Tag Archives: mom

Poem

What a friend we have in Jesus.

Please don’t tell me that everything happens for a reason.
Cause if there was always a reason, then there would be more healin’.
If cancer was the plan – then why am I still reelin’?
This pain’s not going away – it’s not just here for a season.
They say you are a mighty God – so why did she stop breathin’?
I prayed and prayed and Prayed and PRAYED that you would give this some meanin’

But there she lay.
Tumor in the brain.
My tears pour like rain.
Calling out a name,
When she wasn’t moaning.
Calling out a name,
When she wasn’t groaning.
Calling out a name she didn’t know – and it wasn’t Jesus,
A friend for 75 years, and what good did that do her?

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief to bear.

So I lay next to her.
I hold her hand next to her.
I stroke her hair next to her.
I read the Psalms next to her.
I pray to God next to her.
I stop and sing next to her:

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

Please don’t tell me everything happens for a reason.
But this love we share – it will always have meaning.
This love we share – Eternity is its season.

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#CancerSucks

teal ribbonCancer sucks.

Are there any two words written that were ever more true?  Is there anyone that read that sentence and didn’t think, “Yep, it sure does.”  It sucks more than the suckiest suck that has ever sucked.  Sorry about the 10-year-old mouth, but I think most would give me a pass.

My Mom has cancer.

Those words were hard to even type.  It’s not something I ever wanted to say again.  Six years ago her ovarian cancer went into remission.  Six doses of chemotherapy spread out over three week spans knocked it out. We hoped it was knocked out for good, but we have already established the sucky nature of cancer.

After my Dad told me the news, these are the things I did:

I cried. I sobbed full force, white-knuckled into my pillow. I know cancer. Cancer and I work in a lot of the same places. I can meet cancer at a hospital, or at someone’s home, or in a conversation at church, and I seem to know what to do. I’m not saying that I’m altogether comfortable with cancer, but we’re familiar. This time though, I wasn’t ready. I thought we had an agreement.  Cancer isn’t supposed to bother me at home, but like I said, Cancer sucks.

I hugged my wife, because it was her turn. We seem to take turns being strong in moments like this. It is strange, but I seldom recall a time when we were both crying at the same time. Someone told me once that I’m supposed to be the spiritual leader of our home. That’s bullshit (again, sorry about the language, but my emotions are pretty raw). We are partners. Sometimes I’m strong and confident and fearless and protective and all that stuff. Sometimes I’m not.  Sometimes I’m fragile and raw and broken. Sometimes she kicks me in the ass, and says, “Get up. Suck it up, and get after it.” Sometimes she holds me, strokes my head, and lets me just be broken. It seems like she always knows when she needs to do either, and I love her for this.

We went to our friends house. We have good friends. We have the kind of friends with whom we can play “Cards Against Humanity,” and hold nothing back. Nuh-thing. We share the big celebrations like weddings and births and C-League Volleyball championships (Go Spiking Vikings).  We share the mundane stuff of life like carpools, Tuesday dinner, red wine, and school plays. As soon as I was able to stand, I needed to see our friends. We’ve already buried two parents together, and they know more than anyone that there are somethings that even my lucky rocket-ship underpants won’t help. At their house, the conversation went something like this:

“I just found out that my Mom’s cancer is back.”

“That sucks.”

“Yep.”

Sometimes friends have the perfect words for the moment.

A couple of weeks passed before we were able to tell anyone beyond our very small circle. Finally yesterday I emailed the prayer chain at our church. I’m not sure why I was resistant. Sometimes I feel like a character in Harry Potter, afraid to say the name of You Know Who for fear that speaking it’s name will give it power.  Or maybe I can’t let go of ill-gotten notion that as a pastor, I shouldn’t be vulnerable. There are people in the church that are in need of care, and I how am I supposed to care for anyone when I’m hurting?

The text I’m preaching from on Sunday is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, and starts with these words, “Rejoice always. Pray continually.  Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” You’ve got to be kidding me. (I typed and then deleted a certain expletive in between the words “be” and “kidding me” about five times. I decided to go with leaving it out, so you can re-read that sentence and put it back in, if you so choose).

Rejoice always? That’s going to be a hard sell.

That, however, might be the point. Rejoicing always isn’t about skipping along in a land of rainbows and gumdrops. Praying continually is not about kneeling, folding my hands, and closing my eyes to the world. Giving thanks in every situation isn’t about denying the parts of life that just plain suck.

I rejoice in the life my Mother has lived, and I rejoice in the life she continues to live. I rejoice in her strength. I rejoice in her faith. I rejoice that she just called me from Sam’s Club to ask if I needed a new top coat. “Yes,” I said as I paused from writing this very blog. “My overcoat is blue, and it would be nice to have a black one for funerals.”

You see, I deal with cancer all the time. Truth be told, we had no deal. I knew all along that cancer goes where cancer is not welcome. I’m not rejoicing in its return. Yet in the midst of all things I give thanks.

I give thanks for a Mom who gives me more than I could ever imagine. I give thanks for her partner, my Dad, who taught me that its okay to take turns being strong. I give thanks for my brother and sister, for getting the teal bracelets and doing all the things I can’t do because of distance. I give thanks for my own partner, for being strong enough to hold me up from time to time. I give thanks for my daughters, who teach me every day about grace. I give thanks for my friends, who right now are probably thinking, “I thanked your Mom last night.” I give thanks for my church, who didn’t get an invulnerable pastor. They deserve better.

calvin

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Where the Wild Things Are

I recently wrote a guest column for rethinkchurch.org.  If you want to read it, CLICK HERE.  It’s a pretty good article, and a great website.  I also preached a sermon on Mother’s Day around this topic.  If you’re interested in a CD recording, please let me know in the comments. We can exchange information in a private email, and I’ll send you a CD.

Also, check out that picture of me next to the article.  I’ve lost about 35 pounds since that picture was taken.  I look a lot different now.

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A Gift For Mother’s Day

I think the dandelion should be the official flower of Mother’s Day.

I have known a lot of great Moms in my life. On Mother’s Day the custom is to give a gift to the mothers in your life.  Today, I am reflecting on the gifts that I have received from the mothers I have known.

Thank you for the gift of strength.  You showed me strength beyond measure.  You lived out the true meaning of the word fight because you were fighting not for yourself, but for your girls.  You showed me endurance when the medicine and the disease were destroying your body.  Even when the possibility of cure was gone, your spirit lived on.  You reminded me what it means to live, and revealed to me a strength that comes with the abiding presence of God.

Thank you for your gift of gentleness.  Your last words to me were, “Oh Robby, she’s beautiful,” as I lowered my newborn daughter to your side.  Hers was quite possibly the last face you saw.  It was your last gift to me, the last of many.  Thank you for the ice cream and Wheel of Fortune.  Thank you for letting “my” dog live with you.  Thank you letting me help you with your word searches.  Thank you for giving me a glimpse of the Kingdom when I sat at your table, and revealing to me the aroma of heaven.

Thank you for showing me how to dance – even on the table if the occasion required it.  Thank you for loving me as your own and showing me what it means to be a friend.  Thank you for dividing my sorrow and multiplying my joy.  Thank you for the s’mores around the fire in the summer, and the songs of love and family around the fire at Christmas.  Thank you for providing a place I knew I would always be welcome.

Thank you for your gift of support.  Thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  You weren’t just my biggest fan.  For most of my life I thought that you were my only fan.  Thank you for helping me get back on my bike after I ‘fell off’ (we’ll just leave it at that), and for giving me lunch money when I forgot mine at home.  Thanks for teaching me to hail to the orange, for the letters, and for the surprise boxes of cookies in the mail.  I promise when I finally write my book, you’ll get the first copy.

Thank you for your gift of faith.  Thank you, not just for bringing me to church, but for living with Christ.  Thank you for loving Dad more than anything, and for loving God more.  Thank you for birthing in me a God-given vision, and for guiding me gently as I learned to see it for myself.  Thank you for buying me the watch I wanted – the one with the tiny little buttons that was so impractical.  Thank you for buying another one when I lost the first one.  Thanks for letting me tight roll my pants even though you knew I looked ridiculous.  Thanks for the sawbucks on Friday nights, and for staying up for me.  Thanks for letting me grow.  Thanks for letting me go.  I know someday I’ll have to do the same, and I pray that I can do it with the same amount of grace that you showed.

Thank you for your gift of forgiveness, grace, and love.  You make me a better person every day.  Your forgiveness reveals to me the grace of our God, and I know that the Holy Spirit has bound us with cords that cannot be broken.  Together we are more than we could ever be apart.  You have given me purpose, and you have given me two girls that fill my world.  When I see you read to them, play with them, laugh with them, snuggle them, correct them, and teach them I see the grace of God.  Even when I’m awfully low and when the world is cold, I feel aglow just thinking of you.  And I remain deeply, hopelessly, endlessly in love with you.

Thanks Mom.  Or should I say, “Thanks Moms.”  I’ve been loved by a lot of Moms in my life.  They’ve given me so much.  I hope you like this dandelion bouquet.

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Other FP links about Moms:

Yo Momma’s So Nice jokes

The legacy of the founders of Mother’s Day

A letter to my Mom before being ordained

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Some people see the weeds

Many years ago for Mother’s Day my brother built a flower garden for my Mom.  He was sort of the family gardener, and it was common for us to plant flowers for my Mom for Mother’s Day.  The garden was usually his place to plant fruits and vegetables.  We usually had a few big pumpkins, and I remember trying sweet corn one summer.  It was his little corner of the yard.  This was his senior year in college, so he decided to convert the vegetable garden to a flower garden for Mom.  He knew it would probably be his last year doing the planting, so he wanted to leave her with something that would last.

He planted all perennials.  He planned it out meticulously and worked hard at giving her a beautiful garden full of depth and color and variety.  It was the most beautiful gift I have ever seen.

My Mom was a teacher at the time, and the next day at school she was telling all of her friends about the beautiful gift her son had given her.  Most of her friends agreed that it was a beautiful gift.  One co-worker (I’m not sure that they were really friends) only commented, “Well, who’s going to pull the weeds?”

Don’t you know people like that?  Some people see the flowers.  Some only see the weeds.

That garden is still beautiful.  It has changed some over the years.  Another friend gave my Mom a bird bath.  There was a flower added that was her sister’s favorite.  The maple tree in the corner has grown quite big.  Each spring it comes back and the gift is renewed.  I’m not sure my Mom has ever pulled a single weed from it.

Some people see the flowers in the garden.  They enjoy the beauty in the world.  They gaze at sunsets and marvel at the ocean.  Some see grace and joy and love.  Some appreciate their many blessings, and hope that somehow they can be a blessing to the world.  Others see the weeds.

I don’t deny the weeds are there.  I know that there is pain in the world.  All of creation has fallen.  I know that we have a lot of work to do as a people of God.  There is injustice to fight and there are souls to save, but when presented between the choice to focus on the flowers or the weeds, I choose to rejoice in the flowers.  When given the choice to focus on God’s grace or the Creation’s fall, I guess I choose to err on the side of grace.

Read about another gardening adventure

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