Mar 11, 2012
Sixteen years ago, when my wife Nancy was waiting for her heart transplant, our family was led to start a ministry on the Heart Failure floor of Temple University Hospital. Many stories, many salvation decisions, many laughs and tears, many healings, and many mysteries — the sweet God-mysteries — came from the six years we wound up serving patients and their families.
One guy, a rough-cut, white-haired old Italian laborer from New Jersey, was gruff or friendly, depending on his whim. It was usually gruff when we invited him to makeshift services. Vinnie could often be found on the treadmill — I began to suspect that he didn’t need a heart transplant, but was on the floor in some witness-protection program. Some weeks the treadmill was in the solarium, where we held our services, so he occasionally hung around the back door or sat by the window, looking out over Philadelphia, waiting for us all to leave.
Vinnie finally did get his heart. The donor program found a perfect match… on paper. As sometimes happened with heart transplants we witnessed and lived through, “everything” was right, yet Vinnie suffered a stroke on the operating table. He made the usual return to the floor for recuperation, but burly Vinnie started wasting away. He couldn’t move most of his body; he could barely speak; he couldn’t get out of bed, much less hop on the old treadmill.
One Sunday I stopped in Vinnie’s room before our service in the solarium. I small-talked and finally said I had to leave. “Are you going to have the music?” he managed to ask — that’s what he called our services. And I took a cue from the look in his eye. I kidded him: “Hey, buddy, don’t you go anywhere. Church is coming to you this morning.” Everyone who had gathered in the solarium, Nancy and her sermon notes, my kids, even strangers and staff that morning, crowded into Vinnie’s room, spilling out into the hallway. Music and monitors somehow fit in, too, all around his bed.
We opened with prayer, and, in the quiet room, I asked Vinnie if he had a special request. He managed to whisper a gravelly: “Yeah. Can you sing that sparrow song you always sing?”
“His Eye Is On the Sparrow” is based on the sweet promise of Matthew 10:29-31. We often worry about our circumstances – but are we not worth more than sparrows? Even those small birds cannot fall to earth without Father God noticing… and caring. How much more does our Heavenly father love us?
Do YOU always sing this song, or the joy behind its meanings? Do you always remember the promise? Old Vinnie didn’t make it long after that bedside music that he reached out for. But the tears on his face showed that he was at peace with the One who, ultimately and in His loving way, watched over him.
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If big problems or “little things” loom up this week… remember the words of Jesus and, here, the voices of Selah: blessings that will bring you through.
Click: “His Eye Is On the Sparrow”