Recently my dad died. I couldn’t see him or talk to him anymore.
So I read his Bible that’s filled with personal notes from cover to cover. I read his journal of prayers and messages he received from God. And I read my journals of conversations we’d had.
When someone you love dies you want to hold onto them. You want to remember and appreciate them.
My dad and I were alike as firstborn sons who were Type A, but we were totally different in our abilities and careers. He was an IBM salesman with a graduate degree in mechanical engineering and I’m a psychologist and former church pastor.
Yet my dad bridged this gap when he learned about spirituality and emotions from me. After he retired he attended many of my Soul Shepherding classes and read my books and blogs. He often encouraged me by sharing how my ministry was helping him draw closer to the Lord and be more loving to people.
Every adult child would relish having a parent or mentor seek to learn from them.
A few times when I was running on the trails of Irvine I bumped into Dad. While he was walking he was holding cards with Scripture passages that he was memorizing and using for meditation and prayer. He was practicing the spiritual growth principle from my book on Jesus’ easy yoke, “Don’t just try — train.”
One day shortly after Dad retired he was in church and the pastor expressed appreciation for his wife. Dad recalled, “The pastor started to cry and then he tried to cough if off but could tell he was crying. I thought, ‘That’s great. My pastor has a soft spot for his wife.’”
My dad was a strong leader, but he also had a soft spot in his heart for my mom and our family. When I thanked him for that he cried.
Best of all, my dad developed a soft spot of feelings for Jesus. In his Bible I found a trail of his personal notes that shows how he softened his heart for God:
- By Psalm 13:5 Dad wrote: “David’s heart changes.”
- By Psalm 27:4 he wrote: Seeking the Lord (like David) as my one thing is “absolutely primary!”
- In other Psalms of love for God he wrote, “We sang this verse.”
- By Jesus’ words in Matt. 7:7 Dad wrote: “Keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Knocking is a more intimate approach to God. Knocking is a process of pursuing God. This is a gracious way to care for others and pray for them.”
- By Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, he wrote: “Your neighbor is not like you, maybe your enemy. Am I a loving person?”
- In Revelation 3:20 Jesus Christ says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with you.” By this verse Dad wrote a special note for us: “You can abide with Jesus… You can have a more intimate friendship with God.”
Dad’s care for his feelings strengthened his faith. His soft spot for Jesus blessed other people too.
One day he told me, “In the past when I saw someone from a foreign country speaking another language I’d think that they ought to go back to their own country. But now I’m really sorry about that. I tell myself, ‘They’re God’s children too and I’m glad they’re here.’”
Listen to this week’s SoulTalk: Often we try to fix our negative feelings with good advice or cheery reassurance. We do this same thing to other people, too. It’s what we call one of the “Biblical Blunders That Bruise and Confuse.” Real-life is a lot messier than the old dictum to get on the “Fact-Faith-Feeling Train.” The truth and grace of the Bible bring comfort and help to our troubled emotions.