April 11, 2007

My Dad . . .

I know it’s not remotely close to Father’s day, but I had to talk about my dad a bit today. I’ve been thinking about him and how he and my mom worked together as missionaries, pastors, evangelists, parents of 7, foster parents, counselors and prayer partners.

I have a pretty special heritage, I think. Not that I’ve always valued it. I haven’t. Went through that 15-24 age gap where parents are stupid and I’m brilliant! Yeah. What did I know!

Were they perfect. Hell. No. But they worked. Hard. By the time I was born, my parents had “pioneered” 5-8 small churches, spent 8 years on the mission field (Europe) and already had 6 children. Only 5 had survived the ordeal. Little Andrew was stillborn. My father pastored a church of roughly 80-100 congregants. Small, but exciting. They were in the throes of the Jesus Movement. Even in eastern Montana. Then he led another congregation of 150-200 up until my late teens. After that? He traveled the world passing out Bread & Milk. 🙂 Still does.

My Dad worked 40 hours a week as an ironworker in town and all around. But somehow he always made it home for Wednesday night service. Weekends were spent running from house to house and “fellowshipping”. Then Sunday morning and evening services. I don’t believe he’s ever taken a day off in all his life. There’s always something to do. Someone to see. Somewhere to go. Who knows the Divine Appointments he might miss along the way by not being Out There. Who knows what opportunity for blessing he might reach. And yet, I didn’t have a birthday until I was 19 where my Dad wasn’t there. None of us did.

My Dad hasn’t ever taken a regular paycheck from any church of which he was minister. Espousing the “Pauline” or tent-maker plan he preferred to earn his own money and provide for his family himself. He worked so Mom could stay home with us and together we could all serve G-d. He wanted to be able to free up those funds for the work of the “ministry”. We didn’t have a lot but we always had enough. Sometimes just barely. We didn’t know the difference.

He travels all over the world with the express intent of taking those funds to small congregations in Communist Russia (before the wall), Germany, Israel, Asia, China. He goes to small churches in Idaho, Nebraska and leaves checks behind him for the Work. He gives liberally of his time to anyone who is in need.

I remember having a very Important Conversation with him once about the whole principle of giving to a Truly Worthy Cause. I stood on my soap box and solemnly declared the need for Good Stewardship. He smiled at me and said, “Well, it’s not my money to worry about.” And proceeded to pay for an arrogant, defiant, rebellious girl to go to Oregon and work for a missions organization. Funny, huh? I got saved, worked there for 2 years, met my husband and viola! 15 years later. Here I am. G-d’s money, G-d’s time, G-d’s resources.

Never, in all 33 years of my glorious existence, has he complained about working for the Lord. At least not to me or anyone else I know. He talks only about the blessing. I haven’t ever heard him speak poorly of anyone in all my life. When we, his children, engage in this? “Now, now, remember Jesus loves him/her/them too!”

If you met him you probably wouldn’t look twice. A mid-70’s medium built grey haired man in blue jeans and some Salvation Army sweatshirt that’s 3 years overdue for the scrap heap. Clean, but not fancy. He’s color blind and fashion retarded. Still wearing his “marrying and burying” suit he bought 25 years ago at J.C. Penney’s. He makes dumb jokes and often can be frustrating. He’s my Dad. I know him. I am familiar with him.

So sometimes I have to take a step back and remember how truly extraordinary he is. He is an encouragement to me every time I am tempted to look at the work the Lord has put in front of me and complain about the demands of ministering to others. For whatever reasons G-d has, He has given me the opportunity to speak into the lives of others. I must be mindful of the requirement of faithfulness not only with the opportunity but, more importantly, the priceless individuals who live within my sphere. No matter how small or grandiose.

My dad wrote a poem once about being buried in worn out combat boots. The gist was that he wasn’t interested in the flashy attire of Working For G-d. He wanted to be down in the nitty gritty. Where the real work is done. Where blood, sweat and tears live with tangible consequence and blessing. Doing work which actually could wear out your combat boots.

I love my Dad. My Mom has been a faithful help-meet to him as well. Hers is an example I hold tightly to when I don’t understand the requirements G-d asks of me as a wife.

I have a heritage. One I hope to pass onto my children. Maybe they’ll look back at me some day and see my combat boots.

Patched, worn out and dirty. Used up. Spent. Poured out. Useful. For the glory of G-d.