“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7.
Yesterday was my father’s 76th birthday. It’s difficult to imagine my father approaching 80, mainly because he’s so young at heart. He doesn’t believe in retirement, although he has scaled back his work hours in the past few years. Even at home, he’s busy with his garden, landscaping his yard, and studying his Bible.
I was fortunate growing up to have such a godly man as a father. Dad was the epitome of Deuteronomy 6:4-7. When someone loves the Lord as much as he does, it can’t be contained. Whether I was working alongside him in the garden or in his cleaning business, he easily talked about the evidence of God in the world around us. God’s love flowed through Dad. All you have to do is spend sixty seconds with my father talking about God, and you feel God’s presence.
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15.
Dad taught us the value of work—and that the quality of our work reflects our character. Perhaps this is why even at his age, his phone still rings off the hook with people begging him to do something with their yards after letting other landscapers have a go at them.
Dad was not college educated. In fact, he dropped out of school and went into the military. He had a cleaning company for years before transitioning into landscaping. All of his children, at one time or another, worked for him. In addition to cleaning offices, we cleaned churches and the Jewish synagogue in Gainesville. I learned much about other denominations, as well as the Jewish culture and beliefs.
To lighten the workload on Saturday, we kids swept the massive amount of sidewalks around the churches on Friday. Then, sometimes on Saturday, Dad made us sweep them again. When we complained, he’d say, “You swept them yesterday because it was your job. You’re sweeping them today to show appreciation for that job.”
This standard of excellence followed him when he began landscaping full time. A few years ago, a sorority house at the University of Florida won the best yard award in the city. Despite efforts to get Dad to accept the award at the formal dinner and be celebrated with the other category winners, he declined. He urged the sorority girls to go in his place.
You see, Dad’s never worked for human accolades. He works for God, and thus, when Dad transforms unimaginative landscapes into works of art, you see God’s handiwork through my father. His thoughtfulness, care, and talent produce a masterpiece equal to Picasso or Rembrandt.
Only the hardest heart could spend five minutes with my father in discussion about God and walk away untouched. Dad doesn’t preach or witness with the salvation plan. He talks about God’s love. And this love flows through his voice and washes over you like a cool rain shower on a hot summer day. I sense God’s love and mercy through my earthly father.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Dad wasn’t perfect, and we kids rebelled like many others. Even in these times, he was faithful in his message and did what he felt was best. Was he perfect? Certainly not. But he was consistent in his message of love. He did his best to equip us by modeling God’s best for us, regardless of what choices we made. His integrity spoke volumes and we heard God’s message loud and clear through him.
There’s not any place I’d rather be than at my father’s knee receiving instruction and basking in God’s love. I praise the Lord daily for my Christian dad. And one day, he will stand before His Father in heaven. While Dad won’t be able to claim perfection, he’ll be able to claim consistency in impressing upon his children God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness.
No doubt, Dad will hear the words from Matthew’s Gospel, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”