In Loving Memory of Mom:The Good Shepherd And The Cardinal Escort

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“What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete, as complete as God’s knowledge of me. Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.”
(1 Cor 13:12-13)

In memory of my mom and because October is National Breast Cancer Awarenss, please allow me to encourage you to get your annual mammogram or to remind the women in your life to do so… you are loved!

As my best friend, I’d typically talk to my mom several times a day. No matter what kind of day I was having, I could always count on her positive outlook. “Over here, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and I just planted 25 new flowers in my garden” was her daily declaration. At the time, I didn’t have much appreciation for the dawning of a new day nor the interest in listening to the sweet melody of the birds singing. I suppose it takes a realization of how very short our lives are to make us appreciate the simple gifts God gives us on a daily basis

The first time my mom, not a Christ follower, asked me to pray for her it was because she had found a lump in her breast. (After 3 years of skipped mammograms) She had retired one month earlier in perfect health and was looking forward to spending more time with her kids and grandchildren. With visions of new adventures on her mind, she purchased a small camper. We made lots of plans together, but God had other plans. I’ve lost count of the many surgeries and treatments she endured in less than 2 years from the time of her diagnosis before God called her home. But, I can never forget the faithfulness of our Good Shepherd in drawing near to her, comforting her, and delivering her from her fears as she walked in the “shadow of the valley of death.” In the midst of a most difficult season, she cried out to God and He answered-with the assurance of life eternal in Jesus Christ. (Leaving me to wonder… which is of greater concern to God- the temporal or the eternal?…)

I remember when the doctors told my mom she didn’t have much longer to live and there was nothing else they could do, she responded with one request: “O.K., but can you get me ready to go camping with my grandchildren one last time?” While my dad and I sat in stunned silence, the doctor couldn’t hide the look on his face. The poor dear didn’t quite know how to respond. She didn’t make it. I consider myself blessed to have spent a most memorable last day with her. When later that same day I got the call from my dad with the news of her passing, I returned to my parent’s home where, alone, I went to my mom’s room to say my final farewell. Humbly, I knelt down to offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for being her “Good Shepherd” and keeping every promise in accordance to Psalms 23-her favorite scripture. My dad was waiting in the hallway with a question when I came out of her room. “You know she’s not in there right? Who were you talking to?” When I told him I wasn’t talking to her but to Jesus, he asked “you don’t really believe in that “Jesus crap,” do you?” Of course I do. 

Thanks in large part to my beloved church family; the celebration of  life service we had for my mom couldn’t have been more divinely perfect. When one of our friends approached me to express her sympathy, she added how beautiful and thoughtful of me it was to add Psalms 23 to my mom’s obituary. I was stunned. I had written the obituary myself and had NOT added Psalms 23 to it. Though I called the newspaper so we could properly thank our benefactor, to this day no one knows how that Psalms came to be there.

I inherited the camper… and the adventure. If you’ve ever been camping with your family (and a 100 lb. dog who thinks he’s a baby), you know there is not much quiet time alone in which to seek God in prayer.  Because prayer is exactly what prepares me for loving the very people I’m crammed into a tiny camper with, I asked God to help me find a new pathway to worship and experience him. God answered that prayer by opening my eyes to his beauty and glory as proclaimed by creation.

Not long ago, we planned a special family camping trip in which to honor my mom’s memory and final request. As if a wink from heaven, this Northern Cardinal stayed by our side the entire time. It was the strangest, most wonderful thing. As if noticing for the first time, the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the Bluebonnets were in full bloom. 

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Indigo Bunting: Faith and God’s Abundance

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Indigo Bunting
“No one can please God without faith, for whoever comes to God must have faith that God exists and rewards those who seek him.”

(Heb. 11:6)

Bursting with life and color, this Indigo Bunting transformed the dead leaves of my yard into a stage for God’s glory… reflecting the condition of my heart. With every God-given call or task comes the temptation to dismiss it due to our lack of abilities, current circumstance, or foolish pride. I’m convinced that one of the greatest obstacles to following God’s call is our own deceitful heart. One morning as I struggled with such inner feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, I humbly offered it to God in prayer asking for a reminder of HIS love, presence, and promise. And should our Creator be willing, I asked that His reminder come in the form of His created, specifically a Bunting. I knew I was asking a lot, certainly more than I deserve. But, I also knew that “nothing is too difficult for God” and He takes pleasure in “rewarding those who seek him.”(Jer. 32:26; Heb. 11:6 paraphrased) Although I embraced the day with faith and expectancy, no words can describe the unspeakable joy and humble awe of spotting this Indigo Bunting in my own backyard!

As I marveled over this one time visitor, I felt God teaching me a most extraordinary lesson. God doesn’t call us because of who we are or the abilities we have to offer. God calls us because of who he is and the life abundant he has planned for us in Jesus Christ. I could almost relate to Simon Peter when he was called to follow Jesus during his earthly ministry. After a long night of fishing with no results, Simon Peter is instructed by Jesus to push his boat out further in the deep water and let down his nets. Almost reluctantly (it seems), Simon Peter does as Jesus asks only to find himself with a boat so full of fish that he requires additional help to keep the boat from sinking! Upon recognizing the abundance Jesus has to offer, Simon Peter falls to his knees before him and cries, “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:4-11 paraphrased) God can and does use these moments when we are most keenly aware of our own poverty of spirit to awaken our souls to the infinite riches he has for us in Christ.

As if in answer to an invisible call, I watched as the Indigo Bunting departed from the comfort of my backyard in pursuit of the great unknown. Likewise, we are left with a choice in how to respond to God’s call. We can remain in the current circumstance/condition in which we find ourselves… or we can choose to leave behind what we think we know and move forward in faith that “God exists and rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)

Inspired by the nature of God