My daddy was an outlier in the early days of his ministry. He did things others would never have even considered. For example, in the 60’s he invited a Nigerian student to preach in his church—a church which had a large percentage of members who were known to don white hoods and burn crosses. For the remainder of Daddy’s time there, he received multiple and frequent threats from the local chapter of the KKK. Before that, he started an AA meeting in the church basement. Daddy wanted to understand AA’s 12 steps so that he could minister more effectively to congregants suffering from addiction. When told by the organizers he could not attend, Daddy explained that he most certainly would and if he had to become an alcoholic to become a member, that he would do just that. (They made an exception.)
Perhaps my Dad’s most brazen undertaking, though, was his effort to introduce his Southern Baptist churches to the liturgical year. See, back in the 70’s, Baptists pushed back hard against anything Catholic. (Wasn’t it enough that the Catholic Kennedys were taking over the government, for goodness sake?) And anything called “liturgical” would HAVE to be Catholic. So, it was pretty bold of Daddy to hold a Maundy Thursday service in his suburban church in the mid 70’s. And by the 80’s, maybe earlier, he introduced Advent to his congregations.
These days, many Baptist churches still ignore the liturgical calendar, using the secular one for worship planning. Cultural icons mark church events: the Easter Bunny hops from the mall to the fellowship hall; Santa leaves his photo booth for the church Christmas party; Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons are available by the dozens for download; and American Flags mark the scripture text for Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th, and Veteran’s Day . . . at least.
Like my daddy, I prefer the Christian calendar. That calendar begins at Advent with the expectation of the Christ child; proceeds through our Lord’s ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; continues to Pentecost and the growth of the church; and culminates in Reign of Christ Sunday the week before Advent. The church, therefore, celebrates the life of Christ with at least the same enthusiasm that the world celebrates Valentine’s Day and Columbus Day.
There’s another reason, though, that I’m not big on focusing
worship on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. See, I’ve known too many people who
didn’t have parents worthy of celebration. All
week month long, those
people have seen the ads and displays proclaiming the merits of moms or dads.
Its inescapable. Over and over they are reminded of their experience of
parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Shouldn’t church offer a place of
refuge for those suffering souls?
Likewise, there are those who would love to be parents, but are not. Maybe they haven’t found the right partner; maybe infertility plagues them; maybe they’d love to adopt, but do not have the financial stability to start the process. They hope against the odds that one day they will be mothers and fathers; but like every other year, they will not be receiving a handcrafted gift or a homemade card. Shouldn’t they be able to go to church and not face a service designed to celebrate what their heart longs for so desperately?
So, that’s why I stick with the church calendar. It’s hard enough to be “in the world and not of it” with the lines blurred as they are. Why make it worse by secularizing worship?
This Sunday is Father's Day. It's also Trinity Sunday. I'll celebrate both!
The card I sent Daddy this year for Father’s Day says,
Whenever I see someone with a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug, I knock it out of their hand and scream, “LIAR!
[And then on the inside] You’re Welcome.
In a world full of mediocre cards, I was delighted to find one that was actually humorous and absolutely perfect. For proof, I give you just a few of the ways my father wins at parenting.
Daddy loves our mother.
Part of why Daddy is such a great father is that he’s a wonderful husband. Every Sunday lunch, Daddy (a pastor) would proclaim, “Children, I looked around the whole church this morning and I didn’t see a woman there as pretty as your mama.” We groaned and grimaced, in part because we knew good and well Daddy only had eyes for our mama.
He’s romantic and sweet, but he is also respectful and kind. By loving our mother as a treasure and valuing her as a human being, he has taught us that marriage is more than a social contract or a religious ceremony. It’s a partnership of equals. It’s a romance that never grows old. Indeed, it’s the earthly manifestation of godly love.
Daddy brought a lot of laughter into our home.
Daddy has always been a great story teller. We had our favorites that we would ask for over and over again; he always had new ones in his repertoire to share as well. Daddy loves a good story, and he’s playful too. Some of my earliest memories are of Daddy crawling around our living room, giving my sister and me bucking Broncho rides on his back. “Hold on tight now! You can’t never tell when this horse will rear up on you!”
Plus, he’s silly. True, that silliness often came out first thing in the morning when we were not at all in the mood for such shenanigans. When we were teenagers, he would burst into our room on school mornings singing, “Oh What a Beautiful Morning!” He thought it was hilarious. Us, not so much.
Daddy had high, but reasonable, standards for us.
I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that our father was more involved in our schooling than most fathers in the seventies and eighties. Mother always helped us with school projects, homework, and such, but Daddy did too (yet another way they worked as a team). Daddy always said, “Do your best. If that’s an A, make an A. If it’s a C, then that’s fine too. Whatever you’re doing, do it to the best of your ability.” That’s good parenting right there.
Daddy is a lifetime learner
When I was 14, Daddy was awarded his Doctor of Ministry degree. He comes from a culture of perseverance; so, in 1979, 20 years after his graduation from Mercer University, Daddy walked across the stage with stripes on his sleeves to receive his final academic degree.
His last graduation, however, did not bring an end to his education. Daddy has continued learning. He reads a wide variety of books: from works by the most current theologians to ones from the NY Times bestseller list.
Daddy gains knowledge from books, but he also learns from the people he encounters. He converses with friends and strangers with ease, collecting lessons they’ve learned as he hears their stories. Consequently, he has been introduced to ideas different from his own. On more than one occasion, Daddy has changed his mind. I love that. He does (and thinks) his very best and, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, “When he knows better, he does better.”
Daddy apologizes when he makes mistakes.
Daddy, like all humans (except the one of course), has erred from time to time. Instead of sweeping mistakes under the theoretical rug though, Daddy has this radical practice: he apologizes! Because he does, we have learned that owning your actions enables you to move ahead to the next success. We’ve learned that perfection is a lie; if our Daddy messes up occasionally, we will too. No big deal. Personal responsibility: what a wonderful thing to model for your children.
AND . . .
He trusted us. Daddy knew, as I said, that we were far from perfect. But he trusted us to make good decisions and to right our wrong ones.
He dreamed with us. No dream was too big for Daddy to embrace right along with us.
He worked smart. Daddy worked a lot—long hours and nearly every single weekend. BUT, he also took a day or two off every week and two to four weeks a year we went on family vacations. Almost always, these trips were to visit family. That’s another thing Daddy did right: he made sure that we got to know our extended family.
He listened to our questions. Poor Daddy. In my memory, we grilled him after every sermon. We questioned and probed, teasing out any theology we found absurd or unclear. Daddy, a Southern Baptist pastor, not only listened to our questions, he encouraged them. He didn’t always have the answers; in fact, he often introduced even more questions into our discussions. By showing us that our brains could not possibly negate God’s existence, he created space for us to get to know God better. Consequently, our intellectual limitations and rational objections fail to topple our faith. Without ever trying, Daddy taught us that God can handle any questions we can formulate. Until recently, I did not realize the magnitude of this gift. A Sunday dinner served with theological discussion? That was normal for me. Now I know what a privilege it was for me to come boldly to the kitchen table and to be met there with mercy and love.
My daddy. He’s a real winner.
About work and school
Because he’s Daddy
What are some things your dad says or said?