Kindersley Alliance Church
My Earthly Fathers
I’ve thought a lot about legacy lately. Watching Jill’s life and effect on others reminds me that we all leave an impression. I need to be sure I pass that legacy on to others. Over the days both my children were here for Jill’s memorial service, I would say, “It’s storytime”, and I’d tell another tale about Jill. I am trusting that they both learn and act based on the life that has gone before them
I’ve had two earthly fathers. Let me describe them to you.
- Dad Cooper, Jill’s father, was a tall gangly man. He was no great carved Adonis (for those of you who haven’t read mythology – that’s the good looking one!). His beauty was on the inside. He grew up as a “sunshine child”, looked on as the poor of the poor, and given an opportunity in the summer to see the sun on the roof of their tenement, surrounded by other poor children enjoying refreshments their parents would not be able to afford.
- Al loved laughter and joking. He was a true teacher, most alive around children. He became a Christian in his teens under the influence of his friend Milson Degaris. One of my best pictures of him was being at a family reunion at a beach in Ontario. There he was, floating peacefully, singing, “I wish I was in Michigan” while spurting fountains of water from his mouth. Ironic that his death would be drowning, as he swam with myself and his granddaughter across a river in July of 2002.
- Dad Baker was a shorter version of myself. Those of you at Jill’s funeral saw three of us boys that all looked the same from the back – white balding hair and the same gait as my father. Dad was a farmer’s son who, after farming himself, took up forecasting as a second career – both jobs which depended on God and the weather. Dad, the good man of the land that he was, courted mom by driving into the empty fields around Kindersley to point out the constellations in the sky – at least that’s his story and I’m sticking to it!! Dad became a Christian at a Kindersley revival meeting in his teens.
- Cal had a wry and dry sense of humor – most people missed the quips related to history or psychology or theology or almost any subject when he talked. Us kids sat back laughing, knowing he was often “joshing” them. He was best described as a careful man – he had files for everything and kept track of his life with journals that stretched for decades. He liked to read and play with words – scrabble and crosswords were his hobbies until his death in his 90’s.
Our sermon series was to be on stewardship today. I had no problem considering my fathers as Christian models of excellence in this area.
How did Al and Cal care for what God had entrusted to them – their gifts and resources and the creation around them?
Give more than you get and you’ll get more than you need. (don’t hoard your resources).
- Dad Baker got married in 1951. In those first years of marriage, when every penny counted (and pennies did count back then), they decided to give a sizable chunk of money away. Rosetown Alliance church needed a furnace. God’s Spirit laid it on their hearts to buy the furnace.
- In my teen years, when 7 children were gobbling up the money, quite literally, they heard of a need to help Canadian Bible College expand. They gave an amount I could not even fathom at that time (as I recall- around $3,000). Now, all this while my careful father and giving mother weekly gave tithes to their local church – without fail!
- As executor for Dad’s estate I was also given access to his books over the years. Each of us children received monies from Dad – in the area of 10’s of thousands of dollars over the years.
At the end of his life, I remember him as a man who was happy with his lot in life! His friends far outnumbered any enemies he may have had. His wife and family did not suffer for love or for what they needed.
Give more than you get and you’ll get more than you need.
Remember Dad Cooper?
- He was a sunshine boy. He never had a lot of money or resources, but he was generous with what he had. The children all paid their way, but when needed – his support was always there!
- I can still remember sitting around mom Cooper’s table – piled with delicious food (and you wonder where Jill got that gift from!!). Dad would begin to pray – and you wanted to be there! Although he did not have money with which to be lavish, he was giving of his resources of love and concern for each of us around the table.
He gave more than he got and got more than he needed.
I’m reminded of the verses in II Corinthians 9, beginning in verse 6 in the New Living Translation:
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”8 And God will generously provide all you need.
Make your business everyone’s business (Don’t live a lie)
- Dad Cooper struggled in the cutthroat business of customs. His company asked him to cut corners and lie to customers. That struggle quite literally led to a mental breakdown. He would not succumb to lies and deception!
- We watched in our early years of marriage as God restored his life because he was faithful to God and the resources he had entrusted Dad with! Although this was tragic in his life, he would not compromise his principles.
- Al was God’s steward of His creation – and that came down to the nickels and dimes he had control over in his professional career!
My father was a “careful man.”
- He kept records that were meticulous. Recently I was able to examine his financial accounts from the 1930’s. Everything was there!
- He made an excellent treasurer for the church. In fact, my dad joined the Kindersley Alliance Church in the early 1950’s, in part because the Pastor knew he would make a good treasurer! He could be trusted to stick to the truth, and to document it at the same time!
Would I have sought out either of these men to be my partner in business? In a heartbeat (even one of Jill’s heartbeats!). Both men felt stewarding God’s resources meant living business and professional lives with integrity.
Leviticus 19:35-36 says 35 “Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or volume. 36 Your scales and weights must be accurate.”
I Thessalonians 4:11 says – “11 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12 Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live.”
Pay what you owe, on time (Don’t take advantage of others)
- After a disastrous move in 1967 to Vancouver and back to Toronto, Dad Cooper was left with very little. The family chose cheaper accommodations, lived without great expense, ran the car very little and gave to the church. Jill never felt deprived and was always proud of her father’s desire to not cheat others out of money owed to them.
- My father seldom bought on credit. Our cars were older and always paid for with cash – a tradition Jill and I followed. Once a month trips to the bank (back in the old days) was set aside to pay bills! Sometimes you forsake steak for pizza to pay what you owe.
- There are certainly acceptable debts with houses and business and daily necessities. But neither father felt you should borrow if you could not see the likelihood of repaying the debt.
- As I look at both of them, this was more for the sake of others. To love your neighbour meant you didn’t withhold their just payments. To respect the institutions around you by paying taxes and bills was to honor those in authority over you. This is true stewardship.
Romans 13:7 says: 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
Master your gifts and resources (Don’t become complacent)
- When my father was in his 80’s, I visited him in Vancouver. He insisted that we go to the local Christian Book store. There we talked about Chuck Colson and the way his writing stimulated my father’s thoughts.
- My father completed his Grade 12 physics with 100% on the departmental exam. He could have rested in the idea that he had achieved the highest grade. Instead, he was always trying to further his education. At 40 he headed off to university (with 6 kids that was a bit too much), so he took an 8 month course to become a meteorologist. Then around 10 years later he took some Master’s level courses. In his eighties he had no fear of the computer – in fact, he loved to see what he could do with it.
- Dad Cooper was known as the walking Reader’s Digest – he could tell the jokes at the drop of a hat, and he had a wide ranging grasp of the articles. He kept up with current affairs and knew what was going on in the world.
Both men were worth listening to. Both men were a great resource.
When you read Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12 and 14 you are reminded that we all are given various gifts. We are to take those and master them, not let them hibernate or dig a hole and bury them. That means we spend time educating and training ourselves.
You can stop stewarding your gifts of intelligence, emotion and ability. That is not God’s plan!
Guard your relationship to family and friends (don’t walk away from people)
- My friend, Dave Petrescue, died in 2006. He wrote a number of articles prior to that, which were compiled in a book called, “Pastor Dave’s reflections.”
- In this book he has two short entries on his father, Con Petrescue. I fondly remember the days our youth group spent in their basement huddled around the Bible. Con sold Pfaff sewing machines – and a number of other retail items over the decades which spanned his career.
Here’s what Dave says about his dad:
“When I was a very impressionable ten years old, my alcoholic, abusive, selfish father yielded his life to Jesus Christ and was completely changed from the inside out. I watched a hardheaded, hard-hearted brute transform into a true man, a tough but tender character more concerned with others than himself.”
In a later article Dave talks of coming to Kelowna to help his parents clear things out before making a final move in their final years.
“When I was cleaning my dad’s office, packing up the files and inventory and sorting through the shelves, I would repeatedly ask him, “what do you want me to do with this?: Now you have to understand the my dad was from the “Builder Generation”. As a result he kept everything and made use of everything!
Yet, as dad sat there and watched me grab item after item and ask the question he would say, “Chuck it.” (For non native English speakers that means “throw it away”).
When I asked how Dad was processing it all he said, “Dave, I brought nothing into this world and I’m sure not taking anything out of it. I’ve enjoyed many things down here but life is far more than the stuff that I have possessed. At this stage I realize in ways I never have before, just what is and what is not important.”
“So should I just chuck everything?” I asked.
And then, as only the wise and aged can do effectively, he said, “Dave, hang on tight to Jesus and hang on tight to your family. Nothing else goes with you into eternity.”
That reminds me of I Timothy 5:8
“If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith.” As a father how I steward my family is part and parcel of my Christian faith.
I have a new normal this year. I’m being called to make sure I leave a legacy! There is no longer someone else to write the cards to our kids. There is no one else to call and keep track of my children. There is no one but myself to make contact with them. I am their father – and I need to steward that gift!
Consider what your legacy will be! Put God first, follow his leadings and may those who come behind us will find us faithful!
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