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By Dan Baumgartner on
Dan Baumgartner
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Jun 15 in Musings
I was grabbed recently by Frederick Buechner writing this in his book Wishful Thinking: “Only God is holy, just as only people are human. God’s holiness is God’s goodness. To speak of anything else as holy is to say that it has something of God’s mark upon it. Times, places, things, and people can all be holy, and when they are, they are usually not hard to recognize.”  It’s the places I have been thinking about. Places like...a hospital room.
Wednesday night after several meetings I drove to a hospital to visit an older friend. It was a beautiful night, about 8pm. The fading daylight was still on the LA hills, bathing the world momentarily in that golden twilight hue. Because it was late, the hospital was very quiet. The cleaning crew was vacuuming the lobby, the information desk had just closed and there weren’t too many cars in the parking lot.

I found my friend’s room and slipped in. He was awake, hooked up to cords and instruments of various kinds, but he plunged right into conversation. I settled in to stay for a half hour or so. I heard the story of why he was in the hospital, and what the prognosis for the future looked like. A hospital staffperson moved in and out of the room soundlessly, making sure the right combination of pills were in place and checking a monitor. My friend gave eloquent witness to how faithful the Lord has been in his life, and how thankful he is for friends and family. He told me ways that God had shown up during his hospital stay. We talked a little baseball, stayed away from politics and I updated him a bit on my kids.

I asked if I could read a little scripture, and he eagerly assented. A Psalm, then the great Shema from Deuteronomy 6: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Then a Jesus story from the gospels. We talked about each of them briefly. My friend closed his eyes for each reading and I thought he might drift off, but he was wide awake. Just listening.

Before I left, we prayed together. I stood by the side of his bed, being careful not to step on the many cords and wires. We grasped hands. The room was quiet, the hallway lights dim. I thanked God for loving my friend, and for His goodness. I prayed healing and deep rest from his night’s sleep. As I prayed, I was filled with the sense of God’s presence. We were standing on holy ground.

There’s an old worship song from the early 1980’s, Holy Ground (Christopher Beatty), that says it well:         “This is holy ground
                                    We’re standing on holy ground
                                    for the Lord is present
                                    and where He is, is holy...”   
It’s true. A place isn’t holy because of how we view it or what we call it or because of anything we do. It’s holy because of God’s presence. It can be almost anywhere...even a hospital room on a late summer evening.                                  
See you soon,
            Pastor Dan

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