NOTE: Diary entries are inspirational stories not included in my upcoming book.
I must go back to the 1940s when my father was a young sailor. My favorite photograph captures him lounging on the deck of a Merchant Marine ship, basking in the warmth of the sun. His muscular chest is exposed against the backdrop of the sea. The sun has bronzed his 5-foot 11-inch frame, and he's resting carefree on a chair. I can almost taste the salty breeze wafting through the deck railing.
Twenty-five years would pass before the man in the photograph would become my father.
It is difficult for me to imagine Daddy as a young sailor roaming the streets of Europe with a constant cigarette in hand. Or visualizing him stumbling around Paris in search of fun with "le femmes," as he penned in his diary.
Daddy comes to my memory as a serious-minded middle-aged man occupied with the daily grind of fixing things, a scholarly individual well-versed in theology, and a man of passion who loved the whole world. In truth, he would have sacrificed anything to save the souls of men, and indeed, he did.
He fixated on upholding his integrity, even though his moral code would shame the most righteous of characters. There were occasional moments of imperfection. He sometimes cursed at an uncooperative appliance that he was trying to fix.
While it may have been a serious issue for him back then, I find it humorous to read the entries in Daddy's diary where he expresses his struggles with trying to quit smoking.
March 2nd: "An impossible task—I resolved for the hundredth time to cut out smoking. Tomorrow, I hope to abstain from all lust and especially cigarettes."
The Next Day: "But someone lied, 'cause I consumed three cigarettes til 10 pm. The pain of drug abstinence is worse than hunger or passion, and it seems that man needs the inspiration to accomplish great works or do the impossible."
The Day After That: "I have come to the sad conclusion that I am the biggest liar ever. I deceive myself. What a fool. Course, to be a liar doesn't prevent a fool from trying again."
April 18th: "I quit smoking on this Day and night of the 18th of April 1945, and that's a fact. GOD BE WITH ME. I have gone astray like a lost sheep. 'I will lift my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.'"
Day after April 18th: "I guess I didn't lift my eyes high enough 'cause I am still smoking today. One thing is sure: I didn't have any hills to look up to."
Daddy's brother, my Uncle Bill, a devout Christian, wrote letters to Daddy and his other brother Wayne about the condition of their souls. But Daddy wasn't interested in Uncle Bill's religion, nor did he want to be called out for his "sins" by his younger brother.
He wrote in his diary, "Bill clings to his religious convictions as a drowning man would hold to a straw…."
But Despite Daddy's disdain, Uncle Bill never gave up and continued sending Daddy religious pamphlets.
As time went by, Daddy grew more lonely and increasingly discontent with his life. "I think I am getting fed up with this sea life. By God, I want a wife, a home, and a couple of kids. I want to make a comfortable living and contribute to humanity—I want love and happiness."
Daddy's ship broke down and docked for two months off the shore in Singapore. Missionaries forced out of China had set up street meetings where they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Daddy had had enough of the loneliness and his lack of self-control.
After attending the street meetings for many nights, Daddy committed his life to Christ. That night, he told his sea mates of his decision. His testimony was simple: "I'm a sinner saved by grace."
This decision was the most critical link in a fantastic chain of events that landed Daddy in Africa, where his missionary career spanned thirty-five years.
The war was nearly over when he returned home to South Carolina. With the help of a local prayer group and their unwavering support, he was able to overcome the smoking addiction that had plagued him throughout his time of service.
See more excerpts HERE