Code Purple!

Last night is over and I am glad. The sun is shining through this hospital window where I have been waiting in the darkness by Dad’s bedside. It was a night of angst while he experienced pain, nausea, and dizziness…and, every now and then, slept a little. It was a time when I kept thinking about how very much I need to be doing in other places. I have to speak seven times in the next eight days. My laundry at home is piling on up. My husband has eaten up all the food I left prepared for him. My daughter is starting to wonder if we are ever going wedding dress shopping and my son is coming home this weekend. What will he eat? I did keep thinking about these things, especially the lessons I need to prepare, but I did not want to turn on the lights and study, for fear that I would wake the sweet dragon. In truth, it will all be there still. But this one night of recovery after surgery, in this one dark room will never happen again.

It was about 2:30 a.m. when the excitement on this hospital hall occurred. I really don’t get out enough and I did not know what the shouts of “Code purple!” even meant when they started coming from both nurses’ stations. But from the sudden scurry in the hallway, the rolling of equipment past our room, and the intercom confirmation of the code which awakened everyone, I knew what was happening in room 330 could not be good.

I now know that a code purple means someone has stopped breathing. I do not know if the breathing in room 330 resumed. I do know that, while people take their final breaths all over the planet at all hours of the day and night, it gives me pause, in a dark hospital room when the code purple is happening in the room right down the hall. It gives me pause to think about that hospital room when the code occurred in my mother’s room. I think about the crisis and panic and rushing around that happened all around her, while the code had called her from a place of extreme pain to a place of complete and utter peace. The code, in some cases, is really a pretty good thing. I think about the quiet desperation I was feeling through the night and the sudden jerk to reality that made me, all in a moment, much less anxious and much more thankful. I think and wonder about the state of the soul in room 330 as it is likely leaving the tabernacle. I just think.

Mostly I think about the fact that every single one of us will be purple coded one day. There will come a time when I will just run out of breath. I will exhale and forget to inhale again. I will just retire from this job on this planet and while everyone else is rushing around, I will stop rushing…and rest. Code purple is not a bad thing—IF it does mean I can rest. But in order to rest, I must have made a time during this life’s labor to come to Jesus. I must, while heavy-laden with the stresses of living here, be thinking about the release of living there. I must take His yoke and learn of him. He is meek. He is lowly in heart. And it’s only through Him that I can find rest in the hour of my code purple.

You are the Salt…

It was at an estate sale in small-town, Alabama where I was recently shown the brevity of life and the foolishness of laying up treasures in this place where “moths and rust corrupt” (Matthew 6:19). There must have been a gajillion salt and pepper shakers in this home, lining shelf after shelf: Indian monkeys, flamingoes from Florida, from the basic tin kind you love to have by your stove all the way to Fitz and Floyd Christmas shakers. You would have been hard pressed to think of a common noun for which you could find no related shaker in this house. Of course, each shaker represented a memory to this old couple. Shakers meant places and faces and fun experiences in their aged minds. Most all of them had a story of visiting relatives, Christmas mornings, surfing or bowling or visiting some exotic place. They were just lots and lots of memory handles sitting on shelves with little of practical significance left for the couple, who were now, because of degenerating health, downsizing and moving to the place of their retirement.
And these memory handles now had price stickers on them. Strangers were milling about, picking one up for a moment and then placing it back on the shelf. The prices varied from about two dollars each to about twenty dollars. I purchased some antique milk bottles and Glenn bought a chair. But I kept thinking about all of those salt and pepper-shakers, each one representing a day in the lives of that couple. I thought about what my salt and pepper shaker collection would be like if each set represented a memory for me. It would be large, like theirs, and full of interesting colors and figures. I am blessed.
Knowing that our ladies day this year was themed “Ye Are the Salt of the Earth,” I decided, after making a call back to West Huntsville, to make an offer on 120 pairs of shakers. She was happy to sell that large quantity to me at only 50 cents a pair. I was happy to get them at such a bargain.
Most of all, I was happy to be reminded of some timely lessons about salt-shakers, life’s brevity, salt itself and what’s really important:
  1. Every “treasure” that you purchase in this life will one day belong to another (Ecc. 2:18).
  2. There will come a day when all of our “treasures” will melt with fervent heat (II Pet. 3:10).
  3. The only “collection” you can take with you will be the souls you’ve collected for Him (I Cor. 15:52).
  4. The price of material collections will be reduced as the end of time approaches, whereas the value of those souls remains greater than that of the world’s treasures combined (Mark 8:36).
  5. Your body is merely the salt-shaker. Your soul is the “salt of the earth,” (Matt. 5:13).
  6. Therefore give great attention to the salt, because the shaker, will be on a “shelf” one day in a mausoleum, in an urn, or in some other tomb, having served its purpose and awaiting the resurrection (I Cor. 15:42-44).

He Wouldn’t Have Done It for the World

I can’t begin to fathom the parental pain of knowing you had just accidentally killed your child. Yet that’s what happened on my street this week when a dad accidentally backed over his 8 year-old-son with the lawnmower. The parent’s were then hurrying behind the ambulance that was heading to the hospital with their dying son in tow, when the car in which they were riding was involved in a subsequent accident, sending the young boy’s mom to surgical ICU, where she remains at this writing. The little boy loved sports of all kinds and he excelled at them, was extremely loving toward his big sister who is away at college, and, in general, just endeared himself to all who knew him. I drove past his house a few minutes ago and got a sick feeling in my stomach. I cannot imagine the emotional pain that will ensue in the days following the return of that mother to that house, if and when she does get to come home. It is just unthinkable to this mom. And to consider that daddy, who will have flashbacks and nightmares for long and painful days to come… He will relive the day and think, “If only I had that one moment to replay…” My prayers go up for him as he tries to get on with his life. He wouldn’t have done it for the world.

And yet, that’s what God did. His son died a heinous, bloody death on that hill far away. But it was not an accident.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son… (John 3:16).

For God commended His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

To personalize, but do no damage to this verse, I can put my own name in the blanks (Gal.2:20):

For God so loved Cindy Colley that he gave His only begotten Son…
For God commended His love toward me, in that while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.

I can’t wrap my mind around this kind of love. I have sometimes tried, since I don’t know what Christ’s physical appearance was like, to picture the face of my own son on that body on the cross.  I have done this in an attempt to feel, in a small measure, what God must have felt when His Son cried out to him from the cross. What if it were my son crying out to me as I withdrew my assistance at the time of his death? But it’s more than I can bear. I just can’t fathom loving anybody enough to subject Caleb to that kind of excruciating pain and agony. When I attempt to think about allowing my son to be placed on that cross for anyone, much less those who are sinful and unworthy, I am quickly reduced to tears. I just can’t think about that very long. And yet God thought about it for thousands of years. He planned, prophesied, and executed every detail of His own Son’s death for me.

I just couldn’t have done that for the world. But God did.

The Branding

One afternoon last month I visited a ninety-one year old man in the nursing home.  In the aftermath of many reversals in his lifetime, he lay there, fully conscious and quite able of mind, albeit very hard of hearing. I knew that this now frail body had experienced life at its hardest. The son of a sharecropper, he had learned the value of material things early on. He had experienced emotional loss when his young bride became unfaithful to him and their marriage ended in divorce. I also knew that in this difficult time in his life, he had walked away from the Lord. I knew that a faithful church of God’s people had withdrawn fellowship from him according to the instruction given in First Corinthians five. I knew this man had never been reconciled to this faithful church and I knew that the day when he meets His maker cannot be too many days away. So, in tones that I’m sure all of the staff could hear, I talked with him about his soul. I told him how very simple it would be to make his life right with his family in Christ and with His God. I volunteered to write a note for him and take it to the elders of this church and ask for the forgiveness of the church and for their prayers for him as he prepares to leave this world. Absolutely nothing but his own pride could stand in his way of being certain of His eternity with God.
But his reaction was one of willful stubbornness.  He made me know in no uncertain terms that he was neither humbled nor penitent. I’m confident he will go to his grave having sealed his own doom. He let the reversals of life make him a very bitter person.
The following afternoon, my husband and I visited an eighty-six year old sister in another nursing home. She, too, was widowed several years ago. She has lost her sight. She has no children and only one brother. She had to forfeit all of her familiar surroundings and finally acquiesce to life in one tiny little room in the lonely hall of that home.  She doesn’t make the trek down the hall anymore to the dining room because of her inability to see the food on her plate and because of the tremor in her hands.  She eats quietly in her room, so that she won’t embarrass herself as she clumsily struggles to get the food from her plate to her mouth.  Only a few Sundays before our visit, this sister had made her way down the aisle of the church auditorium. One of our elders’ wives hurried to help her to the front pew. She confessed to the church that sometimes she had allowed her disabilities to keep her from faithful worship. She asked for forgiveness and prayers. Now, in spite of blindness and shaking and having to rearrange meals that she misses in the home, she climbs on that church van every Lord’s Day and faithfully offers her best to the Lord.  Her smile was huge and her eyes still twinkled as she told us how very happy and blessed she is.  She grabbed our hands with fervor as we prayed with her. She made us happy and blessed, too.
How can two children of the same loving Father end their lives so differently?  What is the hardening agent that can cause a man to turn deaf ears on the pleas of those who love him to make things right before death?  What is the tenderizer that opens blind eyes to the beauty of God’s grace even in the darkest hours of life?  Both of my friends are shortly to meet the Lord. In piercing tones my deaf friend will hear the words “Depart from me, you who work iniquity.” My blind friend will see His face with clarity as He ushers her into bliss.

First Timothy 4:2 tells us it is possible for people to have their consciences seared as with a hot iron; a branding iron. When a cow gets the owners brand burned into his hide, he can no longer feel the prick of pain in the branded spot. It is a terrible thing to become so hardened to sin that we no longer feel the prick of the conscience pain that we once felt when we disobeyed. Have you ever thought about how God is going to restore conscience for those who’ve been seared on the last day? It will be a dramatic restoration when they, like the rich man in Luke 16 begin to remember and wish and plead for the chance to go back and undo some things done while they were still on the planet.  I believe the deaf man will hear. He will hear his conscience and long to escape the weeping of his then tenderized heart, but it will be too late.

Are you branded in the worst spot of all…your conscience?  Is there any hope of reversal for you before the last day? What a blessing for the branded that we are still on time’s side of eternity.

No Prize for Tact

One more thing from the funeral of my Aunt Eunice:
Both Allen Webster and Kevin Smith made remarks about a life well-lived.  It was a statement made by my cousin, Sharon Harris, though, that hit a chord with me. Kevin read her statement during his remarks.  Sharon said something like this:
“Mamaw would not have won any prizes for tact or diplomacy. But one thing is for sure. You never left a conversation with her wondering exactly what she meant, particularly if it had to do with the Word of God. You always knew she loved you, but she refused to keep quiet while any of us happily waddled off to hell.”
Well, those are potent words.  If there are those in the family of Eunice Smith who are happily headed to hell, I hope the words leave them bereft of any comfort in sin. In fact, I hope the words made lots of us examine our lives more closely. I know they made this woman have a greater appreciation for plainspoken words of love. I have to write a letter later this week to a sister who has left her family, the Lord and any hope of heaven without repentance. I want to offer hope. I want to encourage. But I’m resolved to not mince words about the seriousness of sin.  Evasiveness  has no place when we speak of eternity.

The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference

Last Saturday I attended the funeral of a dear aunt. Her name was Eunice Smith. Her name was likely not left behind on any huge certificates of deposit or deeds to any very valuable houses or lands. Her name is important, though because it was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5) and any document in any bank safe surely pales into insignificance when compared to this eternal document written by God Himself.
Several observations from the funeral struck me as being more profound than any from most funerals I attend. It was not hard to hear the sounds of past family reunions as I looked out over that audience and saw so many with whom I could remember those fun times when our extended family got together. We never got together to eat, though we ate. We never got together to reminisce, though we remembered. We never got together to watch the ball game, though I can remember several times when there was a radio plugged in somewhere on the premises and folks would be periodically checking the score. (Okay, in a few cases, some were never very far from the radio.)
But we got together to sing. Somebody brought books, though we could have sung without them.  We had several people who could sing each part and then some.  There’s a City of Gold, Beulah Land,  Remind Me Dear Lord, All the way My Savior Leads Me and The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference…and lots, lots more.
About a week before Aunt Eunice died, it was discovered that her heart was failing and the decision was made not to try any drastic treatment, because her body and spirit, at the age of 94, were both ready to leave this life.  But she was very cognizant of what was going on that Friday and on her last day of consciousness, she said, “We need to sing!” And so, from that hospital room, there issued forth, for a couple of hours, some of the most beautiful singing this side of heaven. It could be heard up and down the hallway. But that’s really no wonder, since it could also be heard by the heavenly angelic host that surely was gathering in anticipation of bearing her soul from that room to the eternal place of bliss (Luke 16:22). And as they listened, they heard Aunt Eunice sing every single word of every single song. Just too sweet for this life, but surely a foretaste of the one she is enjoying now.
Soon after this, Aunt Eunice lost consciousness, for the most part. She would have short lucid moments and it was during one of those when, as I understand it, she opened up her eyes and said, “The Old Rugged Cross made the Difference.”  Well, yes. Exactly.