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If You Had A Father….

If You Had a Father…

…and you did, if you’re still standing in this world. Mine is a good man, who worked hard, because that’s what a real man did for his family. He had one little boy, then another, and a third, and finally my mother got an ally, my baby sis. Dad was a basketball star, a talented carpenter and cabinetmaker who built our first house with his own hands in his “spare time.” If he was quiet, he was affectionate and a mountain to aspire to as a child.

Dad and me age 2

Dad and me, 1958.

We wanted to be like him. We were in awe of him, And he was there, always there.  Even if he traveled, he always came back. Not all Fathers live up to that, but if they don’t, they aren’t really Fathers. The fathers God gives always show up, hang in there, are there for you. Yours might have been Uncle Joe or Grandpa or somebody you weren’t related to, but they always came back.

My wife had a father like that—engineer, Dale Carnegie graduate, never came out of the room without being dressed for work at the mill. No complaining, no excuses. If it’s hard, overcome it. If it’s broken, fix it. If you can pay for it, it isn’t a problem. We’re in this world to do for others, not ourselves.

My father in law, Forrest Johnson, with my two oldest girls.

These two men, along with a pretty long list of men who “fathered” me in sports, church and school, grandfathers and neighbors and Sunday School teachers, fathered me.  “Fathering,” to me is this: you take responsibility for the people you love. You protect the weak. You help and defend the helpless. You stand up for what’s right and mend what’s wrong.

Fathering means helping little boys and girls know what a good man acts like. It means sacrificing, working, helping and coaching. It means helping them grow up when you’re still growing up yourself. It means doing whatever you can for your children because they come first.

If you had a father, and if you’re functional, you did. Even if that father wasn’t your biological Dad. If a man adopted you, looked Read the rest of this entry

Daniel Murphy, Sports and Babies

“J——, this is your pastor.  Now having heard your

confession on the air, will you stop by to receive

penance instructions about being a better father and husband?”

It’s just too easy to weigh in on the comments of Mike Francesca and Boomer Esiason about Daniel Murphy’s decision to take two days to be present for his baby’s birth.

Daniel Murphy, new Dad, plays second base for the New York Mets.

Daniel Murphy, new Dad, plays second base for the New York Mets.

Of course, we live in a time of sportainment.  More and more, as politics becomes hopelessly unresponsive and global problems impinge on every part fo life, sportainment is the way we escape–from real life.  Except that ultimately isn’t an option.

One day I listened in on sports radio–I admit, it’s a guilty pleasure on the way to the hospital or a meeting, in part because I will always laugh at something pretentious, silly or absurd.  And much of what is discussed is fun to consider.  A husband caller complained to Paul Finebaum about a player’s tweet after Alabama lost its bowl game that “it’s only a game.”  His argument was that it isn’t.  He went on, passionately, to say that though he was a member of a church and loved his family, that during the football season he spends more time and money on the sport than on his wife and kids or his church.

My jaw dropped since I am a minister, but why should it?  I like to imagine that I might follow up crazy calls.  What would I say?  Disguised voice: “This is Dr. Hapner Wogwillow.  I am a marriage therapist.  I treat his wife for depression and recognized him in the call.  He needs to go home.  She just left for good with the kids.  I will tell him their names if he’ll call me.  BR-549.”  My other idea was to, “J——, this is your pastor.  Now having heard your confession, will you stop by to receive penance instructions about being a better father and husband?” Read the rest of this entry

Memories of Dad

There were times as a young man when I complained to myself

A memory of Dad…where do you start?  I have pictures in my mind.  First, of looking up at this tall, silent man.  Looking up in fear sometimes, in awe most of the time as he went about life.  He was strong, good, quiet, rarely angry with us.  I looked up when I read his scrapbooks, hook shots flying through the air, frozen forever as the ideal athlete.  Playing catch in the backyard or playing basketball while he watched, always the same.  You were the mount Everest of my childhood.

I have pictures of you with tools, hammering, sawing, sweating, up on ladders, on the roof, in the garage, in the yard.  You weren’t still very much.  I wanted to be like you. When I got married and got desperate enough, I got a job pulling nails and then driving them.  You gave me my first hammer.  I still have it, by the way.  I barely knew which end was which, but I always watched you as a boy, so I tried to draw on that and learned enough to do for myself and become a certified carpenter, which convinced me that preaching and air-conditioning was a pretty good way to go.  But still, you showed me how to use my hands.

Pictures of you at the store, day in, day out, working long days, all day, nearly every day, and never really griping about it.  How tired you must have been!  But, come the next day, up you got, out the door and on about your business.  It was a mystery until we all did our time on the McCrory’s Christmas chain-gang in the toy department. Then we wanted it to be a mystery again.  But I would watch you, handling things, helping people find what they wanted, setting up displays, really enjoying it, to tell you the truth.

I have pictures in my mind of you at my wedding, at my ordination, reading my charge, coming to see us.  You stood around at the edge of all the noise and stories and excitement and grinned, taking it in, feeling no need to say much, but delight shining from your eyes.  My girls adore you for your sweetness and gentle spirit.

Oh, and what would I do without those images of you sitting in the bedroom in the evening, by yourself, plucking that black Sears Silvertone electric guitar, singing, “I Want to Go Home” and Hank Williams.  You gave me bluegrass and my first guitar and the love of music.  Mother gave me method and lessons, but I have you to thank for playing by ear and the instinct for improvising.  The joy of your retirement years has been sharing music together, rediscovering the music you knew as a young man.  How I wish Uncle Paul were still here when I could really enjoy it!

Hear Gary’s song, “Daddy Never Said” from his permanent world of pretend album [clilck here to listen] 

And I remember some pretty short but wise proverbs you gave me.  “We’ll be there when we get there.”  “People do what they have to do.”  Lots of stories.  And as far as jokes, some of the worst groaners I’ve ever heard.  Corny, but we told them to our kids anyway.

There were times as a young man when I complained to myself that you were so busy and I wished I could have had more time with you.  But now I look back and see that my life is full of images you gave me.  Work, family, music, faith.  Plenty of good things for life.  And I realize what a big, cool shadow you cast over my life in the heat of growing up.  You were always there to provide for us, show us, and delight in us.  I am grateful and I love you.