The Pastor’s Pen – May 12, 2019

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Dear Tabitha…dear mom…

May 12, 2019

Scriptures: Selections from Proverbs 31,  Acts 9:36-42

In reflecting on our reading from Acts for today, I couldn’t help but notice how great a celebration it was of the life of one of Jesus’ beloved disciples…one who was so greatly loved and revered and by all who knew her…and one who left a huge hole in the lives of those left behind after her untimely death.  This story gives us beautiful insight into the community of love and service that grew out of the young post-resurrection faith.

And in looking at the story, I realized that in previous times of reading the story of Peter and Tabitha, I have tended to focus primarily on the miraculous gift of new life that was given back to Tabitha through the prayer and agency of Peter.  However, on this Mother’s Day I would like to look more closely at the life that Tabitha lived in her community before she died,  For it seems that this story takes great pains to share just how incredible the witness of love and grace Tabitha was for all of those around her…a truth attested to by the incredible outpouring of emotion and grief that ensued when she suddenly fell ill and died.  Evidently, Tabitha was a pure and flawless example of love in action, of a life lived for others, of a tireless and selfless servant who found life’s meaning and purpose in taking the command to love one another deeply, to heart.  Truly she reflected the love of our Lord in all she did and said, and truly great was the number of those whose lives were blessed by having Tabitha as their friend.

Our scripture does not tell us whether Tabitha was in fact a mother or not, but her example is such that there is no doubt that she was a mother to all for whom she cared, all who were caught up in her sweeping embrace of serving love. 

And in reflecting on Tabitha’s love for all, I remembered a Mother’s Day letter I wrote to my own mother a number of years ago that was based on the words and thoughts of Proverbs Chapter 31.  I would like to share that letter with you once more, not only celebrating the wonder who was my mom, but lifting up Tabitha and all others who are moms.  All who have accepted this most solemn calling, this most sacred calling of loving one another with the deep love of our Lord…as a mom.  And so, I wrote to my own mother…

Dear Mom,     

First of all, I wanted to say, Happy Mother’s Day!  I am sure you can hear me, and I know you are well, for I know you are dwelling in the presence of our Lord Jesus.  It has been many years since I was able to tell you in person but on this special day I wanted to reflect on the wonder-filled example you gave to all five of us who were so blessed to call you ‘mom’.

In looking back and remembering, I cannot help but notice how much you looked and acted just like the way I imagine God’s love to be.  And how closely you reflected the image of God in which you were created and how you lived into the purposes laid out before you which so enriched the lives of all who came to know you, much as did Tabitha.  But most of all on this Mother’s Day I give thanks for the witness of your love which gave me a foundation upon which to build my own life….and a direction to walk in that has blessed me over and over again.

And so, on this, your day, I look to the words of a wise one so many centuries ago, one who wrote down the words and wisdom of the book of Proverbs…one who also knew what an amazing gift you and all others like you were and are to all the rest of us.  In reading through Proverbs Chapter 31 it seems as though many have known from the beginning what a blessing God wrought, and what balance and beauty would come from the creation of the ones we are all fortunate to call…mom.

And so, I offer thanks for the words of one long ago who knew and wrote down this truth…starting in verse 10 and writing down verses to a poem…sharing words all of us can affirm.

verse 10…

An excellent wife who can find?  She is worth far more than precious jewels.

Your example mom, the way you first began to show us love…was by loving our father…by standing by him in times of struggle…by listening, and by showing such a depth of patience…by loving him even when at times he might have seemed less than lovable.  A more fortunate man there never was who first knew the brilliance of the diamond you most surely were.

verses 15-18…

She’s up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day…
First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.
She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.

So true of both you and Tabitha…so much the very thing that real loving is all about…about giving and serving way beyond the call…about extending oneself to the point of sheer exhaustion just so that those you love are well taken care of…so much the way you lived for us…

…always with a smile…always with a kind and encouraging word…always coming to our defense whenever we felt wronged or injured some way…ready to affirm our every fledgling attempt to be creative or adventurous…you were there.

…and as for never calling it quits…I still blush with shame to think that we found it so amusing when you would nod off at the dinner table, so exhausted from your self-emptying life of service and love…succumbing to your body’s insistence that you pause just for a moment to be renewed, before snapping awake and getting to your feet to begin the evening chores, including the affairs of the home as well as tending to the needs of five children who never even thought of giving you a moment’s rest.  No dear mom…you never did know when to call it quits for the day.

verses 19-21…

She’s skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.
She’s quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn’t worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.

        Somehow you knew…somehow it was just a part of who you were…the skills and talents you brought to bear in truly making our house into a home were simply amazing…

…working within a pauper’s budget you fed and clothed us in ways that made us never to know how difficult it was for you…from casseroles to meatloaf, from hand-me-downs received with grace and sincere gratitude…as though it were Christmas over and over again…to furniture that matched absolutely nothing else but yet somehow fit into a tapestry of design that was comfortable and cozy…all of it became a part of our happiness and joy…for it was given in love and we knew it was good…truly you knew how to live richly with very little…

        Following in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus you taught by example…making sure each of your children not only learned how to make the bread you baked sometimes twice a week…but teaching us to be as generous to those around us as you were…giving away countless loaves of that precious life-giving bread to those the Spirit moved your heart to reach out to…such a witness, such an example to follow…

        …and late evenings darning socks or teaching me how to knit and to sew…giving me an independence of spirit and ability which still blesses me in being able to stand comfortably in my own frame…Oh, and thank you mom for that first Singer Treadle Sewing machine you got for me, a joy and a creative wonder that I will never forget…for in that act you taught me how to love and to serve another with the gift of care…

        Mom, you not only made our house a home…you made other’s homes just a bit brighter through the graceful way you gave of what you knew…sharing without asking for anything in return, giving beyond reasonableness to that point of truly helping others in their need, reaching in to where soul and spirit meet, smiling gently and offering the hand of companionship and love.

        Truly you were skilled in hearth and home…in ours…and for those who were so graced and blessed to call you their friend.

verses 25-26…

When she speaks, she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly.

        We all lost your physical touch and comforting embrace way too soon to the tragic car accident that stole your movement when you were at the tender age of just 47…an accident that was to change everything…and to define the rest of our lives so differently from that moment on.  And yet…though you were never again able to reach out and to catch us up in a loving hug, or gently wipe away a tear from our eyes…somehow you rose up, above that seemingly impossible cruelty…above that unjust steel-like cage of pain and frustration to fly free of it all by continuing to live your life for those around you…by holding us with your unwavering smile, your unfailing good cheer and all your kind words.

Though you were no longer able to physically hold us, we were none the less held closer than ever in the embrace of your eyes, your listening heart, and your gentle yet firm words of instruction and guidance as we all still struggled our own way to grow into responsible adulthood. There truly never was a moment when you did not have something worthwhile to say…or when you did not say it with gentleness and kindness…and for this we are ever grateful…thank you mom for continuing to hold us so close in your heart.

And finally, verse 28…

Her children respect and bless her…

        I do not think there has been, or ever will be a person whom I will respect and admire as much as I do you dear mom…And I am pretty sure my brothers and sisters would all agree…along with a whole host of others whose paths crossed your own…or whose paths you sought out in response to some inner call to reach out and hold closely in the name of love.  Your God-given talents and skills…your grace and understanding…your patience and persistent good chee as result of 20+ years of service as caretaker (multiple injuries. Surgeries on shoulders, carpal tunnel – both, knee replacement – never once complained or sought to collect worker’s comp because did not believe they would cover injuries due to long term use and wear/tear, and was able to continue and believed so strongly in worth of work I was involved in),, are an example we can only hope to draw near to imitating…

…for you see, you set the bar just a bit high dear one…or maybe it wasn’t you who set it at all, but rather our Lord of Love who calls each one of us to the same grace-filled purpose…to living lives of love…lives that are truly lived for others…lives whose only meaning comes from how well we have loved one another.

        And finally mom, somehow through it all…and against all odds, you managed to hold us each in such a way that we could see the God in whose image you were so finely cast…somehow we could see through the hardship, the toil and struggles, the unknown lack and want…to the Love you yourself were following…

…in looking at your unfailing love we were able to see the unfailing love of God…

…in witnessing your grace, we were able to see the grace of our Lord…

…in receiving your mercy and forgiveness for the times in which we insisted on going astray, we were able to see the gentle One who so cherishes us without condition each and every moment of our lives…

…in being blessed to touch, and be touched by your life of deepest love…we were touched by the very hand of God…

…and so, in deep humility we can only say…thanks…we will continue to try to live by your example…

Happy Mother’s Day!   I love you…

…thank you Tabitha…thanks mom…and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who share the same sacred calling…

…amen

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