What Dad taught me about God

“If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward.”

“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” 

the Apostle Paul

Some of my earliest memories of spending time with my Dad involve sports and education.  My dad, Harry Holtz, was a celebrated public educator in the Renfrew County District for decades.  First serving as a teacher, and then becoming a principal, Dad rose through the ranks to become one of the top principals in the county.  

I often remember waking up early as a youngster during the week to find that Dad had already departed as he commuted to his first school as principal. McNabb Public School became a place that my siblings and I would visit on P. A. days during Dads time there. We actually thought that ‘we’ were the special ones and looked forward to P.A. days because it meant that ‘we’ would have the run of the school and the use of all of the equipment in the gymnasium.

Maybe those moments at McNabb played a role in Dads efforts to raise money and build a much needed full-size gym for Eganville District Public School when he was principal there. Sports was an easy thing for Dad to focus on due to his natural playing ability and belief in organized sports.

Back in the day, Dad was second-to-none as a soft-ball pitcher, and equally on top of the leader board in terms of home runs.  Many trophies were on display in our home that gave witness to Dads ability to dominate and hit the ball regardless of size.  Dad was a natural at baseball, ping-pong, golf, hockey, football and pretty much every other game that involved a ball.  

Our family was able to witness Dad in action during his later slow-pitch years playing at the Stafford ball field. Seeing our Nanna Holtz proudly blow her whistle every time Dad hit a home run is a memory that will forever remain in my mind. But hitting home-runs and throwing touch down passes were not the only thing Dad was also good at it. He excelled at connecting with and organizing people.

In the education system, Dad thrived on making things better. ‘Strive For Excellence’ was the motto Dad embodied to Cobden District Public School when I was a student. At every school function, celebration or assembly, Dad would lead the conversation and call all of us to a higher standard. We were not just students showing up to achieve a passing grade. We were more than that. We were being called to be and become better human beings.

I admit that seeing Dad in action was not always appreciated at that time as an eighth-grade student, but looking back upon those years when Dad was my principal is very much appreciated today.  

Seeing Dad focus on connecting with students at school and in the community speaks to the genuineness and passion of his heart to encourage others to be all that they can be. From throwing football at recess with kids who needed a friend, to giving out high-fives at the local arena to athletes inspired to be better, Dad was someone who always desired to see others succeed. He was successful at it in spades and was always there to celebrate the moments.

Through the many school Fun-Fairs and various fundraising endeavours, Dad collectively instilled vision, brought goals, and celebrated achievements with those around him.  I personally remember desperately trying to sell the most chocolate bars in order to win the coveted five-pound chocolate bar prize, or design the best egg-drop container to receive top honours in the competition.  I guess it is because Dad had a way of bringing the best out of myself and others.    

As my first hockey coach, Dad successfully coached us to win the Mosquito minor hockey championship when the opposing teams coach pridefully bragged, ‘I guess you decided to show up eh’.  We played our hearts out to win the game and stun the home town team.  

But is was on the diamond where Dad’s true passion would spill over. Dad would meticulously teach us the proper way to field ground balls, turn a double-play, and work together as a team. Trying to help us become better hitters, Dad would pitch to us at home in our make shift backstop just so that we could work on our swing. I was honestly too terrified to swing in fear of being hit by the blazing speed of the heater. But Dad would always say, “I’m not going to hit you. Trust me. Stand in there and hit the ball. You can do it”

Now without getting bogged down in theology or bore you with Scripture passages, I would simply like to highlight a pinnacle concept that I have come to believe about God.  

The thought is this:  God is for us.

In the beginning of our days, the Bible speaks of a God that blesses.  From the expanse of the Cosmos to minutia of micro-organisms, the Lord God (Yahweh) created and blessed all that was made.  Eden’s garden and the breath-taking imagery associated with it has long been understood as a place of good beginnings.  

The Bible tells us that it was here, east of Eden, in Yahweh’s garden where humanity received life, meaning, pleasure and purpose for our very existence. It is here, in Eden’s garden, that the Lord promised to be a God who said, “Trust me. Go ahead. Go out in the wider world. Have fun. Multiply in numbers. Work the ground and with the animals. Eat the produce and enjoy the outdoors. Remember, you can do it. This is why you were made. Stand in there and knock it out of the park.”

Ok. I admit that I took some translation freedom here, but the overall point that I am trying to make is that the God of Israel, the God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, is on the side of humanity.

I am further convinced of this fact by looking at the life and ministry of Jesus who lovingly gave His life for the benefit of others. In other words, I believe that when you look at Jesus you are seeing a love-centred, other-oriented, and self-sacrificial God who is for us. I have also come to believe that although God may not look like my Dad, my Dad sure looks a lot like Him.

Now, please understand that this is blog post is not a eulogy because my Dad is alive and well living in his hometown of Pembroke, ON. I am thankful that I will get to call him this Sunday, and wish him a Happy Father’s Day. But better than that, I am able see him continue to impact lives.

Yes, my siblings and myself will tell you that Dad is still on mission to make things around him better one project at a time. It seems that no matter what we say or do, Dad cannot stop himself from making shelves or fixing floors. I guess that’s because it’s just part of who he is: his nature is to make the world a better place.

Hmmmm.  I guess that’s a lot like God too.

Thanks Dad.

Maranatha!

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