To Some…, But to Me… – Women’s Devotion

Another severe thunderstorm was raging over the Connecticut parsonage, and the pastor’s daughter was scared. Mom tried to reassure her with the story of Jesus calming the storm, but little Ann was not feeling it. Ann looked across the yard toward the church office where her father was working. “You stay here with Jesus,” Ann said, “I’m going to get Daddy.”

Several years later, now in the Midwest, the father laid his hand on the permed head of this same, eldest daughter. He surprised her with the same passage he himself had received at confirmation, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Perhaps he was thinking of that Connecticut lightning storm and reminding her, “Ann, no matter what physical or metaphysical storms may trouble you, God will be with you.”

That’s my dad.

About ten years later, our family was camped on Maine’s coast. My dad was facing a change in his ministry—from charge of one congregation to a synod. Perched on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, the sound of crashing waves in our ears, he led us in a devotion about a rock-solid, unchanging, loving God who upholds and saves us. “God is our refuge and strength…”

Memories of my dad aren’t all devotions and sermons. I remember helping him relive his prep and college football careers as my sister and I retrieved high kicks over the backyard maple. We screamed in mock terror at his lion imitations. With strong arms, he pulled my siblings and me to and from the skating pond in a red plastic sled. He shared his love of ice cream, popcorn, and beloved childhood stories from Caledonia. He brought surprise gifts for the family, which often surprised our mother, too. His love of classical music endures (I was instructed to only play “good” music on my birthday clock radio). And he has a famous kangaroo joke.

Threading through all of these memories is my dad’s love for the Lord and his people, a joy in ministry, especially clear when company surrounded the table and stories like “The Wrong Mrs. Weber” entertained and inspired. He was devoted to our family, but also to the larger family of God, pausing for dinner and devotions, but then back to his sermon or a meeting. My parents traveled all over the world to see and do God’s work, and in his later years, when some might settle down, his ministry took my mom and him farther afield—to retirement calls in Texas and twice to Hong Kong. He encouraged me to follow this course to ministry and family with Psalm 46 strength. My own children saw him as the “faraway Grandpa,” but also as a faithful servant, and my first graders still come to class with surprising stories like, “Your dad gave birth to my mom.” (Translation: My mom was baptized by your father.)

These recollections also include those very present times of trouble, frustration, or anger. My dad would be the first to admit that he is a sinner; so am I. Many days, our matching temperaments got the best of us. Forgiveness was asked for, given and received; a necessary and treasured gift. My father was not perfect, but he made God the Father’s grace through Jesus perfectly clear.

Long ago on Father’s Day, I carefully and colorfully stitched these words on a piece of white cotton: “To some people, you are a rev. or a pastor, but to me, you are the best person in the world, you are my dad.” These words are still true today. I thank God for a loving father who exemplified our heavenly Father and faithfully pointed to the only refuge, strength, and salvation. Happy Father’s Day!

Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,
where Jesus Christ is all in all!
A home that is not wholly his—
how sad and poor and dark it is!

Oh, blest that house where faith is found
and all in hope and love abound;
they trust their God and serve him still
and do in all his holy will.

Blest such a house, it prospers well;
in peace and joy the parents dwell,
and in their children’s lives is shown
how richly God can bless his own.

Then here will I and mine today
a solemn promise make and say:
though all the world forsake his Word,
I and my house will serve the Lord!
(Christian Worship 760:1,2,4,5)

Written by Ann Ponath