Our Time To Shine Is Brief

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Since coming to Mexico I have really enjoyed potting plants. The weather here is perfect for the pursuit and there something about a plant in a pot that enamors me. I like holding the dark, rich mossy potting soil and watching it fall from my fingers—and pressing the uprooted  plant securely into its new home.  Working among the pots brings a lot of spiritual analogies to my restless, wandering mind— like the  ”jars of clay” metaphor Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 4:7, likening us to earthen pots that contain precious treasure. Time seems to stand still as I meditate on the wonder of God.

One of the highlights for me in this whole process has been the delightful moment of discovery, when step out onto our roof-top veranda to find a fresh bloom on one of our plants. Whether gardenias, jasmine or hibiscus—all the blooms are great moments of joy for me, opportunities to appreciate God’s creative genius and to thank Him for caring enough to work out the magnificent details of each bloom just so someone like me could enjoy the sight—and the fragrance, of His glory.

I still remember the morning I strolled out and discovered our first bloom—a bright pink hibiscus that screamed “Look at me! Look at me!” to all passers-by. That discovery was sweet! But disappointment followed when I soon realized that blooms, no matter how spectacular, don’t last. Gorgeous in their time, they live out their brief moments of glory and, sooner than anyone could hope, they wither and fall from their perch, making room for other fresh, new mornings of discovery.

Life here on earth is like that. Our time to shine in life is brief (Psalm 103:15-17). The analogy isn’t perfect. We all have, in fact, multiple opportunities to bloom in our lives. But next to eternity, our lives as a whole are like a fascinating bloom that burgeons only to wither over the course of a day or two. No one can take our place—and our bloom ultimately cannot be squelched by circumstances, limited by our place in life or denied by the enemy of our souls—because God is, in the end, our audience of One. We are crafted for His glory, and His alone.

It’s a sobering thought to realize things will go on without us, that we are  expendable, that a million blooms will follow long after we’re gone.  But as I ponder the thought and focus on the faithfulness of God, I know, deep in my heart, that His work in me has just begun—and the best is always yet to come (Eph. 2:7,10).

Tribute To Bonnie Jean

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Ten years ago this month my mother passed from this earth. In the weeks before passing she wrote several letters and kept mentioning how excited she was about the baby my wife and I were expecting. It is almost as if there was a special connection. Destiny Rose, who was born just two months after mom died, reminds me of her so much, it’s uncanny! And that is saying a lot, because my mom was one of a kind. I honestly believe there is a spark of my mom in Destiny and God put it there to keep my heart warm and to remind me that no matter how tough things get, I am still loved, and there is, like my mom always told me, a special purpose for my life.

I wrote a tribute for her then that I would like to post, once again in her honor…

On the 7th of September, my Mom breathed her last breath and went home to be with Jesus.  She’s home now. After years of beaming for the One who died for her (my Mom beamed—I mean she smiled and her eyes revealed a joy that only Jesus could have placed within her) she is now in His loving arms.

I am happy for Mom. I know what being with Jesus means to her. I know what being re-united with her father, who died in 1968, means to her. I’ll never forget how much she cried when he passed away. I don’t think I had ever seen anyone grieve like that. She sobbed for weeks. But that was my Mom. She gave everything 100%–especially people. Mom was a people person. She always made you feel so important. I couldn’t begin to count the times when I would come over with a friend, and she would drop everything and start fixing us a meal with all the trimmings, despite our objections. And by the time we finished eating, we were glad she took the trouble, because it was so good. But a visit to Mom’s got you much more than good food. She provided some of the best conversation of anybody I’ve ever known. She was especially good at reaching out to complete strangers (Mom never met a stranger!) and captivating them with her winning way. What did Mom talk about? She had countless stories of God’s goodness to her over the years—most of which were so impressive you went way with a feeling that this woman should have written a book.

I won’t elaborate much now, but let’s just say my Mom was a spiritual dynamo who heard from God, experienced God, and trusted God in phenomenal ways. At the early age of five, she begged her Presbyterian mother to be baptized by immersion at a local revival meeting. Her mother reluctantly allowed her to do so, and just following the baptism, my Mom was “slain in the Spirit” and had a vision of the Jesus People revival that would take place some forty years later, in the early seventies. It was in the midst of this revival that I came to the Lord, at age 16, in 1972. One of the things that convinced me that I should commit my life to Jesus was what I saw God doing in and through my Mom as she ministered to countless young people, many struggling with drug addiction, who came to our door searching for God. During the early seventies my Mom was affectionately known as “sister Nielsen” to hundreds of admiring young converts whom she discipled and encouraged in the faith. One reason people sought her out was the common knowledge that “sister Nielsen” heard from God.

When I received news of my Mom’s passing, I knew instantly that a flame had gone out in my life. This flame had been burning from the day of my conception. Mom had prayed for me everyday. She never passed up the opportunity to tell me how much she loved me and was so very proud of me. She loved me un-conditionally. She championed me.

I will live the rest of my life at loss because my Mom is gone from this earth. Reflecting upon her passing, I feel like, for the first time, that I will be looking forward to my death with anticipation. She’ll never return to me, but I will one day go to where she is. I thank God for that sure hope. Until then, I will live motivated by the memory of a Mom who inspired me to dream great dreams for God.