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.

when a marine deploys

Tonight I had the privilege of leading a public prayer before a small crowd for this marine at the Portland Airport as he prepared to board his flight to North Carolina for final training before he heads for a one year deployment to Afghanistan. He and his family attend the church where I serve as children’s pastor.

I am very proud of this young man. I am equally proud of his family, especially his mother and father who have exhibited first class parental leadership, even to the point where they understand it is time to let go.

Make no mistake. He is headed into harm’s way. Please pray for Carl and so many others like him who are working to better the lives of the Afghan people while also seeking out terrorists.

a letter to my Dad

Photo by Glen Alan Woods
Hi Dad. It’s Memorial Day. Yesterday I visited your gravesite. The scene was beautiful. Thousands of American flags adorned the campus of Willamette National Cemetary. Each gravesite had at least one flag directly in front of it. I added two more to your site. I wanted to honor your service to our country. I especially wanted to honor you as my father. My dad.

I cried when I saw your marker. I always do when I am alone. I know you understand. Continue reading

When a child grows up

img016 This photo depicts two boys circa 1915 or 16. The younger is my grandfather on my dad’s side. The older boy, with his trademark severe attitude, is his brother. Much history surrounds the events leading up to and following this scene. My grandfather was kind then, as he continued to be later in life. He had three boys of his own, fought in WWII in the Pacific theater, became a mechanic, and loved his wife, children, and grandchildren deeply. He was a peacemaker and a warrior. He was gentle and fierce. Although the Japanese kamikaze pilot sunk his ship, hitting the exact spot he had just exited, he survived to see his boys marry and have children. He grew up, and has passed on. His legacy is worth remembering for family and for those of you who do not know him. He fought for your liberty against tyranny which threatened to dominate civilization. He did so with the gentle heart of a peacemaker. It is the kind of thing which happens when a child grows up.

Proudly it Waves, Old Glory

I sang the following song in a citywide choral cantata, “I Love America,” years ago in Newberg, Oregon. It made quite an impression on me as an 18 year old young man. It remains one of my favorite patriotic tunes. I share here with you the lyrics penned by John W. Peterson.

“Proudly it waves, Old Glory, over the land of the free; Promise of hope and freedom, symbol of liberty. Red, white and blue are its colors; Colors both brilliant and clear. Colors with far deeper meaning than that at first may appear. Red is for blood of Patriots who have died to free us; white is for justice and government of law; Blue is for honor and faith in all we do! This is my flag; This is Old Glory, the red, white and blue.”

Why I Celebrate the 4th of July

The photos below depict a large part of why I celebrate the Fourth of July. It is not about the fireworks. It isn’t simply about having a day off as a holiday. It goes far deeper than that. I celebrate the Fourth of July because I love my country. I am proud to be an American, specifically a US American. I am not ashamed to wave the USA flag and sing the old songs of liberty and freedom. When I consider the price that my fellow citizens have paid so that I may worship and live in freedom in this great nation, I am proud. Not in a haughty or arrogant way. No. Not in a condescending way toward other great nations, whether they be affluent or poor. Of course not. I am proud of the USA because this nation has given its sons and daughters over and over again not only to procure and sustain our own freedom, but also to liberate the oppressed all around the world. I am proud of the USA because of our long tradition of opening our arms to the huddled masses teeming at our shores, seeking respite from lives of destitution and tyranny.

On a personal note, I am proud because three of my ancestors on my mother’s side of the family, the Livingstons, signed the Declaration of Independence. Many other ancestors served in the military and also in pioneer ministry and scholarship. I am particularly proud of my grandfather on my dad’s side who fought in the south pacific in WWII and of my Uncle Carl, my mom’s brother, who fought in WWII in the European theater. But most of all, I am proud of my father. He was drafted at the end of the Korean War. He had been given notice to go to Korea, but the military granted him an honorable hardship discharge at the last minute. There is a story behind these events. Someday I might tell it.

Today I simply say, “Thank you, Dad. For your service. For your guidance. For the legacy you have left me and the rest of the family. The tears I shed as I visited your gravesite today were painful, but they were not without hope. They were sad, but they were not without pride in the service you gave the USA and your family. They were poignant, but only because I tarried to remember. Yes, so much to remember. Thank you.”