Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Love, sacrifice, and what his mama had to do with it all


When Jerry Jenkins came out with his “Ultimate Reading List” recently, I was not surprised at the author he said was in his opinion “our greatest living nonfiction writer.” (click here to see the list).

(Jerry Jenkins and I, sorry for the blurry picture)
Having had several classes at writer’s conferences with Jenkins, I have a lot of respect for his insights, so I'm glad I too, had come to the same conclusion. 

All Over but the Shoutin’ convinced me.  And if that weren’t enough, I have never received a magazine each month more eagerly than my Southern Living, and after I snatch it from the mailbox, I read Rick Bragg’s essay before anything else.

But I have to tell you, this month I flat out bawled when I read Bragg’s article about his mama and her cooking.

The February issue of Southern Living is a double issue, so not only does he have his usual column, but also a poignant article entitled, “My Mama’s Cooking: lessons on life and cooking from a woman who’s never consulted a recipe.” And there he is sitting on the  front porch with his mama and her with a bowl of green beans in her lap―this mama he said pulled him behind her on a sack when he was a baby so she could pick cotton to support the family and had to “iron forty pounds of clothes to make four dollars.”

Bragg grew up on one of the most ragged edges imaginable in rural Alabama. And yet, somehow, and maybe in large part to the sacrificial love of his beloved Mama, he became a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for The New York Times.

His story boggles my mind.

So does his mama’s.

That picture of Bragg and his mama on her porch―I look carefully. Beyond them on the wall beside the front door, something else, a small cross nailed on the boards.

The back cover of All Over But the Shoutin’ says Bragg was “seemingly destined for either the cotton mills or the penitentiary.”  No doubt according to his accounts.

In my mind’s eye, I see his mama praying and calling out to God on behalf of Rick and his two brothers.

Today, he’s a professor at the University of Alabama.

His mama once said she “wished he was closer to Jesus.”

I tell you, after seeing what her prayers, love, and sacrifice have already accomplished, I think she will probably get her way.

We talk a lot about things we’re passionate about, but in our culture, the word passion has lost  meaning, because passion holds an element of sacrifice.  In a month where we’re focusing on love, let’s not forget love means sacrifice. I’ve already talked myself under conviction about this more than once in recent days.

So this Valentine’s Day, love on, and be willing to give up whatever is needed for the object of your affection.

Rick Bragg’s mama will be proud of you.

“Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” (Ephesians 5:2 The Message).

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