1. Go to church.
There are probably many reasons I still go to church, not the least of them being that I am the pastor. But one of the reasons I go is that my dad went to church. Every Sunday. Not only did my dad go to church, but he actually seemed to enjoy it.
Studies show that children whose father attend church are more likely to continue actively practicing their faith into adulthood. I don't know why this is, but I am still grateful that my dad went to church.
My dad sang in church. Sometimes in harmony. He also sang in the car, in the shower, with my mom at the piano, and just about everywhere else. It's true, he didn't always know all the words, but that didn't stop him. He sang anyway. Sometimes he made up his own lyrics.
At least in part because of my dad's influence, I too sing in church. Sometimes in harmony. And I sing other places too. It's true, that singing by amateurs has become a rare phenomenon. More and more we have learned to leave it to the professionals. But my dad was a great amateur singer, and he gave me a lifelong love for singing and music, and a conviction that I didn't have to be that good at it to enjoy it. Every time I stand up in church and chant the liturgy, I have my dad to thank.
3. Use your imagination.
Here's something I remember: when my dad used to get us out of the bathtub, he used to sing the song "The Sheik of Araby" to us while he was drying us off with the towel. However, he used to make up his own words, while he would wrap the towel around us to pretend we were really arabian sheiks, or ghosts, or even Little Red Riding Hood. He also would sometimes pretend he was Methuselah, the world's oldest man, when he came in to say our prayers with us in the evening. He would tell us that he remembered all of the Bible characters as he sat on our beds. He made evening prayer time fun. He loved to pretend. And I think that it was because of his imagination that he was also an incurable romantic. He loved the movie "Pollyanna" and really thought that the world should be a kinder place than it really was.
I hope that I have gotten just a little of his imagination in my life. Whether I have enjoyed a good pun, imagined a story or a poem, or just imagined the world in a different, better way, I have my dad to thank.
4. Be there.
Woody Allen once said that half of life is just showing up. My dad showed up. I remember my dad sitting across the dining room table with me, helping me memorize my multiplication tables when I was in the 4th grade. And I remember in high school, my dad sitting across the table from me again, helping me to learn how to do my taxes. When I was in college one of my friends came to me to help her with her taxes, because I knew what to do. Her dad always just did hers for her. When I got my first apartment, my dad gave me my own set of tools.
My dad showed up. He showed up and taught me how to do things. He didn't just do things for me (except for the times he opened the lids on peanut butter jars for me. Even then, he would make a big show of trying to open the jar. Then he would say, "it's too hard for me. You'll have to do it." He gave it back to me and of course, then I could open the jar easily.)
Now, I want to be there for my stepsons, and for my nieces and nephew, not just to do things for them, but to help them to learn to do things for themselves. I hope that I have given them just a few tools they can use in their lives. I hope that I've "been there" as well.
5. Talk to your children about your faith, and your questions.
When I was a teenager, Hal Lindsay's book, "The Late Great Planet Earth" was very popular. Everybody was talking about the end of the world. I was very worried about it. I was only thirteen, and I didn't want the world to end any time soon. My dad wasn't much of a reader, but he read that book, and I remember us talking about whether the world would end or not. He took my questions seriously, and he had his own questions, too. Somehow, knowing that just made me feel better.
6. You don't have to be perfect. Just be yourself.
When I was a little girl, my dad was my hero. Now that I'm an adult, I know that he is a human being, with failings and flaws just like everyone else. There were times when I really wanted him to be serious, and he really wanted to keep it light. I know that it was hard for him when his business went bankrupt, but he never talked about it. He didn't like to talk about things. He didn't always say or do the right thing. But he's still my hero. He taught me how to sing and how to pray. He gave me imagination and hope and shared his faith. He was there when it counted.
He was pretty cute too.
What more could a girl want in a father?