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My father was a very quiet man, but he also expressed his love for my mother and us freely. His undying faithfulness to his family was truly remarkable. That being said, once he made his mind up to something, that’s just the way it was. I am sure his determination came quite naturally since he was one of the last old Adirondack guides, and a Scotsman through and through. His ancestors had come from Vermont and settled our community in the Adirondacks after fighting in the Revolutionary and the Civil wars. The rugged independence, and resourcefulness they use to beat every foe, was the same strength they needed to settle this untamed wilderness.
As a result, dad’s way of looking at life, and living it, was well established through quite a few Emmons generations. In one sense, who we were as a family was almost set in place by our long family history. Dad was a guide, a hunter and an outdoorsmen. It was his gun and fishing pole that continually put food on our table. Thus, there was an unspoken expectation that I would do the same. Don’t misunderstand me, I love the outdoors, as do all of my sons. This is just built within us. However, when I had a dramatic conversion to Christ on July 11th 1976, God took me in another direction, and that event changed everything.
In all honesty, my father did not understand my conversion, or the choice I had made to not follow in his footsteps. In fact, the power of that choice really rocked his world. I never realized just how much until years after his death. My cousin Charlie Emmons showed me a letter that dad had written to him not long before he died. As he was nearing death, dad wrote to him that I had gotten “religion”. He closed that last letter with these disapproving words, “Bill has decided to become a minister. Well, better a minister than a drunk. Far be it from me to tell that boy how to live his life”.
As hard as it was for him, it was the change that came from my conversion that deeply impacted him as well. He saw me go from being a drinker and a dope smoker to one who was totally sold out to Christ. I was his only son, and he could never get away from the power of that choice, and the change it brought. The funny thing is, because of it I learned from dad that his mother and father had also known Christ. They were “shouting Methodist” and the entire family, but him, had been saved in the late 1800’s during the great Methodist revival. That fact was something he had kept secret his whole life, and no one in the family but him knew about it. However, my salvation pulled it out of him one day as we were talking.
Six weeks before he died, dad also accepted Christ as his savior when my pastor led him to Christ. The decision to receive Jesus into his heart also changed him radically. It lifted the weight and burden of sin off him and filled him with the love and peace of a forgiving Savior. It actually gave him a hunger and a desire to read his Bible, and I had never seen him do that before. In fact I was singing “The Old Rugged Cross” one day and dad said, with a tear in his eye, that his mother used to sing that very song when he was a little boy. He remembered her on her knees, crying and singing that song as she scrubbed her kitchen floor. The best change of all was that his salvation took away his fear about dying. It replaced everything in him with an anticipation of meeting the Lord and his whole family in heaven.
We all have the power to choose and that choice matters! Whether you know it or not, others are impacted by what you do. This is a gift that God gave to each of us and we must use it well. My hope this Easter season is that you will begin to consider the choices you make and realize they have the power to change lives. Use this power wisely because you never know what the final outcome may be. In fact, the life you change may be the very one you love the most. When everything is said and done, that makes it all worth while!