Sep 10, 2015

The Legacy of A Grandpa

 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 127:3-5 NKJV)

At the time of this writing, Cathy and I have been married together for over 34 years. We have six adult children, two daughters-in-law, two sons-in-law, one granddaughter, and four grandsons. That’s seventeen of us including Cathy and I (and a few more when you add in the ones who are dating). I would say that we have quite a FULL quiver!

In 2011, I was on a journey to discover what I was supposed to do with the rest of my life as a minister. I had been working the past few years “bi-vocationally” and the Lord seemed to be leading me back into “full-time” ministry. 

To be totally transparent, I hadn’t really been thinking about grandchildren being a part of the answer because, although I had one grandchild at that time, I hadn’t seen any connection with her and “ministry”. I was thinking about my call to preach and teach and evangelize and to be a pastor. 

I set aside some time and took a sabbatical to seek the Lord. I had several opportunities that had crossed my mind and my path and I was determined to be wherever I was called to serve. Some of the questions that I pondered were:

  • Who can I pour my life into?
  • Who can I influence to walk closer to the Lord?
  • How will I leave a legacy for those I love?
As I prayed, a passage came to me several times so I paid attention to it. It was Deuteronomy 4:9 which says;  “Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,” (Deuteronomy 4:9 NKJV)

“Teach them to your children” I had understood that, but, again, I hadn’t really thought about my role to teach them to my grandchildren. I guess I had seen my child rearing days as over and my role as a grandpa was to give them all of the stuff that makes them happy!

But after pondering that passage, I came to a conclusion that no matter what I did in “ministry”, I was called to be grandpa. This was as important as my calling to preach and teach and evangelize and to be a pastor. And the conviction was so strong that I knew that it would even affect where we potentially lived as well as where I worked.
Ok, I was called, by the Lord, to be a grandpa; but how? I had helped sow seeds of the gospel into my own children, but that was easier because they lived with me and because Cathy and I were on the same page as to how we wanted to raise our children. We, together, pressed in to teach what we’ve seen and heard to our children.
But these were not my own children; they were my grandchildren and they didn’t live with us all the time. And, I wanted to be respectful of how my own children are raising their children. I realized that my role in my grandchildren’s lives was not to be taken for granted; it was something that their parents would have to choose to give me.
As I pressed into this call, I did practical things like once again get out the children’s books that had been instrumental as we raised our own children in the ways of the Lord. This included both old Bibles that were worn from years of use as well as purchasing some new books that would help sow some seeds for the gospel into the lives of these young ones.
But mostly, I would come to understand that it meant spending time with my grandchildren, not “proselytizing”, but loving them and taking care of them. In one sense it would become more “friendship evangelism”. TIME = LOVE and I needed to be someone who simply loved them as I looked for opportunities to tell them about the Lord.
As I prayed about what that would look like, I was also reminded of the examples of my dad and Cathy’s dad who both sowed into the lives of my children by spending time with them and praying for them.
Also, my maternal grandpa came to mind. His impact on my life is part of the impetus for me to be a good grandpa to my grandchildren; for me to love as I was loved. 
I miss my grandpa Richard even right now as I write these words. He was a good man, loving, laughing, and fun to be with. I felt safe with him no matter where we were. I love the smell of the cabin and equally his home that smelled like pipe tobacco and a fireplace. He loved to hunt pheasant and other waterfowl and loved to fish.
I remember that I always liked being with him; no matter what we were doing. I remember taking row boat rides with him and sitting in lawn chairs watching water skiers on the Fourth of July. I remember taking walks with him at the lake for many reasons including taking egg shells and coffee grounds to his worm box, looking for mushrooms to eat for breakfast, or simply for him to show me something in nature and teach me about it.
I remember sitting alongside of him in the living room of my parent’s house as together we looked through a large picture window at the pond across the street as he pointed out to me the variety of ducks and other wildlife that he was able to see.
I remember his workshop in his home and drill press and the smell of “cutting oil”. He always made me feel welcome in his shop. He was an artist who worked in a variety of materials including carving wood, making rings from stones, making sculptures from found objects such as driftwood and walnuts, and from metal.
He was, as I look back, one of the first men or persons that I know that I loved and felt loved by. He wore glasses even though he didn’t even need them to be able to see!
Occupationally, he was a salesman of some sort; at least that is what I recall that he did because I never really knew him that way; except for the Cadillac that he drove. I simply knew him as a grandpa who took time to be with me and invited me to be with him.
My grandpa didn’t tell me about love; he simply loved me as he spent time with me.
That would be the legacy that I would give as a grandpa. I would let my grandchildren know about the Lord by being someone who loved them. My commissioning would be to simply love them and take time to be with them, dropping everything else to be available for them.
Over these past five years as I have walked out this role as a grandpa to my quiver full of grandchildren (and room for so many more!) I have learned to get into the rhythm of what that means because I am determined to free up my schedule to simply be with them.
And yes, sometimes a phone call, text, funeral, wedding, or some other ministry situation has had to take my time, but each and every time I would schedule my time with my grandchildren so that it would not be at their expense. 
This means being more spontaneous with each and every opportunity that presents itself; including taking day trips to Lindstrom, Duluth, and Parker’s Prairie (north of Alexandria, MN) to be able to hold each of them and let each of them know that they are loved.
This means taking walks or skating or having tea parties or eating ice cream on the porch even when my batteries are drained from pouring out to others who needed ministry earlier in the day.
Yes, I am determined to leave a legacy with those who call me grandpa because I am exhorted in the Bible:
“Just make sure you stay alert. Keep close watch over yourselves. Don’t forget anything of what you’ve seen. Don’t let your heart wander off. Stay vigilant as long as you live. Teach what you’ve seen and heard to your children and grandchildren.” (Deuteronomy 4:9 MSG)
That is how I can fulfill my call by the Lord to be a grandpa.
All Scriptures from New King James Version (NKJV) © 1984 Thomas Nelson                    
All Scriptures from The Message (MSG) © 1993 by Eugene H. Peterson

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