broken, but hopeful: a keynote for faithculture2014


My mom was orphaned at the age of twelve. Her mother died of terburculosis. Having married only for his wife’s inheritance, her father disappeared when he received the divorce papers, thereby securing the small family fortune for the welfare of the two children, my uncle and my mom.

The money was distributed between their two aunts, who in turn, raised them into adulthood.

A shattered home. Two parents now gone. Broken, but hopeful.

Although she was an orphan, my mom never let bitterness take root in her heart. It was not until I was well into my adult years that she told me her story.

Several years later, while in her early twenties, she stood waiting at the train station. It was foggy in the early morning hours. As the most parted, there he was. Eye contact. Recognition. The mist clouded her vision momentarily before parting again.

He was gone.

It was as if he had never been there at all. But it was him. His remains now rest in the military cemetery in San Francisco.

At the age of 29 she married my dad. They had four children. I am the youngest. 53 years of joy, mingled with pain, heartache, disappointment, delight, and complete faithfulness.

My mom is with Jesus in heaven now. She died on August 30, 2010. Dad preceded her in death in 2007.

Her story demands to be told. She had neither the inclination or the means to communicate it to a larger audience. She was not a writer. But she had something important to say.

She needed someone like you to share her story, broadcasting it to a larger audience so that many may benefit. She needed your eye for detail and your passion for preserving the narrative integrity of her story. She needed your curiosity to till the soil of her early years, shedding light on the remarkable woman of faith she became as an adult. She needed you to listen and to learn the cadence of her voice, the rhythms of her faith journey.

She was not a visible mover and shaker in the world of faith and culture. Most people would move on to more marketable projects with higher profiles. Perhaps this is justifiable in the business sense. Yet, the hundreds of children she influenced in daycares and Sunday schools and on the streets of Watts in her early years would likely say she made a difference for them. You can be sure her children and grandchildren would agree.

She was an orphan with a heart full of love for people. That’s why she would have greeted you with a hug and offer you something to eat and drink. Your comfort would have been her priority. No handlers preventing your access to her. No entourage. Just an unshakeable belief that God loves you and that you matter.

She would have asked about your story and inquired concerning your health and happiness. You would have arrived, hoping to capture enough material to justify an article or maybe even a short biographical sketch. You would have left with a heart full of longing, understanding that this is a person of deep faith.

The small, humble slices of life she touched were never the same again. She was no mere consumer of culture. She was a contributor by virtue of demonstrating her faith in Christ with joy for the benefit of those to whom she related.

With enough time and observation, you would have picked up on all that. Because you are writers, storytellers, with a keen sense of what is really most important in the conversation on faith and culture.

Thank you for reading this heartfelt keynote.




As my siblings and I clean and sort my mother’s home, we are discovering gems long forgotten, and articles never-before-seen. A photograph. A year book. An artifact shedding light on memories from long ago. So many memories. Memories of a life lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the wars that followed, plus the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memories of our mom’s father who ran out on the family, and her mother who became very ill, dying at a young age, leaving her and her brother orphaned and in the care of their aunts.

But there are memories of joy, too. Marriage to the man of her dreams. Four children. Five grandchildren. An assortment of puppies, teddy bears, and music boxes. A profound love for Jesus Christ. A love for children.

These and so many other memories come flooding back as we work through the memorabilia, keepsakes, and stuff of a household long lived in. We began sorting Dad’s tools today. I remember using that old heavy mallet and the garden pick. We came across his fishing lures, many of which we recognized from years ago.

We not only are remembering our mother who died so recently, but we are remembering our father, due to our responsibility to sort through both of their possessions in greater detail. We remember, we smile, we mourn, and we give thanks for their legacy.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

We are gathered here to celebrate your life. And celebrate, we do. Although we mourn your passing deeply, feeling and coping with the pain in our own personal ways, we agree together that your life was a life well lived. We know that you would have understood our sorrow. You would have smiled, given out some hugs, and pointed out how good God is. It is your legacy, this great faith you modeled for us for all these years.

I remember the stories you told; so many of them. Stories of God’s provision in times of personal and financial need. Stories of trust when life’s circumstances seemed bleak. But you never became bitter; you only became sweeter. And you shared that sweetness liberally as a testimony to God’s grace through the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Mom, do you remember in the latter years how we would stand on your front porch talking? I cherish those times. You would reach up and bump the chimes hanging low. And then I would follow suit. We would smile and laugh, and then do it again, the chimes laughing along with us.

You would invite me inside to show me all your Teddy Bears, hundreds of them. It fills my heart with joy to know they will be distributed to children in need just as you insisted.

I also remember over the years our conversations late into the night. We talked about life and the Lord, and we told funny stories. We remembered and we hoped.  You never let me hear the end of some of my childhood sayings, such as, “Neeeeveerrrrmind.”

When I was little I would squeeze up next to you in your plush chair made for only one person, but you always made room for me.

You came to my track meets, football games, basketball games, choir performances, and even to my graduations. You comforted me when I cried, cheered me on when I competed, and challenged me to live as a testimony for Jesus Christ.

You loved all your children equally, wanting the best for each of us. You would never hesitate to say, “I love you.”

Late one night as a child, just six years old, I knocked on your door in tears. I was not sure whether I would go to heaven when I died. The man at church with the fancy three piece suit told me that it was worth a try. But I was not so easily persuaded. I needed more than that. Through the simplicity of the gospel you set me on your knee, heard my fears, and led me into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is for this reason I am comforted in knowing that you now enjoy an eternity with God, and that you are reunited with Dad. So, while we mourn for a season, we do not do so as ones without hope. Goodbye for now, Mom. Oh, and in response to your inevitable, “See you later, alligator,” we would all like to say, “In awhile, crocodile.”

3 September 2010 by Glen Alan Woods

This letter was read today by the presiding pastor at my Mom’s memorial service.


Photo by Glen Alan Woods

someday the fog will clear and the sun will rise again. when all the world falls under a shadow, it is only for a season.

hope gives confidence in the midst of pain. and we have this hope, secure in Christ.

although we mourn our loss, we rejoice in her gain, joyful as she is before the throne of God.

and someday we will gather again together, not by a graveside, and not in travail, but in joy beside the river “which flows by the throne of God.”

3 September 2010 by Glen Alan Woods

In honor of my mother, Lillian Bates Woods, and for the comfort of my family.

honoring my Mom and Dad

Father’s day draws close. It is nearly two years (August 14) since my Dad’s passing. I miss him. Last Sunday, I showed my mom the dedication page in my dissertation. The citation honors both of them. It reads as follows:


In Memory of

Kenneth R. Woods

In your living you gave us your love. In your passing you gave us a legacy.

 In our reuniting there remains a celebration

of Christ, community, and family.


In Honor of

Lillian B. Woods

The children of Watts yelled, 

“The Bible lady is coming! The Bible lady is coming!”

Thank you for sparking in me a passion for the lost and for the little ones.

Field Notes from a Day of Rest

On Saturday I slept in until 9:30 am. I then took care of some business before heading out to visit my mom. I arrived at her home at 1 pm. We talked for awhile and joked. She showed me all her teddy bears, hundreds of them. She reminds me every time we meet that she wants them to be given to children in need when she passes away. She wants the church to distribute them. She wants to impact hundreds of children who do not know Jesus, as well as those who do know him.

We drove about three miles to a local park in her town. Lafayette Locks Park. The Yamhill River runs through the park, a gushing rapid of white water. The eloquent music of the river sings in harmony with the various bird species. It is a quiet place outside of the sounds of nature. A couple was present with their small family dog. Mom immediately befriended the puppy and the couple as well. She is always so friendly, others can’t help but feel special around her.

Mom and I walked the park, choosing our steps carefully but surely. We enjoyed the sights and sounds, the smells, and the counterpoint of the cool breeze and warm sunshine. There was no hurry, no rush. Just a mother and son enjoying each other’s company. It was a day of rest. A day of fellowship. I can get used to this.