“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” Romans 12: 2

Mom with coffee

At the coffee shop in 2017

I want to share with you that I have been thinking about my mother quite a lot these days. It’s been a fragile month. She lives in Ashland, Wisconsin close to my younger sister—which is a real gift right now. My mother has been hospitalized twice in the past month, been to rehab once and has now been placed on palliative care. My sister has spent many nights at the hospital, even more nights with our mother and has been pretty much on 24/7 call for the whole time. I can’t decide if I am grateful that I have escaped that level of care or if I am grieving that I can’t be the one to provide that care.

But I can tell that I have been thinking quite a lot of my mother these days. The topic of death has loomed in nearly every conversation—sometimes overtly and sometimes in the sacred pauses between sentences. But all three of us know that this is likely a letting go time and a time to be grateful for the life we have shared together.

But this blog is not really about her health or my grief; it is about how her potential earthly end has prodded me to think about what gifts I inherited from her.

I want to be clear here that I only really came to know my mom much later in my life. My parents divorced when I was three years old and, with the exception of a handful of visits in early childhood, I didn’t reconnect with my mom until I was 32 years old and had two children of my own. I don’t know my mother in the same way children who speak of the mother/child bond do. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t connect and learn to appreciate and love each other as two adults who were just about as different as we could be—or so I thought!

PrayingOne of the things I remember very clearly from our early visits was that my mom had a spiritual practice that I have not seen duplicated in all the years of my ministry. For many years, my mom didn’t feel that she was properly prepared for the day until she had engaged in a full four hours of deeply intimate prayer. 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. every day was reserved for prayer and meditation. Her rationale was that she didn’t want to be conformed to this world, but to God’s world, and it took her four hours a day to ground herself in God’s world before being ready to face our world.

I was a young minister serving in Racine, Wisconsin at the time and I honestly thought such devotion bordered on crazy. I mean a good long half hour prayer is a true feat (try that on Sunday and you’ll get fired!), but four hours of it a day! That’s nuts, I thought.

Ironically enough I was known to regularly stay up most of a Saturday night crafting a well-honed sermon in those early years. I considered it completely normal and even admirable that I would still be writing at 2:00 a.m. while I could not see that my mother’s 4:00 a.m. morning ritual as an equal and superior sign of dedication to her God and her spiritual practice.

I am 59 years old now and guess what? I find myself saying, “I am becoming more like my mother every day.” I have to admit that I will never reach her four-hour, early morning standard of prayer, but every year that passes my own morning spiritual ritual gets just a little bit longer. Ten years ago I had a morning ritual of 30-45 minutes. Today it often borders on a full hour and a half of yoga, meditation and prayer journaling.

Mom and Me

A selfie with Mom

And this is what I have discovered—the “renewing of my mind,” as Romans states it, takes place almost exclusively during this time. I can feel the actual transformation that Paul speaks of taking place in my heart and soul during these quiet minutes and hours of solitude. I can physically feel the shift taking place inside of me as if God was in there pushing things around, reorganizing and remodeling.

I have become completely dependent on this time so that the moment I walk out of my front door I feel rooted in God’s world before making decisions in this world. The crazy thing is that I am sounding more and more like my mother every day. Her four-hour devotion was completely rooted in making sure that she was grounded in God’s world before being thrown into our world.

I am finally getting it. Once I walk out my front door there are horns honking, emails screaming for attention, phones humming on silent, unspoken expectations hiding behind words, and crazy, nutty stuff spewing from our leaders. This is my world. This our world.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds…” Romans 12: 2

When do you allow for God to do the actual work of transformation in your life? Is there a time carved out for God to renew you on a daily basis? Ask my mom and she’ll tell you it only takes four hours a day! I think you could probably get by on an hour and half, though, but I am just an amateur.

One of these days I am going to lose my wonderfully crazy old mom. But what made her crazy in my eyes was her refusal to be conformed to this world. I couldn’t see that thirty years ago.

Now I am turning into my mom. And that makes me really proud.

Thanks, Mom, for being crazy for the right stuff.

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