The most valuable lessons of the road…..I didn’t realize until after he was gone. I didn’t realize what deep friendships my seemingly independent father invested in. And I did not know how much he pursued things that he loved doing because they filled his tank and gave him energy for the next season. The following story is an excerpt from my book, “Harbor Seven.” As I re-read it myself, I am reminded to pursue some of the relationships that are life giving to me, those friendships that just make life more fun.
The value of life-giving friendships.
As a boy, I deeply admired my father. Though he is not here today, I still admire him—but my perception of him has changed. When I was young, he seemed to be the epitome of an independent, self-made man who rarely, if ever, needed the help of other people. Some of what I believed about him was true because on the last day of his life when he needed the help of others the most, he still tried to do it alone. That refusal to get help and insistence that everything was all right may have cost him his life. However, what I didn’t fully realize at the time was that he was actually a man of deep connections. He was closely connected to God, intimately involved in his family and had many close friends with whom he shared his life. These connections were the key source of his strength.
Remember that long, slow walk my dad took around the cornfield, shortly after the devastating hailstorm? Well, he didn’t make that journey alone. His best friend, George Osborne, accompanied him for a portion of that walk. George and my dad had a deep influence on each other. Check out a letter he wrote to me a couple years ago, 20 years after my dad’s death:
“My relationship with Lloyd could best be described as the ability in each of us to communicate with the other without talking. It was eerie. He gave me the most priceless gift one man can bestow on another: unconditional friendship. He let me see and share inside all the warts he thought he had, none of which I could see. He saw my inconsistencies as justifiable, he acted over my reluctances, he took me into places and relationships that I preferred not to go or do, he made me realize that often, if not always, a sense of humor and joy exceed wisdom and intellect. He was a real soul-mate.”
Through this week, “Harbor Seven” will be available for the introductory price of $10. The price will go up on August. 19th.
This is an excerpt from “Harbor Seven,” a book that shares some of the stories and lessons learned from my dad, and the journey of the last several years. I am convinced that one of the great weapons of the enemy is forgetfulness. Through some of my writing I have been determined to capture the stories and the lessons along the way. One of the most vivid memories of my dad comes from one of his lowest moments. I watched my dad deal with devastation and loss , yet I saw him retain his sense of humor, his faith, his calming presence, his quiet walks with God, even in the most difficult of times.
It was hot and still. The clouds came quickly from the west. It was an ambush, the kind of storm that stirred up fear in the hearts of people on the plains for generations. For five minutes, the sky threw hail toward the ground like it was releasing an intense fit of rage. When the storm finally retreated, tens of thousands of dollars worth of corn was strewn about and shredded in the muddy fields of our farm, pulverized by the massive hailstorm.
Forty-five minutes later, my dad drove up the driveway in his olive green Ford pickup. Despite the devastating loss, he retained his sense of humor and calm demeanor, unchanging in his interactions with my mom and me.
Later that evening, I watched as he took a long, slow walk around the perimeter of his fields, which had been ruined by the hailstorm. Years later, one of his best friends told me that my dad was working things out with God while he was on that walk. He told God that if He wanted His tithe, He was going to have to come and get it because it was lying in the field. I will never forget the image of my father taking in the loss and surveying his wasted fields. I will never forget what it looks like when a balanced man has a bad day.
Perhaps God is inviting you to join Him on a long, slow walk.
Likely the person who had the most impact on my life was my dad. It’s kind of crazy to think about considering he has been gone 26 years now. Still, the stories and the influence of a life lived so well continue to have a deep impact. I have heard it said, the thing that people will remember most is how you finish. I believe that more than ever now.
Like most of us, my dad made mistakes and I’m sure he struggled with some poor decisions. But the years I remember and the last season of his life were lived WELL. So well, in fact, that I continue to hear from many others about how his life continues to impact them today. Just a month ago his best friend, now in his 80s, said again that my dad was the single biggest influence on his life.
Several years ago I started a writing project that really was just for me. I wanted to compile some of the stories about my dad that had impacted so many people so deeply, For me it was a way just to honor him and to not lose the stories, I did not want to forget. Like many things in life, that project began to evolve and expand. It seems there was an entirely different purpose for all the journaling and writing I had been doing. It really became a project that captured my own journey as well.
The last few years have been a crazy, unpredictable ride of extreme highs and lows. Yet, it has been a season of life where I have seen God visibly at work in ways I would never have guessed. I have seen Him through the work of launching a ministry called Harbor that hopes to help leaders live with rhythm, leave a legacy and finish well. He has been there working through the circumstances of some heartbreaking and difficult events. Through all of it, I can’t escape the fact that He has been on the move. This “Wild Goose,” as the Celtics referred to Him, was absolutely calling me out to an exciting and often difficult adventure.
So these random words and stories began to come together. With the help and the prodding of several people, I decided to put it out there in the hopes that it may encourage and inspire others in the steps they need to take.
So perhaps God will work through this book, Harbor Seven. Or perhaps it is just a collection of stories that will honor a man who lived life to the fullest, and finished well.
Sometimes, you have to go fishing.
I learned that from my dad. He was a farmer and the summers were some of the busiest work times. But when I was little he would tell me that whenever it rained an inch we could go fishing. And he always followed through. Even if there was a ton of work to be done, we would still head out. I picked up some great life lessons there. One is that there is a time for everything; a time to work, a time to play…and a time to go fishing.
The last three days have been a great escape. In fact, I was able to shut off my mind, the phone and work more than I have in a long time. It is amazing how hard it can be to step away from the routine and from business, even to do the things you love most. Last week, it took some time with my oldest son, good friends, and a road trip to South Dakota to get me to totally disconnect. Today I feel much more ready for the busy season ahead of me. Sometimes you have to find a way to really change things up, get out of the routine, and go.
It was just three days but they were filled with great stories and unique moments like the rodeo-riding, car mechanic waitress who told us
we’d better keep our rooms clean or she would kick our butts. She was the hotel maid as well! Or the classic fishing moment that seems to always happen, when one of the fishing guides took my friend and his son to another spot because they weren’t catching anything. Two minutes after they left, we caught one walleye after another and brought in a boat load of fish. Then there was late night cards and the “exceptional” movie we watched, Sharknado.
It didn’t take much; just a little planning and a willingness to hit the road. In some really unique ways, God met me there. He met me right in the middle of doing the things I love most — sharing unique experiences, family, friends, travel, lots of laughs and some fishing. Whatever you love to do, take time to get away and enjoy it. Slow down this crazy pace you keep and hang out the “gone fishing” sign once in a while. Life is way too short and chasing the things you love to do will give you what you need for the rest of it.
See you on the lake.
So this last year has been one of extremes — a ton of highs and lows. Due to several different things going on in life, I have seen myself slip toward increasing frustration and anger toward God. I am disappointed at what seems to be such silence from God and I’m tired of what seems to be months of unanswered prayer.
It’s usually during these times that I feel the call to the mountains, but last summer I was at a point where I did not even want to go there. For me that was a new low!
After the prodding of my wife and the encouragement of others, I headed west. I knew I needed some time to really get things out and to try to get some movement again in my relationship with God. And if there was just more silence…well at least I’d be in the mountains, right?
What I did not expect was Cowboy Church.
I was on my way to one of my favorite spots, Hahns Peak north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I decide to spend the night in Cheyenne, Wyoming. There was maybe one room left in the city and it was right by the arena where Frontier Days was going on. As I got up early Sunday to head out, I saw an invitation to come to Cowboy Church in the arena where the rodeo was held. Cowboy Church was not exactly on my agenda, but for whatever reason I feel compelled to go.
For the third time in a couple of weeks I heard a talk on what faith looks like when times are tough. The guy speaking said it’s easy to have faith when things are rolling but what happens when times gets tough, when life is unfair, when disappointment sets in?
I know. It’s a message we’ve all heard before many times, but it was also I a message I had been running from. I heard him say, faith only happens when we can’t understand, when we can’t see. Faith really happens when we follow Him, even when things make no sense.
Real faith happens when we can’t see.
Truthfully, at that moment I felt like I had been blinded by my emotions, by the disappointment I felt. Then the questions came at me hard and fast: Are these just words, or do I really believe it? Am I in on this faith journey, no matter what?
I still headed to the mountains, because at the time I was not ready to answer that question. But what I didn’t expect was Cowboy Church. God surprised me with that one.