Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Charlie and I have five grandchildren and one soon to arrive. Two of those are 2 1/2 year old boys, so you can imagine we hear the possessive pronoun "mine" with amazing frequency. Trucks, action figures, apples, fruit snacks, and more prompt Max and Mav to loudly proclaim personal possession and dominance. They usually work it out in fairly short order, since there's plenty to go around and always parents on hand to enforce "sharing" of sorts.

One little episode started kinda cutesie and ended up disconcerting for me. Mamaw, ME, was the disputed possession. The three of us were sitting on the bed, getting ready to watch a movie together, and Max decided the view would be better from my lap. When Mav realized Max was sitting on my lap instead of beside me, suddenly I became the most popular person in Portage Lakes. They briefly debated who had prior claim to me, and it quickly descended into a preschool brawl, with shoving and pulling and smacking. Of course, I was in the middle, and took far more blows than either boy. Being fought over quickly lost any slight attraction for me. Mamaws are meant to be loved by their grandchildren, not owned by any of them. Big concept for little guys.

Apparently it's a big concept for some big people, too. Adults who are big in selfishness, sin, and perversion. Adults who say "MINE!" to 27 million plus slaves, persons just like you and me.No human being was ever intended to be owned by another. Yet there are more right now than at any other time in human history. People who live in daily agony, held hostage by the perverse desires of another. They are men, women, children. Their "owners" use them for backbreaking labor, sex trafficking, soldiering...whatever their greedy hearts desire.

Whose responsibility is it to do something about it? MINE.

Whose voice matters? MINE.

Whose whole heart is in it to end it? MINE.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Jewelry and Jesus

This morning when I was putting on jewelry for the day, I heard Jesus speak to me clearly. "See. I told you so." Immediately I knew what He meant. When I was a little girl, I read many books that explored continents, books telling of great, adventurous lives, and I so wanted to figure out how to do that. Later as a junior high student, a much admired teacher wrote in my little blue autograph book a verse I memorized the moment I read it. "He knows, He loves, He cares. Nothing this truth can dim. He gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him."

That was a poetic version of the scripture my parents had chosen for their life verse. It was emblazoned on plaques around our house, quoted often, and actually hung in the air as a culture-shaper. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart."(Psalm 37:4) Of course, I was cautioned many times that this actually meant most of all that when I find my pleasure in God, my desires will begin to mirror His.

Now decades into my journey, I know that is true. The more I love Him, the more I want only what He wants for me. But I also see that nothing delights HIM more than giving good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11). I wouldn't trade my life for any other, and I am speechless at how He has led me in pleasant paths. As I look back at the childhood dreams that filled my heart awake and asleep, and then the longings I had as a young adult, I stand amazed at what He has done.

Hear me now. This is what Jesus meant when He spoke to me this morning. I have taken countless classes on time management, strategizing, life mapping, etc. They have all been excellent, and my life has improved exponentially when I follow the directions I have learned. But where I am today has had very little to do with my excellent strategies, and almost everything to do with sheer obedience, taking the next step Jesus has shown to me. Often in following Jesus I have wept and taken significant time to surrender, because I thought in yielding my desires to Him I was losing something I really wanted. I have let go and given away things that mattered so much to me, things that I was certain chipped away at my dreams so thoroughly that I packed them away,  and just quit thinking about them.

But He never did. That's what He was talking about when He watched me select jewelry to wear this morning. The necklace--from India. The bracelet--Malawi. The earrings--Kenya. Remarkable because I purchased them all myself, knee-deep in adventure, swirling smells and sights of different worlds around me, living my dream. Pretty big stuff for a little girl from Caldwell, Ohio.

I couldn't have planned it. Well, yes, I could have. I could have dropped the ball with my family, not had the incredible joys of pastoring the most amazing collection of people one could have the pleasure of knowing, missed out on adventures and satisfactions beyond telling,  as I zeroed in on my desire to see the world. I could have seen more faster, but what else would I have missed?

I'm an accidental adventurer. "Daily obedience"
seems like drudgery when you just read the words or hear them. But the best life mapping strategy I can recommend is simply that. Daily obedience with my time, my money, my relationships, my choices, believing He sees what I can't see, knows what I don't know, and loves me more than I can begin to comprehend. Thanks for the jewelry, Jesus. I love it. I adore you.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Long Goodbye

Ronald Reagan famously described his descent into Alzheimer's disease as "the long goodbye." So sadly appropriate, but one doesn't need to have a loved one lose mental capacity to see and sense the footprints down the path to life's earthly farewell. Simple aging will do it.

This morning my heart feels the agony of knowing that good bye has begun. Oh, it could be some time, even years, I suppose, but my awesome father, the greatest Daddy a girl could ever have, has been very aware he is on the path home. His 93rd birthday is May 1, so we are all aware and profoundly grateful we have already been blessed to have him share the journey with us far past the biblical standard of threescore and ten.

The winter has been hard on Dad, and two falls in the last month have given him new struggles to face, and new decisions to consider, decisions none of us want to make. Not driving, and letting his car go,  was a tough one, though he did it with grace. Considering permanently leaving his home, the place he shared with his sweetheart Marie (our precious Mother), longer than any other place they had shared--well, it's a shot to the heart. Some people say, "Make him do it. You have to choose for him now." They don't understand the reverence I have for my Father. Control and power have never been in the cards in our relationship in any way, shape, or form, and I can not picture introducing them now, as long as he can think and choose. I know his Father will lead him. He will get to the right decision in the right time.

In these last years since Mom said her own earthly "goodbyes", Dad has been teaching me so much. He doesn't want to leave the town of Sugarcreek for several magnificent reasons. He told me, "My ministry is here, Brenda. I rock those babies at church. They count on me. There's a couple of people on my street I pray with every day. No one else is doing it. What will they do? My small group---we love each other so much. Here is where I am making a difference. When the day comes you can't serve and you just need to be served--well, that's time for heaven." Wow. I know so many of us who are so healthy and so young yet who could use a dose of Dad.

My sister-in-love Patty told me after his second fall, "Dad said to tell you he is doing better, and is encouraged. I can see he is not really, but he's trying to be." No surprise. One of Dad's mantras and choices in life has always been David's: "And David was greatly distressed...but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God." I Samuel 30:6

He doesn't want to be a burden to anyone, let alone the ones he loves so much. I'm 32 years younger than him, and I can already get that. Just being with him has caused me to take a look at what it will be like for me if I get the incredible privilege of a long goodbye. So, I wanted to write my children a letter and tell them what I have learned, what I know I won't be able to say at that point in the journey.

My beautiful children:

It's no secret that Dad and I are no longer the people who live in your earlier memories...strong, capable of balancing many things, handling life on our own, and even rescuing you from time to time. I am so grateful for your patience and love, but I am asking you to try to go even a little further. Can you try to understand what we're going through?

When we talk, I will probably say the same thing over and over. I may tell the same story again and again. Please don't interrupt me and tell me I already said that. Do you remember how many times we read "Three Billy Goats Gruff" over and over when you were little? The thousands of times you said, "Mommy! Mommy...Mommy...Look!" in one day? It's your turn now. :-)

When my clothes are put together a little strange, a stray hair is sprouting somewhere, my bed head needs serious help, or I smell a little funny, just help me.  Don't be ashamed of me, Please cheerfully help me match my clothes, pluck the hair, help me get my "do" done, and work with me on hygiene. I will STILL know who I am inside, and how I want the world to see and remember me--what I can't do worries me more than it does you. I'll need to know you still are proud to introduce me as your Mom.

When you watch me struggle with grasping how the TV works, or getting the door unlocked, or how the computer works (all right--I admit it. On the computer stuff, I am already there :-) --or anything requiring technical skill--don't laugh at me, roll your eyes, or get annoyed. The most basic tasks in life were patiently taught to you by Dad and I. We have been very competent, capable people in our lives, and it is bewildering to us to not have our fingers and mind work with the dexterity we once had. Hang with us, please. Try to see it from our eyes.

Give me time to remember. I will be your loving, praying Mother every moment I breathe, and I will carry you right to Jesus when I leave you. So, though it may take me longer than it once did to get it out, I bet if you'll wait for it, I'll have something worth saying.

When my tired and shrinking body can't move like it used to, smile at me, and give me your hand to hold or your shoulder to lean on, just like I did for you when you learned to walk, or experienced your hurts. 

Most of all...don't let sadness overwhelm you and keep you from me. Inside the wrinkled old face, I will still be there. Look at my eyes. You will see me there, laughing and dancing, and being me. And remind yourself, we have to say "goodbye" in order to have a great reunion.

As I am writing this, our earthly goodbye seems as though it may be a long time away, and I truly hope so. Your incredible Dad is still cracking us up with his booming stereo speakers and his love of music that makes the floor move. His personal favorite right now is an Eagles' song that says, "There's a hole in the world tonight, there's a cloud of fear and sorrow. There's a hole in the world tonight. Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow." Any time that one of us leaves this earth, there will be an unfathomable hole in our world. But, when we know Jesus, we have heaven. Together. Forever. Make sure the highest priority in your life today and tomorrow is knowing Jesus and passing him on to your children and your own grandchildren. We don't want any holes in that world tomorrow.

Love you so much. I cherish and thank God for the privilege of sharing life and eternity with you.


And to my Father, James L. Mason--what a man. I can't wait to kiss you today, and to remind myself of the truth that, because of Jesus, when we say "goodbye", we will soon say "hello."