Daddy’s clothes, 1994

stained glass

As I closed the door

and he walked away

my heart raced

as it does after a nightmare.

Ten minutes ago he asked

if I would wear his class ring.

I panicked, sputtering excuses:

“You paid a lot of money for it,”

and “It’s way too big.”

I’m not ready

to be stamped with his brand.

I’ll put on Daddy’s old sweatshirt

and hug my arms around my middle.

Big and baggy is in

and boys don’t stare.

I wear Daddy’s blue oxford dress shirts,

bass fishing tournament tees

(even though I hate flying hooks)

and printed rayon button-downs.

My favorite shirt drapes softly over me

with its moody kaleidoscope:

dark blues and purples, greens and magenta

fragmented by black lines

like a Tiffany lampshade.

When I look through the violet panes

melancholy floods me

and I long for the touch

of something just beyond my reach.

Father figure

Porträt des Grafen von Seilern mit Tochter, by Vaclav Brozik, 1895

Porträt des Grafen von Seilern mit Tochter, by Vaclav Brozik, 1895

“God sets the lonely in families.”  Psalm 68:6

He doesn’t know

the little girl inside me

leaps when we chat.

He consistently arrives.

He speaks with respect.

He defers to my femininity.

He listens and affirms.

He self-effaces though he could boast.

Best of all

faith is a bridge

not a barrier.

So often I tell myself

I don’t need a daddy anymore.

But sometimes the deep cavern opens

and grief rushes to the surface.

Today I am healed

by the kind attention

of a silver-haired man

who doesn’t recognize

the blessing he bestows.

“Listen”—Dr. Charles Stanley’s influence

intouch.org

intouch.org

Dr. Stanley is my spiritual father figure. I love his Southern drawl, his insight into God’s Word, his beautiful photography, and his personal stories. His oft-repeated phrases “Listen” and “If you are listening, say Amen” make me chuckle as I pay closer attention. I attended his Atlanta church services twice, and met him in person once. I was just a teenager then, and so overcome with tears I couldn’t speak. But he shook my hand calmly and blessed me in God’s name. Nearly 25 years of his teaching is stored in my heart.

God used one of Dr. Stanley’s television sermons on a Sunday evening in August 1993 to prompt me toward spiritual rebirth. I went down to the basement bathroom alone and prayed the sinner’s prayer as a 15-year-old, and a supernatural peace stole over me. I didn’t know that two months later I would feel so depressed that I would consider ending my life. If I hadn’t been saved at just the right time, I’m sure I would have continued down that dark path. But God delivered me, and I learned to recognize his voice partly because of Dr. Stanley’s teaching, and what I learned in his book about the Holy Spirit.

When I was a newlywed, we sometimes substituted Dr. Stanley’s television broadcasts for church on Sunday. I don’t recommend that practice to anyone able-bodied enough to attend church, but at least we received godly teaching before we committed to church membership. Not quite a year after we married, I worked to process the events of 9/11 by reading all the newspapers in the college library, trying to understand why my country had been attacked. A few Sundays afterward, Dr. Stanley’s sermon gave me peace as he reminded me of God’s sovereignty.

When I became a mother, Christian radio became my daytime companion as I worked from home. I listened to Dr. Stanley every weekday, storing the truth he revealed in my heart. I remember him saying many times: “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.” I worked hard to apply that principle as I learned how to submit to my husband when I didn’t agree. This principle helped me lay aside my fears and trust God when I faced difficult choices in relationships and impossible work situations.

For many years I’ve subscribed to the In Touch magazine, a free publication by Dr. Stanley’s ministry. The articles and devotionals help me apply my faith in practical ways. One article particularly encouraged me when I felt frustrated in a dead-end job. “The Call to Create” in the October 2005 issue said that God intended me to use my gifts for His glory. I had set my talents on the back burner for years, yet I yearned to share my art and writing with the world. That article, along with the series of top-quality Christian poetry they published, encouraged me to not wait until my children are grown to get creative.

The most personal lesson Dr. Stanley taught me came from his own experience. As I struggled to give up my idol worship of my dream home and the false security it provided, the Holy Spirit led me to Dr. Stanley’s story about his cameras. He is a world-class photographer. Yet God called him once to give up his cameras, with no explanation. Dr. Stanley struggled with the decision but finally trusted God and sold all his photography equipment. He experienced a peace that passed all understanding after he let the cameras go. Not long after that, someone knocked on his door and told Dr. Stanley that God had moved them to buy the cameras and return them. As he held the equipment again, Dr. Stanley was humbled by God’s goodness. God hadn’t wanted the cameras—He wanted Dr. Stanley’s undivided devotion. I cried and cried as I heard those words. God didn’t want to take my house away. He wanted me to put all my trust in Him. I’m still living in my dream home, but I’m holding it much more loosely now. Dr. Stanley’s testimony helped me have peace in God’s providence.

If you are a fan of Dr. Stanley, how has his ministry impacted your faith?