Sunday, October 16, 2016

Mom's Story

I have been privileged by my family to share about my mom’s life and the legacy that she has left her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and each of you. After a long courtship, still preserved in hundreds of hand-written pages, John Erle Smerdon married Ada Pearl Davidson in 1924. They

had four children – three boys and one girl. Mom was the second oldest and remembers her older brother, John, as the perfect big brother. When younger, she recalled many fights, for which she was blamed as the oldest, between her and her younger brother, Ernest. The fights soon faded as they shared a life-long close relationship based on love and respect. Her youngest sibling, Glenn, was a special young man in mom’s eyes. As adults, Mom was extremely proud of her brothers.

On a cold 4th of December 1926, Helen Marie Smerdon was born. Her grandmother – Irma Helene, and her great grandmother, Marie provided the inspiration for her name.

When mom was born, there was a young neighbor named Harold that had chicken pox and wondered to his mom whether he would ever meet the new baby next door. He need not worry. When they reconnected after World War II, he and my mom spent nearly 68 years as husband and wife.

Growing up, mom remembered that concerned boy next door, who did eventually get to meet her, as the one who taught her to swing standing up and as the one could make the swing go high.

In what her siblings might consider an understatement, my mom, the only granddaughter, said that she was “perhaps” a bit spoiled by her grandmother. Her grandmother sought temper the tomboy in mom by providing her with the very popular Shirley Temple dresses. However, she would treasure even more those dresses made by her mom who was an outstanding seamstress.

The sense of adventure my dad inspired in my Mom on the swings was on display at her grandparent’s silo one afternoon. The silo was conveniently located out of sight from the farmhouse. Her brother, Johnny, convinced her and Ernest to go around the top of the silo. So one by one in age order with Johnny leading the way, they began the circular journey of 3 inch scoots. It wasn’t too long before she began to think this was a bad idea with the ground so far away, but how do you turn around – Well, you don’t! With the encouragement of Johnny, she made it.

While traveling home from Sunday dinner where they celebrated mom’s 15th birthday, her family stopped at some friends on the way home and there heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

As a student, Mom loved math and actually considered being a math teacher, but felt the pull of the times that math was a subject that was a man’s domain. Throughout her life, she could work numbers in her head as well as any one I knew.

After the war, while she was attending Joplin Community College, she received a call from that concerned boy next door from her early days in Ritchey. My dad’s family had moved away from Ritchey when they were both young. Mom and her roommates anxiously waited for him to arrive for their first date wondering if she would recognize him after all those years. She did!

On May 17th, 1947, the boy with whom she had developed her sense of adventure on the swing set began a nearly 68-year adventure.

After a few discouraging years, mom became pregnant with my brother, Dale, just in time for the hottest July on record in Joplin. Without AC, Mom endured until Dale was born in August of 1954. While still in Joplin, Mom and Dad brought Dena home in 1956 and Janet in 1957. In 1959, Dad’s company moved from Joplin to Kansas City. Six years later, I came along. I decided not to follow my brother’s example by graciously arriving in early July of 1965 before the summer heat set in.

As a young mother, mom had provided her contribution to the mother of the year club. Dale and Dena were in elementary school, Janet was not yet in school. After sending Dale and Dena to the bus stop, mom was surprised to have both Dale and Dena arrive back home; Dale claiming he was sick. They only had one car so mom began walking all three to school. On the way, Dale slipped back home. When mom realized he was gone, she asked the girls to keep walking as she would return quickly with Dale. However, Dale was nowhere to be found, so she ran to catch up with girls, but could not find them. She ran nearly all the way to the school expecting to find them, but they were not there. A neighbor found the girls and began to walk them to school. The principal gave mom a ride home. Dale realized the gravity of the situation when he saw his principal in the driveway and hid in closet of the girls’ room. It must have had a lasting impact because mom stated that he never gave her any reason to worry after that.

Many of you have experienced mom’s love for telling stories. She was also known for the many rabbit trails that her stories could bring. Mom’s mastery of storytelling was emphasized in a condolence card received just yesterday from a member of this church family who said, “I will miss her wonderful stories with all their delightful mazes of remember details – little bunny trails that always got back to the original story.”

Mom’s legacy will live long with us, but Mom’s greatest impact on my memory occurred in the last two years of her life. I knew my Mom loved my dad, but the depths of that love were revealed in her relentless devotion to him in his final days. For weeks, whether at home or in the hospital, Mom spent most of her time sitting next to him, often on his bed near his head. She would comfort him when confused thoughts would trouble him by softly quote Scripture to him. That memory is sealed in my mind.

The other legacy began just a few short weeks ago when mom was diagnosed with cancer and knew her time was short. She lived the versed the verse from II Timothy 1:12, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” She told anyone who visited her that she was not only ready to go home, but was looked forward to that day. Her last words to me face to face were, “I will see you in heaven.” Yes, you will, Mom. I love you!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

His Story in Your Story

Who has believed our report?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Isaiah 53:1-3

You may recognize the above verses as those that describe the most compelling figure in history.  I cannot imagine throngs of people lining up to see this Man speak based on this description. Yet, He is known as a great storyteller and possesses a most amazing personal story. He spoke with confidence and passion as He proclaimed Truth to both the weak and powerful. He was sensitive enough to His audience that He was able to distinguish the push of a crowd from the touch of a desperately ill woman. His eye contact was so penetrating that one glance caused one wavering follower to break down in tears. He was so focused on the needs of others that in the midst of the horrific pain of crucifixion He compelled a thief to follow Him and a fisherman to care for His mother.

You may also feel “despised and rejected.” God has created you with purpose; He has given you a story. As you discover the passion for which God has created you, whether it is binary code, selling insurance, or pastoring a church; that passion can develop into a compelling message to which others will listen. I may not understand how ones and zeroes work in programing a computer, but I am grateful to those who do and in doing so impact my life and our world with technology. Even if you think your circle of influence is small, God has given you a story to tell and an audience to hear. Your life and vocation have been ordained by God to reflect His image. You may not feeling compelling, but God can use His story in your life to impact your world.

Excellent Read Concerning Your Vocation:
Every Good Endeavor by Tim Keller

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Where is your confidence?

Each week, my students in Public Speaking at Azusa Pacific Online University respond to a prompt relating to the challenges of speaking in public. Their thoughts on the topic of confidence prompted these thoughts. All of us face the cloud of failure, real or imagined, that strips our confidence when we speak. I want to thank each of my students for their candor in this discussion. I am confident that God will use this diverse group for His glory.

When it comes to confidence, I believe each of us could share a story that would explain why we struggle with confidence when speaking. This is especially true when it comes to sharing our faith with others. It may be that you found yourself stumbling over words as you tried to share your faith with a coworker or maybe you chose to stay silent when the opportunity was there to speak. Some of us have felt the waves of guilt when we have failed. Do not let the weight of your failure overwhelm you. We can learn from each experience in our lives. God is not dependent on our perfection to accomplish His purpose. Consider these examples of failure:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(I Corinthians 2:1-5)

Friday, June 7, 2013

“Don’t Be Like Me” or “Things Not to Say at Graduation”

It is graduation season. For most of my adult life, this time of the year has been both busy and a blessing as I have participated in over 25 graduation ceremonies. Graduation ceremonies are times to look to the future and inspire hope in the next generation as well as times of reflection and memories. This year is even more profound as my youngest is graduating from high school.

In those many graduation ceremonies, I don’t recall anyone ever attempting to inspire hope in the graduates by stating, “Don’t be like me.” It is not to say that this has never happened nor would I say that I have never thought it before. There are countless reasons for my son and the graduates of PCA not to be like me. Each is a unique creation of God with distinctive gifts, talents and interests. In addition, my own brokenness and failures, even if unseen by others, is reason enough to avoid being like me.

With that thought, however, I realize that they are just like me. Each one has been created in the image of God with great capacity to love, to learn and to create. And each one carries the same brokenness that haunts me. That brokenness may have been displayed for all to see or be hidden deep in the recesses of the heart and mind, but it is there because they are like me. It is exactly that brokenness that brought Jesus Christ to the cross to redeem us through His death and resurrection. I believe this is why the Apostle Paul encouraged others to follow him as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 11:1). It is also the reason I can ask others to follow me: Jesus Christ has redeemed and transformed my brokenness so that I am free to express my unique gifts, talents, and interests for His glory and the benefit of the community in which God has placed me. Graduates, He can do the same for you. Now, that is a reason for hope!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Significance of June 5, 1944

This picture was taken on June 5, 1944. The same day, General Eisenhower wrote the following note that never needed to be delivered: "Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone." Credit to the troops for success while taking complete responsibility for any failures. LEADERSHIP!

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Value of Play

I had the privilege of hearing a young lady in our second grade recite the following poem. Not only was the recitation well done; I was reminded of the value of stories and free play in our children’s lives. Read and imagine!! 

People think it's only a garden,
With roses along the wall;
I'll tell you the truth about it
It isn't a garden at all!

It's really Robin Hood's forest,
And over by that big tree
Is the very place where fat Friar Tuck
Fought with the Miller of Dee.

And back of the barn is the cavern
Where Rob Roy really hid;
On the other side is a treasure chest
That belongs to Captain Kidd.

That isn't a pond you see there,
It's the ocean deep and wide,
Where six-masted ships are waiting
To sail on rising tide.

Of course it looks like a garden,
It's all so sunny and clear ---
You'd be surprised if you really knew
The things that have happened here! 

-- The Secrets of Our Garden, Rupert Sargent Holland

For more thoughts on the value of play: Corey Shuffle

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Photo Albums and Home Videos

My youngest graduates from high school next week. I am still convinced that I am not old enough for that to be happening. However, it does cause me to reminisce as we have looked through his pictures. These snapshots can bring both laughter and tears as we consider the memories. If we were to watch old videos, we would be able to remember even more of how this young man’s personality developed over the years.

It is also the time of year when schools complete their annual testing. These, too, can bring tears (and maybe incredulous laughter). However, I believe that the illustration of photo albums and home videos provide perspective as to the purpose and interpretation of the different methods that are used to evaluate your child’s academic progress. The snapshots in our photo albums are like the annual testing that occurs whether you call them SOLs, PSSAs, Stanford or TerraNova. They are an important part of the academic portfolio, but they are only a reflection on how your child did at that particular moment on that particular test. It is a snapshot; rich with information, but we have all been captured on film with a not-so-flattering expression on our face. J The ongoing, daily assessment that occurs in the classroom is like a home video. Teachers and parents partnering together to share observations, encouragement, exhortations and progress reports enhances the information gleaned through the annual testing.  Just like photo albums and home videos work together to provide your family with memories; annual testing and daily assessment work together to portray a complete picture of your child’s academic progress. Educators and parents must see these tools in the proper perspective in order for a complete picture of the child to become clear.

Note: TerraNova and Stanford Achievements Tests are examples
of norm-referenced tests while PSSAs, SOLs and other state administered federally mandated tests are criterion-referenced tests. The criterion-referenced tests are typically referred to as high stakes tests as a public school's funding and rating is affected by the results.