Happy Mother’s Day with Honor

red roses close up photography

Some mothers look forward each year to gifts, cards, phone calls or other expressions of appreciation, while others, though they may not say so, are disappointed year after year as their sacrificial love and efforts go seemingly unnoticed.  With the threat of covid-19 still imposing isolation and social distancing, who knows what Mother’s Day celebrations will look like this year?  Whether yours is over the top or not so great, I’d  like to share with you a few thoughts on the subject.

First of all, God honors mothers.   How happy our Mother’s Day would be if we could grasp the meaning of those three words: “God honors mothers.”   He made it plain when He gave the first commandment with a promise, “Honor your father and your mother, so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”   Jesus made the message plainer still when He soundly rebuked as hypocrites those who broke the command,  so they could ignore the needs of their parents.   Plainest of all is the honor Jesus bestowed on Mary when He was hanging on the cross and at the point of death: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”  From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19: 26-27).  God doesn’t require anything of us that He Himself doesn’t do: God honors mothers.  And just so we know what that means, here are some biblical definitions of the word “honor”:  to glorify or make glorious; to prize, revere, value or esteem.  Go ahead, choose the one you like, and celebrate what God thinks of you!

Another thought comes from  Isaiah 49: 15-16…

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!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

What a beautiful picture of motherhood and  the mother heart of God!  Nurturing and compassionate, attentive to the point of being unable to forget her baby: that is how God sees mothers, and that is how He wants us to see Him.  In fact, just like God is the best father,  in this vivid metaphor He reveals that He is also the best mother.  He invented motherhood, and all the good and godly qualities of a mother come from Him .  We portray His image as His heart beats with ours in love and concern for our children.

My final thought for Mother’s Day is a word of caution to us all:  Looking to motherhood to gain significance, value, or fulfillment in life is a sure way to find disappointment and disillusionment, not to mention unhappy family relationships.  Children, regardless of age,  can’t bear the burden of expectations that only Jesus can fill.

So, dear mother, I pass these thoughts on to you with an invitation to join me in celebrating (alone, if need be) the gift of motherhood.  From God’s heart to mine to yours, Happy Mother’s Day with Honor!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potsherds, Broken Hearts & God’s Economy

white gemstones

 And Job took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.  – Job 2:8

 If your heart has ever been broken by some form of  rejection, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, or some other act of oppression that left you feeling both powerless and comfortless,  these lines are for you.

The other day I heard someone say, “I must be useful for something.”  I heard the words, but I also heard the deep cry to be useful as well as the accusing doubt that somehow they weren’t useful.  It caught my attention because I’ve been there, and since it’s possible that you have too, I’d like to share a vivid picture that often comes to mind when I’m struggling with low self-worth and accusing doubt.

Job was a blameless and upright man whom God allowed Satan to afflict with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  In agony, sitting on a heap of ashes to express his sorrow,  Job took a potsherd to scrape himself.

What is a potsherd?  Quite simply, it’s broken pottery, as some versions of the Bible translate.  There are about seven verses in the Bible that mention potsherds, and it’s fascinating to see how they are described.  Say these words aloud and listen to them: jagged, dried up, earthenware, shattered, pieces, fragment .  Have you ever felt like some or even all of those words apply to you?  Do you feel jagged, not smooth, unrefined?  Do you hear accusations that say you are dried up?  One commentator defines a potsherd as “a thing worthless and insignificant”: do you see yourself like that, mere earthenware in a world of beautiful, strong vessels?  Does your heart relate to descriptors like shattered, pieces, or fragments?   I trust you don’t see yourself as a potsherd all the time, but if we’re  honest, I think most of us experience days when we’re on the ash heap.

There’s more for us to glean from this picture of Job.  In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. He uses who or what is available.  Remember the five loaves and two fish?  The disciples told Jesus, “We have here only five loaves and two fish,” then they saw what Jesus did with only:  five thousand men, plus women and children ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of  leftovers!  God uses small things that we may consider worthless and insignificant: what about Moses’ rod?  What about a young boy killing a giant with the first of only five stones?  What about Jael, the Bedouin lady who killed the commander of the enemy’s army by hammering a tent peg through his temple? What about the prostitute who saved the Israelite spies and her family by putting a scarlet cord in her window?  So many examples..

What about the potsherd that Job used to scrape his painful sores?  I rejoice that even a broken piece of pottery is useful!  A jagged and shattered fragment it may be  – seemingly worthless and insignificant –  but it can bring relief and comfort to an afflicted blameless man.  If a potsherd is useful in God’s economy (Kingdom), surely, even in our brokenness, you and I are useful; and just as surely as God was with Job throughout his affliction and blessed the latter part of his life more than the beginning, so He is with us to bring us up from the ash heap to a place of wholeness and blessing where we are useful to God as potsherds or any other way He chooses.  He won’t waste our pain!

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

  • Psalms 34:18

 

 

The Towel

hoto by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

rolled gray towel in closeup photo

The Towel

“Now, that I your Lord and Teacher

Have washed your feet,

you also should wash one another’s feet.

I have set you an example

That you should do

As I have done for you…

Now that you know these things,

You will be blessed if you do them.”

Jesus was facing death.

He could have been all wrapped up

In Himself and what was to come,

But He chose to show “the full extent of  his love,”

And wrapped a towel around His waist instead.

His message then is the same now:

“Serve those you love, and I will bless you.

Wear a towel.”

 

I wrote these lines based on John 13:1-17 for a friend on the occasion of her birthday eighteen years ago.   “Strange birthday greeting!” you may say,   but I think these lines  are for me and you this Easter as they bid us  go beyond remembering  to following Christ’s example.   Whatever our taste in clothing,  however full or empty our wardrobe, when we dress for the day, no outfit is complete without the accessory of choice – the towel of servant love.

 

T

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Bunnies

rabbit chocolate

People who take their writing seriously write – when they feel like it and when they don’t feel like it.  I haven’t felt like it these past months., because I’ve been inundated with Bible studies.  But when a friend suggested this morning that I post a blog today, I felt convicted.

Easter is coming, and my mind takes me back to an Easter Sunday morning nearly twenty years ago.  I gathered the children around me on the platform in our little country church with the intention of teaching everyone an object lesson.  The lesson came across loud and clear, but as it turned out, I wasn’t the teacher.

The objects were two chocolate Easter bunnies of the ordinary variety – about seven inches (13 cm) high and looking very much alike –  but one was solid milk chocolate, and the other was hollow.  We passed them around the circle, each child taking time to examine both bunnies.  When we finished, I asked the children to share their comments, and one little guy, pointing to the hollow bunny, yelled out, “That one’s got no guts!” Rounds of laughter filled the house as we talked briefly about how we can look like one thing and be another;  deciding unanimously that for those who like milk chocolate, solid is the way to go.

Now, let me take you where my thoughts go when I remember that day: when it comes to being God’s child, may He and those around me find that I’m the kind that’s got guts!

Happy Easter,  chocolate bunnies!

 

 

“Do You Love Me?

belief bible book business
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently caught a snippet of a radio broadcast featuring an interview with several men who were asked which holiday or special celebration of the year they enjoyed most and least.  The men were obviously American, since Thanksgiving was at the top of their list, because it includes football!  There were varying opinions on Halloween and Christmas, but what caught my attention was the general agreement that Valentine’s Day is the worst day of the year for men.  They didn’t say it this way, but along with having to shop for cards and gifts, and arranging special dates, many men feel it’s a day for women that leaves men with their pockets picked!  Most of all, men don’t relate to the warm fuzzy feelings that women call love.  The little I heard, though not surprising and perhaps stereotypical, made me think.  What is love?

Peter came to mind.  Jesus had been arrested, and while He was being questioned by the High Priest, Peter denied three times that he knew Him.  After His resurrection, Jesus appears to Peter and six other disciples while they are fishing.  Jesus prepares breakfast for them and then turns to Peter and asks him three versions of the same question, “Do you love me?”  Each time Peter strongly affirms, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” to which Jesus replies, “Feed my lambs…Take care of my sheep…Feed my sheep.”  Jesus wanted Peter to show His love by doing something – by obeying Him.

John 14 records Jesus teaching about love in general terms that include you and me: “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me…and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

Love isn’t warm fuzzy feelings that make men dread Valentine’s Day, or, as I’ve been given to understand,  that make men stay away from church. Don’t get me wrong, girls, there’s nothing wrong with warm fuzzy feelings, but the bottom line for all of us is that love is obeying Jesus, and He says, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Love isn’t primarily a feeling;  it’s an action – doing what Jesus says, whether it’s for Him or others –  and whether or not we have warm fuzzy feelings!   The question Jesus asked Peter still begs to be answered today:  “Do you love me?”

 

 

Boldly

man wearing blue crew neck t shirt holding girl near mountains

I awoke with anxiety.  I didn’t know whence it came,  but it was definitely there – a tight knot in my lower abdomen.  I knew God was the answer and all I had to do was pray,  but words didn’t come easily.  Then I thought of David’s example in many of the Psalms.  He didn’t wait to formulate a beautiful ACTS prayer – beginning with Adoration, followed by Confession and Thanksgiving, and ending with Supplications; rather, pushing past the how-to’s that seem to work better when all is well,  David rushed unceremoniously into the throne room of his Helper:

Save me, O God… Psalm 54

Listen to my prayer,  O God… Psalm 55

Be merciful to me,  my God… Psalm 56

Deliver me from my enemies… Psalm 59

Then, almost as inexplicable as the anxiety itself, out of my innermost being and into my anxious thoughts came God’s living word – Hebrews 4:16, which I had memorized years before:

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,

that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

“Come boldly…throne of grace…obtain mercy…find grace…help in time of need.” As one might do when tasting an exotic dessert too delicious to swallow,  I rolled the words around and over the anxiety within me, savouring their power and promise, reading them in context and realizing afresh that “therefore” refers to the fact that Jesus our high priest is touched with the feeling of our infirmities and was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.   Release came.  My response spilled into a simple poem:

Boldly

No pretty prayers to offer

a desperate child

wailing

running, tripping, calling Your Name

Eyes wide, arms outstretched

 gasping

words jumbling, tumbling out

 unintelligible

 

Bending down,  lifting me up

You listen

You understand

You help

This time and every time

Dear reader, do you suffer from anxiety?  Does it catch you unawares?  Does it invade your sleep or darken your days?  Your experience may not be the same as  the one I’ve shared, but I pray that these few lines will encourage you to run BOLDLY to God to find help in your time of need.

 

 

 

 

The Place or The Way?

one way road sign and empty staircase

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t concerned about knowing the will of God for my life.  I think it was born and bred in me by my parents, who were new Christians, then nourished by a small but strong church with a vision for missions.  However it came about, I have always had a deep desire to know where God wanted me to be and what He wanted me to be doing.  I received fresh light on this matter as I was recently reading John 14.

Jesus told His disciples, 

 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going. 

Obviously, the “place” and the “where” are very important.  Jesus is revealing His plans, His will for the disciples (and, yes, even for us), but when He assures them that they know the way, they are bewildered. Thomas spoke for all of them when  he argued,

Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?

Jesus’ reply came as the one, simple, yet complete answer to all my questions about knowing His will and where I should be or what I should be doing”:

I am the way…

I suddenly realized that I don’t need to know the “place” (the specific will of God),  I just need the Way.   As He leads me, His plans and purposes will unfold, and together we will arrive at the place(s) He has for me.

Jesus, the Way, this word has taken a huge load off my mind; may it find a permanent resting place in my spirit!