The Price of Fake Friends

BBC News recently posted a report regarding a New York state investigation into a company, Devumi, which sells quantities of Twitter followers for a price. They also sell “likes” and “retweets” and even offer their service to other platforms as well, including Pinterest and LinkedIn (see full article here). According to the report, Devumi may have a stock of “at least 35 million automated accounts, many of which are sold repeatedly.”  However, the real reason for the investigation are the allegations that Devumi has actually stolen the identities of real people in order to feed their business. Some estimates suggest at least “55,000 of the fake accounts use the names, profiles pictures, hometowns and other personal details of real Twitter users, including minors.” And who has benefitted from this “follower factory”? Devumi itself states on its website it “has helped over 200,000 businesses, celebrities, musicians, YouTubers and other pros gain more exposure and make a big impact to their audience.”  In response, Eric Schneiderman tweeted that this means “real voices are too often drowned out…Those who can pay the most for followers can buy their way to apparent influence.”

In other news: Did you know that in Japan you can pay an actor to impersonate a relative, spouse or other needed acquaintance to fill a need at a social event or on a personal level? The business, called “Family Romance”, boasts a staff of 800 actors ranging in age from infants to the elderly (see full article here). The CEO, Ishii Yuichi “believes that Family Romance helps people cope with unbearable absences or perceived deficiencies in their lives”. He goes on to say, “I always ask every client, ‘Are you prepared to sustain this lie?’ ”  Based on the success of his business, it is safe to say that most people enter into such a contract with full intent of doing just that – sustaining the lie.

I must admit, reading about the prevalence and profit of the fake-friend market was shocking to me. But after further reflection, I realized I should not be surprised. It was inevitable. It simply reflects an inverted value system we have already adopted wholesale in our society. What are these inverted values?

Quantity over quality: In many instances, the quantity of social media friends a person has matters more than the quality of those same relationships. When I attended a writer’s conference five years ago (an excellent conference, I might add),  I was disappointed to learn that publishing companies are initially more interested in the extent of your social media presence – your platform – than your writing. Building an audience is the key to opening the door to becoming a published writer. Personally, I struggle with this. I would rather invest in deeper relationships than work hard to enlarge my social media follower base. But that’s not how it works these days. And based on the “fake friends” that people are paying for, I don’t think we are better off for this.

Perception over reality: “Fake news” has become a staple of our society. It appeals to our emotions, our values, our struggles. In this post-truth age, objective facts seem irrelevant in comparison to a person’s everyday real lives and experiences. So it is not surprising that the perception of having a lot of friends has become more important than the truth. It is more important to rent a husband to join in on the family reunion than to face the reality of a divorce that happened.

Personal gain over mutual enrichment: Rather than friends being a source of mutual encouragement and support, people are seeking out friends – even fake ones – for their own personal gain. Fake friends don’t require anything from us. They don’t get mad at us or hurt our feelings. We don’t have to remember their birthdays or send a Christmas gift. We would rather write a check for fake friends than listen to a real friend’s problems.

I don’t know what the actual price tag is for a fake friend, or for 20,000 Twitter followers. I don’t want to know. I desire to fill my life with meaningful relationships characterized by mutual honesty, support and authenticity. And that, my friends, is priceless!



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The Scrooge in All of Us

From a storytelling perspective, the Christmas season offers a premium selection of fascinating characters. Depending on which story line you most enjoy, the main characters range from Santa Claus to Mary,Joseph and the Christ Child of the Nativity scene, from Ebenezer Scrooge to the infamous Grinch who stole Christmas.

But often there is “the story before the story”- events that take place prior to the main plots mentioned above -giving the story even greater meaning. For example, consider what the story of Ebenezer Scrooge would be like without the account of the previous miserly life and miserable death of his partner Jacob Marley, who came to warn Scrooge of the three spirits who were to appear to him. In the end, Scrooge is eternally grateful for the visit of this old partner he once doubted.

Well known to many, the Nativity story also has a “story before the story”. We learn of a surprised couple who discover they are going to have a baby in spite of their old age. Zechariah, a devout Jewish priest, is fulfilling his turn burning the incense in the inner sanctuary of the temple when an angel appears to him, announcing that he and his wife Elizabeth will have a son in just a short time, whose name will be John.

Zacharias, who had been praying for this exact thing to happen, is stunned. He is troubled. He is afraid. In his fear and doubt, he utters seven fateful words – “How can I know this for sure?” The angel replies with two seemingly unrelated answers: First, the angel tells him who he is – Gabriel – and WHO sent him – God. Second, the angel tells Zacharias WHAT God’s message is: he will be unable to speak until his child is born, because of his doubt. Immediately Zacharias is struck mute and remains so until the birth of his son, when he writes down with a now-obedient and trusting heart what God had already told him – his son’s name will be John.

If I were to be struck mute every time I  doubted God’s power and ability to do what He has said He will do, I would have been unable to speak most of my life. It is embedded in human nature to doubt. There is a little bit of Scrooge in all of us. Consider Scrooge again – he doubted the reality of Marley’s ghostly appearance and message -“there was more of gravy than of grave about him”!  So Zacharias is not alone in his doubt. And we are not alone in our doubt either.

Zacharias just wanted to know for sure. Does that seem so bad? Why would he be issued such a dramatic rebuke for such a seemingly-innocent concern? The angel Gabriel’s response sheds some light on this. Zacharias wanted to know how God was going to fulfill His promise in spite of their old age. Gabriel’s answers point instead to WHO sent this message – God, and WHAT this glorious message is: their son will be great in the sight of the Lord and will turn many to the Lord their God. For Zacharias, his doubt resulted in over nine months of dealing with the inability to speak. What does my doubt result in?

As I watch the story of my life unfold, it is tempting to always be looking ahead and trying to figure out the HOWs of life – how everything is going to work out. This Christmas, I want to learn from the mute Zacharias and fix my eyes on the WHO of Christmas, the Almighty God of Heaven, and WHAT God did at Christmas when He sent his son Jesus as a Babe in the Manger who would later die on the cross to save His people from their sins. Much like Scrooge, who discovered that he had in fact NOT missed Christmas – it is not too late for you and me to set aside our doubt and embrace the faith found in the very heart of the Christmas story itself. May God bless us, everyone!



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Grieving While Running

“Everything I’m seeing and experiencing is telling me that we’re moving together through stages of grief. The hard part is, we’re also moving together through stages of a marathon. So we’re grieving while running. And we started the marathon with a sprint.”

These raw yet deeply insightful words were shared by a Houston pastor who found himself sloshing through two feet of brown floodwater in their church building just two weeks after his installation service as the new pastor there. The celebration service, the excitement, the strategic planning meetings – all are now a distant memory drowned out by the deluge of destruction we now know simply as “Harvey”.  Reading his blog, I was struck by the simplistic heaviness of his words, “grieving while running.”

Now I am not accomplished at either of these, grieving or running. I cannot recall the last time I actually ran. Maybe it was in an elementary school gym class. At best, today I sprint for a few minutes while my leashed dog drags me behind her on a neighborhood walk. Regardless, one thing is for sure – I am a terrible runner. It requires a stamina I have not developed and unfortunately have no desire to develop.

Running is a work of the body and mind. Grieving is a work of the soul. It requires a stamina that cannot be developed in advance. We cannot learn the labor of grief until we are faced with the journey of grief. There is a physical exhaustion, an emotional rawness, a mental re-defining attached to grief. It requires an invisible work in us that sometimes cannot be explained and often leaves us feeling alone.

Perhaps you – like this pastor in Houston – find yourself in a marathon you never chose. Every day you pick up the weight of grief and try to take some small steps forward. But life has you running a marathon you cannot avoid. Care for the other parent who has outlived the spouse. Children to care for who themselves cannot understand this kind of loss. The loneliness of becoming a widow or widower. Or even the collective grief of hurricane devastation -neighbors helping neighbors when neither can live in their homes, church members teaming up to “form bucket brigades to pass putrid belongings out of a moldy home.”  For all of you who find yourself grieving while running, my heart goes out to you.

If you find yourself in the midst of the grieving process, I recommend a booklet shared with me some years ago by a friend whose two daughters had passed away due to cystic fibrosis. In Grieving: Your Path Back to Peace you will find valuable insights and words of encouragement on every page. If you have a friend going through the grieving process and you are not sure how to help, this booklet makes a thoughtful gift or discussion starter. There is hope. There is help. There is healing to be found.

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The Other Mary

“Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.”  Matthew 28:1

the other maryThe other Mary. In the many years I have celebrated Easter Sunday in a church service, hearing the Resurrection story told again, I don’t think I have ever thought about her – the other Mary. As this Scripture verse was read yesterday, she jolted my mind out of its lulled expectation of the familiar.

The other Mary? That’s it? That’s all the author could think to say about her? This Mary was up early, just like the other Mary, the Mary with a name – Mary Magdalene. This Mary was just as heartbroken, just as desperate to be at the tomb of her beloved Jesus. This Mary was also running to the tomb, spices in hand, to proceed with the burial traditions.

Another Gospel account of the resurrection gives indication that this Mary may have been the mother of James, an apostle of Jesus Christ. This Mary was also a witness to the crucifixion, a recipient of the angel’s announcement, and a herald of the resurrection news to the disciples. No doubt she was known and loved by Jesus as well as His many followers. It seems the author’s designation of this woman as the “other Mary” was simply a matter of clarification for the original readers who could have determined exactly who she was.

But for all of history, for every future re-telling of this glorious event, she would be known as the other Mary, the undesignated Mary. One of the many “Marys” people knew. I think there is a gentle reminder in this. Am I content to be the unknown one? Am I comfortable when attention is given to someone whose story is more interesting than mine? After all, everyone knew Mary Magdalene’s story.

The other Mary teaches me a lesson. There was only one important Person to Mary that morning – the Person she thought was still dead. The Person she came to express a grief-filled love to at a stone-covered tomb. The Person who came back to life after having died, the Person who gave her life everlasting after she died. This Person, Jesus Christ, has done the same for me – providing salvation from my sins and life eternal in Heaven through His death and resurrection.  And He should be the most important Person to me.

Jesus had a cousin, John, who knew what it was like to be the “other one”. And he summed up this lesson well when he said, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.”  I pray this will be true in my life, that Jesus will always have the first place.

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A Christmas Blessing

christmas-bibleThis will be our first Christmas without our Mom Ashley among us, since her passing some seven months ago.This morning I pulled a small blue leather book from our bookshelf, a book that Mom loved dearly and read often – The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.  Rather randomly I landed on a prayer called “Blessings”.  At my first read-through, the old English wording sent me to the dictionary for a vocabulary review. Upon a second reading, and then a third, my mind was captivated with the depth of meaning and expression found in the poem’s lyrics. Having now returned to the prayer several times, I am compelled to share it with you as this day comes to a close.

Author of all blessings I enjoy,
Of all I hope for,
Thou hast taught me
  that neither the experience of present evils,
  nor the remembrances of former sins,
  nor the remonstrances of friends,
  will or can affect a sinner’s heart,
  except thou vouchsafe to reveal thy grace
  and quicken the dead in sin
  by the effectual working of thy Spirit’s power.
Thou hast shown me
  that the sensible effusions of divine love
  in the soul are superior to and distinct from
  bodily health,
  and that oft-times spiritual comforts are
  at their highest when physical well-being is at its lowest.
Thou hast given me
  the ordinance of song as a means of grace;
  Fit me to bear my part in that music ever new,
  which elect angels and saints made perfect
  now sing before thy throne and before the Lamb.
I bless Thee for tempering every distress with joy;
  too much of the former might weigh me down,
  too much of the latter might puff me up;
 Thou art wise to give me a taste of both.

I love thee
for giving me clusters of grapes in the wilderness
and drops of heavenly wine
that set me longing to have my fill.
Apart from thee I quickly die,
bereft of thee I starve,
far from thee I thirst and droop;
But thou art all I need.
Let me continually grasp the promise,
“I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”

mom-ashley-1Mom Ashley understood these truths in a very personal way. She knew the grace of God in her own life. She had learned that spiritual comforts are at their highest when physical well-being is at its lowest. She loved the gift of music, “the ordinance of song” and repeated beloved hymn lyrics often. She experienced the divine tempering of distress with joy. She had been the recipient of “clusters of grapes in the wilderness” and knew that God was all she needed. This Christmas, her longing for a taste of heaven has been satisfied, and she, with the “elect angels and saints made perfect”, now sings before the throne and before the Lamb. Our confidence in this eternal reality, made available through the work of the Son of God whose birth we celebrate, is indeed the greatest Christmas blessing.

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Threats and Promises

At this time of year, like no other, our culture rewards overload and rebukes margin.Whyelectronic-talking-battleship-picture only display one hundred lights on your house when you can display a thousand? We are quietly massaged into believing that exceeding our limits between Thanksgiving and Christmas is actually to be commended and that we will be better people for it – in everything from gift-giving to family schedules, from decorating our houses to consuming another holiday feast.

But behind this parade of must-haves is a subtle but fierce monster of threats and promises which often go unnoticed. How could Christmas be a season of threats when we are all singing “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” ?  Here is what a Christmas threat or promise may sound like:

“If I don’t go to my mother’s uncle’s holiday party, I will disappoint the family.”

“If I don’t give a gift of the same value as everyone else at the office party, I will be embarrassed.”

“If I get my child that toy, I will be able to make him/her happy.”

The challenging part is that the above threats/promises are not really about a toy, a party or a gift. No, they touch on much bigger issues – our security as parents, our standing in the family, our reputation at work. And here is the dangerous part: we slowly begin to believe that a certain toy will provide parental security, or attendance at the family gathering will secure approval, or an expensive gift will protect a reputation; therefore, we must accomplish these things even if it means going beyond financial, emotional, or physical limitations. Richard Swenson, in his book Restoring Margin to Overloaded Lives, states it this way:

“Chances are that if you are letting yourself be severely overloaded in some area, it is because you believe this overload offers you something you deeply long for, and you fear that cutting back in this area may cost you something you deeply value. The threats and promises work because they touch on your deep desires and fears.”

So while you are standing in line at midnight at Toys ‘R Us two days before Christmas (ah, yes — Christmas 1998), ask yourself why you are there. Yes, I know your sons want the “Electronic Talking Battleship” game more than anything else, but is that really why you are in line?  Perhaps yes – but perhaps you have believed a false promise that purchasing this gift will satisfy a deeper need you have – a need that will ultimately not be satisfied by a toy.

My friend, so many ways exist to meet our legitimate deeper needs without overloading ourselves with debt, lack of sleep, stress, and guilt. This Christmas season, choose to pursue what you value most, not the worldly “thing” that falsely represents your values.  Choose margin in your life. Choose space in your schedule. Choose time with people. Choose loving words. These are the priceless gifts of the holiday season. After all, isn’t that what Christmas is really all about, as Linus so aptly expresses?  A baby born two thousand years ago – Jesus, the Son of God – came to meet our greatest need, which is to be saved from our sins that we might know God.  And that is the best gift of all!


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Burning Rivers and Burning Phones

Social media is ablaze with reports and remarks about public mistakes.  Here in Cleveland, moscow-burning-riverwhere the Indians just swept the Boston Red Sox in a 3-game series, the finale was marred by the jibes of TBS reporters posing with a picture of a burning river in the background, implied to be that of the Cuyahoga River. However, TBS actually used 2015 footage of a burning river in Moscow which injured three people. Twitter lit up with condemning comments for TBS while other local media outlets  shared their displeasure over the incident.

I was six years old and living near Cleveland when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. While I don’t recall the actual incident, I do remember hearing about it often. Did you know that 1969 was not the first time the river ignited?  It is believed to have caught fire thirteen times, with the most potent blaze occurring in 1952 and the most fatal blaze occurring in 1912, resulting in five deaths. The river fire of 1969 became most famous because of an article published in TIME magazine which actually included a picture of the much larger fire of 1952 as its cover photo, falsely representing the minor 1969 fire. In current news, TBS has stated regret for their misrepresentation, a mistake in judgment.

News reports also reveal that the Samsung Note 7, which has been catching fire for several weeks, is no longer in production. Serious mistakes in the product finally caught the attention of Samsung’s CEO and the appropriate decision has been made. But the fallout from this mistake will be felt for months to come. Peter Sadbolt, business reporter for BBC News, states in his October 13th article, “How Can a Company Repair a Damaged Reputation”, the following observation:  “It doesn’t just end with a plummeting share price, a quarterly profits warning and a product recall.  Instead, the shockwaves…are likely to be felt for years, and cause incalculable damage…At risk for Samsung is its brand integrity – intangibles such as customer loyalty, prestige and positive brand recognition.”   Mr. Sadbolt’s observations are right on target and lead us to some valuable lessons we can learn from both of these stories:

Lesson #1: One mistake can define us for life. This doesn’t seem fair.  We are human. We all make mistakes. Whatever happened to “forgive and forget”? Human nature seems be good at recalling failure and  bad at remembering success. In his article, Sadbolt lists several large corporations whose mistakes continue to define them. We do well to heed this lesson and make our choices wisely.

Lesson #2:  The response to the mistake will last as long as the memory of the mistake itself.  You made a mistake?  Then determine to do the right thing as soon as possible afterwards. Tim Ward, quoted in the same article, states, “If you have integrity running through your business, then that’s the place from which you should act.”  Responding out of integrity will go a long way in reducing the negative effects of the mistake itself.

Lesson #3: Know what the problem is. Define it. Understand it. If a wrong decision has been made, don’t be vague about it. In the case of Samsung’s product, their initial temporary solution only accentuated the perspective that they did not know what they were dealing with. Now the fallout will be much worse. If you make a mistake, own it and move forward to correct it.

Lesson #4:  Lead with confidence through the crisis.  In the article, Neil McLeod observes, “I have seen statements from Samsung, but I have not seen the face of Samsung in all of this.”  A business psychologist remarked that “those that have tried to hide these things in the past have paid a much higher price in terms of loss of consumer trust.”   When faced with a mistake, don’t hide. Be confident. Be available. Be responsible.

For most of us, our mistakes will not be made in the same public manner as a burning river or a burning phone. But the lessons to be learned are for all of us. Integrity matters.  Leadership matters. And it all starts with owning up to the mistakes we have made.


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Unexpected Brokenness

broken dishesThis morning I headed out the door to attend a bridal shower, a wrapped gift  in hand.  As I stepped out towards the sidewalk, the gift packaging in my hand broke loose and the gift went crashing onto the cement below.  I knew instantly that the gift, a ceramic casserole set, was destroyed.  Shattering sounds and slivers of brokenness confirmed this.  After a moment of deep disappointment, all I could do was scoop up the pieces, leave them in the house, and drive to the store to purchase another one on my way to the shower.

None of us plans our brokenness.  If we had our way, there would be no such thing as brokenness. Our journey in life would always be neat and tidy – not littered with the evidences of shattered lives and broken dreams.  But we do not get to choose when and how brokenness enters our lives. No one asks us when we would like to put cancer on our calendars or divorce in our daily routine. Sorrow unexpectedly knocks on our door and we are compelled to bid it enter, against our wishes.

So what do we do with this unexpected brokenness?  Get angry?  Kick and scream?  The ceramic shards I scooped up this morning were accompanied by frustration and a few tears. I didn’t need that today. But my anger did nothing to fix the brokenness.  No amount of anger, no amount of grasping for control, will make the brokenness go away.  Instead,  we need to accept the plan and trust the divine Hand that brings the brokenness into our lives. We must trust a sovereign God who has our ultimate good in mind, even when it doesn’t look like it.

I memorized a poem as a young teen girl that came to mind today for the first time in several years.  I share it here for those of you who are picking up the pieces of brokenness in your lives, perhaps even today.

As children bring their broken toys
With tears for us to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to God
Because He was my friend.

But then instead of leaving Him
In peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
With ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried,
“How could you be so slow”
“My child,” He said, “What could I do?
You never did let go.”
– Author Unknown

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The Last Gift

western reserve military cemeteryThe late April snow had not arrived yet. It was a scenic drive as we wound our way through the countryside to the military cemetery where we would honor our mother one last time before entrusting her earthly body to the ground in this lovely place of honor. A spring sun graced the setting with beauty as the breeze caressed the floral spray adorning Mom’s casket. It was time to say goodbye.

A person who no longer dwells in their human frame is in need of nothing. No food. No sleep. No protection. No human kindness. How much of the daily work of our lives is for the care of the human body and our needs? What would I do every day if I didn’t need to cook, wash clothes, sleep, exercise, earn money to put a roof over my head,  or seek out a friend for some conversation? Perhaps this is what makes the finality of death so difficult. We live with our needs and the meeting of our needs every waking moment. And then suddenly, it stops.

We can’t imagine the ending we call death. In an even deeper way, we can’t imagine the second beginning we call eternity. It is more mind-boggling than the thought of death. How can life never end? How can I believe there is  something  so amazing I wouldn’t want it to end? I mean, life can be wonderful at times, but even exciting things get boring after a while. The truth is, I can’t grasp eternity. It makes my head hurt and my heart race just a bit. No more time? No more waiting? No more need?

Because of the ravaging effects of pain, aging, and the loss of both appetite and strength, Mom had not smiled for several weeks. Not a real smile. Oh, she gave a weak tweak of her lips for a second or two if we mentioned a funny memory, but if you weren’t watching closely, you missed it. At the evening twilight on Easter Sunday my husband and I held Mom’s  hand and spoke quietly to her as her breaths became distinctly shallow. Just as we began to wonder if she would breathe one more time, Mom’s face lit up with the brightest and most distinct smile we had seen in months. And in that instant, time met eternity and Mom walked into her new beginning. I like to think she ran, like a little girl who hasn’t seen her daddy in a long time, running for a hug. And with that, she left us. But she also gave us her last gift – the gift of a smile. A smile of promise that eternity is to be anticipated with joy for those who believe in Jesus, because being with Him is the one great joy we can experience forever. Thank you, Mom, for such an amazing last gift.

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The Last Journey: A Good Friday Meditation

I am watching my mother-in-law slowly leaving us. Yesterday as I sat by her bedside, she Mom and Dad - compressed piclay quietly, breathing, eyes closed yet occasionally flickering as if she might stir. Her body is very weak. Always a thin woman, her slight features seem more pronounced as weight loss takes its toll. Her fine grey hair forms a tousled crown against the pillow behind her head.  It is quiet in her room, the only noise being the steady hum of the hospital bed fan  blowing a continuous stream of air into the mattress for ease in adjusting her frail body. Comfort care is our only remaining option.

It’s funny how the mind jumps from the present, to the future, to the past -and back again- while sitting by the side of  a dying loved one. My thoughts wandered to my past with her. The days when Mom was the loving grandma reading books to my young sons, the mother-in-law who had this new bride and groom over for Sunday dinners nearly every week, and the diligent keeper of family celebrations and memories.  She made sure her family ate healthy, read the Bible, and had intelligent conversation at the dinner table. If Pepsi or too many French fries appeared at a meal, she would exclaim, “Horrors upon us!”, which really meant she wouldn’t try to prevent consumption of the offending product but she wanted to be sure we knew what she thought of it.

In the present, life has been a severe struggle for this gentle woman. The slow process of losing strength and ability to manage life is not for the faint of heart. She does not appear today as the person we have known and loved, yet we know somewhere inside is the same loving heart and keen mind that made her so special to us.

And the future?  While it seems we are down to weeks- or maybe days- left with Mom, her future is bright. She has been saying for a long time now that she wants to be with Jesus. I was in the emergency room with Mom this past August when a bladder infection took a terrible toll on her. A nurse sat me down and explained that Mom had “failure to thrive”. I informed her that two days ago Mom had been eating soup and talking to people – she certainly did not have failure to thrive. When asked how she came to this conclusion, the nurse replied, “Mildred keeps saying she wants to be with Jesus.”  I tried to keep from snickering as I explained to the nurse, “Oh no, that’s not failure to thrive. She knows exactly what she is saying- and she means it. She really would rather be with Jesus. But she is still here, and for now we are going to take care of this infection so she can get home and back to eating soup and talking to people.” And Mom did.

But this time, Mom is taking her last journey. This time Mom will get her wish granted. Her future is bright because she knows the One who is going to take her hand and lead her safely through the valley of the shadow of death into the glorious presence of Jesus. Once inside Heavens gates, she will hear the words of her Savior, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” The faint smile that is now a passing shadow will become a brilliant exclamation of joy as she finally makes it Home.

Why can we be at peace as Mom slips away from us?  Because on this Good Friday we remember another Person who took His last journey two thousand years ago, a journey  to a cross of crucifixion where He gave His life for the ransom of mankind from our sins. Because Jesus died, was buried, and rose again the third day, we can receive forgiveness of our sins by grace through faith in His redemptive act. Jesus’ last journey to the cross opened the way for our journey into eternity with Him. Mom believes this with all her heart.  I do as well.  And I hope, on this Good Friday, you do too.

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