Saturday, March 31, 2012

Memories of My Father 7

Memories 1
Memories 2
Memories 3
Memories 4
Memories 5
Memories 6

Now Memories 7

My father's first funeral in Lakeland went very well. I'm very thankful to God that everything worked out so well. The District Superintendent of Florida said a few words, as did Jim Wiggins from SWU, as did the President of the 563 Ordinance Company. My brother-in-law Dennis gave a good sermon with a moment to renew/begin a walk with God. My Dad's favorite singer in the Lakeland church sang.

There were about 150 people there, I believe. The fact that there is a final funeral in Indianapolis on Monday helped it not feel like the final goodbye.

Today I want to reflect a little on my father as a churchman. I missed the Wednesday evening church service in Lakeland. The thought went through my head several times that my Dad would have gone, even under these circumstances. He was incredibly faithful and felt horribly guilty if he didn't do whatever he thought his duty was.

The last time I was with him in person was at the Schenck reunion last summer before we went to Germany. He had planned to go up to Frankfort Camp Meeting from the reunion to hear his nephew Tom give his testimony. Instead he stayed longer to be with my family and others, but I know he felt a little guilty for staying. He gave us the Schenck wave outside as we left to go to the airport to go to Angie's family reunion.

Duty was a major element in my Dad's life. He always did what he believed was the right thing to do. There was no selfishness. Certainly when it came down to a choice, he would do what he thought was right no matter what his preference. He was the embodiment of what "entire sanctification" looks like, in my opinion.

It would be hard to find someone more faithful or loyal. You might disagree with him on some issue, and I'm sure many on the countless boards he served did.  I'm sure I would too today on many things. But there was no animosity. There were no enemies. If his side of a decision lost he abided by it.

My guess is that he was a bit of the letter of the law when it came to things like the Wesleyan Discipline. I grew up with that sense of reverence for the rules of my church and at one point no doubt considered them the best codification of the Bible around. Eventually I would realize that these documents were written and voted on by people like me--and usually people with a lot less training than me. I came to read it as a document produced in a historical context. I came to realize how small my denomination is in the vast scheme of things. The Discipline will always be a work in progress.

But my Dad certainly didn't look at it that way. The Discipline contained all the traditions he had grown up with as the Christian faith. My Dad was a delegate to every General Conference of the Wesleyan Church since it was formed except the last one. Most families go on vacations to the beach or some exotic spot. My Dad used all of his vacation time for Frankfort Camp Meeting, District Conferences, and General Conference every four years.

I enjoyed those trips, though. We went to places like Wichita, Kansas. On that trip we were able to take a side trip, I believe to South Dakota to see my sisters Juanita and Sharon, who were working at Brainerd Indian School. My sister Juanita would go on to be a missionary to the Philippines and would eventually marry Saturnino Garcia's son. We went on a trip there, probably my Mom's first real trip out of the country.

I spent a lot of time in the car with my parents over the years. There were the yearly trips to Frankfort Camp in Indiana from Florida. There were trips to Brooksville Camp in winter, District Conference in the summer, sometimes Hobe Sound camp. If I remember a lot of things in these posts, it's in part because of all those trips.

I think my father must have been on the church board of every church he ever attended in his adult life--Northside in Indy, Ft. Lauderdale First, Faith Wesleyan in Lakeland. He went to a board meeting in Lakeland the night before he died.

He was on the board at Frankfort Pilgrim College when it closed (he voted against closing). When it then folded into United Wesleyan College, he was on that board (not when it closed ;-). He was then on the board of Southern Wesleyan College, and I wonder if I would have ended up going there if he hadn't.

He loved those trips and those meetings at SWU. Even when he was emeritus, he felt horribly guilty if he couldn't attend the meetings. I would tell him that it was now entirely a matter of his pleasure, not his duty.

My Dad read his Bible faithfully to a fault. He read Our Daily Bread every morning. I was surprised to see that he was working through Bonhoeffer's God is in the Manger when he passed--not his usual fare.  He tithed beyond faithfulness.

He was incredibly faithful to pray. Every night we would kneel beside the bed or in the living room and pray for everyone in the family. The night before he died he was too weak to name everyone. But he still knelt and got out, "Lord, help all the children." He was very concerned these last days for a family member in a dangerous mission area. I guess after their prayer was done, he later prayed for him in bed.

My Dad's faith was simple. Faith for him was about living a certain way. Because of where he came from, I wouldn't expect it to be much different. He did the things he believed God wanted him to do and he did them with complete commitment.

As I studied and began to see following Christ more in terms of attitudes and principles, he once asked me with some concern, "What is it that you don't do?" Of course we weren't talking about murder or adultery. We were talking about the many duties of the American revivalist tradition.

But my Dad had the right attitudes and he had the right principles. He may have approached them as dos and don'ts, but he lived them with the right heart. While the Christianity of others in my tradition became an empty shell of legalistic religion, my Dad lived the rules out with a love for his neighbor.

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