Friday, May 29, 2020

The Lists

Somewhere there is a list that includes the names of all black people who have died due to racial violence in our country. It is a long list. Too long. One name would be too many. It includes names like Addie Mae, Cynthia, Carole, and Denise--these young girls died in the basement of their church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963 when a bomb detonated on the east side of 16th Street Baptist Church while they were in Sunday School with their friends. Why were they killed? Because they were black. It would take years for KKK activists to be convicted of this horrific crime.

That list includes the name of Edward Johnson, a black man convicted of rape and sentenced to death in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1906. His attorneys appealed the conviction and won a stay of execution from the United States Supreme Court. Upon hearing the news, an angry mob of white men stormed the jail, seized Johnson, dragged him through the streets, and hung him from a bridge. He was later cleared of all charges and proven to be innocent.

One would think that we are beyond this kind of hatred in the 21st century. One would hope this kind of racial prejudice would have been overcome by now. Surely by now, Americans would realize that we are all human beings, regardless of the color of our skin, and entitled to be treated with respect, dignity, and equality. One would think.

Unfortunately, just this past week all Americans were reminded that we still have an insidious, cancerous, destructive, and regrettable disease among us. In fact, it is far more dangerous than any COVID-19 outbreak. From New York City to Minneapolis, Minnesota--we were once again confronted with the continued expression of racial prejudice. Unfortunately, the incident in Minneapolis added the name of George Floyd to that long list.

No one knows how many names are on the list. Well, actually that is not true. God knows. And He grieves. Lord, have mercy.

There is another list that is even longer than the first list I have mentioned. It includes the names of all the black people in our county who have been victims of racial prejudice or hatred. They may not have lost their lives, but they have been robbed of dignity. They have been oppressed. They have been enslaved, abused, neglected, hurt, rejected, beaten, ignored, and victims of a host of other atrocities. Again, only God knows the indignities experienced by an untold number of Black Americans.

There is another list that is even longer than the first two lists. This is the list that includes the names of racists who have inflicted violence and have spread the disease of prejudice throughout society. More often than not, these folks have been in positions of power and privilege in the culture. These folks have intentionally committed acts of violence, or established systems of prejudice, or enacted racist laws, or enforced laws with cavalier acts of inequity, or used their influence to hinder the social or economic progression of black people. Again--we don't know all of the names on this list. But--God knows.

There is another list that is even longer than the first three lists. This is the list that includes the names of the indifferent. These are the people who seem to be unaffected by acts of racial violence. This list is filled with the names of "good" people who just did not want to be involved. They do not consider themselves racists--and that is probably true for most of the people on this list. However, their inaction has allowed a terrible disease to exist and ravage our nation. No one knows how many names are on this list. God knows.

Finally, there is another list. This list includes the names of the people who have said, "Enough." The people on this list know that racism is evil and not only needs to be opposed but needs to be eradicated. Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. Harriet Tubman is on this list as an American heroine. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- a Baptist pastor in Montgomery, Alabama is on this list. Southwestern Seminary's legendary ethics professor, T.B. Maston is on this list.  In fact, there have been many Americans on this list. And, Praise God, across our nation today, there are many of us on this list. 

We must continue to speak out and act. We must continue to pray and lament. We must teach our children about the evils of racism. We must combat racist legislation and enforcement. We must challenge the status quo when necessary. I am not a proponent of violence in response to violence. However, I am a proponent of positive, thoughtful, passionate, reasoned responses to incidents of racism. 

I particularly would contend this is a matter for the church in America to address. We are followers of Jesus. He has called us to be agents of restoration in society. He has empowered us with His Holy Spirit to overcome the forces of evil in our world. He has equipped us with a message of hope and peace. He has enabled us to love deeply and persevere patiently. By His grace, with His direction, through His means, according to His will, in His time, and for His glory ----- hopefully ----- we shall overcome.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

They Walk Among Us

They walk among us – This is the title of a podcast in the UK that covers all manner of crimes committed by people who “walk among us.” It also is the title of a one-act play by Nicholas O’Neill, the youngest victim claimed in the Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island back in 2003. Sometimes, the phrase is used by comedians to point out the ridiculous behavior associated with “normal” people who “walk among us.”

Let me flip the analogy a bit, if I may. As I look back across my life in ministry, I have encountered true giants in the faith-----who just walked among us. Today, I want to pay tribute to them.

I cut my teeth in ministry during a turbulent time in Baptist history. I arrived at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1981. My wife and I felt a call to mission and we were uncertain where that call may take us. However, we were certain that the first steps were to be given to preparation. So, we married the month of our college graduation and moved 700 miles to Texas to begin our journey.

We were not privy to the “goings-on” in the Southern Baptist Convention in those days. Cindy and I were naïve young people who simply wanted to serve Jesus and prepare ourselves for a lifetime of service. My interests in convention life were stirred as a young seminary student as I observed the machinations of denominational life for the first time.

Eventually, I would actually attend a Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting myself. I went to the convention meeting in Dallas in 1985. Wow. Over 40,000 of us showed up for that one!

I became enamored with all of the forces at play in controversy in our convention. In fact, I completed a PhD in Church History at Southwestern and actually wrote my doctoral dissertation on the controversy itself (Factors Contributing to the Resurgence of Fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist Convention: 1979-1990).

During those days in my life – and across the years that followed, I was influenced and shaped by true giants in ministry. Some of them were in the academy, some were in the local churches, and some of them were denominational servants. They walked among us. Praise God that some of them are still walking among us!

As I have attended funerals this week for two of those giants, I have been reflecting upon the men and women who shaped me in ministry. They were role models for me. They took an interest in me. Some of them I knew very well, and some were only known at a distance. But they all had shaping influence in my life and I am forever indebted to them for all I learned from them.

They walk(ed) among us:

Russell Dilday, W. R. Estep, Jack Gray, Jack MacGorman, Leon McBeth, Curtis Vaughn, Bruce Corley, David Kirkpatrick, John Newport, James Leo Garrett, T. W. Hunt, James Brooks, Justice Anderson, Bert Dominy, Keith Parks, Bill O’Brien, Delanna O’Brien, Carolyn Weatherford, Bill Pinson, Paul Powell, Ralph Langley, Herschel Hobbs, Jimmy Allen, Winfred Moore, Charles Wade, Richard Jackson, Dan Vestal, Henry Blackaby, Beth Moore, Rick Warren . . .

This is not an exhaustive list. But this list contains an incredible brain trust of leaders who have helped make me who I am today. There have been many more folks of course. I have had church members who have left indelible kingdom imprints on me. But this list of leaders shaped my understanding of ministry and mission.

What did I learn from them? Wow – where would I start?

Lordship of Christ – I watched these people through the years serve the Lord Jesus faithfully. They taught me to surrender my daily walk to the Lord. They never lost sight of claims of Christ on their lives. These leaders were (are) Jesus people.

Love for the local church – These leaders have loved the church well! Paul Powell used to tell me, “You should always have fire in your belly for the local church.” These men and women demonstrated their commitment to the local church in how they engaged in ministry and mission.

Authority of the Bible – These leaders also demonstrated a commitment to the authority of the Word of God. They maintained their loyalty to the Scripture for the duration of their lives. They never succumbed to the “winds of the day” in their understanding of God’s truth. Even when the teachings of the Bible ran counter to the prevailing view in society, these leaders demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the authority of God’s Word.

Centrist Orthodoxy – These leaders resisted the temptation to be pulled too far right and too far left theologically. They rejected the hard-edged notions of both liberalism and fundamentalism. They refused to be pulled off the pavement into theological ditches. They demonstrated to me how to remain vibrant and buoyant in the face of great challenge.

Grace under fire – These leaders also helped me understand how to be gracious in the moment—particularly in the heat of battle. They all have experienced some level of crisis, accusation, and challenge. I watched them weather these storms with great aplomb. They never lost their way in the midst of the challenge. They had the unique ability to see the best in others ---- even in the face of profound disagreement. They were not vindictive or vengeful. Their deep devotion to the Lord kept them in touch with the grace of Christ.

Work Ethic – These leaders modeled a great work ethic for me. I learned from them that life is not handed to us. These leaders gave great effort to their ministry and life endeavors. They worked hard in every arena. I am inspired daily still by their example.

Hope – These leaders inspired me to never lose hope. Our hope is rooted in a Gospel of Hope that emerged from a God of Hope who has provided us with a Savior Who has secured our Hope. My hope is not in some cause, some theological perspective, some political victory. My hope is the Gospel of my Lord.

Thank you, Lord for the giants in my life!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

How Do We Know We Are Right?

“Poppy, how do we know we are right?” My grandson asked me that question recently at our family’s Sunday lunch. We were all sitting there, and he just randomly asked that question.

As I talked further with him to determine what he meant, I discovered he is wrestling with a question that has been posed to Christians since the very beginning of the Christian movement. My grandson wanted to know about the other faiths that he is encountering in his world. What about them? What if they are right and we are wrong?

That question has led to an open dialogue we are continuing to have. It is a worthwhile conversation. Years ago, I was in a village in rural Bangladesh engaged in a conversation with a Muslim Imam and a Hindu Priest ---- these men asked me the very same question. The Muslim cleric looked at me and asked, “On what authority do you base your exclusive claims of Christianity?”

In a day marked by tolerance and a general attitude of “whatever” – this is a challenging question. It can be posed differently depending on the circumstances. The real essence of the matter is this: Is Christianity the only true representation of the eternal God? Or, asked another way: Are all religions true?

Regardless of how one poses the question, the concern surrounds the exclusive claims of the Christian faith. Here is what I am discussing with my grandson---JESUS! That is right—Jesus.

Jesus is what separates us from all other religious expressions. We are followers of Jesus. We have read His teachings. We have examined His claims. We believe He is Who He says He is! Jesus Christ has changed everything.

Take a moment and reflect on some of what He said about Himself:

Luke 4:21 – Jesus visited his hometown synagogue in Nazareth and read a Messianic passage from the scroll of Isaiah. After the public reading of this passage, he sat down in front of all the congregation and said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

John 4:26 – Jesus was visiting with a Samaritan woman at a well and she told Him that one day the Messiah would come, and He would explain everything to His people. Jesus replied to her with this bold declaration, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

John 8:58 – Jesus was in a discussion with the Pharisees and leading Jews of His day. They challenged Him by claiming that Abraham was their father and He was certainly not greater than Abraham. Jesus told them that Abraham rejoiced at the knowledge that one day His day would come. These leaders were shocked and rebuked Jesus by telling Him that he was not even 50 years old ---- how could He possibly know anything about what Abraham knew or didn’t know. Jesus boldly proclaimed, “Before Abraham was born, I am!”

John 10:30 – Jesus was in Jerusalem for the celebration of Hanukah and the Jews began to ask Him about His claims to be the Messiah. Jesus challenged them to examine the evidence of His life and then He announced, “I and the Father are one.”

John 14:6 – On the final night of His earthly life prior to the crucifixion, Jesus was instructing His disciples. He offered them comfort and hope. In the midst of this historic and insightful conversation, He declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I could go on. But the reason we believe Christianity’s claims are exclusive is because of Jesus! He claimed to be the Messiah. He claimed to be eternal. He claimed to be God in the flesh. He claimed to be the only way to God. These are bold claims! Either they are true or false.

We are staking our eternity on Jesus Himself. We believe He is Who He says He is. He is the authority who makes these exclusive claims. So, I am helping my grandson to fully understand Who Jesus is! He is the eternal, glorious, resurrected, ascended Son of God. He is the only way to the Father. He is The Life. He is The Truth. He is The Way. It is not so much that we are right ---- it is that He is right!

Consequently, we live our lives each day with our eyes fixed on Jesus! 

Thursday, May 23, 2019


We live in an interesting time. There are so many avenues for self-expression. Facebook, Instagram,Twitter are all a part of our everyday lives. Cable “news” often deteriorates into biased rants and diatribes aimed at infuriating one segment of our society and placating another. Any hope of decent, well-considered, meaningful, respectful dialogue seems futile these days.

Issus like racism, abortion, gender, sexuality, and ecological concerns are often discussed on these various platforms in the most detrimental fashion. Social media can be such a positive force for change and such a cesspool for degrading conversation.

Recently, I have noticed numerous discussions concerning abortion, abortion laws, and the entire topic of life debated on social media and in the news. I have found these discussions to be fascinating and disappointing. Something this complex cannot possibly be summarized in a tweet or Facebook post.

Life is precious. And complex.

God is the Author of life. He is the Creator of this universe. He designed it to be teeming with life. It uniquely supports life. And life is incredibly complex. That does not mean that we are not to develop convictions that are firmly rooted in Scripture and consistent with the character of God. 

Consequently, I am Pro-Life. That is not a political declaration. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I am equally disappointed by both parties in my country. Neither of them has the copyright to life. They don’t own words, nor do they create dictionaries.

I will say it again --- I am Pro-Life. That means I value life. In all matters. I care about vulnerable people. I care about unborn children. I care about vulnerable women who are pregnant. I care about families trapped in poverty. I care about people victimized by oppressive laws and systems. I care about people who either struggle with their sexual identity or choose to live a life that is very different from what I have chosen. I care about unfair policies designed to diminish populations of people. I care about providing mechanisms designed to improve life skills for those who have not had adequate provision in their early lives.  I believe in ministering to people in tangible, helpful, and healthy ways. I care about responsible governments—both local and national—that serve the best interest of citizens. I care about moral integrity. I care about extending grace and patience.

I care about honest, helpful dialogue aimed at solutions. I care about people. I don’t mind paying taxes to support responsible means of governing our society. I believe in helping people flourish. 

I also have convictions. I believe in the historically orthodox Judeo/Christian view of marriage and sexuality. I believe Jesus Christ is the Redeemer for all of humanity. I believe The Jesus Wayis the only way to abundant and eternal life. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I believe the Church is the physical representation of Christ’s mission on earth. I believe Jesus came to offer us life.

I don’t believe in demeaning people. I don’t support mean-spirited, judgmental attitudes. I don’t think complex life issues can be easily solved through angry personal exchanges with strangers. I don’t believe in always seeking a quick-fix to complex problems.

I believe we should spend more time in action than argument. Instead of trying to convince others about my convictions, I would rather demonstrate them through my life. Consequently, I felt called to serve First Baptist Church of Arlington, Texas as its pastor. Our church started Mission Arlington in 1986 to address some of the concerns I have outlined in this article.

We remain the sponsoring church for Mission Arlington. We are its largest financial supporter in its history. We have invested millions of dollars and millions of hours in sharing the love of Jesus in very tangible ways. We also have been instrumental in establishing shelters in our community for those victimized by abuse and neglect. We also own and operate Soteria—an individual/family counseling center at our church.

We are one of the founding churches of Restore Hope. We are the largest supporting church for Restore Hope. Through it, we are addressing some of the needs I have outlined in a cross-cultural context in Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Spain, Slovenia --- and many other places around the world.

We also support Living Hope. When people come to us seeking help in relational healing, we walk alongside them in a journey of discipleship. We believe in the Gospel!

My church is engaged in all manner of ministries designed to help real human beings live real lives. My church is not perfect. But it is good. We care about people at our church. We are on record --- we care about life.

I am Pro-Life. That means I am concerned for life in every situation. I cannot be conformed to the Image of God’s Son without being Pro-Life. Our lives are often determined by the choices we make. I want to help people make the best choices to discover the best life available to them. I want to assist people in having the opportunity to make wise and healthy choices. So, I am also Pro-Choice!

I am praying for myself today—and you. I am praying that God will give us the maturity to be His people in this day.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Denominational News

Now, that’s a catchy title! I’m sure it will garner great attention! But, our church is actually connected to a denominational family. We are a Baptist congregation.

Historically, we have chosen to voluntarily cooperate with the Tarrant Baptist Association (TBA), the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), and the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Remember those acronyms – there will be a test later.

In the past 25 years or so, the denominational landscape has changed, to say the least. So much so, that we most closely identify today as a Texas Baptist church. We are still vitally connected to the Tarrant Baptist work – but, the Texas Baptist “gene” is in our DNA. Obviously, Dr. Wade served as both the President of the BGCT and the Executive Director of the BGCT. I have been very involved in Texas Baptist life as well.

This summer, the three denominational bodies ---- BGCT, SBC, CBF --- are all holding their annual meetings in the metroplex! Arlington is hosting the annual meeting of Texas Baptists. This will be our family gathering. All of our affiliate convention bodies will meet together (e.g., African American Fellowship, Baptist Convención, etc.). It will be a wonderful meeting.

I will be nominating my friend, Dr. Michael Evans, as a candidate for President of the BGCT. Michael is the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mansfield. He is such capable leader and will serve Texas Baptists well.

The SBC and CBF will hold their annual meetings in June in Dallas. These are the two national bodies that used to be all be together in the Southern Baptist family. The SBC was established in 1845 and the CBF in 1990.

As time has progressed, the SBC leadership has migrated way to the right of the theological spectrum, while the CBF has migrated to the left of the same spectrum. Unfortunately, there are many of us who are in the “middle” of these two groups. In fact, the BGCT became the first denomination of any size to reject BOTH extremes of that spectrum. We are solidly in the theologically orthodox, centrist position now.

With that said, there are machinations at work to encourage, enhance, and further explain that “theological middle” position. I am engaged in helpful and robust conversations with leaders from across the country who are seeking new ways to partner in Gospel witness with like-minded theological centrists like me.

I love the dialogue I am in. God is stirring. We have no plans to start a new denomination. We are just seeking ways to partner together to answer the call of the Great Commission with folks who refuse to be led to extremism. 

I’m very hopeful. There are some wonderful Christian leaders from across America who are longing for a space for us to live collaboratively together in a missional, purposeful community. Our hearts are warmed by the Gospel. We are guided by Biblical authority. We are Christ-centered. We are Spirit-led. We are church-friendly. And – we are happy in our faith. We are winsome in our spirits.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Beauty of God's Word

We have just navigated through a very meaningful Easter Season. I loved it all. I so enjoy walking through these significant seasons with my church family. I love to see how God works in your lives and mine as we journey together.

We read through John’s Gospel this Easter. Wow! What a powerful expression of the Jesus Story. John certainly offers a fresh perspective on Jesus. You know you are in for a ride when you read his opening sentence: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.Again --- Wow!

We have just begun to read the book of Genesis together as a church family. Notice how it begins, “In the beginning . . .” As the author of Genesis (we think Moses) looked back into pre-history, he decides to just start at the beginning. There in the far reaches of eternity past --- we find God. He is present. In fact, He just is!

In the opening page of the Bible, we read of God, His Spirit, and His Word. The Spirit of God was hovering (Genesis 1:2) and then the Word of God began to express the will of God (Genesis 1:3). God said!God’s Word.

God’s Word is powerful. As He communicates – beauty emerged. All of creation came into existence by and through the authority of the Word of God. God’s Word would eventually find its greatest expression in the truth shared by John, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:15). Again --- Wow!

God’s Word is powerful and beautiful. His Word is the revelation of His character, His intention, His will, and His way. God knows best. When He reveals Himself through His Word, He is always right. His Word gives shape and definition to reality. His Word gives life. His Word endures. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

The Bible is the record of God’s Word. It is the inspired expression of God through human instruments (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). God’s Word is life-shaping and life-giving (Hebrews 4:12). The Apostle Paul admonished Timothy, the pastor of the church at Ephesus, to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).

God’s Word is authoritative for our lives. It is not always popular. We live in a day when many people struggle with authority in general. It just doesn’t “seem” to fit the spirit of our age to assert that God’s Word still holds its “place” in our society. So often, we are tempted to bend the Word of God to fit or match our sentiments. When we do that, the Word of God loses its beauty. In fact, it becomes our wordinstead of God’s Word.

Our world is filled with challenging issues that clamor for true and deep answers. It is so easy to allow the spirit of the age to dominate the conversation and shape perspective. I would encourage all of us as followers of Jesus to consider the beauty and richness of God’s Word. Even when God’s Word contradicts what we feel. Even when God’s Word is counter to the prevailing view.

Certainly, God’s Word has be read, analyzed, studied, and interpreted by every generation of God’s people. Thankfully, there are trusted methods to be implemented in a fashion that honors true historical and critical research. And – our interpretive method can be honest and not given to dishonest, contortionist, mental gymnastics that do not accurately reflect the true meaning of the text. Usually, we resort to the latter when God’s Word challenges the climate of the day.

Let’s honor God by honoring His Word. His Word is His breath! It is the intimate expression of His will and His way. As we read, study, reflect, meditate, interpret, and apply God’s Word to our lives---may the beauty of God’s revelation be on display in and through us!

God has given us His Word to make us “wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15). May my life and yours reflect the wisdom that is only found in the eternal, beautiful, and powerful . . . Word of God!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tribute to My Mother

I was awakened early last Saturday morning by a phone call. One of the attendants where my Mom has lived for over a year was on the line. He called to let me know my Mom was unresponsive that morning.

Many thoughts rushed through my head as I rushed to her bedside. After I arrived, the paramedics met me there to let me know that she had died early that morning in her sleep. She had passed peacefully from this life to the next. I sat next to her for a few moments in the quiet. Just me and her. It was a special time for me to just gather my thoughts and thank God for my Mother.

Mother was born in Griffin, Georgia to a mill-working family. The Dundee Cotton Mill dominated the landscape of that community in the early 1920’s. Mother was the last of 9 children in her family. The 5 boys all died before they were a month old, but the 4 girls all lived into adulthood. They never solved that mystery.

She was reared in somewhat of a scrappy family – eking out a living during the Depression. Like most of the men and women in that community, my Mom’s family all worked at the cotton mill. My grandfather ran a slashing machine that turned the cotton into birds-eye so that it might be used to make towels and diapers.

Mother would later work in that same mill alongside her husband – our Dad, after she married. However, her early years were marked by learning to hand-wash clothes on a rub-board, churn buttermilk, sew clothes, cook on a coal stove, wax hard-wood floors, clean the outhouse ---- all the routine skills that children learn today!

Instilled within my Mom was a strong work ethic. Woven into the fabric of her life was a deep love for God, for family, and for country. Her parents were gentle people who lived simple lives and enjoyed all God gave them. There was a sweetness about them that flowed through the life of Naomi.

When I think of my Mother --- I think of the values that made her into the strong woman our family knew and loved. She was a hard-worker. Our house was “grand-central-station” for all family gatherings and celebrations. My Mom cooked for the masses and served everyone. She went to work when I was a kid to help out with the bills. She used her money to buy us clothes at Parisian’s in Birmingham. She usually put it all on “lay away” and paid on it week by week. She loved the Lord. She taught us about Jesus. She modeled prayer and Bible reading every day that I can remember. And, she loved her family. Family was always welcome in our house.

My Mother dropped out of High School after her junior year and married my Dad. They lived in Griffin until the WW II started. Daddy was blind in one eye, so the military would not take him. He was drafted and tried to join every branch but was rejected. About that time, a plea went out from US Steel in Birmingham for men to work in the steel mills there. My parents moved to Alabama to join other family and help out with the war effort by producing steel for tanks, planes, ships, and various other needs.

They would rear their family in Birmingham. I was the last child in the brood and the beneficiary of a loving family that remains close to this very day. My life has been shaped by the gentle hand of a Mother who loved me all of my life. She always believed in me. She always blessed me. She always cared about me.

She went to countless ball games as she reared us. She washed countless baseball, basketball, and football uniforms through the years. She listened to us share our dreams and blessed us in pursuing them. She was always “present” with us. Her heart never ventured far from home and family. We were the joy of her life.

In these later years, she lived with our family for the past 20 years. I can’t measure the impact she has had on my own children. She was a part of the everyday ebb and flow of life. She is just a stable fixture in the Wiles family picture.

In the last week or so of her life, we lifted her from her wheelchair into a chair at the table in our kitchen. I sat down next to her for a moment. I thought briefly about all of the time she had spent “lifting and carrying” us. I thought about what a privilege it had been to care for her during these later years in her life. She was always appreciative and always said, “Thank You, Son.”

So, I will say – “Thank You, Mother.” I hope those values you held so dear will always be alive in me. I’m proud to be your son.

And so, heaven became richer when a sweet, kind, gentle woman named Naomi Wiles checked in to claim her reservation. I’m not sure how it all works there—but if they have family gatherings and reunions---then look for Naomi in the kitchen. She will be happily serving the people she loves.