This morning when I walked into work, one of the dementia residents said to me , “why does he want money? I don’t have any money.” Unsure of what he was speaking of, I looked in the direction of the TV to see a famous TV minister explaining how for three payments of 99.00 dollars, he would send you his Bible Commentary; a CD or DVD of his study on the Book of Revelation, complete with his notes, AND you would also receive an anointed “prayer cloth”. All for 3 payments of $99.00. Two hundred ninety-seven dollars PLUS shipping and handling.
I explained to the resident that he was a TV preacher and that he did not need to have money for any reason. I explained to him how everything he needed was paid for by his son. He continued on asking why “that man” needed money. I explained he was a TV preacher, and how TV preachers always “begged for money”. Suddenly, I remembered this gentleman’s former occupation. He was a retired preacher who held a PhD. in Theology.
“What’s he selling then, Jesus? I never sold Jesus.” Wow. Just wow. I tried to explain that he was selling books, commentaries and CD’s. The resident, even though he suffers from dementia and can not , on most days, recognize his own son, was lucid enough to know this man on TV was selling Jesus. Try for a moment if you will to imagine how difficult it would be to redirect that line of thinking. I explained further that the TV preacher was selling books, not Jesus. I explained the books helped people understand the Bible. Wrong, wrong, did I say WRONG, choice of redirection.
“You mean to tell me people can’t understand the Bible? Why not?What do need books for? I only used the Bible. All you need.” For ten uninterrupted minutes, he yelled about the “Bible being THE Book and no other book was needed.”
“You mean to tell me he is selling books about the Bible? Don’t people read the Bible? We gave away Bibles in my day. We gave them away when we, what do you call it, I can’t remember now, you know what I am mean don’t you?” Trying to calm him, I agreed with him, assuming he was referring to a baptism gift Bible.
Finally it dawned on me to change the channel on the TV and redirect the whole group of folks who were sitting there listening to both the TV preacher and the very annoyed former preacher. I found an old John Wayne western, which suddenly, everybody knew who he was, as I announced “Look its John Wayne”. The conversation was on:
“He was good man”, one of the female resident’s chimed in.
“Who? The preacher?”
“No, John Wayne”.
“John Wayne was not a preacher. He was a cowboy”
“He was a good man who took good care of everybody”.
“Then he is a preacher then.”
“The preacher should be doing that.”
Doing what? Preaching? John Wayne lived like a preacher.He either killed you or saved you.”
I eased myself out of the conversation leaving it in the capable hands of the activity staff to engage them, Walking away, I thought to myself how the former preacher was dead on with this thinking. The little lady who thought John Wayne was “good man”, she too, was correct in her thinking.
The generation sitting before me debating John Wayne-the cowboy-not- the- preacher, were brought up in the time of circuit riding preachers bringing hell-fire and brimstone sermons. The preachers in their day lived off of what was given to them by the people they ministered to. They did not treat religion as a lottery ticket to be redeemed for whatever the need was, IF you had the winning numbers. Back in their day, preachers visited the sick and shut in, even bringing fruit baskets, flowers and offering to pray with them. All free. Back then, preachers did not offer anointed payer cloths, rather, they offered a humble prayer. Back then, preachers had a deep, fearful respect for God, and would never remotely consider using Him as a cash cow. Back then, preachers lived in humble housing provided by the church, not sprawling 5 million dollar estates. Back then preachers simply preached.
I understood the confusion this morning the resident experienced. The time warp left them behind, not realizing times have changed. Even preachers have changed. But I did learn one thing from them this morning.
I learned that John Wayne was preacher, who just happened to be a cowboy.
“I won’t be wronged, I won ‘t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”– John Wayne – The Shootist
“Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.”– John Wayne
“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.”– John Wayne
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