Happy Mother’s Day!

On Sunday mornings, I awaken to the sounds of “Be Still and Know.” It’s one of my favorite hymns. This morning as I listened to it, I was struck by the fact that all the references to God were masculine. “Be still and know that He is God,” for example. I thought why not “She is God” once in a while. Is the masculine form the only divine one? Can only men create?
When referring to male-female differences, a therapist friend of mine is fond of saying, “Women are human beings. Men are human doings.” It makes the point that women are invested first in relationships while men strive for accomplishments. Women are about belonging; men about achieving.
That doesn’t mean that women don’t achieve. Far from it. Amelia Earhart flew around the world. Danica Patrick flies around the track. Babe Didrikson Zaharias pioneered women’s professional golf in the 1940’s. The Associated Press named her the Top Female Athlete of the 20th Century. While the Babe ushered in professional golf for women, Annika Sorenstam closed out the millennium by winning 72 tournaments, while being honored as the Female Athlete of the Year eight times.
Those are only athletes, you say. Well, what about world leaders? The list includes Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, and Helen Clark of New Zealand, who took office as prime minister in 1999 and is still at the helm. Or consider Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany and reported by Forbes to be the most powerful woman in the world.
Science and medicine? Have you heard about Florence Nightingale? How about Madam Curie? Here’s a short poem written some time ago by a female scientist:
The true woman who possesses exceeding wisdom,
She consults a tablet of lapis lazuli
She gives advice to all lands…
She measures off the heavens,
She places the measuring-cords on the earth.
The author’s name is EN HEDU’ANNA. She was an astronomer. Not familiar? I’m not surprised. She was a Babylonian priestess who lived somewhere in the neighborhood of 2350 BCE. Dr. Anna is the first known female scientist on the planet. This poem, unfortunately, is the only writing we have of her, but make no mistake. She was important. No leader could claim legitimate title unless approved by the astronomer high priestess.
And then there’s the military. Women routinely serve our Armed Forces, not only in support roles, but side-by-side with their male counterparts in combat, leaving their families to attend their posts in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the mothers, wives and daughters of our country certainly are not the first women to do so. How about Joan of Arc for instance?
Female accomplishments in what many of us have considered traditional male roles are indeed a tribute to women. And those who have pioneered paths to the frontiers of gender equality rightfully deserve honor and respect. But there is another aspect of women that is far more worthy of consideration. And that is the capacity of women to love others.
Love is what makes women spiritually superior to men. Guys, we need to face it. When it comes to what is good, what is beautiful, what is enduring, women lead the way. And the greatest example of this unselfish love is motherhood.
Women give their time, attention, and devotion to children. Women give their bodies, their youth, their health, and some give their own lives in order to create new life. Virtually all women give tirelessly to sustain and enhance life. All women are our mothers.
Women do this because they are “all about” relationship. They know how to love unselfishly. It’s built in. The earliest feminist studies clearly demonstrate that while the males of our species are busy trying to win contests, women “tend and befriend” so that we can all win.
In John 15:13 Jesus tells us, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” That’s what women do. Every day. All the time. They have shown us this love throughout history. Women are truly the gospel everyone reads.
One day to honor all women by recognizing their motherhood is a paltry gesture in relationship to the gigantic contribution women make to the world. Nonetheless, this is that day. So of course it is politic to buy a Mother’s Day card for the women to whom we are so deeply indebted, to take them to lunch, bring them a spring bouquet and remind them that they are loved. We must never forget to do that, because mothers love us too much to ask for these things. They likely would feel selfish.
But we could do so much more to show our appreciation. We could honor mothers by acknowledging women as the spiritual leaders they are. We could stop fighting. We could say “I love you” more often and mean it. We could put the needs of our mothers ahead of our own—at least for a few minutes a day, every day.
Well, that might be too much to ask. Maybe one day a year is all we can really muster. If that’s the case, then we need to make this day special enough to be remembered all year by those who gave us life. And for all those who sustain it, which means every woman. So take the time right now to honor them. Turn to every woman around you and tell them, “Thank you for all you do for my life.”
And I thank you. Each and every woman who hears or reads this please know that no words are enough to show my gratitude for your unselfish love, for giving me life, for showing me how to live, for teaching me to love. On this Mother’s Day and every day, may God bless you richly as you have blessed the world.

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I knew I was in trouble when a client quipped the old reliable “You’re not fat, you’re just big boned.” I thought my careful attention to attire (dark colors, loose fit, absolutely no horizontal stripes) would slenderize me sufficiently to pass for healthy. But that was not to be. I’d like to be young as well, but with a head of snow white hair and matching beard, it’s hard to pull that one off, too.

It’s not that I haven’t tried to get thin. I’ve been to gyms, spas, saunas, retreats, workshops, and nutritional counselors. I’ve tried Reiki, accupressure, even been hypnotized.

I’ve been on just about every diet and food plan there is: low fat; low carb; lo mein. I’ve been to Scarsdale and South Beach. I’ve consulted doctors from Atkins to Weil. Stopped by for a quick consult with Phil along the way.

Heck, I’ve even tried not eating. That one works best. It’s just not very sustainable, at least for me. I did get skinny twice in my life. Once was the original Atkins diet: meat, cheese, eggs, more meat, more cheese. Got down to a size 38 suit and was looking good. Then I started to eat like a normal person and became the prototype for the Incredible Hulk. Busted out of that size 38 so fast I couldn’t find all the pieces. By the way, you know how the Hulk is always left with a semblance of cut-off shorts after he super-sizes? Well, let me tell you, that’s not the way it works in real life. First thing to go is the butt seam quickly followed by any buttons near the waistline, which become tiny unguided missiles.

The second time I got thin I replaced food with sour mash whiskey. Definitely lost the weight, but that plan landed me in rehab. As soon as I got there, they told me I was too skinny and began to fatten me up again.

That was nearly 25 years ago. Since then I have gone up and down, up and down, up and down, up. I still get to the gym occasionally and some days–even some weeks–attempt to eat healthy. But here’s the truth: I like food. I especially like American food and even better, American fast food. I love a good burger, with fries and/or onion rings and a thick chocolate shake (of course, I want the whipped cream and cherry.)

A good burger is defined as one that when you take a bite the grease runs down your arm like the red stripe on a barber’s pole. It has so much fat, you can almost hear your arteries slam shut before you finish it.

I like my rib-eye steak medium rare, thank you, with cheese, bacon and sour cream on the potato and the thicker the bleu cheese dressing on the salad, the better. I like almost anything edible (except liver) and even better if it’s barbequed. I like pancakes with lots of butter and syrup, thick sliced bacon and anything that starts with the words “chicken fried.” I also like Mexican food, well, Tex-Mex anyway. I want those enchiladas swimming in gooey melted cheese and I want my flour tortillas made with real lard.

I have finally surrendered to the fact that more than I like to look good, I like to eat. No, I love to eat. And I’ve been doing it for a good little while. That’s the ugly truth.  I can’t hide it. What I stuff in private hangs out in public. So I’m old, I’m fat, I’m the Great American heart attack.

And while I’m all about confessing, I’m not about to apologize. Could you pass the gravy, please?

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Love Is a Verb

Ralph was troubled. His Sunday sermon was prepared, but something kept gnawing at him. His argument was grounded in solid Christian theology, but it was somehow lacking. He was searching for an answer to a problem that causes deep concern among Christian clergy throughout the U.S. and Europe.

The problem is the growth of Islam. Of course, this is only a problem for folks who fear Islam’s growth, which is apparently outpacing Christianity by about one-half of one per cent annually. At least, this is the consensus of those charged with keeping that particular set of demographic data. And it can only be a consensus because the data can and is skewed by so many so-called religious demographers that one would be hard pressed to report the data with any real degree of certainty.

As one might expect, clergy tend to seek a religious reason for this phenomenon. Likewise, they seek a religious solution to the problem. So it was no surprise when Ralph told me that he thought that we Christians should “pray more.” My friend came to this conclusion after reading about Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, who learned to pray five times a day in the Muslim fashion.

To be sure, Christians are no strangers to frequent prayer. Roman Catholics pray the rosary; their priests pray the daily office. The Apostle Paul exhorts us to “pray without ceasing”(1 Thessalonians 5:17). Many Christians engage themselves as “prayer warriors.” And nearly every congregation posts a prayer list, asking for intercession for a variety of spiritual, temporal and medical needs.

The practice of intercessory prayer is said to be powerful and so it must be. But praying is not what brings about an increase of the flock. The growth in Islam is primarily due to demographic trends. Islam is growing the fastest in third world countries where the population is rapidly expanding, whereas Christianity is dominant in Europe and North America where population growth has slowed dramatically. Growth in Islam in these areas is due in a large measure to immigration of people from economically distressed countries who, looking for a better life are willing to do the kind of work that most so-called civilized folks would rather not. Add to that the practice of the governments in some countries of killing people who would convert to Christianity, and it is easy to see why Islam is on the increase on many fronts.

Until intercessory prayer can build schools, raise crops, supply medicine, or win the hearts of the millions of downtrodden among the Islamic faithful, it is not likely to bring about a solution. These acts, though, just might. If we of the Christian faith who are so privileged to live the land of milk and honey would do these things (and insist that our government do the same with foreign aid dollars), our prayers might indeed be answered. These acts of agape are exactly what Jesus instructed us to do. Aren’t they?

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