"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" --Proverbs 31:30
Well, I've not been a very good blogger lately! No, I did not disappear altogether. Pastoring a church and teaching the final weeks of an overload of history courses this past month (capped off by grading 100 exams in a week) consumed all of my time. Not that anyone was waiting breathlessly for my next devotional reflection, but I do see this space as a ministry opportunity that the Lord has given me. And I haven't been very faithful or consistent in that ministry recently. If you would like to hear what I have been writing each week to share with our church--think of it as a longer, audible devotional reflection--all of my sermons may be found on the free version of Spotify. Just download the app and type "Trier Ridge Community Church" into the search box. A brand new church website is also about to go live (not yet, but soon) at trierridge.org--and you will find a link to the sermons and this devotional blog there.
Of course, tomorrow is Mother's Day--which has led me to think of the important mothers who have shaped and molded my life. At the top of the list is my wife, Janet, the mother of the two sons whom God gave me almost 26 years ago. I am grateful for her every day and her compassionate, loving and serving heart--especially for her children. She is beautiful in so many ways, but, most importantly, as the verse at the beginning of the devotional declares, she is to be praised because she is devoted to the Lord. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Lord continues to use her to mother not only her family but to mentor and encourage the countless children who have come through her elementary school classrooms over the years!
My mind and my heart also drift toward thoughts of my own mother who went to be with the Lord almost 13 years ago in August of 2010. I would like to go back into the archives and share with you a devotional I wrote at that time memorializing Mom as the devotional reflection to be posted today. Hopefully, it will honor her as well as offer Scriptural encouragement to those of us who are trying to be the best parents we can be.
"Mom always joked that we could use Proverbs 31 in her funeral service "if I was good enough." Proverbs 31, starting in verse 10, is the passage of Scripture that describes a godly woman. I was looking it over tonight and realized that my Mom was "good enough" to merit the comparison to this Scripture.
Proverbs 31:25 describes a godly woman as one who is "clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." My Mom was always a lady--very dignified, and those who knew her recognized this. But she also knew how to laugh, even in the face of tremendous pain and heartache. A sister of mine was killed in a truck accident at the age of 19--and Mom learned over time how to deal with even this kind of tragedy in a way that was redemptive. Our final days together were filled with laughter. In fact, Mom insisted that all crying be done out in the hallway; only laughter was to be heard in her room. One day I was alone with her and she groaned, seemingly in pain. When I asked her what was wrong, she said "Fooled you, didn't I!" It made me laugh even though the situation was so grave.
Mom could laugh at the days to come because she had a strong relationship with Jesus Christ. In Proverbs 31:30, King Solomon wrote, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." In the face of death, I can tell you that Mom had no fear of it. I never once heard her complain or ask God "why." She had no anxiety but instead was the picture of peace. Why? Because she had faith. Not intellectual belief, not once a week "Churchianity," but real, concrete, practical, "walk through the pain of life and fires of hell" faith. In Proverbs 31:15, Solomon notes that a godly woman "gets up while it is still dark" and my Mom did that. Every morning at 4:00 a.m., she was on her treadmill, praying for her family and having long conversations with the Lord. She read her Bible faithfully and often engaged me in spirited discussions of the Scripture. I know that, given where Mom is now, she would want everyone reading this devotional to share in the same kind of faith and the same type of relationship with Jesus that she enjoyed.
Finally, in Proverbs 31:20, Solomon wrote that a godly woman "opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy." My mother lived in Columbia City (20 miles to the west of Fort Wayne) and she was known as the "nursing home" lady there because she visited so many people in these places over the years. She even asked to spend her last days in one of the nursing homes that she often visited and you could tell from how the staff took care of her that they loved her. Even as she was dying, she was concerned about other people--making sure, for example, that my wife Janet had a card from her on Janet's birthday. She didn't want small children to visit her after awhile because she didn't want them to be scared by looking at her. When asked by his pastor for the one adjective that described Mom above all others, my father said "caring." She gave her life away because her Lord came to serve, not to be served. And Mom wanted to imitate that example--as should we all.
Mom was laughing one day about how uncomfortable people could be when they came to visit her. She told us that when she got to heaven, she was going to ask the Lord if she could come back and write a book about what to say and what to do when someone is dying. I think that if she asked God this, He said, "There is no need for you to go back and write the book, Betsy, you showed them how to do it this past five weeks." Mom's favorite Scripture verse was Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." My mother has realized the hope upon which she staked her life and is now enjoying prosperity beyond imagination. And for that, I praise the Lord Jesus Christ!
Heavenly Father, thank You so much for my Mom and the gift she was to all of us. Thank You for the example you made of her life for me and for all who knew her. Give us all the kind of faith that will allow us to embrace pain and even death if necessary with a quiet confidence born of trust in You and Your never ending love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.