Today is my Dad’s birthday. I have already had a great phone call conversation wishing him a happy day today, and last week we got to celebrate a week early in person with a wonderful steak dinner out in Nebraska. But today, in honor of my Dad’s birthday, I want to share some personal reflections about my family.
As I look proudly and gratefully at my family of origin, I can’t help but notice at least five things:
- A Deep Sense of Vocation and Calling
Each person in my family (including my wife and myself) have a deep sense of vocation and calling. I am sure that my parents can trace this back to their families of origin, but my brother, sister, and I can certainly trace this back to our parents. We all deeply believe that God is at work and present in the world, calling us all to use whatever has been entrusted to us- our gifts, passions, stories, questions, strengths, capacities, ideas, etc., in service to our neighbors and communities. I live this out in my current role as the Nebraska Synod Director for Stewardship, but I also see this propelling on the rest of my family in the birth and continued growth of Collaboration Ministries.
- Passion for Partnership and Relationships
Though there may be some introverts in my family, everyone has a passion for working with others for the sake of the common good. We all might define common good differently, and we certainly all go about our work differently, but we have a passion for working together in relationship with each other, those we agree with most of the time, and some we hardly ever agree with. If there is potential for improving the world in some small way that we can be a part of, we want to be a part of it, accompanying others, because we feel that is part of our call and purpose.
- We’re Lutheran Christians
This may be obvious to those of you who read this blog often, but I come from a family of Lutheran Christians, particularly those who are members of congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This faith identity and understanding of God’s grace, presence, forgiveness, love, and promises propels us forward as we live our lives in our unique joyful responses to the pure gifts and good news of the gospel.
- We’re Grateful
I believe that this is true of everyone in my family, but speaking for my brother, sister, and myself, we deeply recognize how privileged we are to have grown up in a family with deep support of pursuing our passions and vocations in service to our neighbors. We are grateful for growing up in a family with the means of supporting our education, and in a home where questioning and processing were always held up as values, even when it might have made daily life a challenge.
We grew up in a family where talking about faith, money, politics, society, and economics (among other potentially conflict inducing topics) was welcomed around the dinner table, in the car on family road trips, and everywhere else. It’s because of this that for me, even on the hardest of days, I know I can’t backdown from asking critical and sometimes unpopular questions in the pursuit of growth and in following my sense of call.
- Global Appreciation and Accompaniment
My family loves to travel locally, domestically, and internationally to learn, and experience all that the world has to offer. Experiencing cultures, learning from other viewpoints and perspectives, and listening to stories near and far I believe makes us all better people, human beings, and better members and participants in the larger human community. In this ever increasing globally connected world (even in this recent uptick of relative isolationism seen in political elections), it is imperative to have a global appreciation for each other.
It is critical to be willing to listen and come alongside, to serve and learn together; rather than to share an opinion as loud as possible and if someone doesn’t agree go in another direction kicking and screaming. Accompaniment, which means coming alongside, is the way to build relationships. It’s also an example of real leadership, as opposed to some people who seem to believe that leadership is about having the loudest voice in the room or the most blunt criticism in 140 characters on Twitter.
I could go on obviously, but this evening, as I think about my Dad, I am grateful for his leadership, for his and my mom’s passion to raise my brother and sister and I to be faithful people who are part of the larger world with senses tuned to continually discern how we might be called to be a part of God’s work in it.
I wonder, who in your life might be like my dad for you? What do you give thanks for about them and why?
Happy Birthday Dad, I love you!