1500) “Mean” Parents

By Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) in If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?, 1978.  Bombeck wrote about homemaking, motherhood, and marriage.  Her syndicated column, “At Wit’s End,” appeared in more than 900 newspapers.  She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Bestsellers List.

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July 2, 1984 Time magazine cover

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Many kids think they have mean mothers.  Some mothers are mean.  But many times, what is percieved by children to be meaness is, of course, deep and tender parental love that is merely insisting on necessary boundaries and limits.  Erma Bombeck describes such love in this little piece called “A Mother’s Love.”

Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother, I’ll tell them…

I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would get home.

I loved you enough to insist you buy a bike, that we could afford to give you, with your own money.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover your hand picked friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your bedroom, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to make you return a Milky-Way– with a bite out of it– to the drug store and to confess “I stole this.”

I loved you enough to say, “Yes, you can go to Disney World on Mother’s Day.”

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust, and tears in my eyes.

I loved you enough not to make excuses for your lack of respect or your bad manners.

I loved you enough to admit that I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness.

I loved you enough to ignore “what every other mother” did or said.

I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall, hurt, and fail.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your own actions, at 6, 10, or 16.

I loved you enough to figure you would lie about the party being chaperoned, but forgave you for it… after discovering I was right.

I loved you enough to shove you off my lap, let go of your hand, be mute to your pleas and insensitive to your demands… so that you had to stand alone.

I loved you enough to accept you for what you are, and not what I wanted you to be.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘No’ when you hated me for it.  That was the hardest part of all.”

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MORE FROM ERMA BOMBECK:

Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen?  Three.  It takes one to say ‘What light?’ and two more to say ‘I didn’t turn it on.’

Insanity is hereditary.  You can catch it from your kids.

Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.

In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds.  I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.

Sometimes I can’t figure designers out.  It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.

When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it’s a mere formality.  It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no.  You’re going to get it anyway.

A child needs your love most when he deserves it least.

I brought children into this lousy, mixed-up world because when you love someone and they love you back, the world doesn’t look that lousy or seem that mixed up.

Grandparenthood is one of life’s rewards for surviving your own children.

You show me a boy who brings a snake home to his mother and I’ll show you an orphan.

When the going gets tough, the tough make cookies.

Don’t confuse fame with success.  Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.

The other night my husband took me to dinner.  We were having a wonderful time when he remarked, “You can certainly tell the wives from the sweethearts.”  I stopped licking the stream of butter dripping down my elbow and replied, “What kind of crack is that?”

If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.  

Laugh now, cry later.

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Bill and Erma Bombeck family, 1958

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Proverbs 12:24b  —   The one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Proverbs 3:11-12  —  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father discplines the son he delights in.

Proverbs 22:6  —  Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

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A PRAYER FOR THE FAMILY:

Almighty God, according to thy mercy relieve our distress and sorrow.  In thy goodness, spare us and our children.  Grant that in our homes we may keep and foster thy heavenly Word.  O thou who art good, kind, and bountiful, have compassion on us.  Grant us the necessities of daily life and keep our families securely in thy care, so that we may honor you forever and ever.  Amen.

–Philip Melancthon, reformer (1497-1560)

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1494) So Soon

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“When Did I Become the Mother and the Mother Become the Child?” by housewife, mother, and author Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), from her 1971 book If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?  

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     A nuclear physicist once figured out that if a woman has a baby when she is twenty years old, she is (about) twenty times as old as that baby.  When the baby is twenty years of age and the mother is forty, she is only twice as old as the child.  When the baby is sixty and the mother is eighty, she is only one-and-a-third times as old as the child.  When will the baby catch up with the mother?  When indeed.

     Does it begin the night when you are asleep and your mother is having a restless night and you go into her room and tuck the blanket around her bare arms?  Does it appear one afternoon when, in a moment of irritation, you snap, “How can I give you a permanent in your hair if you won’t sit still?  If you don’t care how you look, I do!”  (My God, is that an echo?)  Or did it come the rainy afternoon when you were driving home from the store and you slammed on your brakes and your arms sprang protectively between her and the windshield, and your eyes met with a knowing, sad look? (NOTE:  This was written in 1971.  Not many people bothered to wear seat belts back then, so on sudden stops, parents would have to put out their arm to prevent their child (who was standing on the front seat) from going through the windshield.)

     The transition comes slowly, as it began between her and her mother.  The changing of power.  The transferring of responsibility.  The passing down of duty.  Suddenly you are spewing out the familiar phrases learned at the knee of your mother.

     “Of course you’re sick.  Don’t you think I know when you’re not feeling well?  I’ll be over to pick you up and take you to the doctor around eleven.  And be ready!”

     “So where’s your sweater?  You know how cold the stores get with the air conditioning.  The last thing you need is a cold.”

     “You look nice today.  Didn’t I tell you you’d like that dress?  The other one made you look too old.  No sense looking old before you have to.”

     “Do you have to go to the bathroom before we go?  You know what a big deal it is at the doctor’s, asking for the key and walking all the way down that long corridor.  Why don’t you just go anyway… just to get it over with.”

     “If you’re not too tired, we’ll shop.  Did you take your nap this morning?  When you get tired, tell me and I’ll take you home.  You know I can’t shop when you get so tired.”

     Then the rebellion.  “I can make my own decisions, missy.  I know when I am tired, and when I have the good sense to go to bed.  Stop treating me like a child!”  She is not yet ready to step down.

     But slowly and insidiously and certainly the years give way and there is no one else to turn to.

     “Where are my glasses?  I can never find them…  Did I fall asleep in the movie again?  What was it all about?…  Dial that number for me.  You know how I always get the wrong one…  Where’s my flight number and the times of my planes?  You always type it out for me and put it in the airline ticket pocket.  I can’t read those little numbers.”

     Then your rebellion.  “Mother really, you are not that old.  You can do things for yourself.  Surely you can still see to thread your own needle…  And you certainly aren’t too tired to call up Florence and say hello.  She’s called you fifteen times and you never call her back.  Why don’t you have lunch with her sometimes.  It would do you good to get out of the house…  What do you mean you are overdrawn?  Can’t you remember to record your checks when you write them?”

     The daughter isn’t ready yet to carry the burden.  But the course is set.

     There is that first year you celebrate Thanksgiving at your house, and you roast the turkey and your mother sets the table.

     The first time you subconsciously turn to her in a movie and say, “Shhh!”

     The first time you rush to grab her arm when she walks over a patch of ice…

     As your own children grow strong and independent, the mother becomes more childlike.

     “Mother, I did not take your TV Guide off the TV set.”

     “Did so.”

     “Did not.”

     “Did so.”

     “Did not.”

     “Did.”

     “Not.”

     “I saw your father last night and he said he would be late.”

     “You did not see Dad last night.  He’s dead, Mother.”

     “Why would you say a thing like that?  You’re a terrible child.”  (Your mother used to tell you there was no such thing as your imaginary friend, Mr. Ripple, and that always mad you so mad.)

     “You never want to visit with me.  You fiddle with those children too much.  They don’t even need you.”  (You used to wonder why your mother couldn’t read you stories instead of playing bridge.)

     “For goodness sake, Mom, don’t mention Fred’s hairpiece.  We all know he has one, and having you mention it all the time doesn’t help.”  (“Mind your manners, little girl, and don’t speak unless you are spoken to.”)

     The daughter contemplates, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  All the years I was bathed, dressed, fed, advised, disciplined, ordered, cared for, and had every need anticipated, I wanted my turn when I could be in command.  Now that it’s here, why am I so sad?”

     You bathe and pat dry the body that once housed you.  You spoon feed the lips that kissed your cuts and bruises and made them well.  You comb the hair that used to playfully cascade over you to make you laugh.  You arrange the covers over the legs that once carried you along.

     Her naps are frequent as yours used to be.  You accompany her to the bathroom and wait to return her to bed.  You get someone to sit with her so you can go out.  You never thought it would be like this.

     While riding with your daughter one day, she slams on her brakes and her arm flies out instinctively in front of you between the windshield and your body.

     My God!  So soon.

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Deuteronomy 5:16  —  Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

I Timothy 5:3-4  —  Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

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O Lord God, whose will it is that, next to yourself, we should hold our parents in highest honor; it is not the least of our duties to pray for your goodness towards them.  Preserve, I pray, my parents in the love of religion, and in health of body and mind.  Grant that through me no sorrow may befall them; and finally, as they are kind to me, so may you be to them, O supreme Father of all.  Amen.

–Erasmus; Dutch priest, theologian, and teacher (1466-1536)

1430) Total Agreement Reached on Abortion Question

We have been hearing much about ‘fake news’ these days, because that is much of what we have been getting.  There is probably also such a thing as ‘true and accurate news,’ but that is rare, and increasingly difficult to recognize.  There is also ‘satirical news’ which is what The Babylon Bee specializes in, advertising itself as “Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire.”  Satire is defined as “a composition in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.”  The news items on The Babylon Bee are hardly ever ‘true,’ but they almost always ‘speak the truth.’  That is most certainly true of this item, posted January 21, 2017 at:

http://www.babylonbee.com

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Survey: 100% Of People Marching On Washington Were Not Aborted

     WASHINGTON, D.C.—In a survey conducted in the nation’s capital Saturday, a full 100% of the people marching on the nation’s capital for abortion rights as part of the “Women’s March on Washington” were found to have not been aborted by their mothers when they were yet to be born.

     The controversial study indicates that there may be a connection between participating in any kind of protest, and having a mother willing to carry you to term beforehand.

     “There seems to be a very strong correlation between your biological mother choosing not to end your life in the womb, and your chances of showing up to a protest about something,” a reporter present at the march said.  “I’ve interviewed hundreds of people out here today, and it’s astounding— not a single one of them was terminated when they were still in their mother’s womb.”

     At publishing time, reports had discovered similar statistics at all other Women’s March events from around the globe.

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“They want rights, and yet they rebel against any standard of right and wrong; so then, where do the rights come from?”

–G. K. Chesterton  (1874-1936)  (I think!?)

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Luke 6:31  —  (Jesus said), “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

Psalm 139:13-14  —  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Psalm 22:9-10  —  You brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.  From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

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A MOTHER’S PRAYER DURING PREGNANCY:

O Lord God Almighty, who hast made us out of nothing, and redeemed us by the precious blood of thine only Son; preserve, I beseech thee, the work of thy hands, and defend both me and the tender fruit of my womb from all perils and evils.  I beg of thee, for myself, thy grace, protection, and a happy delivery; and for my child, that thou wouldst preserve it for baptism, sanctify it for thyself, and make it thine forever.  Through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Christian’s Guide to Heaven, 1794

1422) Check Out These Lingerie Ads

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By Eric Metaxas, on Breakpoint Daily, March 2, 2017 at:  www.breakpoint.org

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     When it comes to lingerie companies, we’ve gotten used to some pretty graphic ads.  You know the kind I mean:  ones that feature impossibly perfect, airbrushed models wearing frilly and revealing underwear.

     But the other day I came across the most amazing lingerie ad I’ve ever seen.  No, I was not reading a Victoria’s Secret catalog.  I was watching an online ad created by the Thailand branch of Wacoal, a Japan-based lingerie company.  It was part of a three-part series called “Beauty Inside.”  And it magnificently depicts the true value of women.

     The first ad opens with a married couple sitting nervously in their doctor’s office, holding hands.  “After trying so hard for many years, she finally got pregnant,” the husband says.  But today they’re getting some bad news.

     “I know it’s hard,” the doctor says sympathetically.  “But please make a decision as soon as possible.”

     The couple, clearly stunned, drive home, hold one another, and cry.

     “On that day at the hospital,” the husband relates, “the doctor told us that she’s got cancer.  She has only two choices.  First, she might be cured if she took chemotherapy.  But that may cause our child a disability.  Or we might lose our baby.  The alternative is to keep our child.  But she might have to fight the cancer alone, without any remedy.”

     The woman cries as her husband holds her.  The next morning, she gets up and walks to the living room, where the baby’s crib is still sitting on its box.  She runs her fingers along the crib and makes a decision:  “I will do it for you, baby.”

     The mother begins putting the crib together and plays with a stuffed animal, anticipating her child’s birth.  Now she is back in the hospital, in labor.  When her doctor holds up her healthy baby, she cries with joy.  After cuddling and kissing her child, the mother hands him to her husband.  She smiles at her little family as a nurse takes her down the hall and into the chemotherapy room.

     These ads— which are both profoundly pro-women and pro-life— have become a global phenomenon.  Millions of people have watched them online.  Clearly they’ve hit a nerve— and I think I know why.

     First, most lingerie ads focus on women’s bodies, suggesting that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her.  But these ads challenge young women to value themselves in other ways:  To celebrate strength and sacrifice, courage and compassion.

     They’re teaching women something else, as well:  that a worthwhile man will value them, not based on outer beauty, which is fleeting, but on inner beauty, which is based on character.  And when life throws them a curve ball— such as cancer during a pregnancy— a strong man will help his wife through it.

     Finally, I believe modern young women may be getting tired of being encouraged to take the easy way out when they run into a problem— such as a problem pregnancy.  Women are, I think, moved by the idea that self-sacrifice is noble, and can be the source of great joy.

     It’s hard to watch this ad without crying, especially when you find out it was based on a true story.  Whether it meant to or not, the Wacoal company gives us a perfect illustration of 1 Corinthians 13:7:  “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

     I hope you’ll watch these ads, and share them with your friends, sisters, and daughters.  Their positive messages will help cancel out the hundreds of negative ones that bombard young women every day.

     And you just might consider buying the woman in your life some lingerie, not from Victoria’s Secret, but from the company that teaches that the value of women is in the nobility of their character.

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The three ads can be viewed below.  They are about seven-minutes each, but well worth your time.  Part one is the video described in the above article, but all three are terrific.
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Proverbs 31:10-12  —  A wife of noble character who can find?  She is worth far more than rubies.  Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Proverbs 31:30-31a  —  Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  Honor her for all that her hands have done.
I Corinthians 13:7  —  Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
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Watch, dear Lord, with those who wake or watch or weep, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.  Tend the sick, rest the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous.  In your love, give us all this, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.
Book of Common Prayer

1409) A Wooden Bowl for the Old Man

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By The Brothers Grimm (early 1800’s), from a story told as early as 1535

     There was once a very old man, whose eyes had become dim, his ears dull of hearing, his knees trembled, and when he sat at table he could hardly hold the spoon, and spilt the broth upon the tablecloth or let it run out of his mouth.  His son and his son’s wife were disgusted at this, so the old grandfather at last had to sit in the corner behind the stove, and they gave him his food in an earthenware bowl, and not even enough of it.  And he used to look towards the table with his eyes full of tears.  Once, too, his trembling hands could not hold the bowl, and it fell to the ground and broke.  The young wife scolded him, but he said nothing and only sighed.  Then they bought him a wooden bowl for a few half-pence, out of which he had to eat.

     They were once sitting thus when the little grandson of four years old began to gather together some bits of wood upon the ground.  “What are you doing there?” asked the father.  “I am making a little trough,” answered the child, “for father and mother to eat out of when I am big.”

     The man and his wife looked at each other for a while, and presently began to cry.  Then they took the old grandfather to the table, and henceforth always let him eat with them, and likewise said nothing if he did spill a little of anything.

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Exodus 20:12  —  Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Isaiah 11:6  —  The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

Matthew 7;12  —  (Jesus said), “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 

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Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all whose increasing years bring them weakness, distress or isolation.  Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give them understanding helpers, and the willingness to accept help; and, as their strength diminishes, increase their faith and their assurance of your love.  This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.   —Book of Common Prayer

1310) A Prayer for an Unbelieving Husband

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A story told by Tom Housholder, pastor/evangelist in the former American Lutheran Church.  The story took place in the 1950’s in  Housholder’s first congregation.  I heard him tell this story when I was on internship in Sisseton, South Dakota in 1979.

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     Elmer lived the life of a hermit in a remote cabin in a valley in the mountains of Idaho.  Elmer had no friends, and no one knew anything about him.  His cabin was far from any main road, so people knew of him only because of his occasional trips into town to buy a few things.  Elmer did not go to church anywhere and never talked to anyone about anything.

     One day Elmer parked his old truck in front of the Lutheran church and went in to talk to Pastor Tom.  The pastor was surprised to see Elmer, and invited him to come into his office.  Elmer introduced himself and said, “Pastor, I would like to be baptized.  Would you do that for me?”

     Without hesitating, Pastor Tom said, “Sure, Elmer.  But can I ask you what made you decided you wanted to be baptized?”

     “Well, pastor,” Elmer said, “it was my wife that got me thinking.”

     “Your wife!” said a surprised Pastor Tom.  “I didn’t know you had a wife.”

     “I don’t anymore,” Elmer said looking down.  “She’s been dead for about sixty years.”

     The pastor shook his head and said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”

     “It’s a long story,” Elmer replied, and then went on to tell the pastor the story of his life, a story no one in town had ever heard.

     Elmer was originally from Minnesota.  He got married, and he and his wife moved to North Dakota where they homesteaded a farm.  There, they had a child, and with tears in his eyes Elmer talked about how happy the three of them were.

     One afternoon in their second winter on the farm, Elmer’s wife and baby were visiting at a neighbor’s house.  Early in the evening it started to snow, so Elmer’s wife and child left for home.  On their way, the gentle snow suddenly turned into a blizzard, with the intense prairie winds blowing the heavy snow so hard that the mother could not see where she was going.  They lost their way, and both froze to death that night in the rapidly falling temperature.

     Elmer was devastated by the tragedy.  He could not get over it.  In the long and lonely nights that followed, he came to a decision.  He would never love anyone like that again.  In fact, for the rest of his life he would not even try to get to know anyone.  He did not want to leave himself open to being hurt like that ever again.

     The next Spring Elmer packed up a few belongings and headed farther west.  He bought a small place in this mountain valley, built a cabin on it, and stayed there.  And he kept that promise he made to himself, and never got to know a single person.

     One of the few things Elmer brought along from his home in North Dakota was his wife’s Bible.  It was important to her, and he had fond memories of her reading it every day.  Elmer said he was never interested in religion.  His wife would occasionally bring it up to him, but he paid no attention, and she never forced it.

     Many thousands of times over the last sixty years, Elmer would sit in his rocking chair and hold that Bible in his hands, thinking of his wife and how happy they were together.  He never opened the Bible.  He still was not interested in what it had to say.  Elmer just held that Bible because it reminded him of his wife.

     “Well,” Elmer said as he neared the end of his story, “I have arthritis in my hands now and I have been dropping things.  Last night when I reached over to pick up the Bible, it slipped out of my hands.  It fell open on the floor, and inside I could see a small piece of paper.  I put on my glasses to take a closer look, and I saw it was my wife’s handwriting.  It was a prayer.  It said, ‘Lord, get a hold of Elmer—he doesn’t know you yet.’  That isn’t much, but it was enough to make me want to do something about it.”

     Over the next few weeks Pastor Tom met with Elmer to help him ‘get to know the Lord.’  When baptism day came, everyone in the small congregation gathered around the font to serve as his sponsors.  When the baptism was complete, Elmer, who had never again wanted to get close to anyone, looked up and said to everyone, “Hi, family.”

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I Corinthians 7:13-14a…15b-16  —  If a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband…  God has called us to live in peace.  How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?  Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?

James 5:16b  —   The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

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Lord, get a hold of _______.  He/she doesn’t know you yet.  Amen.

1257) A Grandfather’s Love

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Mr. and Mrs. D. L. Moody and grandchildren

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From The One Year Christian History, by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, 2003, pages 670-1.

     Dwight Lyman Moody, (1837-1899), was the greatest evangelist of his day.  He preached to more people than any of his contemporaries, and was the catalyst of great revivals, not only in the United States and Canada, but also in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

     Yet what meant more to Moody than even his evangelistic ministry was his family.  He had three children, Emma, Will, and Paul Dwight.  The arrival of his grandchildren brought Moody special joy.   The first two, Will’s daughter, Irene, and Emma’s daughter, Emma, were born in 1895 (above photo).  Moody loved them dearly.

     The arrival of his namesake, Dwight Lyman Moody, in November, 1897, added to his delight.  But no one could foresee that his beloved grandchildren would soon precipitate his final crisis.

     On November 30, 1898, while in Colorado, Moody received a telegram that stunned him.  Little one-year-old Dwight, his pride and joy, had died.  Heavy with grief, Moody wrote to the sorrowing parents:

I know Dwight is having a good time, and we should rejoice with him.  What would the heavenly mansions be without children?  He was the last to come into our circle, and he is the first to go up there.  So safe, so free from all the sorrow we are passing through!  I thank God for such a life.  It was nearly all smiles and sunshine, and what a glorified body he will have, and with what joy he will await your coming!  God does not give us such strong love for each other for a few days or years, but it is going to last forever, and you will have the dear little man with you for ages and ages, and love will keep increasing…

I cannot think of him as belonging to earth.  The more I think of him, the more I think he was only sent to draw us all closer to each other and up to the world of light and joy.  I could not wish him back, if he could have all earth could give him…  Dear, dear little fellow!…  I have no doubt that when he saw the Savior he smiled as he did when he saw you.  The word that keeps coming to my mind is this:  “It is well with the child.”  Thank God, Dwight is safe at home, and we will, all of us, see him soon.

Your loving father,

D. L. Moody

     The following March little Irene fell ill with tuberculosis, and by August she was wasting away.  Moody brought Will, his wife, May, and little Irene into his home to offer any help he could, but nothing could be done to save her.  To their great sorrow, Irene died just eight months after her baby brother.

     At the funeral Moody unexpectedly rose and spoke of Elijah “waiting in the Valley of Jordan so many years ago, for the chariot of God to take him home.  Again the chariot of God came down to the Connecticut Valley yesterday morning about half-past six and took our little Irene home.”

     Grief weighed heavily on this grandfather’s heart, and just four months later D. L Moody himself was the one who was dying.  He revived momentarily and said, “What does this all mean?  I must have had a trance.  I went to the gate of heaven.  Why, it was so wonderful, and I saw the children!”

     His son, Will, asked, “Oh, Father, did you see them?”

     Moody answered, “Yes, I saw Irene and Dwight.”  Moments later he was with them.

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Deuteronomy 5:29  —  Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever.

II Kings 4:26b  —  “Is it well with the child?”  And she answered, “It is well.”

John 14:1-3  —  (Jesus said), “Let not your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God, believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms… I am going there to prepare a place for you…  I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

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We give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us.  You did not lose them when you gave them to us, and we do not lose them by their return to you.  Your dear Son has taught us that life is eternal and love cannot die.  So death is only an horizon and an horizon is only the limit of our sight.  Open our eyes to see more clearly.  Draw us closer to you that we may know that we are nearer to our loved ones who are with you.  You have told us that you are preparing a place for us.  Prepare us also for that happy place, that where you are we may also be always, O dear Lord of life and death.  Amen.

–William Penn  (1644-1718)

1177) The Grace of Grandparenting

By guest writer, Erin Wyble Newcomb, in an article posted June 16, 2016 at http://www.christianity.com/women.  Newcomb teaches English and women’s studies and lives in the Hudson Valley with her husabnd and two children.

     “We’re playing huckle-buckle-beanstalk!”  My six-year-old beamed at me, bouncing on the balls of her feet.  My younger daughter skipped around the living room.  In the kitchen, my mother pulled a small, plastic princess doll out of the sugar canister and dusted off the toy.  “I found her!” she called out, laughing.  I stood in the doorway smiling, even though I’d never heard of the game before.  My mother walked over to greet me, shrugging her shoulders.  “It’s a silly game my sisters and I used to play,” she said.  “I don’t remember why we named it that.”

     My parents recently bought a house in our neighborhood to be close to me, my husband, and our two daughters, their only grandchildren.  No longer serving in the ‘sandwich generation’ role of caring for their own aging parents, my parents are exercising their freedom by spending their golden years close to my girls…  What has surprised me the most in this new season of life— more than calling my parents “neighbors”— is how my relationship with them has been transformed.  They’re not my parents anymore.  They’re now my kids’ grandparents.

     Five years ago, my mother was in the delivery room for the birth of my first child, and a few years after that, my parents drove up from New Jersey in the middle of the night to babysit her when her younger sister was born.  The moments that changed my life forever and shaped my family, changed and shaped my parents, as well.  Now they’re living down the street, and while everything isn’t perfect, the relational benefits are reciprocal.  My parents regularly help us with childcare, while we helped them after my father’s hip replacement surgery.  Now my parents are the ones I turn to for advice about so many things, from diapers to discipline, because they, too, are invested in my children.  They’re among the few people I can talk openly with about my hopes and fears for my kids.

     The funny thing is, I never expected it to be this way.  Except for some rocky patches in my teen years, my parents and I had a pretty good relationship while I was growing up.  I did, however, feel like the weird one— the dreamy one, the introvert, the runner, the one who earned a degree in women’s studies instead of something, say, marketable.  None of that has changed, but I no longer feel the pressure to conform to their ideals for me, and they no longer bear the responsibility of raising me.  Despite our differences, we all turned out okay.  And despite years of wondering if I’d really been left by the fairies, a changeling child who seemed such an oddball in my family, I automatically have something in common with my parents now:  my children.

     Technically, my parents are the same people who raised me, but they’ve changed with the introduction of a new generation.  They’re more relaxed, more smiley, more goofy.  They’re freer and more fun because they’re not the ones raising the kids.  They get to be more themselves, just as I get to be more myself.  My parents weren’t bad parents when they were raising me, but by virtue of being on the front-lines of parenting, they were chronically stressed and often exasperated.  How could I, as a child or teenager, have realized how often they were winging it?  Faced with financial pressures, the weight of developing our characters, and maintaining their own relationships, it’s no wonder that I didn’t see my parents the way my children see them now.

     I recognize that many grandparents still face those same stressors my parents experienced in their youth, except those struggles are compounded by age and sometimes illness or disability.  When grandparents stand in for parents, it’s a difficult situation that requires support of all sorts.  My healthy, intact multi-generational family lives a privileged existence for which I’m grateful.  And while I think it’s better for all of us that my parents don’t live next door, I’m thankful they’re in the same neighborhood.  I like the feeling of running by, or of my girls pointing out Nanny and Poppy’s house from the playground.  Their home makes the whole place feel more like home.

     When it comes to family, we all have our own story.  But whatever baggage we may have with our own parents, whatever regrets we may share, we all get a fresh chance with our children.  Each new generation represents an opportunity to break generational curses and to share our stories.  And whether the grandparents live near or far, whether those relationships are healthy or dysfunctional, our membership in the church offers us opportunities for redeeming our families.  Sunday mornings show us an inter-generational fellowship where the only bloodlines that matter are Christ’s, and God’s children of all ages interact as brothers and sisters.  None us have the perfect parents, and none of us are the perfect parents, but we share the same Father who redeems us all— even through the small things, like a game of huckle-buckle beanstalk.

     I didn’t grow up playing the game, but I doubt it’s the last time my parents will surprise me.  I know this much is true:  I’m not the child I was.  I’m a mother now.  And my parents aren’t the people they were either.  They’re grandparents now.  As I stand in the doorway of my parents’ house— not my childhood home, but the only one my girls will remember— I see the ways that grace transforms us.  I’m observing an old game but hearing a new story.  I’m the bridge between these generations.  But what holds us all together are grace and hope, the redemptive work of God acting upon my family.

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Psalm 71:18  —  Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Psalm 78:4b-7  —  We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lordhis power, and the wonders he has done.  He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.  Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

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Be gracious, Lord, to all that are near and dear to me, and keep us all in thy fear and love.  Guide us, good Lord, and govern us by the same Spirit, that we may be so united to thee here as not to be divided when thou are pleased to call us hence, but may together enter into thy glory, though Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior.  Amen.

–John Wesley

1175) She’s Perfect

One year after her baby Emeryson was born, Courtney Baker wrote a letter to her prenatal specialist who suggested repeatedly that she should have an abortion.  Emeryson was diagnosed prenatally with Down Syndrome, and the doctor said her quality of life would be ‘horrible.’  The picture below is of Emeryson getting ready to put her mother’s letter in the mailbox.  Emeryson’s mother sent the contents of the letter and this photo to ParkerMyles.com, a website that educates about what it is like to raise a child with Down Syndrome.  

To read the many responses Courtney’s post received, and for more stories of kids like Emmy go to:

http://parkermyles.com/…/girl-with-down-syndrome-posts-let…/

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This is Courtney’s letter to the Parker Myles website:

This is Emmy, mailing our letter to the prenatal specialist who didn’t want her to live.  He repeatedly suggested we abort.  He said her and our quality of life would be horrible.  He was so unbelievably wrong.  I want to do something to advocate, but other than my letter to him, I don’t know what yet.  Can you please share my photo?  –Courtney Williams Baker

The letter Emmy is holding says:

Dear Doctor,

     A friend recently told me of when her prenatal specialist would see her child during her sonograms, he would comment, “He’s perfect.”  Once her son was born with Down syndrome, she visited that same doctor.  He looked at her little boy and said, “I told you.  He’s perfect.”

     Her story tore me apart.  While I was so grateful for my friend’s experience, it filled me with such sorrow because of what I should have had.  I wish you would have been that doctor.

     I came to you during the most difficult time in my life.  I was terrified, anxious and in complete despair.  I didn’t know the truth yet about my baby, and that’s what I desperately needed from you.  But instead of support and encouragement, you suggested we terminate our child.  I told you her name, and you asked us again if we understood how low our quality of life would be with a child with Down syndrome.  You suggested we reconsider our decision to continue the pregnancy.

     From that first visit, we dreaded our appointments.  The most difficult time in my life was made nearly unbearable because you never told me the truth.

     My child was perfect.

     I’m not angry.  I’m not bitter.  I’m really just sad.  I’m sad the tiny beating hearts you see every day don’t fill you with a perpetual awe.  I’m sad the intricate details and the miracle of those sweet little fingers and toes, lungs and eyes and ears don’t always give you pause.  I’m sad you were so very wrong to say a baby with Down syndrome would decrease our quality of life.  And I’m heartbroken you might have said that to a mommy even today.  But I’m mostly sad you’ll never have the privilege of knowing my daughter, Emersyn.

     Because, you see, Emersyn has not only added to our quality of life, she’s touched the hearts of thousands.  She’s given us a purpose and a joy that is impossible to express.  She’s given us bigger smiles, more laughter and sweeter kisses than we’ve ever known.  She’s opened our eyes to true beauty and pure love.

     So my prayer is that no other mommy will have to go through what I did.  My prayer is that you, too, will now see true beauty and pure love with every sonogram.  And my prayer is when you see that next baby with Down syndrome lovingly tucked in her mother’s womb, you will look at that mommy and see me then tell her the truth:  “Your child is absolutely perfect.

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James 1:16-18  —  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created.

II Corinthians 12:9-10  —  (The Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I John 4:15-18  —  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:  In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

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PSALM 139:13-17:

You created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!

1174) Ordinary Moms, Everyday Heroes

Ordinary Moms, Everyday Heroes

By Amy Julia Becker, author of Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters Most, Zondervan, 2014.  This article was posted at http://www.christianitytoday.com on Mother’s Day, 2015.

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     It was religion scholar Joseph Campbell who pulled back the curtain on more or less every book and movie in the Western canon.  Campbell demonstrated the common shapes and themes of our great stories, from Star Wars to Great Expectations to Paddington Bear.

     In Campbell’s “hero’s journey,” an unlikely suspect gets called on some sort of mission.  After some equivocation, he agrees to the task, endures a series of setbacks, and ultimately achieves his goal.  Along the way, the experience transforms him; he grows up and becomes a hero.

     We see the same narrative at work in real life.  It’s what we suspect when we hear that someone has survived cancer.  It’s what we hope for in the face of tragedy.  It’s the narrative that pops up on the evening news.

     Yet I wonder how many young women realized they are also embarking on a hero’s journey when they become mothers.

     Not just mothers with exceptional challenges— I’m talking about run-of-the-mill mothers with typical children, the soccer moms and stay-at-home moms and full-time working moms alike.  Every one of them has the makings of a hero.

     For a long time, I didn’t believe it.  I had lived the dramatic version of the hero story.  Our oldest daughter Penny was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after birth, and it took me a year to wrestle through my doubt and fear and sadness.  And yes, I came out on the other side transformed, with a deeper appreciation of the gift of each human life and with a deeper recognition that intellect does not determine human value.

     Then our son William was born, and a few years later his sister Marilee, and ordinary parenting posed challenges of its own.  Moreover, the doubt and fear and sadness I experienced from parenting typical kids seemed shameful.  After Penny’s birth, people brought meals and prayed for us and they understood if I didn’t return their phone calls or failed to show up at church on Sunday morning.  With typical kids, no one was going to bring me a baked chicken just because my son wouldn’t sleep through the night.  I worried no one would understand if I couldn’t manage to volunteer at preschool or reply to an email or meet a writing deadline.

     But now that our kids are out of the early years of diapers and naptimes, out of the constant cycle of ear infections and throw-up bugs, out of car seats and high chairs and strollers— I see that the journey into typical motherhood offered its own narrative of change and growth, of breaking me apart, only to transform me yet again.  It offered a call to sacrifice, even if it was simply a sacrifice of time and physical endurance.  Sacrifice is always a form of hardship, and yet when it emerges out of love, it has the power to make us new.

     In the beginning of my life as the mom of three, I tried to keep going as though nothing had changed.  I tried to keep up my workout routine and volunteer activities.  I tried to work for four scheduled hours every day.  I tried to pray regularly and systematically.  I tried to ignore the words I heard from older moms, that there were seasons of life, and perhaps this season of early childhood was a time for slowing down, for not trying so hard.  I guess I saw slowing down as a sign of defeat, as anything but heroic, as the opposite of “leaning in” to the opportunities I had been given as an educated American with financial and marital stability.  I guess I had a hard time believing that the gifts God was asking me to steward could be limited to these three kids.

     I tried to hold on to it all— professional goals, physical and spiritual discipline, community participation.  Finally, between snow days and sick days and sleepless nights, in the midst of the very ordinary demands of very ordinary parenting, I had to let go.  It wasn’t the letting go of joyful release, of opening a handful of dandelion seeds and watching them glint and scatter in the wind with music playing in the background.  It was the letting go of collapse, of buckling under the weight of it all and watching as everything crashed to the ground and bounced haphazardly around me.  Still, once I had finally let go of all that trying, I found myself with my hands open.

     The ordinary hardships that don’t make for a dramatic story-line— of changing wet sheets and watching yet another episode of Caillou with a sick kid, of listening to belabored piano practice and cajoling yet another hour of soccer playing— helped me understand the nature of love, the nature of grace.

     In the Gospels, Jesus keeps insisting that his disciples turn to God as their Father.  It’s not just the Lord’s Prayer— it’s in Jesus’ parables and his one-liners.  This familial language shows up when he calls the bleeding woman “daughter” (Mark 5:34) and his disciples “little ones” as he sends them out to minister to others (Matthew 18).  He wants his followers to understand God as their Father, and also understand themselves as little kids.  He even makes the arresting statement:  “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never inherit the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

     Funnily enough, it’s having kids that’s helped me know myself as a child of God.  When I couldn’t hold it all together, when I needed help in the midst of ordinary and tedious daily hardships, I began to understand God’s compassion and care for me:  like a father who cheers for his child’s attempt to take her first step without any condemnation when she topples over; like a mother who says no out of love, not out of disappointment with the request; like a good parent whose love knows no bounds.

     Every parent who loves a child with sacrificial love will be broken.  And in the midst of that brokenness, we can be built back up, like the classic hero of Joseph Campbell’s journey, encountering one obstacle after another, doubting ourselves and the one who had commissioned us for this adventure, falling apart, and, ultimately, learning something entirely new about life and love, being made new along the way.

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Luke 18:16  —  Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Romans 8:16-17  —  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I John 3:1a  —  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

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God of compassion, whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, shared the life of a home in Nazareth, and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:  strengthen us in our daily living, that in joy and in sorrow we may know the power of your presence to bind together and to heal; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.