The Mississippi Baptist Foundation  |  est. 1943  |  Psalm 24:1
 
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FATHERS: PREPARING FUTURE GENERATIONS

      Father’s Day is a special time of reflection for me. Father’s Day 2022 is no exception as this year marks the 50th anniversary of my baptism. In fact, both my older brother and I were baptized on that meaningful day in June 1972.     
      The events leading up to that experience are as clear to me now as if they occurred yesterday. Following the viewing of a televised Billy Graham Crusade, my brother and I knelt on the gray linoleum floor (that had seen better days) against a 900-lb sleeper sofa (that had been reupholstered at least once and had a mattress that was so worn out and thin that it only had one side) in the small den at our house. Having talked to us on prior occasions as he helped us understand the seriousness of sin, the need for repentance, the grace and mercy of God, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, my dad led us in prayer as we asked the Lord to rescue us from our sin and receive us as his children.
      To that point and well beyond, Dad played a major role in my maturation as a young man and as a new believer. As he cared for me and shared with me in my formative years, he also was preparing me for the days and years ahead. Many of my life lessons came courtesy of my father’s influence on me, his involvement with me and his instructions to me.     
      Recent editions of “From Daniel’s Den” have emphasized the importance of Praying men, Praising men, and Protecting men. Fathers must give attention in each of these areas because doing so helps prepare the next generation for the journey of life. My father was not perfect but his strengths in all of these areas helped prepare me for the road ahead.  
      I recall a time in my early elementary years when my dad was using a chainsaw to clean up a thicket on some family property. As he moved away from the limbs he was cutting, Dad stepped into a recessed area. As he stumbled, the saw (still running) came down on his knee resulting in a gash that was pretty gory. After chunking the saw safely away much like an Olympic shot-putter, he walked out of the thicket saying to a neighbor’s teen-age son “I need to go to the hospital.” The young man drove my dad to the county hospital where he was stitched up. He then returned to complete the earlier task.     
      I recall even now as I observed back then that my dad did not blame anyone or anything for the pain and inconvenience that arrived courtesy of a chainsaw. He did not produce nor project any unsavory words. I think that had a curse word slipped past the gate of his mouth, a scar might have been left in my heart and life that was deeper and more significant than the physical scar that stayed with my dad the balance of his life. Jesus said “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil from the evil stored up in his heart for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). My dad definitely set a memorable example for me to follow in both his walk and his talk.
      Also during our elementary years, my dad would order dump truck loads of both sand and dirt annually for my brother and me to spread throughout the yard using a wheelbarrow and shovel. He would give us instructions concerning how many wheelbarrow loads we needed to spread before he arrived home from work. Even though a wheelbarrow full of sand was difficult for a young boy to propel forward without toppling over, Dad typically concluded his instructions with “No shirttail loads!” Additionally, our dad would give us a quota with respect to how many rows in our garden needed to be seed-ready by the time he returned home. His instructions included something like “Prepare three rows that are four shovels wide. Chop up the clods with the hoe and then bed-up the rows with the rake. Make the rows smooth on top using the back side of the rake.” The garden-prep instructions often were followed with “No loafing!”     
      When reminiscing about our yardwork experiences many years later, my brother commented with a tone of disbelief “I can’t believe you didn’t understand what dad was doing. Our yard didn’t need all that dirt every year. He was teaching us how to work.” Paul exhorted the Christians in Colossae with “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…” (Colossians 3:23). I think my dad also was teaching us to pay attention and follow instructions as presented in Proverbs 4:1 “Listen, my sons, to the instruction of a father, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding.” To this day, I love to do physical work outside.
      I had a lawncare business as a teenager. Because I started this effort before I could drive (legally), one of my parents had to drop me off at a customer’s house or business. One of my early customers was an older lady who lived alone. In addition to cutting her grass in the spring and summer, I also raked her leaves in the fall. After raking and bagging mounds of leaves in both her front and back yard on my first day on the job with this new customer, I declared my task complete. When my dad arrived to pick me up, however, he was astonished that I was satisfied with my efforts and that I was willing to accept this woman’s money for a job that he considered half-way done. We spent another hour or so raking and bagging many more piles of leaves together. In addition to the aforementioned Colossians 3:23, the Golden Rule’s “Do unto others” also comes into focus through this experience.     
      Occasionally (more often than I care to admit), I was summoned into my parent’s bedroom for a little “encouragement” session (more like a day of reckoning) which typically began with my dad declaring “This is going to hurt me more than you.” I had a difficult time believing that statement early in life until one time when, after receiving my “encouragement,” my dad prayed with and for me. Although tears were in my eyes due to the “impact” my dad had just had on me, I peeked at him during the prayer and realized that he also had tears in his eyes as he thanked God for me and for granting him the privilege and opportunity to be my father. Realizing that the discipline session was a demonstration of Dad’s love for me made a much larger and longer-lasting impact on my life than the actual discipline. In retrospect, my dad was simply honoring the truth of Proverbs 13:24 “…Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.”
      Following several years on staff in the Church Music Department at the Baptist Sunday School Board in Nashville, my father returned to his native Mississippi to work in the Church Music Department of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. As a youth, I would drop by to visit him at his office. On many of those visits I found him counseling, consoling or otherwise consulting with a pastor or minister of music in our state who needed some godly wisdom for addressing a challenge, hurt, hardship, difficult decision, or disappointment that confronted them. Those who confided in my dad knew that he would help them to carry their burdens (Galatians 6:2).     
      Holding fast to the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37), Dad believed that worship must have priority in the lives of Christians individually and for the church in corporate assembly. As director of the Church Music Department, he had a unique opportunity to lead worship and train others how to lead worship.
      When I began working at a bank located in downtown Jackson following college and graduate school, I would periodically drop in to see my dad at his office on my way home from work. On most of those visits, I arrived at the Baptist Building well after five o’clock and usually found only dad’s car in the parking lot. I would ring the service bell and he would come down and open the door. We would go to his office and visit for an hour or so…(often about the importance and necessity of worship)…just Dad and me. Upon his passing nearly 35 years ago, those who discovered him first found a hymnal and other songbooks on the desk in the place where he died. He was in the process of developing yet another meaningful experience of worship.     
      Reflecting over the last 50 years, I realize the many ways that Dad prepared me during our shared time on earth.  He prepared me through a Walk that matched his Talk. Dad prepared me through his Priorities, Principles, and Prayer. He prepared me through Worship and in his Witness. He prepared me through his Wisdom and in his Work. He prepared me through Discipline and through Discipling. He prepared me through the Patience he exercised toward me and the Persistence with which he exhorted me. He allowed me to make mistakes (a few) and he encouraged me to learn from these mistakes. Dad prepared me with his Laughter with me and his Love for me. Although Dad has been absent physically for many years, I continue to learn and deploy what he taught me while he was present with me. As noted earlier, my dad was not perfect but he prepared me the best that he could as long as he could.

      Dad had a severe illness (actually five potentially fatal diseases) in February 1972. He spent 12 days at the Baptist hospital in Jackson. As a nine-year old, I really did not understand the seriousness of my father’s situation but I do remember that my fourth-grade teacher Mrs. Ward prayed for “Daniel’s daddy” every day at the beginning of class. When he survived that challenging ordeal, the doctors referred to my dad as a “walking miracle.” At Dad’s funeral in October 1987, Dr. Bill Baker used the account of King Hezekiah’s illness as his text and commented that Dad, like Hezekiah, was blessed with fifteen additional years to live. And, in my father’s case, fifteen more years to prepare me, my siblings, and countless others for the journey ahead.  For all of these reasons and more, Father’s Day is pretty special to me!

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for fathers. Thank you for blessing me with a godly father who took seriously his responsibility to prepare me for the future. As a father and grandfather, may I continue to encourage younger generations to love you and live for you daily in action, attitude, word, and deed.

                                                Daniel