A Father's Legacy
• I wish to dedicate this, my first published book, to my loving wife - Jackie Denise Mayhew Leroux. Without her encouragement and support this book could never have come into existence. • Secondly, to my amazing daughter - Mariah Cherie Leroux. I found inspiration for much of the contents of this book in thinking about what I would share with her if she were close and we could just chat while watching the sun rise and sharing a cup of coffee. These two women hold the center of my universe anchored and everything I do revolves around them. I thank God every day for them being such an integral part of my life. • To Jeremy Bowman, my sounding board and technical critic. • To Christian Life Church of Waco, and especially Pastor Robert Nelson. Thank you for the constant support and prayer.
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As I was writing this book, I would occasionally post to social media different segments to share and get feedback on my progress. I did not share the fact that I was writing this book. I wanted honest opinions. What follows is a collection of comments made on the various segments during this process (Last names omitted for individual privacy).
Matthew, from Missouri wrote; “I can definitely relate. I needed to hear that. I like it brother. Keep it up. You’re helping me. I can feel the anointing as I read”.
Joanne, from West Virginia shared; “I have a long journey ahead. I like the statement ...‘It is a way of life’ wonderfully written, powerful and eye opening”.
Jonathan from Austin, Texas shared; “This is awesome, blessings my brother!”
Jeremy from Waco, Texas wrote; “Words of inspiration with a seasoning of fervent desperation...that right there is proof of an unshakable truth. Listen...thanks again brother for being what I call a Catalyst Vessel. Do not stop. Well researched and greatly written...words of gold! I always think it's great when a teacher utilizes his own personal abilities as an object lesson. I encourage every reader to follow Russell's inspired writing. It is heartfelt and genuine”.
Jeff, from Waco wrote; “What wisdom, pointing souls to Christ”.
My Pastor, Robert Nelson from Waco, Texas shared; “Awesome, I think we have agreed. We can't change the foundation. Do not for any reason stop writing what is on your heart; it does me good to read this. It rekindles the fire in my soul to preach the way I do. Let us never forget, keep writing my brother”.
Jackie from Lorena said; “Wow, I cannot express into words what I felt when I read this... Powerful...I hope everyone reads this!”
Shari said; “Thanks for sharing!”
Miraida said; “WOW!”
Arvel, from Arkansas wrote; “Powerful words. We all need to be reminded of the future judgment, the Lord is coming soon!”
Elma, from Missouri says; “Keep up the good work, you are doing great!”
Wayne, from Missouri shared; “Wonderful, very soul stirring!”
Nadeen, from Atlanta, Georgia shared; “Great writing! Thanks for sharing”.
A. Hunter, from Georgia wrote; “Well said...I have known for twenty years or longer what a good writer you are...please don't stop...you have definitely got my curiosity peeked...Well done!”
Rirah, from South Georgia said; “Truly awesome, keep writing”.
Cynthia, from Central Texas says; “WOW! Powerful!Beautiful! Thank You for sharing!”
Clyde, from Texas writes; “Spirit lead”.
Rebecca shared; “This is a wonderful testimony”.
Jesse, from Pennsylvania shares; “I do not know if you prayed for wisdom but you surly have it. A gift you need to continue to share. All I can say is that I think it is inspired awesomeness!”
“One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.”
Psalms 27:4, KJV.
The turn of the 21st century brought many new things into the world; everything from new trends and advanced technology, to economic hierarchy that led to financial disaster at the hands of American tragedy. For me, things back in those days were simpler. I was still considered a newlywed and we’d just had our first daughter. I was the assistant manager of a small retail store and hungrily seeking the will of God daily.
Yet it was also about the time I met a man who would grow to become my closest friend and brother. This man is Russell Leroux, and our friendship has grown deep like the strong roots of an old oak tree in the past fifteen years. With our first half-hearted obligatory handshake (we’d been introduced as our wives were the common factor, being friends first), I had no idea it would mark the beginning of such a treasured relationship. How could anyone? After all, we all-too-often meet new people through family, friends or business acquaintances, quickly dismissing the encounter as a part of daily social niceties.
This was 1999, and I earmark that year as a gift from God. But little in life comes easily and my friendship with Russell was no exception. In that first year, our paths crossed occasionally, usually only because our spouses were so often tied at the hip. My own would often tell me, “You should try to be friends with Rusty. He doesn’t know that many people around here and maybe you could convince him to come to church.” The idea lacked a spark of enthusiasm in my mind as I didn’t like to feel the need to befriend someone as a project. It so happened, though, that that was conceptually what happened. Not the project side of it, but the friendship began showing promise.
We both found that we enjoyed the art of conversation, to put it mildly. I think we both saw a void in our lives at that point in which the act of sitting down and having an intelligent dialogue was simply nonexistent. So we talked, and when the wives were doing their thing, we spent time together angling our words into the water of life, love and all things mysterious. But of course, that’s too easy! I was very young still and hugely defensive about everything I knew and believed. Yet here was Russell Leroux, challenging life as I knew it! I often left his home in China Spring frustrated and a little attacked. This was not the comfortable life I was used to living, but something stuck in me after time. It occurred to me at some point that this guy, a little older than me, had been through a great deal of the same things I was just coming into.
I recall a specific moment in 2001. We were all together eating lunch with some church friends in Waco at The Kettle. I was frustrated about something of non-importance and Russell stopped me in the middle of a rant. “You know,” he said, “you sure do complain a lot.” I was mad at those words, but not because he said them in front of family and friends, but because he was right! I fumed inwardly, but never forgot that moment. To this day, I often stop myself when I’m nibbling at the bait of tasty complaints and remember those words. It is, to this degree, that I began to mark Russell as someone with insight and one who can show a person a mirror and say, “This is you. What do you think of that?”
Over the course of more than a decade to follow, Russell and I have shared a great deal of triumphs, the pain of loss, memorable golf games, and somewhere in between, nearly a year where we didn’t speak. I have no doubt in my mind that God has been the cornerstone for this friendship. He has been a positive influence in my life for what I consider long enough to be an era. But the bottom line for all of this, where the cost of business yields a profit, is that Russell Leroux has a heart to reach people and the inherent gift to see it through.
I encourage you, the reader, to open your heart and listen to the Spirit of God as you devour the words within this book. I spent a great deal of time editing this and working line by line, giving my best to catch and fix any technical or syntax errors. Though it proved tedious, it was rewarding because I was reading through the entirety of the text again. There are gems of faith lessons and pearls of scripture which, when read in any circumstance, will prick your spirit if you remove the wall of doubt and defensiveness.
It is possible, and very likely, that you will be challenged as I was with the metaphorical mirror before your own eyes.
The wind tugged at his thin white hair and a chill was in the spring morning air. We had just met the night before and only briefly spoken, but nothing more than general introductions. He was in his seventies and a long way from his home. His body was tired and his thoughts were on his family but reflected in his eyes was an eager spark of life that spoke of curiosity and hidden things.
We sat under a windswept Juniper tree overlooking the water. Neither had said a word for a while as we watched grey clouds dancing in front of the sun and wildflowers waking from their winter respite. Dogs barked in the distance as he cleared his throat and he looked at me. “By your name I would place you to be French” he said. “All the Frenchmen I have known were Roman Catholic in origin.” I nodded as he continued, “So how does a French Roman Catholic end up being a Central Texas Pentecostal?” He asked. It was an honest question. He wasn’t being confrontational; I felt sincerity layered with deeper questions buried beneath his words.
The chair supporting me gave a groan as I shifted to a more comfortable position and gathered my thoughts. I really wanted him to know me and I also wanted to get to know him, we only had a few scattered moments alone for me to share myself and learn who he was. I felt a bond between us already, but first impressions are fleeting at best. I took a long pull from my steaming cup of coffee, and thought about my family’s story…
The Broken Road
Months later I was still pondering that conversation and the lasting effects of events long ago. What had led my family to transition across continents as well as deeply rooted political and religious traditions? It had been a trying weekend. I was tired but happy to be with friends and as I sat there on the pew looking around me, my mind was filled with memories. I thought about the previous day. I had seen my daughter graduate from high school and was overwhelmed with pride. I looked to the front of the church where she had been dedicated to the Lord so very many years ago and I gripped her hand tightly in mine as I thought about how we had spent the night before in the house of old friends.
We sat around the kitchen table eating boiled peanuts and sipping sweet southern style iced tea while sharing our testimonies and the miracles we have witnessed. The amazing power of spiritual connection was forging new friendships and at the same time restoring older ones.
I thought back on the day in 1989 that I had first stepped foot into that sacred place. There was nothing to see, just a concrete slab surrounded by crumbled block walls leveled by a storm. The surrounding field was overgrown with wild blackberries and mosquitoes; as the summer sun beat down on us, I looked upon the man standing next to me with confusion. He was sixty-five years old, but willing to give up everything that he had worked for just to come to this lonely field and start the rebuilding of this crumbled church.
He gave everything he had to see that church grow into a vibrant congregation full of love and faith. When poor health claimed his strength he turned it over to a younger man of vision, stepping into the pages of history.
I thought about the old home place, where so many memories of family and love still lingered under the tall southern pines. There was a visiting minister at the church that morning with a message that really hit home with me.
He told us that during the California Gold Rush, there was a man who had found what he believed would be the fulfillment of his dreams. Though he worked that mine year after back breaking year, he never found much more than the few nuggets that it took to keep his dreams alive.
He dug deep and long into the midnight hours in hopes of striking that mother lode. Finally, when his health had given out and his money was gone, he went down into the mine one last time. He dug until his hands bled and the splintered handle of the pick-ax finally gave way, shattering against the cold unyielding earth.
He climbed out of the cave, loaded up his belongings and made his way back to the small mining town nestled away in the shadow of the valley below. At a local tavern he found a young and energetic fool willing to pay for the rights to his mine. Thinking that he had better move on, the old miner sold his rights to the young man and headed back east in search of his forgotten family.
The next day, the younger man was filled with excitement. He loaded up his wagon and set off for the mine in the mountain. He didn’t even wait to unload the wagon, he was so excited. With haste he grabbed his pick and descended into the mine.
He had only been digging about half an hour when the pick rang out a complaint from hitting something solid. The young man had only moved about six inches of rock but he had uncovered the stuff of legends, the thing that fuels the dreams of desperate men. It took hours to haul out the golden ore, but what a find!
I was still thinking about this story when the pastor called my name. I stood, quietly gathering my thoughts to share with this precious group of friends.
I mentioned the beginning and the trail of scattered memories that led to this moment and then I looked into the eyes of the man who had carried that shared vision over the years into today. I reminded him of the original spark that once captivated my grandfather’s calling and that the spark still remained as a flame burning on the altar of praise. I felt like I needed to remind him that the work he was doing was not yet complete. He just needed to keep digging.
We said our good-byes and started for home. All along the miles, my mind kept retracing the twists and turns of the broken road that had brought me to this place. I recalled a conversation with my daughter over lunch, sharing with her the miracles in our family history that had paved this road. I thought about friends long gone as I looked to the horizon through the dirty glass of the windshield and then to my beautiful wife in the seat next to me.
We can all look back on some form of heritage but we don’t often think about how the amazing twists and turns of life have affected our journey. If in the 1840’s, a lonely son of a Parisian cabinet maker who, serving as an altar boy in the famous Notre Dame de Paris had not felt drawn to board a ship and come to America, (or if that same boy had died during the American Civil War and not converted from the Catholic Church) then his son would not have become a Baptist preacher in southern Missouri and Pentecost would not have transformed my family in the early 1900’s. If that preacher’s grandson had ignored the call of God and chose to remain a farmer, then I would never have been standing in that lonely South Georgia field in the summer of 1989 beside my grandfather and mentor. I wouldn’t know the power of God in my life as I do today and without that precious heritage I would have no legacy to pass on to my daughter as she begins to take her place in the branches of our family tree.
We take so many things for granted. But as I shared this heritage with my daughter I was overwhelmed at the incredible lengths that God had gone through just so I could have this opportunity. Just so I could know His name!
Do you realize what amazing events had to transpire in the distant past for you to be sitting here reading this today? Have you ever thought about how the most seemingly insignificant series of events long ago could have been altered and you may have never had the opportunity to know the Lord at all?
We sell ourselves short and think that we are insignificant. But as I reminded my daughter of her heritage, the thought exploded across my mind that if God was willing to do so much, even altering the flow of time so that I could sit here today baptized in His name and doing what I can to share this message with the world, then how truly amazing is his love all for us!
I should have grown up in Paris as a Roman Catholic cabinet maker! What event in your past led you to this moment? Do you hear the call of God whispering in the pages of your past, leading you to a deeper experience and life with him? Are you living in the awe of your calling or are you just taking every day for granted and missing the grand design that the Almighty has breathed into your life?
Jeremiah 1:5 says “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…” and Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (NKJV). I have heard these scriptures quoted many times over the years but it never really began to mean anything to me until recently when I started to think about what the Lord did so long ago, just so I could share this moment with you.
My hope is that you will think about where you came from and who you would be if the Lord had not altered the flow of time in your past and introduced Himself into your life. This is your heritage, your testimony; and your legacy begins today.
Life Just Gets Messy Sometimes!
I don't know anyone who is living the life today that they envisioned when they started out on this journey. We all begin our adult lives with ambition filled dreams and a sense of adventure. Then we step out facing life and all of its difficult choices. We bravely stand against the dreadnaught of time doing the best we can with what we have while frantically defying the chaos of work, family and financial responsibilities.
Somewhere along the way we look up only to discover that we are not headed down the road we thought we were on; not only that, but we have no idea where we are or how we got here. Relationships that seemed rock solid disappear without warning. Bad choices led to even more bad choices and soon it seems that all we have left are a series of mistakes and very few trophies to display on the shelf of accomplishment.
Life gets messy. Friends that you depend on seem to abandon you through distractions of their own. Lovers lose interest. Sometimes you feel like you’re covered with so much mud and muck that you look in the mirror and don't recognize the person looking back. Hidden somewhere inside is a younger you filled with dreams of a better life than what is waiting outside your bedroom door; a younger you that wants to run and hide under the bed covers. Life gets complicated. This is not what we were told to expect. So, shaking our fist at the sky with defiance, we scream out loud to the universe "No Fair!"
How do you play a game when the rules seem to always be changing; when the ones you trust the most kiss you on the cheek as they turn the wolves loose on you? You want to give up. You've thought about it! It seems everything you do is wrong and when you try to make a change, too much is expected too soon. You’re always late and constantly apologizing for just being you.
It seems that the only things going right in your life are the very things everyone else is saying you have to give up. It’s just not fair! I know…I've been there. So you pick up that bottle one more time, or you meet a lover in an empty embrace. Maybe you look at the medicine cabinet with hungry eyes. Your are so tired of the fight that you are willing to do whatever it takes to fill the empty crater that life has left inside, right?
Just when you think you’re about to hit the bottom, that’s when well-meaning friends come at you with their “ten-step plans” and agendas to get you to conform to an ideal that is just too far to reach from the roadside ditch where your life has become stuck. The truth is, we’re all screw ups. Not one of us has the golden ticket. In fact, much of the time the very ones who seem to have it all together really have no clue what they are doing either and are probably more messed up than you. So what do we do then, give up? That is one option, but there are others.
I've been to places in my life that were so dark and left me feeling so alone that I almost gave up hope. I wanted to ask God for help but I believed that I was far too wrong to touch him. I believed there was no way that I could meet His expectations of me. But I was not abandoned, nor was I alone. Life is a series of faith lessons, and God is a patient teacher.
I was talking with someone who is very precious to me not long ago. She has been making one bad choice after another and she knows the path she is traveling on is going the wrong way. It seems every choice she makes leads her to more and more trouble, not to a better life. Her heart has led her places that she swore she would never go and now she just cannot see how to find her way back. I listened quietly on the phone while she shared her latest misadventure and tried to reason out her choices. I offered her broken bits of advice but what she really wanted was validation for her choices and that, I could not give her. What I told her was this: God knows that life gets complicated.
He has a plan for the way we should live our lives, but he also knows that it can quickly spin out of our control and get ugly at times. He doesn't want us to fail; he wants us to grow and to flourish. But when we decide to do it our own way and choose to go against his word, he will pull back, lift his hands and let the world turn. Yet He still loves us; no matter what state of life we are in, no matter what "sin" may be in our lives and no matter what crime we have committed.
You may be thinking that you have gone too far or done too much for God to care or to forgive you, but He is sitting quietly by the well of life. He already knows your heart and all that you have done. He says, “In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world”. He reaches out his hand and says, “let me give you rest”. He hates the sin in your life, but He loves you with a passion like you have never felt before. All he wants is for you to talk to him and to ask him for help. If we come to Him confessing our faults and failures, He is faithful and just to forgive. Will life always be easy? No, but He promised to never ask more out of us than what we could give and he is the ultimate promise keeper!
To find my life, I had to lose everything that was important to me. I had to lose everything that I had worked for years to achieve and even that which defined who I was. Then, in the middle of a winter’s night several years ago, I was parked on the side of a lonely highway hopelessly lost when I found life again. I did not find the life I had lost (that was gone forever), but I found a new life full of hope and expectation.
Jesus is sitting quietly beside the well at the crossroads of your life. Don't be afraid to trust him, to talk to him, and to listen when he whispers, "follow me..." Your life is only just beginning.
Did the young lady I had been talking with listen to the love filled advice I offered? I hope. Are you listening? I hope.
Life is a journey. And yet with that cliché I hope to begin sharing some of the faith lessons I have learned over the years. Perhaps you will see your reflection as you explore the pages of this book, maybe not. Each of us will face different challenges, tests, hurts and victories. The older I become the more I see similarity between us rather than the many differences that keep so many captivated or distracted.
You see faith lessons all have similar outcomes even when they appear radically different from anything you have seen others go through. You may think that you are alone, or that you are the first one to walk this way, but let me extend a hand and offer what I have learned, both from life and from fellow travelers. You are not alone.
Who Are You?
We lived on a farm when I was a little boy. Our farm was in the rolling hills just outside of a small town in southern Missouri. One spring morning when I was about five years old we were in my grandmother’s kitchen. The windows were open and fresh air filled the room. She was mixing a bowl of vanilla pudding, which was my favorite, and had placed a large glass container on the table where I was carefully placing little round vanilla cookies around the inside of the bowl (while trying to not get caught eating as many as a boy my age could consume). My grandma was a great lady with a strong faith and she had a passion to share that faith with me. I was focused on the pudding. She was focused on teaching me a faith lesson and it wasn’t until I was much older that I came to understand better what she was trying to teach me.
She was telling me a story about a young boy sitting quietly, contemplating the landscape as it rolled past his window. His train was crossing the slow rolling grassy hills of southern England when he observed a group of young boys romping about in a muddy field chasing a ball as they shouted and laughed. He looked on with envy as he quietly whispered “I wish I could play like that.” His mother looked at him and then out at the passing countryside. With a deep understanding she said “Albert…you know why you can’t. You are not like those other children. You are the son of the King. You are a part of his royal house and you have to live up to higher expectations.”
Grandma explained to me that young Albert was about my age and was still discovering who he was and about the sacrifices required of a royal son. Just a few years later, Albert Frederic Arthur George would be crowned King of the British Empire as King George VI. He would lead his nation through one of the bloodiest wars in human history with men like Winston Churchill standing at his side and giving his people hope while leading them with the courage of a lion in their darkest hour.