“Honor your father and your mother.”
- That phrase appears 8 times in Scripture–Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4; Matthew 19:19; Mark 7:10; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:2.
- That phrase appears in the best summary of moral code ever written: The Ten Commandments
- That phrase prophetically speaks against American obsession with youthfulness/youth culture and marginalization of one’s elders
Today, I want to worship God by honoring my mother on an appropriate day to do so. My mom was raised in the small rural town of Guntersville, AL, and later Pontiac, MI. She grew up a poor tomboy under the oversight of a stern yet loving mother and a father who was trapped in the cage of alcoholism. She traveled the world as a “stewardess” (back when they were called that) for TWA. She married a Tulsa, OK boy and spent 20+ years raising two kids in the Hawaiian islands. How’s that for an “uncultured, southern, small town girl”?
Perhaps her Christ-like affection for the marginalized began when she was a little girl in the 40s and 50s. She had an African-American friend they called “Pickle.” And she didn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about being a white, freckled, red-headed Irish girl who had a black boy for an early childhood playmate. For some reason the poison of racism, which poured through many pockets of the US during that era of American history, did not penetrate the walls of her heart. This was the beginning of a career marked by caring for the marginalized.
My dad just sent me an email, telling me that the county in which my parents live (Marshall County, Alabama) honored my mom with “Humanitarian of the Year.” The County and my dad offered the following summary of accomplishments:
- working as a flight attendant for flights in and out of Vietnam during the war
- service to Hawaii Baptist Academy
- fundraising for a Honolulu Homeless Shelter
- the tireless efforts that she has an continues to put in teaching Christian values, parenting skills and other life skills to women from broken and dysfunctional homes in Marshall County through the Christian Women’s Job Corps
- marrying my dad, which he admits “may have been one of her greatest humanitarian acts”
I would add to this two things: (1) discipling two children in the knowledge and fear of the Lord; (2) investing in countless individuals over the years in one-on-one relationships of a very unilateral nature, with my mom being the giver and they being the receiver. I witnessed many of these relationships as a child, even when I didn’t know what I was seeing.
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
My ministry is easy in comparison. I stand up in front of people. I’m in the spotlight. I preach sermons and lead worship from a platform and a microphone. I get pats on the back and “attaboy’s” all the time. My mom’s ministry is hard and all too often thankless. She ministers in the trenches with “the least of these.”
Too many sons and daughters wait to honor their parents at their memorial services. I don’t want that day to be the only day I do so. I want my mom to know how proud I am to be her son, and how humbled I am to have been raised by someone whose heart bled mercy.