Sending the very best

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Danny's mom will be 79 Sunday.

Or, as she said during a recent conversation, with the same enthusiasm as a seven-year-who knows he'll soon be eight, "I'll be 80 next year."

So, if you've had to shove me out of the way at the greeting card aisle, please forgive me for taking so long. But the card must be perfect. And in order to know with certainty that I've found the perfect card, I have to look at all of them. The only question that remains is will I go for the sappy hearts and flowers, attempting to capture all that she has meant to us through the years or will I blind side her with a sarcastic jibe at her increasing years? (She loves a good laugh, after all, and none more than at her own expense.)

Whatever I decide, I couldn't possibly settle for an everyday, plain Jane birthday greeting.

After all, this woman has served as my surrogate mother for more than 35 years. I can only imagine her misgivings the first time Danny walked me through the door and introduced me as his girlfriend. Scrawny and ill-kempt, I swung on a pendulum between utter shyness and, sometimes ill-advised, exuberance. I'm sure she didn't know what to think. I certainly turned her well-ordered world topsy-turvy. I don't think it's stopped spinning yet.

I wonder if she remembers the night in March 1972, when I showed up, unannounced and uninvited, on her doorstop, after walking the best part of the 18 miles between my parent's home and hers. She pulled the door open, opened the screen, said, "Danny, someone's here to see you." Within 5 minutes Danny had the keys to her car in hand so he could drive me home.

I'm sure she remembers our first dinner party, when she demonstrated the danger of losing a Green Stamp butter knife down the kitchen drain, by losing a Green Stamp butter knife down the kitchen drain.

And I know she remembers leading us to exile in the wilds of Wyoming after our foolish foray to Wichita in the winter of 1974.

In spite of all this, and so much more she has never been anything less than kind to me. When Lisa was delivered by emergency cesarean while Danny was working in the high country, she took me to her home from the hospital and waited on me hand and foot. It seems that some 24 years earlier, she Danny had been delivered by emergency cesarean while his dad was working as an over-the-road truck driver. She came home from the hospital to three young daughters and no one to help. She was determined that I not suffer a similar experience. Needs unmet by others were unfailingly met by her.

I must admit, I took advantage of her good nature more than once over the years. And since she is no one's doormat, she let me know when I crossed the line, but was ever ready to forgive and forget, never holding a grudge or withholding her affection.

No, not just any greeting card will do.

Just as the rote prayers I learned as a child will no longer do. They were the only prayers I ever spoke or, for that matter, heard, while growing up. We weren't church people and though Dad revered the Bible, I never saw him read it. But, unfailingly, before each meal we would pray:

"God is great

"God is good

"Now we thank him

"For this food. Amen"

and at bedtime:

"Now I lay me

"Down to sleep

"I pray the Lord

"My soul to keep

"If I should die

"Before I wake

"I pray the Lord

"My soul to take. Amen"

Eventually I taught my own children the same rote prayers, and in so doing, failed them. Because I failed to teach them about God's daily, personal interaction in their lives.

Not any longer. I have learned to name his benefits, his blessings, his personal interaction in my life each and every day.

Because God is great. And he is unfailing good. He knows me fully and well as his own dear child thanks to his Son, Jesus. Every day he makes certain that I have plenty to eat, a soft, clean palce to lay my head and good work in my hand to do. He encourages me through the dark days. He wipes away my tears. He replaces fear with courage. He is the author of my hope for today and for all of eternity. A rote prayer? A form letter? I don't think so.

Just as Mom deserves so much more than even Hallmark - sending the very best - can manufacture, so too, does God.

Jesus' disciples asked him one day, "Lord teach us to pray." And he did. He provided a model for prayer that is unequaled. (Matthew 6:9-13 KJV) In that prayer, God is acknowledged as Father, a role he has longed to play in his created man's existence since time began. His holy attributes are recognized. Our daily needs, of bread, forgiveness, and protection are met therein. And, by the time the prayer is finished, God is praised and his will is made paramount to our own. All is, therefore, as it should be. However, as much as I love what came to be called the Lord's prayer, as much as I love to hear it and to recite it, it is not a rote prayer or a magical incantation. It is a model. Honor God. Trust God -- to provide, to forgive and to protect. And bring your will into submission to his. Or as I like to say, "Pray until the prayer becomes praise."

"He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." Psalm 50:23 (NIV)

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