Lessons from one of the wisest men I have known

Karen and her Dad

Yesterday would have been my dad’s 74th birthday.

He’s no longer with us on this earth, but he was a very wise man. He had a habit of turning a good phrase and capturing in a few words what took other people hours to say. I’d tell him a story and go on and on in every detail, and he’d say, “Well, it sounds like they don’t really know what they want, in this area or in their life,” and I’d realise I’d known this person for years, but he figured them out in a few minutes.

When my dad got cancer, I started writing down some of the things he would say in passing, in conversation, to others, or in prayer. My dad was a strong man of faith, so many of the things he said were originally related to those areas. And since the best faith of all is that which applies to every area of life, here are a few quotes from my dad for your perusal and enjoyment today. Apply them as you will.

(And if my dad read this post, he would probably insist that I must have made most of these up, because his daughter was far smarter than he ever was. I miss him daily for that.)

Thanks for reading.

On creating yet another programme for people to join:

“Never substitute programmes for persuasion, principle, and perseverance.”


On moods:

“I’m grumpy when I have to be, and feisty when I need to be.”


On wisdom:

Me: “Do you have any final words of wisdom?”

Dad: “Get wisdom.” [pause]  “But not from me, I’m all out.”


On money:

“You just can’t do what you want with your own damn money, that’s the problem.”


On focus:

“People say they believe in accountability and obedience, but they don’t.”


On skydiving:

“There are some things people should just never do.”


On psychoanalysing yourself:

“I don’t need to figure out what I am. I am what I am, and that’s that.”


On talent:

“A man’s gifts make room for him. I really believe that.”


On someone who got caught up in the work he was doing:

“He became more of a scientist and lost the humanity. Lost his compassion.”


On old age:

“When you’re young you think you’re invincible. You are independent. Then you get older and become more dependent, and death is the greatest dependence of all.”


On a bad health day, banging his head on the table repeatedly:

Me: “You okay Dad?”

Dad: “Well, it feels great once I stop.”


On someone who always complained:

“His problem is that the things he is so concerned about that he wants to make happen, he has no control over. He’s so concerned about the minutiae of life, the tiny things that don’t matter as much, that it affects the rest, the big things. ‘The little foxes spoil the grapes.’”


On the devil:

“He does everything to get us discouraged and to give up.”


On freedom:

“There’s such a victim and a slave mentality that has pervaded the country, and you can’t ever have freedom in a country if the people don’t have freedom in themselves.”


On priorities:

“They’re focusing on the things that are of a second order. Not the primary order.”


When painting together, and I fall off a ladder:

Dad: “Are you okay?”

Me: [lying with the breath knocked out of me] “I think so”

Dad: “I hope my ladder’s okay.”


On success:

“Success is an illusion. Because it has to do with the deeper things of the heart, and once you’ve achieved something you realise that isn’t what you truly wanted and so you set a new bar to reach and you never get there. Success is being faithful, serving your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of medical trouble come.”


On saving, and the example of his father before him:

“My dad was always saving. No matter how poor they were, he always set something aside.”


On giving:

“Work and have an abundance so you can help those in need.”


On rest:

Me: “You should just have a day of lying around and doing nothing.”
Dad: “That’s harder to do than a full day’s work.”


To me, one of the times when I was flying back to Scotland:

“Now, I don’t want you to cry about this, but in case you leave and I don’t make it, I want you to know that you’re my favourite daughter, and I am so proud of you – in your work, your attitude, and your Christian life. I’m very proud of you.”

Here’s to Hal Reyburn, who knew how to work and laugh and give and rest well.