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Mother's Day

Being Mother’s Day, I wanted to talk about two mothers and offer a challenge to all mothers.

The first mother is the one I know the best—my mother.  She would be thrilled to be here today and to know my sons.  My mother was proud of me—the way most moms are about their sons, I suppose.  But I miss the way she always believed the best about me and was so optimistic about my abilities and my future. I don’t really have anyone in my life like her anymore.

Those that attended our camp prior to 2010 surely remember my mother—they called her Nan.  She made thousands upon thousands of her special chocolate chip cookies, helped in our kitchen, and headed up transportation for a few summers. She played in the camper/staff tennis tournaments and even won one year!  Her mirth, laughter, faith, support of our ministry, dedication to her children and love of God were inspiring. I don’t know of anyone that knew her that did not love her.  That’s the lady she was.

I can only hope to become half the self-sacrificing parent my mom was for me.   But ror the last fifteen years of her life,  Nan battled Alzheimer’s and she passed away a year ago. As I shared with my sons that she had passed, I realized that they had no recollection of their mothers or fond memories of them. They were unable to identify with my loss.  All three were given to the state by their mothers when they were quite young, and none of them knows where their mom is or what she is doing right now. 

What a pity they did not have a mother like mine—one that taught me how to play tennis, hold my tongue, act like a gentleman and even control my temper.  She showed me how to behave at a friend’s dinner table, how to do what I did not want to do, but needed to do, and how to worship God.  I am not saying that I have always followed her directives, but she did teach me and show me how to live.  Sometimes I got it right and that would have made her proud.

To this day I can still recall how it grieved me, even as an adult, to disappoint her!  She expected great things from all of us and demanded that we live up to our God-given abilities and the privileges to which we were born.  To my knowledge she never asked for help but always was ready to give it. She was not one to gossip, but could quickly put the lid on it if her kids attempted to throw mud at others.  Never one to put on airs or try to impress others, she was quite confident in who she was, and she carefully associated with others in our church and her friends who shared her understanding of humility and modesty; yet she combined this with her humor and a clear understanding that we are all marvelously made by a God who says we are precious and unique.  She believed that we all have a purpose and value in God’s eyes.  

Nan loved selflessly. She gave beyond what was prudent to give. She was always the one that brought laughter and joy into a room. She loved to tell funny stories and attempted to tell jokes, albeit she never could remember the “punch line” at the end of the joke—yet that somehow made the laughter at the end of her joke all the more uproarious!

My mother also had a testy side to her. She was fiercely protective of her children. Pity the person that spoke disparagingly of any of the kids. She was never sick, never slept late, and absolutely would not tolerate coarse, profane or inappropriate conversation. She would not put up with bragging, unkindness or rudeness. She expected too much from us and we sometimes complained about it..but we are all better children because of her lofty expectations.

To a large extent, I entered the Christian ministry because of her ministry to me.  Within a few years of graduating from college, in fact, all of her sons became ministers of the gospel. Her legacy lives on.  God blessed my siblings and me with a wonderful mother.

A few years before she passed I went to a family gathering in Florida—the wedding of a nephew. On my way to the wedding I stopped by to see my mom. It’s horrible to visit one suffering from dementia. All of you that know a person you love who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s know how depressing it is to see a life fade away like this.

My mother was non-ambulatory, non-verbal and rarely responded at all. I sat with her for fifteen minutes, hoping she would open her eyes, smile, wink her eye… anything.  I prayed for her; I thanked God for her; I asked God to let her pass in peace as soon as possible to release her in heaven to become the happy, vibrant, talkative, entertaining mother and friend she used to be.  She never wanted to leave the world in this manner. It is the one thing she dreaded more than anything else: being unable to care for herself.

So why did I and all my other siblings go and visit this little old lady who could neither talk, hold our hand or feel our caresses? Because that’s how she raised us. We weren’t brought up to do what was convenient, or self-serving, or always pleasant.  We were taught to believe that, “what comes around goes around," and that we should honor and respect our parents—even old, feeble, demented parents.  (But that I idea is being challenged in our culture today on a local and national level like never before.)

Being with my mom reminded me of who she was, what she expected of me, the sacrifices she made for me so that I could succeed, and the joy that comes from seeing those you love overcome setbacks. If there are good things in my character, most can be traced back to what she said, did and demanded from me.

I am not a trained expert in family counseling, but I do believe that many parents don’t demand great things from their children and then later complain that “society,” a bad coach, an unfair teacher, or a rude police officer has caused their child to fail.   But my mom would quote, “Raise up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).  She would put the blame on the parents—not the police. 

But the second mother to talk about is the most blessed of all mothers, she was the one God picked to bear His only Son:The virgin Mary. Who can compare to Mary?

A book was published by Erica Komisar about the importance of a mother for her infant child. In fact the book argues that the mom’s intimate presence with the baby is unimaginably important for the first three years of the child’s development, in a way a man or father could never equal.

More significantly, a neuroscientist, Dr. Nim Tottenham, determined that not only are infants biologically dependent upon their mothers, but that babies are far more neurologically fragile than ever before realized. He remarked that babies are born without central nervous systems and that mothers are the central nervous system to babies, especially for the first nine months of life; but up until three years the mom serves an absolutely essential role for the baby’s development. So every time a mother soothes or comforts her baby, she is actually regulating the baby’s emotion from the outside.

Now you might wonder why I am bringing all of this up. I did not understand why this article caught my attention until it hit me while I was driving in the car one night on my way to a dinner: God chose the virgin Mary to carry His beloved Son; that same Son, Jesus, was born like all men are born, vulnerable and fragile, just like the babies described earlier. He was not born a “super baby” but was born into a very fragile environment. Jesus, like all infants, lacked this central nervous system and therefore was dependent upon Mary’s protection, care, affirming words, and comfort for Him to develop as a young man. What an honor that God chose Mary to be that mother! But what a wonderful young lady Mary must have been to be chosen. God trusted Mary with the emotional care of His Son—to see to it that He was properly loved, comforted, protected, and nurtured. I don’t think I have ever really grasped how incredibly responsible Mary was until I read this article in the WSJ. What an amazing task to lay upon a young mother and what a marvelous performance on her part.

What does that have to do with Mother’s Day or with ? Well, obviously God did not chose me or you to nurture the baby Jesus. But God has given me something just as holy as the baby Jesus. Paul told the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.”  (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV)  I carry within me the Holy Spirit, a part of the triune God! Mary carried Jesus and was tasked with caring for that baby properly, but I carry God’s Holy Spirit within me and I am tasked with not allowing anything to cause Him (the Holy Spirit) disappointment, discomfort, or pain! “I am not my own!”… is how Paul eloquently puts it. (I Corinthians 6:19-20, Paraphrased)  I not only belong to God, but I am carrying within my soul a part of Him. God forbid that my eyes, hands, mouth or imagination would see, touch, speak or conceive anything that would hinder His work within me.

I was born again and redeemed not to pursue my own career, agenda,, pleasure, or personal enterprises, but to present my body as a holy sacrifice and to be a dwelling place for His Holy Spirit… no less than Mary presented her body as a proper dwelling place for the baby Jesus.

And finally to the moms or future moms, ask yourself:

1- Are you sacrificing for your sons and daughters?  A mother that has her heart attuned to God will give up her very life for her child.

2- Are you expecting great things from your children, or have you sentenced them to a life of mediocrity by your intention to spoil them so that they will love you—-but forever be handicapped because you failed to expect excellence from them.  Don’t listen today’s culture gurus—they are wrong.

3- Are you teaching your children about God’s eternal truths and laws, or are you surrendering to the diseased mindset that is taking over our society?  Man’s laws and mores change in less than a generation—-God’s are eternal. Are you preparing your children to one day stand before God and give a reckoning of what they have done with what He has given them?

4- Are you loving those in your home selflessly, sacrificially and beyond expectations? They are watching and learning from you.  Are you prepared for them to follow your example?

5- Are you protecting them from the enemy’s attempt to lure them into a compromised, mediocre life of moral ineptitude?   He’s trying to devour them. Be a lioness for them.


Dean Barley

1945 Vineyard Road

Westfield, NC 27053

336 351 2070

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