Friday, August 29, 2014

Being Stepped on is an Integral Part of Fatherhood...

Yesterday I was privileged to attend the funeral service for a man that I deeply respected. I learned a lot about leadership from Dr. Phil Sims.  But my favorite “Phil story” has more to do with his role as a father…

I am a pretty big guy, but Phil towered me.  I felt like a little boy in first grade standing next to him.  He was also very intelligent, so to say that he could be intimidating is understatement.

As legend has it, Phil’s son sneaked out of out of the house through the bedroom window during his rebellious teenage years.  Aaron thought he had pulled off the perfect crime until he returned home late that night.  Apparently Aaron’s bed was situated right next to the window.  When he crawled back through the window he put his foot down on what he thought would be the awaiting mattress…How wrong he was….His came through the window and his foot rested on the body of his imposing father.  Medics should have been on standby that evening, because there is no doubt in my mind that his heart jumped into his throat.

As I reflect on Phil’s life, it occurs to me that being stepped on is an integral part of fatherhood.  Phil stretched out on his son’s bed and waited for his arrival because he loved him.  I find myself today more than willing to be stepped on if it will help my sons. They may step on my heart at times, but that is not a problem.  Fathers have to be big boys, if they are going to raise well-adjusted children.  My boys may step all over my billfold too.  That is not a problem.  My sons are all gone from home now, so buying them a steak dinner sounds really appealing.  And they step on my thought processes too. What father doesn’t think of the well-being of his children constantly?  I know I will continue to be stepped on for years to come, but I am just grateful to be a father.

Phil was a good role model to me as a dad.  He was a man of genuine conviction. He took fatherhood very seriously. He loved his daughter-in-law and son-in-law as if they were his own.   And no one beamed like Phil when the subject of grandchildren came up. I will miss him a lot, but I am reminded today that being stepped on is indeed an integral part of fatherhood. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Disrupted by an 18 Month Old!

We took an interesting man out to breakfast this morning. The conversation with him was engaging to say the very least. Topics over eggs and coffee ranged from the needs of aging Vietnam veterans to matters of theological signficance. The interchange additionally veered off into such topics as classic films and the real estate market. I love a challenging conversation, so today was a treat.

I should also mention that our dining experience was disrupted by a restless little boy sitting right next to us. He could not have been more than 18 months old. His parents were getting quite creative as they tried to keep him occupied in a busy restaurant where the service was a tad slow. I assured them that we were not offended in the least.  In fact, I shared that we had been in a similar position with three little boys once upon a time.  It has just been a few years....

Our conversation with our honored guest continued as they wrestled with a little boy that was not fond or high chairs or pronlonged waits for food arrival.  They ate their meal rather hurriedly.  And before I knew it, they had paid their ticket and left.

Thankfully our guest did not seem phased by the restless little boy playing peek-a-poo with his father. He seemed obvlious to the circus going on within inches of our table as he discussed the latest measures congressional leaders have taken to meet the needs of veterans returning today after overseas tours.  He quoted exact numbers in regard to funds recently allotted by the government for such endeavors.  And he reflected on an experience he had at DFW airport a few years ago when he was with a group of kids welcoming veterans returning from tours in Iraq.  The little blonde boy sitting next to us was the farthest thing from his mind. But I could not help but be distracted...

I saw my youngest son sitting next to us. That little boy climbed out his high chair using the same maneuvers Mitchell did a few years ago. His dad took him outside for a few minutes while they waited for their food. I did that a few dozen times with all three of my boys. As that dad paid his check, he probabably wondered if their Saturday morning family breakfast outing was really worth it. I wanted to grab him and introduce him to my special guest...

I would say: "Sir, meet my guest.  He can discuss history, current events, and theology in an intelligent manner. He is very articulate indeed. But a few years ago, I was wrestling with him in restaurants and countless other public venues.  Yes...I am talking about my guest today, sir. Those days are gone.  They went by in a flash. And they will for you too. After I pay my check, I am taking this intelligent and compassionate young man to his college dorm for the first time. I am going to leave him there. His independence begins today.  So..enjoy that restless little boy. You will blink and find yourself leaving without your son in tow. On that dayI hope you are as blessed as I was this morning.  Sitting next to you put things in proper perspective for me. I am grateful for you.  Blesings on your journey."

Once upon a time I wrestled with a little blonde boy in a high chair...But today I was with an interesting man sitting across from me. He is my son and I am proud of him.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Preacher that Won't Speak to the Members...

In 1985, we moved to Abilene so I could attend graduate school.   Jan did not have a job and I did not either.  The only certainty we had as we packed our few belongings into a rental truck was that I had an 80% scholarship for the master’s degree program that I had been accepted into at Abilene Christian University. We had enough money saved for a month’s rent and groceries.

 On a Monday morning in April of 1985, we drove into Anthony’s Fina and Wrecker Service to return the rental truck.  Wade Anthony was man that handled the contract. He was friendly and immediately engaged me in conversation.  His wife, Bea, normally handled the rental truck aspect of their business, and he ran the full service Fina station that catered to oil field customers.  His brother, Robert, ran a wrecker service out of the same location.  Wade and Bea’s son, Dub, was also an important part of the business.  As it turned out, Bea was at the dentist that day and they were busy.  During the course of our dialogue he discovered I had spent 4 years during my undergraduate studies working in an old fashioned full-service Texaco station in Lubbock.  He asked me:  “Do you think you could learn to rent these trucks?”  And then he asked: “Would you be willing to help my brother with the wrecker service as needed?”  I eagerly said yes.   I became a part of the Anthony family on a handshake that morning.  

I spent the majority of my time in a small building inside the fenced in yard where wrecked cars were stored.  I sent Penske Rental Trucks all over the nation from Abilene, Texas. Dyess Air Force Base moving personnel around kept us busy.  I was also the “night man” in the service station staying by myself for the last hour or two to clean up and wait on the final customers of the day.  And I occasionally helped Robert make wrecker calls. 

Every day at Anthony’s Fina and Wrecker Service we sat down to a family style meal at lunch.  Everyone brought their own brown bag, but there was always lots of sharing. Bea loved to discuss the abstract concepts I was learning in class over lunch.  But Robert and Wade kept my feet on the ground. Their minds were drawn to the concrete and not the abstract. They were more inclined to discuss the people aspects of church life that I seldom if ever heard in the classroom.

A conversation I had with Robert over one of those lunches has stayed with me for nearly 30 years. It seems that Robert’s preacher was not as friendly as Robert thought a preacher should be.  (The truth is that Robert’s preacher was an introvert.)   Robert told me: “He won’t speak to me in the hallway at church.”   There was really no excuse for this behavior, because Robert was usually there hours before anyone else preparing communion trays.   Robert proceeded to tell me: “When you get your own church you be sure to speak to the members.”  (By the way, that is a direct quote.)  I laughed so hard at the time.  Robert was a very plain spoken working kind of man.  

Robert was right.  Being friendly and cordial with everyone that comes to worship on a Sunday really is of utmost importance.  On the days I just don’t feel like “speaking to the members”, Robert’s words ring in my mind.  I do try really hard to be friendly, engaging, and open.  And I didn’t learn that in school. I learned that from a man who earned his living towing cars.  He was an honest man of integrity.

 I enjoyed working for a family that treated their customers with respect and dignity.   Earning a master’s degree in biblical studies prepared me well for ministry, but my time with the Anthony’s also prepared me to serve people.  And most of all I have really tried hard to “speak to the members.”

Robert passed away last Monday.  My mind has drifted back to our daily family style lunches the past few days.  I miss those conversations.   You never had to wonder what was on Wade or Robert’s mind. They taught me a lot about life and they treated me like a son.  I miss Robert.  I love all of the Anthony’s. They will always be family to me.