Nursing Home Ministry (The Early Days)

Wow. I am amazed! The Lord has been so good to me. I have now been serving nursing homes with “spiritually enriching entertainment” for eight years now. I wanted to share the story about how that all began for me in late November 2006.

Early summer of 2006 the Lord distinctly told me, “Get ready”. Get ready for what? I asked. I had no idea. I was working as a framing carpenter at the time, and recovering from a very serious depression (despair is a more accurate word) that had taken me down for seven long years. I had also been continuing to lead worship with my wife in church on a fairly regular basis.

By the end of August my body was telling me it’s time to move on from construction. My wrists throbbed in pain every night. So I got a delivery job with Dunham express.

While out on my deliveries, some of our stops included Nursing homes. Every time I stepped into one I had a very strong impression that I would like to come share music with these people. My heart went out to them. Fast forward to November and my job was now ending. I had also just met Eddie Bieber who for time had entertained at nursing homes for a living. Intriguing… So I mustered up my courage and started cold calling facilities to sell my services as an entertainer.

I knew I was going to specialize in Gospel music. The problem was that I knew five or less Gospel songs that would relate to this audience and I needed to fill up an hour with relevant music. (Speaking their language musically is VERY important. If you play a song that you happen like and no one claps and then one lady hesitantly says, “That was… interesting”, it means that song did not go over well.) I went to work learning the Hymns of the faith.

I started to get a few bookings a week and honestly I didn’t want any more than that at the time. I knew I wasn’t very good yet and would soon “work myself out of a job” if I played more nursing homes and my name became attached to poor performances. I continued to improve musically and vocally and maintained some part time work over the next couple years.

Once I got a handle on what were some of the most loved hymns of those in this area, (and developed a few favorites myself), I went to work recording a Hymns album to leave for the residents.

Reflect Hymn CD (click on the CD cover to listen to this album)

I am pleased to say that our Reflect Hymn album is now in most every nursing Home and Assisted living facility throughout Northeast Wisconsin! It is still being used to comfort the dying, as a prelude to Bible studies and services, and sometimes as dinner time music. It blesses me so much to hear how God has been using this album especially when I walk into a facility and a lady with dementia is humming along to it as she sits next to the CD player playing our album. I was told she does this every day by a nurse, who also asks me if I have a new music? Please?!?!

I am so pleased to say that we now do!

I love our new hymns project which we entitled “Reflect, Amazing Grace”. This album features mainly my wife’s vocal talents and her unique piano arrangement of the most beloved and well known hymn of all time, Amazing Grace:

Our goal now is to get this album into every nursing home in Northeast Wisconsin. We are slowly but surely doing just that. If you’d like to help fund this operation you can donate to our ministry at our website: www.reflectworship.com

Here our my journal entries from that first month of Nursing Home ministry which I was pleased to find the other day:

1/4/07

I was at the Fransiscan Nursing Home today and was so blown away by what happened there. There was this woman in the back with her aged mother, and her mother was so touched by the Hymns that she was moved to tears, and then the daughter was moved to tears by her mom and then I was nearly moved to tears watching them both. It is people like that who are so moved and blessed by the music and simple truths in these Hymns that guide me to an appreciation for them myself. I had once again the most profound sense that this is what I’m meant to do. I love it so much…

It makes me think that all those years singing in church, learning new songs, honing my craft was for this. This is the real deal… the other was a biding of time till now.

Thought for the day:

“My being good does not validate God. He remains unchanged. Yet he created us… “

12-20-06

I am in a bit of a spiritual quandary recently. I am content. I am at peace. I am trusting God’s grace when there is most reason not to. This is an entirely new experience for me and quite frankly, I am not sure how I should feel about it.

For as long as I can remember, I never measured up and I was constantly depressed about it and in a funk… but now it doesn’t even matter. I am still a big time loser/sinner (I just spent the last week avoiding God because of a foolish rebellious thing I had chosen to do) but now I don’t have to measure up or feel accepted based on what I do… I feel his delight because of simply who he is. Love.

I have been spending time recently in Christian inspiration section at Barnes and Noble. I order a large coffee and just sit there and try not to cry as waves of God’s blessing soothe and comfort my soul. I don’t even quite know why I have been selected to be blessed like this. It hasn’t always been this way.

The other day I was a Nursing home doing a Christmas concert and one of the ladies in the back shouted out, “I love you!” I could hardly restrain the emotion that came to me when she said it and I had difficulty getting through the next song. It was as if God were whispering the words in my ear and I was melting.

After that concert as I sat in a coffee shop reading Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” I wrote this poem:

You stir my soul
Deep with the knowing,
The feeling of your love…
I am moved in waves of reassurance,
Of your kind look,
Of your notice of me…
Broken I let loose
The tightness in my chest,
The tears come,
Tears of joy,
And not of sorrow;
For I have found you,
And the sweetness of your comfort
thank you.

(If you’d like t listen to the song I recorded of this poem, click here: https://reflectworship.bandcamp.com/album/reflect-b-sides-the-still-waters-of-gods-love)

But as nice as this is, I can’t stop here or leave it at that. I don’t know if you remember one of the final scenes in “The Never-ending Story”, when the Indian boy is faced with this challenge to make it through this gate. Many brave warriors and knights have tried and failed… they were killed by these sentry guards with laser eyes or something… it’s a vague memory by now, having seen it so many years ago, and I am not going to go to all the trouble to see it again just to be accurate with this illustration.

My point is this: what did they need to pass the guards and get thru this gate?
Faith. Confidence.

I am beginning to realize the great predicament all men are in… we are at God’s mercy, yet so many of us misunderstand him. We think that if we all band together we can somehow outwit him or something… as if to say, “well we are all doing these things worthy of death and it’s now socially acceptable. You won’t condemn us all? Will You?”

This is not coming out right … this is the great misunderstanding. Can you imagine Love wanting to Judge you? Condemn you? I can only imagine Love, well, loving you. Yet love won’t let criminals run rampant. How do I convey what I see in my minds eye?

We are going to die. We will face our Maker at that time. Are you afraid or will you gladly welcome it? I don’t know how to answer that one myself. You see, based on everything I grew up around I would say I am pretty much screwed. But my heart tells me otherwise. I have a peace that passes all understanding. I, who am not even a good Christian, who am selfish and irreverent and given to addictions of the flesh, who drinks a beer while he reads his bible (on the rare occasions that I do read my bible – at least at the time of this writing) have peace. A peace that makes no sense because I didn’t earn it. Now that’s not to say I should just be content in my sinful state, by all means I should “improve” and be obedient and overcome the misunderstandings I have of my Maker.

The thing is, if you read my biography – the real and honest gut-wrenching one, not the cleaned up and sanitized one that might actually sell (hey, my mom might buy one), you wouldn’t like me. You couldn’t possibly. There isn’t anything attractive in a sinful man, but as a lady (who had died of polio but was sent back by God cause it wasn’t her time) told me, “Jesus is the most handsomest man I have ever met, the kindest, most gentle, and wonderful…” and I can’t remember any more of the adjectives that she attached to her description of him.

But let’s face it. He is who is really what is truly most attractive about any one of us. His activity in our lives. His Spirit at work in us.

(Incidentally, this is why our band name is “Reflect”. It comes from a verse that ends like this: “…that we might be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord, and as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we will reflect his glory even more.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT*)

12-21-06

I walked into a nursing home today to play a Christmas concert as the coroner was wheeling a not so empty body bag out the door. I was going to say a person in a body bag but that isn’t quite true anymore. I wondered as I played and tried to bring some Christmas cheer if it was weighing on anyone’s mind.

At one time I was going to collect wise sayings from my visits to nursing homes and write a book with the title, “wisdom from death’s door”. That is really just for shock value. I am not really that heartless… which I will of course explain in the first few pages of the book. But aren’t we all really at deaths door? Just a heartbeat and a breath away from death… it’s amazing that any of us are alive. I am so happy. Do you know why?

Cause I’m getting to know God and learning to trust him and I realize that life and death are in his hands so death really isn’t that big of a deal… of course this isn’t probably what I would say to someone grieving a lost loved one, but it has some merit.

I had this weird dream that I was fly-fishing and I caught a big rainbow trout, only it had a girls head attached to it. As I reeled it in this man standing next to me said, “Oh, looks like you’ve caught my daughter”. I didn’t know how to feel about this, and I’m not one to waste good fish meat so I was putting the fish in a bucket of water and debating about whether to put this man’s daughter out of her misery with a knife, so she wouldn’t suffer. It kind of sheds new light on that passage where Jesus said to Peter the fisherman, from now on you will catch men…. Or not.

How do you think a person might feel upon arriving to a nursing home and being assigned a room where God knows how many have died before?

‘They took me to that place they said they never would. My own flesh and blood. A burden. Old. Neglected. They have their own lives now, their own kids. Don’t they know that one day they will be me? How will their children care for them?

I arrived to the room assigned for me. Like a cheep hotel or hospital room. How many have died here I wonder.

The room smells. This is not my home…’

It was neat to come across this old journal entry and see what God has done. If you’d like to support our ministry, buy a CD, download our music or donate at our website: www.reflectworship.com

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