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father

Vignette: Prayers in a Parking Lot

On the second day of our retirement ride, Rich and I had a very unique experience.  We were some where in Tennessee having left Marietta, GA on the Tuesday morning and we were headed toward Paducah, KY.  Our norm each day was to ride for about one hundred and twenty miles, then take a rest stop and gas up if necessary.  On that Tuesday morning we had taken a break at a rest stop somewhere in Tennessee.  I had headed into the building to use the facilities while Rich took a stretch.

I was inside for a while because a bus had made a pit stop just minutes before we had arrived and there was quite a line for the ladies room.  When I came out Rich was standing beside the bike deep in conversation with an older gentleman.  I hung back a little giving them room for their discussion.  Then Rich looked around and saw me there, motioned me forward and introduced me.  I very much regret that I do not remember the gentleman’s name, but I can tell you some things about him.

I learned he was a retired Navy man, a Veteran from World War II.  He, too, had owned a bike back in the day and had met and married his wife shortly after joining the service.  He said that they really enjoyed riding together back then.  His wife came out of the building at this point and joined us and we learned that they were from Knoxville, TN.  They were very committed to their church back in Knoxville and they told us they were in fact on a day trip with fellow church-goers.  We asked where they were going and the gentleman, with a chuckle, said that they didn’t know.  They were on a “mystery trip” and had no idea what their destination was!

At this point, reaching out his hand, Rich thanked him for his service to country and said we needed to get going as we had quite a few miles to cover that day. The gentleman grasped Rich’s hand and thanked him in return for his service to country too.  Then, to our great surprise, he extended his left hand toward my right hand and asked permission to pray over us. With joy in my heart I reached out to take his hand and he connected with his wife on his other side, and she in turn clasped hands with Rich.

And right there, the middle of a rest stop parking lot somewhere in Tennessee we were blessed to receive prayers of gratitude and prayers for protection from two strangers. He asked the good Lord, our Father, to watch over us, to keep us safe from all harm.  He asked for blessings upon us as we continued our trip and prayed that we would have a wonderful and enjoyable ride.  With full hearts we said our goodbyes, mounted the bike, and rode off leaving our parking lot friends to enjoy their mystery tour.

Although I do not remember their names, I can picture them in my minds eye.  I can see the four of us standing beside the bike, the big tour bus in the background, holding hands and praying together. It was beautiful and was most definitely a highlight of the ride for me. That memory will be with me in years to come, and I hope that Rich and I will be able to do the same for someone else one day as we ride our Harley around God’s creation.         

Musings: Your Father

One of my morning readings yesterday carried that title: Your Father.  And although it was referring to God as Father, it made me instinctively think of my own father.  His name was Alfred, but everyone called him Alf.  He died 9 June 1997.

I know that unfortunately there are many people who do not have a good relationship with their father.  The sad statistics on child abuse the world over reflect this situation.  And I have read that these statistics do not give a true picture of the enormity of this problem because much child abuse goes undetected or unreported.

I was very blessed.  I had a very good father but I did not have a very good relationship with him.  We didn’t argue or fight and he certainly never abused me.  He wasn’t strict or stern.  He was just a very quiet person who didn’t have a big personality, and he wasn’t big on showing his emotions – good or bad.  (He died without ever having said “I love you” to me.) I used to describe him as nondescript, the kind of person who faded into the furniture.

He was also a product of his times and of his family background.  I do remember that his mother, my grandmother, always had a twinkle in her eye.  My grandfather, however, was the absolute opposite.  I do not remember him with a smile on his face.  When we visited them at their house, he was always seated at a table in the very small, very narrow, very dark kitchenette/dining room, staring morosely out the window and drinking a Guinness.  They lived in a very small rather bleak apartment and did not have much money.  There was not much joy present. 

As I made changes to my lifestyle and began to mature (at the grand old age of thirty five!) I began to review the perceptions I had of my father.  I realized that I had played a part in the non-relationship that we had.  I am guessing that my father did not live up to whatever grandiose expectations that I may have laid on him, and therefore I probably, for the most part, dismissed him. 

I need and want to rectify on paper right here and now any mistaken perceptions I may have perpetuated.  My father was a totally good man.  He worked hard, at two jobs, to provide for all of us.  Actually, when I think about it, he worked at four jobs.  He had his fulltime job in a civic agency and he also worked a part time job as a supervisor of ticket sales at a dog track.  Then at home he also ran a small shoe repair business for friends and family, and when he wasn’t busy at any of those jobs, he created, planted and maintained an incredible garden, providing us with at least 50% of all our fresh vegetables, salad, and fruit.  (This was how he said his “I love you’s.”)

As you may imagine, my father was not a “Johnny-go-lightly”.  He just didn’t have the time or energy.  The only time he left the house was to go to one job or another.  He did not go out “with the boys” and he didn’t even go out, as in “on dates”, with my mother. (Even if they had had the money, which they didn’t, they didn’t have the time or the energy.)  He was always at home when he wasn’t working.  He was always available if we needed him.

I had very few possibilities to make up for lost time in my relationship with Dad.  Once I came to my senses I lived for many years overseas so did not get much opportunity to rebuild a close relationship with him during my visits home.  And, sad to say, by the age of sixty five/seventy he had lost most desire to be a happy person and was rather difficult to be around.

Because of this I am so grateful to have a deeply intimate and personal relationship with that “other Father”.  It did not come easily to me because I carried old ideas from childhood education of a stern and vengeful God. I thought He was a God who would point His finger at me and who kept a running tally of my sins. 

I have been blessed a thousand fold since then to have been given teachers along my path who have helped me to find a Father who loves me passionately.  In the Old Testament God is called Father only six times, but in the New Testament, through the words of Jesus, He is called Father over sixty times.  Jesus himself brought the Father very close to us.

I was also encouraged by my teachers and spiritual mentors to create a personal picture of this person I called Father.  If any of you have read the classic story of Heidi you will have a clear idea of how I see my Father.  He is the big, Yogi-bear-like Grandfather who takes care of Heidi.  I know I can climb up into His lap and pour my heart out to Him, leaning my head on his shoulder and feeling His protective arms around me.

One of the writers whom I have quoted in previous postings has written a beautiful poem about the Father.  Written by Ruth Harms Calkin it is titled I Have A Father .  I will quote just the last verse here:

But the great triumphant truth is –
I have a Father.
My Father protects and upholds me.
He strengthens and supports me.
Nothing can happen to me
Outside my Father’s will.
My Father is greater by far
Than he who is in the world.
Once and for all it was settled
On a rugged cross
On a lonely hill:
I have a Father.

If you are struggling with father issues I encourage you to seek help to resolve them.  You deserve that as a worthy human being.  And in the meantime I urge you, from the depths of my heart, to seek a relationship with the one true Father that nobody can take away from you and who loves you dearly.   

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