On June 29th 1995, my life changed profoundly. That night, I had the joy of welcoming into the world my first child Kenny. As I stood there for the first time holding him I had this startling feeling of joy, anticipation and the sense that my life would never be the same again. All of a sudden I realized that I was now responsible for the life and well being of another human in a way that I had never imagined. This little person would be counting on me to provide for his every need and I was not sure how I would ever fulfill this role – it was simply overwhelming. Even at that moment, however, God had already been preparing the way for this new season of my life. Kenny was named after his great-grandfather Kenneth Adams – a man who had been a huge part of God’s work in me.
As his oldest grandchild, I had the privilege of getting to know him well. I lived with my grandparents for two summers as a teenager and absorbed as much of his quiet, pointed and passionate wisdom as a teenager could. He always expected more of me than I expected of myself. At the age of 14 he provided me my first opportunity for public speaking when he called me up in front of a church to share my testimony when I was least expecting it. Later he taught me to drive, despite my grandmothers wishes and spent time teaching me by example. For that and so much more, I will always be indebted to him.
On this Father’s Day weekend, I have been thinking a lot about the men who have been closest to me and shaped me into the man that I am today. On the top of that list is my own father who has lived a life of servant leadership for as long as I can remember. This picture was taken after he had finished doing some painting that needed to be done and just wanted me to see what he been up to. My Dad grew up in humble circumstances and was the first in his family to come to faith in Jesus and had a great influence on the rest of his family. His love for God has influenced me deeply and I will always be grateful for the family devotions he led as we grew up and for the many conversations we had when I was a willful and curious teenager. He always made time for me and I always knew I was an important priority in his life. My Dad’s love for my mother sets a standard that I aspire to. He modeled sacrifice at home, at work and in his ministry to other people. As he has begun a new season of life after leadership, his servant heart continues to bless me as he now volunteers to do whatever is needed to support me and the CLC ministry, regardless of whether it is packing and sorting books or stuffing envelopes.
I am so blessed to have had a brother who is close in age to me. We grew up together as missionary kids, shared the same room and went through many of our most important life experiences together until I went off to boarding school and later college. In many ways we are very different and yet we both share a passion for people and the way the gospel transforms them. He was greatly affected by our shared boarding school experiences and has made teaching young people his life’s calling. Even at a very early age, Jim’s compassion for other people was a powerful example to me. Growing older has allowed us to bond in new ways and I am grateful for his listening ear and his willingness to speak honesty into my life when I need to hear it the most. We will always share a love for Philadelphia sports team and Chick-Fil-A.
Every man needs a contrarian in his life and my Uncle Tom has been that person for me. As a precocious young teenager, I can remember arguing with him about infant baptism, never suspecting that one day I would become a Presbyterian too and have both of my boys baptized into the covenant family of God. One great thing about contrarians is they see things differently than other people and don’t always take things at face value. He has pushed me not to give the easy answer to challenges in my life or to do what seems to be obvious at the moment. His leadership in his family, ministry and my life has stood the test of time. No matter how long we have been apart, he asks some of the most insightful questions whenever we do meet as if we had not really been apart for that long.
Each of us can probably remember a teacher who affected us and shaped our lives. For me that man was Roy Lowrie, Jr. who was my 11th grade US History teacher. He was also my coach in three sports and a man who knew how to reach a struggling and curious teenager. When I was sure that I knew everything there was to know about my faith and theology in general, he asked me penetrating questions that I could not answer. Instead of leaving me to wallow in self doubt and confusion, he invited me to study God’s word with him and to discover answers for myself. We spent many hours talking, debating, and pushing each other. No other man has affected my intellectual life as profoundly as he did. His greatest legacy may be the love of Christian literature that he fanned into flame in me as we discussed great authors and books that are still some of my favorites. For some reason, we lost contact after High School and I was saddened to hear that God called him home at very early age. I am sure, however, that his legacy also lives on in many other young men besides myself.
For the last 16 years I have been part of a wonderful church that has many men in it who have influenced me. None more so than Dave Solt and his family. On one of the first Sunday’s that we attended the church, he invited us home for lunch and showed a genuine interest in me and my family. Over the years, I have been in several small groups with him and have had the “joy” of being mentored by him. He is not one to pull punches or sugar coat what he is thinking. His methodology of always asking piercing questions usually starts with “How is your marriage?” and he won’t accept a simple OK as an answer for some reason. At one of the most challenging moments in my marriage to date, he asked me just the right questions that got me out of a the fog of foolish thinking that had allowed me to prioritize my work over the people I was called to love and lead.
As I have now been a Dad for a few years, I look back with profound gratitude to those who have influenced me the most. I truly stand on the shoulders of giants and know what it means to see Godly manhood in action. May I live my life in some small way that I will pass on that legacy to my children and theirs in the years ahead. My Father’s Day will be a celebration of all those who have poured their lives into mine and a day that I pour myself into to the life of those who I love and now call me their father.