My dad used to tell everyone, “I was born an old man.” Of course he wasn’t born an old man, but he was born with the wisdom of an old man. People would come to him with their problems, and my dad would know just the right thing to say. Sometimes he would pray for them and get a word from God, or have a scripture to give them. Sometimes he would just have wise advice. He always seemed to know what to say that would change people’s lives.
Once my dad and I went to a couple’s home to give them marriage counseling. They were on the verge of divorce. Family members of the couple attended his church and wanted him to help the couple. I was home from Africa then, and Daddy asked me to go with him. We sat in their living room, and between bites of cookies and coffee, we listened to what they had to say. When they finished, my dad and I gave them some council and prayed for them. We both thought they would have us come back, as we thought little was settled at the time. But they never called. A couple of years later we found out that they were still together, and they were telling everyone how that evening when we visited them had changed their lives.
Thinking about the things we had told them, most of which seemed to me to be common knowledge, I discovered I understood things about marriage from a perspective many others don’t have. I grew up with a dad who adored my mom, who often would scoop her up in his arms and make her giggle. I never saw my parents fight, and no one ever spoke unkind words. Fighting and bad attitudes were never allowed in our home. I remember telling that couple about the importance of believing the best in each other, that in 1 Corinthians 13,we see that love always believes the best and isn’t looking for wrong. And that I have never complained about my husband to anyone, including my mom, that words, while they seem innocent, can be weapons that destroy a marriage. Daddy talked about forgiveness and the power of prayer. I didn’t realize that the things I thought were so elementary, and took for granted, were life-changing revelations to others.
Many people considered my dad to be their father. He fathered pastors, Bible school students, people in other ministries, his church family, and those who felt orphaned. He was the man they looked up to, and the one they respected, loved, and came to with their problems, and had friends everywhere. They were his collection. I too, find that I collect people in my life.
One thing that always impressed me was how quickly my dad forgave. He didn’t hold grudges, and stayed in relationships, as keeping those relationships was important to him, even if he was wronged. He guarded what he said and didn’t spend his time criticizing others. Once when he and I were on a trip to the Philippines, someone asked me a question about a mutual friend. I started complaining about the person because they had hurt me, and my dad looked at me with eyes that said. “That’s all we need to hear.” That was the end of the subject. I was a grown woman, but his look was all I needed to stop talking and put a watch on my mouth.
Grumbling and complaining were never allowed at home or in church. He even had a sign made that he put in the church’s entrance. “This is a no grouch zone. No murmuring, grumbling or complaining allowed. If you don’t like it here, go some place else.” To my knowledge, no one took offense, and no one left.
Some of my dad’s wisdom he put to poetry, others he put to songs, then there were some he wove into our conversations through the years. One of his earliest poems was called:
Any Ol Bush Will Do
God is looking for a bush to burn
On a mountain far away
Where another man like Moses
Waits to hear from Him today
Don’t think that you’re too old or small
Or with talents have too few
Baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire
Any Old Bush will do
The message of the burning bush,
Let’s turn aside to see
The teaching that it now has
For you and me
Be careful how you walk
On this Holy ground
Listen close, you’ll hear Him speak
And turn your life around
Burning with the love of God
Pour on the oil today
Blazing with the gospel
As you go along your way
No matter how the winds may blow,
Or skies be gray or blue
Baptized in the Holy Ghost and fire
Any Old Bush will do
Exodus 3:2-3 The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.”
I think he wrote this poem because he felt like an old bush. He hated school and barely made it through high school. And other than Bible school, he had no other formal education. He had a kind of aged-home-spun wisdom about him. To me he never seemed proud or arrogant, just an old bush desiring to burn brightly for the Lord.
When I first started preaching, his advice was practical. “Always finish speaking while the audience wants you to say more. Don’t keep talking until everyone wants you to shut up.”
“The mind can only take in what the seat can endure.”
“If a pastor invites you to preach in his pulpit, respect his timing. If he says finish at 12:15, you finish at 12:15, or he will never invite you back.”
When counseling people remember, “The reason for the fight is never the reason they say it is. Their first reason is never the reason.”
In a wedding, “There is the right way to do a wedding, and a wrong way to do a wedding, but the only way that matters is the Bride’s way.”
“Often people travel from conference to conference hoping to be conformed to the image of Christ but too often the only image they are conformed to, is the image of a folding chair.”
“Never cry about money.”
When pioneering a church, he often encouraged young pastors to guard against discouragement as people come and go. He likened it to the scaffolding that builders used to build a building. He explained God uses lots of people to build a church fellowship, and that sometimes the first people who help you build eventually go some place else. It isn’t a reflection on the pastor or the church, it’s just the way it is.
Once, in the Philippines he was traveling by ferry boat with Pastor Jun, the Bishop of Palawan, and got caught in a typhoon. They were stranded at sea for four days. Every day the wind and rain churned in the sea. The ferry that held a few hundred people was battered by the waves, and people were afraid. There were only snacks available in the cafe, as it was a day ferry. Soon the food ran out, and it was a troublesome time for everyone on the boat. During the day, my dad would play his guitar and sing to the children, and at night he would lie down and go fast asleep. People asked him, “How can you sleep in this storm?”
His answer? “I will either wake up here or in Heaven. I might as well get a good night’s sleep.”
He would tell pastors not to worry about the cycles of a church. “Sometimes there are many people but sometimes there isn’t. Serve God the best you can and let God build his church.”
“On a farm, a man may have both a horse and oxen. They sleep in the same barn, eat from their master’s hand. But they can not be yoked together, because if they are, they will tear each other apart. Neither is more right or wrong than the other. They both can be very effective, but they can’t work together. It’s the same in God’s church. Some people just can’t work together. They tear each other apart.”
“Never pick a fight with a porcupine.” No explanation was nessary!
He never took up an offering in his church. Money wasn’t an issue for him. There was always an offering box on the way out, but he often forgot to even mention it was there. He had a fresh approach than many when he spoke about giving, “I have heard many TV preachers beg for money and tell their viewers that they will go under if the viewers don’t give. Well, you are not our source. God is our source. We will still be here next week, next month, and for the next many years. Not because you gave, but because God brought us here. Your giving doesn’t affect whether this church lives or dies. If you don’t give, God will use someone else to pay the bills. But your giving, has a direct impact on how you live. If you give, God will bless you. If you don’t, you will not be living under the blessings of God.”
My dad believed in falling in love. When he found my mom, I think it was love at first sight. He married her a few short weeks after they met. When I introduced him to Fred, he was sure I had found my perfect match and encouraged our relationship. I was nineteen and Fred was eighteen, when he asked my dad if we could get married. Daddy tried to make Fred nervous, but he was all for our marriage. He loved Fred from day one, and never asked what Fred’s plans for our life were, if he had a job, or where we would live. He only asked one question, “Do you love her?” That was the only thing important to him. When our son found the girl, he wanted for a wife, he called and asked his grandfather what he thought. The marriage wisdom that he gave his grandson? “Marry her quick before she gets away.” He loved romance.
More than anything, Daddy was a witness for Jesus. He lived to tell others about what God had done for him. His greatest advice he summed up in this poem
Anytime You’re Not Fishing
My brother and I went fishing
Was a real nice day last May
We were trolling the reservoir when a big one hit
It was one of those big ones that got away.
We stopped for a coffee, my brother leaned back
And in his matter of fact way,
He said, Charley you know,
Anytime we’re not fishing
We’re just a frittering our life away!
Well it got me to thinking about all the things we do
To help fill out our day,
Like working hard holding down two jobs
So all the bills we can pay.
Caring for the kids, and helping the wife,
And even letting her mama come home to stay.
And you know I think brother is right.
Anytime you’re not fishing,
You’re just frittering you’re life away.
You can go to college, become a lawyer
And join the N.R.A., Run for office, be a politician
So we all can get better pay.
Help the Guild and Ladies Aid
Even attend the P.T.A..
But any time you’re not fishing
You’re frittering your life away.
Now don’t look at me so Holy, Hear me out!
But what is that you say?
How about going to church, paying tithes
And spending some time in prayer each day?
Or listing to Oral, Pat and Benny,
And sending them an offering, their expenses to defray
Well hold on a minute, I still declare to you,
Anytime you’re not fishing
You’re frittering your life away.
You see Jesus got into Peter’s boat
Luke’s gospel tells it, sort-a this a-way,
The crowd was so big, out from the shore
He had to be pushed away.
And when He got done teaching all those people
The disciples sort-a heard Him say.
“Boys let down your net for a great big catch”,
Because, Anytime you’re not fishing
You’re frittering your life away.
Now you can give yourself to doctrine
Studying all the latest theology of the day,
Worry and fret over the music
Making sure we worship in just the right way.
But I say get yourself an ol fishers net,
And work while its still day, because,
Anytime you’re not fishing,
You’re just a frittering your life away.
Jesus said, “Come unto me all you that are weary
On me your burdens you can lay”.
Don’t be so worried about all the problems in the church
How it’s in such great disarray,
Enter into His rest, be a good witness
And take it from an old reformed type A.
Anytime, you spend, not fishing
You’re just frittering your life away