God’s Voice Sounds Like My Mother

March is International Women’s Month!  It is my hope that you will join me over the course of the rest of March in celebrating the women who have had a significant role in influencing me.  I will post daily blog-posts — some of these posts will be from me talking about the women who have had a significant role in influencing me and some of the posts will be from these women themselves, childhood friends, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc.  My hope is that this series, “Celebrating Women,” will accomplish three things:  1) to serve in a small way as a “Thank You” to all the women who have influenced me, 2) that you will gain wisdom from those who have spoken wisdom into my life, and 3) that it will serve as a reminder to say thank you and to recognize all the amazing women in your one life.

My mom, Sadie, with my daughter, Elizabeth.

“Train up a child in the way he should go.”  Proverbs 22:6

It seems appropriate to start this series, which thanks the women who have influenced me, by saying thank you to my mother, Sadie Bender; after all, I’ve known her my whole life.

She wouldn’t want to write this herself, and to be honest, when one of her friends shows her this, I am going to be in trouble.  She would prefer not to draw attention to herself, but I need to begin this series with the woman who began it all for me.

Mom is an amazing woman.  There is much that I could say about her.  She is unbelievably generous, a model of hospitality, and devoted to her family.  Her care for our father during his “long good-bye” with Alzheimer’s was truly heroic.

But for me her lasting legacy, is that she spoke to, and at least in my case, for God on a regular basis.

Mom read her Bible and prayed daily.  She demonstrated that time with God was not a drudgery to be accomplished but an opportunity, a  privilege, a joy. Because she listened to God, she became, at least for me, the clear voice of God in my youth and continues today.

I still recall the proverbs — some from scripture and others she had heard from preachers or clipped from Christian magazines — she would repeat to me and my brother.   Her voice of correction and encouragement was quick to respond to our transgressions, our disappointments, and our successes.

But where Mother spoke most clearly into my life was her “shrewd management.”

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 16:1-13 of a shrewd manager.  A man who knows his time with his employer is coming to an end shortly, so he goes out and makes ridiculous bargains with others — seemingly against he own best interests at least for the short run.  He does this in order that after his termination he will have a benefit, a dividend, a reward.  And so he does.

It’s a strange parable; one that we can get hung-up asking the wrong questions or trying to get it to say things it doesn’t.  The point, however, is one that my mother understands well, one that she tried to teach, one that continues to speak God’s voice into my own life.

Time is short on this earth — our employment here is quickly coming to a close, so invest wisely — so wisely that it looks ridiculous by the world’s standards.

My mom invested and continues to do so in ridiculous ways.  Through her generosity and hospitality I hear the voice of God reminding me to care for the other, the poor, the less fortunate.

For me, however, the height of her ridiculous investment comes down to a $0.50 wager.  Mom was our Sunday School Superintendent when I was in elementary school.  If you are unfamiliar  with the term Sunday School Superintendent, she was responsible to lineup teachers for all the children’s programming on Sunday morning at our church.  Before, we would break into age appropriate classes, the superintendent would conduct opening ceremonies — we would sing, celebrate birthdays, and take an offering.

As part of opening ceremonies one day, my mother made a wager if you will — anyone who would memorize the books of the Bible would get $0.50 cents.  For me, that was real money!  At Tesky’s Gas Station, that would still get you a bottle of Pepsi and a frozen Snickers bar!  And so began my knowledge and love for the Bible.

A ridiculous investment.


A life changing moment!

Thanks, Mom, for that $0.50.  For investing in ridiculous ways.  For being the women that first spoke God’s love into my life and continues to do so to this day.




Blah Blah Land

“A gentle answer turns away wrath.”  Proverbs 15:1a

Written at 5:06pm, Sunday, February 26, several hours before the Oscars.  

You can fill in the blanks based upon your viewing of the Oscars or reading the headlines tomorrow.

Tonight during his/her acceptance speech for winning best _____(enter category here)______ at the Oscars, ___(enter name here)____ offended ____(enter name of offended person or group here)____.  This is just another instance in a string of offenses caused by the acceptance speeches of “winners” during award ceremonies recently.

____(enter name of enraged person here)_____ was quick to respond on ____(enter name of social media here)______ stating that this was outrageous and demanded an apology.  Instead of apologizing, ____(enter name here)____ quickly took to _____(enter name of social media here)_____ and retorted ____(enter retort here)_____.

My wife told me that if I wanted to increase my readership I should write about the Oscars tonight – especially something controversial.  I have to be honest, however, I’m tired and will be heading to bed shortly after posting this and long before the Oscars are over.  So thanks for helping finish the introduction above.

It is possible that no one said anything controversial and that no one was offended by what was said – I guess then I have egg on my face.  Of course, that is as likely as Batman vs Superman winning an Oscar for best picture, so I’ll take my chances.  Unfortunately, these spats spurred on by these speeches are just another example of art and Hollywood mirroring reality and the rest of the culture at large.

It seems more and more that we aren’t living in the magical world of La La Land but rather in the third grade playground world of Blah Blah Land.

I don’t begrudge these actors their opinions — although I wish they would set an example for our young people by using these speeches to say “thank you” at least as much as they complain.  I also don’t begrudge the people who are offended to shoot off their mouths/posts/tweets in response.

I guess that’s the beauty of freedom of speech.  But freedom of speech is different than responsible speech.

We have a responsibility to use speech wisely, compassionately, and even sparingly.  This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t speak up against injustice – exercising our freedom to remain silent can also be irresponsible.  Let’s be honest, however, that doesn’t seem to be the primary danger of the social media age.  Rather reasoned, wise, compassionate speech is shouted down in Blah Blah Land by a cacophony of angry, enraged, quick-tempered shouting.

We forget that a slow  thoughtful answer turns away anger, that a compassionate word can heal, and that this has to start somewhere – it may as well start with me, with you, with us.

I realize that some of you at this point are thinking to yourselves, “blah, blah, blah.”  This is an unavoidable danger in a piece like this.  If I’m honest, I have to confess that more often than not I get caught up living in Blah Blah Land.  I’m too quick to point the finger, shout the retort, post the FB response. But I’m tired of living in Blah Blah Land, I’m tired of hearing, “They started it!”, and I’m tired of the cacophony of unrestrained freedom of speech.

I want to live in a land where even our distinctions, our differences, our disagreements are part of a harmonious musical – not unison but harmony of distinctive voices seeking the common good for all.

Let’s start singing together.

You bring your part, and I’ll bring mine.  You bring your voice and listen carefully to the voice next to you.  Let’s move from the third grade playground world of Blah Blah Land to the magic of La La Land – where not every dream comes true, where difficult choices need to be made, but it’s all done in the magic of harmony.