Faith Matters; Rev. Hope Italiano Lee, June 14, 2014

June 14, 2014 

My father was an Italian Roman Catholic who sat in the pews of a Presbyterian Church for almost 30 years.

He passed away eight years ago and, as Father's Day approaches, I find much of what I've learned about faith and ministry came from my Dad.

Dad had a background in theatre. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

From that part of his life, I learned two things.

First, God made all types of people. Some of them lead lives that you will agree with, some of them will not. You may disagree with them, but you do not get to deny they are just as fearfully and wonderfully made as you are.

Therefore, out of respect for God's creation, we should always take every opportunity to show kindness, to extend grace and to say a gentle word -- even about, and to, those with whom we vehemently disagree.

It would be wonderful if they would do the same for us and sometimes they do. Sometimes they do not. That's OK -- you have nothing to lose and everything to gain either way.

Second, we should always communicate clearly.

When I became a preacher, Dad said: "If you can't say it in 15 minutes with clarity and with something meaningful for folks to take home, then chances are good that you won't be able to do it in 30 minutes either. At least have the decency to spare them the 15."

I try, Dad!

His other piece of practical advice was to: "Get a life."

Dad was always worried clergy, and followers of Christ in general, lived in a world of rarified air nowhere close to the reality of the smog of the average sinner. He felt pretty strongly all ministry needed to be rooted in authenticity and modeled after the heart of Christ.

Jesus did not live His life in a pristine bubble.

He got out into the world where real people led lives that were covered in all kinds of dirt.

And most times, He'd stop and sit in the dirt with them.

Dad was always on my case about taking vacation, going to the movies and eating out with friends.

He wanted me to remember ministry happens where life happens and I'd better get to living if I really wanted to be in ministry.

Perhaps the most profound thing about faith Dad ever taught me occurred in the days after the tragic death of my kid sister in an automobile accident. Several weeks after her funeral, Dad and I went to the cemetery.

Sitting there, looking off into the distance, Dad said: "Ya know, I have learned that almost everything in this life can be taken away from you, even your kids. But nothing can take away your faith. That's about the only thing in life that only you can choose to give up and not have taken away or ripped from you. That makes it the most precious thing in the entire world."

Now that he's no longer here with me, having left this world entirely too soon, I would have to agree my Dad was absolutely right... and he would've loved to have heard me say that!

The Rev. Hope Lee, lead pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, can be reached at 941-794-6229,, or at Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Herald written by local clergy members.

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