Posts tagged “gratitude”

God's Faithful, Funny Servant

April 17, 2021   7:30 pm

My father passed away in late January of this year, and I had the honor of delevering the eulogy at his funeral service. Over the past few months, I’ve tried to write different tributes to him, but I did not like any of those attempts more than what I said about him that day.

I love you, Dad, and I miss you very much.

Allen Jackson Summers – born Valentine’s Day 1944, passed 3 days before his 52nd anniversary, faithful husband, and, quite possibly his most notable achievement, fathered the best two kids ever to walk the earth! No, I’m not here to present an exaggerated, self-serving obituary; I’m here to honor the man I’ve called Dad for 47 years. In the day-to-day busyness of life, we often don’t take the time to think through and identify just what exactly makes our loved ones so special. When I started thinking, though, it was very easy, and two big things came to mind.

The second was his humor; he has been funny for as long as I can remember. Growing up, we had joke books that we could read – and we did, then borrowed more from the library when we finished those. Every Sunday after church, we’d stop by White Star Market and get the Sunday paper. When we got it home, Mom got the coupons, but Dad got the funnies. His prowess with puns was near-legendary. It didn’t matter if he got a laugh or a groan; any noise he could coax from you would signify a well-executed pun. He knew the short ones (“How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh? Ten tickles.”), but he would also tell elaborate stories, just for the punny punchline at the end. I’ll recount one of his that I remember, and you can honor him with whatever sound it inspires in you.

A piano player asked his piano player friend if he had any recommendations for someone to tune his piano. “Of course,” he replied, “Opperknockity is who I use.”

“What kind of name is that?” asks the guy.

“It’s odd, but he does great work,” was the reply.

So, the player calls Opperknockity, who comes and tunes the piano. He leaves his card, and says to call him again once the piano starts to lose its tune. Well, 6 months in, the piano still sounds great. A year in, still perfectly tuned.

A few months after that, he sees his friend again, and tells him he can’t believe his piano is still in tune! His friend said, “Don’t you what they say? Opperknockity only tunes once!”

I mentioned that his humor was the second thing I thought about; the first was what I would describe as his quiet faithfulness. Despite his joke-telling, he was rarely the one in the center of attention. He worked 3rd shift at a few different jobs, and he did very well with very little supervision. Every year, he worked as the registrar for Neighborhood Bible Time, staying late after each night’s activities to ensure that the boosters were recognized for the work they were doing, keeping them motivated to memorize Scripture. I know he fell right back into that when he moved back to Seymour; I don’t know who did it while he was gone, but they didn’t seem to mind giving that job back to him!

Growing up, I remember that even though he worked 3rd shift, he would go to the Rescue Mission’s Thursday dinner and Bible study. He would go even when he wasn’t actually presenting that day, just to be there to talk with those who came. He served in the bus ministry. He sang in the choir. In our home, we always had daily family devotions, and I can’t remember ever noticing him missing his own personal devotional time.

I could probably fill lots of time talking about the many things he did - things very few people may have seen - but these things made a vital impact for the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” I can stand here today and say that he lived that verse out in many, many ways; and, while my ministry opportunities have often led to serving more publicly, I pray that I have followed his footsteps.

In 1 John 2:6, John writes “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” Dad modeled this in his life, and pointed many people to Christ through his example – including both his children. One of his favorite hymns was “He Hideth My Soul,” with the chorus taken from Psalm 63 and John 10. (We sang the first and last verses of this song of praise.)

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

When clothed with His brightness transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love,
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

– “He Hideth My Soul” by Fanny J. Crosby (public domain)

Thank You, Dave

January 1, 2020   5:30 pm

“Dave” is David Alton Herrington, my father-in-law of right at 24 years (counting engagement time as well). He passed away Monday evening after a multi-year battle with cancer. I’m sad, to be sure, but when I think back to who he was and the time we had together, behind the sadness is a large pool of gratitude. The remainder of this is addressed to him, but public so that others know the positive impacts he had on my life. (I’m also grateful that I did not wait to share this with him; though the words aren’t verbatim, nothing here would be new to him.)

A picture of Joy, Dave, and Michelle as they look out across a lake at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina, with the mountains of the park in the distance

First, thank you for your daughter. Listing the ways she improved my life would likely fall short; from changing my outlook on my own talents, abilities, and worth, to the gift of your three grandsons, to unconditional love, to challenges when I needed it - I am the man I am today, in large part, because of her. A girl does not become a woman of her character in a vacuum; your guidance is a large part of who she is today, and I am forever grateful for that. Besides, without her, I likely would not have even known you - and my life would have been lesser because of that.

Next, thank you for welcoming me as your son. That same guidance that helped Michelle also helped me. From clean laundry back before Michelle and I were even married, to a place to stay when we visited, to places to stay even when we weren’t with you, to trips with you, you spared no resources to make sure that my family had a place to stay and a means to get where we were going. You advised me on investments, and not taking your advice is one of my regrets - you were right on that! You also respected who I was as a man - you didn’t try to change me into you; that meant a lot.

Thank you, also, for being strong. Whether it was in business, advising me about safety issues when we both worked in the field - or whether it was in the face of a body that had decided to turn against you - you showed true tenacity in every circumstance. As my body decides it doesn’t want to do everything it has done in the past, I look to your example to keep pushing it to do what it can. Thank you for applying both strength and resources to enriching the lives of my sons; each one of them can tell me fun times with “Papa and Gran” where they made memories that will be with them the rest of their lives.

Finally, thank you for holding on through this past Christmas season. I know that it wasn’t really in your control per se, but I will always be grateful that we had the opportunity to spend your final Christmas together, celebrating and making memories that all of us will long treasure.

Rest in peace, Dave - and thank you.

In Defense of "Happy Memorial Day"

May 27, 2019   11:26 am

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day where we remember those who gave their lives in defense of our nation. The goal of this day, from its inception, is to remember and honor those who earned the freedom we continue to enjoy. I’ve written about it before, but it’s been 12 years.

Thankfully, our current cultural zeitgeist recognizes and honors military service, possibly to a bit of excess, as a reaction to the anti-military sentiment prevalent throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Invariably, whenever I am out and about in a civilian establishment (grocery store, restaurant, etc.) and in uniform, I will be thanked for my service. I used to feel self-conscious about that, as I’ve spent very little time in a combat zone; however, I realized that every job is significant, and I’m still on call, so I began to simply reply “You’re welcome; happy to do it.” In this spirit, many people make a special effort to say “thank you for your service” on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, as well as other military-related holidays, such as Armed Forces Day (which is actually the day set aside for that, the third Saturday of May), V-J Day, Pearl Harbor Day, and the like.

However - Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who gave their lives in defense of our nation, not just those who have worn or currently wear the uniform. Within the military, honor of these individuals is high; many of our military installations, and the roads within them, are named in honor of these brave warriors who gave their lives on the battlefield, or those who were killed in the line of duty at home. (It happens more frequently than many realize.) And, the last thing those of us who “fly a desk” want to do is, in any way, siphon off honor for those who gave their all for this land.

The past several years, though, have gotten more contentious around these holidays. People are correcting, and sometimes near-berating, those who dare to thank currently military members on Memorial Day. Possibly, some of these people’s hearts are in the right place; I’m not critiquing motivation, just technique. I find this to be the worst possible way of honoring military sacrifice. I also see that the majority of people who do this have never once served a day in any branch of the armed forces. Y’all - stop it. If we’re strong enough, courageous enough, and dedicated enough to defend our nation, you can trust us to defend the honor of our fallen comrades.

Into that mix, enter those who, in the spirit of togetherness and camaraderie, like to wish everyone a “Happy [insert holiday here]”. If we thought “thank you for your service” set these defenders off, “Happy Memorial Day” sends them into orbit. However, if we stop to think about how those whom we honor on this day would want us to go about our day today, I don’t think scolding people on the Internet would be an activity. An acquaintance on Facebook posted this in reply to someone who had been on the receiving end of such scolding, and it is more poignant and eloquent than I could express. (shared with permission, names changed)

Many years ago, I was at a Memorial Day cookout at a friend’s beach house. There were probably 50 of us there, grilling ribs and burgers, eating oysters, drinking beer and wine coolers, and just enjoying being together. We’d played volleyball, gotten sunburned, gone swimming, and done all the things you would normally do at the beach with a big group of friends.

A girl I didn’t know, wearing a t-shirt with a big, yellow ribbon on it, got there around sunset and said, “Hi! Happy Memorial Day!” She then turned to a group of about 10 guys who were obviously active duty and said, “Happy Memorial Day! Thank you for your service!” It clearly bothered another guy who was there, (who I later found out had no military affiliation whatsoever, himself OR family members), because he proceeded to loudly lecture her about how “Memorial Day is NOT a day to be HAPPY and it’s NOT the day to thank the servicemen who are ALIVE; it’s for the dead ones, and shouldn’t be a big party…” Needless to say, when he was finished, you could’ve heard a pin drop.

Then one of the active duty guys, a young Marine officer, said, “Sir. You’re wrong. It IS a day to be happy. It IS a day to thank those who are willing to go tomorrow or even today and lay their lives down for the rest of us. They might be one of ‘the dead ones’ when next year’s Memorial Day rolls 'round. And, every serviceman I know who lost his life fighting for this country loved a good party, no matter how bad the situation outside the gate was. I leave on Thursday to go back to Kuwait for my second tour, and if I don’t come home this time, do NOT make my life and my decision to risk it have been in vain by telling people that they can not have fun, be happy, and celebrate in my honor. I only want ONE funeral if I don’t come back. I don’t want a funeral every single year on Memorial Day. Instead, drink a beer and say, ‘Bob, this one is for you,’ then turn and thank a LIVING, young serviceman for picking up where I left off and being willing to die for you, simply because he loves his country. Then, be happy and celebrate the freedoms that you have. THAT, my friends, is what Memorial Day is SUPPOSED to be.”

Less than a year later, I went to his funeral and then to a memorial service so well-attended that it had to be held outside on the beach. And, every Memorial Day since, I raise my glass (whether it’s a beer, a wine cooler, a Mt. Dew, or a lemonade) and say, “This one’s for you, Bob.” And, then I thank a young member of our military for picking up where Pat left off, and I DO wish everyone a happy Memorial Day. Not because I don’t have respect for those who gave their lives and not because I don’t understand the meaning of Memorial Day, but exactly the opposite. Thank you to all who serve and selflessly risk everything for the rest of us!

Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have given their lives for our nation. As they come into our memory (literally the origin of the first word of the holiday), we should honor them. This should inspire a few emotions (none of which are sour-faced scolding):

So, all that being said - Happy Memorial Day to you.

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

November 25, 2010   11:45 am

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a Happy Thanksgiving! While I’m sure there will be more about the true meaning of the next major holiday, let’s not forget the original meaning of today - praise to God for His providence, and for friendships formed by people of differing national origins. I have seen suggestions of other things to ponder today, and those aren’t necessarily bad. But, in all of this, let’s keep the intent of the holiday. We have been blessed (in some cases, beyond what is even believable!), but these blessings aren’t about us; they are about the grace of the God Who has chosen to bless us. Were it not for His hand on our lives, everything else we do would be absolutely meaningless.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
- James 1:17 (ESV)

Also, remember that the first Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated as a family holiday - it was a celebration among people who had recently met each other. Gratitude and thankfulness are expressions that are common among all races, nationalities, and political persuasions. While it’s probably too late for this year, think about this in years to come when you’re planning your Thanksgiving guest list. Why not use it as a time to get to know new friends better?

Have a great Thanksgiving Day!