memories of Mama

Irene Vann memorial (1)

I want to tell a story on my Mama. It happened back when I was a young boy going to church in that building right over there. The preacher was preaching, and I was sitting in my spot on the front row listening. But in the middle of the message, I discovered that I had to go to the bathroom. My plan was to slip through the center aisle and scoot to the back, then make my way to the men’s restroom without much of a fuss. That was the plan. Unfortunately, my school/church shoes that I was wearing had seen better days. So, the preacher was preaching, but when I was halfway back up the aisle, he stopped. The soles on my shoes had come loose, so I was flapping. It sounded like I was wearing swim fins. When the preacher stopped preaching, everybody started looking at me, then everybody looked at Mama. She turned bright red with embarrassment. My Mama took raising us five children personally and seriously. You had better believe that the next Sunday I had a brand new pair of church shoes on!

There was another incident that took place back in the seventies, and it was not comical. We were home at our place down the road next to the chicken houses. Mom got a call on the phone. She went to the wall and picked the phone up, because that’s what you did back then. She calmly listened, hung up the phone, and then said to my Dad “Come on Buck, Gary’s been in a wreck.” Mom and Dad were out of the house in an instant, and the rest of us kids could do nothing but bawl our eyes out and pray.

My brother Gary was sixteen. I remember the day of Gary’s funeral. I was looking for Mama, but it was hard to find her because there were so many good people like y’all loving on her and paying attention to her. When the crowd broke, I saw her. I remember thinking “Why does Mom look so different?” I had never seen her old before. The years were not kind to her. She had to bury four of us. That’s not right.

When fate hands you that kind of a life, you have a choice to make. My Mama chose not to close up, or wallow in self-pity or escape into self-destruction. That was not her way. Instead, she chose to pour herself into us. She invested herself in us.

Mama gave me life twice. She gave birth to me, and raised me, but she also invested in my spiritual life. She gave me my first Bible, and my second Bible. She sent me to Christian conferences and camps. She encouraged me to join clubs where I could learn about public speaking. She didn’t send me to church, she brought me to church. When I started preaching, she was always in the audience. And when I wanted to go to college, she and Dad sacrificed to send me. You can’t repay something like that, and Mom never asked me to. To her, it was just being Mama.

Now, all I have is memories of her. But I cherish those memories. She was – and will remain a blessing to me. And some day soon our Lord Jesus Christ is going to return, and the first thing on his list will be raising his dead. I’m going to get my Mama back. So I don’t have to grieve like those who have no hope. No, the appropriate response is a prayer of gratitude.

FATHER GOD, giver of every good and perfect gift – thank you that Irene Vann loved us, and gave of herself for 88 years to demonstrate that love. She followed the pattern set by your Son, who came into this world not to be served but to serve. Thank you for the gift of Irene Vann.

(For anyone interested in the photo memorial that was presented at the reception after Mom’s funeral, it is available here).

perspective on permanence


perspective on permanence

Luke 12:27-34 (CSB)

Luke 12:27 “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. Luke 12:28 If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you – you of little faith? Luke 12:29 Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. Luke 12:30 For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Luke 12:31 “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. Luke 12:32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. Luke 12:34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


I can’t read a passage like this without thinking of last year’s hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It was awesome, and one of the things that made it awesome is that we would encounter fields of wild grass that were just beautiful. I remember thinking that this is what God can do with just one crayon out of the box. But then, he could also fill those fields with colorful flowers and just overwhelm us with beauty. And, Jesus is pointing out that nobody plants or maintains them. God just puts them there.

Jesus also mentions Solomon here, and there’s lots more that story.

Solomon is interesting as a biblical author because we have three books attributed to him, and each of the three books appears to have been written at a different time in his life.

The Song of Songs tells the story of a young, passionate man, in love with life and in love with the love of his life, and his bride returning that passionate love.

The Proverbs reveal a different Solomon, a middle-aged man whose zeal is spent on enjoying and understanding the world around him, and bringing control to its chaos. For Solomon, everything he touched had to be the very best. That is why Jesus mentioned “Solomon in all his glory” in today’s text. Solomon spent a lifetime getting the best clothes, building the best buildings, and amassing the best fortune.

Ecclesiastes reflects a yet different perspective. As an elderly man, Solomon reflects back on the pursuits of his life and concludes that he has wasted much of it on pursuits that were merely temporary, ultimately not as fulfilling as he had thought they would be.

Solomon’s big lesson was not that everything is meaningless. I think that text is mistranslated. I think what Solomon concluded is that after all is said and done, none of it will last.

The things we enjoy are not going to last.

The wisdom we pursue is not going to last.

Youth is not going to last.

Wealth is not going to last.

Power and influence are not going to last.

Human life is not going to last.

We have to understand life from that perspective to see what Jesus is saying to us in today’s text.

He said “Think about how the flowers grow; they do not work or produce clothing. Yet not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, how much more will he clothe you, you people of little faith!”

For many in Jesus’ day, clothing was the symbol of success and status. So people went out of their way to dress well, because it affected how they were treated. Have you ever noticed that when you dress well, people tend to pay more attention to you? But pursuit of better, more expensive clothing can steal time and effort from pursuing true maturity, so Jesus warns us all not to let concern over the wardrobe consume us.

Instead, we need to choose to trust God to give us all we need, and not be so focused on the externals.

Jesus said, that we should not be overly concerned about what we will eat and what we will drink, and we should not worry about such things, because all the nations of the world spend their time pursuing these things, and our Father knows that we need them. Instead, we should pursue his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Much of the world is obsessed with consuming and acquiring. The Lord says we should not follow that path. Instead, our obsession should be the things that our Father has provided for us. His kingdom is his plan for our future, and we pursue it today by taking advantage of the grace he has given us now.

We need to choose to focus our pursuit on God’s coming kingdom of grace.

Jesus said that he is the shepherd, and we are his little flock. We should not be afraid because what pleases our Father most is giving us that coming kingdom. We can sell your possessions and give to the poor. That will provide wallets that do not wear out “a treasure in the sky that never decreases, where no thief attacks and no moth destroys. Because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. If our treasure is these temporary things, our heart will be so focused on the temporary that we do not have time for the permanent.

The permanent thing that the Lord tells us to pursue just happens to be the very thing that he says God is delighted to give us out of the riches of his grace. So, that is why we can afford to be so generous with the other things we have. We see those things (present possessions) as temporary, and we have already been promised an eternal inheritance to replace them. If our hearts were tied to this present stuff, it would indicate that we are not seeking Jesus.

Let us pray: LORD, today we want to take a lesson from Solomon. He discovered that a life focused on getting temporary things is a wasted life. Instead we want to focus our pursuit on your coming kingdom and being grateful for your present grace. Give us your perspective on this present stuff, and make us generous with it, because we know it’s not going to last. But your kingdom will.