Lessons From My Father – A Father’s Day Sermon

On this Father’s Day I’m going to do something a little different for my message. I’m going to tell you the most important lessons I learned from my father – lessons that have shaped me and molded me into the person I am today. My Dad had a huge impact on my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today without him. I benefit from the wisdom of his lessons every single day. And whether you are a father, mother, sister, brother, husband or wife I believe the lessons he taught me will make a difference to your life as well.

In my ministry I have always been intentional about being sensitive on Father’s Day. I recognize that not everyone has a positive experience of their father. I get it. In fact, my father was not my biological father. He was my step dad but I consider him my father because he entered my life when I was two years old and was a huge part of my life until his death when I was 19 years old.

My biological father is still living but he is not in my life the way I would like him to be and that’s disappointing to me. But this is what I believe – I believe God provides father figures in our lives when we need them. Everyone needs a father figure on some level and when we don’t have one or we have a negative experience of our father, God will provide people in our lives who can play that role if we are open to it. Since my dad’s death over 20 years ago God has put father figures in my life when I have needed them and he continues to do that. So, if this day is tough for you I understand. My message to you is to pray and keep your eyes open because God will provide a father figure in your life.

So here is a picture of my dad. His name was Paul Harold Reeb. He was originally from Toledo, Ohio. He grew up in the funeral business. His dad owned and ran a funeral home in Sylvania, Ohio. My dad operated the funeral home with his father for close to 20 years. That funeral home is still there and it is still called Reeb Funeral Home but it is no longer in the family. In fact, it still has the same slogan, “When you are in need call Reeb.”

My dad moved on from the funeral business and was successful in various careers. He was a stock broker. He ran a business school. He was a car salesman and owned a Cadillac dealership. And in the last 20 years of his life he was a career consultant. My dad had a demonstrative, jovial, and gregarious personality which made him a success in just about everything he did. Everyone loved being around my father. He lit up a room.  My dad was also a gifted athlete. He was a scratch golfer and a collegiate tennis champion.

Of course his biggest success was the great father he was to me. He met my mother around 1975. My mom worked for him at his business school. She was a single mother of course. My twin sister and I were two and my older sister Jill was five. He fell in love with my mother and he fell in love with all three of us.

One of the big reasons why my dad was such a great dad was because he taught me so many wonderful lessons. Some of these lessons he taught me directly and others he taught me just by the way he lived his life and the example he set for me. I don’t have time to share all of them but there are a few I want to touch on today. I believe they apply to all of us.

Lesson #1: A Day without Laughter is a Day Wasted

You may wonder where I get my loud laugh. Well, you have my dad to thank for that. You think I have a big laugh? You should have heard his! My dad taught me that laughter is an important part of enjoying life and there is much to laugh about in this world. To my dad, if something was funny, it was hilarious. To my Dad, laughter was a gift from God. It was medicine for the soul. My dad believed what it says in Job 8:21: “He (God) will fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouting.”

They say that the sound of heaven is not singing but laughter. I sure hope so because my house was always filled with the sound of laughter – loud, boisterous and fun laughter. Jokes were always being told, funny memories were always being shared. Growing up my house was just a circus of laughter. Of course we took that laughter with us. We laughed so much as a family that we almost got kicked out of restaurants and movie theaters. My dad was always the ring leader of this fun and laughter. Fun and laughter seemed to follow my dad wherever he went. He had a way of attracting it.

A good example is one of stories in my family that will live in infamy. My dad loved to eat. It was a real hobby for him. As a result, he had the “Dunlop Disease.” His belly “dun lopped” over his belt! When he sat down to eat, he would often unbuckle his belt and unbutton his pants so his stomach could breathe. One morning we went to Shoney’s breakfast buffet. He took two plates to the buffet and filled them up. He returned to the table and, of course, unbuckled his belt, unbuttoned his pants, pulled his shirt over his pants and commenced the eating.

It wasn’t long before it was time to get seconds, so my dad, excited about the next round of Shoney’s buffet goodness, picked up the two plates, one in his left hand, and one in his right hand, and walked back to the buffet. But he forgot one very important thing. He forgot to buckle his belt and pants. So about half-way to the buffet, in the middle of several booths and tables filled with people enjoying their breakfast, my dad’s pants fell down to his ankles! My dad was standing in his underwear in the middle of Shoney’s! I saw a lady eating her pancakes almost cough them up as she looked at my dad with her jaw opened and her eyes popped out. I’m just glad my dad was wearing underwear!

My dad turned red and so did I as I sunk under the table. I mean, I was a high school kid who was still dealing with being embarrassed by my parents.  And this happened! I’m still scarred from it!  My mom just sat there turning purple with laughter.  Well, my dad had plates in his hands so he could not pulled up his pants, so he shuffled back to the table, quickly threw the plates on the table, pulled up his pants and said, “I’ll be in the car!”

I don’t know if that Shoney’s is still around. They may have gone out of business the next day. It if it is still around, I bet the staff is still talking about the man whose pants fell down at the buffet. I know the people who were eating breakfast never forgot it! And, of course, my family will never forget it either!

My dad taught me that a day without laughter is a day wasted.

Lesson #2: Put Faith and Family First

One of my dad’s favorite verses was “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). My dad believed that if you got your priorities straight, if you put God and your loved ones first in your life, everything else would take care of itself. But, you see, my dad not only believed it; he lived it out. Here is a family portrait taken right after church one day. I remember taking it because I was starving and couldn’t wait to have lunch!

I remember a lot of things about my dad. I remember before we ate meals he would often take my hand and pray. I remember watching my dad read the Bible.  I remember sitting in church with my parents and watching them put their tithe in the offering plate. I remember riding in the car after church and my dad talking about the sermon and the wonderful Sunday school lesson my mom taught. I remember scheming with my sisters, trying to get out of going to “big church” but my dad would say always say no. “We need to be in worship.” These were critical memories for me. They would shape and mold me. So fathers, be aware. Your children look at your faith and how you live it out. Even the little things make a difference.

I remember my dad holding my mom’s hand in church. I remember my dad hugging and kissing my mom and telling her he loved her. We said “I love you” to one another all the time in our house because my dad modeled it for us. My dad gave a wonderful gift to me and my sisters – he loved my mom. Dads, one of the greatest gifts you can give to your children is to love your wife. Seeing my dad genuine love my mom gave me security and taught me what it looks like to love and adore your wife. Dads, you can’t teach that. You must model it.

My dad was a hard worker and very successful in what he did but he never let work get in the way of church or family. He was there for every baseball game, tennis match, and concert. In fact, sometimes he was too much there! During my tennis matches he would sit right next to the court and huff and puff louder than me. He would shout out, “Get the shot! Get the shot!” He was more into the match than me! A few times I had to ask him to take a break and walk around for a little while! We never missed family vacations and holiday get togethers with loved ones either. My dad knew those were the precious times you can’t get back. My dad was wise. He knew that at the end of life it is those times you spent with God and loved ones that matter the most.

Lesson #3: Enjoy the Present Moment

My dad showed me what it means to live the abundant life every day. Wherever he was and whatever he was doing was the most exciting thing in the world! Whatever meal he was eating was the best meal he ever had. Whatever book he was reading was the best book he ever read. Whatever movie he just watched was the best movie that we ever made. My dad saw beauty, passion and brilliance in ordinary things every single day and he was compelled to tell you about it. Every time was saw a plane in the sky my dad would shout, “Look at that! Look at that! Would you look at that! Isn’t that amazing that something so big can fly in the air!”

My dad thoroughly enjoyed every moment of life. Here is a picture that proves it. He’s stealing a sip of my twin sister Nancy’s milkshake. My dad loved his ice cream. And he didn’t believe in bowls. He didn’t know what a bowl was. He believed that ice cream was meant to be eaten right out of the carton it came in. He would open up the carton and pour Planters peanuts and Hershey syrup on it and then he would top it off with whipped cream.    

My dad’s enthusiasm for life was inexhaustible. My dad never forgot that the second fruit of the spirit is joy! In Galatians 5:22-23 the Apostle Paul writes, “but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” I think the Apostle Paul was intentional in the way he put together that list. Next to love, joy is one of the most significant ways we express that the spirit of God lives in our hearts.

If you were around my father it didn’t take you long to see his joy. My dad knew he was a child of God and was fully aware of all his blessings. He knew God had given him so much and there was so much to be joyful about. My dad felt that there were so many things around him to be grateful for and get excited about! He never understood why people could not just enjoy their lives.

This aspect of my dad reminds me what the Dalai Lama said when he was asked about what surprised him the most about humanity: “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

My dad never had that problem. He really lived the abundant life of Christ! I’m glad he did or I would have never gotten a go-cart or a motorcycle! My mom was against both but my dad said to her, “Oh Jane! Charley will be in hog heaven riding around in that thing!” And I was in hog heaven riding around in those things!

Lesson #4: Happiness is a Choice We Make

My Dad’s joy gave him his greatest asset – his attitude. His attitude reminds me of Nehemiah 8:10: “For the joy of the Lord is your strength.” I think it was my dad’s joyful and positive attitude that had the biggest impact on me. He truly believed that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it. And now I believe it too!

I remember coming home upset one day because I had asked a girl to go out with me and she said no. When I told my dad what happened he said, “Big deal! Charley, come on. As a salesman, I get told no all day long. Out of 20 people I’ll get 18 no’s and 2 yeses. But those two yeses make all the difference. If I gave up every time someone said no we would starve! Don’t give up! Sooner or later you will get a yes.” And thank God Brandy said, “Yes.”

I remember my dad taking me to my first Braves game. It was 1984 and I was eleven years old. The Braves were terrible back then but it didn’t matter to me. This was my first major league baseball game! That night they were playing the San Diego Padres and my dad got great seats right behind home plate! We were sitting in an area that got a lot of foul balls. Throughout the game foul balls were flying all around us, just outside our reach. The game progressed along and I thought we would never get a foul ball. My dad could see I was disappointed and said, “Charley, give me your hat. I’m going to catch a foul ball with this thing!” So he took my hat. It wasn’t ten minutes before a ball was fouled back and it bounced over two groups in front of us and right into my cap. My dad handed me the ball and said, “Here you go! I told you!”

My dad believed we make our own fun. He taught me that happiness is a choice we make.

Lesson #5: God’s Grace Will Get You through Any Storm

This picture was taken when I was a senior high school, just over a year after my dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was amazed the way my dad responded to his cancer. Even in the midst of great pain and fatigue he never lost his sense of humor or his abiding faith.

I remember my dad quoting a passage of scripture to me. I was talking with him about which scripture passage meant the most to him. He read this one with tears in his eyes:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. -2nd Corinthians 12:9-10

My dad did not believe God gave him cancer but he did believe that his cancer gave him the opportunity to show others how strong God is.

I will never forget the last time I saw my dad. He had a peace about him. He knew that God would never let go of him and not even death was going to separate him from God. He gave me a big hug and told me he loved me and how proud he was of me. As I left his room I knew that would be the last time I would see him on earth. But as I looked into his eyes I knew that he knew that because of the grace of God the worst thing is never the last thing.

So on this Father’s Day I leave you with one of my favorite pictures of me and my dad. This was taken on a Father’s Day when I was about 11 or 12. I gave him new head bands and wrist bands to wear when we played tennis. Some of my best memories of my dad were on the tennis court. I love this picture because it reminds me of the lessons my dad taught me: A day without laughter is a day wasted. Put faith and family First. Enjoy the present moment. Happiness is a choice we make. God’s grace will get you through any storm. My father led me to seek help from my heavenly father. Amen.

Comments (6)
  1. Ray

    Just saying thanks for sharein a bit of your life story

    • And thank you Ray! I hope your ministry is going well. Have a great weekend!

  2. Betsy Ouellette

    Happy First Father’s Day Charley!
    Thank you for sharing your memories and lessons learned from your Dad.
    Grace and Peace, Betsy

    • Thanks Betsy! I appreciate it! It is a special weekend for sure. Sending many prayers your way.

  3. Hey Charley, didn’t realize you are an MK like me. Morticians Kid. Knew there was something we held in common

    Have a great First Father’s Day


    • Thanks Chuck! That’s great! Yeah, we ought to swap stories some time. My dad had some doozies about being a funeral director! Have a great Father’s Day!

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