Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

I’m going to be honest, father’s day has become one of the most difficult days for me. It’s the day I wish I could not emerge into the land of the living and just pull the covers over my head and sleep right through it. Unfortunately, Father’s day falls on a Sunday, so unless I’m ill…that’s not an option. I get out of bed and go to church anyways…still hoping I can avoid the Father’s day spirit in the building.

I then head home and try to forget that it’s the special day most of the country is giving attention to their father’s. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. I try to scold myself and say: “You can remember daddy. And if that’s too hard you have a heavenly father who will never leave you and focus on that!”

But saying that and feeling it is very difficult. But this year, I’ve decided that even if I spend the next 20 years not looking forward to father’s day I will face my fear and follow the advice I try to give myself every year.

Since my dad has died, it seems like each passing year becomes more and more difficult. As life sends its many challenges I miss having him be there for me and my siblings. I often feel that if he was alive I may not have had to face some of the challenges that have entered my life. But one day, a few years ago, I came across one of his famous 3x5 cards. On it was a verse he had written: 2 Timothy 3: 14-15- “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

When I read the words, tears came into my eyes. It was as if my dad was speaking to me, telling me that he had taught me everything he could have and from that foundation I could continue my life for Christ. I still wish he was here, but I must comfort myself, sometimes on a daily basis, that God knows best even my heart cries out in agony.

It seems like each year I call to remembrance more and more memories and things my dad taught his family. Here are a few I was thinking of the other day:

Prayer is important: 

He was a serious, ultra, hardcore prayer warrior- and I’m not over exaggerating  when I say that. He had a family prayer list that took us almost an hour on some days to get through, generally it was at least a minimum of 30-45 minutes. I only knew that because our family prayer and bible reading took at least an hour to an hour and a half.

Besides family prayers, I know he prayed personally. He was also at every prayer meeting he could be at- even the special ones, he made sure he was there-oh, and he took the whole family with him, unless it was a men’s only event!

At one church, on Sunday morning while the pastor preached, he would go into the little room just off the sanctuary and pray during the service. The pastor asked him why he was doing it. My dad replied, “I know that during the service is the time God speaks to people. There are spiritual battles going on and I want you lift up in prayer while you’re up there preaching God’s word.” Slowly but surely more men joined in and at the request of the pastor, my dad created a schedule so he could still attend the morning service himself….otherwise he would have been in that little room tearing the paint off with his prayers every week. The pastor convinced him by telling him he should at least sit with his family every now and then!

Prayer was the one thing I knew was so important to him that no matter how sick we were, no matter how busy or even if we were out of town on a family vacation or a mission trip- we prayed. Sometimes because we were so busy we brought the list along and prayed in the car! I hated that because after we prayed we’d read the bible and since we took turns reading out loud I had to keep track of where we were and then take me turn. What made me hate that I that I often got carsick-blah. I knew it would happen, but it was something that was important and we did it no matter what obstacles stood in the way.

He was actually known to have prayed for dead people, because if you asked him to pray for someone or something, he would pray until you told him the answer to prayer. If you never updated him…that name remained on the list…especially, if he knew your situation personally. Only occasionally would we cross a name off, and that was after we’d prayed for so many years we had no clue what was happening.

I once heard a preacher say that they committed to praying for a missionary everyday, and less than a year later they repented to God because they couldn’t keep that promise. I thought it was the most shameful thing I could hear a person say, especially a pastor. Prayer for others is important whether you think it is or not. You may not see the results of your prayer, but they sure feel them or the lack of them. And you don’t know how you’re prayers will affect others until you get to heaven…so pray.

Serve God no matter your talents: 

He encouraged others to serve God even when they didn’t think they could or had the necessary talent to minister. He encouraged families to sing specials- even though some couldn’t sing too well, he told them “you’re singing for God, not us”. He encouraged men-young and old alike to preach. They didn’t need to be called to preach, but they could still preach a sermon of some kind! 
And he then opened opportunities for them to preach, whether in a small bible study gathering or at the nursing home he ran…and sometimes it was even in church.

Funny thing is…time and time again I saw these people would get up and sing and preach messages…people who wouldn’t have done it otherwise. It taught me that you should encourage others…don’t look at the talents they may not have, but encourage them that they can be used of God no matter how big or small the talents they may have.

The other thing it taught me was how one person could make a difference. You never know the difference you make in someone’s life. One of those men he encouraged to preach actually stood and his funeral and gave testimony, “Pat Gresens encouraged me to preach and now I’m going to be a missionary.” His family is still serving on the missions field today.

Be involved in your children’s life: 

He encouraged men to be leaders and fathers in their home. He not only encouraged it but he did it! One of his greatest set backs was that he never had a father growing up, but he often told us that when he accepted Christ as his Savior, he was glad. He could now have the best father ever and he could learn from the best father.

When we got sick and it was a church day, unless he had a ministry he had to lead, he’d often stay home with us so my mom could go to church. With four children, the sickness usually lasted two weeks so instead of my mom missing church the whole time, he’d stay home certain day…personally, I think it’s because he wanted to spend time with us…even though we were sick and miserable! I’ve never seen a father do that…except one, and he did it because he saw my dad so it and thought it was a good idea. His wife was grateful.

He taught his children at every chance he got. Not only did we do family prayer and bible time, but we also had a separate family devotional time. Sometimes people came over to do bible studies and my dad would have us kids sitting through it. Or he’d sit the family down around the table and say, this week we’re going over the book of Acts…a bible institute course. I can’t tell you how many times he went over his bible institute courses with us! He had kept probably every note and course he took and I’m sure he had us go through most of them!

The earliest I remember this was when I was 6 or 7 years old. I remember thinking- “Aren’t I too young to understand this?” I think he loved the Lord so much, that he just had to share him with everyone he knew, and he wanted his children to learn and know the scriptures so we could have a firm foundation he didn’t have as a child.

I don’t know how much I’ve retained, but I know it’s in there somewhere! About a year before he died he started taking books from his vast library and assigning them to us kids to read…I will be honest, Dr. Ruckman’s history of the new testament church-I think that’s the name, it had two volumes- I didn’t read it. I said I did, but I didn’t. The print on those books was so small, that even with perfect eye sight you’d need a magnifying glass; and the books were super thick!

And then the words…..I have enough difficulty reading books like that as it is….the words jumbled until all I could see was a black mess on the page. I gave up. I kept the book and tried to read parts of it, but eventually, after I thought enough time had passed, returned it. E.M. Bounds books on prayer…were much easier to read! (They were also, as you can imagine, one of his favorite books to read.)

We were homeschooled from the time I was in 5th grade…once again many men leave this task wholly up to their wives, but when the decision was made to homeschool us my dad told my mom, “I’m teaching them history.” History was his second love after Jesus. He taught our history class from the first year we started homeschooling up to the very week he died.

Be a giver: 

Even if you don’t have anything to give: It. Did. Not. Matter….what our financial situation was, if my dad saw a need he tried to fill it. And God always provided his needs in return…somehow, we made it through.

Over the years he gave not only his time, talents, preaching and testimony, but also food to those who had none, car rides for those who couldn’t make it, bibles to those who needed a new one or wanted a new upgraded one, money to missions-this was the most important- no matter how little we had in the bank account, I know he gave without holding back. And you know what’s interesting? He often gave, but did it in a way where the person never knew it was from him. He wanted them to thank God for the gift and blessing.

Don't just say you love someone-show it: 

He was always available for a hug and every night before bed it was important that after we prayed and read a portion of scripture we make the rounds to hug everyone. The last memory I have of my dad, besides looking in and seeing him sleeping, the night before he died was him giving me a hug before he went to bed. I miss those hugs and embraces.

One person makes a difference: 

I know I mentioned this already, but it was important to him that he make a difference in the world. In fact, it was the title of the Sunday school lessons he was teaching around the time he died.

Everything he did was towards the goal of turning the world around him upside down and making the biggest difference he could. He would say, “I want the Gresens’ generations down the the 4th and 5th generation to still be serving God.” It was what drove him to be the man God wanted him to be.

What’s the main thing I’ve learned from my dad? 

You may have guessed it already, he strived daily to use his life to turn people to Christ. To encourage others to live their life and open their lives up to what God could do.

He shared his love of God on a daily basis. He didn’t just talk about Jesus he walked with him daily and he was serious about his relationship with his heavenly father. One of the things that spoke the loudest to this fact was this: After he passed away the place where he worked sent home his belongings. There was only one belonging important enough to keep a work, he had many at home, but one specifically so it would always be there to read on his lunch break: his bible.

As a father (or anyone who isn’t a father) you may read this and think: “That’s impossible! No one could be like that!” Perhaps you’re right…but my dad was. He was one of those people who when he got saved, even though he couldn’t swim, jumped right into the deep end and kept on swimming until he was home. I know very few men who love Jesus like he did and even fewer who prayed as he did. I just hope the prayers he said for his children are still out there somewhere and that God is still working on them.

Was he perfect? No. Did he make mistakes? Yes. But don’t we all? Did he cruise through life with this awe-inspiring spirituality? No, he had many disappointments, trials and heartbreaks, but he knew that when you serve God you aren’t committing to a life of ease, you are committing to a God who has promised to carry your burdens and bring you home in his time. Who has promised to be with you each step of the way.

Sure, he had doubts just like all of us have had at one time or another, and asked: “Am I doing the right thing?” But one thing he never doubted and remained strong in his resolve until the very morning God took him home, “I will serve where God places me until he moves me somewhere else!”

And perhaps that is the greatest lesson of all.

Happy Father's Day

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