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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Lessons from My Father’ Category

“Remembering a sin we have committed does not mean that the sin has not been forgiven. This remembrance of our sins is only a warning to us lest we become proud and sin again. In fact, we—not God—are the ones who cannot forgive ourselves. We cannot forgive ourselves because of our pride. A genuine sign that a sin has been forgiven is the fact that it has not been repeated, and we are at peace. It is also important how we spend the last years of our lives. A God-pleasing life in old age blots out the sins of youth.”

Excerpt From: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood. “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives.” Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2013-09-26.

My father often said ‘Getting old is not for the faint- hearted” and as I age in my 60’s I am beginning to know this to be true. However, emotionally and spiritually I love this time of life. I have the time to genuinely care for others without my ego needing to be stroked. I can relax into God’s presence without having to set an alarm to remind me of the next task at hand. I’m at peace in a way that was more difficult to achieve with the hormones of youth. And the above quote comforts me.
My father lived the last 20 years of his life as a consistent though certainly flawed faithful servant of Jesus Christ. Those years were truly one of a God-pleasing life. His example thruly inspires me to do the same. May the last decades of my life be as God- pleasing not for my own sake but for the sake of all whom I touch.

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It’s been three years since my Dad died and for some reason I am feeling sadder this Father’s Day weekend than I was each previous year. I’m letting the tears flow and the grief work it’s way. I’m listening to Hymns on Pandora and remembering singing these old hymns either standing on the pew next to him when I was a child or watching him sing in the choir in his later years. Sometimes we’d sing duets at home while he plunked out the melody on the piano. But my favorite was watching him sing hymns while he rode his precious John Deere law mower.
Recently I was visiting my Mom and brothers for a few weeks. I always look forward to mowing the grass Dad mowed and I too sing while sitting on his old mower. I get his joy in doing the simple work of life. He saw work as worship and joy. Such a rare way of life!
So this weekend as I do the laundry and mop a floor, and put things back together after a months long renovation I am singing along with those hymns on Pandora. And tomorrow, if the sun shines I will be mowing our small patch of lawn singing along with Dad in the heavens. I’ll think all night of which hymn to sing because it will barely take the length of one hymn before our lawn is clipped. No matter – I probably won’t remember all the verses anyway. But my Dad will know them and he will complete those hymns just as he completed a life so very well lived.

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My Father was a veteran but minimized it’s importance because he never saw military action having joined the Navy and sailed off to the Philippines as the war was ending. Just today, I learned from my mother that he had joined the Navy rather than another branch because the Post Master in his hometown told him to saying: “in the Navy you will always have a dry bed to sleep in, good food and less chance of dying.” He joined before his 18th birthday by lying about his age (the only lie I ever knew him to tell – truly). He couldn’t swim but I don’t remember how he got around that one. I’m glad my father didn’t see action. He had such a tender heart, I don’t think he would have survived.
As a minister. I often did funeral’s for veterans. There were always other vets present. Many times, one would seek me out after the graveside service with tears streaming down their cheeks. In some form or other, I would be asked, “Do you really believe God can forgive me for what I did in the war?” My heart would break at the years of hell that had plagued them with these questions. I always assured them that God had long ago forgiven these horrors and that their tears were God’s tears.
My Dad didn’t see action but he did participate in the integration of the Navy. His memories of those days informed his commitment to move past and lead past stereotypes and prejudice. That in itself is an enduring and yet to be won war.

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My father was a humble man. He could not abide arrogance. This C. S. Lewis quote describes his spiritual practice to a T:

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you….
The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.”

C.S.Lewis Mere Christianity, bk 3, ch. 8

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Every Easter, I would call my parents and my Father would remember to say “He is Risem” and I responded with those ancient words “He is Risen Indeed!”. But the past few years of Dad’s life, he would then go into an exaggerated version of the hymn “It the Bulb Ther is a Flower” and I would join him. We both detest that hymn but in each of our churches it is a favorite. The hymn has great meaning in celebrating springtime but the tune got stuck in our minds and we couldn’t shake it. So we laughed together instead. Ah, I miss that man. I miss his humor and his laugh most of all. I hope I will always be able to recall that chuckle and those outright roars of glee.
So this Easter, I remember and I know that the message of Easter is a very personal one. I will hear that laugh again.

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Lord, if we are to be afraid of anything, let it be the fear of not committing ourselves fully to you. Let us fear that the day will pass without our having lightened the load of another. Let us fear that someone will come looking for you and find only us. Amen.

-From Common Prayer

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I have fond memories of sitting at the dinner table with my parents and brothers at precisely 6 pm every night but Sunday. Dad would have arrived home from the hard physical labor of his job as a residential electrician and foreman. He would have finished his ritual wash-up with “Goop” (I wonder if they still make that?) at the kitchen sink, washed out his thermos and set it out to soak clean, showered and changed into some atrocious looking but comfortable outfit. Looking back on it, I imagine he was totally exhausted. Most nights my brothers would kick each other under the table or try to tease me to make me cry (which I faked doing quite effectively). Mom would try to get us to talk about our days without much success but we are all better for her efforts. At some point in the meal, Dad would be “out of the loop” of our conversations and Tom foolery. He would be staring off into space, probably thinking through some problem at work, figuring out how to get something done faster and better, or how to save the company some money, how to beat his time on the previous job or how to motivate a younger worker without telling them off. Or perhaps he was thinking about side jobs to supplement the family income. “Dick! Dick? ” Mom would say as Dad apparently didn’t hear a word any of us were saying. Then one of us kids would wave our hand in front of his eyes and he would slowly turn and relax his lips into an ” O” like a zombie, stare blankly then shake his head in such a way that his lips would sake back and forth and we would all collapse on hysterics.

After dinner while we all cleaned up, Dad would retreat to his olive green lazy boy and cogitate some more. His work was his pride if not always his joy. He raised us all, children and grandchildren alike, to be hard workers, honest and proud of whatever work we did. One of the many things that bugged him in life were people who did not understand that their work was a reflection of their faith. Until the day he died, Dad’s work was the same for him as worship. What a great way to live!

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