We, as a family, had a busy weekend.
Despite the fact that we were still under a ‘stay-at-home’ advisory, we were blessed on Saturday to attend the college graduation my daughter, Rebekah. We listened to a powerful commencement address by noted scholar and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. (live from his home in Cambridge, MA) and witnessed the conferral of degrees by American University President Sylvia Burwell. We even saw our daughter’s name printed on the screen as her school and degree program was listed. After the digital festivities, we enjoyed cake and dinner as a family. While it was much less than we all dreamed, it was wonderful in its own right.
Sunday was Mother’s Day and we celebrated the mother of 19 Vassall Street, Jeanine, with our family’s tradition of feasting on Chinese food (although this year it had to be take-out). This was followed by phone calls to the grandmothers, Carolyn and Pauline (both being hundreds of miles away), and then we concluded the day playing some family games (namely, Clue and Jackbox). It was a blessing having all six of us together for both these special occasions.
Before I go on, know that I want life to return to some semblance of normal as soon as possible. That said, I am going to look back at these days (at some point in the distant future) and miss some of the repercussions of sequestered living. I am going to miss the sheer amount of time I am engaging with those I love: I am seeing my children and wife more and making more calls than usual. I am going to miss the collective compassion of the community: we are supporting charities and offering kindnesses to a greater degree than any other time I can remember. I am going to miss the ingenuity of so many in celebrating life: the creativity exhibited through the ideas, activities and resources that are being initiated (drive-by birthday parades, apartment complex concerts, miniature golf courses in hallways and back yards, proms / graduations / weddings / recitals held together at home) is staggering.
And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NIV)
Can we agree today, before we move on from this horrible season of death and disease, that we will continue to do what is good. Will we agree that we will still check on the vulnerable among us when we no longer need to? Will we agree to prioritize time with loved ones once we can devote our attentions to professional sports or work obligations? Will we agree that we will remain creative and unique in our expressions of joy even after we can once again host a party at “Chuck E. Cheese”? Will we agree that walking and hand-washing is beneficial in every season, not just now?
I am sure I will once again cringe at the suggestion of ‘F.G.N. (Family Game Night)’, a particular delight of my youngest child; but for now, I hope they regularly occur forever. While we await the world to get back to its regular cycles, let us also remember the good of these days and commit to continuing these blessings when might be tempted to do otherwise.
Let me start off by saying that I hate to wait. I know that waiting – for the train or for the kids or for doctor – is a part of life, but that does not mean I have to like it. Despite my personal preference, I am required, as are we all, to patiently endure a prolonged season of waiting for ‘life-as-normal’ to resume; eventually academia, commerce, recreation and church will return. Until then, we wait. As I write this post, it is Wednesday, May 6th, and it has been fifty days since the governor of Massachusetts implemented the ‘stay-at-home’ advisory, although it seems to me much longer.
God created a world with waiting woven into its fabric. God, it seems, designed us to wait. Creation includes the sabbath, a day set apart every week to refrain from our work. God led His people through the wilderness but delayed their entrance into the promised land for 40 years. God structured the agricultural schedule of the early Israelites with a 50-day waiting period between the gathering of the first fruits and the reaping of the harvest. God had Jesus and His earthly parents wait in Egypt for three years before the family could safely return to their hometown. God develops His gift of patience in us when we wait by Jesus’ tomb at Easter, when we wait in the upper room at Pentecost, and when we wait for His promised return on that great and glorious day.
“From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.” Leviticus 23:15-16 (NIV)
As I think about what I know about myself and my disdain for patiently abiding, as well as the celebration of Mother’s Day this weekend, I realize how good and godly the moms in our lives must be. I deeply appreciate the contributions of the moms in my life. Honestly, I couldn’t do it. From the first moments of our existence, the waiting began: the two hundred and eighty days of our gestation, the hours waiting at the OB/GYN office, staying up in anticipation of the late night feedings, watching for the firsts (first smiles, first words, first steps). As our children grow, the waiting doesn’t abate, as moms of adults remain vigilant as they await word of their children’s arrival at home or their departure from vacation.
I am so grateful for the women who have waited for me and have made my seasons of waiting a bit more bearable. I appreciate that I am still able to see and speak with my mom and my mother-in-law, even though it must be through cell phones this year, and I pray for God’s hand of comfort for those who no longer have this ability. I pray also for all the mothers I know, especially the new moms and those with children still at home – those providing guidance, recreation, education, nutrition, lasting good memories and stability in this time of such uncertainty. Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.
And as we wait for that time of blessed reunion, either in this realm or the next, I hope we can take some time this weekend to thank God for our moms.
“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Abraham Lincoln
Sunday is Mother’s Day, when three out of four of us will purchase a greeting card and over two-thirds of us will buy flowers for our mom (or our children’s mom). It is the least we can do for those who have given us so much of themselves. There is something in our mother’s kisses that are more therapeutic than the best medicine and something in her voice that is more comforting than the best psychotherapy. Mom was likely the first to read to us, pray for us and cry with us. She made sure, for most of us, that we had a birthday cake on our special day and a new outfit for the first day of school. It is right and good to honor and remember the ones who endured painful labor and sleepless nights for her children: God bless Mom!
As I think about Mother’s Day, my thoughts come back to a commercial I recently saw for the Portal from Facebook. In the commercial, actor Neil Patrick Harris decides to call and celebrate his mother on Mother’s Day using the Portal from Facebook. He sees that she’s not alone; she has company: the mothers of Serena and Venus Williams, Odell Beckham Jr., Snoop Dogg and Dwayne Johnson among others. While Neil knows who they are, most people watching the commercial are unfamiliar with the women on the video-chat screen and are given only a clue by Neil’s references – Odell’s mom, Jonah’s mom and the like. These women, no doubt, have done great things in their own right but are willingly recognized as someone’s mom. We ourselves may not actually know some women’s names, only that they are so-and-so’s mom. God bless you, Neil’s mom.
I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)
One of the moms of the Bible who lived a life of seemingly quiet obscurity is Lois – the mom of Eunice, who was the mom of Timothy. All we know about this woman is what we read in the verse I have quoted. All we have as a historical record is that a sincere faith lived in her. There are so many unanswered questions: Did she have hobbies or a favorite story? Where did she grow up? How long was she married? Was she like the Proverbs 31 woman and worked outside (as well as inside) the home? Was she tall, attractive and wealthy or petite, plain and poor? All we know is her name, her heart and her grandson. But, in God’s economy, that is enough. God has blessed us with moms like Lois.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those who are known by the world only as someone’s mom. God knows you are much more than that: you are leaders of industry, educators, medical experts, investors, inventors and artists – and then you go out the front doors of your home and do even more. Happy Mother’s Day!
According to the National Retail Federation, the average Mother’s Day shopper will spend $180, or a total of $23.1 billion. That is a lot of flowers and jewelry. It seems that we all want to celebrate the blessing God has given us through giving us mothers. In recognition of Mother’s Day on Sunday, allow me to share the story of a remarkable mom who lived a few thousand years ago. She was poor, widowed and responsible for a child. Things have gotten so bad for her that she had given up hope. But God has other plans for her and her child.
We really know little about this mother. While we do not know her name or her lineage, we do know she was married, but her husband died and left her with no source of income: according to the scriptures, all she had to her name was a jar of flour and a pitcher of oil. We also know that she was not part of the “People of God”: she was an “unclean” Gentile. Lastly, we know that she was commanded by God to help a certain prophet of God named Elijah: she was commissioned to use that last of all she had to feed this stranger.
Before I conclude the story, allow me to digress. I am not at all surprised that God used a mother, especially a single mother, to save Elijah. Is there any other class of human being so willing to sacrifice as a mom? When there are five mouths and four slices of pie, it is the mom who says, “I’m too full from dinner for dessert; you guys have it.” When it is three AM and thundering, it is the mom who gets displaced so that her child can be comforted. She picks up the underwear, wipes up the barf and cleans up the bathroom. There is seemingly no need too demanding or distance too far to travel for a mom.
Getting back to the story, this mother prepares her last meal for herself, her son and her visitor. But the flour and oil never run out. She and her household (including the guest) were fed for three years, miraculously. Despite the fact that they were in the midst of a global famine, God was able to meet her needs. Just when one might think everything is going to get better, tragedy strikes when the son of this woman becomes ill and stops breathing. No one would blame her for her outburst:
She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 1 Kings 17:18
After all she had sacrificed, was this really how her story was going to end? No. Elijah immediately cries out to God and her son’s life is restored to him. Then they all lived happily ever after (though not together).
I thank God that the mothers I am most familiar with (both biological and metaphorical) have yet to lose hope. They sacrificed for the sake of those they loved, expressed outrage when something hurt those they loved and never gave up hope for those they loved. Some of that has to do with their personal resolve – they are all formidable people of character – but some of it has to do with their faith in the God who can resource and restore them as He did for a Phoenician widow, her son and her house-guest.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those who have given more than they will ever get back from their families.
This Sunday we celebrate Mother’s Day. It is the day that we, as a society, honor the people in our lives who have sacrificed their sleep, their youth, their livelihoods and their plans to provide for us. We all have someone in our lives worthy of celebration – a mother (or mother-figure) who has loved, comforted, taught and trained us; a person who has given us advice, assistance and correction when we needed it; and someone who was willing to give all they had to help us achieve all we are intended to be. No human being, and therefore no mother, is perfect; they are simply closer to the ideal than the rest of us.
From last Mother’s Day to this, it has been a particularly difficult year for the three mothers in my life. The mother I was born to has been hampered by some minor health, home and hearth concerns. The mother I am married to has seen one child graduate college only to be rocked by an uncertain job market and unestablished credit, one child graduate High School only to live at a college 500 miles away, all while she was required to perform her functions as a mother in a downsized environment. The mother I gained through marriage has had the toughest year: she suffered the loss of her son in December and an extended hospitalization and rehabilitation since March. Life has not been easy for the mothers of my family.
As I witnessed how these three remarkable women coped with the challenges of life thrust upon them, it seems that I am the one who is still learning the lessons of life from these moms. Their stalwart persistence teaches me that God provides all that we need: a few dollars or a few kind words just when we are at our wits’ end. Their steadfast love teaches me that the difficulties of our day are diffused when we bear the burdens of someone else. Their sincere concern for their children teaches me that love is empowered only when it is released for the betterment of another. I am blessed by the love and care of these moms.
My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 6:20
The events of the last year, and the ways that these wonderful women navigated them, reinforces in my mind the notion that we need our moms. We also need to uplift the mothers among us. Let me encourage you to celebrate the mothers around you. If your mom is still living, acknowledge the integral role she has played in your life. If all you have is memories, share one this Sunday. Recognize the full spectrum of motherhood in your community – greet the new moms, the single moms, the empty-nested moms, the mourning moms, the expectant moms, the motherly role models, the future moms, the moms who care for others’ children and the prodigals’ moms. It is a tough world and we can use all the love and encouragement we can get. Praise God this weekend that He has given us great mothers.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Earlier this week I met with a few colleagues in ministry. At some point our conversation turned to questions about how our respective churches would acknowledge Mother’s Day and the challenges that honoring mothers in worship entails. As a pastor, let me share that publicly recognizing mothers in the midst of a worship service is fraught with dangers. On any given Sunday a typical congregation includes single women of all ages longing to be married with children, married women who are facing infertility issues or stressed over an unsatisfying work/family balance, mothers who are overwhelmed with the needs of children with disabilities or raging hormones, women with expiring biological clocks, mothers of prodigals who haven’t shared a kind word with their child in years, mothers of the deceased and mothers of moderately well-adjusted offspring. What is the best thing to say before this varied audience who are all seeking comfort and strength before the throne of God?
First, we can affirm that God is sovereign. Despite the ubiquitous presence of sin, God remains in control of all creation. God is able to work through people “whose quiver is full” and whose “womb is closed” and His blessings are unrelated to any individual’s physical or relational condition. Certainly children are a blessing. So is the unconstrained time and treasure to serve others. God knows our trouble and is able to perfectly satisfy every longing heart.
Next, we can affirm that God is compassionate. Throughout scripture God is the champion of the widow and the orphan; particular to the subject at hand, God commands the people of God to care for those among them who are females without family. God hears the prayers of the childless and, occasionally, miraculously provides a child while, always, providing comfort. God promises to dry every tear shed by the faithful and replace what sin has consumed.
“And she made a vow, saying, “LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” 1 Samuel 1:11
Last, but not least, we can affirm that our greatest hope is never fully realized on earth. Not all pleas and prayers find a positive answer on earth. And all that God does provide – food, shelter, life (and even children) – do not truly belong to us; we are simply stewards of God’s blessings. Everything we possess is simply on loan from our Creator. All these temporary blessings develop a longing for God’s permanent and eternal blessings. One day, all that God promises will be realized by those who trust in Him, not on earth, but in the heavenly places. When we are gripped with longing, we can be encouraged that the Lord will satisfy our every pang.
Wherever you find yourself this Sunday and however you choose to identify yourself, allow me to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day. Join me in acknowledging the mothers among us and the blessings – of all kinds – that the Lord provides through them. And for those who will be hurting this weekend, I pray that the God of all comfort and hope will remain close to you as we acknowledge those who have been otherwise blessed.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, allow me, as an unbiased observer, to champion an often overlooked attribute of motherhood – commiseration. According to Merriam-Webster, commiseration is ‘the expression of sorrow or compassion for another’. Mothers hurt when their child is hurt, cry when their child is crying and empathize when their child is suffering. My experience as a child and as a parent tells me that that mothers and fathers are frequently diametrically opposed when a child is sad: typically, dads are fixers and moms are feelers. We certainly can appreciate the fatherly instinct of making things right, but there is nothing like the motherly comfort of hearing, “It’ll be alright.”
Mothers are a gift from God when a child is suffering. They will comfort the 4 year-old who just showered mom’s lap with intestinal juices. They will cry at parent-teacher conferences because the educational system is in danger diminishing the potential of her child’s young mind. Mothers understand the fragility of the teenage heart during a break-up. Even well into adulthood, when their babies have babies of their own, they will encourage from a distance their son or daughter when they hear of the pain of a troubled grandchild.
Mothers are the ones who make sure that their children know that they will never be alone in the dark. They are willing to lie down at bedtime and sing lullabies when they are small and they are willing to wait up through the night when they are ill. They are the ones to whom little voices cry out in a thunderstorm and to whom big voices call when they get fired. Personally, I am blessed because when I need a word of comfort there are two places I can turn: to the mother of my children and to my own mother.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)
God uses as an illustration of His steadfast love the compassion of a mother. Isaiah’s words, if I could paraphrase them, are saying that while it might be possible, however logically remote, that a mother might forget a presently nursing baby, God will never forget us. God’s commiseration is exemplified by our moms. If you desire to know the heart of God for His children, talk to a nursing mom about hers!
I hope that you have the opportunity to spend time with your mom this weekend, if only via technology. I hope you have a chance to acknowledge all the times she suffered beside you.
For those who will be mourning the loss of Mom this weekend, may the truths of Isaiah 49:15 uplift your spirit.
If you are a mom, let me say this so that you hear it at least once – Thank you so much for all you do. If you are a mom with children still at home, please know what a precious calling you have and know that your commiserating is accomplishing much more than you can imagine.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
This weekend we will celebrate Mother’s Day, and moms all around the world will enjoy breakfast in bed (followed by dealing with the disaster in the kitchen), handmade cards (followed by dealing with the glitter and glue covering the carpet), and plenty of hugs and kisses (followed by requests to watch TV, go out with friends, borrow the car, or play video games). Mothering is largely a thankless job – excepting on Mother’s Day – so, on behalf of all the children, allow me to say thank you, Mom. We appreciate you, Mama. We are grateful for all you do, Mummy.
We all wish to thank you for:
- Giving up space in your comfortable beds;
- Diagnosing fevers by kissing foreheads;
- Wiping soiled bottoms and runny noses;
- Treating dandelions as if they were roses;
- Cooking nutritious meals, remembering every dislike and preference;
- Serving as a homework, project and employment reference;
- Baking cupcakes at midnight for the “bake sale tomorrow”;
- Carrying in your heart each child’s every sorrow;
- Enduring concerts, recitals and plays;
- Without notice or complaint waking early to pray;
- Ever picking up, cheering up and speaking up;
- Denying yourself when there was not enough;
- Amidst blood, vomit, stitches and casts keeping your calm;
- Chuckling inside when you overhear, “She’s just a mom”;
- Appreciating every gift and present, no matter how odd;
- And showing your kids the love that comes from God.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)
So much of what we know about life and living comes from our mothers and grandmothers. They are the first ones to instill in us the knowledge of right and wrong, of good and bad, and of love and hatred. They were the ones who made sure we looked both ways before crossing the street. They were the ones who washed our mouths out with soap when they heard the foul language we used. They were the ones who took us to the doctor’s office for appointments, the ball field for practices and the school for rehearsals. They were the ones who read to us Dr. Seuss and “The Velveteen Rabbit”. They were the ones who made sure we were clean behind the ears and cautious behind the wheel. They typically were the ones who made sure we went to church and were quiet. They were the voice of grace and the touch of love in a harsh and hostile world.
If you are a success, by any measure of the word, you likely have your mom to thank. If your children are, or ever will be, a success it is likely to be because of their mother, too. There is a Jewish proverb which states:
“God couldn’t be everywhere, so He created mothers.”
Today is not the day to quibble over theology – Mothers are a gift from God! Appreciate that gift this weekend by remembering your mom (and men, don’t forget to remember your kids’ mom as well.)
And do her a favor…clean the kitchen after the kids make your breakfast.