Happy Mother’s Day!

May 12, 2017

Mothers have a tremendous influence on our lives. Francis Xavier said, “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterwards.” It may be hard to believe those squirming bundles of energy are learning life lessons, but they are. Mothers are on the front lines of shaping lives. We learn some of our very first moral and spiritual lessons from our mothers. We learn some of our most lasting moral and spiritual lessons from our mothers.

The Bible teaches the importance of parents with some passages that focus on mothers.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Ephesians 6:1-3, ESV

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 2 Timothy 1:5, ESV

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15, ESV

My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. Proverbs 6:20-22, ESV

Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice. Proverbs 23:22-25, ESV

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. Proverbs 31:28-31, ESV

I hope that you have a wonderful Mother’s Day. May we rise up and call mothers blessed!


A Special Mother

May 6, 2016

It’s mind boggling: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14, ESV). The Son of God “emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being made in the likeness of men and being found in the appearance as a man” (Philippians 2:7). All of that meant being born as an infant to a human mother.

Have you or your spouse ever tried to think of who you would like to raise your children, if both of you were to die in an accident? Selecting someone is a difficult and awesome task, because you not only think of the physical needs of the child, but the emotional and spiritual needs as well. That leads me to believe that Mary had to be a very special mother to have the privilege of giving birth and raising the Messiah.

We know so little about Mary, but the few glimpses of her that we have are revealing. She was a woman of faith. When the angel, Gabriel, announced to her that she would give birth even though a virgin and that “nothing will be impossible with God.” She responded in faith, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, ESV). Consider the risk! She was engaged, but not yet married. To fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 involved an incredible burden. Can you imagine Joseph’s first response? But God was with her. An angel of the Lord appearing in a dream convinced Joseph.

We see glimpses of Mary practicing her faith. Mary and Joseph appear in the temple for the appropriate offerings following Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:22-24). Mary would have been ceremonially unclean the first seven days following the birth, and then Jesus would have been circumcised on the eighth day. After that she would continue for 33 days as days of purification. Following the days of purification, they would travel to Jerusalem with the newborn. Later, when Jesus is twelve, we see the family traveling to Jerusalem for Passover. Mary practiced her faith.

Mary’s hymn of praise (Luke 1:46-55) betrays a great familiarity with God’s word. Many note comparisons with Hannah’s prayer (1 Samuel 2). God’s word was treasured in her heart.

Mary did the mundane and daily tasks of raising a child: preparing meals, washing clothes, sweeping the floor, and giving the care and comfort that only a mother can give. Mothers shape character and instill principles to live by in those teachable moments. Mary’s spiritual concern shows her to be a special mother. She demonstrates the most important quality that any mother can have.

Today is a great day to say thank you to your own special mother!


The Legacy of Ruth

May 7, 2015

The Book of Ruth is a genealogy with a narrative preface. The genealogy belongs to King David with David being the last word in the book. The narrative explains how a Moabite woman came to be in the genealogy of Israel’s king. Despite her nationality, Ruth was a remarkable woman, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

The book is never shy about calling her a Moabite. Her name occurs twelve times in the book and five times it is in the phrase “Ruth the Moabite,” and in the first occurence she is identified as a Moabite. Her nationality, however, did not determine her faith. Ruth was a convert: “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16c). Boaz acknowledged that she had taken refuge under the wings of Yahweh, the God of Israel (Ruth 2:12). Ruth was a woman of faith.

We live in a culture that often emphasizes outer beauty, and the standards of that outward beauty are so unreal that even models are photoshopped. In comparison, we have no physical descriptions of Ruth, but we are told of her inner beauty. Boaz praised her as “a worthy woman,” and acknowledged that the community knew this as well (3:11). This is the same word used to describe the virtuous wife of Proverbs 31:10. The NET Bible’s footnote in Proverbs 31:10 explains the word’s use in this passage and in Ruth 3:11. It has to do with moral worth and virtue. Ruth was a woman of virtue.

The antithesis of Ruth is Orpah, Ruth’s sister-in-law. When given an out by Naomi to look out for herself, she took it and abandoned Naomi. Ruth, on the other hand, modeled loyal love. This was no sentimentality or fleeting feeling. Ruth demonstrated loyalty and unfailing kindness in her actions. When the decision was made to return to Bethlehem and leave Moab, Ruth went. When the two women needed food, Ruth labored in the field as a gleaner. When Boaz provided her with a midday meal, Ruth saved leftovers for Naomi. When talk of a kinsman redeemer took place, she trusted Naomi and then Boaz. Ruth was a woman of love.

Ruth was a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She is in the family tree that produces “a man after God’s own heart” — David. Raising children is a labor-intensive, hands-on project. Society will be blessed with mothers who also model faith, virtue, and love. This was the legacy of Ruth.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Praise and Thanks to Mothers

May 9, 2014

Anna Jarvis worked for a national Mother’s Day by starting a letter-writing campaign. Jarvis’s own mother had expressed a hope that a day to commemorate mothers would be established. Two years after her mother had died, Jarvis began her campaign. In 1914, Congress passed the legislation designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Many other countries have a special day for mothers although the date varies from country to country.

Giving thanks and praise to mothers has biblical roots. Proverbs contains the beautiful poem on the excellent woman (31:10-31). The poem depicts a grateful husband and children praising this excellent woman:

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done excellently,
but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands,
and let her works praise her in the gates.” (Proverbs 31:28–31, ESV)

Recently, someone drew my attention to Orations XVIII written in A.D. 374 by Gregory Nazianzus. The speech is for the funeral of Gregory’s father, but he praises his mother because she preceded his father in the faith and influenced him to the faith. He wrote:

She is a woman who while others have been honoured and extolled for natural and artificial beauty, has acknowledged but one kind of beauty, that of the soul, and the preservation, or the restoration as far as possible, of the Divine image…. The only genuine form of noble birth she recognized is piety, and the knowledge of whence we are sprung and whither we are tending…. To as great a degree has she, by her care and skill, secured the prosperity of her household, according to the injunctions and laws of Solomon as to the valiant woman, as if she had had no knowledge of piety; and she applied herself to God and Divine things as closely as if absolutely released from household cares, allowing neither branch of her duty to interfere with the other, but rather making each of them support the other.

Fitting on any day, but especially on Mother’s Day, is praise and thanks to mothers.


“Let Her Works Praise Her”

May 10, 2013

It may be announced with morning sickness, that odd juxtaposition of joy and suffering which characterizes so much of motherhood. The expectant mother’s body changes as this new life grows inside her. The girlish figure becomes matronly (this word’s etymology has “mother” in it by the way). “Do I look fat?” she may ask. There may be cravings and eating for two. But there is also the first kick, the sound of another’s heartbeat, and the modern first baby picture — a sonogram.

The current word is labor; the archaic word is travail. Both could be used of ordinary work emphasizing the difficulty and pain of such activities. Both are apt for describing the process of giving birth. Hours of contractions are indeed labor and travail. But the pain gives way to great joy when a child enters the world and is laid in a mother’s arms.

“Bundle of joy” is frequently the way we refer to a newborn. As in, John and Jane took their bundle of joy home from the hospital. It is a much catchier phrase than “bundle of work” or “bundle of sleepless nights” or “bundle of frequent diaper changes” or “bundle of every four hour feedings.” And yet, a cooing baby snuggled in your arms is more precious than much labor and missed sleep. Bundle of joy is the right phrase.

Childhood is filled with wonder — the first word, the first steps, and oh so many other firsts. What a joy to see the world through a child’s eyes. Yet, there is also a battle of wills. Francis Xavier said, “Give me the children until they are seven and anyone may have them afterwards.” The quote reflects that a child learns morality at a very early age, and modern research has confirmed Xavier’s intuition. We often learn our first and best lessons about right and wrong from our mothers. She may teach us about God and prayer. The training and disciplining of a child is not an easy task, but to the consistent and diligent there is great reward.

We bring this bundle of joy so close to our hearts to raise and to let go. It is not surprising to see a mother shed tears as she drives away from the first dorm room, apartment, or deployment. She may cry at your wedding. Because no matter what else may be true, you will always be her baby.

Motherhood is a labor intensive task. Children cannot be mass produced into moral, productive adults. If you had a loving mother, you are blessed; if you also had a godly mother, you received the greatest blessing of all. The work of mothers deserves our thanks and our praise (Proverbs 31:28-31). “… and let her works praise her in the gates.”