The first man I ever loved turned 70 years old yesterday. That sentence might register high on the “Ick” Factor unless you know that I am speaking of my father, Lonnie Hall. But in all truth, he was my very first love. It is because of his love for me that I learned to love God. It is with much pride that I introduce you to him. Apart from my mother, he has had the biggest influence on my Christian life.
It should not surprise you that Kelly, my husband, and my Daddy are very much alike in many ways. My Daddy loves my Mama in such a way that it’s the standard I used when I was looking for a man who would love me for a lifetime the way Christ loved His church. Over my life, I have seen the kinds of choices that other female friends have made who did not have the kind of love I received from my father. Some of their lives are pretty messed up. I know every day how blessed I am.
Listen to your father, who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old. Proverbs 23:22 (NLT)
To honor his birthday, I want to share with you five things my father taught me:
- Always be honest. When I was nine, my father left instructions for me to water the dog. I did not. When he came home and found the water dish empty, I said, “The dog drank it all.” Had this been a small bowl, I might have gotten away with this blatant lie. However, the water “dish” was actually a huge trough-like metal structure. If we would’ve had twenty dogs, that thing wouldn’t have been dry at the end of the day. I was punished. He talked to me afterward and though I don’t recall word-for-word what the conversation was, the impression it’s left with me for the past forty years is that God hates a liar and so does my Daddy. It’s important to tell the truth because your reputation is all you have. When you ruin your reputation by becoming a known liar, you are of little use in God’s kingdom.
- God is first; family is second; all others can wait in line. I learned to love going to church at an early age. It’s not the building I loved, it was the fellowship of believers. There have been seasons of my life in which I’ve removed myself from this fellowship. These were the most miserable times of my life. Church is where I go to commune with my Christian brothers and sisters and to give my support to them. I have often said I don’t know what people who don’t have a church family do in times of trouble. Likewise, family events are not to be missed unless you are sick or dead. All of my childhood years, my paternal grandparents hosted a huge family meal in June for my Granddaddy Percy’s birthday. I can’t say that I was always happy to see that annual event roll around, but I always had a great time after I got there. Now that my grandparents are gone, I long wistfully for the years that the party was held in their front yard. It has morphed into a yearly family reunion now and we hold it at a local restaurant. It’s just not the same as finding my Granny Brook’s fried chicken and butterbeans on plywood tables held up by saw horses.
- How you treat your employer says a lot about your character. My Daddy didn’t call into work sick a lot. If there was ever a time he missed work., it was probably because my brother or I was sick. He held his job in esteem because it was what paid the bills. He showed up and worked hard because to do less was to be ungrateful to your employer and to God, who supplied you with the job in the first place.
- Love your children well and be involved in their lives. My father did a great many things in his life that he would never have done except for me. He coached my softball team. He came and watched me in forensic speech, school plays, and beauty pageants. He came to every football game and basketball game when I was a cheerleader at Cape Fear High School. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I noticed he stopped going to those ballgames. I thought he went because he was a sport enthusiast, but he went because I was there, participating. And if you know how much Lonnie Hall hates a beauty pageant, you will get a glimpse of how much I know he loves me.
- Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. This lesson I learned as much from his actions as from his words. I saw him living the Word of God at home and serving in his church and community. It thrills me that we will one day be in Heaven together and that it’s partly because of him that I’m there at all.
My son, obey your father’s commands, and don’t neglect your mother’s instruction. Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. Proverbs 6:20-21 (NLT)
The day that Kelly and I got engaged, my Daddy asked one thing of us: to find a church, attend it together, and build our family with God at the center. It’s a formula that’s worked for my parents for fifty-two years. It’s been working in my own marriage for nearly twenty-five. We have kept “his words in our hearts” and they’ve never failed us. They’ve never failed us because the words of my father are the words of his Father.
Thank you, Daddy. I love you with all my heart. I will always be your little girl.
Photo Credit: Sandra Hall Rosser 1987