Archive for February, 2004

Faithful Father

Posted: February 13, 2004 in Everything

I have a lot of books sitting on my office floor. There are more books there than I can probably read in the next few years. The titles and topics cover everything you could imagine from the Dead Sea Scrolls to churches that abuse. There are some impressive author’s names nestled against the stained green carpet of my office. Names like Luke Timothy Johnson and Dietrich Bonhoffer. The books are all marked up inside with thoughtful, insightful ponderings and notes, sometimes with depths greater than the author’s writings. You see, I just inherited the entire library of my father-in-law, Dempsey Stripling.

He died of a heart attack on January 27. It was sudden! It was shocking! It is still surreal!

If the world were to sum up his life they would probably say he didn’t mean much, just another preacher, just another person. He never amassed a great fortune. He never enjoyed great fame. He never wrote a book, or hit the speaking circuit. But what he did do was amazing. He actually changed people’s lives! Many people set out to do that, but few actually do!

In the days after his passing, the family heard from people all across the country. In fact, we heard from people all across the world. They would tell Rochelle, “your dad changed my life.” People would say, “I’ve never known anyone who had so much integrity.” We heard things like, “he always made me feel special” and “he was the best man I’d ever known.” When I come to think about it, he was the best man I’ve ever known too.

The funeral services were held in the next town away, in a church with a large sanctuary. We knew that the small Salado, TX funeral home could not hold all the people. It turns out, no place could hold the love Dempsey had for people. And he let people know it.

I must confess that I am often concerned about all the wrong things: myself, my career, my ministry. But Dempsey’s life was always about the right things: faith, family and fidelity. I wish you could have known him. You would have been better for it.

As Gayle Sayers once said of Brian Piccolo, I say to you: I love Dempsey Stripling, and I’d like all of you to love him.

If you want a full description of my father-in-law, it is found in Matthew 5. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”