I was asked recently what the most formative experience of my Christian life was, and I found that to be an easy question for me to answer.
It had to have been the godly influence of a Christian mother. Alpha Margaret Tangen Dezotell Scott raised all of her 5 children in church and she set a godly example for us. We were all baptized and confirmed at United Lutheran Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and we were raised as active members of that congregation.
My mother passed away at 95 years of age in September of last year, and I miss her every day. Yet her influence lives on.
Christian parents can be the greatest influence in their children's lives. We may not always follow our parent's advice and we may even stray from our early Christian training. But that influence will always remain with us.
My wife's father, Ralph Freeman, passed away on Good Friday this year. Lynn's parents were a godly influence for her all of her life. They raised her in a good Christian home and they were faithful members of Highlands Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama.
Lynn's mother, Cleda, is another godly influence. She loves the Lord and she loves life and she loves to laugh. She brings joy to all who know her.
I have been so blessed to be a part of two wonderful families over the years, the Dezotells and the Freemans. What a privilege it has been.
Family is important to most of us. Most of us treasure those relationships above others.
Lynn and I love our children and we have tried our best to be godly examples to the three of them. And we will continue to do our best to point them in the right direction.
But, every parent knows that our children have minds of their own and they will do what they will. My daily prayer for my kids and for my wife and I is, "Not our will but your will be done." I will keep on praying that way for them too.
I have the privilege of serving as the pastor of a church that is really family oriented. Mt. Lebanon United Methodist is one of those churches made up of a number of various family groups. There are bunches of Neeleys, a whole passel of Trotts, loads of Davises, oodles of Lanes and Boyces, and then all the rest of us.
Sitting on the platform on any given Sunday, I look out on that sea of smiling, worshipping faces and I see godly influence passed on from one generation to the next. Maybe your home church is the same; filled with families that have done their best to pass on the teachings of Christ.
Deuteronomy 6 says, "Now this is the commandment, that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments... you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up."
As God fearing people, we are told that we are to pass on the teachings of scriptures to the next generations. Godly influence is passed on from person to person to person.
My mother's parents raised their family in church, and my mother raised her children in church. My wife's parents raised her in church too. And Lynn and I have done that with our children. Now the choice is theirs whether to follow our example or not.
As parents we all make mistakes. We are not perfect people. But, we serve a perfect God. And we need His help to be the right kind of influence.
I see a lot of godly influences all around me, and I strive to be one myself.
When I think of my church family (another family I am blessed to be a part of), I think of all the godly influences there. And I once again consider myself blessed.
-- Doug Dezotell is pastor of Mount Lebanon United Methodist Church, a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, a husband, father and grandfather, and a friend to many. Doug may be reached at email@example.com.