A fa­ther’s love of God, peo­ple passed to daugh­ter

BoB LIvELy | In your wordS

Austin American-Statesman - - FAITH & BELIEFS - Bob Lively serves on the ad­junct fac­ulty of Se­ton Cove Spir­i­tu­al­ity Cen­ter, is a teacher in res­i­dence at First Pres­by­te­rian Church and a guest lec­turer at Austin Pres­by­te­rian The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary.

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.

Bob Lively

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