Sunday, December 13, 2009


Growing up, I never knew how much it meant.

Bedtime approached, my brother and I brushed our teeth, crawled into bed, and listened to mom as she read a story. At the time it was part of the routine. I knew it was a part that I liked, I knew that when it didn't happen something just wasn't right, but beyond that I can't say that I thought much about it.

Later on I began to realize that something more was happening. I went off to college and became very involved with Christian groups on campus. As I began interacting with Christians from a number of different backgrounds, I was very surprised to discover that many of them, despite the fact that they had been far more involved in church youth groups and other religious activities than I was prior to college, knew very little of the Biblical stories. They knew a lot more one-verse quotes than I did, but the stories were oddly missing.

These Biblical stories occupied the majority of the content my mother read to us. She didn't have any devotion plan that she followed, she didn't spend a lot of time interpreting the text or drawing lessons from it. She just read the stories.

I began to realize that my mother had given me a great gift. She had given me Christianity, not as a moral system, not as a plan for life improvement, but as a story. A story of a God that loves His people. A God that did not exist off in the mists of myth but made Himself known in very real ways at very real points in history. As my understanding of God's Word and the faith that it delivers continues to grow, I realize more and more that I could not have been given any greater foundation than the one that was placed under me by my mother, as she read me stories.

If the gift ended there it would be a fantastic one, but it gets better.

As we planned my mother's funeral, we went through a long list of facts. I was still numb, so the whole process stirred about as much emotion as filling out a credit card application. Where she was born, where she went to school, who she worked for, what organizations she had joined. This is the sort of stuff they collect for the obituary. According to the next day's paper, this would be my mother's life in a nutshell. It felt woefully inadequate. When we came to the end of the standard questions, the woman from the funeral home asked, "Is there anything else?"

We all blanked.

What do you say about a woman who more than anything was defined by being a mother, a wife, a sister, and a daughter. A woman whose greatest acts were nothing that most people would consider newsworthy. Acts like changing diapers, doing laundry, visiting the nursing home and...

"She always read a..."

Suddenly I couldn't finish. Looking back it was the first time after her death I actually cried. The full impact of the gift my mother had given me became evident. It was more than an intellectual foundation for my world view, and so much more than a comfortable bedtime routine. She had given me what was most precious to her. She had given the story rooted in the past but so powerful that it is now a reality in my present.

This is the story of humanity, of our creation for greatness shattered by our rebellion. The story of a God revealing Himself through His chosen people only to be rejected by them again and again. It is the story that always alludes to a coming hero, one who could write our wrongs once and for all. It is the story of Jesus, God in the flesh, the sum and substance of all the stories that led to the climax of history as this hero laid down His life to pay for all the sin and hate and hurt that we bring upon ourselves and our world. It is the story of Him rising again, defeating death and proclaiming that His story be taken to the entire world.

This is the story that I know read to my daughter, and the gift that my mother gave me moves on.

Thanks again Mom.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Playing Catch

Many boys grow up playing catch with their dad. I have a great dad, he even coached my little league team, but in his heart he's always been a football/track guy. I grew up playing catch with my mom.

Mom grew up in softball country. When my grandpa was a young man the church softball team was the ultimate social occasion. These were not slow pitch church leagues where a few middle age, out of shape guys get together for a relaxing game. This was highly competitive, fast pitch softball. Games would attract hundreds of spectators. I know what you're thinking, these were small rural communities, of course it drew crowds, there was nothing better to do than watch those silly softball games!

That may be true, but what is sillier, gathering with friends and family to watch a bunch of farmers play softball, or spending $200 for one day at a professional ball park?

Growing up on a farm, in that community, with three brothers, it's no surprise that my mom got pretty good at softball. As an adult she played catcher in a women's fast-pitch league. I don't know a lot about this league, but since my mom's death I've started to catch wind of a few crazy stories that may be connected to this team!

So, a young man couldn't have had a better partner for playing catch than my mom. It became one of the greatest forms of connection between us. My little brother ended up not getting into baseball as much as me, making catch even more of a unique thing that mom and I shared.

As I grew older I started pitching, and my mom was more than willing to be my catcher. I don't know if it looked silly for a thirteen year old to hurl everything he had at a middle age woman, but for me that was just the way it was. When I entered high school I started growing and throwing a little harder. I even decided to try to start throwing a curve ball.

By the way, my curve ball sucked.

One day I put one into the dirt and directly off my mother's ankle. As she hobbled back to the house my dad met us and insisted I stop pitching to her. I didn't, but we did keep it to regular old catch when he was looking.

Those games of catch have given me a lot to remember about my mom. I remember that she was a farmgirl and a tomboy, and it would take someone like that to put up with a crazy hillbilly State Police Captain as a husband. I remember that she didn't mind a few bumps and bruises, and that sort of thing is going to come with the territory when I'm a parent. Most importantly, I remember that her greatest joy came from doing things with the people she loved. I remember that her life was so much bigger than herself.

So often I get caught up in the tasks. My job is ruled by a to-do list - fix this computer, create that lesson, update those websites. Sometimes I start to view my entire life as a big to-do list. Playing catch with my mom reminded me that it is not so much about the to-dos as the people for whom they are being done.

Thanks Mom.


Sometimes it's hard to believe that people like this have ever existed. Someone so loving, so selfless, so beautiful, doesn't belong in the real world. Someone like this belongs in a storybook or Hollywood celluloid. But this woman did exist, she lived in the real world. She was my mother.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Love One Another

Well at long last I am posting something here again. If you were reading before you may have noticed I started something with Titus but never finished it. I do have some of those notes and will still try to get some posts made out of that as soon as I can.

Anyway, it has been a while but I preached a sermon last Sunday. Comparing this one to sermons I have delivered in the past I can see that I have changed a lot in my content, which I think is a good thing. I will explain more of what I mean at another time.

For now have a listen! If you have a Bible handy turn it to John 15 as you follow along.

Love One Another