What My Dad Taught Me in Butte, Montana

I love moving. I love to load up a truck with all my family owns and hit the road. Moving means togetherness and opportunity. It means possibility and hope, and next Saturday I will make my twelfth move. Last time it was my husband and I moving to Little Rock from Waco (two weeks after our wedding). One time it was a cross-country move to Birmingham from Butte. Oh, Butte. That raucous and “ugly” town. I was eight the year my family moved there. It was my first – and perhaps most significant – move.

Butte is where Dad taught me to love God’s Creation.

I grew up in North Texas where clouds stack high as mountains and harvest moons loom otherworldly large on a level horizon. I grew up loving the beauty of the flatlands. I only saw mountains when we drove to see Dad’s side of the family in Missouri or flew to see Mom’s side of the family in Washington State. I’ll never forget seeing the Rocky Mountains for the first time. In April 1996, we loaded up a yellow Ryder moving truck and drove to Butte, Montana. At the edge of the Colorado plains the Rockies came into view and I mistook them for high-stacked thunderheads. In Butte, it began to snow. When the sun came out, I fell in love with the way cloud shadows swept over mountainsides.

The move to Butte meant Mom’s side of the family was closer. We would take I-90 and attempt 4th of July Pass and Lookout Pass to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Our ears would pop and sometimes, even in early summer, powdery snow would sift across the road. My brother and I would read our books, play the license plate game, or turn up our Walkmans and tune out. It was when we tuned out that Dad said, “You really ought to look out the window.” We didn’t appreciate it then. We just wanted to be left alone. With a quick side-glance, I’d wonder why it mattered.

Now I seek the scenic route when I need alone time with God. Now I believe that other than God’s word, Creation is the next loudest way He speaks to us. Now my brother is a wilderness advocate. Wherever nature dominates over the man-made and manufactured, the presence of God overwhelms. Dad knew this and I am thankful he insisted we look out the window and experience it for ourselves.

Butte is where Dad taught me to follow Christ.

In Butte, the churches were few and small. But there, in the midst of an un-churched culture, God called me. One night, a million stars burned through the cold, cold sky and suddenly I felt small. I felt Jesus “knocking on my heart’s door” and longed to answer it. But how? I had attempted “becoming a Christian” twice before. At our church in Texas – where my dad had served as the Minister of Recreation – the preacher’s daughter had told me “All you have to do is believe in God.” I told her, “I already believe in God,” and reasoned there must be more to it than that. Months later, at Vacation Bible School, I found myself at the altar wanting to accept Christ. I froze in fear when a woman asked, “Why did you come to the altar?” I don’t know what she wrote down next, but days later my parents’ ministry friends congratulated me on my “decision to follow Christ.” I felt like a fraud.

It wasn’t until that cold night in Butte that I finally answered God’s call to follow Jesus. Dad opened his gold-leafed Bible, led me through the ABCs (Admit you are a sinner, Believe Jesus rose from the dead, and Confess he is Lord), and prayed with me. I accepted Christ into my heart.

My joy overflowed so much, so often, that I got in trouble at school for telling my third-grade friends I was now “dead” to sin and “alive” in Christ (Romans 6:11).

I’ve outgrown my oddly zealous ways, but Dad continues to encourage me in my faith. He’s taught me that though we may “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” we can walk fearlessly, knowing the God is with us (Psalm 23:4). Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to follow Christ fearlessly. And thank you for insisting I take in the mountainous view on those long car rides.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for our earthly fathers and all they teach us. And thank you that through your son’s sacrifice we may call you our Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Postscript Photos:

Dad 1

Michael, Dad, and me.

Dad 2

Dad and I at a Tom Petty concert. Dad, the music encyclopedia, raised me to love and appreciate good music, but that’s a muse for another day.


Oh, and yesterday Zach and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. 🙂

My sideHis side

My GrentsHis grents

To the Dads (and Grandfathers) in our family: Happy Father’s Day!

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