Thursday, May 16, 2013




For Part 2, I will share stories about several women who are models for us to consider as I make my case, the case for the need for strong women. Again I will be focusing on the difficult areas of adversity that was used as a means and way to expose their deep belief and true personhood. These women are in two categories, biblical and historical models of strong mothers. Mothers who are courageous, prayerful, loving, enduring, and strong in their beliefs and unwavering in their trust in a God, a God who sees their struggles and the adversity that has beset them (the cherry pits), a God who will answer the prayers they pray. . . although not always in the immediate future (the GOOD part finally does come, it is sweetly delicious just like perfect cherries).  These strong character traits that they display in their lives become obvious as we step back and see what is there to see. I will touch on each one and then move on to the next one. There are several I will cover so you may want to read their stories in depth at a later time. These will be told in story form with my own paraphrase in the quotation marks.


Even with Christian mothers and grandmothers and godly influences, there comes a time when faith must become their daughter's or son’s own. It must become “real,” really real to the child. It must become their own. No one can do that for our children, no matter how good or godly the parents. Preaching and teaching may pave the way, but the decision and flame of faith is not handed down. It must become real to the child aside from the familial religious heritage. This can be difficult when there is no interest or there is a firm rejection of the parents beliefs; a grief to the parent, heart wrenching, sad, hard to understand when the parents have been faithful in their Christian parenting. God can seem unfair at times. Strong mothers/parents learn from God and wrestle with God in some of these trying situations. I hope this writing on strong mothers will encourage the heart to keep its focus on God.

As I look at some remarkable people throughout history that God used in phenomenal ways, I often see that there are remarkable parents or a spiritual mother on the side-lines. This ironically, includes the parent(s) giving their child or circumstance to God for His very best, trusting Him for what seems literally in the opposite direction of what is happening. We can learn from history, we can look into people’s lives and see what they did right or where they came up short. We can see who “got it right,”  and then look for ways we can apply their examples to our limited thinking or expose our disjointed unattached view of the importance of certain actions or concerted beliefs. I firmly believe that action spiritually as a mother or father will affect  future generations, and conversely, inaction spiritually will have an effect, especially when children are immersed in a culture that invalidates these essential aspects of focused Christian living. It is not about what I think, my opinion. No. It is about what God has for us today.

[Naomi~(Great Great Grandmother of King David)]

Our first mother is a Hebrew woman.  She lives in the land of Judah until a famine in the land forces she and her husband to move to a foreign land, the land of Moab. She raises two strong strapping sons.  Each of her sons marries a woman of the country, a Moabite. I think Naomi probably feels somewhat sad when they marry these women since they do not share the same faith or heritage. And then the first difficulty happens, Naomi’s husband dies in that land. Her sadness is great. Now she depends on her two sons and their wives for her needs and comfort. Ten years later the other shoe drops. Not one, but both of her sons die, leaving her with no family other than her two daughter-in-laws. Grief overtakes her. Her sorrow is great. No husband and no children, not even grandchildren to remember them by. She feels a heaviness and emptiness like no other.

Naomi and her two daughter-in-laws pack up the house. It is time for her to return to her living relations back in Judah.  She has heard there is food back in her homeland. These are good girls and she loves them, but she can not ask them to forfeit their lives and their family roots to join her in her journey into a land which is not their own. She must do the right thing. With a heavy heart she tells the girls, “I will make the journey alone.  Go back to your families. Marry another man. Make a new life for yourself. My life is over. God has been severe with me. You are under no obligation to me.  I will never marry again.” How do the two young women react? Instead of relief at the good piece of news that they now have their life back and are free of obligation to Naomi, they dissolve into tears and say to Naomi, “No, we can’t leave you. Let us come with you. We will return with you.” 

This tells me a lot about Naomi. If she hadn’t loved them well and accepted them as her daughters even though they were of foreign belief and race, they would not have acted in this way. She again tells them to return to their families, that she can not give them more sons to marry and will not be able to give them what they need. She is emphatic, trying to convince them of their own needs. I see in this that Naomi is unselfish, and she is practical. Again they weep.  Then one of the girls decides to return to her kin, again weeping as she and Naomi embrace. I think they both know that this will be the last time they will ever see each other. The second daughter-in-law shows her spirit. She says these famous words to her mother-in-law “Where you go I will go, where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, your God my God.”  This is powerful. Naomi accepts it.

“I went out full, I return empty.” Naomi explains the emptiness of her family, the loss of her husband and sons when they return. Everyone is quick to notice the goodness of Ruth, her devoted daughter-in-law. A distant relative shows kindness to Ruth as she gleans in his field. Not one to ignore a good sign, and because Ruth needs a husband, Naomi becomes a match-maker. Boaz becomes the kinsman redeemer by marrying Ruth and purchasing the property. The beautiful ending: God blesses Naomi with a grandson. As she holds her grandson on her lap, she realizes she now God has replaced what she has lost and even from the same linage as well. From this amazing story, and this amazing baby comes a king who will capture the land with his love for God and fervor for things of God. David, the shepherd boy turned king, will be her great grandson.
"Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. The women living there said, 'Naomi has a son.' And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David." Ruth 4:16-17


Naomi shows great grace during times of hardship. She also shows that our will can work with God’s will if He is in it. And, by her life she displays that God does bring beauty from ashes.

[Hannah-(Mother of Samuel)]

This next mother is quite doubtful that she will ever become a mother.  Year after year, month after month the calendar clicks on. Others are having babies but not her. Tongues are wagging behind her back. It is a humiliation. How much she wants to have a child of her own, a son to love and care for. Every year this is the prayer in her heart as she enters the Temple to pray, offering her sacrifices to God. As if this isn’t enough, she has another heavy burden. She has to share her husband.  I can not think of anything less enjoyable or hard on a marriage than to have to share your mate with another woman. Her husband loves her, this is true, when she weeps or can not eat because of her inner sorrow of heart, he says to Hannah that he loves her, that he is as good to her as seven sons, but the pain is always there, a constant force. Every day she is the brunt of unkind statements from his other wife, and she has to watch as baby after baby is born to that part of the family while her arms remain empty. The put-downs are non-stop, even when they are traveling to the temple. This year she will plead her case before God.

Hannah enters the temple. Eli the priest, is sitting near the door. She begins to pray in earnest, her lips moving, her voice silent. In heart-felt passion she asks God to give her a son. If God will grant her this request, she promises that she will give her son back to God to serve in this very temple in which she is praying once he is old enough to be weaned. She hears a voice, it has a scolding tone to it. Her emotions are noticed. “Have you been drinking? Go somewhere else when you’re drunk, not in the house of God,” the priest is speaking to her, he’s making a wrong assumption.

“I am making a request of God,” she explains.

“God will grant you your request,” the priest states.  She leaves the temple believing that God will answer her prayer. They return to their home. She conceives. A baby boy is born. His is named Samuel. When Samuel is old enough, on their annual pilgrimage to the Temple, she brings her son with a set of clothing. Hannah will be leaving her little boy. With a heart of love for her son, she explains to the priest, that  it is time to fulfill her vow to the Lord. Hannah reminds the priest of who she is, how Eli said God would grant her request. She explains why she is leaving her son with him. Her voice raises in proclamation to God. This is where we see her real belief and her strength as a mother and woman of God. Listen to some of the words. Her praise is evident, the tone is strong.
"Then Hannah prayed and said: 'My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 
There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away.'" 1 Samuel 2:1,2, 4, 5.             


Her son, Samuel learns at a young age to hear God’s voice. Samuel becomes a strong man of God, speaking the truth to a nation that wavers. He serves God faithfully despite the circumstances of the land.  Hannah believed, she was determined, and she exercised the power of God in her life. It requires a personal sacrifice, she kept her promise to God by giving Samuel to serve God in the temple. I am sure it was not easy to give her son to the work of God, a place where she could not see him or be with him except for infrequent visits. I believe her first-born son was never far from her mind. Her son became a faithful and true righteous leader in Israel, a validation of Hannah’s dedication of her son to God and to God’s keeping. Her choice is a blessing to the nation of Israel. God rewards her and gives her many more sons and daughters.

[Mary~ (Mother of Jesus)]

Pregnant and unmarried. Not easy even in those days. Who will believe her story? It is too fantastic. One doesn’t just go about getting impregnated by God, unless you really are. She is just a maid, a good girl of spiritual quality and of good morals. She will know the shame of bearing a child of questionable parentage. Most are skeptical of her explanation, thinking it a lie she has fabricated to cover her act of sin. Her man stands by her, he is a blessing, a good man.  The visitation by the angel has put the discussion to rest. After baby Jesus is born, she and Joseph take their infant son to the temple. Simeon says a long and beautiful prayer in praise to God. Then he looks at Mary and addresses her, words that will come back to her many years later when they nail her son to a cross. “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” In the ensuing years, every time her son suffers, every time he is blasphemed, mocked, rebuked, her heartache grows deeper. Mother Mary knows Jesus' suffering in her heart. Even though he is God’s son, he is her son as well.


We see Mary’s astounding character by the way she reacts. She does not flinch, question, argue, or reject the angel’s message. She accepts. When Mary is visited by the angel she gives her will to God, demonstrating a character of great merit and purity. In the doing of this, Mary gives up her will in the matter, she blends her own will with the will of God in Heaven and she does not doubt. We can learn from her. Her beautiful words of praise when she greats her cousin Elizabeth, show to us what a remarkable woman Mary is. 
"And Mary said: 'My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me--holy is his name.'" Luke 1:46-49

[Lois – (Mother of Timothy]

She is a Jewess, a professing believer in Christ, seeking to instill in her young son the truths found in the holy scriptures.  This she does purposefully. Her son’s grandmother is faithful in this too.  Yes, her son will see the truth of scripture lived out by her faith-filled example. She know that this is not enough, he will need to learn about God by studying the scriptures. She (Lois) and his grandmother will teach him.  Lois wants her son to study to show himself approved of God, a worker not ashamed of God’s gospel of Christ. Timothy's father is a Greek. She explains to him that she is equipping her son for service.

The day she is preparing her son for comes sooner than expected, while her son is still a youth. The call of God comes for her son, he is invited by the great evangelistic missionary, Paul to be a partner on his ministry team. She must feel some trepidation.  How will it go for Timothy?  Will they accept him despite his young age? It is hard to let him go, untried in a difficult world. But, she trusts Timothy to her God, to continue on the journey she has helped prepare him for ever since when he was a little boy.


In Lois, I see a woman who is visionary. She is willing to put forth effort to teach her child the bigger truths of scripture. And, when the time comes, willing to let her son get his spiritual legs. Lois does not get in the way of what God has in mind. She has to let go of her will. She exhibits faith, courage, perseverance, love, and a diligent spirit. When, we as mothers are faced with the challenges she faces, we can send our sons and daughters off with dignity, resolving to keep them in our prayers for their strengthening and equipping. Timothy is faithful to the task God gives him. His mother produces a son who becomes the assistant in a missionary work, a journey that involves risk as they minister to the new churches springing up across the land. She counts the cost, and it is worth it.

[MONICA AUGUSTINA (Mother of Augustine of Hippo, 4th Century)]

Living in Africa as a wife and mother is not easy for this woman. She has a son and a husband, a man not interested in her church beliefs and who is harsh with her.  It is important to her that her son respects the Church and its beliefs. She is devoted to her catholic beliefs, never missing an opportunity to pray and confess her sins and to pray for her son. She is devoted to God, serving in many ways, showing her sincere beliefs through her faithfulness and deeds. Early on Augustine proves to be a bright boy but willful in temperament.  In school, he shows great aptitude for mastering concepts and has an amazing intellectual gifting. Although she is pleased with his successes, she becomes concerned for his soul and worried that his attainment in academia is pulling him into its deceptive embrace.  She prays with great passion that Augustine will devote himself to a life of serving God in the Church.  Her son begins to rise to the top in his studies, his teaching masters are taking notice, his abilities are so promising that he is becoming known. Soon he is offered an opportunity to study in higher academics in Rome. He wants this very much.  Augustine leaves his mother to set sail on to his new future, an adventure, feeling free at last from his mother’s pleas and influence.  At least he thinks so. 

In Rome, Augustine lives a pleasure filled immoral life. It’s not long before he takes a mistress with whom he lives for many years and with whom he fathers a son. He joins a group of particular “thinkers” and speaks their language in the public square. He fascinated by trendy thought and intellectual prowess. He cares much for the trees, plants, and animals, but debates the whole concept of a God, especially a God who is truth. Truth is something he likes to talk about, a lot.  He lives for himself and enjoys listening to his own speeches, self-congratulating himself for his ability to expound theories that people believe, which he doesn’t completely believe in himself. In time, Augustine finds himself disillusioned with someone he holds in high esteem, altering his perception of his current Manchean beliefs. He seeks another direction, following a new leader, all the time swirling deeper into a void of hopeless thinking. Its empty shallowness never satisfies. He ties himself to more women and makes poor decisions. In Rome, Augustine is well known for his abilities and also for his lifestyle.


Monica, his mother, sets sail from Africa to catch up with her son. Her walk with God is so great that it influences the sailors and the captain, they look to her for comfort and wisdom. Her heart is heavy, she is extremely worried for her son, never failing to pray for his soul. During the trip to Rome, God gives Monica comfort and hope that Augustine will one day follow the faith. Upon arrival in Rome, Monica is intent on helping her son see the light and to change his ways.  She becomes known for her acts of charity, her constant presence in the church, her fervent praying for her wayward, prideful, arrogant son. Mother Monica knows a constant grief in her soul for her son. Daily, she makes her pleas to God for his salvation. Monica becomes a familiar sight and also an embarrassment to her son as you can well imagine. She never rejects him despite his lifestyle choices. Then one day while in the church, the priest gives words of comfort to the faithful mother. He says to her, “I’ve never seen anyone pray (supplicate) for their child like you have. Surely God will grant your request.” She takes this as a sign from God.

More time passes before Augustine becomes disillusioned with the falseness of his life and the emptiness of his beliefs. Through a set of circumstances and a faithful friend, Augustine surrenders his life to God. He finally realizes that the biggest barrier to his choosing to  put his belief in God is his devotion to lust. He thinks he cannot live without having a woman. He converts, puts His faith in God. His drawing to God brings him deep satisfaction, his remorse over his past is great. His change is remarkable. Augustine's passion for God is deep and strong. He is a willing student and seeker of God. His son, now a teenager, follows his father’s example and makes a profession of faith. Monica's life is brief after her son's conversion. She lives for just a short while longer. Days before she leaves this world, Monica tells Augustine that she is at peace. Her prayers have been answered. She dies on her return trip to Africa. Augustine writes his "confessions" from which I quote:
"And now you stretched forth your hand from above and drew up my soul out of that profound darkness because my mother, your faithful one, wept to you on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the bodily deaths of their children. For by the light of the faith and spirit which she received from you, she saw that I was dead (spiritually). And you heard her, Lord, you heard her and despised not her tears when, pouring down, they watered the earth under her eyes in every place where she prayed. Truly you heard her." 
                        Confessions, Saint Augustine [3.12.19], p.38 Barnes and Noble Classics

 St. Augustine becomes a great philosopher of Christian thought. His teachings set the stage in formulating Christian concepts that will be considered for many centuries to come, shaping some of the way the Church has reproduced itself that is still in affect today.  He is quoted even today. What he has is real, very real, that is why it lives on. Was it by accident? I do not think it is surprising that Augustine became a man of great love for God. I think of his mother's steadfast devotion in prayer even when it seemed utterly hopeless, even when her son was embarrassed by her churchy ways, even when her husband ill-treated her, she did not waver. Her faith is real. She is legendary for her example as a mother who dedicated her life to praying for her son and for soliciting God’s intervention in his life.

[MARY TAYLOR   (Hudson Taylor’s Mother~19th Century)]

Theirs is a devout home. This mother is sincere in her faith as is her husband.  They live in the 1800s.  Her daughter has a strong faith as well, but her son, well, as a child he seemed somewhat interested but now as a fifteen year old he has lost interest.  She and her daughter decide to devote themselves to praying for him.  A day comes when Mary Taylor needs to be away for a lengthy visit elsewhere.

Hudson, the boy’s name, enjoys this time to himself. One day he goes out to the little room where he likes to read and think. He has a religious tract in his hand, published by a Christian society. He thinks to himself that he will read the story but skip the end part because he doesn’t think he needs that "salvation" stuff.  He begins to read when he comes to this statement, “The finished work of Christ.  It strikes him as odd. He considers it. Why is it written this way? It will not let him go. At this point he realizes that in the finished work of Christ, Christ has completed His salvation for all people, past, future, and present which includes him. He realizes his great need for God. With this understanding, he opens his mind and thoughts to God, surrendering his will to that of God’s. He knows he has changed the course of his life and is excited, he can barely contain his enthusiasm and happiness. In a few days he tells his sister about his personal salvation, asking her to keep it a secret. She is thrilled, she has been praying for her brother often. In two weeks, Hudson meets his mother at the door when she arrives home. “Mother, I have something to tell you.” He’s so excited.

“I know, son,” she replies, “and I’ve been rejoicing for several days.” He is indignant assuming his sister has told her. “No, she didn’t tell me," She replies to Hudson. In his words:
"Little did I know at the time what was going on in the heart of my dear little mother, seventy or eighty miles away. She rose from the dinner table that afternoon with an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy, and feeling that--absent from home, and having more leisure than she could otherwise secure--a special opportunity was afforded to her of pleading with God on my behalf. She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered. Hour  after hour that dear mother pleaded for me, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished--the conversion of her only son." 
The Man Who Believed God: The Story of Hudson Taylor. Page 36, 37, Marshall Broomhall, Moody Press


In the end, Hudson Taylor becomes a man with a mission. His dedicated efforts in China spread the gospel in areas where he becomes the first to Christian to enter. He is known as one of the “Greats” in the history of missionary evangelism and is known for his adapting to the Chinese culture and dress.  Like Monica, Mary Taylor put words into action. She believes God for the salvation of her son’s soul. In a way, she partakes of his transformation and new life, her faith and trust is in tandem with the power and will of God.

These amazing women may make us feel like we may have not done such a great job as mothers. It is something we know we should or would like to do but it is so hard to focus. Instead of being discouraged, we as parents should be encouraged by their lives. These stories demonstrate that not one story is the same as another. Strong women are made strong when they go to the Source, accept the circumstance, plead and pray with passion and consistency, and when they don’t sell God short--they give Him their all. When I put these women’s stories together, I can see some common threads. They are not women of words, they are women of action—whether in fervent prayer or by a promise they make to God. The spiritual flows through them as a natural extension of themselves. Each one had their own trials, problems, their cherry pits, but they did not let these problems determine the outcome.  They believed in something they could not see, the potential of what God could do.  That is why I want to be an optimistic person. I want to believe in what God may chose to do in answer to my prayers. I want to see "hope" in each person.

[MOTHER TERESA –(Mother to the poor in Calcutta, India)]

I have one last mother for you to consider, a different kind of mother.  Early in her life she gives her life in service to God. She is an Albanian nun who receives the call of God two times.  First, it is to become a nun. In this first calling she becomes a teacher.  The second call comes as she is traveling in a train on her way to a retreat. God asked her to go to the poorest of poor. To serve Him there as a witness to the world. “You can’t do it, but I can.” Here is the account of the event that changed the direction of her life's work.
"'However, on September 10, 1946, Mother Teresa experienced a second calling that would forever transform her life. She was riding a train from Calcutta to the Himalayan foothills for a retreat when Christ spoke to her and told her to abandon teaching to work in the slums of Calcutta aiding the city's poorest and sickest people. "I want Indian Nuns, Missionaries of Charity, who would be my fire of love amongst the poor, the sick, the dying and the little children," she heard Christ say to her on the train that day. "You are I know the most incapable person -- weak and sinful but just because you are that -- I want to use You for My glory. Wilt thou refuse?'" (True Story) 

Two years later she is in India, finding a place to begin her Missionaries of Charity. From this place of multiplied human suffering, Mother Teresa changes the course of her life to become a caring, loving, spiritual mother to the unwanted, unloved, and unlovely. Mother Teresa puts the world on notice that God is in the outcasts, the poorest of the poor. She becomes a megaphone for God to the world that has forgotten His mission.  Mother Teresa becomes a spiritual mother to those who have no mother. She becomes Jesus' feet and His hands to all she meets. To the person with leprosy, she sees Jesus in him. To the woman in filth, she sees Jesus. She helps the rest of us see Jesus more clearly. Her boldness is amazing. 

 In 1981, I read an article about her work in a secular publication. The article quotes her. As I read her statements, I know that she knows my Jesus. She could not do what she does or says without His life in her.  I am not Catholic, but Mother Teresa helped me see Jesus, His compassion and His strength.  Her words seem as if Jesus has spoken them. Like Mother Teresa, even if you have no children, you may become a mother (or father) to those who need you.

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