BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church
Who Are You Owin’?
DISCLAIMER: My blog posts will be about gratitude. Gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation do not come naturally to me, but there are so many people that I owe so much to. People who invested in me, who spent time with me, who pursued me, and who shaped me. Some were intentional, others were unintentional, and others were just being themselves. So, my blog posts will be about people who have made me who I am today. People I am “owin’” for making me, well, Owen. Disclaimer: I am not a writer and I’m not an aspiring writer. So, if my writing is “offensive,” either because of structure or grammar or both, please forgive me.
Dad and mum
My next two blogs will be about my dad and my mum. Obviously, in a blog that is all about folks that have formed, informed, and transformed me, my parents play an integral part. This month I am going to write about my dad and, next month, my mum.
My father grew up in South Wales. His father was a farmer for years and then worked for the local municipal government on their road crew. My father’s mother was a stay-at-home mum who cared for him and his younger brother, Gordon. She passed away when my father was in his early twenties. He and his brother, Gordon, both had polio as children. My uncle’s polio was much worse than my dad’s, but both now walk with a limp. My dad also has diabetes and when he was first diagnosed, he was very sick and almost died.
Dad was a fine rugby player. He still loves the sport, but his diabetes diagnosis finished any hope of having a rugby career. He went to college and studied the Welsh language, which is my father’s first language. He told me that he learned English by singing hymns. The church was also part of my dad’s life, but it wasn’t until his conversion at the age of 16 that it became his passion.
At 16 my father saw his sin and his need for a Savior and saw that the only Savior that could save him completely was Jesus. At the moment of his conversion, my father’s life was on one trajectory and that was to become a preacher and a pastor. I say preacher and pastor because my dad is both an excellent preacher and pastor. He preached his first sermon at the age of 17 and he is one of the finest preachers I have ever heard. There are three things that make him an excellent preacher:
- He believes in the fear of God.
- He is convinced of the power of God’s Word.
- He loves God’s people.
What made him an effective preacher is that he was an effective pastor. He believed, and has told me often, that “preaching starts in the pulpit, but is applied in the parlor.” Meaning preaching is good and needed, but it’s most effective when you meet with people and apply the Word of God to their daily needs. My dad did this very well.
One characteristic of my dad’s ministry is that he is a “visiting” pastor, which means his philosophy of ministry (he will hate that I call it that) is to meet with everyone in his church at least three times a year. He would prepare for two sermons (Sunday morning and evening) in the mornings, and then in the afternoon, he would schedule visits with everyone in his congregation. He has pastored churches in Wales, England, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. The churches ranged in size from 60 to 250 people and he would follow the same pattern in every church. My father loves God, the Word of God, and God’s people, and his ministry was marked by those convictions and affections.
It may come as no surprise that my father has a good sense of humor. He is witty and enjoys a good laugh. He uses humor to disarm people, to put them at ease, and to connect with them. He uses his humor to apply Biblical truths, to point out sin, and to show the beauty of Jesus. Humor is something we both share, along with deep insecurity and spiritual depression. We both deeply want to be noticed, talked about, and pursued. Not by everyone, but by certain people. This can, at times, lead us to be very ungracious to others who capture the limelight. We can also be very self-deprecating in a way that, in reality, is a form of pride, as we want others to pity us.
As mentioned, we both struggle with spiritual depression. Doubt, fear, and our sin can put us in the “Slough of Despond.” A place where our hearts and our minds are consumed with a lack of assurance, wondering why Jesus would even love us, fixated on whether we have done enough in our ministries, and fear that we have brought shame on the name of Jesus. This can be very crippling in our ministries, in our marriages, and in our parenting. But God has never left us in that slough. He has always carried us through by reminding us of His love, grace, and mercy. He has done that for both me and my dad through old hymns, old books, and old preachers.
Although my father is getting older (he will turn 80 this year), his faith has always been ancient. His faith has been informed and transformed by old writers, old traditions, and the Ancient of Days, Himself. One of my father’s “ancient" loves is for the Puritan pastors, in fact, he might be the last one. Men like Richard Sibbes, Thomas Boston, and Samuel Rutherford were some of my Dad’s pastors through their writings. They taught him to love the Word of God, to apply it to all of life and faith, and to care for God’s people. To this day, I always find Puritan books on my dad’s nightstand or reading table.
Several years ago my father told me about the idea of “thumbprints.” “Thumbprints” are the impressions we leave on other people. As preachers/pastors, we have a unique opportunity to “impress” values on a congregation that creates a culture. My father’s “thumbprints” were not only left on the churches he pastored, but also on the people he has encountered including those who have moved all over the world. My dad has, and is, leaving that indelible “thumbprint” on me as well. One which I hope to leave on my marriage, my children, and my ministry. A “thumbprint” that is marked by a love for God, a love for His Word, and a love for His people.
I owe my dad more than I can repay, and if I am half the preacher/pastor that he is, then to God be the glory!
So my question is… who has left a “thumbprint” on you….Who are you ownin’?