I only blog when I feel I have something to say and that certainly doesn’t feel like an every day occurrence. And on days like today I feel so caught up in what I’m thinking and feeling that I have to let it out on paper whether people read it or not. So this blog is more for me than it is for you.

My dad passed away on June 2 of this year. Boy…that’s still difficult to type. And while I am still growing to accept this new reality for my family, there still comes those moments when I hear a song, see a picture, watch a video or get outdoors equipment ready that the loss hits me like a ton of bricks. I’m reminded that he is gone from this life.

One year ago today Dad was in surgery to replace a broken vertebrae in his spine and to have a cancerous tumor removed. One year…it feels like 10 years ago and yet it feels like yesterday. Today, while cleaning up my table next to my chair I found, buried under some papers my dad’s funeral program with his picture on the front along with a poem he’d written. It was one of those moments for me.

It was one of those moments when I hear my dad say, “Mike, let me share something with you…” 1960-2011 was the span of my dad’s life. And boy did he fill up the “dash” between those two dates. I think of all that we did together. Particularly a trip to Michigan to deer hunt over Thanksgiving. He and I drive the whole way up from Oklahoma, just the two of us, and all we had to listen to was a Bing Crosby Christmas tape. I must say, I’ve been hooked ever since. But when I think of my most precious memories, my dad is in them somewhere. He may be in the background quietly holding the pride he felt for me in his chest, or he may be the one standing behind the camera filming – but he’s there.

What my dad is still teaching me is that the most important moments of our lives within “the dash” are our families. I’m reminded that before I am called to lead others, I am called to lead my family. To love my wife and children with an undying devotion. I’m reminded that before I am held responsible for how I preach and teach, I’ll be held responsible for how I live and lead my home. Because I have been entrusted with the care of two dear little children, and a loving wife – they are my first responsibility in this life. I’ve been taught my whole life by leaders that our priorities should be “God, Family, Ministry” – and yet how many ministers really mean that? And while I don’t believe I’ve been replacing my family with ministry or other things – I have certainly been challenged today by the memory of my dad to maintain what is most important in this life. I’ve been challenged to give my best to my family and not expect them to be content with my leftovers.

The other night I had a dream. I was talking to some people and off to my right my dad walked past me. I was the only one who noticed him as he walked away. But about 10 feet way, he stopped. He slowly turned around and locked eyes with me…smiled…and give me a big thumbs up, and then continued walking on. And so, still, even being gone from this life the last several months, he’s still teaching me, and he’s still telling me he’s proud of me.