A father’s love of God, people passed to daughter
BoB LIvELy | In your wordS
I journeyed to central Oklahoma one hard day in May to witness my beautiful young niece, Lynne Ellen Lively, deliver her valedictory address before the 2010 graduating class of Wewoka High School. From the eighth grade all the way through high school, Lynne never earned a grade lower than an A, so she and three other similarly gifted students were named co-valedictorians of the class of 2010.
Lynne’s father was my brother John, who himself was long ago an honors graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and also of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary before being admitted to the Oklahoma City University School of Law.
John never struggled with the core belief that God maintained an absolute claim upon his life, but he did worry no small amount about how best to serve the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. And during his decade-long pursuit of three academic degrees, he still found it difficult to decide if God was calling him to be a pastor or whether he might be of more service to his fellow human beings as an attorney.
Because he wanted to be a good steward of the considerable gifts with which he had been blessed, John decided to do both, and 30 years ago he was invited to join a law firm in the small Oklahoma town of Wewoka, where he also accepted a call to become the pastor of that community’s First Presbyterian Church.
For the better part of three decades he served Kingdom of God faithfully and with utmost integrity in Wewoka. Two years ago, when Lynne, his youngest daughter, was only 16, John died suddenly and unexpectedly of a brain aneurism. I suspect that every resident of Wewoka attended one of the two memorial services where his life of service and his uncommon faith were celebrated before his remains were returned to Texas to be laid to rest next to our parents in a Dallas cemetery.
Well into her address before her classmates — with perhaps as many as a thousand people in the audience — Lynne had thanked her teachers and her mother for their care and consistent encouragement. But when it came time to thank her deceased father, she bowed her head and trembled so deeply I feared she might tumble off the stage and land in the front row of seats.
Then it happened: The entire audience began a spontaneous and uproarious applause that seemed to proclaim, “We love you, Lynne. We loved your father and we love you.” Lynne lifted her head, smiled, wiped the tears with a tissue and concluded her address — thanks to the goodness of people whose lives had, no doubt, been touched by her father’s willingness to help them in whatever way he could.
Because he had read and mastered the content as well as the meaning of the Gospels, John knew and dared to live the truth that the power of love is a force far greater than the love of power. Thankfully, John didn’t take that truth with him to the grave. No, he obviously imparted it to the people of Wewoka as well as to his daughter, who will, no doubt, leave a legacy similar to her father’s. For much like him, wherever she ventures, her very being will be an exquisitely beautiful expression of God’s love.
I’m extraordinarily proud of her, not because she is brilliant, but rather because she is so humble and so obedient to the one she knows makes an absolute claim upon her life.