By Dave Stone
No one has any say into which family he or she is born. But someday I intend to thank the Lord for the parents he gave to my brother, Jeff, and me.
Sam Stone has been known to many by a variety of titles: Preacher, Seminary Dean, Editor, Brotherhood Leader, and North American Christian Convention President. But I”ve been fortunate to just call him Dad. What a blessing!
When asked why we chose to go into the ministry, Jeff and I typically give the same response: “Because our dad was the same man in the home as in the pulpit.” We never had to listen for, long for, or look for “The Blessing” from our parents. They gave it freely and naturally in a variety of ways.
The Blessing of Prayer
In my younger years, my parents took turns having bedtime prayers with us. There was a recurring phrase I would hear each of them pray beside me: “Lord, I can”t wait to see how you are going to use Dave for your glory.”
The result? While trying to fall asleep, instead of wondering if God could use me, I dreamed of how he would use me.
My parents” prayers through the years taught me so much about fervency and sincerity. They genuinely believed there is power in prayer. Their example in life and how God showed up as they consistently cried out to him has shown me the blessing of prayer.
The Blessing from God”s Word
One of my earliest childhood memories is witnessing who my dad really was and is. We were returning from a family vacation. The road was slick with rain and the sky was dark. It happened in an instant. As the oncoming car maneuvered around the curve, its back end began to fishtail. The tires hydroplaned on the wet pavement, and it slid into our lane.
The head-on collision came with a sickening crash of shattering glass and crumpling steel. Then everything grew quiet, except for my dad”s quivering voice: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .”
My father”s face had struck the steering wheel. He had 21 shards of glass in his eyes. Behind him in the back seat, Mom was bleeding out from a life-threatening skull fracture.
In the distance we heard the howl of sirens approaching through the rain. But above the wail of the ambulances, the words kept coming: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”
It is one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. This was no foxhole prayer, no panicked appeal in a time of crisis. It was Dad”s default setting. Quoting Scripture was natural and normal for him, whether in the valley or on the mountaintop. My father knew that the Bible offered words that help and heal, words that deepen joy and lessen sorrow.
When the sirens of life sounded, he found strength and connection with God in the Scriptures. Even in that moment of shock and pain and bewilderment, even when he thought Mom was dying, he instinctively turned to the Bible the way others turn to panic. He didn”t know it at the time, but in the midst of that traumatic experience, he was giving a blessing to his family.
The Blessing of Consistency
Dad and Mom never wavered in their beliefs; they stayed the course. Some might have thought them old-fashioned and out of touch (Jeff and I sometimes did during our teen years)””but we never questioned their love for us. Their consistency in our lives made their discipline worth it because their love was made real by their presence. Their parenting decisions were always motivated by what they thought was best for us. And because God was present in their lives, they were present in our lives, and we learned to lean into and trust their guidance.
Dad and Mom were always realistic about the ups and downs of ministry life. They sometimes shielded us from the occasional disappointing underside of the church, while at other times they shared the fulfillment that comes from celebrating a changed life.
Throughout our marriage, my wife, Beth, has always described my dad with words like wisdom, leader, balanced. He always knows what to do or say regardless of the situation.
Many in our fellowship love my dad because he is a leader, but our family loves him because he is a servant. I have always appreciated that he”s encouraged the overlooked and been a voice for the developmentally disabled. His focus is consistently on others and his strength to serve others comes from the Lord.
When we encounter struggles in the Christian life or in ministry, he often reminds us of his favorite verse: “And we know that in all things God works for the goodÂ of those who love him, whoÂ have been calledÂ according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
My parents knew the consistent God who was working things out even when we didn”t understand the route he”d take, and they used their lives to model that truth.
The Blessing of Time
I grew up in a preacher”s home. My father was busy with a demanding schedule, but he always made time for family. One day my dad received a telephone call from the preacher of a large, well-known church. As I listened from the other room, it was obvious Dad was being asked to come and speak. His excitement was evident. “February 3rd? I”d love to. First let me check my calendar.”
He went bounding up the stairs to get his calendar, and as he did, my heart sank. February 3rd was the night of a program at my middle school, and I had a significant part in it.
Dad returned to the kitchen wall phone, flipping through the pages of his appointment book. At last I heard him say, “February 3rd? No, I”m sorry, but I already have a commitment on that evening. Maybe some other time.”
Without saying a single word to me, he communicated his availability, love, and support. I was his commitment, and nothing could entice him away from an appointment with his son. In that availability, I received his blessing.
He always had the right balance in ministry of knowing how to convey to his family that we were more important than his job or an opportunity to speak to a large crowd.
The Blessing Continues . . .
My mom passed away nearly two years ago. For 57 years she had been my dad”s encourager and stabilizing force. Life can be lonely for a man without his life partner and soul mate. But instead of turning inward, Dad has turned outward. He has taken on Mom”s former role of sending birthday and anniversary cards and gifts to all of his children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren (not a small feat!). He emails all of us in a group distribution list and is tiptoeing his way into learning how to text. When one of us receives a text message from Dad, there is much rejoicing, because we know it is a labor of love and a time-consuming adventure!
He continues to bless us with his love, prayers, and words of affirmation, and he continues the legacy of my mother every day.
Over the past 50 years, ever since that car accident, I”ve continued to see my dad”s dependence on the Word of God. That”s who he was and still is. He continues to be a blessing and give a blessing to all who follow him.
“The righteousÂ manÂ walks in his integrity; his childrenÂ areÂ blessed after him” (Proverbs 20:7, New King James Version).
We sure are.
Dave Stone serves as senior pastor with Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, Kentucky.