Several years ago, I purchased a push mower to mow the lawn of a small house we were using for our homeless ministry. I LOVED mowing that little lawn, not because I am (as some would say) a masochist, but because it gave me an opportunity to pray.
Few people understood my choice of a push mower over an electric or gas mower, and even more folks tried to convince me to use a leaf blower instead of sweeping with a broom. What they may not have known, is this was my way of praying for the ministry, our homeless guests and our volunteers. It was during these prayer times that I would often fuss at God about comfortable Christians who couldn’t be bothered by homeless individuals, or the business owner who proudly announced that she had removed a faucet from her business so “the homeless” couldn’t wash their hands or get a drink of water. I am quite certain the lawn was much shorter on the days I offered these prayers of lament!
Now that I am semi-retired, I still use a push mower and a broom. As I was sweeping and praying this morning (and cringing at the neighbor’s leaf blower at the same time) I reflected upon how much I miss serving our homeless guests. My favorite time of ministry were the days I would make “grace cakes” (pancakes made with love) and when I would sweep the porch and pray for our guests before we opened the doors. There were rules though, and serving food was really not allowed because we did not have a commercial kitchen. I bent the rules on the days we made “grace cakes” by referring to our homeless guests as “friends” in our “home away from homelessness.” On those days I would quietly smile and ponder all the times that Jesus was really a “rule breaker.” 😉
This morning’s prayers were another lament. “What good am I doing now Lord? How am I being of service?” Just as I was considering this and waiting upon God for a response, one of those “friends” (former homeless guest) stopped by my home to pick up some oranges and lemons. She had several items in her car that she needed to store somewhere. It is ironic (thank you God) that my other project for my day off, was to begin cleaning out an increasingly cluttered garage. God seemed to tap me on the shoulder with the answer to my prayers. I could store some of her items in my garage!
My friend had far more grace than I would have at such a time in life. She was preparing to go to the oncologist for a follow up to her previous cancer diagnosis and her beloved grandmother had also just passed away. Needless to say, she was on shaky ground both physically and emotionally. She told me that she had inherited her grandmother’s items and she did not want them to get lost or stolen if something happened. Her voice trailed off and she paused for a long while before she told me that she had hoped to sell some of the items because she would probably need the money for her chemo treatments. She also needed a ride to her doctor’s appointment next week because she had been feeling too sick to drive that far.
“What good am I doing Lord?” There was the answer…standing right there in front of me with pure blue eyes now filled with tears. “I can store your items and I will do what I can to try to raise some funds for your medical treatment…and yes, I will take you to the doctor next week because that is my day off.”
Her relief and gratitude was evident as she took a slow deep breath. She quickly turned to a cherished and worn cardboard box in the back of her car. As she carefully handed me the box, she said, “I want you to have these porcelain dolls for your grandbabies. Who knows, maybe some day they will be of real value and your grandchildren can afford to buy a house to live in.”
I lifted the cover of the box and ran my finger along the porcelain features of the doll’s sweet face and I thought of my three granddaughters. I had known my friend for almost sixteen years and all she ever really wanted was a house to live in. Even in this time of deep grief and personal need, my friend was thinking of someone else. Grace. She was filled to the brim with what I was longing for. We hugged and I let her know what time I would pick her up for her appointment next week.
“How am I being of service?” I’m letting go. I’m letting go of the need to have a tidy garage, I’m letting go of the concern that I am not of service in my semi-retired state. I am letting go of any fear I have about my own health because my friend reminded me with a broad smile that even if she dies…she knows for sure where she is headed.”
For twelve years I worked in a ministry that was part of my DNA. I served our homeless guests in a variety of ways and loved every minute of it. I was in fact, as one pastor reminded me, a “back yard missionary.”
Today, as I mow my lawn with my push mower and sweep up the grass, I am reminded in prayer that I can still be of service because I am an “every day missionary.” God will still use me every single day…I just need to pray my push mower prayer, “Here I am Lord.”