The mind is one of the fascinating creations God made. It is something beyond my comprehension, for sure. I never really gave it much thought until I experienced some short-term memory issues after my hemorrhagic stroke in the Summer of 2010. Don’t tell anybody, but I believe I had some “senior” memory lapses before that life-changing event. I didn’t much mind it at the time, but since then, I have seen the effects that Alzheimer’s disease has had on my father.
Alzheimer’s is a horrific disease, but I will talk more about that later. This post is about my amazing, wonderful father. I’m going to try and finish this post without tearing up. I was balling like a baby when I wrote about Him in 2016. I was sad and yet joyful as I remembered. My dad celebrated his 73rd birthday this past April. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that God has allowed him to be here with my family and me. I look forward to visiting him this Father’s Day weekend.
My father is the most humble, God-fearing, compassionate man I know. He and my mother had me at a young age. I remember living in western Germany as a toddler while he served in the United States Army. At the time, my father did not know the Lord, but I knew he loved me. He would come home and play with me to hear me laugh and giggle. My father struggled with alcohol during his time in the army. However, I still remember the story he used to tell me of how he came to know Christ as his Lord and Savior.
He said, “One day, I was looking out the back window of our house at the beautiful snow-capped mountains with tears running down my face, and I said to myself, “There must be a God!” It was at that moment that my father asked God to forgive him of his sins and asked Jesus to be Lord of his life. He was 25 years old at the time. It was then that my Father’s life changed forever. While still in Germany, my father felt the Lord calling him to ministry. Once he had completed his tour of service and narrowly missed being sent away for an assignment in the Vietnam war, my dad moved us back to the United States so he and my mother could attend Bible college in Iowa.
I was in first grade when we moved back to the states. I attended a large Christian school and made fast friends. My best friend was Joe, the son of the pastor who ran the school. I loved hanging out at Joe’s house after school, waiting for my father to pick me up. The best was the weekend overnight stays. We’d go out behind their home into the woods and ride minibikes! I made so many friends as I continued through elementary. There were Scott and Craig, who I would box with them upstairs in their converted attic.
My elementary years were the best! After moving from a cramped college-sized apartment, we lived in a big old two-story house overlooking two enormous walnut trees and my mother’s garden. I had some great friends that I had grown extremely fond of at school. I did not see as much of my father as he worked the graveyard shift while attending Bible college. Then came the news on a day I will never forget. My father interrupted my brother and me playing around in our bedroom with a knock at the door. He was looking so intense I wondered what was wrong?
“Boys, God has called me to be a home missionary.” These were the words that shook me to the core! Missionary? I pictured myself living in a grass hut running from the natives like the stories I’d heard of David Livingston. There was a tiny whisper of rebellion in the back of my mind as my father exited the room. Missionaries? Not me, you all have fun with that; I’m staying here with my friends! Looking back on that time in my life, oh, how I wish my heart were in a different place when my beloved father shared with me God’s calling on his life.
Honor your father and mother which is the first commandment with promise. (Ephesians 6:2)
Fighting my Father
Let me make this clear; my father was never physically combative with me. However, my spirit was battling feverishly against what God had called him to do. I did not honor him and my mother as we began traveling around the country to raise awareness and support for the ministry God had called him.
From the ages of 13 to 18, I earned a Ph.D. in rebellion. I am ashamed to admit there were very few instances that I helped my father in his ministry with a cheerful heart. The patience and kindness he showered on me despite my attitude that needed adjusting was God-infused. I knew his heart was heavy-his desire was for me to have a longing for ministry, but I would have none of it! I was like, oh no! This life is not for me!
I had “big” plans at the age of 15. I wanted to be a sports superstar like Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers. My basketball career was taking flight as I had worked tirelessly to improve my b-ball skills. If that did not work, I wanted to become a model or movie star and make lots of money. I never wanted to wear hand-me-downs or handmade clothes again. I wanted to be the first African-American James Bond, 007.
My father and I spent lots of time in cars together. He taught me how to drive a stick-shift automobile, and on several occasions, he would take me out for ice cream to talk with me about my future-trying to convince me of the need to put God first in my life. I didn’t want to hear it, so I began to avoid him more and more. I became a recluse in my room, mostly coming out for food, trips to the bathroom, or when summoned for family devotions.
Despite my best efforts to make my rebellion felt by my parents, dad would willingly pick me up from work in the late hours of the night after he had been working all day. He never complained even once. Driving home, he enjoyed giving me advice about my goals and dreams that were biblically sound and encased in love.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, even he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
Signs of Decline
The first signs of Alzheimer’s began while recovering at my parents’ home after my stroke. I was lying in my hospital bed, barely able to sit up on my own, and my father walked into the room. Boy, was I glad to see him! However, he mumbled something that I could not hear, which was unlike him. I asked him to repeat, and he stated, “I’m sorry, I have totaled your car.” My initial response was shock and then concern. Mind you, that car was my baby-I called it my batmobile. I had vanity plates that read darknite2, leather seats, sunroof, chrome wheels, everything. I then asked my father, “are you okay?” It was not like him to have traffic accidents. I rarely saw him break the speed limit; I mean never! It wasn’t too long after this incident that he shared that he had early-onset Alzheimer’s.
My father was a brilliant man. He could speak four languages, and he loves classical music. However, that man I disrespected and didn’t appreciate when I was younger is slowly slipping away a little bit each day. Mom brought him to visit me at Sunday school on Mother’s Day. It was so great to see him all dressed up in his suit that I could not stop hugging him during class.
Then a few minutes later, at the restaurant, he calls me stupid and throws napkins at me. I choose to ignore it and keep showing him the love that I wish I’d shown years ago. I know that in a few seconds, he won’t remember what he said. The wide range of attitudes is challenging for my mother and brother as they deal with this type of behavior daily. I pray that no one gets injured from his bouts of aggression towards them.
I decided to share this story about my father to remind you that you have no idea what the future holds. Things can change in an instant. My heart aches when I see my dad now. He still greets me with love, but the interaction is gone. He was once a voracious communicator, and now he mostly stares into space-even in the midst of conversations about Him. Our words are nothing but silent whispers in his mind. What I wouldn’t give is to have discussions with dad about God, the Bible, or the new book I’m currently writing. Now and then, we experience his brief moments of clarity, and it sends us over the moon with joy!
There was a glimpse of pride when my book on prayer was published at the end of 2016. Dad and my mother came over the day proofs were delivered to my home. When he turned the book over and saw my picture on the back cover, the look on his face was priceless. Make every moment count as you seek to live and love like Christ. Take nothing and no one for granted.
Speaking for Dad
Growing up, my dad’s favorite book of the Bible was Romans. He would carry around 3×5 cards in his shirt pocket–his goal was to memorize the entire book. At the time, I thought he was crazy. Who would want to learn a whole book of the Bible? Now that I’m in ministry myself, I see the value of this compelling book of scripture. I want to leave you with some of my favorite passages from Romans to represent my father. I pray you are blessed as you read.
For I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift to you; that you may be established, that is that I may be encouraged with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of god unto salvation, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:11-12, 16)
Are you seeking to encourage those you encounter each day, or do your actions/ words drain the life out of them-hurting your testimony?
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:1,6,8)
What a beautiful reminder of God’s unconditional love for you and me. Thank Him for His love every moment you can.
And we know that God cause all things to work together for good. To those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
I’m going to give you a “sneak peek at something I challenge readers to think about in my next book, The Furnace of Affliction; Whose “good” is this scripture referring to in this verse. Yours or Gods? Are they two different things? Think on that for a moment–or two. Also, don’t forget about verses 29 and 30.
Therefore, I urge you brethren by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
Are you purposely renewing your mind via the Holy Scriptures? Immersing yourself in the Bible cannot be an every-once-in-awhile thing, but it needs to be a daily habit. Satan will attack your mind so, arming yourself with God’s Word is the best way to defeat his attacks.
Father and his Legacy
My father may not be able to interact, understand or communicate as he did many years ago. However, his love for God and the example he set is imprinted on me for life. I want to live as the Godly man that he has been for almost 50 years. He and I may not be able to serve alongside in ministry at this stage of our lives. However, I know that when our bodies are whole and we are joined together in Heaven one day, we will serve the Lord with gladness. I thank God for my father every day. He may be unaware, but his oldest son now lives to please our Savior.
Love you, Dad,
If you want to read more fantastic facts about my dad and his love for music, you can visit the guest post I wrote back in 2016. Also, what is the status of your relationship with your father currently? Is he still with you? Share some memories or favorite scriptures in the comments. Thank you for visiting, and remember your Heavenly Father will never leave you. May God continue to bless you and your family.