May 3, 2000
Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Much of who I am has been shaped by a single event in my life. So often I reflect on this event and think about the ramifications it has had on me as a husband, father, pastor, and person. My dad died from lung cancer on May 3, 2000. He did not smoke; he was not supposed to have that kind of cancer. The doctors didn’t how he had it, nor what to do. They thought there must have been an error in his charts or that it had been swapped with someone else’s. The more they looked into it the less sense it made, but the more real and true it became. He did have lung cancer. He was given six months to live. He lived a year-and-a-half longer than expected.
As a second grader trying to grapple with what this meant and my parents understandably shielding me from much of what was going on, this even shaped me in ways that I could never have imagined – both positive and negative. As I reflect on 20 years lived without a biological father, I can see so much to be grateful for. When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, everything became intentional. There was no longer any time to waste. We took pictures with those old disposable cameras (the picture at the top is one of them). Those pictures are the only images of my dad and me that my wife and daughters will ever see. My dad was able to video tape himself talking to me and my brother. It is on a VHS tape. It is the only recording of his voice that I have. I hope to, one day, show my wife and daughters that tape, however I struggle with the thought of it breaking by playing it in a VHS player. My dad began writing many notes to me and my brother. I have many of those notes, and treasure them. He filled out a book and asked questions that he was able to answer. I’m thankful to have these and use them as a way of knowing him better. He made wooden boxes for my brother and I that were filled with things that he thought we should have on our 18th birthdays. All of those things were available for me, because, though given a short amount of time to live, he was given these months to be intentional. The Lord used this in my life to always be reminded that time is ticking by and to be intentional with what you do.
In my opinion, the greatest blessing and impact that I found in the death of my dad was a love for the local church. Before my dad was diagnosed with cancer, we were rarely in church. Easter and Christmas and that was about it. But when you are told your life is going to end in six months before you turn thirty-one, life becomes intentional. One of the things we started doing was going to church often. We went from never going to going almost every time the doors opened. It was life-changing for me. First Baptist Church Panhandle took my family in. We had nothing of value to bring. We had not been faithful church people. We were not members who had contributed well and helped sustain the ministry. But we were loved. I cannot begin to unpack how much of an impact that made on me. I may have few memories of my dad, but I have many memories of FBC Panhandle and others in our community reaching out and helping me and my family in a time of dire need.
The Lord used this in my life to instill in me a love for the church. When my dad did die, it was our church, and others from around the community, that were there. They brought meals, stocked our pantry, took me hunting and fishing, mowed our lawn, made sure our vehicles were okay… I had friends skip school, with their parents permission, to be with 4th grade Ben in the days following my dad’s death… Just to have some to play with and be with. I cannot begin to explain how much that shaped me. It is why I LOVE small towns and why I LOVE the local church.
I think about that often. Now as a thirty-year-old pastor with two active girls and a beautiful wife, I am left thinking on May 3rd. My dad was thirty, same age as I am now, when he was diagnosed with cancer. What if tomorrow I am given 6 months to live? What if tomorrow I suffer a tragic accident and die? What will my daughters remember about me in 20 years? Will that impact them in the same way it shaped me? I have few memories of my dad and he died when I was in 4th grade. My girls are 2 and 4 years old – they won’t remember me. They will hear stories, I am sure, but those will be second-hand memories. These are questions and thoughts that I often find myself wrestling with. Am I being intentional with my life? Is what I am doing worth the time and effort I am putting into it? What about my life? Will my family, the church I pastor, and my community know more about Jesus by my life? Am I intentional about my life or is my life being wasted on meaningless, secondary things? What should be the most important things I live out and hope to pass on to my girls? How about I attempt a list…
As I type this, I began realizing I have too much to say about each topic – this shouldn’t be a surprise. I think I am going to put the list our here, and over the next few weeks I will work through each point. I am going to be honest: I have my daughters in mind when I write this, however, I hope it is beneficial to you, too.
- Jesus is better than you can ever imagine: Read this here https://fbcira.com/blogs/2473694--lessons-from-a-dad-part-1-jesus-is-better-than-you-can-ever-imagine and here https://moorewordsfromben.wordpress.com/2020/05/07/lessons-from-dad-part-1-jesus-is-better-than-you-could-ever-imagine/
- The local Church is VITAL
- Know what matters most
- Have fun
- Cry well
- Be kind
- Be firm
- Apologize often
- Give your best, always
- Be a little better tomorrow
Lord willing I will outlive my dad, June 25, 2022 is the marker.
More importantly, may my life point to Jesus.
Husband of Morgan
Son of Terry and Suzy
Father of Addi and Bryn
Pastor of Ira Baptist Church