Letting Go: When a Parent Dies

I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.

Psalm 143:5


A busy street separated my neighborhood from Jefferson Elementary School. Every morning, Monday through Friday, moms walked their little ones to the street corner and held their hands until it was safe to cross. In the afternoon, when school let out, they came back to bring their children home again.

I remember the morning when mom grasped my hand, and I struggled to pull away. I was a big girl, or so I thought, and I didn’t need to hold her hand anymore. “Let go!” I demanded. “I can cross by myself.” Mom gave me a worried look and squeezed my hand even tighter. “Let go!” I said. I was surprised when Mom let my fingers slip out of hers. I looked both ways for oncoming traffic; then I skipped merrily across the street. When I got to the other side, I turned toward my mother and waved. I had done it! I had crossed the street without her, and we both knew that our hand-holding days were over.

Mom’s hands were always there for me. They rocked me to sleep, tied my shoes, made my meals and washed my clothes. They felt cool against my feverish forehead, and they taught me to pray. When I was a teenager and a boy broke my heart, mom’s hands caressed me and wiped away my tears. When I grew older and moved from home, her hands welcomed me back with a hug, and they hugged me when I went away again.

It wasn’t until many years later, when Mom lay dying in a hospital bed, that I noticed how old and wrinkled her hands had become. Those old hands had worked hard, protected, taught, supported and prayed. Now, they were cold and still. Mom was in a very deep sleep somewhere between Earth and Heaven. I picked up her left hand and held it in mine. “If you can hear me, Mom, squeeze my hand.” Nothing. I laid her hand on top of the covers and let go.

God’s timing is always perfect.
My cousin arrived just then. She sat on the right side of my mother’s bed and I on the left. We said nothing, just watched, waited and wondered when the end would come.

Suddenly, Mom lifted her left hand and reached out searching for mine. Our hands met, and Mom held on tight. Then, just as I had laid her hand on top of the covers, Mom laid my hand down and let go. With her right hand, she grasped my cousin’s hand. She laid it on top of mine, and then Mom rested her hands on ours. She never awoke from her sleep, nor did she utter a word, but the Lord had miraculously allowed her to connect with us one last time – with her hands.

That night, I sat with my mom, holding her hand and remembering all of our years together. I thought of that day on the street corner and of how hard it must have been for Mom to release my hand and let me go. As I sat at her bedside, I understood that I could cross the street by myself again – that I could go on in life without her. I let go of my mother’s hand for the last time, tenderly allowing her fingers to slip from mine. A few minutes later, Mom died. I imagine that she was on the other side of the street, waving to me before she walked on toward God.

There is a comforting passage of scripture in Psalm 139: “If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Even now, from the far side of the sea, I feel my mother’s hand holding mine . . . and I feel God’s hands holding us both.


Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for parents who watch over us in our youth and love us through our lives. When it is time to let them go to you, comfort us and hold us in the palms of your hands. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.









The gifts of life and eternal life are precious in God's sight, and so is the love shared between a mother and her child.






Teachable Moments – Sharing Your Faith

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Romans 10:17 NKJV


I enjoy reading reviews of my books, even when they are negative. I’ve improved my writing as a result of constructive criticism from readers, and I’ve learned from subjective comments to be mindful of opinions that differ from my own. It’s those subjective comments that make me look deeper into my soul and ask, “Why do I believe what I believe?”

In 1999, I wrote a series of preschool board books for Standard Publishing designed to teach very young children the concept of Genesis 1: God created everything.

One of the books, God Gives Us Beaches begins with the simple words, “Do you know that God made beaches?” The book goes on to show children playing on a beach. A variety of items are labeled in the art: seagull, pail, starfish, crab, sandcastle…. The book ends with the question, “Aren’t you glad that God made beaches?”


Here is a reader’s review:

…What a disservice to children
Ah, the mind of a child. What a beautiful thing, so open, so receptive, so ready to learn everything it can about the world. And there you are, together on a beach on a sunny afternoon, with your innocent and inquisitive young one who turns to you and asks, "Daddy, why is the ocean salty?" or "Mommy, why are crabs and people so different?"--and there you are, with that perfect teachable moment, that perfect opportunity to fill their minds with wonder over how millions of years of rivers have deposited mounds of salt in the ocean, or how species can evolve over time into other species, which is just such a beautiful and elegant idea, and you think that this book, GOD GIVES US BEACHES, can prepare you for that moment.

‘Well,’ you'll begin, ‘several thousand years ago, a big man who lives in the sky and is invisible to us and who there is no proof of but you really have to believe in, took six days to do something AMAZING....’"
A perfect, teachable moment. That phrase struck me when I read the review. As a Christian, I believe by faith that God exists, and I believe that He created the heavens and the earth. I grew up in a Christian home, and I was on the receiving end of many teachable moments when my parents associated everyday, ordinary things with the wonders of God. But not everyone grew up believing as I have. The world is filled with people whose opinions are different from my own, and -- this is important -- my days are filled with perfect, teachable moments when I can share my faith with non-believers. Sadly, I’m often oblivious of those moments, and they slip away.

Here are three questions that I plan to think about this week. Will you join me?

Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15, NIV).

QUESTION 1: If I'm asked why do you believe in God, in what ways can I always be prepared to share the reasons for my faith?

-----

Paul wrote to the Colossians: “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:5-6 NASB).

In this passage, Paul reminds us that each person is different. Like the reviewer of my book, some people might not be receptive to the ideas of God and Jesus Christ.

QUESTION 2: If given just a brief encounter with a non-believer, how can I turn that into a teachable moment for Christ?

-----

In his article, “Sharing Your Faith,” the author, Bill Palmer, tells of a time when he was not a Christian and reacted with hostile feelings in a debate over the religious convictions of his Christian friend.

QUESTION 3: If met with resistance, what are some ways that I can share my faith without sounding didactic and preachy?




If you get stuck thinking about these questions, I suggest you read the article, "How to Share Your Faith" by Karen Wolff. She shares some practical ways to share your faith without having to say much at all.




Heavenly Father, In Romans 1:16, the Apostle Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Help me, Lord, never to hide the gospel of Christ. Give me wisdom to know how to share it with each new person I meet. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN





NOTE:
God Gives Us Beaches and other books in this series are currently out of print. You may be able to find used copies available online.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the author of "God Gives Us Beaches," but I have not received compensation for mentioning the book in this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Work in Progress

However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. 1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV

It’s a new year, and God is in the Compost Pile has a new look. As the title of the blog suggests, God constantly recycles his work. Everything -- the Earth, the heavens and even we humans -- are God’s work in progress.

Last week, we saw a terrible earthquake in Haiti. The images on television stay with us, and we find ourselves asking, why? Why does the world seem so filled with violence, injustice and disasters?

Almost 3000 years ago, the prophet Habakkuk wondered the same thing. He cried out to God: “Our LORD, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser, criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around.” (Hab.1: 2-4 CEV).

Does that sound familiar? Our world today seems in constant turmoil.

So, how did God answer Habakkuk? He said, “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” (Hab 1:5 NIV)

Now, Habakkuk took that to mean that God was going to turn things around for the better, right away. Can you imagine the relief that he felt? But often when we anticipate how God will act, we discover that He has something entirely different in mind. God’s answer to Habakkuk was to allow even more violence and unrest. He let an evil army prosper – for a season – but he promised to destroy them in the end. This certainly was not the solution that Habakkuk wanted, but it was part of God's plan, His work in progress.

We can’t know why God allows bad things to happen. A well-known television evangelist suggested, last week, that the Haitian people brought this disaster upon themselves as a result of an ancient pact with the devil. Other people have said that God has turned away from all of us. Atheists believe that there is no God and bad things are just a part of life. The truth is we cannot be certain why bad things occur, but as Christians we believe that they are part of God’s perfect plan for the world. As children of God, we hang on to the words of Romans 8:28:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


If you would like to help the people in Haiti, here are links to several trusted charities:

Samaritan’s Purse

Compassion International

The American Red Cross

And, of course, the most powerful way that you can help is to pray.


Dear God, Last week, we saw a terrible earthquake devastate the lives of many innocent people. We don’t know why this happened, Father, but we ask for your compassion on the people of Haiti. We rejoice that the world is pulling together in love to help them. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen






Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

First Communion on the Moon

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

I was doing research for a writing project this week, and I found an interesting article that was published last summer in the Washington Post. Columnist David Waters wrote it while America remembered the fortieth anniversary of the first moonwalk. I’ve decided to share it with you here in its entirety.

The article was published online and received many comments, both for and against astronaut Buzz Aldrin's partaking of communion on the moon. Read it, and let us know what you think?

First Communion on the Moon

BY DAVID WATERS | JULY 20, 2009 | ©THE WASHINGTON POST

As we remember the first men on the moon, let's not forget the first supper on the moon -- the Lord's Supper, served and received by an elder in the Presbyterian Church, Apollo 11 astronaut Eugene 'Buzz' Aldrin.

"This is the (lunar module) pilot," Aldrin said on July 20, 1969. "I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way." Aldrin's way was to serve himself communion, using a kit provided by the pastor of Houston's Webster Presbyterian Church.

Aldrin's brief and private Christian service never caused a flap, but it could have. Aldrin has said that he planned to broadcast the service, but NASA at the last minute asked him not to because of concerns about a lawsuit filed (later dismissed) by atheist Madelyn Murray O'Hare after Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas.

Did NASA do the right thing by making Aldrin keep his religious beliefs to himself?

As an elder in the Presbyterian church, Aldrin had the authority to conduct what is called an "extended serving" of the Lord's Supper. But Aldrin was representing the United States of America that day, and in many ways, all of his fellow earthlings. Should he have even conducted a private religious service?

"In the radio blackout," Aldrin wrote in Guideposts magazine in 1970, "I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture, 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.'
"I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think: the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements."

One small sip for man, one giant leap of faith for mankind.

The small chalice Aldrin used for the wine went back to Webster Church. Each year on the Sunday closest to July 20, the congregation celebrates Lunar Communion. "Communion can be celebrated anywhere," senior pastor Mark Cooper said Sunday. "Even cramped up in a lunar module on the moon."

Aldrin wasn't the only person to bring his faith to the moon that day. The astronauts left behind a tiny silicon chip containing a message of peace from four U.S. presidents and 73 other world leaders. Seven of them made references to God -- the presidents of Brazil, Ireland, South Vietnam and Malagasy, the king of Belgium, Pope Paul VI -- and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, who wrote:

"On this occasion when Mr. Neil Armstrong and Colonel Edwin Aldrin set foot for the first time on the surface of the Moon from the Earth, we pray the Almighty God to guide mankind towards ever increasing success in the establishment of peace and the progress of culture, knowledge and human civilisation."

UPDATE: I asked On Faith panelist Richard Mouw about provisions for self-serve communion. Mouw is president of Fuller Theological Seminary. He also is representing the Presbyterian Church-USA as co-chair of the official Reformed-Catholic Dialogue. Mouw's response:

"For our Reformed theology, communion is something that necessarily takes place in a congregational context, with two requirements. It is tied to--accompanied by-- the preaching of the Word and it requires at least one elder assisting the minister. Two exceptions: chaplains in military and other settings are given a blanket approval to conduct a communion rite without an elder. And a minister and elder may bring the elements to a sick or shut-in person--with the understanding that this is an extension of the congregational rite that has recently taken place. There is simply no provision for a solitary self-serving of communion. It is difficult to think of a theological rationale even as an unusual event."
-----------

Did NASA do the right thing by making Aldrin keep his religious beliefs to himself?

Did Aldrin do the right thing by serving himself communion on the moon?



She Called Me "Snookie"

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

Grandma Lily called me her little Snookie. I never knew what the name meant, but I liked the way it sounded, maybe because it had a sweet sound and the word rhymed with a sweet thing. One of my earliest memories is sitting on Grandma's lap as she rocked me in her sturdy wooden rocking chair. "Snoo-kie ... Snoo-kie," she chanted as she rocked me back and forth. I felt safe and loved in her arms. Sometimes, she sang to me, always Sunday School songs like "Jesus Loves Me" and "This Little Light of Mine." Many times, I fell asleep in her lap as she sang softly and gently:

"Into my heart,
Into my heart,
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
Come in today, come in to stay.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus."

Grandma and her cousins, Lena and Laura, ran the Sunday School at the old German Methodist Church. They were the second generation of the founding members, their parents, German immigrants who started the church in the 1800s. When I was little, the church had two services, one in English and one in German. There were many old people in the congregation, and it was rich with German tradition. My little friends and I represented the fourth generation of the founding families, and Grandma Lily, Lena and Laura were still supervising the Sunday School when they were well into in their seventies. By then, their teaching methods were anything but modern.

Sunday School was in the banquet hall in the church basement. Rows of chairs faced the front of the room, tiny red wood chairs for the little kids and metal folding chairs for the older ones. An easel was set atop a large mahogany table, and fixed to the easel was a bible story picture that illustrated the lesson for that Sunday. Even then, the pictures looked old. Grandma and Cousin Lena talked about the picture and taught the lesson while the youngest children squirmed in their seats and the older ones tried their best to be polite and not yawn with boredom. We all looked forward to breaking into our age-appropriate groups, taught by young moms, where the lessons were fun. Then, when that was done, we went back to our chairs, and Cousin Laura, who always wore a black dress and a matching wide-brimmed hat, played the out-of-tune upright piano, loudly because she was hard of hearing, and she led us in familiar choruses of Sunday School songs.

Before I understood the concept of Christianity, I wondered how Grandma Lily could be so strong in her faith. Her life had been tough. She and my grandfather lost their second child to a sudden illness. The baby was just 18 months old, and she died on Grandma Lily's birthday. Not too many years later, Grandpa died suddenly of a heart attack leaving Grandma to raise my dad, who was just nine years old, all by herself. There was little money, and Grandma worked very hard. She was a nurses' aide at a special school for children who were disabled by polio. Every morning, the children arrived at the school, some on crutches, some in wheelchairs, and a few in iron lungs, and Grandma was always there to greet them and tend to their needs. Oh, how she loved those children! And they loved her back. In fact, a few years ago I wrote an article about Grandma for Reminisce Magazine, and I received letters from several of those children, all grown up now and still remembering how loving Grandma had been toward them when they were sick and small. In those days, it was just fine to sing Christian songs and to say prayers in school, and I learned that my grandma had sung to the children, and she prayed with them. I'm sure that she called them Snookie, too. Grandma believed in the words of Psalm 146:9: "The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; But the way of the wicked He turns upside down." (NKJV) Grandma's faith was an inspiration, not only to me, but also to my family and to all the children whom she loved like her own.

Proverbs 22:6 says: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." (NIV) I understand now about faith. It sustains us in both the best and the worst of times. Grandma knew it. She clung to her faith, and she lived it and wasn't afraid to share it. She trained countless children in the ways of the Lord, softly, gently and righteously through simple songs and compassionate acts. Grandma Lily turned little hearts to Christ, and when those little ones grew up, they trained their children using her example.

I am so very grateful to have been her granddaughter -- her little Snookie -- and even more grateful for the love of God that she set in my heart.


Father God.
We pray for all the Grandma Lilys in the world. We ask that you bring the little children to them, just as you did to Jesus, and that the children will hear your precious songs and that your wise words will be on their hearts, and that they will be trained to live their lives as unyielding members of the Christian faith. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.


NEW FROM THOMAS NELSON

CLICK ON THE BOOK TO PREVIEW. VIEW THE BOOK TRAILER BELOW.
FROM BARBOUR BOOKS
I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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