For the twenty-seventh time as a senior pastor, I will stand before a congregation this coming Lord’s Day to preach a Father’s Day message. I have always sensed an attitude of confidence preaching on this special occasion because I had the privilege of growing up in the home of a great dad. When Karen and I married in 1987, my father was my best man because, simply put, he was the best man I had ever met.
Art Amsbaugh was born in 1938, the sixth of nine children, into the home of an alcoholic. Dad was following a similar path of self-destruction until the Lord saved him on September 17, 1961. The transformation was unbelievable, and the Amsbaugh home became Christian in the fullest sense of that word.
My mom who had graduated high school with a 4.0 in Latin was offered a scholarship to study Latin in college. My mom turned down this scholarship in order to marry my father a week after her high school graduation. I have often said that mom turned down a Latin scholarship in order to study Art. Indeed, over the last 49 years, I, too, have been a student of Art. And I would like this Father’s Day to offer some poignant traits I learned from one of the best.
First, dad was a hard worker. For decades dad was employed at the Empire Detroit Steel plant in my hometown. His nickname at the plant was “racehorse” because he believed in getting to the finish line as quickly as possible. The company certainly got their money’s worth from Art. Even after dad was bought out by the steel company as manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas, he refused to have mom keep him. He went to work at a dry cleaner driving a delivery truck when his skill level was certainly light years beyond that. Dad believed that work was a man’s responsibility. We never had to worry about bill collectors or bankruptcy. The Bible says that the rest of a laboring man is sweet (Ecclesiastes 5:12), and Art proved it to be so.
Second, dad loved mom. To be sure, mom was a Proverbs 31 woman; she was virtuous. But dad treated her as the queen of the house. He honored her with his time, treasure, and tongue. Dad raced home to spend time with the woman of his dreams and never frittered time away with the boys. Special occasions such as anniversaries and birthdays were never forgotten. And often there were gifts for mom “just because” he loved her. I never remember dad demeaning mom verbally. My sister and I derived great security from the love that dad showered upon our mother. Our dad was the embodiment of an Ephesians 5 man.
Dad also had an uncanny way of shepherding our heart. Christianity was always more than twenty minutes of devotions and three services a week. Christianity was something we lived 24/7. Dad was never satisfied with us conforming to a code externally to cover up internal corruption. Heart attitudes were of supreme importance. Holiness was always from the inside out. Though we lived in a separated home, we never were permitted to have a “holier than thou” attitude. Dad worked as a bus worker at our local church, and thousands of kids trusted Christ as a result of “Uncle Art” making his way into the projects. Dad loved people. And this propelled in his children a love rather than disdain for ministry.
And for me personally, dad was never threatened by the differences that existed between us. My dad is extremely strong; I am anemically weak. My dad was academically challenged; I have two earned doctorates. Many fathers want their children to grow up to be exactly like them. For me, this would have been impossible. Dad, however, was never frustrated by our differences. He encouraged me to be the best “me” I could be. He never tried to make me a carbon copy of himself. I think this was huge in helping me grow up with admiration rather than resentment of my father. As they say, opposites attract.
And finally, I would venture to say that dad’s lack of academia was to a great degree an asset rather than a liability. Dad governed life with common sense that so many academicians miss. His ability to defuse tense situations with humor rather than logic and his ability to discern exactly how to say something in a way in which it could be received were both admirable traits. Ironically, some of the most talented people make some of the most untalented parents. Accomplishments of children are often brushed aside to talk about “my days in the Army” or “my championship trophy.” No such talk ever proceeded from the lips of our dad.
And so here’s to Art Amsbaugh on this 2014 Father’s Day. When my mom declined that Latin scholarship 54 years ago to study Art, she made a very wise decision. I, too, have become an Art student. And my life has been enriched because of my Art appreciation.