more courageous, evangelists in His army.
By the time I met her, Lil was not only confined to her wheelchair; the blindness that had begun at least a decade earlier had by then closed her eyes completely to the things of this world. Perhaps that was one of the reasons she was so on fire for the Lord–she was no longer distracted by much of anything material.
It didn’t matter who you were–friend or stranger, nurse or aide, purveyor of orthopedic shoes or relative of her latest roommate. You couldn’t walk into her room without eventually being quizzed about your relationship with Jesus, and being prayed for, and receiving one of the tracts that her many friends kept her supplied with. But she did it all with such joy and love and giggle-filled humor that I don’t imagine she offended anyone but the most dour atheist.
And once she knew you, she made you feel like you were her best friend in the world. How I miss hearing her cry “Kitty! I’ve been waiting for you!” when I hurried to her room each week, my heart leaping with happiness at the sight of her.
Lil’s enthusiasm for my visits was genuine; there was not an untruthful bone in that old body of hers. But it was fascinating to find out how many others felt exactly the same way about their relationships with her. There must have been 200-300 people at her funeral – exponentially more than I’ve seen at any of the other funerals I’ve attended over the last two decades. Not that this made her a better person than any of the others, or more loved by those closest to her. But it was certainly a good indicator of how important she made each of her friends feel, how essential to her personal happiness.
Lil’s funeral opened with a video of her giving her Christian testimony, taped a decade earlier. In fact, the entire event was as Christ-centered as she had been personally in the last years of her life. If there was any weeping, I didn’t hear it; it’s impossible to be overwhelmed by sorrow when you know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that your dear friend has simply gone on ahead, to meet her Lord and Savior face to face.
I for one am looking forward to joining her one happy day, to seeing this consecrated life of hers translated into its heavenly presence. I like to think that when I see my dear Lil, I will once again hear her happy cry: “Kitty! I’ve been waiting for you!”
In Chapter Fifty-Two of The Song of Sadie Sparrow, we rejoice to see that the Lord has begun healing the old lady's heart; her oh-so-busy daughter no longer has the power to break her heart:
As it turned out, Sadie didn’t have to call her daughter again. Instead, Dana surprised her with a visit to the dining room at 7:50 in the morning, just as Sadie was sprinkling brown sugar over her morning oatmeal.
“I don’t have much time,” she said breathlessly, slipping into a vacant chair and bending towards Sadie to deliver an air kiss, complete with a loud “Mwah!”
“What a nice surprise, Dana.” Sadie noted that her daughter was dressed to the nines in a beautiful dark brown suit and a pale pink blouse, and her tawny hair was pulled back into a slightly messy bun that had probably taken a half hour to arrange so artfully. “Big meeting?”
“Yes, with our most important client.” Dana glanced at her watch. “But I wanted to stop in to take care of that paperwork, so you can go to that funeral.”
“It was last Saturday,” Sadie said in an utterly neutral tone of voice.
“Oh. Well, then, you’ll be ready for the next one.” Dana flashed Sadie her most dazzling smile. “So, how have you been? Good?”
Yes, as a matter of fact.” Sadie took a sip of coffee, stalling to flip through all the mental notes she’d made in preparation for telling Dana about how her entire life had been transformed this spring, how truly content she now was, how--
But Dana was already standing up, getting ready to take off. “That’s great, Mom—I’m so happy for you! So I’ll go find whoever I need to see.” She glanced around the dining room, but except for a few other breakfasting early risers, no one was available to point her in the right direction. “I don’t suppose you know who? No? Okay, well, I’ll check at the front desk—should be someone there by now. Bye, Mom, I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”
Another air kiss and she was gone.
Sadie was tempted to fall into one of her old self-pitying moods, but pulled herself out of it before it had a chance to crystalize.
“Dear Lord,” she prayed silently. “Please save Dana, and while you’re at it, could you please make this new thinking of mine stick? Thank you, Lord, in Jesus’ name.”
Sadie's oatmeal was especially sweet that morning. She savored it gratefully.
--The Song of Sadie Sparrow, pages 316-317
Years ago, a creation-science lecturer was asked how he knew that God had called him to be a speaker on this subject. “I didn’t know,” he said, shrugging. “I just could see what needed to be done, and I did it.”
It seems to me that this is exactly how the Lord often works: He makes a need obvious to one of His servants, and soon enough “seeing” becomes “doing.”
Here are a few pressing needs I’ve observed at the nursing home where I hang out. See anything that might turn into a personal calling for you?
Personal shopper: Not many nursing-home residents are able to get out and shop for necessities or niceties. And few are able to access online stores themselves. If you enjoy shopping, and if there’s a way to get reimbursed for your expenditures via, for instance, a petty cash fund, perhaps you could become a personal shopper for as many residents as you have time to serve.
Even though it’s not my thing, I actually do some shopping for one of my resident friends—virtually all of it online. She has all of her marbles (and then some), as well as the ability to get me reimbursed quickly and easily, so it works out very well for both of us.
But how cool would it be for someone who loves to shop, and is a good money manager, to offer this service on a volunteer basis? On any given day your shopping basket might contain items from cosmetics to batteries, slippers to magnifying glasses, stationery to gifts for grandkids—whatever needs have become impossible for your elderly friends to meet under their own power.
In-room gardener: Some residents receive wonderful indoor plants that they appreciate greatly, but are unable to care for themselves. Perhaps you could help those plants thrive, going from room to room each week to tend to them and, while you’re at it, having nice conversations with their owners.
Simply check the labels that are normally tucked into the soil for basic care instructions, and follow them to the letter. Or, to make your service even more personal, look up each variety on the internet, and print out any especially interesting information you may find—information about things like ideal fertilization schedules, repotting requirements, or the natural habitats of particularly exotic plants. Then share the details with their owners.
This service may require a minor investment on your part. For instance, I occasionally bring in distilled water and specialized fertilizer for one woman’s treasured orchid. But the costs are normally minimal, and if necessary, you could ask to be reimbursed.
Feed the birds: Some nursing homes allow you to set up and tend to feeders outside first-floor residents’ windows. Might that task be up your alley? If so, your efforts will be highly appreciated.
Feeders and seed are not cheap; nor is the suet so beloved by woodpeckers in our part of the country. So unless you’re able to underwrite the costs personally, you’ll need to discuss funding this project with your Activities Director.
But if the finances can be worked out along with who-does-what details such as feeder setup and procuring the food, you’ll be providing these residents with hour after hour of pleasure all year long. And you can make the experience even more enjoyable for them by researching the species that frequent their feeders, or by bringing in bird-watching books that you’ve picked up at the library or thrift stores.
Organizer: For any number of reasons, not all nursing-home residents are neatniks. But you could help one or more of them become and remain organized via periodic drawer-cleaning, closet-freshening and gleaning of important items from stacks of otherwise disposable papers and magazines.
As you proceed, you might find additional ways to serve a given resident—for instance, taking special clothing items home for hand-washing, ironing, or mending. And perhaps you could fetch a few file folders from the front office to create a potentially permanent fix for important papers.
Become a scribe: Some nursing-home residents love to correspond with old friends and family members. Yet as we age, our handwriting can become practically illegible, and even handling paper, envelopes and stamps can become a real challenge.
Maybe you could help with this task, by writing out cards and letters for a few residents, preparing the envelopes and making sure that they get mailed.
I spent nearly four years doing this for a woman with Parkinson’s disease. In her case, we created rough first drafts and then polished the words until she was satisfied. Finally, I’d write our final draft on handsome stationery; I kept her well-stocked by shopping the sales at high-style discount stores.
Another woman with an enormous number of friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren simply wanted to remember everyone’s birthday with simple greeting cards. For her, I found a month-by-month pocket folder and inexpensive packets of birthday cards at a local dollar store. Together, we organized it all so that at the end of each month, we could prepare the next month’s cards, complete with addresses, stamps and mailing dates noted on sticky notes; she then kept them on her bedside table for mailing on the appointed days.
What needs do you see? I’ve barely scratched the surface with these suggestions. Other valued services might include reading Scripture to the blind or making monthly runs to your local library for avid readers. If you start visiting nursing-home residents, you’ll no doubt spot many other ways you could be a blessing to each one.
Of course, any such services would need to be cleared ahead of time. In fact, that would be a good place to start, broaching your ideas to the Activities Director you report to.
Do you have other suggestions to share? If so, please let me know via this contact form or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There’s nothing new under the sun, King Solomon assured his readers in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes. And indeed, stories of children rebelling against, abusing and abandoning their parents seem to be almost as old as time.
“Honor your father and mother …” may be the fifth of the Lord’s commandments delivered in Exodus 20, but it’s the first to instruct us on our relationships with each other, rather than with Him.
Does that imply that it’s more important than His commandments against murdering, committing adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting? Or might it imply that it’s foundational to commandments six through ten?
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.”
This petition from King David’s Psalm 71 was directed at God Himself, but it could have been addressed by an elderly parent to his or her children. And it’s a common plea today, even if it’s often left unspoken by parents who have learned that it does no good, and may even turn disinterest into hostility.
In some cases, these mothers and fathers are still living on their own; in others, they’re kenneled in facilities where not even the most loving staff can make up for a family’s neglect. The common denominator: an unmet longing to be included in the lives of children and grandchildren who acknowledge them only on special occasions.
And it can get worse: Some children have nothing to do with their parents; they refuse to even send a card at Christmas, or call to acknowledge a milestone birthday. This may seem unbelievable, but check it out: There are a growing number of books and websites out there to help abandoned parents cope with this loss.
Psychiatrists have even given it a name: “Parental alienation syndrome.” It often seems to follow in the wake of divorce, but not always; sometimes we kids are just too wrapped up in our own lives to be bothered with mothers or fathers who have outlived their usefulness.
“In the last days, perilous times will come.”
In his second letter to his protégé Timothy, the apostle Paul listed 18 characteristics of people in earth’s dangerous last days. Here are the first six: “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents.”
Disobedient to parents?
Think that means only those out-of-control kids at the next table at your favorite restaurant? Or might it also refer to children of all ages who treat their parents with disrespect or indifference?
And, increasingly, with something more chilling than disrespect and indifference, more chilling even than neglect and abandonment. Witness the rapid growth of elderly euthanasia in Europe; we’re already seeing the early stages of it in the United States.
Of course, active euthanasia is only needed for those stubborn old folk who linger on and on, refusing to die. For the rest, there’s always the withholding of medical care. Higher co-pays and fewer benefits are on the way for senior Americans. And it’s not difficult to see that reimbursement cuts will lead to even more doctors opting out of accepting Medicare patients – this, just as the elderly population begins to swell with the arrival of us Baby Boomers.
Lower supply and higher demand ordinarily means higher prices. But not when Uncle Sam has slapped on price controls and the demand is unrelenting; in that case, the supply is bound to suffer, both in quantity and quality.
“Even to your old age, I am He.”
One thing has not changed, however, and will never change.
“Even to your old age, I am He,” the prophet Isaiah quotes the Lord as saying in chapter 46 of his Old Testament book. “And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”
The God who created this universe and everything in it has always been our only hope. A fair proportion of today’s nursing-home population acknowledges this fact; I have run into relatively few who deny Him entirely, anyway.
But I tremble to think what the situation will be a decade or two from now, as the newly elderly take their place, with relatively few even certain of His existence, and their children and grandchildren living in blissful ignorance of the divine command to honor their parents.
In Galatians 6, the apostle Paul warned, “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” Perhaps there’s an application here for today’s parents: If you want your children to acknowledge you in your old age, it would be wise to sow the word of God in their hearts today.
If a picture's worth a thousand words, imagine the wealth that awaits you in a nursing home, among residents who've stashed away many lifetimes' worth of snapshots--snapshots that are just waiting for someone with the time and interest to look at them.
For more than four years, I spent hour after hour going through loose photos with a dear friend whom I'll call Anne, who was well into her 90s. At first, we just looked at them as she told me all about each of the people and places pictured--almost all of the former long gone by that time. But that Christmas, I gave her a pink pigskin photo album and we started going through her collection very seriously, selecting the best in order to build a photographic life story for her beloved daughter.
Within a year, we had filled three photo albums. Our project seemed to be finished. But then it occurred to us that we could create a much more dazzling product if we had more room to work with. And so we began learning a new art together: building formal scrapbooks for her collection, complete with wonderful papers, silk flowers, stickers, ribbons and multi-colored jewels. Anne was the designer; I was production assistant. Before she passed away in 2017, we had completed two big, beautiful books filled with her memories. And if I do say so myself, they are pretty spectacular.
Anne seemed to enjoy our sessions; she smiled and laughed a lot as we went through the photos, just as she did throughout her life. In all that time, I found only one snapshot of her looking sad -- probably because, like my own mom, Anne was a woman whose life was perfectly described in a poem by Jan Struther ofMrs. Miniver fame. Entitled "Biography," this poem invites its readers to just say this of her life once she’s dead and gone: “‘Here lies one doubly blest.’ Say, ‘She was happy.’ Say, ‘She knew it.’”
There's no doubt that Anne led a very happy life, and remembering the specifics helped her to count every last blessing once again.
But I suspect that I was the recipient of the greatest blessings from the time we spent together. Anne was easily old enough to be my mother, and her daughter is my age, so examining her photos was like peering back at my own family's history, and my own deleriously happy childhood. I was especially crazy about those shot from the 1950s, featuring all that mid-century modern decor, all those women wearing neatly fitted dresses, stockings, heels, hats and gloves for virtually any occasion--even lunch out with the girls.
Anne wasn't the first of my nursing-home friends to take me on a photographic tour of a life well-lived, and I hope she won't be the last. But I have to say that our time together was one of the highlights of my almost 20-year volunteer career, and I'll be forever grateful to her.
If you visit elderly friends--especially shut-ins--don't pass up this wonderful opportunity to share the joys and sorrows of their lives with them. I guarantee that a great time will be had by all!
Is it just me? Or have you, too, found it challenging to winningly introduce the Bible to people who are unfamiliar with it?
That has certainly been my experience in the nursing home where I’ve been serving for nearly two decades. In this environment, it’s rare to talk with someone who has even read the entire Bible, let alone studied it in any depth. Most residents’ familiarity with Scripture is limited to hearing a few passages read aloud in church each week (and even that is becoming increasingly uncommon).
So how exactly can one convey the Bible’s unrivaled significance as the inspired and inerrant Word of God—the only book that, as the Gideons so lovingly describe it, “contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers”?
Here’s a great new solution: A Visual Theology Guide to the Bible by pastors Tim Challies and Josh Byers (Zondervan, 2019). If that title sounds a little heavy, check out the subtitle: Seeing and Knowing God’s Word. Then take a gander at the book’s inviting cover and flip through its lively content. You’ll discover that there’s nothing imposing or forbidding about this beautifully organized and illustrated volume.
And oh, the content!
“Part 1: Trusting the Bible” sets the stage, describing everything from what the Bible is and how it was written to how we know that we can trust it.
“Part 2: Studying the Bible” explains why we should study this book, and how best to go about it.
“Part 3: Seeing the Bible” goes through the Word of God section by section. The authors take the reader from creation, the fall of man and the flood through Israel’s history, from Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection through the birth of the church and, of course, the end of the story.
Throughout, the authors have captured key points in irresistible infographics that were surely designed to aid both understanding and memory.
Perhaps my favorite example, perfect for anyone who fears that the Bible has changed over the millennia: a three-page section entitled “Has the Bible Really Been Preserved for Us Today?” (pages 32-34). With very few words but arresting artwork, they compare the New Testament to other ancient works from Tacitus’s Annals to Plato’s Tetralogies and Homer’s Iliad. The only logical conclusion? “[T]here is overwhelming evidence that the text of the New Testament we have today is the same as the original.”
I’ve been using excerpts from this book at the nursing home, both in one-on-one visits and during our weekly Bible Discussions, with uniformly happy results. Challies and Byers have explained these critical concepts much more concisely and compellingly than I ever could have.
In the process, I’ve also learned a lot from them—even though as a former skeptic who fought mightily against embracing the Bible, I did extensive research into most of these subjects many years ago.
Bottom line: I recommend this book highly.
Intrigued? You can take a closer look here, or order a copy for yourself here.
Are you viewing God through the eyes of the serpent?
That was the chilling question raised by Chris Carrillo during our most recent Christian Music Hour at Care-age of Brookfield. To address it, he took us back to Genesis 3 and showed us exactly what the serpent did to seduce Eve, and therefore Adam, into doubting, denying and disobeying their Creator.
If you’d like to know how to identify Satan’s methods and protect yourself from becoming his next victim—or if you need a quick refresher course—please listen to this important message:
Want to hear more from our favorite preacher? Visit our Messages from Chris Carrillo page for access to all his Care-age sermons since I finally figured out how to share them on this site.
If you’re reading this via email, please click on the title above to be taken to the audio file.
I recently updated my list of all the friends I’ve made at the nursing home over the last two decades. What great memories each name inspires! I can still see just about all of these dear people in my mind’s eye, and can still recall conversations we enjoyed, events we shared, gifts we gave each other.
A handful of these lovely folks left for other places – kids' houses, or assisted living facilities, or their current homes. But most have escaped this earthly veil entirely, many of them to the eternal life that Jesus promised all who repent and trust in Him.
I went through my list slowly, thinking about how much I’ve missed each one, realizing anew that I will surely be seeing this one and that one again when I die. Maybe there are even ever-changing welcoming committees in heaven, so that every believer is greeted by the brothers and sisters in Christ whom he knew and loved on earth.
What a happy thought that is – one that makes the prospect of death’s process even less frightening, since these friends have all been through it and emerged whole, healthy and joyful forevermore.
Of course, the most overwhelming sight will be of Jesus Himself – “the One who died for me,” as Jimmie Davis wrote in the beautiful gospel hymn “I Bowed on My Knee and Cried Holy.” After all, as the apostle Paul assured believers in 2 Corinthians 5:8, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
But how wonderful it will be to see all these well-loved friends once again, rejoicing in “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
If you’d like to expand your own heavenly welcoming committee, why not begin visiting folks at a nearby nursing home soon? Here's how to get started.