Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mothers and Stewardship

The internet social gaming giant, Zynga, “has figured out how to make money from boredom.” As quoted in WORLD (April 23, 2011, “Cracks of Boredom”), Zynga’s Brian Reynolds, claims his company’s games such as Farmville and Cityville “take advantage of the ‘cracks of boredom that exist in everyday life . . . these micro downtimes of boredom are when people want to engage in the simple interaction of social games.’" Of the 60 million Zynga users each day, more than half are women. Online gaming may explain the decline in soap opera viewers, according to the article.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, May 8, Abby and I honored our mothers; Marietta and Esther; and, also Melinda, our daughter who is mother of our three grandchildren, Caleb (13), Kiara (9), and Della Salyers (3). Then, on Monday, May 9, we celebrated my birthday; a day on which my mother remembers the pain and the joy of bringing her oldest son into the world.

Thank you, Mom, for your labor of love which began sixty-four years ago and continued as you and Dad taught me to love God, people, God’s creation, plants, geography, and history. Even before going off to “first grade”, you introduced me to the treasure within books and the wonder of creation by walks among woodland wild flowers.

Summer, winter, seed time and harvest–the time has flown by. My wife, Abby, and I have sought albeit imperfectly to instill our love of God, people, the creation, and learning into our children; and, our grandchildren. We are also thankful for our grandmother’s, now with the Lord, who taught us to love and respect others, and taught us generosity by their generous giving.

What an honorable privilege God gives to our mothers and grandmothers who live according to God’s great plan and purpose for them. These women provide the roots and foundation of our cognitive and affective learning. Abraham Lincoln said, “I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” And elsewhere, Lincoln claimed, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother.”

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul emphasizes the importance of mothers and grandmothers to his understudy, Timothy to whom he writes, I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (II Timothy 1:5 ESV). Later, he states this principle of intergenerationality in teaching and learning which is needed to produce spiritual offspring: The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (II Timothy 2:2).

Each of us are entrusted by our parents and other spiritual mentors with the stewardship of truth and knowledge. As our parents and spiritual mentors have taught us by word and example, so we are responsible to produce fruitful offspring through biblical discipleship. Seen in the light of this truth, parenting is truly a “high calling.” How can the mother who catches the importance and challenge of this principle slip into a pattern of “downtimes of boredom?” Not that mothers, or anyone for that matter, are less spiritual if they like to play games, social or otherwise. But, the Scripture calls us to be stewards of our time, talents, and opportunities, including those all-too-brief years of parenting and mentoring. Perhaps a final example will convey my point.

On Mother’s Day, with our mothers living over three hours away, Abby and I were privileged to visit one of our “adopted mothers,” Esther Frye. Esther is a chalk artist who presents the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through her chalk art. In front of varied audiences, she narrates stories of people who have come to Jesus and uses fluorescent chalks and black lighting to illustrate the stories in glorious color.

When Esther was a high school student during the Great Depression, a chalk artist came to one of the daily chapel services then permitted in her public school. She loved art but could not afford lessons. So, Esther promised God that if He would provide a way for her to study art, she would use her ability to tell His story. Now, after 75 years as a chalk artist, Esther Frye has presented in dozens of churches around the world. She has also passed along this unique approach to evangelism to many students.

This Mother’s Day, May 8, was also Esther’s 97th birthday . But sadly, Esther lay barely responsive on a hospital bed in an intensive care unit. As she battled with pneumonia, her breathing was supported by a ventilator and she was unable to hear us well. We used a small white marker board to awkwardly communicate our love and prayers to her. While we stood by, another visitor named Sue came by and also used the marker board. We observed Sue’s awkward attempts to voice a message asking Esther to pray for her. She said, “I am scheduled to present a chalk drawing to a nearby church tonight and I am so nervous. Please pray for me.”

In those few moments, we were blessed with a true glimpse of what is meant by discipleship and the “stewardship (oikonomia) of truth and learning.” Lying helpless and frail on her bed, an old teacher was being honored by her young student who was about to carry on her chalk ministry for the glory of God. Because of her personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, Esther has been far from boring. Instead, she has been surrendered to God and has experienced a fruitful life of stewardship of the time and talent. May God help both our mothers and those whose path does not involve motherhood to find the joy that comes with submission to a Loving Savior Who along can provide meaning and fulfillment.

Let [each] regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. – 1 Corinthians 4:2


tammy said...

What a lovely tribute and inspiration, John. I need to be reminded to keep my eye on the prize and keep working with my children and students. Mentoring really is another facet of stewardship, isn't it? My prayers are with dear Esther. What a blessing for you and Abby to have been present to witness such a holy moment. It must have been as if the physical world was rolled back briefly, and you got to glimpse into the eternal. And I agree about the boredom factor. How much better to have something real...

jsilvius said...

Thanks for reading, for your thoughtful comment and prayer, and for your godly example as wife and mother. We are still enjoying the yummy bread. Esther is out of ICU and witnessing to doctors and nurses. Prayers are being answered!

tammy said...

That's happy news. I looked into Esther's life a little and it's clear that she has left a truly godly legacy. Like Mary, she has "chosen the better part that will not be taken away from her."-Luke 10:42.