1 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
As many of you know this last month Bert Johnson, my dad, died. I wanted to share a few thoughts about my dad and his place in my life and faith.
The scripture from Psalm 1 begins the story of my dad, a man who lived his faith. In a way I would like to show you a few slides of my dad’s life, (we have boxes of family slides.)
The first slide is one of him surrounded by his 5 boys. My dad loved to build life-long memories and connections in his family. He had a close family even though his dad died when he was just 12 years old. He wanted to make that closeness happen for us as we grew up. Mom and Dad made a home for their five boys and it was open to anyone and everyone.
And in making that home, Dad was up for most anything. Whether it was flooding the back yard for an ice rink, building the best tree house in the neighborhood or letting us build a snow slide off the garage roof (even though after a couple seasons we had to reroof it.) Some of our best times were traveling the country pulling our pop-up tent camper. Dad loved to spend time with us. Nothing was too far out of the box for Dad.
The second slide has Dad fixing and restoring a Model A Truck with his boys in tow. Dad loved creating and restoring, it was his engineering/tinkering side. I was probably most influenced by this because I still spend so much time tinkering and creating. Why buy something if you can make it or fix it. Dad taught us to problem solve but that didn’t mean I always learned well.
Sue laughs with me when we remember the time I took apart her good electric typewriter to fix a problem and I couldn’t figure out how to put all those pieces back together again. We had to throw it out.
All of his fixing projects; cars, lawn mowers, outboard motors, were his tools for building Godly character into our lives. I don’t think I fully understood that until I raised my own three girls.
But fixing things were only a small part of his interests. People were his first love. He would never give up on anyone or any relationship. In his mind all could be made whole by God’s healing power. That is probably why I have a hard time giving up on a person or relationship.
The final slide is of Dad and his family worshipping at church. Faith in Christ was the most important part of my father’s life. He loved the Lord, and was committed to help people find Jesus. Whether it was men who worked for him at Honeywell or neighbors who lived down the street, he cared and loved so they might see the love of Jesus. Whether it was helping plant a church or being a surrogate father for more than a few extra boys, it was important for dad to live it. I saw this faith lived out most when life in the church was at it’s worst.
In the late 1980’s when Dad was church chairman it was found out that our pastor had been sexually abusing youth for years. And if that wasn’t enough he found out two of his own sons were abused by the man he called his pastor, confidant and friend. No one would have blamed him if he would have left the church and become completely disillusioned in his faith, but he didn’t. He continued to keep the vision of Christ and the church front and center. He knew that the ministry of Christ was bigger than any man’s sin. Was it easy? No, there were many years of pain. In his last 20 years, because of the abuse, his immediate family would not be together at a family gathering until the day of his funeral. In all the struggle he redirected his pain to reach out to many of the abused kids, to help them cope with their pain and try to bring healing.
It’s one thing to live your faith when everything is smooth sailing, it’s quite another in the midst of great pain. Dad lived a deep faith and that has been an inspiration to me.
So a quick reverse on the slides. Dad was a family builder, a creator/restorer and a man of faith. As a young man, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to have my dad. We didn’t always see eye to eye. But as a father and grandfather myself, I want to continue in his foot steps. In fact I would encourage all of us to assess the legacy of faith we would like to leave to our family and community. It’s never too late to let Christ recreate your life and begin again. Even Dad let Christ restore his broken heart. So be blessed as a person who delights in the law, who brings fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. My father would celebrate with you and be so proud.
Keith, my younger brother, shared from his heart at Dad’s funeral and summed up his impact on us; he shared,
“Something I have seen quite often in my ministry both in Montana and in Africa are the scars left behind by fathers. Sons who never heard their father say, “I love you.” Daughters whose dads never hugged them. Children whose parents didn’t care to come to the game or sit at the choir concert. Children who never heard the words, “I’m so proud of you.”
I was not one of those. He wasn’t afraid to hug, or even kiss me throughout my life. Oh, there were times when I’d push him away, especially in Junior High School, but being a man didn’t preclude physical contact for him. Without hesitation, he’d say, “I’m so proud of you,” or “I love you.”
In Keith’s final words he said, “So there was a lot to my dad. But let me end with words he so often said to us, his children; I’m so proud of you Dad, and I love you.”