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RIP Joyce Lawrimore

On June 14, 2019 at 1:10 pm, Joyce Hinson Lawrimore, 83, drew her last earthly breath and inhaled the sweet fragrance of heaven.

Joyce was born to Ernest M. and Myrtle Laird Hinson in Columbia, SC on April 11, 1936. Her older brother, Ernest, Jr., awaited her arrival, probably already planning a lifetime of pranks and gags. In keeping with their relationship, Ernest went ahead of Joyce through the pearly gates just a few weeks ago, presumably to get prepared for an eternity of brotherly hijinks.

Ten years after Joyce’s birth, she was delighted to learn she was going to be a big sister. She could just imagine all the fun she and her baby sister would have. She couldn’t wait! So, when her parents brought home baby brother Roger, she demanded they take him back! Luckily she did not get her wish. Just weeks before her passing she said, “God gave me two wonderful brothers and I love them both dearly."

After graduating from Columbia High School in 1954, Joyce attended Furman University where she was a member of the Furman Singers. Joyce’s Furman roommate was Sue Johnson of Hemingway, SC, cousin of a certain baseball player from North Greenville College, JB Lawrimore. Sue wins the lifetime achievement medal for matchmaking: Joyce and JB married December 27, 1957.

Joyce and JB transferred to the University of SC to finish their undergraduate studies. After graduating from USC with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education, Joyce taught typing and shorthand in North Augusta, SC before moving to Greenville, SC. It was there that both of their children were born: Jill Denise (1961) and Jay Hinson (1963). An active member of the Garden Club, the Bridge Club, and their church—Overbrook Baptist—Joyce truly enjoyed living in Greenville.

That is where they were when Joyce, her children just four and two years old, began experiencing muscle weakness and difficulty in walking. She sought answers from doctors, but did not receive a definitive diagnosis until later in life: limb girdle muscular dystrophy. Through the years, Joyce was diligent in seeking the best medical advice and in making changes in her diet, exercise routine, and daily habits. Because of her tenacity and perseverance, she added both quality and quantity to her life. Her family is deeply grateful for her determination. Regarding having lived more than 50 years with her disease, Joyce said frequently, “I’ve never believed God gave me MD. But I know God gave me JB to take care of me.”

Jay and wife Aileen married in November 1987; Jill and husband Ted married in January 1988. For many years, these four believed that Joyce loved them more than she could ever love another living soul. Then came the grandchildren, and the truth was revealed: Joyce’s life joy came in five adored bundles. She attended as many of their special events—sports, drama, dance, music—as physically possible, travelling great distances with much difficulty to see a grandchild doing a favorite thing for mere moments. She planned vacations for the whole family, inviting not just the grandkids, but their parents as well. Whether talking on the phone with them, seeing pictures from their travels, or enjoying face to face visits, Joyce delighted in every moment with her five.

The only thing Joyce was more devoted to than her family was her faith. She spent hours in prayer and Bible study daily and loved Jesus Christ with her whole being. It was this core that steadied her during difficult days, this devotion that gave her the hope that leads to everlasting life.   

Joyce is survived by her beloved husband of nearly 62 years, JB; her brother Roger Hinson and wife Dianne; her sister-in-law Evelyn Hinson; her children, Jill (Lawrimore) Webster and husband Ted, and Jay Lawrimore and wife Aileen. In addition, she is survived by her grandchildren, Rachel (Webster) Breckenridge and husband Carson, Trellace Lawrimore, Baker Lawrimore and wife Addison, Jake Webster, and Margaret Lawrimore. Joyce is also survived by her beloved nieces and nephews and their spouses and children, plus many other family members and friends.

Joyce was preceded in death by her parents and her brother Ernest Jr.

On Monday, June 17, 2019, the graveside service will be held at Lawrimore Family Cemetery in Hemingway, SC at 10:00 am. Visitation will begin at Calvary Baptist Church in Florence, SC at 1:00 pm, followed by a memorial service at 2:00 pm. Memorials may be made to the National Kidney Foundation (https://www.kidney.org/) or to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (www.mda.org)

Liturgical Baptists: We're a thing.

My daddy was an outlier in the early days of his ministry. He did things others would never have even considered. For example, in the 60’s he invited a Nigerian student to preach in his church—a church which had a large percentage of members who were known to don white hoods and burn crosses. For the remainder of Daddy’s time there, he received multiple and frequent threats from the local chapter of the KKK. Before that, he started an AA meeting in the church basement. Daddy wanted to understand AA’s 12 steps so that he could minister more effectively to congregants suffering from addiction. When told by the organizers he could not attend, Daddy explained that he most certainly would and if he had to become an alcoholic to become a member, that he would do just that. (They made an exception.)

Perhaps my Dad’s most brazen undertaking, though, was his effort to introduce his Southern Baptist churches to the liturgical year. See, back in the 70’s, Baptists pushed back hard against anything Catholic. (Wasn’t it enough that the Catholic Kennedys were taking over the government, for goodness sake?) And anything called “liturgical” would HAVE to be Catholic. So, it was pretty bold of Daddy to hold a Maundy Thursday service in his suburban church in the mid 70’s. And by the 80’s, maybe earlier, he introduced Advent to his congregations.

These days, many Baptist churches still ignore the liturgical calendar, using the secular one for worship planning. Cultural icons mark church events: the Easter Bunny hops from the mall to the fellowship hall; Santa leaves his photo booth for the church Christmas party; Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons are available by the dozens for download; and American Flags mark the scripture text for Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th, and Veteran’s Day . . . at least.

Like my daddy, I prefer the Christian calendar. That calendar begins at Advent with the expectation of the Christ child; proceeds through our Lord’s ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; continues to Pentecost and the growth of the church; and culminates in Reign of Christ Sunday the week before Advent. The church, therefore, celebrates the life of Christ with at least the same enthusiasm that the world celebrates Valentine’s Day and Columbus Day.

There’s another reason, though, that I’m not big on focusing worship on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. See, I’ve known too many people who didn’t have parents worthy of celebration. All week month long, those people have seen the ads and displays proclaiming the merits of moms or dads. Its inescapable. Over and over they are reminded of their experience of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Shouldn’t church offer a place of refuge for those suffering souls?

Likewise, there are those who would love to be parents, but are not. Maybe they haven’t found the right partner; maybe infertility plagues them; maybe they’d love to adopt, but do not have the financial stability to start the process. They hope against the odds that one day they will be mothers and fathers; but like every other year, they will not be receiving a handcrafted gift or a homemade card. Shouldn’t they be able to go to church and not face a service designed to celebrate what their heart longs for so desperately?

So, that’s why I stick with the church calendar. It’s hard enough to be “in the world and not of it” with the lines blurred as they are. Why make it worse by secularizing worship?

This Sunday is Father's Day. It's also Trinity Sunday. I'll celebrate both!

karl barth quote

Ministry Matters: EMTs in the Sanctuary

I learned this past Sunday that my friend Dave Miller passed away after a brief illness. Dave was a long-time member of First Baptist Church of Weaverville where I served as Minister with Youth and Children before accepting the call to pastor Ecclesia Baptist in Asheville. The incident I've described in the original blogpost (below) happened four years ago.

Wait--that can't be right . . . It was in February. 2015. So that's only . . . oh. So, yeah, four years.

The interesting thing about the story below is that it's actually the first of at least two similar occurrences when Dave had some sort of minor episode while I was preaching. This odd coincidence led to a running joke.

"I see you're preaching Sunday, Aileen," Dave would say on a Wednesday night at Bible study. (He was never just a Sunday morning church goer.) Eyes sparkling, grin hiding just behind his straight face, he'd quip, "I believe I'll play it safe and just stay home."

Or, "Hey Dave, how are you feeling today? I'm preaching so I just thought I'd check!"

"Well, I'm a little tired, but I'll get a nap during your sermon."

The last time I saw Dave Miller was my last Sunday at First Baptist Weaverville. "You be careful preaching every Sunday! Don't put them to sleep, you hear?" He laughed at his joke and I laughed at him laughing. Then, getting serious, he added, "We're going to miss you honey. We're really going to miss you."

I miss you too Dave. Give my love to Glory, and I'll see you in the sweet by and by.


ministry altar bible

February 5, 2015, Weaverville, NC

I've only been in the vocational ministry for five years, but if you count my nearly 50 years as a preacher's kid, that's a good bit of ministry--or at least church--experience. So I know of what I speak when I tell you that on Sunday, February 1, I came as close to speaking in tongues as I ever have.

I was in the middle of my sermon when an older member of the church who was sitting down to my right, slumped over in the pew. (I told him later that if he didn't want to hear me preach he could just say so and not cause such a stir.) As it turns out, he had a spell related to heart troubles and once the EMT's got things straightened out he was fine.

Anyway, there I was preaching on the weekly lectionary text like a good little girl when Dave keels over. It took me a minute to clue into what was happening but when I did, I turned back to the choir and asked a member who is a nurse to attend to Dave. She got up immediately as did another member in the congregation who is a medical professional. Our pastor, who by God's providence was seated one pew over, went to comfort Dave and his sweet wife of about 60 years.

That left me, mid-sermon, standing at the pulpit in front of a congregation of confusion, fear, and anxiety. I had absolutely no idea what to do.

But the Spirit did. It's a good thing that "the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) In truth, I remember very little of what I said or did. All of it was Spirit led.

Now, it's true, I was raised in the church and have experienced tense situations before this. I've seen my Preacher Daddy deal with emergencies from the pulpit a time or two and have been in other situations where difficulties arose in unfortunate surroundings.

I've also had classes on crisis management and read books on the same topic. I've studied group dynamics and crowd behavior.

But I'ma tell you right now. The Holy Spirit scooped up all that life experience and book learning and molded it into something far greater than anything I could have accomplished. In the midst of that human crisis, the Spirit interceded and brought Peace to the turmoil.

Hallelujah and to God be the Glory!

Amelia Goyri de la Hoz

Visiting La Milagrosa

On our visit to Havana last week, Jay and I visited the Colon Cemetery, home of the grave of Senora Amelia Goyri. Poor Amelia died in childbirth at just 23 years old; her stillborn son was buried in the same grave at her feet. Her husband, consumed by grief, could not grasp the fact that he had lost his family. He convinced himself that Amelia was only sleeping and had door knockers installed on her tomb. He visited her daily, knocking three times to awaken her and then, when his time was up, backing away from her tomb so that he could keep it within eyesight as long as possible.

Years later, the tomb was exhumed; witnesses claimed that the bodies were in fact not decomposed, and that the baby was now in his mother’s arms. Word spread, and Amelia became known as “The Miracle Woman.” Her tomb was turned into a shrine visited by people from around the world who came—and continue to come today—to ask Amelia for miraculous favors (mainly for the healing of children). Guests often bring gifts to Amelia’s tomb; many of these are a sort of thank you note etched in stone—a permanent acknowledgement that Amelia’s miraculous touch has not gone unnoticed.

I found the site agonizingly poignant. Having loved children who have left this world for the next, I sympathize with these grieving adults who want so desperately to right the incomprehensible wrong of beloved children suffering. I want to knock three times and back away, trusting The Miracle Woman Amelia to take away the pain in the world. I really do wish it were just that simple.

The truth is, though, that we live between the “already” and the “not yet.” We already get glimpses of the new heaven and the new earth where “death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” We see glimpses that prove that justice really can prevail, that show what God’s love feels like, or that illustrate how it feels to live in the center of God’s perfect will. In those times we are certain of who God is and whose we are. They don’t last long enough though . . . because we just aren’t there yet.

Brokenness remains. Death threatens. Hope falters. Grief lingers. And it can feel like “not yet” really means “no way.” But friends, hear the good news: in Christ there is always a way. In Christ, we are already there.

teacher retirement

Teaching: Miss P's Retirement Rationale

May 1, 2019

You know what I wish? I wish that this post had lost its relevance. It's been five years since I wrote it, and I wish I could archive it as I have other posts which were time sensitive.

Nope. Still. Only more so.

April 4, 2014

“I never used to think about retirement,” the teacher said. “I thought I would teach forever. Now though, thinking of retirement is the only thing that keeps me going.”

This teacher—I’ll call her Miss P, short for Miss Pedagogy—has been teaching since 1985. She has a master’s degree in her field and has completed independent study with experts of international acclaim. Long ago she lost track of how much money she has spent on her own continuing education. In addition to those costs, Miss P spends an average of $1000 a year on her classroom. Much of that money goes to student needs and resources that enhance learning.*

“I love teaching. I love my students; I even like most of them,” Miss P said, chuckling the way you do when something used to be funny, but isn’t anymore. Her attempt at levity flattened as she continued. “But I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t.”

Those who know the life of teachers could guess possible reasons.

  • Declining benefits, lengthening school year, stagnant wages.
  • Shortened lunch and planning periods, increased class size.
  • More and more assessments, less and less time to teach an ever expanding curriculum.

Indeed, these things are frustrating for Miss P, but not frustrating enough to make her leave the career she loves. She talked about how expectations of parents and administrators have changed over the years. In fact, let’s just think for a minute about what we, the consumers of public education, expect from our teachers. We expect them to

  1. Come to school early or leave late in order to tutor our children.
  2. Sponsor clubs and organizations relevant to their subject (or to our student’s interest).
  3. Take our money for tickets and concessions at our children’s extracurricular sports events.
  4. Attend at least some of these sporting events.
  5. Chaperone school dances.
  6. Attend competitions such as Science Fair, History Day, Band Contests, and Odyssey of the Mind.
  7. Take our children on field trips that exceed the limits of the school day.
  8. Take our children on overnight, multi-day learning excursions. (Miss P, like many of her colleagues, has taken kids on international trips during her own spring break.)
  9. Meet us for parent conferences when our work schedule allows—typically long before or way after school hours.
  10. Put our children’s needs before their own families’ needs (see 1-9 above).

Oh. We also expect them to take a bullet for our kids if some maniac comes onto the campus brandishing assault weapons. And do you know what? I am positive that nearly every teacher I know would do just that. Miss P certainly would.

But it’s not these expectations that have caused Miss P to spruce up her resume and scan websites for job openings. Nope. It’s something else.

“The thing is,” she told me, “no one ever gives me the benefit of the doubt anymore. Not the parents, not the administrators, and certainly not the school board. There’s this assumption that I’m going to harm the children in some way; that I am the enemy, not the advocate, of students. It’s exhausting.”

Here's what I think. I think teachers should receive higher pay and better benefits; and I think we ask way too much of our educators. We need to address these things and correct them. Period. And in the meantime, let's start with this: respect. Seriously, let’s just go ahead and treat our teachers like the professionals they are. The average teacher is an enthusiastic expert in her field, not a mediocre bureaucrat manipulating the system of tenure. Despite her dwindling wages, she works long hours and attends school events after work and on weekends and (get this) loves doing it. Extraordinary!

Can we please stop talking about the occasional incompetent teacher as if she is the norm? Click To Tweet

So, can we please stop talking about the occasional incompetent teacher as if she is the norm? Instead, let's give our teachers the benefit of the doubt; let's start saying “Thank You," and “I'd like to help.” Seems to me that's the least we can do for those who daily give their lives—both literally and figuratively—for our children.[bctt tweet="So, can we please stop talking about the occasional incompetent teacher as if she is the norm? Instead, let's give our teachers the benefit of the doubt; let's start saying “Thank You," and “I'd like to help.” Seems to me that's the least we can do for those who daily give their lives—both literally and figuratively—for our children."

*Some of Miss P's money goes to cleaning supplies. At her school, the maintenance staff does little more than trash collection in individual classrooms (budget cuts, you know). Plus, her school is infested with mice. She’s complained for years, for more than a decade actually, about the ubiquitous mouse poo that testifies daily to the pests’ presence. Until she gets an active response, Miss P will try to keep the room as clean as possible in an effort to deter those furry little delinquents. All in a day’s work.

Evangelism According to Me

Back in the 70's and 80's, religious tracts were printed by the truckload for eager evangelists--many of them Baptists--itching to bring the masses to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Back then, we followed a sort of scare-them-out-of-hell methodology that led to high numbers of front porch conversions, if not long-term transformation.

religious tract

In time, many practitioners realized that this eternal damnation avoidance strategy wasn't exactly life-giving. This understanding led to an opposite mentality: best not to mention Jesus at all than to scare people into false faith. (All or nothing thinking. It's caused its share of problems.)

Here the good news: there is a middle ground. Think about it: we aren't scared of sharing good news in general. For example, I think everyone should try the restaurant Nine Mile. I don't try to find out if they like Caribbean food before I recommend it either. It's a fantastic restaurant in my opinion, and I want everyone to enjoy it as much as I have. I feel that way about the Biltmore Estate too. And also Disney World. And the movie Finding Nemo. I realize that some of these things are quite pricey and will require some sacrifice for people to enjoy them, but that doesn't keep me from encouraging people to try experiences that have given me joy.

Even so, I don't go through the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, and asking people if they've ever been to Nine Mile. I don't stop people in Aldi and suggest they make a plan now to get to Biltmore Estate during this lifetime. And I don't foist free copies of Finding Nemo on perfect strangers, promising them that this movie will make their lives better (it would of course, but still . . . ). However, if I'm in a relationship with you, I'm eventually going to mention my favorite restaurants, vacation spots, and movies. And if we are really close, I'll do my best to see that you get to enjoy those things at some point, preferably with me. 

To me, evangelism is like that. Because I love church, I want everyone to experience it. Because I love Bible study, I want others to study with me. And because I have found meaning, truth, hope, and joy through my faith in the triune God--Creator, Son, Holy Spirit--I want people I know and love to join me on this faith journey: not because they are scared they will burn in hell, but because they are drawn into the sacred Love of God.  

Palm Sunday 2019

Celebration & Sadness: Palm Sunday 2019

From the 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story

When I was a teenager, I saw the movie West Side Story for the first time. This Romeo and Juliet remake is the 1961 film adaptation of a Broadway play by the same title. The first time I saw the movie, I didn’t know how it would end so it caught me off guard. (SPOILER ALERT: It was a Romeo and Juliet remake, for goodness sake!)

It is bitterly sad, but the music is so delightful—plus, it stars Rita Moreno and Natalie Wood—so I allowed myself to watch it a second time. I figured since I knew the ending, it would not be as hard to watch. But knowing in advance was so much worse! I kept bracing myself for the heartbreaking end; I couldn’t enjoy the music as much because I knew that the singing would come to a painful stop. I put myself through that madness more times than I want to admit; each time, the sense of foreboding deepened. And each time I wished that the ending somehow could be different.

Palm Sunday is kind of like that for me. I love seeing the kids waving the palms and celebrating the triumphal (ish) entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. It’s just that I know what’s coming. I know that Jesus has a long week ahead that will not be marked by praise and thanksgiving, but by violence and rejection. I keep bracing myself for the coming trial and crucifixion.

I want to shout to Jesus, perched as he is on his juvenile mount, “Don’t believe it! It’s not real! They'll turn against you Jesus! Run while you still can!”

But then I hear Jesus reach through time, whispering, “Stop and listen! Listen to the joy. Listen to the hope. Yes, pain is coming. There will always be pain. But in this moment, lift your voice and sing! Sing because you can. Sing with all creation. Sing, because there will be plenty of time for weeping. Today, we celebrate!”

canoe and mountain

CBFNC 2019: Canoeing the Mountains

On March 28, I joined other leaders in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) as we listened to Dr. Tod Bolsinger share wisdom he presented in his book Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory (IVP Books, 2015).

Bolsinger’s book had been recommended to me by many when I began my ministry with Ecclesia Baptist in August 2018. I downloaded the audio version and listened to it right away, finding it both insightful and compelling. In Canoeing the Mountains, Bolsinger uses the metaphor of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (in search of a northwest water route in the 19th century) to explore church leadership in the 21st century.*

For today’s church, our “canoes” are practices that have brought us success in the past; our “mountains” are the conditions that were not present at all in earlier seasons of the church. The current frustration of attracting young people to church serves as a great example. Back in the 1970’s, for many of us, church was THE only activity; in 2019, the buffet of extracurriculars is endless. When I was a teen, a church could get a new ping-pong table and attract a crowd of students instantly; today, churches are giving freebies to kids and youth to entice them to go on a free trip to an indoor trampoline park—and even these tactics fail to impact weekly attendance.

So how do we change this? That’s exactly what Dr. Bolsinger discussed at last week’s meeting. First, he noted what does not bring about change.

  • Fear. On the Sunday following the tragedy of September 11, 2001 U.S. churches were overflowing. Just one year later, church attendance was at an all-time low.
  • Facts. Raise your hand if you know how to eat right and exercise. Now keep your hand up if you always do all those things. Exactly. (Same is true for any unhealthy habit. The knowledge that it is unhealthy does not usually bring about lasting change.)
  • Force. Bolsinger shared a fascinating statistic: when told by doctors to change their behaviors or die, 90% of patients do not make the necessary changes. Doctors can’t force us to make healthy choices, no matter how much they threaten us.

Bolsinger then talked about what does bring about change.

  • Relate. Hearing each other’s stories helps us to understand one another and thereby change our approaches accordingly.  (For example, take a person who is highly critical of those who come into the country without legal documentation. Pair them with a person who has traveled that path. As they share their stories, understanding can result, which could lead to a change in behavior.)
  • Repeat. Facts may not bring about change, but they do make us aware of what we might need to do to change. The way to achieve permanent change is to repeat a new behavior until it is a habit. (For example, think of the person who goes to class but does not understand the subject matter. The student keeps going, keeps doing the assignments, keeps asking questions. In time, the student learns the content thanks to repeating it in a variety of ways over time.)
  • Reframe. When we think of things in a new way, we can bring about change. (For example, imagine the church that thinks the only way to grow is to draw people into its building. They decide that maybe they could, instead, go where people are already gathering. By relating to these communities and repeatedly visiting them in their own settings, the church begins to experience new growth.)

Bolsinger reminded us that change typically does not come about quickly. That is, it is more akin to the slow-cooker simmer than to the microwave zip and zap. In that same vein, he said that effective church leadership grows from a mindset that causes us to “Stay calm, stay connected, and stay the course.”

Bolsinger’s presentation—and his book—contained much more insight than the bits I’ve highlighted here. And, I think all leaders facing unfamiliar circumstances (whether in the church or elsewhere) will find helpful guidance here. Check it out and let me know what you think.

*Lewis and Clark sought a water route through the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase and were therefore equipped with canoes and the necessary tools for a water journey; instead, they encountered the Rocky Mountains and had to form new plans in order to progress.

we are all broken in different ways

Condemn the accused? I'll Pass.

Each week, I write a short piece for Ecclesia Baptist newsletter. This week, Aileen did in fact go on (as I tend to do). So for my wider audience, a post on sin. (Spoiler alert: I'm against it.)

Pastor Whatzizname and Father Whatchamacallit abused.
Michael Jackson molested.
Aunt Becky cheated. (AKA Lori Loughlin)

WHAT?! Not Aunt Becky!

After a year (or a decade) of heroes falling from grace (Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Bill Cosby), you’d think we would have become numb to it. But Aunt Becky (Loughlin’s Full House character)? Who’s next? Big Bird? As followers of Christ, what do we do with this damning information? Is there no one worthy of trust?

One thing that is helpful when considering what we hear on the news is realizing that these stories make the news BECAUSE they are the EXCEPTION to the rule. If this were normal behavior, no one would care. Think about it. A headline like “Awesome teacher has another great day in the classroom,” does not sell papers. It doesn’t, because this is nothing new. It happens every day.

It is also not true that these horrific things are happening more frequently. It’s that we are better at detecting them than we were decades ago. Really. Just look at the 10 Commandments and you’ll see that these issues have always existed.

It’s still upsetting; of course, it is. But this latest disclosure is not reason enough to wash our hands of humanity and give up on people all together. Instead, let’s all try to remember this: the perfect human? That was a one and done deal. The rest of us will disappoint each other. So we should all be more careful about mounting folks (celebrities, pastors, or whoever) on pedestals. Human beings were just not made for that.

Another thing to remember? God loves the notorious sinner every bit as much as God loves run-of-the-mill sinners like you and me. Certainly, they—and we—must be held accountable for sin. But maybe we should be more focused on our own need for grace and forgiveness and less distracted by the sins of others. Paul tells us that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and John reiterates that message saying, “If you say you have no sin, you deceive yourself and the truth is not in you.” (1 John 1:8)

No doubt, God grieves when we sin. But God never stops loving us and always forgives us. Let’s spend our time pondering the overwhelming grace of that truth, and not get wrapped up in the sordid details of the sin of others. In that way, we honor the gift of God’s grace and love to all of us.

mother playing cards

Int'l Women's Day: My Favorite Woman

I have been blessed by many strong women in my life. There were school and church teachers, neighbors and mothers of friends, and many strong women in my own family. But if I had to pick just one woman to honor today, there's just no competition.

Gloria M. Mitchell: Born in 1938, the fifth child of Louise Cobb Martin and Jessie D. Martin, my mother grew up knowing without a doubt that she was a beloved daughter and sister. Throughout her childhood, her father talked of her attending college; it was no surprise, then, that she went to Mercer University following her graduation from Albany High School.

She was homesick but made friends quickly and was soon dating the “ugliest boy you ever saw” (according to my dad, her next boyfriend). Daddy had seen her on campus; heard she was teaching a sign language class; and registered for the class. It wasn’t long after their first few dates that they knew this was no temporary relationship; they married in 1960 after both had graduated college. From there, they moved to North Carolina where Daddy went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to further his education for the ministry. He graduated three years later. My sister came along that same year (1963). Then they had me in 1965, and my brother in 1969.

While my dad has the title Pastor, my parents minister as a team. Mother is extraordinarily gifted at ministry: she has written thousands of cards and notes over the years, made hundreds of meals to deliver to those in need, and visited countless people who needed encouragement.

Understand, though: her role as a pastor’s wife did not mean that she was a pushover. In the 70’s when such things just were not done, she wore a pantsuit to church—the first woman in the congregation to do so. She also refused to sing in the choir and never joined WMU. Those were not things Gloria Mitchell felt called to do. So she didn't do them. (No matter what the congregation had to say about it.)

Mother is also an amazing mother. She raised us to be adults, not children. When the time came, she was able to release us to our own lives and dreams. That doesn't mean she shoved us out of the house and washed her hands of us. Nope. Even now, when we get to her house for a visit, we are welcomed with great joy, boundless love, and a fridge full of our favorites.

So, I’m grateful for her in many ways and there’s a lot about her that I admire. Here lately though, I’ve been most impressed by her ability to age with grace. Mother has always been an attractive woman and she still is; but that’s not what I’m referencing. It’s other things.

  • Mother is involved in the lives of all her grandchildren. The ones who live close by don’t play a game or celebrate an accomplishment without my parents being right there on the sidelines cheering for them. She has six grands who don’t live nearby, and she texts each of them every single day. She sends them funny pictures, photos, or—most frequently—a Bitmoji. Oh yeah, she has the Bitmoji app.
  • Mother uses her smart phone like a boss. She keeps a record of her medicines, her emergency contact info, and a list of all her allergies in her notes app. She Googles as easily as a 14-year-old and she texts as often as she calls. And she’s 80 years old!
  • She can make online reservations as well as anyone. She often defers to my brother to make online purchases, but she could do it, I know she could.

Mother reads, exercises, tries new things, makes new friends, and plays any card or even board game you can name. (Unless you are related to her, Don't try to beat her at Rook. It won't go well.) She also never meets a stranger, laughs easily and often, and enjoys a funny you-tube video as much as the next person. My mother is 21st century level awesome. And when I grow up, I want to be just like her!

Just a few of the other strong women I've featured on my blog over the years. (Click on the names for their stories.)

  • Anna Anderson: She was my choir teacher when I was a child; it's a beautiful thing that our paths have crossed again.
  • Kathi Arrington: My cousin has overcome much in her life and has given back in a variety of ways.
  • Joanna Chantemerle: Neighbor, wife, superchick, Joanna is wonderful!
  • Becky Garrett: A selfless hero, Becky rescued me many times. This post just shares one of those.
  • Edna Jackson: Aunt Edna, may she rest in peace.
  • Joyce Lawrimore: My mother-in-law is one strong woman. Read this post and see for yourself.
  • Keisha Petty: My former coworker Keisha is a person you can trust to be there for you, no matter what.

How about you? Comment below and tell me about a woman you admire.