Lessons from Dad

Lessons from Dad

As we celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend, I thought a lot about my father and the lessons I learned from him as I was growing. My dad was a warm, affirming father. He supported my call to ministry, and I feel incredibly blessed to have learned my leadership basics by watching how he lived his life.

He gave his all to his God, his family, and his ministry. He loved his work so much that he worked full time as pastor until his eightieth birthday! In his retirement, as pastor emeritus, he continued to go to work every day to serve the church he loved so much. His personal mission to build that church continued to give him boundless energy and enthusiasm until he went to heaven at age eighty-six.

All of us have role models and mentors we learn from. Some are formal relationships, some are friendships, some of us are blessed to grow alongside amazing, God-ordained leaders. Dad was a great leader, and I want to share with you a few of the lessons I learned by watching him. Lessons I still live by today.

Never limit God’s influence in your life and ministry.

We do this. We do this all the time. We get a picture in our head of how things are supposed to be, and that is what we work toward. What you and I need to understand is that when we live only according to our vision we limit God’s influence in our life.

God’s plans for us have no limits. He sees potential where we see only walls. When we let God have his way, we end up in places we never could have dreamed because they are outside of our realm of experience. When we moved to Florida, we had a specific image of what our ministry would look like. And we struggled. We cried, we begged God to help us, we despaired of every making any headway. Then we had an epiphany. Where we saw insurmountable problems God saw unlimited potential.

As soon as we stopped doing things our way, and started doing things God’s way, the blessings started pouring in. Our ministry started growing and kept growing. Twenty years ago we never could have envisioned where we are now. That is what happens when you get out of God’s way and let Him influence your life.

Expect and embrace change.

I get it, change is scary. Most of us like to find our comfortable routine and stick with it. But when you are following the path God lays out, it seldom travels in a straight line. My dad dealt with change like he dealt with every other obstacle in life. He prayed, asked for guidance, and then accepted God’s will.

You see, Dad knew that change happens. Change is what keeps us on our toes. It keeps us fresh and flexible. If we acknowledge that change is going to happen, and then ask for God’s guidance when we face change, it takes the uncertainty and discomfort out of the situation. Then we are able to accept change for what it is, a continuation of God’s blessings in our life!

Plan for the future, don’t just live for today.

While we don’t want to limit God’s influence in our lives, and we have to be ready for unanticipated changes, that doesn’t mean we just sit and wait for life to happen. We need to prayerfully plan for the future. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I have found that to be so incredibly true through the years.

I can remember Dad planning for the future. He always had a long-term plan. He prayed for guidance, and he listened to others who had a stake. He planned carefully, but he was never set in stone. He built adaptability into his plans. This is what we all must do. Make your plans. Set you goals. But always remember to ask for God’s influence to guide every step, and always be ready for change!

Build a community.

I’ve said it before, and I think this lesson bears repeating. We are not made to travel this journey alone. You need to surround yourself with people who will support you, who love you, who want the best for you, and who love God as fiercely as you do.

Dad dearly loved people. He respected and honored them because he knew that each is a child of God, wonderfully made and wonderfully loved. His heart for people brought others into community with him. When their church burnt after they had just finished expanding, that community came together to salvage what they could even as the fire was still being put out. They gathered together and created something even greater. All because of community.

Don’t underestimate the importance of others walking beside you in your life. I don’t doubt that you are capable of doing things alone, but you don’t have to do it that way. I want to challenge you to build a community and then soak in the joy that comes from knowing those people are ready to step in and help, or hold you, or cheer you up on a rough day. Relationships are God’s greatest gift to us. And I am so thankful that I learned that lesson early on by watching my Dad.

Never, ever, ever give up!

My father’s last words before he passed were, “Never, ever, ever give up!” That was his last advice to his children, and I will always take those words to heart. I want to pass those words on to you today. God made you. God placed you where you are for a purpose. You will face hardships. You will deal with scary, unpredictable changes that you haven’t planned for. But never give up!

My father enriched my life in so many ways. I will always cherish the love and support, the guidance, the correction, and the advice he gave me. Even more though, I will hold close the lessons I learned by watching him embrace the life God gave him. I hope these lessons will enrich your life as they have mine!