One of my first memories of being in front of church was as a toddler. It was one of those Sunday morning “special numbers” by the kids. Each of the boys from my class wore our dads’ shoes, as we sang “I’m going to put on my be like Jesus shoes.” The image itself was rather amusing I’m sure as these small boys tried to walk with obviously oversized shoes. Not only did the little number involve singing, but walking around in a tight circle. Had one of us fallen over, I’m sure we would have collapsed like dominoes. Dad’s feet were so much larger than mine.
Fast forward 10 years or so to a teenager celebrating the fact that he now has the same sized shoes as his dad. Larger feet, peach fuzz and a cracking voice announced the fact that boyhood was fading. Looking back, the most important changes were not physical. I reflect on the men in my life whose feet set the pace. Men who invested time, effort and love. Men whose wisdom, knowledge and example I greatly respect. Men who I desired to be like. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder. I find that miles and time can serve as a great catalyst for reflection.
Over my next few posts, I want to express my appreciation to those men for their roles in my life:
My Dad, Dennis Jackson
What better way to start then with the person who I owe my life to? He is my first example of what it means to not only be a man, but a godly man. Dad is a dedicated family man who always made time for me. Countless hours growing up were spent playing catch in the front yard, playing basketball, fishing, going to fairs or movies. He was the only dad
in our neighborhood, town, that I know who on Friday nights dressed up in an old mechanic’s outfit, put a nylon over his head and chased the neighborhood kids around our house under the darkness of night. It was a favorite game in our neighborhood.
He counts his family as his biggest accomplishment, not touting his own efforts, but the grace of God. I observed, and continue to observe, his love for his wife, kids and grandkids. Family traditions now extend to a much larger family. Christmas time always involved Dad reading the Christmas story out of Luke 2. Now it is my privilege to have my kids involved in that.
My dad’s love for Jesus is consistent. Growing up there were countless times when I would get up for school and see my dad in “his chair”, Bible open. It was how he started his day. Many times I woke up with my dad’s hand upon my head as he was praying over me. He walks humbly and faithfully. Dad’s greatest desire was and continues to be that I would follow Jesus, regardless of where that leading takes me.
Dad has always been good for a laugh. Whether it is impersonating the Cowardly Lion or lip syncing Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye’s “Sisters”, he is always known to jump in for the fun. Adults love him. Kids love him. Dogs love him. Beyond the fun, Dad continues to be a source of wisdom & encouragement. His genuine love and care is never contrived. Although he has endured his share of ribbing over the years for “getting misty” in certain movies, reading birthday cards, watching Charlie Brown specials, (and possibly blog entries) etc., he taught me that strength comes through sensitivity, not the avoidance of it.
Dad was a successful businessman who worked with integrity and hard work. He didn’t cut corners. Probably one of the greatest compliments of his character and work ethic was given by his boss upon my dad’s retirement. He said that Dad was his hero. To this day, when I see “West Bend” products I think of Dad. He continues to show me that life is not about doing what comes easy. A lifelong runner, he ran his first marathon a few years ago at age 58. I’m trying to just work my way up to my first 10k. His discipline and dedication is a great example.
Through Dad, I was first exposed to youth ministry. He was a volunteer youth worker for many years. I saw him lead Bible studies, interact with students and minister to them in the name of Jesus. One of my earliest youth ministry memories involves being carried in his arms as he skated at one of the monthly rollerskating parties (not to mention the carpeted walls and woman with a cool accent).
He is also a leader in his church. He has courageously led through times of great difficulty and endured. He lets other people know his heart and wants them to know his Savior. His church is better off for his leadership.
Although my shoes are now larger than Dad’s, his footprints continue to lead the way. He is a continual source of strength, encouragement and love. He continually points me to Jesus, reminding me of a grander plan far beyond what I can see. He is a reminder that leadership is not about the size of your feet, but which way your feet are pointing.
Love you, Dad.