Burger Saturday—It’s about a Burger and a Prayer!

Most of us think nothing of having a burger. We can zip through any drive-thru window, order a burger, devour it, and we can do it almost anytime we’d like to do so.

Saturdays have become burger days in our household.
They are a reminder of hope.

…might sound silly…
until you know the background.

At “The Hut,” burgers are served on Saturday. When you’ve spent a few months or years in a place where you don’t get to choose what food you get to eat, burgers on Saturdays are something to look forward to.

When he came home, it meant a lot for him to be able to choose to eat a burger on a Saturday. It was a way of remembering where he’d been, those he left behind, and the fortunes of being able to choose what’s for lunch.

“Do you mind that we eat burgers on Saturdays?” he asked me the other day.

“Not at all. I enjoy sharing burgers with you.” I told him.

We don’t eat them every Saturday, but we’ve had a lot of burgers on Saturdays over the last five months.

He prays for them while he’s grilling the burgers—for those who are still there…for those looking forward to their thin, dried hockey puck with a razor-thin slice of tomato and a paper-thin ring of onion (except for every 5th Saturday—for some reason, the tomato and onion aren’t on The Hut’s menu once every five weeks).

I still see it in him after every first bite of a burger…
I see him savor that bite as he takes a long time to chew it.

Sometimes, there’s such a long pause.
Sometimes, there’s a quiver of the lip.
Sometimes, he quickly wipes away a tear from the corner of his eye.

I don’t think he realizes that I watch him take that first bite, but I do, because I will never forget the day he took that first bite of burger on the first Saturday after he came home. Never.

You just can’t forget something like that.

He enjoys his tomato, his onion, the mustard, ketchup and mayo…
He sometimes tops it with avocado, or bacon, and a creamy slice of real cheese…

He enjoys his burgers, and it makes me realize—yet again—how much his life has changed over the last few months. Every bit of time we get to spend together is a blessing to me. I’ve learned so much from him about appreciating the little things.

To Clyde, Dave, and so many of the others…
We think of you when we eat our burgers.
Today was Burger Saturday, and we prayed for you today.

 


 

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Finding Hope in the Grace of a Prison Visitation

I’ve written before about how someone I care deeply about is locked behind the walls and the concertina wire of prison. (You can read about that here)

While visiting with him this weekend, grace tapped on my shoulder.


At this facility, visitation (after the stringent security search, the full-body pat down, and the K-9 sniff test for the visitors, and the complete strip search for the inmate) means hugs and kisses upon arrival and departure, and it means cherishing the opportunity to sit in the presence of your loved ones (it’s worth every bit of inconvenience). There were aging parents visiting their sons, tired moms with toddlers visiting their children’s’ father, a teenaged boy laughing with his dad while playing a smack-down game of UNO, and a young momma who had brought her newborn to visit with his daddy.

The people in the room were here for different reasons. They were there to share a few hours with loved ones, trying to maintain relationships, trying to imagine the future together, or working out life’s inside-outside and outside-in differences.

Prison is hard.

It’s hard for the inmate, and it’s hard for the family of that inmate. You may have heard otherwise about prison, but, unless you have experienced it personally or lived the life that comes with loving someone on the inside, you have absolutely no idea…


Yesterday, in that prison visitation room, grace tapped on my shoulder.

As a woman was readying to leave the visitation room at the end of her visit, she approached my chair from behind and tapped me on the shoulder. She was with a man and two boys who appeared to be middle schoolers. Visitors are allowed to speak with other visitors; inmates are allowed to speak with other inmates. Visitors, however, are not supposed to speak with inmates, other than the one they are visiting, and inmates are not supposed to speak with visitors, other than those visiting them.

She tapped me on my shoulder and “whispered” loud enough for the others at my table to hear:

“He was my [doctor] for many years.
He helped me so much.
He changed my son’s life.
My son was plagued with ear infections
until we brought him there, and with all
he taught us and showed us, my son, who is now 11,
only ever had one ear infection after that.
He was such a good [doctor].”

The man I was visiting used to be a doctor. He’ll always be one, but he just doesn’t hold any licenses to practice anymore. The likelihood of him ever being able to practice again is very slim. It was his passion, and it was a part of his purpose for a long season of his life.

With the comments from this woman, his face grew white, and his entire mood changed. I saw regrets, sorrow, embarrassment and devastation in his eyes.

I took a deep breath, and so did he. I asked him if he remembered her. He was flustered and didn’t want to answer. He couldn’t remember her name, but he eventually did say that he did remember her.

I asked him if he was ok.
He said he was, but his demeanor didn’t affirm this.

“You know,” I said, “that was so kind of her to stop and say what she said. She could have just ignored us from across the room and never said a thing as she was leaving. She took a moment to come over to let you know how you have impacted her life. What a gracious thing for her to do.”

He nodded in agreement, as tears started to fill the corners of his eyes.

Grace. 

Unmerited favor;
Finding favor toward another;
Offering that which is often undeserved;
Love in action.

When I arrived home a few hours after my visit, the phone rang. The caller ID let me know that an inmate call was coming through the line.

He called to tell me he had just gotten back from church, and that instead of napping on his cot in the 90-degree, un-airconditioned cell block during the afternoon between our visit and church, he spent some time in prayer and reflection about this woman’s words to me following her tap on my shoulder.

He apologized to me, saying he “sucked thumb” and sulked for a while after we left, but he had come to the conclusion that he appreciated his former patient’s willingness to share the impact he had made in her life during his own past life and career. In his reflection time, he was able to remember the thousands of people he had helped over nearly 20 years of doctoring, and he was grateful for the people he had met along the way. He had decided that her words were going to serve as a positive reminder of his former season of life, rather than be a stinging reminder of what he didn’t have anymore.

And then he said it:
“She didn’t have to do that, but she did.
That was grace in action.”

Yes.
Yes, it was.
It was grace in action.
Grace brought on by a tap on the shoulder at a prison visitation.


 

 

Gratitude Leads To Contentment

CT.3-6
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


But godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world
and we can take nothing out of it.
But if we have food and clothing, 
we will be content with that.
~ 1 Timothy 6:6-8

The Comparison Trap:  Week Three, Day Six… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

A I’ve mentioned before, I have a family member who is incarcerated.

Tonight, I had the chance to speak with him on the phone, and he was solemn. He shared some highlights from his day, and I shared some from mine, but there was something else going on.

I asked him about it, and he said,
“Despite everything in here,
I have a lot to be grateful for.”

He went on to tell me that someone he had shared games of chess and conversations with so many times, someone he’d shared family stories with, someone he’d roomed with on two occasions while in different cell blocks, someone he had just sat with at lunch yesterday had passed away last night.

His friend (friends are hard to come by in prison), had died a few hours after the two of them had shared a meal together. He was 61. He had food and clothing, as all the inmates do, but I wonder about the struggle to find gratefulness or contentment in a place like that when one has no control over much of anything in their daily life.

My takeaway has nothing to do with today’s devotional, but it has everything to do with being grateful for all we are given.

It’s easy to say that my blessings are many since my days aren’t spent in a prison or not knowing who to trust. To compare my life to that would be to fall into the comparison trap.

Yet, I can allow it to remind me that living a life of gratefulness leads to contentment. I don’t have to be thankful or content based on someone else’s shortcomings, issues, or challenges, but on finding the contentment in what I do have… in my family, friends, my gifts, my time, my talents and the treasures I hold dear, because they are connected to people or places which have impacted my life.

“The shortcut to contentment is gratitude.” 
Be grateful today.