be careful what you ask for

One needs to count the cost when one presumes to speak about great and noble sentiments. The day on which I preached about self-emptying proved to me that at least in some cases, the sermons I write serve primarily for my own edification.

Late Saturday night, we got word that an 80 year old woman from our church was in an accident. After church I drove up to Lehigh Valley Hospital to see her. She's a little banged up, but the real concern is persistent double vision. A patch over one eye is the only thing that prevented her from seeing multiple Jims entering her hosptial room.

She says she may have blacked out while driving, for reasons not yet known, and slammed into a parked car. We love Alice. She's been in the church almost every one of her 80 years. The news that she was hospitalized brought a collective gasp at all three of our worship services.

Alice is fairly pessimistic most of the time, and this did not brighten her outlook on things. "Well I don't think I'll be coming out of this place alive," was almost the first thing she said to me. It's never safe to assume anything in a situation like this, but I told her she was full of it. Apparently so did another member of our church who had left a moment before I walked in. I guess Alice was singing the same sad song to all her visitors.

She was nodding off while I talked with her, having not slept since being admitted. "Maybe you should pray for me and go on home, Jim," she said, and I did.

Back in Pottstown, I stopped off at our local hospital to visit another elderly member of our church. Lillian is 94. When I got to her room she was climbing back into bed. Her dinner had arrived while she was in the bathroom and when she noticed it, she climbed back out of bed because she preferred to eat sitting in a chair. She can't see very well, and she kept calling the meal "breakfast," so I told her it was evening and this was dinner. Then she grabbed the knife by the wrong end (it wasn't a sharp knife) and the fork by the tines. I offered to cut her dinner for her, and she said, "please." I cut up her roast beef on toast and placed the utensils correctly back in her hands.

I told her about Alice's accident while she ate. "Oh, you must be Jim!" she said.

"Yes Lillian, it's Jim."

"I thought you were a man from the hospital. Oh! Thank you so much for helping me with my dinner."

She ate slowly, and I arrived home late for dinner, frustrated, and feeling empty. At the table I was snippy and exhausted from preaching, bookstore arranging, driving 90 miles, and visiting two hospitals. My younger daugher came to the table wearing a sweater, shivering in an 80 degree house under three layers of clothing. Fever.

Wonderful. "Like I have the energy for this," I thought.

After dinner I tried to relax but two phone calls from church members made that a bit difficult. They both wanted to say "thank you" for various things, but I perceived them as more of an interruption than anything else.

I read some of your blogs, posted to my own, briefly popped open and then shut my current read. Finally I went to bed and despite my exhaustion, had a hard time getting to sleep.

That's how it ends. I just wanted you to know that I have just as hard a time living by the words of Paul as anyone else.

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