Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Tribute to my Father

In a leadership class that I took under Pastor Mark a few years ago, we were given a homework assignment to write an essay. The topic was to about a person that we admired for demonstrating true leadership.

What you are about to read is that essay. I can think of no greater tribute to my Father than sharing this story from my heart on this Father's Day.

The Model of Leadership

For the past 50 years, I have had the privilege of knowing and learning from a truly great leader. He may not be known far and wide by millions of people, but he is a significant impact within his circle of influence. My father has always modeled responsible leadership in our home, in his workplace, and in the church where I grew up and where my parents are still active to this day.

I personally know no one else who has walked so consistently with Christ during my lifetime. He has been a man of integrity, honor, and discipline as long as I can remember. He has always given his all in everything he has been involved in.

During his 40+ year career at Modern Welding Company, he rose from janitor to Plant Superintendent. He was such an integral asset to the business that the company pleaded to hire him post-retirement on a contractual basis at an exorbitant rate of pay. My father might not be the most greatest mind to ever live, but it seems that he possesses a little thing called work ethic that is very rare and highly sought after. Daddy has always accepted any responsibility he was given and taken it very seriously. Looking back, I see now that he always did his job “as unto the Lord”. He gives nothing less than his very best. I am glad that I chose to adopt his work ethic as my own.

He is the very model of consistent Christianity in my life. My dad never changes. Not his values, not his morals, not his faith. He is respected, though sometimes not liked, because of his high standards. But even those that might not like him know that he can be depended on when others cannot. He is humble and always puts others ahead of his own personal desires and needs.

He loves to laugh and have a good time. As a kid, when we went to Disney World, my dad would embarrass my brother and me by skipping --- yes, I said skipping --- down Main Street after the parade. He always has a silly joke to break up a tense moment and has the ability to make a total stranger feel like they are conversing with an old friend. My dad has a distinctive, boisterous laugh; and he laughs often because he is unable to contain the joyful spirit within him.

He loves God’s Word. Every evening he read his Bible and meditates on the Word. When I was a kid, every Saturday afternoon he would set up all of his reference books and materials at the dining room table and finalize preparation for the Sunday School lesson that he would teach the next day. He studied and prayed most of the afternoon, then again after dinner and well into the night. He still does this to this very day.

He loves to sing to the Lord. He has always enjoyed leading the music service, directing the choir, singing with our family, or solo. He used to have my mother or me play the piano at home, just so he could sing along. Even when he was piddling around the house, he was singing or whistling a hymn of praise.

The most poignant memories I have of growing up are when my father cried. As a child, I didn’t understand. As a teenager, I was embarrassed that my father would show such “weakness”. As a young lady, I began to understand that his tears were heart-tears --- of either joy, conviction, or gratitude -- because of his wonder, awe and love for the Lord Who had reached down and saved his wretched soul.

I have always known what my dad stands for. Before asking, I knew what his answer would be because I knew that his standards didn’t waver. I thought he was excessively strict when I was a teenager. Now I know better. He knew that allowing me to push through the boundaries he had set was not in my best interest. Now I fully appreciate all that he endured while raising my brother and me. And more than appreciative, I am truly grateful to him.

He models service to the Kingdom of Christ. As music director and deacon for as long as I can remember, he is the one who the congregation always looks to for leadership. As pastors came and went, as they seem to do in a denominational church, my father was the one that the congregation looked to as they began a search for a new pastor. He has been with the same congregation through church splits, financial crises, building programs that spanned multiple pastorates, even nearly losing the new church facility due to lack of tithes and offerings to pay the mortgage. He has leaned on the Lord during all these circumstances. He has always believed that it is the Lord’s Church and He will cover and protect it. Even though he never wanted the responsibility or the infamy that accompanies his title-less position, he has always stepped up the plate to do what no one else would do. He has been the de facto administrator through at least nine pastorates in the past 50 years. He does it all … all the grunt work, all the untidy, tedious stuff, the business of carrying on a local church ministry between and under pastors. He is the one person that has always been there. He has never left the church and come back. He has never shrugged off responsibility. He has never said that he would not do something that needed to be done. My mother worries that he has become the congregation’s doormat. But I know that he’s doing it for The One Who is Worthy of his sacrifice and the Bride of Christ … not for the accolades of the congregation.

I remember a particularly dark time in my father’s life a few years ago when his mother died. She had been in a nursing home for years in Louisiana. Twice every year, my parents made the trek to visit Grandma. Since Grandma was confined to a wheelchair, my dad built a wheelchair ramp at the back of one of my aunt’s home so that he could retrieve Grandma from the nursing home and visit with her at “home” rather than in the impersonal nursing home. Family gatherings resumed at Aunt Helen’s when my dad visited, because he’d go get Grandma from the nursing home on a three-day pass. Each morning, he took her out for a walk. One morning, however, as he guided the wheelchair down the ramp, he slipped and fell. The wheelchair careened out of control and Grandma ended up on the ground with a broken neck. After surgery and a hospital stay of a few weeks, it didn’t take long for pneumonia to claim her life. I’ll never forget the profound grief in my dad’s voice the day he called to say that she had died. One of his sisters did not even want him to come to the funeral. She was very hateful and spiteful, laying the blame of Grandma’s death at Daddy’s feet. But he did not respond to her. He suffered intense grief and guilt in silence. At the funeral, a family that should have grieved together and comforted each other was divided and angry. I was outraged that my Aunt would heap blame and guilt on my father for this tragic accident. After all, he was doing for his mother what his siblings would not do … give her a glimpse of something outside the walls of that nursing home, sharing times with her at home again in her waning years. I was so angry that I grew to hate my aunt. Every time we discussed this, my dad would tell me that I must forgive her and pray for her, because she didn’t mean it. He had forgiven her immediately. I was not walking with the Lord at that time (obviously), and I could not for the life of me understand where he was coming from. His ability to forgive his accuser completely in the face of his innocence was so Christ-like … and I wouldn’t see it for my own anger. Now, I see that he was demonstrating Christ’s love and forgiveness on the cross – “forgive them, Father, they don’t know what they are doing.” My dad has always forgiven like that. This extreme demonstration of his unconditional love and forgiveness is forever seared into my memory and my heart.

No matter how far I’ve strayed from the Lord, no matter how I’ve embarrassed and grieved my dad by willfully living in the pit of sin during an awful period in my life, he has always love me and prayed for me. He has always been ready and willing to talk to me, to guide me, admonishing me with a gentle spirit to do what is right.

The servanthood, the love and laughter, the commitment, the songs of worship, the love of The Word, the unerring Godly standards, the unselfish forgiveness, the discipline, the unwavering faith in God, the consistency with which he walks through this life with Christ. Those attributes are the mark of a spiritual giant – a true leader. I want to be like Leon Jesse Jones when I grow up.


  1. What a wonderful tribute you have paid to your dad...and how proud he must be of you now. Thanks for sharing all that from your heart. It is beautiful.

  2. Came over from your comment on Lysa's blog and glad I did. What a great tribute to your dad and what a reminder of the life we all should live! Blessings, Jill