Today's post combines those loves. I get to tell others about some books I love that were written by a family member. A much-loved and highly respected family member who just went to be with the Lord.
My father-in-law was 90 years old and was a disciplined godly man who lifted each one of his many descendants up to the Lord in prayer every day. Dad grew up in relative poverty at the tail end of the great logging work that took place in northern Michigan, married a lovely, joyful lady, served in World War II and then raised their five children just across the dirt road from where he'd grown up. The five children all followed the Lord's calling in their lives and raised their children for the Lord. Four of those five children now have married children following in those footsteps of raising godly children. (As the youngest by eight years, we don't yet have any married children yet.)
When his wife's health began to fail, he cared lovingly for her in their retirement home in Florida and then when he was no longer able to do that, he went the the nursing home twice daily to feed her and to take her for a "drive in the country" in her wheelchair on the nature path. We began to understand true sacrificial love as we watched him. He was honored that so many of the descendants were able to make it to her funeral nine years ago.
He was grateful for what God had done in and through his family and wrote two books about that as he was caring for Mom and was able to do a lot of book signing and speaking at historical societies after his first book Tall Trees, Tall People was published. It covered much of the history of the logging industry as seen through the eyes of his granddad and dad. Then he wrote The Price of Pride which was the story of his own life - being raised in the northwoods, going to school in a one-room schoolhouse, helping to start a church, going to the big city for work, meeting his future wife, serving as an airman in World War II (flying over "The Hump"- the Himalayas), working as a skilled welder, serving in his church by teaching and discipling, getting into wood-working, always seeking to glorify his Father in heaven.
He made his mistakes and had sins to confess, and he did confess them and righted the mistakes as much as he could. So we honor his humility as we honor his faithfulness and are so grateful for his influence, teaching and especially for his prayers. We are all convicted to take up the mantle of his work of prayer for each descendant by name.
Here's how my "neice-in-law" put it:
Yes, Grandad was a very special man. His commitment and dedication to work and family were clearly evident. And while those two things were wonderful and tremendous blessings to his family, what made this man so special was his commitment to God. You couldn’t know Rex very long without coming to know of his commitment to God. Those who didn’t even know him that well saw his regular church attendance and his moral life and they knew something was different about Rex Southwell. But church attendance and a moral life isn’t what truly showed his commitment to God. For many people regularly attend church and even are busily working in the church ministries, but they are not committed to God. In fact, I remember visiting Grandad one summer afternoon and discovering that he was quite bothered by hearing a pastor say that one’s love for God is measured by their church attendance and service in the church. I had barely settled on the couch before he vehemently pointed out to me that his love for God had never waned though his physical strength had and therefore he couldn’t serve in the church nor make it to as many services as he once had. I heartily agreed and assured Grandad that I knew of his continued commitment to and love for God and that I, for one, didn’t measure one’s status with God in such a way. I realized that Grandad found it very important that those around him never doubt God’s place of Supremecy and Authority in his life.
No, church attendance and a moral life did not show me Grandad’s commitment to God. It was his regular Bible-reading and prayer. I knew that every single day he was physically able, Grandad had started his day in the Word of God and prayer. He was rarely one to share specifics of what he had found in his time with God, but it oftentimes came up in conversation and I knew he had met with his maker that morning. What a testimony that was to me as a busy mom of young kids who struggled to make my time in God’s word a priority. Yet, while Grandad’s time in God’s Word certainly has impacted his family, I have come to heartily believe that the one thing that has made the Southwell family so special is the simple fact that every single day he was able, Grandad took each of our names into the Presence of God. From his kids down to his great-grandkids, each name is dutifully recorded in Grandad’s Bible and he took the time to pray for each and every one of his descendants by name every day. It gave me great pleasure to ask Grandad the name of a recently-born great-grandchild and to have to wait as he rattled off the names of first his child and spouse, grandchild and spouse, then on down the line of great-grandkids in that family from oldest to youngest. Why did he do that? Because that was the way the names are listed in his Bible and that is the order in which he prayed for them. I laughed when Grandad would be standing in the midst of my own kids and have to start from the oldest name to get down to the name of the one he was meaning to refer to. It never offended us, but rather comforted us for we knew that his list of names was another reminder that he was praying for us.
I know Grandad rarely knew the specific struggles of our daily lives, but just knowing that he had lifted my name and the names of my kids heavenward every day just astonished me. As I look around the Southwell family I see the faces of so many individuals who are dedicated and committed to the same God Rex Southwell served. I see a special family who love one another and love their God even more. I see a heritage left by a very godly man. I see a God who honored countless decades of one man’s commitment to prayer played out in the lives of countless descendants.We are blessed and I
I am so very grateful for the many lessons and memories Grandad gave to me. But more than all of that, I am eternally grateful for the eternal difference he made in my family through his prayers for us. May each of us as Southwells pick up the torch where Grandad laid it down and live a life of commitment and dedication to not just our work and our families, but most importantly to our God and daily prayer for our descendants. For I now know that what intrigued and interested me in the Southwell family all those years ago was the heritage of one man committed and dedicated to God and prayer for his family.