Tag Archives: mother

The peace that passes understanding…

This week has been one of the roughest from the standpoint of ministry I’ve experienced in a long time…

Two beloved members of our extended church family were called home…. One as a consequence of beautiful old age, the other because of a senseless mistake on a roadway on the part of another driver.  People were not only killed others were injured…  and one of our most beloved young men was missing for the greater part of a week…

Yet, a sense of peace filled the service tonight as Pastor tied up the frayed ends….. it was Pastors grandmother who died of old age… This was one precious woman very, very like my mother in faith and life.  My mother left to be with the Lord two years ago.   How can a Christian find peace in the death of a loved one.  You can when the loved one dies in the hands of Jesus Christ. 

The night before my mother died, she was fighting… she seemed to be struggling in agony… she could not stop moving… could not stop looking around her bed for what turned out to be me… my heart was breaking for her… she was blind so she could not see me in her Earthly eyes… in excruciating pain from every bone and muscle when she moved… but she could not be still… her moanings were to find her beloved son… me… and I was right there.. but she was still unsure….

The doctor in the ER had lost his own mother a few weeks before… He called me aside……

He told me “you may have to give her permission, she is fighting for you, her only son, her only child”.   Reflecting I realized the times she had expressed her concern for what I would do when she passed away. 

So my sweet mother struggled to live at 92 with her broken body for me….

A few moments later after a very intense but short prayer I went to her beside…. I had been up 48 hours…. I leaned over her bed, took her hand… she became calm and looked toward my voice with her blind eyes….

“Mom, if this is too hard, fly home… fly home to Daddy and Jesus… don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright… you’ve taught me everything I need to know….. Just fly home sweet heart if all this is too hard… I’ll be alright”…   I leaned further placing my cheek against her tear-stained and wet cheek…. I lingered there breathing the shimmering air  with her…. just living with her for the last time…. reluctant to leave even though she would be with loving relatives… so I could rest to prepare myself for the rest of the fight.  I then kissed her.  Let her hand slip from mine… when I looked down she had a slight smile on her face… I was suddenly filled with peace beyond understanding…

When I walked away from that room I knew that I had spoken to her for the last time in this life…  And I left my precious mother … the most important person in my life right then in loving hands and the hands of God….

The next morning as I was getting ready the call came.  The nurse told me that I needed to get to the hospital quickly.. I told the nurse….. “just tell me”… “please”…The nurse said your mom is almost gone… she has moments…. if you can get here quickly you may be able to see her alive… some may find it strange that I did not get into a big hurry… for I knew….

You see we have a small dog… a dog that mom loved to sit and pet…and the pup loved her…. as I finished dressing I heard her whining and barking… ..When I walked out into the living room Princess our dog was running in tight circle looking up, as if she looked up into someone’s face… then she rose up on her hind legs and leaned on something invisible… still… for moments…

“Mom are you here..”  I said through my tears, then peace began to fill me… an acceptance I couldn’t explain….. Princess dropped down and I felt wrapped in a warmth like a beautiful blanket as I stood there…. “I love you mom”…. then the feeling changed… I felt a warmth full of love.  Princess stood silently looking up… The love stayed…

I knew my mother had started down that beautiful roadway through green fields to Heaven… I started driving to the hospital and the cell rang…. It was my wonderful friend Connie… she said “She’s gone Honey, She’s gone”..  I said… “I know, she just came home to say goodbye”.   And I believe she did before she went off to heaven down that beautiful road…

When I arrived and looked down on her Holy Body… I knew Mom wasn’t there…..  I knew she was truly gone…. but the love stayed….

And over the next few beautiful sad days I had the peace that passes understanding… because of the Holy Moments God allowed me to share with my precious mother. 

I will have more to say about that wonderful peace in future blogs… God Bless you who are reading this blog… May you too know the peace that comes from knowing your loved ones are in the loving arms of Jesus Christ….

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Thursdays can be for complete regeneration

Regeneration… renewal… realization of the reality of grace…..

And the symbol of it all was something as mundane as a truck… a thing… a gift…

Such worries… such fears… me… a person who tells others of the grace of God… of the protection… of the shade of his magnificent hand…

Yet, much of my summer was spent in worry… the deepest darkness… from the moment last May when I stepped out of a wreckage of twisted metal… an engine soaking me in fuel beside me… still running… electricity still sparking between bits of metal in the still running  engine…my body soaked with fuel…. and I walked away….

Suddenly I found myself relying on the kindness of strangers… thy grace of people who did not know me who I did not know… help from the blue.. human love expressed for another human being in need…

On that same day a job had ended… that I loved and needed… that made up part of my life… I had just driven away from it 15 minutes before…. and then the crash… the unbelievablility of it all… it felt like shattered light… beyond comprehension… no job, no vehicle, not enough money… A period of rest suddenly turned into nothing but questions…

Then two hours later… I drove home in a new vehicle… that I thought to have only a few days… when I got home I lay down saying “enough for the troubles of this day”… tomorrow will take care of its own troubles.. and I slept…

When I woke the next morning I took stock… not able to see how to get to the end of it… a month passed.. another month… a third… 

Endless grace… for every worry, I received a gift… I was at least wise enough to pray… and with every prayer an answer came… not always the one I thought best… but an answer… every time I needed something it came…. finally I decided to stop worrying, especially after I preached a sermon on laying back in the current, on the hands of God….

Nothing about which I worried came to pass… Money came when it was needed… this was the summer of photography… word of mouth… the kindness of strangers…

I am standing in a grocery check out line with a photography magazine… a lady behind me with four kids in tow asked me if I was a photographer… soon there was a beautiful afternoon recording the lives of a beautiful family… then another… and another… all from a smiling exchange in a grocery check out line… what are the odds… incalculable…  

Paperwork can always go wrong…  it did over and over… soon I am paying for a vehicle myself without enough money to do so.. yet, things kept coming… grace upon grace… blessing upon blessing.. 

Lord were you teaching me to lay back on the current… were you teaching me to lay in your magnificent hand… were you teaching me about your love… Lord, I am a miracle guy… it all has meaning to me… I see you behind the veil… though I can only perceive your shadow, I see the work of your hand…

Then all the right things came together in a way I could never have predicted… it required a change of hearts… it required a plentitude of grace…

So I have learned this summer that I can lay back on the raging current and your strong hands will be there…. not one thing that gave me worry came to pass… not one thing that caused me to wake in a sweat at night arose to show itself…

I am home now… all the financial issues are gone… a beautiful vehicle… a near duplicate of the one I had carried my mother in to her last visit to the doctor, her last visit to see her precious nieces and nephews… the relatives who loved her so much… the one I drove to the hospital when one of my dearest friends called me to say “she’s gone sweetheart, she’s gone”… the vehicle I drove home to walk through the door to the home that had been hers also… truly alone for the second time in my life… the vehicle that had carried her for the last time to visit the resting place of my father, her husband and the place she was to rest  only 34 days later her body so tired at 92…  and that I was nostalgic for because it had taken me through so much… It was something that had been such a precious part of my life that was now gone in twisted metal… important only to me… holding precious memories…

When I went to visit a sales lot to look at a car, a compromise, a substitute… the salesman said “wait, I think I have something that just came in you might like”…. I went back to wait in the office…

A few minutes later he turned the corner…. a transcendent moment…. the truck he drove was exactly a copy of the truck I lost, in color, in interior… but better….

The last few days I had been nostalgic, thinking remembering… not praying for or asking for something like this to happen… that seemed small….

But, then everything started to fall into place… I drove home that afternoon in peace… realizing that something inexplicable had happened… I am a miracle guy…. I accept it for what it is…. what are the odds that I would be given back the same vehicle… but better… right down to the color  of the markings on the gauges….

Silly…. maybe…it’s just a truck… but only the Lord could have known what that particular truck meant to me… deep in my soul I know and feel and accept a gift…. that I didn’t deserve but turned me back onto a path….

So this Thursday, I am regenerated… I am full, I am happy and at peace… not because of a truck, but because of a gift that my soul knows was God saying I care, I know you and I love you…..

Thursdays can be for regeneration…. Thank you Lord….

not sure how this goes…..

Are we ever sure how this goes…. as I listen to Calling all Angels…I am so moved by the line “Are we ever sure how this goes”….

Walk me through this ….  Don’t leave me Lord….

They are leaves in a powerful stream…. kids…. just as I was….

What saved me … a mother who loved me beyond all reason… a father who had to leave far too early…  powerful men who led me when I needed a strong lead to follow….

  How do I help save them…. lost kids…. who have no idea they are lost…. or how lost they are…..

How do I communicate love to someone who hasn’t known love…. the true love that builds strong walls against the tide of darkness coming in so fast…. How can I know when I am right…. is it peace?   Is it logic?  Is it my own human reason…

Their youth is slipping away like a flower fading… the time when they might be malleable…. when change can happen… before habits are to hardened…. to much of their “person”…..

How do I tell them that the right choices will solve their problems when they don’t want to hear about the right choices…..

How do you learn to make the right choices about the small things…. and the eternal things when you have no real home…. no one who can really show you how to live? 

How do you instil vision?  How do you instil beauty?  How to you show what honor is? 

The greatest desire of my heart right now it to find the ways…..

So I think, and I pray and I listen…

I look to His example, how would He have done this?   What words would He have said to the kids in my classes…. and in my ministry….. Lord I need your guidance, your example and your wisdom… I cannot do this myself….

 

What He did was to courageously step into the teeth of the storm…. which is what I will do tomorrow…. and the next day….

To teach as best I can…. by example….. by love…. by building impenitrable walls when I have to… 

But, to follow his example I must…. because all these kids need Him….. Let him fill me…. 

Because I’m not sure how this goes…..

I’m not sure how this gods…..

I remember now… why I became a teacher…there is greatness there

Last week …. horrible and beautiful at the same time…. it was a time of death and of new lives begun….times of struggle and high drama… times when you fight for the mind and soul of a kid…. One more young man dies in an automobile…. 12 graduate into new lives….

There is a time to live and a time to die….   but my dear Lord too young… Dear God.. he’s sixteen… just beginning ot taste life…and having lived more harshly than many adults can imagine…Dear God there is not a mark anywhere, as his stricken parent tries to look at his face, tries to form the word “yes” then “that is him”.   

in life so grown…in death so child-like…as if he is becoming the little child you told us all we must become to enter in…. My deepest soul tells me he is resting in you… the next loving face he will see will be yours….

times to struggle and times to savor triumph… magnificent people surround me….  a team made up of people who were born to do this job….though some wonder if they were….if they are  helping kids grow….  but they are… every moment they spend with the kids….

Gleaming faces as they walk…. diplomas…. tassels…. folders with fake diplomas…. they will pick up the real ones later….

There is a time for sadness, then a time for great joy… and they are separated by only a few miles.

There can be no great sadness but for the presence of great joy.  Great happiness and great sadness are so close… they are so closely related. 

The truth is I didn’t know the boy who died.  But his death moved me nonetheless.  We share in any death because we will all taste physical death.   We know…..  We understand that we will all go that way someday… we will walk that path…

But the death of a young person seems to have such a deeper meaning…. In death a young life that would have been part of the greater story of mankind is removed to early.  We lose their humanity, their love…. We lose the greatness that could have been…  the graduation that was not to be… the life that was not led… then children who were not born… the mountain top moments that were not experienced.  

So this is what I tell young people and what I would tell the graduates. 

Live as if you had 6 weeks…. how would it change your life… what would you do to raise your life to the highest levels in the time you had left.   And to teachers what would you say to classes if it were your last time to speak with them alive… what would you tell them… what part of your heart would you reveal… how would you treat them… how would you love them….

If you had 6 weeks to make your mark on the world, what would you do… what would you say…

And you may have 6 weeks, you may have less… what would you want to get done… but most important what would you say to your children in that six weeks.  What are the things you would teach them… What are the things you would want them to accomplish….

In the eyes of every child is greatness…  In the heart of every child is love… In the soul of every child is eternity…

Please God let me live my life as if my days were severely numbered… as if I had only a few weeks to save a soul or to fulfil my life to you Lord.  Please God let me understand my mortality so I can know what i have left to accomplish so i don’t waste my life on the small things… but on making a profound difference in lives around me. 

Please God let me live my life as if the children you have given me have only a few weeks…. as if I have only a few weeks to give them every kindness, all my love… all my teaching.

Please Lord let me live as if I have no life of my own…that it will one day go back to you….. Let me remember that the last words I say to someone may be the last words they hear… let my words be your words, righteous, just, loving, protecting.

The season to take time…. really all year

Black Friday… what a horrible name for the day after Thanksgiving….  I took that day off.  In the evening after a day of quiet I turned on the news.   Freeways stacked …..  parking lots full…. lines upon lines…. no one killed as last yearI . 

And I thought … why… what are we doing?  What need are we trying to fill?   Then I realized that I cannot answer that question for others… only myself…

I want a closer relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ…. I want him…  to know, to love, to worship, to be a friend, to be his child…

I want peace… the peace that passes all understanding…  I first understood that at my mother’s funeral when her terrible suffering was over… I knew exactly where she was and I was at peace…. I had done everything I could… And I was at peace…

I want to experience that level of peace ….   and to do that I realize my life has to have a center.. my life isn’t about things, wealth, acquiring… it is about the two greatest commandments – or it should be about them – and they are that we are to love the Lord God with our whole heart and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Those two cover all of life….

So this Christmas… I am going to try to do that… I am going to try to put my neighbor, family, students and who ever else before myself…

And I am certainly going to express my love for the Lord with my whole spirit and heart..

I am slowing down to the essentials… be reality of life… its core….

Simple foods close to the Earth…..

Reading the Bible….

Reading other good books….

Ministering at the rehab where my mother was for a while….

Taking time to make contact with all my family and friends personally… not an email… I’ll send the card… but I want to hear their voice….

Toys for tots…..

Spirit of Christmas toy drive….

Quiet times by the fireplace….. just thinking….. listening

Quiet time in the woods….

Petting my dog and letting my little cockatiel sit on my shoulder more…..

Please read this brilliant post by Ann Kroeker…. Something to ask ourselves.  Ann gets it right… Spend some time at her blog… wonderful stuff.

The creation of wonder…

My Grandmothers embroidery

I remember sitting around the heater in her living room on cold winter nights.. no television, no radio… no sound until someone found something worth saying… how much do kids miss these days… My grandmother – Mamaw as we called her –  sat quietly in here place on her couch…nimble fingers weaving, knitting beautiful things as she taught us all with beautiful words…  soon she would fold her work… silently pick up her worn bible that she had read through seven times… She read to us a verse that came to her heart… then taught us its meaning… prayer…. then we talked…often of those who were already gone… of he mysteries of life… of her experiences… of the wagon trip to get to this place… how my grandfather cut every log for the house…  the fire is warm protecting us from the frozen world outside… and we learned…. and we learned love… and we learned to wonder…

And we learned to wonder at the sky and the clouds, the stars and the Heavens...

I would run into the farm house in the middle of the green fields when I saw a beautiful cloud.   MaMaw would stop what ever she was doing to come look with me… “Oh, isn’t that beautiful”  she would say.. And we would stand there in wonder… I a mere boy… my grandmother a woman who had seen so much, worked so hard… but who would stand with me staring into the sky …. teaching me to wonder….

I learned to take joy in all things

I remember standing on the front porch with my mother when it would be raining, thundering and lightning… she was terrified of lightening… But she wanted me to be filled with wonder… not with terror… She wanted me to wonder at the mystery… at the power… so she held me beside her telling me a story… of God… when a new bolt of lightening would strike and the thunder would roll she would say as she trembled “see God is moving furniture… that was a big piece of furniture wasn’t it”…  what a beautiful thing to teach a child beauty from a place of your own terror… when you can barely stand still… but you want to give your child a gift.. the creation of wonder…

Today, I love storms… I wonder at the lightning… I marvel at the thunder…

I came to wonder at the art of my grandmother… that fingers could fly so fast creating… just out of whole cloth… and I slowly came to understand that I could do the same in my art… music… now teaching… now photography…

and I learned to wonder at the creation… to look up into the sky to think why… why do clouds form… why does the light change from moment to moment in the storm…

I learned wonder… I learned it from my mother out of her terror of storms… from my grandmother out of her devotion to life… and family… and God…

And as this true teaching was done with me so I was given an incomparable gift…

The creation of wonder….

Thankfulness and grace

I turn into the driveway…. all is dark, quiet… the world at peace…. I turn off the engine…. silence

No sound of war… or of crying… no sound of gunfire… of violence… of death…   I look at my home… now going on 15 years being my home…  and I love it… and I am thankful for it… it is there before me in the peace of night…

And I think of the grace that allows me to have it…  the phrase that goes through my mind on this Thanksgiving eve is how did I come to this home… this life… all the blessings in the last year when it seemed that I would sink below the waves at any moment… that a hand reached out to me every last-minute… often unexpected… every time unasked… but a hand came. 

Tomorrow I will feast… too well… in the warmth of family, in love, in joy… what did I do to deserve this wonderful life… a home, more than enough, wonderful and meaningful work, a soft bed, warmth when I need it, cool when I need it… in a moment I will open the door and a little bird will screech its welcome… a loving, devoted dog will jump with joy…

There will be music if I want it…. silence if I want it…. sound if I want it… water when I want it… food when I want it… presently because life continues as it does… with life… and with death… I will be alone for a time… the one I took care of for so long is gone… out of pain, out of sadness… living in a home God created for her where she is living in perfect joy… 

But there are others… a loving family around the world… electrons away from me…  all I must do to hear their voices is cause electrons to move along wires… invisible signals through the air… and they are with me… 

Good friends invite me to join their family celebrations… members of my family call me to come offer thanks with them… I am not alone… I am surrounded with love… with friendship… with caring… so I will be with my family because I need to be with them… what a blessing to be able to choose between offerings from those who love me…

Then I have been given two great churches in which to worship and to serve… to minister… one small… one large… one in the country… one in the city…  both places where I meet God… Both places of great joy and friendship…

When I drove into my driveway… I was 30 minutes from the place I have been given by grace to work… where I have friends I have known for greater than half my life with whom I work… with whom I teach….

The building in which I work is new… state of the art really…  and I think of something else….

That I am one who has in a world where so many have not…. so many will not lie down on soft bedding tonight… millions will not be able to eat their fill… more than there fill tomorrow… millions who could not walk in a miracle where we have ever kind of food to choose from brought from every part of the world… 

And I have to ask why?   ….   Why was I born here in this most magnificent of countries?… Why was I born to the parents I was given?  …. Why do I have friends who are actually friends, who care, who would mourn, who did mourn with me a year ago when my mother slipped away into eternity with the Lord…

Why was I born here and named John?   Why was I not born in another country to parents who would beat me, where I would not have had enough to eat, not enough water to drink, nothing to learn or to hope for and named John?

I was given grace.. it was amazing grace… I was given all of this… why?  Just so I can be thankful?  Just so I can celebrate as across the world 18 children will die each minute as I will laugh tomorrow with my family….

And I think that I was given this so that I could give it away…  to those who are given much, much is expected… 

Father am I giving much as I have been given much… As I give Thanks am I pleasing you?  Do I love my neighbor as myself?   Do I really?  Will you be able to say to me “Well done my good and faithful servant”?  Will you say it?  Will I deserve it?   Oh, Father why am I not the child in the pictures with the swollen stomach whose equally weak mother brushes away flies from my near lifeless eyes….

So how do I thank you father?  Do I thank you in eating myself so full I must rest?  Am I honoring you?  And are there ways I can still honor you?  Father, what can I do? 

When I thank you for the food I will eat tomorrow will I be really pleasing you Father?  Will you look down on us and say well done? 

Oh Father in this season that starts tomorrow help me find some way each day to help someone…  so I can thank you for the opportunity… help me to feed the hungry… help me to clothe the naked…. help me find homes for the homeless…. Help me to find a way each day to do something that will help someone…. to love them as I love myself… for in that is true Thanksgiving…. giving with thanks for what we have been given.  

I lay here on the couch with the little dog laying on my chest feeling so blessed but also feeling that I have been given much and so I must give much… as I’ve done before to find that there was great joy in giving freely and without reservation.  

Please dear Father give me a thankful heart filled with

thankfulness and grace…..