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Happy 60th, Dad

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My father, Jerry Dean, turns 60 today. I’ve never imagined my dad being in his 60s, but when I look around and see his five grandchildren running and crawling around during the rare, happy moments that we’re all together, I guess it does make sense.

He has been the lead pastor of The Pentecostals of Bossier City for 24 years. He serves on the Global Missions Board of the UPCI. He is the Director of Louisiana Apostolic Man Ministries, and the Vice President of the UPCI’s Apostolic Man Ministries. He has preached on four continents, including the General Conferences of North America and the UK.

In short, my father has smashed the incorrect (and absolutely infuriating) notion that many carry in regards to ministers: that they play golf, sip coffee, and only have to work on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. I have watched my dad exhaust himself seven days a week for as long as I’ve lived.

There is a reason he has impacted so many people: his passion is overwhelming.

I have said dozens of times that the highest compliment that I can pay my father is that he is the exact same man in the comforts of his home that he is when standing behind the pulpit. There is no pretension within him. There is no ambiguity in his actions — when he preaches against secularism, materialism, and spiritual complacency, it is because he consistently avoids sin, greed, and lethargy in his private life.

Though he has given the benediction at the installation of a governor, he has never valued the company of those in positions of power or prominence over that of the humble workers of his community. There is no prejudice, no haughtiness, and no cynicism in his dealings with others.

He calls himself “the redneck pastor,” and he genuinely seems most at peace when walking on the land some relatives own in Oklahoma and East Texas, leading his grandsons down trails or snapping pictures of them catching their first fish. His eyes still light up as he recounts the many stories of his childhood in De Leon, Texas, some of which I’ve heard several times, but hope he never stops telling.

I have always respected my dad for his character and commitment, but I must confess there was not always a time that I properly valued it. As a teenager, I thought and said countless hurtful things about our church and religious beliefs. I came to hate the work of God and the demands that the job my father accepted placed upon not only him, but our family. I bristled every time someone said, “You’re the pastor’s son — you should know better!” I’ll skip over the rest of the story, but I found healing at an altar at 18-years-old, and with it regained my admiration for the selflessness that my parents have always displayed.

Today, Jerry Dean is not just my pastor — he’s also my boss. I am privileged to be able to work beside him in our offices, to walk beside him as he minister’s to this community, and pray beside him at the altars of POBC.

I didn’t always understand why my dad sought a higher level of self-sacrifice which seemed above that of so many in his profession, but when I see him praying at the altar for a visitor who is receiving the Holy Ghost for the first time, the alcoholic who has stumbled into our church and is seeking deliverance, or the prodigal who cannot walk another step without pursing redemption, and I see the tears streaming down both their faces as God’s beautiful work is done, then it makes sense.

When I see our church acting on their faith, serving their community, and loving those who desperately need it, then it makes sense.

When I hear the young ministers from all around the country tell me, “You have no idea what your dad reaching out to me meant,” then it makes sense.

When I stand in the midst of a crowded auditorium, and I feel the faith arising in the people around me due to the passionately-delivered words from the “redneck pastor” preaching to them, and I know that the reason it resonates is because the of the genuine nature of his anointing, then it makes sense.

I once made the incredibly painful accusation to my father that he was “pastor first, father second.” Please allow me a few final paragraphs to address my father directly:

Dad, please forgive me for ever uttering those words. I was speaking from a perspective that was limited, and my heart was not in the right place.

Over the years I have come to understand something: your being a good father doesn’t come from the fact that you’re a good pastor. You’re being a good pastor comes from the fact that you’re an incredible father.

Thank you for all the love you pour out — to your wife, your children, your grandchildren, and your son-and-daughter-in-laws. We all love and respect you more than you’re even aware.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad,
I love you.

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Raylan Mason Dean

Last Monday, October 31, 2011, my wife and I were joined by my mother-in-law for our weekly appointment at Willis-Knighton Bossier City in preparation for the birth of our first child. Our previous check-ups indicated we were on track for a due-date delivery (November 5). Little did we know, we wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. Dr. Leslie Dean (an absolutely brilliant OBGYN) examined my wife’s vital signs, along with the heartbeat of our baby. He was experiencing a decelerated heart rate, so Dr. Dean committed Shari for overnight observation.

This caught us off-guard (though it really shouldn’t have), since we expected to be induced the following Monday. I needed to drive home to collect our ready-packed bags, so I began my 12-minute journey to the house. As I turned onto our street, my mother-in-law, Tanya, called me on my phone. I assumed they had forgotten to pack something, and either she or Shari needed me to find something. However, as I answered, I could hear in the tone of her voice that something was wrong. “Ryan,” she said, ” you need to be quick. His heart rate decelerated again, and they might have to take him in for a c-section the moment it happens again.”

I went into panic-stricken terror mode. There was absolutely no way I was going to be anywhere but the side of my wife during the birth of our child.

I rushed into the house, bags flying through the air as I literally ran through our cozy little house as my very confused dog watched. I slung everything into my car, zipped onto our road, and began a run of terror from Haughton to Bossier City. Note: I am a defensive driver by nature, and rarely go 5 MPH over the speed limit. I don’t appreciate speeders who endanger the safety of those around them, especially in neighborhoods.

I drove at a safe speed throughout our subdivision, but as it came time to merge onto I-220, I became an absolute madman. My hands trembled and tears were welling up in my eyes as I alternately prayed to God and screamed at my fellow drivers. With my emergency blinkers on, I zoomed down the interstate at an entirely unreasonable speed, which in retrospect was absolutely stupid. BUT I COULDN’T MISS MY SON’S BIRTH!

Luckily, Shari and the baby stabilized, and Tanya called me again to assure me that they weren’t expecting to wheel Shari into surgery any time soon. I rocked back and forth in my seat at the red light, patting the wheel, praying, and sweating profusely. At this moment, I get a call from my dad, who I recognize is chuckling for some bizarre reason. I was not chuckling.

“It’s alright,” he said. “Shari’s okay. The baby’s okay. No one is doing anything yet. I see you rocking around in your car — just settle down.” Every syllable seemed to be laced with something between the aforementioned chuckle and a giggle. I still wasn’t chuckling.

I finally reached the room, with bags in hand (minus the several items and additional bag I forgot in my mad rush). I was there, along with my family, when our incredible nurse, Kelley, came in to tell us that Raylan’s heartbeat had once again decelerated, and Dr. Dean’s partner, Dr. Gomez, was on the phone to explain to my reluctant wife why a c-section was absolutely necessary. An hour later, I sat next to my beautiful wife, an anesthesiologist at her head, a surgeon at her abdomen, and nurses everywhere.

I held my wife’s hand as the procedure began. Shari was blocked from seeing what was happening due to a small sheet that formed a 6-inch curtain just below her chin, but I was able to see much of what my perspective did not permit by looking into a reflective surface on the opposite wall. The procedure is absolutely incredible, but I remember very little of it.

Suddenly, Dr. Gomez said, “Oh, look at all that hair!” At this moment, I looked at Shari, who began to cry heavily. Almost immediately, our screaming, crying son came into view. The first thing I noticed was his hair: it was a mixture of my wife’s dark blonde hair and my family’s Irish-red strawberry-blonde(ish) hair. I followed along as the nurses cleaned him, snapping pictures and fighting away tears. But then the moment for which I’d waited 28 years came: I was allowed to hold my son.

The moment that he was nestled into my arms, a barrage of overwhelming emotions and thoughts flooded my mind, and though it might sound cheesy, the most powerful impression was this: Now I have a better glimpse of the incredible, powerful love that God feels for us. As I cried profusely, I finally understood that all the cheesy cliches that I had always heard were true: this is a different, powerful love — distinct from anything I’d experienced before.

The following days have been spent with my son, wife, and family. We’ve experienced an incredible outpouring of love from our church family and friends. They’ve brought us meals, showered us with gifts, and generally shown more excitement than I thought possible. We’re incredibly blessed, and we know it.

Raylan is keeping us up, filling diapers, crying, staring, frowning, smiling, and making life a wonderful adventure. As I write this blog post, he is lying in his car seat (he seems to prefer it), swaddling in warm blankets, and wearing one of his two LSU beanies. Shari and I are happier than at any point in our lives prior to his arrival, and we can’t wait to see what this parenthood thing is all about.

Seconds after being taken from the womb

Seeing Mum for the first time.

Taunting the camera

Forever furrowing his brow

Fauxhawk #1

Getting tweeted

Tay Tay

🙂

Staredown

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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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