October 26th 2020
Not every day a son gets to buy his mother lunch on her 88th birthday. So I was all in—especially after traveling 3,000 miles to be there—-even making sure my credit card hadn’t exceeded its limit. After all, she might pick the Four Seasons. Maybe Ruth’s Chris Steak House. No worries. I was ready to splurge.
“Could we get a cheeseburger,” she demurred softly. “McDonalds okay?”
At this stage I’ve learned not to argue with my mother about issues that make no rational sense—this was one of those moments. No attempt would be made to upgrade to Olive Garden or even Denny’s. If mom wanted a cheeseburger at McDonalds....it’s the Golden Arches.
Noticing the “dining room” closed due to COVID-19, I pulled into the drive thru lane. Rats! No plastic seats and sticky tables this year. “Can I take your order?” crackled the voice through the loud speaker. Words almost out of my mouth, I felt a tug on my sleeve.
“Could I get a vanilla shake as well?” she giggled with childlike excitement.
At that moment I would have “super sized” her meal for an extra 59 cents. But I didn’t want her eating warmed over French fries the rest the week—she would insist on taking leftovers home. A small cheeseburger, a milkshake, and a Hertz rental car would be the ambianic ingredients for this celebratory meal. We drove off to find a quiet space.
“Tell me about a memorable birthday?” I queried with curiosity as we nibbled on fries and watched the seagulls scavenge across the parking lot for their noonday meal. And Mom, being Mom, reminded me about growing up in the shadows of the Great Depression, the scarcity of resources and the fond memory that a really good birthday meant getting a bottle of Fanta and a nickel to buy some penny candy at the local Five and Dime. Something beautifully simple about it all—a reminder Chucky Cheese-themed parties aren’t really needed to create rich and lasting memories.
This past week our staff discussed the theme of healthy life foundations. After watching horrific images of people losing their homes on the Gulf Coast, and feeling the turbulent winds of our current reality relentlessly beating against the retaining walls of our daily norms, a conversation around foundations seemed like a relevant topic. Many feel their foundations are being shaken.
A question surfaced: what kind of foundation does a person really need to weather the storms of life and flourish as human beings made in the image of God? A second: And how do we create these foundations for ourselves and the children we serve?
As a community we talked about our parents’ contribution to our foundations—a powerful conversation revealing the connection between what our parents modeled and its lasting impact on our faith, our sense of family, our desire to serve and our desire to leave the world a better place. I’m grateful for my mother’s faith and frugality (my wife not so grateful for the second f-word)—a frugality allowing her to share generously with those in need.
And for those in our community who’ve spent years healing from dysfunctional and broken families, they shared their challenges rebuilding life foundations, how following God has helped and how they’re living differently for their own children.
Of course Jesus was mentioned in our conversations. After his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares a timeless parable about wise and foolish builders. Wise builders, he argues, “hear my words” and “put them into practice.” Conversely, foolish builders hear the words but never take the time to do the hard work of implementation. Foolish builders take shortcuts. Foundation building always involves intentionality and the practice of behaviors the public seldom sees.
So what are these “words” that Jesus wants us to hear and practice for foundation building? Let me share “a few good bricks” from Matthew’s gospel: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy...” (6:19) Essentially invest in things that matter—things possessing eternal value. “Do not worry about tomorrow...each day has enough trouble of its own.”(6:34) Be present to the moment. Don’t dwell in the past, don’t fear the future. Be attentive to the now. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you...”. (7:12) No explanation really needed. Think of 100 ways you can implement the Golden Rule each day.
Add these good bricks to your life foundation and let the winds howl. When the storm passes you’ll still be standing and have a testimony to share.
Founder and President