Sunday is Mothers Day. If ever anyone should be honored, it is mothers. Mothers have done so much for the world. I know I would like for my mother to still be with us, but she isn't. So, all can do is honor her with my remembrance,and my writing. I first wrote this several years ago, and have now revised it a couple of times. I thought this year I would send it out again, and place it here on the blog.
I hope it reminds us all of something about our mothers and grandmothers. I know they were not perfect, but we weren't either. We must look to the perfect Lord Jesus for that. My mother first told me about Him. I owe her so much for that alone!
God bless you all!
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day; Greatly desiring to see thee, being mindful of thy tears, that I may be filled with joy; When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also” 2 Timothy 1:1-5.
Recently, I was going through some photographs and memories of my grandmother on my father’s side. She was 88 years old when she passed away in Somerset, Kentucky in 1978. I was privileged to conduct her funeral.
Among her things, I found a couple of booklets. One was by Jacob Gartenhaus; a minister of the gospel who was a converted Jew. It was on the second coming of Christ (click link). http://www.swordofthelord.com/biographies/GartenhausJacob.htm The other was a booklet distributed by her church, the Baptist Temple in Brooklyn, New York. It was What Saith the Scripture?, by John W. Aitchison. I believe these were the only two books, other than her Bibles, among her belongings she left behind.
Her family Bible was revealing in many ways. It likely was passed down from my great-great-grandmother. I probably would have much difficulty finding out my great-great-grandfather’s name had it not been for this Bible. It was a crumbling edition that dated back to the early 1800’s, but the intact family entry pages helped me immensely.
I had overlooked the other Bible, my grandmother’s personal one, until I picked it up recently. One of the passages she has marked is:
Psalm 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”
This touches me greatly when I remember that she often prayed for me when I was young, and I was a very wayward sinner. I was able to tell her and my maternal grandmother that both their prayers were answered in November, 1963 when I was saved at 21 years of age. Praise the Lord!
The little booklet from the Brooklyn church was enlightening in another way. It has an entry page that shows my grandmother, Lillian A. Taylor, being baptized at the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta in June, 1902. The pastor there was Dr. Len Broughton, a rather famous preacher, who later pastored a church in London, England. He may be best known for founding, almost single-handedly, Georgia Baptist Hospital (now Atlanta Medical Center). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Len_G._Broughton
Lillian, and my grandfather, Charles B. Woodruff, were married four years later on May 8, 1906. Charley, as he was called, was tragically killed in a railroad accident on October 27, 1910 when my father, Theron, was only two years old. His older brother Sam was three. Grandmother remarried a few years later to Sgt.W.C.Sievers of Kentucky, a career army man. That is how she wound up in New York for a few years. He was stationed there. I have other memories I could share, but I must move on.
In verse five of our text, Paul saw in Timothy the value of having a godly grandmother (Lois), and a godly mother (Eunice). They had a great influence on him. His faith was unfeigned (real, without hypocrisy, see Strong’s Concordance entry: Greek #505).
John R.W Stott in his commentary on 2nd Timothy titled Guard the Gospel (IVP, 1973), says on this verse: “The most formative influence on each of us has been our parentage and our home. Hence good biographies never begin with their subject, but with his parents, and probably his grandparents as well. True, no man can inherit his parents’ faith in the way that he inherits facets of their personality. But a child can be led to faith by his parents’ teaching and prayers.” (Emphasis mine)
This is true. It should both humble us, and put fear of God in us for ourselves, and our children. Oh, I know some rigid, philosophical, Calvinist will decry this “not depending on the sovereignty of God.” My friends, God is sovereign, absolutely in control of all things. Yet God says: Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Even Mr. John Calvin himself said: “Timothy was reared in his infancy in such a way that he could suck in godliness along with his mother’s milk.” (The Epistles of Paul to Timothy and Titus, p.292; John Calvin, written in 1548, quoted by Stott; op. cit.)
I was blessed to have two Christian grandmothers who set good examples for me. My maternal grandmother, Inez Biddy Smith, was also an inspiration to me. I was around her more than the other grandmother. She was not in the least shy about laying a hickory on my backside when I misbehaved either! I believe the only serious mistake she and my grandfather made was calling me a “good boy”! I probably wasn’t worse than other kids, until my early teenage years, and then I became plain mean! I was a sinner greatly in need of a savior!
The Smiths were old fashioned country people from Cartersville, Georgia, who never had very much money, but they both loved their grandkids. I do remember, after I was saved, and called to preach, she liked for me to read the Bible with her. We would discuss it some. She would always listen to Brother Maze Jackson, and Brother Edgar Thomas (two well-known Georgia preachers), on the radio.
When she got bedridden, and was unable to attend church, she would often talk about going home to be with the Lord, especially after my grandfather died. We called him Big Daddy. He was a pretty big guy. He had big hands. But, somehow the name Big Mama, though that was how we knew her, was a bit incorrect. She was not a big woman, at least all the time I knew her.
In her final seven years on earth, I called her “my miracle grandmother”. You see, the doctor had given up on her, because her kidneys were bad, and other things. He called the family in. My mother and her sisters met, and decided to contact a funeral home in Acworth, Georgia to pre-arrange everything. I tried courteously to talk them into waiting, but my Aunt Judy, who handled all Big Mama’s business affairs then, insisted on planning it then.
I admit she looked bad, like “death warmed over” as we used to say. I (and I am sure others), had special prayer for her. I held her little hand. I earnestly implored the Lord not to take her yet. I knew death was coming, but I didn’t give up on her yet. We stayed, and watched, and prayed much of the night.
The next morning, there seemed to be a little improvement, but I don’t know who noticed it besides me. I was exhausted, so I went home and slept. I seem to recall that I did not return the next day because of commitments, but I checked on her. She had improved slightly. I saw her again a couple days later. She looked better. We prayed again. She told me she wanted to go to be with the Lord. I asked her to hold on a while, because we would miss her so much. Then she said, “Charles, I want you to preach my funeral.” I said “Big Mama, I would be honored, but only if you wait a while. We are not ready to send you off yet. But, God’s will be done.”
She improved day by day. In a week or so, she was able to go home, and lived seven more years! To God be the glory for her life and example! She passed away on April 8, 1988 at 84 years of age.
I preached the funeral as she requested, but a few years later than we thought! We were simply going by what the doctor had said. The sisters are all gone now, except Aunt Jessie who is 90. Mom passed away in April 2005, at 82. I want to talk about her now.
Exodus 20:12 “ Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”
My father was 36 years old when I was born. Perhaps that kept us from being closer in spirit, because when I was 13, he was 49. My mother, Vertie Lee Smith, on the other hand was young. She was only 16, nearly 17, when they married. I was born three years later, when she was 20 years old. Mom was born in 1922. I was born in 1942. Chuck, my oldest son, was born in 1962. I always thought this was interesting.
One of the earliest memories I have is going to Sunday school and morning services at Gordon Street Baptist Church in the Cascade Heights area of Atlanta. I delighted in learning Bible verses, and singing the old hymns, such as Holy, Holy, Holy, Crown Him with Many Crowns, and He keeps Me Singing. Mom always went with me, but Dad didn’t. Dad was a good provider, a good father, but Dad was a drinking man during the time I was growing up. I’ll explain how that changed later in another article.
I made a profession of faith, but, I don’t believe I was really saved at 8 ½ years old. They thought I understood, and was ready, I thought I understood and was ready, but apparently not. Anyway, I went forward, made a profession, and later was baptized. Mom had made a profession herself, and was baptized, and perhaps I just wanted to do what she did. I can’t be sure. The invitation system itself creates an atmosphere for premature professions of faith. That is just a fact. Almighty God is the only being in the universe that can tell you that you are saved. Let no man deceive you!
Let me be clear here. Even though I may not have been really convicted, and saved then, I would not discourage parents taking their children to church from infancy. I learned much during those days that was pretty sound Bible teaching. I continued to go to church regularly until my rebellious teen years. I still remember some of the teaching I received in several Atlanta Southern Baptist churches as we “moved our letters” when we located to a different area of the city.
I believe the greatest thing Mom ever did for me, was expose me to the Bible, Sunday School, and gospel preaching! The value of this in my life cannot be fully measured! But, this story is not really about me, it’s about Mom, yet as far as her relation to me, it is impossible not to say things about myself. So bear with me a little.
When I started to school in kindergarten, and the first grade, guess who walked me six blocks to school? Mother!
When I got my lip severely cut on a broken swing chain after falling out of a swing at about five years old, guess who cared for me, and took me to the doctor? Mother!
When, as a teen, I got in trouble several times, who was the main person who believed in me, and tried to help me? Mother!
Things with me got worse and worse, including burglary and car theft, and I was going to be sentenced to reform school at age15 until I was18. Who do you think pleaded with the judge, and got my school Principal, Mr. DeVaughn, at Brown High School, and my pastor, Dr. O. Norman Shands of West End Baptist Church, to write letters to the judge, stating that I was a good boy? Mother!
That was a close call, so I had a bit of a reformation. Although I quit school at 16, and left home, except for drinking and fighting, I stayed out of major trouble. No felonies, although if they had caught me bringing in Dexedrine, and other illegal drugs at the Mexican border at Tijuana in 1959, I would have likely done hard time!
I got married in January 1962 to Sandra, and our first child, Chuck, was born December14th of the same year. In early November, 1963 (about three weeks before President Kennedy was shot), I was finally saved for real at a dear Christian friend’s home. Guess who didn’t believe her ‘good boy’ needed saving? Mother!
But, she soon saw that I had indeed changed. We started going to Maranatha Baptist Church in the Bolton area of Atlanta. The pastor, Jack O. Cole, was young and a fireball. It was real different from the more staid setting in the churches we had attended when I was much younger. We were sad when Jack left after a year or so.
After a couple years of being cold in heart and unsure where to go to church, we got involved in Grace Baptist Church in the Cabbagetown area of Atlanta. http://www.nps.gov/history/nR/travel/atlanta/cab.htm This was about a mile from historic Oakland Cemetery where my Great-Great-Grandfather is buried. http://oaklandcemetery.com/.Pastor Garland Odom preached the gospel straight and true. He believed if God called you, God would prepare you. At Grace Baptist on March 15, 1968, I surrendered to preach the gospel. After the service Pastor Odom asked me to preach in his stead on April 7, 1968. I thought, “Oh, please God! That only gives me three weeks to prepare!” I did try to prepare. I saw a man’s tattoo in the Walgreens where I worked. It said Born to Lose! This stirred a theme in me. As natural men, we are sinners, and are born to lose, unless we are born again by God’s grace. My text was Ecclesiastes 1:2: “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
I think I have preached better since then, but never more sincere. I could sense God’s presence in a special way. Mother, Dad, and my brother and sister were there. I think my grandmother was there. Some of my aunts and uncles, and cousins were there. Some of Sandra’s relatives were there. We all were in that little church in a mill village! Including regular members, it was rather crowded. There were two professions of faith, as I recall. That’s in God’s hands. But the striking thing, my mother and my dad were there! Guess who always encouraged me in my ministry after that? Mother!
Many years and many miles have passed since then. I wish I could say that Mom stayed close to God all those years. After Dad died in 1984, she quit going to church regularly. She, who had sung in the choir, and was faithful to church for a time seemed to lose interest. There were areas where I wish her life had been different. She did some things that were not right in those years. She got more materialistic. We still discussed the Bible, but it wasn’t the same.
Mom started to physically decline about ten years ago. It was Alzheimer’s. How fast that terrible disease seems to take its toll. Her memory got down to nothing. She would repeat things over and over. It got worse. Then, in October 2004, she fell and broke her hip. After that, she declined rapidly. Sadly, we had to put her in a nursing home. She developed a severe infection in March, and she died in Forsyth, Georgia on April 19, 2005. She was 82 years old. We miss her.
I always loved her and she loved me, I know. Time moves so quickly, and I have not always been where I should be with God. But God is faithful. Mom, like all of us will be, is in the hands of a just and almighty God. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” Hebrews 9:27.
In memory of Vertie Woodruff, Lillian Seivers, Inez Smith, and, also, my late son,
Chuck Woodruff. You all made a difference in my life! Thank God for you!
Originally written on May 12, 2006, revised May 7, 2008, and May 9, 2009, and 2011.