Archive for Mother’s Day

Here’s a helpful article that is worthy of pastors’ attention about the struggles of motherhood and the challenge that churches face in meeting their needs. It’s by Dr. Heather Thompson Day, associate professor at Colorado Christian University. You can read the article at the following link:

I appreciate Day’s research about the stress levels of mothers, single mothers, and working mothers. The pressures and demands of being a mother become more complex with each generation of children. While Day appeals to churches to provide support to mothers, she stops short of offering some practical suggestions. Here’s what I would offer that is practical and tangible, based on my experiences as a pastor.

  1. Lay Off the Obligation to Volunteer in Children’s Ministry. Our mother’s and grandmother’s all took their turns working in the church nursery, teaching Sunday School, and volunteering for VBS. They did their duty and did their time, and now expect the 21st century mothers to do the same. But the world has changed. Many of those same mothers and grandmothers didn’t work outside the home nor face the pressures of modern day parenting schedules. I remember one parent who told me, in so many words, if they had to watch their own kids when they came to church they “just as well stay at home.”
  2. Lay Off the Proverbs 31 Ideal. Many mothers place enough expectations upon themselves with out a pastor (usually male) pointing out Proverbs 31 as the model of perfect motherhood. Yes, the Proverbs 31 woman could do it all, and by my observation, many of today’s moms are already trying to do it all, including meeting the additional expectations they feel from other moms in the PTA or the weekly play group.
  3. Lay Off the Lip Service to Reaching Young Families. If you want to young families, make a commitment to reaching them. Don’t just talk the talk, walk the walk. Create environments and contexts where young parents can be with each other, sans kids. Provide occasional date night opportunities for parents by offering child care so they can catch their breath. You can do the same in early December so parents can Christmas shop together for their kids.
  4. Lay Off the Sports Guilt. I’m old enough to remember “blue laws,” which virtually shut communities down on Sundays. Stores, gas stations, and even restaurants were closed on Sunday so that local churches had the market cornered one full day each week. That ship has sailed. Even Wednesday nights, a night once respected by local school districts is off the table. Whether we agree with it or not, parents are going to provide their children every opportunity to learn and grow possible, including sports and the fine arts. Whether we agree with it or not, sports and fine arts are going to schedule practices, games and performances on Wednesdays and Sundays. Whether we agree with it or not, parents are going to choose those practices, games and performances over church activities. I learned a long time ago that I’m not going to win that battle. I also learned I wasn’t going to judge or criticize parents who made the choices they made. Nothing is to be gained by invalidating a young family’s Christian commitment just because their kids play soccer on Sunday morning. So instead of judging them, celebrate them. Encourage older congregants to attend kids sporting and fine arts events. Make your presence known to them where they are, not just when they are on the church’s campus.
  5. Lay Off the Guessing Game. One of my pet peeves of church leadership is the insistence that they can sit in a room and discern how to meet the needs of mothers, fathers and young families. But if truth be told, they’re just guessing at it. Or worse, they plan as if they’ve read the latest and greatest book released on the subject by the guru of the day who lives in a different geography. There is not magic formula for reaching young families. So maybe church staffs need to quit guessing and actually talk to the mothers and fathers. No, I’m serious. Ask them. And then listen. What they have to say may not be in your church’s program or schedule, but that’s ok. You really don’t have to guess any more. And if you can discern what the needs actually are, who knows? They might be more prone to invite and bring their friends along. The gymnasium you’re thinking will help you actually may be for naught. What moms or dads may prefer is a mentoring relationship with an empty nester who has already walked where they’re walking.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Today is Mother’s Day, and for the first time I am not able to call, visit, or even send flowers to my mom. She died in January following a two week battle with COVID-19. I am sad that she suffered, and sad that her family could not be at her bedside to provide comfort and care. But I am thankful that she is not lost, for I know exactly where she is. She is in heaven, reunited with her parents, her brothers, and her husband. Most of all, she is in the presence of her Lord, who she faithfully served her entire life.

Today I reflect on her life and influence. Many of these remembrances bring a smile to my face. I remember the pace and tempo of her life…church attendance on Sunday…laundry on Monday…ironing on Tuesday…church again on Wednesday…beauty shop on Friday…grocery store and lunch at her parents on Saturday…EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. Each day was organized around an inflexible meal schedule. Breakfast, dinner and supper times were established in stone and never varied, eliminating the question, “When do we eat?” The food was always good, thanks in part to the folgers can of bacon grease on the stove. She made all of her desserts from scratch. Annual seasons were defined by planting, harvesting and canning fresh vegetables from the garden, all according to The Farmer’s Almanac. During the winter months she made hand made quilts, twelve stitches per inch. Life was simple and structured.

My fondest memory today is the memory of my mother’s encouragement for me to read. Her education never surpassed her high school diploma, but she was an avid reader. We didn’t have money for “extras,” but some how she found the money to buy books for me to read. She taught me to read books, love books, and care for books. Because of her (and Amazon) I continue to be a buyer and reader of books. Lots and lots of them! No e-reader for me!

But the best book she ever purchased for me was a Bible, given to me for Christmas in 1982. I still have it, and from time to time read the fly leaf which bore the admonition, “always keep Jesus in your life.” This particular Bible was instrumental in my call to vocational ministry. It was the first Bible that I read seriously as I went to Bible college. It was the Bible I preached my first sermon from, titled, “The Master Prayer of the Christian,” based on Matthew 6:10. Appropriately, it is the Bible I used to deliver her funeral sermon. It’s hard to believe I’ve had that Bible for nearly 40 years. One might assume that I associate my love for the Bible with my father, who served as a pastor for 60 plus years. But I don’t. When I think of the Bible and its influence, I readily attribute it to her.

My mom wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But what she did, she did well and to the best of her ability. Most importantly, she taught me to be Jesus centric. And that’s not nothing.

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I am married to the greatest woman I have ever known. She also happens to be your mother. For years I have taught people about the grace of God, but I understand God’s grace most clearly when I see you mom and realize that I don’t deserve her, for she is far greater than anyone I deserve. Your mom is beautiful, both inside and out, and is easily the best person I know. I suspect that is your belief as well.

I am thankful that your mom showed you the importance of having a relationship with Christ. I may have been the one who baptized you, but your mom is the one who led you to faith in Christ. She is the one that was committed to teach you all of those Bible stories and she taught you the value of knowing and loving Jesus.

I am grateful for your mom because she was always more interested in your character than your accomplishments. I was the one who was concerned about awards, achievements and accolades. Your mom was always more interested in your character. She wanted and continues to want you to be a person of good character.

I also appreciate that your mom was the one who was committed to making sure that you served and valued others. Remember all of those things you did to serve at church when you were younger? Unloading and loading tubs? Backyard Bible Clubs? Mission trips? She knew that it was important that you didn’t just say you loved your neighbor. She wanted you to experience ways that you could tangibly love your neighbor through actively serving them, regardless of who they were or where they were in life.

She also encouraged you to pursue your passions. When you were young, she exposed you to countless opportunities from soccer to karate. She took you to all kinds of places to broaden your learning and experiences. If you showed an interest in something, she encouraged you to explore it. And when you discovered your talents and developed your gifts she riotously cheered you on. She continues to be your greatest cheerleader and advocate.

Your mom has been and continues to be the glue that keeps us all together. She’s the one who keeps us on the rails when we want to leave the tracks. She’s the one that has helped us know what matters and what counts. Any values we have that are worthwhile have been established by her steady, loving hand.

I’m most grateful that your mother has loved me. Everyone in every church I have served has esteemed me in ways that are beyond who I really am. You have seen me on good days and bad. You know the unvarnished me, the me I am when I am at home out of the spotlight. Your mom knows me even more than you, and she unconditionally and sacrificially loves me in the midst of who I am and what I am. If you love me, and I know you do, its because your mom has has shown you how to do it.

Our family isn’t perfect. None are, I suppose. But deep down I know we wouldn’t trade each other for anyone else in the world. And we can all thank your mom for that.

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American mothers are stressed and work and home, exhausted and generally overcommitted. Yet Barna Research reports that American moms are generally more satisfied than you might suspect. Check out their findings HERE.

Categories : Mother's Day, Parenting
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Psalm 128

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Since this weekend was Mother’s Day, I spoke on the family from Psalm 128. As far as I can recall, I’ve never used this text for a sermon, but was amazed at how it spoke to my life as I began poking around in it. The key to the Psalm is verse 1, which reads, “How happy is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways” (Psalm 128:1, HCSB).

One of the things I discovered is that the word “happy” is in the plural. Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have a system of superlative language (e.g. good, better, best), so when a Old Testament writer wanted to emphasize or strengthen a word he would simply put it in the plural, as if to say “happy, happy, happy is everyone who fears the Lord…” Some translations use the word “blessed” in verse one, which reminded me of the parallel nature of true happiness and and the blessing of the Lord.

David, who wrote this Psalm, laid down two conditions for being happy and blessed. The first condition is that the fear of the Lord must be the center of one’s life. Scientists tell us that our solar system is composed of one star, nine planets (or eight if you buy into the new supposition regarding Pluto), 32 moons, about 100,000 asteroids and comets beyond calculation. The thing that holds our solar system together is the sun. Everything revolves and orbits around that epicenter. What is the center of your life? Who is the center of your life? When the fear of the Lord is absent from our lives we become enslaved to lesser fears. If the fear of the Lord is central to our lives, everything takes its appropriate place and we experience happiness and blessing.

The second condition is that our lives must have an established circumference. Verse 128:1 continues, “How happy is everyone…who walks in his ways.” At the center of life is the fear of the Lord. At the circumference of life is the Word of God. The Scripture sets forth the boundaries of our lives. We must draw the line where God draws the line. Anytime we go out of bounds, we experience fear, guilt, sorrow and pain.

At the center is the fear of the Lord. At the circumference is the Word of God. When we get the center and the circumference right, we can experience true happiness and the four fold blessing of God described in 128:2-4. More on that tomorrow.

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