Pete…

We lost a friend a little over one week ago…

Pete Chenhall was walking on Blind Pass Road on Friday night to see a friend, and was struck and killed by a drunk driver that drove her car onto the side walk. We all lost a great guy.
Pete was only 40-years-old, but he was kind of old-school. He was in a bowling league and loved to play pool. He loved sports, but was particularly passionate about the Indiana Hoosiers. Actually, Pete was a pretty good athlete, too. He played basketball in high school…obviously…because he was raised in Indiana, and made the Indiana University golf team while in college. Pete and I shared frequent conversations about sports, but also about life. He loved life, and people. People loved him back, too! What I especially loved and respected about Pete though, was his relationship with his father. “Pops”, as he is affectionately known along the beach, would hang out with Pete all the time. Pops was Pete’s best friend, too. Pete was the first to tell you so! What I especially loved, though, was how much Pete enjoyed Pops finding love later in life. When the love first began to blossom, I remember telling Pete how much fun I had watching the new love affair. Pete responded in an explosion of joy! Immediately, he began to describe how much he liked her, and how happy she made Pops, and…on…and…on…and…on…..
His response brought tears to my eyes.
I have always loved watching fathers spending quality time with their children, no matter where I see them together. I think it says something about the dad. He seems to understand his responsibility, but is also learning the joy that can be shared between child and parent. A man that is a Dad…or Pops…is invaluable in the life of a child. Obviously, being a dad isn’t just about trips to the amusement park, or buying the newest “toy”. Sometimes being a dad means confrontation. However, these difficult times can be more effective in helping a child learn to make decisions when they have been prefaced by time spent doing mundane, normal things together. When the child comes to know their father’s love for them by watching him choose to include the child in the activities he must do, the child learns they are valuable. Many times, it is easier for a man to do the errands or tasks he needs to do by himself, but inviting your child with you is both a teaching opportunity and a show of respect towards the child. I think its a good idea to ask your child questions, that spur individual thought and problem analysis. Especially when they are young.
This isn’t only affirming when the children are young, however. One of the most important moments in my life, was when I was older and my father asked me a question about a book we both read. To me, the question wasn’t as important as the fact that he asked me my opinion. It felt like I was invited into the adult world of ideas. I could tell he wasn’t just asking me the question in order to prove a point, or begin an oratory about his own viewpoint. He was really interested on my take on the issue. He was being vulnerable, and showing respect to me. It was especially interesting to me that he was asking about a point of theology. He was a preacher, and he was asking me about how I viewed God, and my perspective of God’s interaction with people that held differing theological viewpoints and lived in different theological traditions than the one we both were raised in. What was especially surprising to me was that, after I shared my perspective, which was different than our common faith tradition’s doctrinal perspective, he agreed with me! I wasn’t expecting that.
Unfortunately, that conversation was both a beginning and an ending, because it wasn’t long afterwards that he was killed in an accident. In the years since his passing, during my adulthood, I have looked back at the conversation with a wistful disappointment. His acknowledgement of respect for me by simply asking the question whetted my appetite for an adult relationship with my dad, which could never be. I have always wondered if his presence in my life would have changed some of the decisions I made through the years. When I was younger, Dad was never one to butt in, and I was never one to ask. But as I grew older, I became less cocky and more cognizant of my need for a mentor. Life has a way of washing away your sand castles leaving a man feeling both vulnerable and defensive. It is in that gap, between vulnerability and defensiveness, that a trusted mentor can fit. I never was able to find one, or courageous enough to seek one out. However, I learned about life! It was the crucible in which was shaped my own style of fathering. While that style hasn’t been perfect, my children seem to love and respect me.
I have come to believe that the love of a child back to the father, not only shows respect for the father, but also the strength of character of the child. Every father that takes being a dad seriously knows when he has blown it. Quite honestly, many fathers carry these moments with them like a load of bricks. I have and do. It is this load that fuels the anger of many men, I think. We often feel like we have to be perfect. So many messages in the culture, at least men’s culture, tell us that. Too often, since we don’t know what to do with that anger, we either pour it outward, or turn it inward, becoming silent and distant. Handling anger with either method is quite destructive both to our self, and our relationships. If a man is to grow, he must acknowledge this anger, and try to make amends in some way to those he loves. That is what I tried to do. 
Not long after our divorce, I went to both my children separately and apologized for my own mistakes as a father. Especially for the times my anger came out in emotionally disruptive ways. The times when my discipline was too strong. I told them that I was wrong, and that I regretted my actions. What surprised me was that each of them responded almost identically:
“What are you talking about? I don’t remember that!”
They both then shared positive things about me as a father, and I was blown away by their grace and love.
As I watch them being adults, I am proud of their character and tenacity to love and care for their friends. They have great relationships with people. To me, this is most important! They are good people worthy of respect, and I do respect them.
The relationship a father has with their children changes through the years, and a wise father adapts. A strong father allows their adult child to see their own vulnerability. He remembers his child is a person, capable of making their own choices, and yet is willing to come alongside during times of struggle or confusion, to help the adult child with the pain, or process of making tough decisions. Much as he would a friend. And that is what I saw in Pete’s relationship with Pops…friendship. 
It is what I experience with Baird, Ryann, and Hannah. I am sure Pops is both distraught over the tragic death of Pete, yet thankful for the man he was…
…the son he is…
And so am I.
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Christmas, 2016…

The idea occurred to me on a hot Florida day in July as I sweated my way through a long line of appointments doing pest control. Finally, after wiping my face for what seemed like the thousandth time, I said to no one in particular:

“I want to be somewhere cold…not cool…COLD!”

That thought began to stir within me a longing to return home, at least for a little while.

For me, Home is in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. My family moved there when I was 16, between my sophomore and junior years of high school. I have come to believe, that there is perfection in this life. Perfect in terms of time and place and how they combine in life to provide experiences filled with joy, fun, challenge, and growth. Longmont, Colorado was just that for a span of two years. The opportunities I had in Longmont High School through music and football were foundations upon which I built a life filled with love for both. Although I had previous experiences in music and football, my two years at LHS were filled with positive relationships that welcomed me as a new student as if I had been with them our whole lives. The students, choral director, teachers, and coaches recognized talents of which I was somewhat insecure, and then nourished and challenged me to develop them. The school introduced me to a level of community that was open, positive, and affirming with each other. I have yet to find another community like it.

Similarly, the mountains were always a haven for me. I would often take our Irish Setter, Sammy, into the mountains when I went fishing. Rather than fishing in one of the mountain lakes close by, I preferred to fish in the streams that cut their way from the high country through the rocky foothills that then spread out across the flat landscape at the base of the mountains. Longmont is about 10 miles from the beginning of the foothills, and is surrounded by farms and ranches which take advantage of the rich soil deposited by these same streams, and also by ancient glaciers as they eventually melted. At some point following WWII, Japanese farmers came to the St. Vrain valley (named for the river in which I fished), and began to raise vegetables which they trucked to farmers’ markets either in Longmont, or just outside of town. These farms were incrementally sold through the years prior to my family moving there, and yet there remained a couple farms still raising and trucking vegetables when I lived there.

The presence of these farms also felt like home to me when I first moved there. We previously lived in the Hi Plains region of Southwestern Kansas, and I had worked on a ranch. I especially enjoyed working with horses and cattle on the ranch, so the ranches and farms surrounding Longmont were pleasantly familiar to me.

I left Longmont, Colorado and my beloved Rocky Mountains immediately following high school graduation ceremonies and moved to Indiana, where my parents had moved early in my senior year, allowing me to live with family friends and finish high school at LHS. Sadly, I seldom returned after leaving. But I never lost the feeling that, in some way, my identity had been both shaped and discovered in this place. However, I don’t think I was able to articulate that feeling until later in life, after I had lived in other communities and geographical regions.

I now realize that this place will always be Home for me!

It is with this historical context that I decided in the heat of July, that I would rent a place in Estes Park, Colorado and invite my adult children to join me in celebration and pilgrimage to the Rockies at Christmas.

The cabin I settled on is cozy and part of a cluster of similar cabins a few miles outside of Estes Park on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is an old-school tourist community surrounded by peaks of the Continental Divide. Since it is further north of the myriad of skiing resorts that are busy during winter, Estes Park is less crowded and less expensive during Christmas time. That makes it perfect for an intimate retreat for my kids and I. I have always wanted to do this, but never realized it: un-rushed time together.

Time to just Be Family…

Fully in the present…

Open to serendipity…

Surrounded by the beauty of the Natural World…

Our reservation began on Saturday, Christmas Eve, and we couldn’t check in until 4 P.M. Baird and Ryann drove in from Kansas City a couple days early to spend a day skiing and stay one night in Boulder, Colorado. I flew in from Florida late Friday night and spent the night at the airport before getting my rental car early Saturday morning. Hannah flew in from Huntington Beach, California on Saturday morning, and I picked her up. Hannah and I met Baird and Ryann in downtown Denver for lunch and to wander around talking and taking pictures…OK…it was mainly me taking pictures.

Since we had decided earlier on to exchange gifts with each other, we decided…OK…they asked me to decide…when we would open our gifts. When I was older, my family traditionally opened gifts on Christmas Eve. I always liked that, because…well… we didn’t have to wait until Christmas Day! Decision made…

We left Denver and began the drive to Estes Park via a drive through downtown Longmont and a stop at Longmont High School. Once again, I took pictures at LHS, and we walked partly around the school, while I told them stories about my time there. We then took a quick detour past the house in which I lived at that time, and the church of which my father was pastor.

Finally…

The drive through the farmland and into the mountains!

After a quick stop at the grocery store (where they didn’t have Egg Nog!), we drove through town to our cabin. Upon arriving and unloading our luggage, I started a fire while Ryann put up the small Christmas tree, and Hannah began cutting cheese and Summer sausage to go on Ritz crackers, which is one of the family traditions we do. The gifts came next, and then…

White Christmas… a movie we all love, and traditionally watch together…

…and a beautiful epiphany for  me in the midst of the movie…

…in a cozy cabin in the middle of the mountains…

…with my daughter’s head resting on my leg…

…my son and daughter-in-law lying on the floor…

…a fire burning, lights off, candles lit, and lights on the tree twinkling…

…as Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sing the following words:

“When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep

I count my blessings instead of sheep

And I fall asleep, counting my blessings

When my bank roll is gettin’ small

I think of when I had none at all

And I fall asleep, counting my blessings!”

Blessings…

A lump grew in my throat, and my eyes became moist.

I am Home…

…and it’s Christmas…

Later, I went outside into the quietness of the night where millions of stars met me with a symphony of silent light…

Somewhere in the distance, an owl called into the night…

I realized just how connected I am to this place and these people…

It seems to me, that the point of Christmas is just that! A child is born into the world surrounded by people, and animals, and stars, and shepherds, and searchers…

The birth is an affirmation of humanity’s connection to time and place and each other and the larger world and universe. A celebration, really, and in that moment, my heart was full of joy. It felt…

Perfect.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

It is now February 17, 2018. I wrote most of the above in the days following my Perfect Christmas. The world feels very different than it did in that cabin in the mountains, whipped by a cold wind bearing show, surrounded by my children. I don’t really need to explain the state of the world currently to you, Reader. You know.

My memory returns there every so often. I am reminded of the joy we shared that Christmas. Honestly, the world was pretty chaotic then, too. We were just able to pull in tight, together, and keep warm in the cold mountain winter nights. We were present fully with and to each other in that place. We were able to take in the beauty surrounding us, because we were open to it. It’s called “being present in the present.”

I have to admit, I spent most of my life preoccupied with what MIGHT happen in the future, or what DID happen in the past. Both practices robbed me of the beauty I could have experienced in the present, and were mostly tied in some way to fear and self-criticism. Pretty self absorbed, actually. To be fair to myself, I need to explain what I’m NOT talking about:

I’m not talking about planning for the future…

I’m not talking about learning from the past…

Both of those activities take place in the present…

And they mean I am in the process of living fully, and honestly in the present…

I guess what I DO mean is living daily with a mindset to choose gratitude rather than fear, anger, and suspicion. I am still learning how to do that. I believe it is important to feel what I feel, and examine the feelings, yet remain optimistic that “the arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” as Martin Luther King Jr. put it so eloquently. Mourning is part of gratitude. Activism towards change through confronting injustice, is also part of gratitude. Living with gratitude does not mean living in denial, nor does it mean being unaware of the needs of other people. In fact living with an attitude of gratitude in the present means that I am more aware of both my own pain, and that of those I come across daily.

The birth and life of Jesus, the Christmas Child, calls me to live that way. He gives me hope that I can be that person with each new day.

 

 

See You in the Morning…

I stopped the story of my experience of Dad’s death in the middle. I felt it important to publish it on Good Friday, to coincide with the celebrated remembrance of the death of Jesus. For me to receive the assurance of God’s faithfulness in the midst of my grief during Dad’s death, there had to be a precursor story, or previous case history, that opened the way for me to understand that death isn’t the end of the story. The story of Easter is just that story.

While I wasn’t there in the early morning hours to watch my dad die, as were Jesus’ followers and his mother while he was crucified, I later heard the stories surrounding the event of Dad’s accident. A little background will probably be helpful…

Dad and Mom were living in Ukiah, California at the time of his death. He was driving a tractor-trailer rig hauling products from a Masonite plant in Ukiah, to the docks in San Francisco and Oakland. He would often haul two loads per day, and liked to drive when there was less traffic, which usually meant at night. On this particular evening, Mom remembered that he was “so tired”. He was 62 years-of-age, and was working hard, but the pay was really good. They were doing the best financially that they ever had. I used to joke that Dad was “semi-retired” from the ministry…get it…semi…driving a semi….OK…pretty lame… He stayed at it, though because they needed money to pay off bills. His employer was Gene Armstrong, and Gene owned property on the side of a hill with a mobile home on it in which Mom and Dad were living. The property was beautiful! They had a little dachshund…Toby…that I played with when I visited from college. In the morning and evening, they often had deer grazing on the side of the hill next to their house. The deer would look up smugly as Toby barked wildly. Gene, and his wife Ruth, previously lived in Elkhart and attended the church in which Dad was pastor, so we knew them well. Also Ruth’s family and my dad’s family lived in the same community during the depression, so there was a lengthy history there.

Earlier in the evening of Dad’s accident, Dad and Gene met at a diner for a cup of coffee together. They ate…pie, or something…and as they were leaving, heading in opposite directions, Gene said Dad’s words of departure to him were, “Good night, Gene, I’ll see you in the morning…” Those were my father’s final words to anybody of which I am aware. After that farewell, Dad climbed into the cab of the truck, and began his final trip. The accident occurred outside of Santa Rosa, California. There was a cattle auction yard on the outskirts of town, and a trucker had pulled in to unload his cargo of Black Angus cattle. The report I heard was that there was nobody at the yard to help him unload, so he tried to do it himself. As the cattle were unloading, some of them got excited, broke through a gate to the holding pens, and scattered along the highway. The trucker then had to call to find help in rounding up the cattle and putting them back in the pens.

Black Angus cattle wandering along a major state highway in a dark night…

Before the cattle could be put back, or a policeman was on the scene to warn traffic, Dad arrived. The auction yard, and the scattered cattle were just over the rise of a hill. I saw the police report of the accident, and it states that the driver behind Dad never noticed his brake lights come on before the crash. So…Dad was driving up a hill, and just as he topped the hill he ran into at least two black cows, killing both of them, which caused the rig to go over the side of the hill, throwing Dad out of the cab, and the truck landed on top of him. Dad never knew what hit him…..

I was able to get copies of the official accident report as well as the autopsy that was done on my father afterwards. I wanted to try and piece together his final moments on this earth, and know the scope of his injuries. The autopsy stated that he sustained several broken vertebrae in his neck, and massive internal injuries. His death was basically immediate. I was glad to know that… What also is interesting is that, while I no longer have those documents, I still remember some of the contents. Knowing he didn’t suffer has been helpful.

Also helpful is the memory of a conversation and prayer he and I had before they moved to California, when he was driving a truck over-the-road, travelling across the nation often by himself, while my mother was living near Elkhart and having emotional issues related to her Bi-Polar disorder. Those were particularly hard days for Dad, and he had stopped in Olathe, Kansas, where I attended college, to see me between stops. We attended church together, and as he was getting ready to leave, we talked a little bit about his next stop. Then I asked if I could pray for him. I remember asking Jesus to sit in the seat next to him and help Dad imagine His presence there through the lonely miles. After his death, Mom told me that he really appreciated that image, and lived with that reality close to his heart and mind. I now imagine Dad coming over the crest of the hill with Jesus in the seat next to him, and  Jesus saying, “Ok Ivan….this is our stop!”

The resurrected Christ…lovingly present…guiding Dad into his  own resurrection.

“See you in the morning…” indeed!

Morning

By Billy Collins

Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,
dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,
and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
out there,
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/28812

August, 1985: Great is Thy Faithfulness….

It’s been 30 years since August, 1985. A lifetime ago, it seems, yet my memory of it is fixed in my mind, heart, and soul. But I have never told the story publicly. It was a life changing experience, yet I haven’t recorded it as part of my story.

It was Sunday evening, and I was in choir practice in St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene, which was a small church about a 30 minute drive from the college I was attending: Mid America Nazarene College (now a university). I had been attending St. Paul’s mainly because it was the home church of my girlfriend, and future wife, Greta. Dick Wasson was the director, and as he passed out a new piece of music for the choir to rehearse, he said to me, “There is a tenor solo in this piece, would you take it?” I responded that I would. The song was a traditional hymn I had sung my entire life, but I was unaware of just how prescient the lyrics would be in just a matter of three short days. The piece began with my lone voice, accompanied by piano and organ, singing the first verse and chorus:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;

There is no shadow of turning with Thee.

Thou changest not; Thy compassions, they fail not.

As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus:

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I was at football practice. It was Wednesday, which is a full-pad work day, and practice wasn’t going well. My playing eligibility was through, so I was a graduate-assistant coach in charge of receivers, and I was frustrated. I remember having offensive play sheets inside plastic covers in my hand, my whistle on a cord around my neck clenched in my teeth, and my Pioneer baseball hat tilted back on my head. One of the managers, I think, called my name, “Coach Williams…you have a visitor.” Turning my head, I looked towards the field house with a semi-scowl on my face. It was Greta, slowly walking towards me, and I also noticed her father, Loy, hanging back next to the field house. Although I had recently asked Greta to marry me, and we had become engaged, I was still a little irritated at the interruption of practice. This irritation was the young me so engrossed with football, which felt as important as life and death, that anything which got in the way brought at least irritability. However, something I noticed in her body language…and a subtle, inner argument which reasoned that she would not break into practice without an important purpose…focused my attention upon her. As I came to a standstill before her, she went straight to the message:

“Larry….your dad was killed in an accident early this morning…”

She might have said “I’m so, so sorry…” but if she did, I couldn’t hear it, because for a moment, I was shocked into deafness… I remember quickly saying, “No!” I then turned threw my play sheets up in the air, my body saying for me, “football doesn’t mean anything right now.” I stood motionless for a moment, my mind trying to find some semblance of purpose for her statement, thinking, “this can’t be” yet knowing Greta wouldn’t tell me this unless she knew it to be true.

Trying to emotionally hold myself together, I bent over, picked up the play sheets, then quickly walked over to the head coach, in order to let him know about my dad and that I was leaving practice. As I told Coach Degraffenreid about my dad, my voice began to break when I mouthed the word “killed”. I then quickly turned and began to walk very quickly away, placing a sensory shield between me and anyone else. I was numb, yet beginning to sob deeply as I walked up to the football field and then aimlessly around the track. I looked up into the sky and choked out, “Why God?” All the while knowing that death is part of life from which my dad was not exempt. I walked fast, and a part of me observed my actions, and suggested that I was trying to walk away from the truth of Dad’s death. It was true…but I didn’t want it to be true, and if I could walk fast enough, the truth would change, it would turn out to be a dream from which I would awaken.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

On one of my laps around the track, headed back to the bleachers, I found Coach D there to meet me. His face was ashen, and he asked me how it had happened. Greta must have told me more of the story while I was blanked out from shock, because I was able to brokenly say that he had been driving truck at night, hit some cattle on the highway, and was thrown clear of the truck cabin. Killed instantly. Coach Degraffenreid is a short, stout former offensive lineman, and he wrapped his arms around me in a fatherly hug. I heard his voice catch with emotion as I continued to cry in deep, wracking sobs.

I’m not sure how the timing went, but it seemed at the time that Pastor Dan Vanderpool, (the team chaplain and associate pastor at College Church of the Nazarene, which was located adjacent to the football complex) was immediately there. After a few moments of consolation, Coach D turned me over to Paster Dan, and went back to practice. Pastor Dan suggested we go to the church, pray, and contact the members of my family.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

College Church was hosting a yearly conference of all the Nazarene churches in the organizational district, which included St. Paul’s. While I don’t remember him doing so, I suspect Loy, Greta’s father, went into the meeting to get Alan Thompson, the youth pastor at St. Paul’s at the time. Dan escorted me into Garret Chapel, and we went to the altar to pray. I have no idea what was prayed, but I felt both surrounded by care, and completely alone at the same time. Kneeling together, crying at the altar, an assurance began to take hold deep in my soul. A phrase began to repeat itself in my mind: “Dad died in what he lived for.” I felt and knew, in the depths of myself, that God was, and is, real, not an impersonal force of nature; but a caring, loving, living Presence, who can and does step into time and place at God’s impetus. I understood that God was present in the horror of my father’s death, yet didn’t cause it or refuse to stop it. I also felt the reality of Jesus as the Incarnation of God in a human body. I was assured of it, not intellectually convinced. I just knew it. I knew that God was in pain about my pain, yet also IN the pain to redeem it. Although it is quite difficult for me to adequately articulate, all of this seemed to become part of my being, yet not in an intellectual way. It was an intuitive ascent to the message of God’s Spirit, written into the fabric of my humanity.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Sometime during the prayer, I began to be impressed to take action in a particular way. Actually, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I needed to tell the football team…my brothers in blood and sweat and blunt force trauma…about my understanding. Since Dad was a preacher, and evangelist, I suppose you could say I was just being my father’s son. There might have been some of that, but more pronounced was this feeling of being compelled to share my experience with this particular group of young men. As we rose from kneeling at the altar, I said, “I know what I am to do…I want to speak to the football team about my experience of God, in this moment.”

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Before going back to the field, I called my mom, brother, and sister. Bill, my brother, told me about the plans that had been made already for the funeral, which was to be held in Elkhart, Kansas in the small church in which Dad formerly was a pastor while I was younger. Dad was to be buried next to his mother and father in the cemetery there. The placement seemed appropriate. Dad’s sister and family still lived there, and Dad’s family rode out the Great depression, and Dirty Thirties in the surrounding area. (After reading about life in the Dust bowl, I find dark humor in the fact that although they are all once again covered in dust, still the incessant wind will never move them from their home in their beloved High Plains prairie.)

My little crowd of supporters and I walked across the parking lot from the church to the practice field. As we walked, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would say, except the phrase, “Dad died in what he lived for.” I approached the team, which was now huddled together in mass surrounding Coach D. As I approached, the human blob opened to allow me into the center. “I just found out that my dad was killed in a truck accident.” I began, my voice quivering slightly. “I wanted to tell you guys, that at this moment, I am more assured of the reality of Christianity than ever in my life. Dad died in what he lived for. I would like to encourage you to love your family and parents, right now. Don’t wait. Love God, right now, because God loves you.” While I don’t remember verbatim what I said, the message was what I have written above. As I spoke, I turned around, looking each player in the eyes, hoping they could hear my heart. As I turned, I saw these hulking young men with tears in their eyes, and not a few of them openly crying. As I finished, Coach D suggested each player call their parents that evening, and we pulled in close for one last shouted exclamation: “M. A. N. C. MANC, Win Manc, Win!” just as we did after every practice. Many of the guys I had played with during my playing career came by to hug me and wish me condolences. They told me then, and have in the years since, the impact my experience had on them. (The team bought a plant with what seemed like hundreds of small flowers and sent it to the funeral. When the placard was read during the service, I immediately teared up, my throat also tightening as I understood each flower to symbolize each player and coach.)

After speaking to the players, Loy suggested I get some clothes from my apartment, and he would drive me to their house, where I could rest and plan for the trip to Elkhart for the funeral. We stopped by my apartment, I got my stuff, and as I was leaving, two of my roommates, Dave Diehl and Randy Snowbarger (a football player) hung around until I was ready to leave. Randy wrapped me in a bear hug and said, “I love ya, man.” I mumbled “Thanks!”. Dave and I, while friends, were not really close. We hung out with different crowds of people, and although I was closer to his brother, Don…also a football player… Dave and I liked each other, and were friendly, but didn’t share a lot in common. However, Dave’s comments and actions to me in my grief bonded me to him immediately: “I love ya, man, and I’ll be praying for you,” he said as he hugged me…A trite phrase, is might seem. But his eyes and voice communicated a depth of caring and friendship that comforted me deeply. I am mindful, now, of how important gentleness and kindness are to someone going through grief and loss. There are really no words of “wisdom” or “explanation” to one in the depths of sorrow as to why someone close to them has died. Better to save your breath other than to confess your promise to love and pray for them; then follow up later by listening to their anger and pain, which will eventually come. At the time of loss, no explanation really explains, and no wisdom is wise. Listen…love…and pray. For me, at least, God brought thoughts that comforted. I remember thinking that  my sorrow and grief were a tribute to my father, for he was worthy of my grief. Losing him at that time in my life meant…

…he wouldn’t officiate my wedding…

…he would never meet my children…

…my children would never know my father…

…I would never have him to talk through decisions with…

…he could never tell me his story, when I was an adult and would listen more deeply…

I remember thinking that God must have deemed me capable of learning how to be a man, because he took Dad so early in my adult life. Older me understands the theological problems with that thought, but at the time, I needed the assurance that I was capable of learning how to be a father and husband. The last one…husband…didn’t end as I expected. My marriage ended in divorce, and that was totally out of my father’s realm of life experience, but I am finding my way courageously. I think he would respect that.

There is certainly more to the story, but I would like to end this portion with some comments on how the experience of Dad’s death has stayed with me…spiritually. If Dad were alive today, and still believed the same doctrines and theology I remember him to hold; the two of us would likely have some quite spirited conversations. Conversations about the interpretation of scripture would probably be at the top of the list. My life and experience in our culture, and the church culture have led me to ask questions…continually. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t believe in God. I just see God differently. Just HOW differently is what the questions are all about. I have experienced God’s interaction with me…personally…too many times to doubt God’s existence. I also consciously choose to trust the veracity of the Gospels in presenting the Incarnation truthfully, if not always concretely. I’m still searching to make sense…deeper sense…of the scripture of the Bible and the scripture of Creation. I am skeptical of either Sola Scriptura OR Sola Naturalism. I believe Truth is informed by both and they ultimately don’t conflict. It is our interpretations and prejudices of both that bring them into apparent conflict.

Or at least that is where I stand at the moment. My experience of God in August, 1985 still resonates…

…even after 30 years.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

January 10, 1988…

We left our little duplex a little late in the evening. I may have left work early that evening. It was a Saturday and I was working second shift, 3 pm to 1am, in a juvenile detention in Olathe, Kansas. The duplex we were renting was also in Olathe, and although it was just a five to ten minute drive from work, when you are a young couple expecting your first child close to the expected delivery date, you don’t want to take chances. The HMO we were on from my work, only would allow us to deliver in a hospital they prescribed, and that was Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri, a 30 minute drive from Olathe. When she started to feel pretty uncomfortable, she called the HMO nurse-line, to see what we should do. They suggested we go ahead to the hospital.

I remember it being a clear, bitterly cold night, which isn’t surprising, because that is the rule in Kansas City in January. As we drove through the night, there was a calm coziness between the two of us. This should have been our first hint that the baby wasn’t ready to be born yet. Calm and labor do not generally hold hands as we were doing as we drove. Labor kicks calm aside and demands urgency. It shouts its intentions, and gives orders like a Marine drill sergeant, with pointed direction and not a little cursing. Upon arrival at the hospital, Greta’s pains were growing, and we approached the emergency room arrival desk not in a state of panic, but of annoyance about the usual bureaucracy. We should have known by our relative patience that we would eventually be sent back home to wait for sharper labor pains. Hospital staff must know the signs of real labor by how loudly the parents yell at them.

Even though we didn’t show the signs of real labor, she was admitted, and taken to an examining room. When the attending physician checked her cervix, he reported that although her body was getting ready, she still had a long way to go. The physician suggested that she start walking around the hospital corridors to try and encourage the process. So we began to walk…and walk…and walk… When they check her again, they suggested that she be released to go home and get some rest. “The pains will wake you up!” A nurse told us. Well…actually, the pain wouldn’t let her GO to sleep… although the fact that we had a water bed with the lack of support couldn’t have helped…let alone the effort it took a VERY pregnant woman AND her young husband to get her out of the bed exacerbated her discomfort, as well…we eventually found what should have been a comforting panic. We were persuading the nurse-line staff, too. Our repeated calls signified that our suburban politeness was cracking, and we were entering the primal evolutionary state of reproducing, social-skill Neanderthals, that all first-time parents devolve into with their first child. We were eventually “invited” back to the hospital.

The second trip was much less calm, and exponentially quicker. However, once she was examined, we learned that her cervix had only dilated to a 3. We needed to get to 10.

Crap….

It was as if her body didn’t want to expel this new person she’d been protecting for nine months into the world. Her body became schizophrenic, with one set of natural urges providing a courageous push, while another set providing a protective pull. So we waited for the push-urge to win out…and I did what any new husband and father does: whatever she says. I remember massaging her back as she turned on her side, with the regular amount of assorted cords attached to her body. My hands and arms began to ache from the kneading of her muscles. Wisely, I decided to keep this discomfort a secret… I think most fathers know to keep their mouths shut in such an occasion, while watching the physical travail of the mother of their child. The idiots who do not, deserve whatever they receive…

Several other pictures are captured within the recesses of my mind:

Her family standing in the hallway of the hospital…

The pushing…

The crowning of the baby’s head…

The late arrival of the HMO physician, who almost had to dive to catch the kid…

Her mother, who we agreed could watch the birth because she had never seen one, who had to quickly sit down because she got light-headed due to the excitement…

Holding the baby boy for the first time…

Excitedly calling my family with the news…

The sight in the hallway of Greta’s best friend and her husband with his stupid sunglasses perched on top of his head…

The naming: Baird Conrad Williams. The first name chosen in honor of my childhood friend, and best man in our wedding; and the second taken from my paternal grandfather: Eli Conrad Williams.

Eventually taking the baby home snuggled in his yellow, arctic onesie covered by layers of blankets in the HMO, borrowed car seat…

…and the melancholy reminder that my father would never know this child and this child would never know his wonderful grandfather. I would be his only tie to his heritage from my side of his family. Although I couldn’t have known it then, we would have only a hand-full of opportunities for him to be in contact with my side of the family over the next twenty-five years. At the time, I mourned a loss that he would never fully understand: the loss of his knowing the patient, gentle presence of my father. At the time, I was unsettled as to my own ability to model this important relationship to him.

As to the other concerns over raising a child, neither of us felt burdened with the expectation that we had to be perfect parents. We realized, probably for the first time, that all parents will screw up, and the next generation will have to find their way through the maze of these faults. What did concern me, was the capability to financially provide for this child. And to live out my values in such a way as to invite him into them.

While he might have missed the opportunity to experience my family, he was granted a wonderful opportunity to develop the traditions of his mother’s side of the family. Many of these traditions and values were shared by both sides:

Learning that continues throughout a lifetime…

Loving each other during hard times…

Caring about issues, and acting in ways to support the community…

Courage to take risks…

The love of music…

The adrenaline-rich joy of performance…

As I have watched him grow, I have seen these values play themselves out in his life. But I have also seen wisdom grow within him that is his own. He shares with me, and the men of my family, a propensity to be quiet about difficulty, and to just take on the responsibility himself to figure things out, then take action. As I think about it, I see the same quality in Loy, his maternal grandfather, and Scott, his step-father. Maybe this is a quality that is especially embraced by masculine culture:

The masculine demand to keep your mouth shut when it hurts, and don’t ask for help…

Oh…

wait…

that probably is the dysfunctional side of self-reliance, against which every man must guard, lest he become isolated in the toxic mix of shame and pride. The more positive side is: don’t shrink from, nor side-step necessary pain, but take responsibility for your actions, ask for help when needed, and give it to others when asked. Although these are not JUST masculine values, they are certainly ones that I have seen in the men surrounding Baird as he grew up, and notice a lack of in many men of younger generations.

My son has become a man…a good man.

A loving husband.

A gifted scholar and musician.

A trustworthy employee.

A wise steward of his finances.

An astute judge of priorities.

Not only am I proud of him, I am impressed by him.

Happy birthday, Baird Conrad Williams!

Only Love Matters…

Every other Sunday evening, I take my mother to church. Connie, my sister, and I take turns. The service we attend is called: Country Church. Most of the folks that attend are older, and the music is kind of down-home with more than a hint of Southern gospel. They have a background set that looks like an old country store. The band and worship ensemble wear western boots and an occasional western hat. The service begins with the worship leader…or maybe that should be trail boss… greeting the congregation with “HowDEEE!”
Really….
Pure kitsch…
But… I sometimes kind of like it. (When my eyes aren’t rolling…) Mainly because many of the songs they sing are ones from my childhood. It reminds me from where I came, and my heritage, or at least some of it. Mom really enjoys it, especially the preaching. That part I sometimes find hard to sit through. It is a Southern Baptist church, and the conservative slant can really grate on my moderate nerves.
Mom is 89-years-old. She has increasing, age-related dementia, exacerbated, I think, by the fact that she has bi-polar disorder. We never knew that as we were growing up, but noticed that about every 7 years, she would have a depressive break. Looking back, and talking to my brother and sister, I think that each break changed her. She is on medication now, but my sister bore the brunt of her last break, and it was really difficult for her and Butch, my brother-in-law. Moving here has been an opportunity for me to take on some of the load of dealing with Mom.

As I considered moving, that was one of the issues that worried me. How would I respond to Mom? Our relationship, or maybe it is more accurate to say my relationship with her, has been difficult. Yet I am not sure I realized that, until the last 10-15 years. It especially became apparent to me after my divorce, and I began to take some classes in seminary that led me to explore issues with my family of origin. Especially issues with my mother. I had to take an honest look at this most intimate, and fundamental female relationship.
We each begin existence encased in the body of another person. When we are born, the mother-child relationship is extremely important, because in it we find our most basic needs are met, or they aren’t. We learn a lot about the world, or rather what we expect from the world in terms of safety and comfort and provision in this one relationship. Even though a father can come alongside to care and help a mother meet the needs of an infant, the child’s attachment to its mother contributes to what it feels about life and the world… and themselves.
I won’t go into it here, but Mom’s illness affected me in those earliest days of my infancy. I have needed to look back, be honest about the lack of stability in our relationship, but also other parts of my life as a growing child. I needed to grieve it, which included anger at the way I felt I was perceived by my mother. I felt like I was expected to be a heathen, and many times as an adolescent, I fulfilled the expectation nicely. I know that she and my father loved me, but I couldn’t gloss over how some of their decisions, manner of living, and approach to life; which included Mom’s illness; affected me. I am NOT trying to figure out where to place blame. Blame is a form of denial, not truth-finding. I needed to understand why I felt the way I did for much of my life, so I could begin to heal, grow and change.

When I first moved to Florida, near my mother, and siblings; I was still angry with her. I now understand the anger was both natural… I needed to feel it… but it was tied to my own unfulfilled expectations of her, and how I wished she would have interacted with me. This was a necessary step in my healing. When she called…I didn’t answer. I seldom spent time with her. I was afraid that her tendency to live in guilt would affect my thinking and feelings about myself. It had my whole life, and I was just being freed from it due to personal growth, and God’s grace. She felt the absence, too, and kept trying to get me to draw nearer to her. By using guilt… so it was a vicious circle.
Then I became involved in a relationship with a woman that eventually didn’t work out. When we broke up, I began to explore my part in the break-up. I did a similar, much more extensive process when my marriage of 23 years ended. In both circumstances, I tried to examine what I did well, and what I didn’t do so well.
One day, as I was thinking about the most recent break-up, I believe God spoke to me, and helped me realize that in order for me to go forward into another relationship with a woman; I needed to seek reconciliation with my mother. Or, more honestly, reconciliation with my feelings about Mom. I needed to see her as she is, was, and what she was capable of being, rather than what I wished and expected her to be. She needed to be a flesh-and-blood person, with great strengths and great failings. I needed to see… her… not a caricature of my own making. I was beginning to believe I could see her as a sister-in-Christ…as the Beloved of God. Maybe, if I could see her in that light, I could love her as she is and was, and maybe even…myself. God began to show me that, as she continues to grow older, and more child-like, I would sort of father my mother. This began to give me some hope, because I enjoy many aspects of being a father. Age has softened me, too, so I am more patient, and am able to find humor instead of frustration…

Mostly…
Every quarter, Country Church has a service with only music. They call it: The Grand Old Gospel Opry…
Of course they do…
The Grand Old Gospel Opry is quite popular especially with the crowd that usually attends Country Church, which are generally senior adults. Mom, however, usually doesn’t attend because she likes to hear the pastor preach. This past Sunday evening was one of those nights and there were “Special Guests” to go along with the regular bunkhouse gang. (Actually, the worship team and band is quite talented…) On this night there was a bluegrass band and a men’s quartet, a man and wife who travel as evangelists, and other groupings of people that attend the church.
We began with congregational singing. I enjoyed the songs, because they were ones we would sing while my family was in evangelism. A noticeable theme began to evolve with each song: Heaven.
“That makes sense…” I thought. “Play to your crowd.”
The evangelists got up next and began to sing together. I was reminded of sooo many couples I have seen and known through the years. People that travelled from church to church, singing and preaching the gospel. People like my family. This was before four-dollar-gas and one-hundred-dollar-a-night motels; when singers used pre-recorded-sound-tracks that weren’t considered karaoke, and there were only three or four channels on TV, so there weren’t as many entertainment opportunities to compete with the drama of revivals. My first thoughts in response to the couple were pretty negative:

“C’mon brother… don’t you know that your time has passed? That style of doing church is dead and ineffective.”
However, it occurs to me just how much I needed to see them. They were like characters emanating from my heritage of faith. People who put aside a safe, and consumptive lifestyle in order to tell other people about the Christ of new beginnings, of new life, of resurrection… I need to embrace that heritage. It was hard and disruptive… for me, but also for my mother. Mom raised three kids on the road, from one conglomeration of church services to another, all the while having to keep the kids occupied and quiet every evening for a couple hours of church, while sitting IN FRONT of scores of people that could be VERY critical of the preacher’s wife and kids! It was keeping the kids entertained in the car through endless miles of travel. It was keeping the family fed while in poverty, and in clean clothes washed either in borrowed washers and dryers, in a laundromat, or in the sink of a travel trailer and then hung to dry on a makeshift clothesline. It was using cold starch on my father’s white shirts, so they would be… just….so……. It was being the kids’ first (and only at least for a period of time) teacher. It was singing in front of people though she felt intimidated by her self-perceived lack of musical talent.
A tough life…
A committed life…
The service wound along until a trio of women began to sing. Mom said that one of the women was…

“…the daughter of the song leader. She just finished college and is really pretty. I wish I knew somebody that knows her, so I could introduce you to her.”
“Um…. Mom….she is the same age as my daughter…”
“Oh…”
Right now, to my mother at times, I am still about 27. A young man. I think it is because I am single, and we weren’t around each other for so many years. For my first birthday after I moved here, she gave me a book entitled: “God’s Little Instruction Book for Graduates”.
Well… I have been in grad-school for the past three years…
And I confess that in my OWN mind, I still feel like I am 27… at least until I wake up in the morning… then my body says: “Helloooo 52…”
The most beautiful part of the Opry was several songs into the set of the men’s quartet. I had been enjoying the quartet, and remembered how often we would drive many miles to hear quartets when I was young. My dad loved men’s quartets. While he was in college and grad-school at small religious schools, Dad travelled with other young men in a quartet doing public relations for the school. In fact, that was how my mom and dad first met. Dad’s quartet held a concert at the church my mother attended, and they first noticed each other. Eventually, Mom enrolled in the same school.
Pretty effective public relations, I would say…
My father was the first tenor in that quartet, and as Mom and I listened to the first tenor of the Opry quartet singing lead; she leaned in to me and said with quivering voice, “That makes me think of your dad.”

I gently put my arm around my mother, and pulled her tightly against me. She began to quietly cry freely.
For just a moment, my imagination took me to a little church in West Virginia, and I saw a young woman, with striking auburn hair and expressive brown eyes, about 17 or 18-years-old sitting in a hot, crowded sanctuary listening attentively to a group of young men sing. One young man especially held her attention… the good looking first tenor with the crisply starched, white shirt beneath the trimly cut black suit. His hair was dark, and slicked back, and she noticed that as his gaze travelled across the crowd, it would linger with increasing frequency in her direction. With each repeated gaze, both their hearts would beat a little faster. After the concert was over, she would go to the table with information about the college he represented, and ask for a brochure… just to, you know, learn about the academic programs. He would shyly approach her, and their eyes would once again meet. He would hand her the brochure… their hands would touch ever-so slightly… Sparks!
As she cried, my heart cried with her.
For her loss of her Love…
For the loneliness in her life now…
For her desire to be near him again…
Somewhere inside me, I began to see my mother for the first time. The past disappointments and frustrations I felt through the years didn’t really matter. Love began to vibrate for this woman that bore me and introduced me so imperfectly to the world. I saw, instead, God’s beloved daughter. My natural fatherly instincts began to take over. As the song ended, and before we began to applaud, I kissed her on the forehead, as I would my own daughter.

Before I moved to Florida, I wrote four blogs in which I suggested the need for me to be redeemed to my heritage, and my heritage redeemed to me.
God is doing just that…

Fatherhood….2012…

Father’s Day is always a little poignant for me. This is especially true this year, since I am several states away from my children, and my own father has been dead for 27 years. My father’s absence is always weird. Dad was a good man. He was a wonderful blend of masculinity and tenderness, with a touch of shyness worked in. One of the pictures in my mind that I have of my dad is very masculine, and one could even say a little foolhardy.

Our family would spend fairly significant periods of time with my Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Melvin. They lived in the country. Specifically in the high plains region of Southwest Kansas and Southeast Colorado. Aunt Phyllis was my dad’s sister. In my early childhood, they lived near Campo, Colorado; a tiny burg on the road between Springfield, CO and Boise City, OK. The major source of economic vitality was dry-land farming, and the creative adaptability of farmers in a land where rain was scarce. Going to Campo was always an adventure for me. For my parents, it was a time of reconnecting with family, but also of joining in the hard work of farm living. Uncle Melvin was a custom harvester. He would follow the ripening grain from the south to the north, and cut grain for farmers from Texas to the Dakotas. The whole family would join him as they became a caravan of trucks pulling: a travel trailer (their summer home), a trailer with the combine on it, a short school bus which was a combination crew’s bunkhouse for the summer as well as tool shed, and a pickup pulling a trailer designed by Uncle Melvin to carry fuel as well as the cylindrical “head” which would be attached to the front of the combine after it was unloaded and ready to harvest the grain.

Intermittently, my family would go with Phyllis and Melvin for at least part of the harvest trek. Dad and Melvin worked well together. Dad would drum up business when he wasn’t driving truck, and Melvin worked in the field. Melvin was always a hard charging spirit. His ethic in life was, “No matter how fast the sign says, you can ALWAYS take the curve at least 20 mph faster.” Melvin also was always up before 7 am, and wanted eggs and bacon for breakfast. That meant that Phyllis needed to be up at LEAST as early… a habit she wasn’t nearly as happy about. Mom would help Phyllis cook when we were in harvest. Life was hard work, during long days; sometimes stretching late into the darkness, when the forecast was for rain. The harvest HAD to be brought in.

However, life wasn’t always just hard work, though. Sometimes, play would spontaneously erupt at random times. And this is where the picture of my dad comes in. Melvin owned a 1969 “Avocado-puke” green Chevy Impala. He was notorious for driving fast down the dirt roads of the country with a rooster tail of dust flying behind; when suddenly, he would veer off the road, through the ditch, and into a winter wheat field in pursuit of a coyote. Melvin didn’t hate coyotes, it was just his sport… it was a game. There WERE times, however, when we would go jack rabbit hunting in the same car… in wheat fields…. at night… with no light other than the headlights of the car. One night in particular, I was along for the ride. The picture I remember of my dad is of him seated on the right, front fender of the car… just above the headlight, with a .22 caliber rifle in his lap, desperately trying to hang on while Melvin sped across an open field of short, winter wheat. Every so often, when the lights shine on a jack rabbit, they will stop running in their zig-zag pattern, stand straight, and still because they are blinded by the light. My dad would then lift the rifle to his shoulder, take aim, and fire. When he hit it, and if it was a kill shot, we would put the rabbit in a burlap sack, to take it home for dog food. Once, dad’s shot only wounded the rabbit. After considerable begging from me, I was allowed the final “kill” shot. I approached the screaming rabbit to within a couple feet, pulled the trigger, and heard the muffled “woompf” as the bullet went through the rabbit and entered the earth beneath. I’m not sure what I imagined I would feel after the killing, but I remember being surprised by how sickened and sorry I felt. I only killed one other animal for sport with a gun, and after the second, determined that I didn’t want to do it anymore. It just didn’t seem fair to me to callously take an animal’s life. I have no problems if others hunt, if they use it for food, but I have no desire to do it myself.

I remembered this picture of Dad a couple weeks ago, and saw it through adult, city eyes. “What were they thinking?” I remember saying. As I began to think further, though, it occurred to me that my father was exhibiting some very masculine qualities to me, his young son.

The Importance of Taking Risks:

Whether in play, business, or life; it is a thoroughly masculine quality to willingly take a risk. Risk doesn’t deny the possibility of failure, but the willingness to jump exhibits a confidence to come back from injury or failure, yet relish the rush of not fearing either. As a man, I have learned the value of saying, “What the heck…” At least sometimes…

I have a friend who lives by risk in approaching women. He told me once, “I always go to the prettiest girls in the place. Although many of them turn me down, some of them don’t”

That’s risk, and a certain level of confidence.

The Importance of Fun for No Apparent Reason…

Although this isn’t solely a masculine ethic, men often are made fun of due to their:

“Big boy toys…”

“Man caves…”

…as well as a tendency to watch and play sports enthusiastically.

I think the subtle mockery is misguided. Men need a time when they can lose themselves in wild, energetic fun. I think it helps to lighten us up, so we aren’t so serious. Physical play can also be a place where the tensions of the work week can be released.

I fondly remember my dad and Uncle Melvin acting like kids as we sped through the field at nearly 60 mph. Whatta rush!

The Importance of Valuing Life…

I learned the balance of the natural world in the country. There are predators, and there are prey… they are tied in balance to each other. In fact, all living things are connected in some way in a ecological dance. We forget that to our own detriment. I also learned that the thrill of the hunt can be experienced with a camera instead of a gun. I am not against hunting, I just choose not to do it. However, if I needed to do so for food, I would.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Several years ago, I attended a Promise Keeper’s convention and for the first time heard the term “Father Power.”  The speaker wasn’t introducing some new demand for rights of fathers or any demand at all for that matter. His point was an observation about how important men are in the lives of their kids. This is true whether the man did a good job of being a father or whether he was the most despicable father or whether he was absent completely. I don’t think we men really understand that. In fact, I think we either shrink back from the recognition of Father’s Day, or are hard on ourselves due to our self-perceived imperfections. I do know that fatherhood is far more than shared genetic material. Fatherhood is influencing the next generation in a thoroughly masculine way. Fatherhood is a celebration of the value of healthy masculinity.

My daughter posted on Facebook today that she was thankful for the four fathers in her life: me, her step-father, her grandfather, and her boyfriend’s father. I will admit that it stung at first that I was part of a list… However, after some consideration, I am glad that she has so many positive male figures in her life. That is a good thing. I just have to wrap my heart around it a little…

Fathers know the value of teamwork…