10 Lessons from My Dad

In honor of Father’s Day, I figured I’d list a few of the many things that my dad has taught me throughout the years. This is by no means a comprehensive collection of all of his nuggets of wisdom, but these are the things that came to mind as I sat down to write. It’s a bit disjointed, but you’ll get the idea.

First, some serious stuff:

1. Be the same person at home that you are from the pulpit.

My dad is a pastor. I’ve seen pastors, both personally at from afar, who were unable to live up to the lofty standards that they pushed upon others. Some of them didn’t even seem to be trying. Yet my father lives the same convictions he preaches publicly, treats everyone fairly, and shows generosity and patiences to everyone, regardless of their stature.

Being his son, I still only remotely aware of just how many people he has helped, and can honestly say that the majority of his pastoring is done far from the spotlight, with no one to admire and reward his works but God. His ministry is no facade.

2. Approach situations with patience, mercy, and empathy.

Having worked in ministry for only eight years, it still floors me to see how my father is one of the most forgiving people I have ever met. One of the oft-overlooked downsides of ministry is that we often have front row seats to people’s darker sides. People lose their tempers — ministers see it. People harbor unforgiveness — ministers feel it. People gossip about one another — ministers hear it. People are unfaithful — ministers counsel through it. People become disillusioned and resentful with God and/or  ministry — ministers absorb it.

One of the greatest enemies for every Christian is cynicism, and ministers are one of its greatest targets. My father refuses to be cynical, and through faith, pushes to find a positive outcome, then works for it. Instead of throwing in the towel on the nincompoops, he prays and fights for them to be something better, and often plays a critical hand in their renewal.

I believe they are three traits that make him an excellent pastor, and wish that all could emulate them.

3. We’re in the people business.

I may act like a banshee on meth once every few weeks, but I am, at heart, a terrible introvert. Unfortunately, I’m also a bit of an idealist, and disappointments with others and/or myself causes me to withdraw from groups even further.

But my dad taught me that when you’re in ministry, you’re in the people business. We have to listen to people, talk to people, care for people, and above all else, love people. I’m not saying that I don’t listen/talk/care/love people (quite the opposite), but my father reminds me that I have to make sure they know that I care about them. A person hurt by ministry carries a very difficult wound to heal.

Love God, love people: it’s everyone’s calling.

4. It is NEVER less than hilarious to mumble nonsense words when people least expect it.

“Hey, Ryan!”

“Hey, Fred! How are you?”

“Pretty good. How’s the family?”

“Well, pretty good, but if that calfreman doesn’t smort the flabnem, then we’re going to have a long summer…”

(awkward pause)

“Can you say that again?”

If you wonder where I get this from, now you know who to blame.

5. When you hit a putt short, it is necessary to take tiny, rapid steps backwards and say, “YA GOTTA HIT IIIIIIIT!”

Other notable golf tips I learned from Dad:

– When someone hits a bad shot and is extremely frustrated, ask them, “Well, what did you do that for?”

– When you slice the ball into the trees, ask no one in particular, “Why do I wanna come out and waste money on THIS?”

– Unless a PGA Tour professional, you should never feel guilty for adjusting the ball’s lie.

6. “To the pure, all things are pure.”

This is most often used as a defense against bemused criticism at family dinner for innocently using phrases in the pulpit that may or may not have a double-meaning in today’s culture.

7. “Never let a fight get in the way of a good night’s sleep.”

In other words, if you get in a knock-down drag-out with your spouse, don’t feel compelled to sleep anywhere other than the comfortable, familiar half of your own bed. Couches, guest rooms, and recliners just don’t get the job done.

The awkwardness and silence might make things uncomfortable for a few minutes, but once you fall asleep, you’ll stop noticing.

8. Missions, missions, missions.

My dad pastors a church in Bossier City, Louisiana, but at times you’d think that he also pastors a few other churches around the world. He gives reports about what is happening in Guatemala, Chile, China, and other countries with the same fervor and excitement that he does when we have an awesome service at POBC.

We live in the greatest country in the world, and with all the financial blessings that come with it, we have a powerful calling to aid in spreading the Gospel to the rest of the world. Missions can never be neglected.

9. A boyhood filled with bare feet, rattlesnakes, fights, and stampedes > Call of Duty.

If I listen to my dad’s endless supply of stories from De Leon, Texas, I can’t help but get the feeling that modern, urbanized youth are missing out on something truly special. I myself have become incredibly jealous hearing some of these tales, including, but not limited to:

– Uncle David convinced the four other Dean boys to spend the night in a nearby graveyard, then everyone screaming and running as a herd of horses came crashing through. This story resembles others in which he’d convince them the moon was turning to blood and the Rapture was nigh.

– Several of the boys held on to a massive rock at “the pits,” so that it would take them further underwater than they’d been before, only to stop abruptly when one of them developed an underwater nosebleed.

– The boys freaked out one day when Whiskers, the beloved family rat terrier, disappeared into an armadillo hole for what seemed like an eternity, only to pop back out of the ground 100 yards away (the exact measurement varies).

10. No matter what else happens, your family means the pacht lamen fled.

I told you.

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