Father Figure

Father’s Day is a wonderful day for celebrating good men who give honor to the role of father. However, there are so many people who have not experienced a father as a good leader. Perhaps they had an absent father, or one who has rarely been in the picture. Most kids long for a father figure who is there for them. Many mourn what they never had and the absence is keenly felt. Night sky

Then there are others, who by the grace of God, are provided with a substitute father to model and lead them.

This is a true story about a relationship between such a man, “the teacher”, and a boy named Mikey. This is a long story spanning over thirty years. It begins together, diverges into two, and reunites as one. I tried to shorten it, but some stories need to be told completely. When you have finished, I hope you agree.

The first of parallel stories begins in 1978 when Mikey’s mother brought him to a West Coast Christian school as a kindergartener. Mikey was adorable, handsome and gifted. He also longed for what he lacked - a typical family, with a mother and a father.  He needed boundaries and discipline. He showed this by acting out in various ways. I suppose he thought that negative attention was better than none at all.

Mikey’s mother no doubt loved her son. That is why she sought out a school for him to attend where he would find better values than could be offered him at home. Mikey’s father was a dead beat dad, appearing only when he needed money for his habits. He was not positively involved in Mikey’s life, rarely attended any activity or sport and treated Mikey’s mother with disrespect. She, being a young and inexperienced mother was rendered incapable of controlling her son most of the time.

 Though my father and mother forsake me, the will Lord receive me. Psalm 27:10

School was a bother for Mikey. Sure, he could learn, and knew his material, but because he was very intelligent, his childish mind rationalized that he didn’t need to turn in homework for things he all ready knew. So he fooled around in school and put his education in jeopardy.

The real problem was how Mikey interacted with the other children. He became disruptive in class. His principal, also “the teacher” (small school), tried all sorts of tactics to engage the boy in a positive way. The teacher cared deeply for this urchin who clearly needed the strong hand of a father and a family to guide him. Admirably, the teacher spent hours talking to and coaching Mikey. Sadly, he resisted the majority of the time. Or so it appeared.

School years came and went. Mikey continued in his ways. He began to alienate the other children and their parents. He became more outspoken and disrespectful. Then one day when Mikey was in 7th grade, too many offenses forced the principal/teacher to immediately expel him from school. This act of final discipline broke the teacher’s heart. He had put his career on the line in order to provide some stability for this lost boy. He fretted about turning away Mikey as nearly everyone else in his life had.

Of course, the teacher never doubted that the Lord was able and willing to take care of Mikey. So, he began to pray earnestly for Mikey. He feared the teenager was headed straight for the judicial system and incarceration if his ways were not reformed, and soon.

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 6:20

In January 1985, Mikey petitioned to return to school for 8th grade. The school board gave him one more chance. He made it until March that year, but there was no improvement in his behavior. Sadly, he was expelled for the second time. He missed graduation by just two months. The teacher did not hear about him again and assumed that he had succumbed to his surroundings and lack of a father figure. Within two years, the teacher moved his family 2100 miles away to the Midwest. He continued to pray, even though Mikey was to most people a loser. End of story.

But wait! This is not the end of the story, because God had a plan for Mikey!

Now we must tell the parallel story. The teacher had a younger daughter, Jana, who did not know Mikey, and had only heard of him. Like her father, she attended Martin Luther College in Minnesota to be a teacher. Ironically she received a divine call in 2002 to teach in the West Coast area where Mikey’s story took place. After two years, Jana was married and settled down to raise her family.

The year is now 2014. Jana’s sons attend a Christian school, located on the other side of the large city where Mikey’s story took place. Her boys became friends with two brothers of the same age. From two years prior, the families had been interacting regularly.

One day, after a field trip to Disneyland, Jana and the friends' mother, Colleen, made a discovery. To their great amazement, they found out that two of their favorite men were intricately entwined. Colleen was the wife of none other than Mikey, (now exclusively called Michael) and the mother of his children! Think about this: the teacher’s grandsons and Michael’s sons were the same age, attended the same school and became friends without the teacher, Jana, Michael, or anyone else recognizing the history of thirty–some years before!

It took a while to figure things out, but Jana and Colleen reconstructed the past with ever increasing delight. The conversation went something like this:

Colleen: “Michael attended a small school and he adored his teacher. He says everything he has become, he owes to his teacher.” (I don’t know about you, but I am thinking, “This is incredible! Really? The teacher who expelled him twice?”)

Jana: “Where was this school?”

Colleen: “Over across town. You probably don’t know about it. We were married by the pastor. Our boys were baptized there. It is called “X.”

Jana: “Wait a minute! My Dad taught at that school!!”

Colleen: “What? Is your dad Mr. ‘S’?”

Jana: “Yes, he is!! This can’t be! Tell me…was your husband Michael ever known as Mikey?”

Colleen: “Yes, he was, in grade school. But after a few of his high school friends started ending up in trouble, he was determined to be more like his teacher. He insisted people called him Michael. When we met he was adamant we would get married first, then have children. Michael also insisted they were baptized and would go to a Christian school. He was determined to be like his teacher.”

Jana: “So Mikey turned out to be Michael? Just wait until I tell my dad! He will be thrilled and amazed and so happy!”

Christmas 2014 will always be memorable for the teacher. After 29 years, he was reunited with Michael, and met Colleen and his sons. In true leader style, Michael insisted that the teacher come to his house for dinner. Michael himself cooked the meal, served the teacher and his family, and told about the gap in years from the time they parted ways to the present.

Michael has become a very successful businessman, husband and father who makes sure his family is grounded in Jesus. He claims that the teacher’s discipline and love made him everything he has become. He never forgot the lessons he learned.

The teacher knew it was not his doing at all, but a wise Heavenly Father’s plan to use a teacher as a father figure to a fatherless boy. Praise God, he made a way for Michael. The Lord always hears our prayers and never, ever forsakes his children!

A father to the fatherless ... is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

 

I Hated My Dad

feetingrass When I was a young teen...

my dad forced me to quit competitive dance after a Ricky Martin "She Bangs" routine. Warning: don't look it up.

my dad volunteered me to accompany him during Spanish worship as a piano and guitar duo.

my dad embarrassingly challenged and tested my boyfriend.

my dad didn't care what my grades were as long as my attitude was satisfactory.

my dad expected me to do house hold chores and projects for no pay!

my dad said that if I wanted a car I had to have a job to pay for it and insurance.

my dad prayed one on one with me. It was especially terrible after we fought.

I hated my dad but he chose to love me anyway.

---

I didn't know...

how the young men or their dads saw me during the provocative dance routine.

the extreme humility and blessing that came in serving others. The Spanish speaking families in our community only had worship in their own language once a month. My dad's sight to serve and reach those in need across different cultures and languages gave me courage to do the same.

what I was worth. That boyfriend is now my husband. :) And even more, a better man because of the relationship he has with my dad.

my negative attitude was brought on by self-absorption and was eating at my soul. Philippians 2:5-11

work was more satisfying when motivated from love and respect instead of personal reward.

maintaining a steady job and paying a simple $50 car insurance payment every three months (ha!) would set a steady habit of financial freedom.

how strong my dad had to be to take my hands in prayer to the Lord.

I was wrong. My dad was right. 

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Thank you Dad for...

saying no.

putting others before yourself.

wanting the best for me.

seeing the potential in me even when I did not.

valuing my soul more than performance.

giving freely without expecting anything in return.

teaching me how work can be rewarding to myself and others.

sharing our Father in heaven even when I refused both of you.

your tough love. Now when hard times come my way I can trust that God will use it to discipline me because He loves me. I love you Dad. Happy Father's Day.

---

" “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,     and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,     and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:6-11

Amanda2

When Plans Take a Detour

Have you ever made big plans? Plans for a vacation? a renovation? your career? your family? your life goals? This is what my kitchen looks like right now.

detour

We've been planning our kitchen since before we even moved into our house. Two years and about four different plan ideas later, we have finally embarked on a crazy renovation of the entire center of our home involving raising the ceiling two feet, adding sky lights, and essentially moving our kitchen over to a new location. Oh yeah, we have two kids too-- a 6 month old and a 2 1/2 year old. I mentioned we were crazy, right? We thought with a good plan we could get it done easily enough. Being that this is our third remodel, my husband and I figured we had a good idea of what would need to happen. My husband made very detailed plans about what was to happen almost down to the day. Demolition for these two days. Framing everything the next week. You get the idea. We had big plans. Detailed plans. Seemingly perfect plans with even a little wiggle room for the things that inevitably come up whilst renovating.

The first week went really well. I had plans to stay at my parents while my husband and his dad tore apart our existing kitchen. There was excitement and energy in the air. We were smiling. Three weeks later, the smiles are starting to fade. Tension is mounting. There may or may not be a snarky comment under my breath to my husband while he frantically tries to get the floor placed while the babies are crying.

Things are not going according to the plans nearly as perfectly as we thought they would.

The drywall isn't going to be finished the week we planned for it. Okay, we will work around it. The drywall won't be finished the second week we planned for it. Okay, we'll work around it. The plumber has a vacation coming up. The floor took longer to place. The countertop took longer to order then we anticipated. I think you get the picture.

Isn't life like that sometimes (although usually much more serious than a kitchen renovation)? Don't we often think we have it all figured out? That we have the perfect plan.  And then life becomes difficult... You don't get your dream job. Your husband loses his job. You lose a very dear loved one. You can't make ends meet. You want a family, but don't have one. Your health is deteriorating.

Sometimes we forget God in all of our haste to perfectly plan. We think we can do it all on our own, but we can't. However, God knows what is best for us, and it just so happens he is a fabulous planner. After all, he planned and executed creating the entirety of the universe in just 7 days, right? (Talk about a crazy remodel!)

Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

God has it all figured out. He has plans perfect for our lives. While this doesn't necessarily guarantee happy trails ahead, it does give us the guarantee that if our lives take a little detour, or even go the complete opposite direction of what we had planned, that our Heavenly Father is by our side throughout our journey. He will lead us through life and to our eventual home in heaven.

I leave you with the lyrics to a well known hymn to hopefully provide comfort for those of you who are currently in need of a little hope and direction.

 

Christian Worship #422:

Jesus, lead us on Till our rest is won; And although the way be cheerless, We will follow, calm and fearless. Guide us by your hand To our fatherland.

 

If the way be drear, If the foe be near, Let not faithless fears o'er take us; Let not faith and hope forsake us, For through many a woe To our home we go.

 

When we seek relief From a long felt grief, When temptations come alluring, Make us patient and enduring; Show us that bright shore Where we weep no more.

 

Jesus, still lead on Till our rest is won. Heavenly Leader, still direct us; Still support, console, protect us Till we safely stand In our fatherland.

BeckySig2