Rex D. Manley August 6, 1932 – January 10, 2011

Devoted husband, loving father, friend… a true follower of Christ.

Minutes ago, my dad breathed his last. This brief blog will give you insight into my relationship with my father.

Born during the throes of the Great Depression, my dad grew up among the hard-working blue-collar class in Eastern Washington. He is the younger brother of two siblings; a brother who drowned at nine years of age and a sister who succumbed to cancer about ten years ago.

Rex D. Manley was a racehorse owner, Air Force radar tech during the Korean War, salesman, business owner and dedicated volunteer at Northwest Foursquare Church (probably his favorite job).

One of my favorite stories is when my dad was in eighth grade. He and my grandpa cleared forty acres of trees for planting. Every hour after school, and every hour of every Saturday was committed to unimaginably difficult work. Years later, my grandfather apologized for working his 14 year old son so hard. My dads response was, “You didn’t hurt me one bit.”

Towards the end of his high school years, my dad bought a racehorse that had been kicked by its mother. The owners thought it was worthless. My dad loved that horse and trained it to race. The first time the bells went off, the horse froze. It had a late start out of the gate, and yet it managed to best six of the other seven horses.

The horse figured out how to get out of the gate on time, and it went on to take first place in the next 11 races. That equated to a little over $2,000 in winnings for my dad. Not a bad take for an eight-dollar horse.

More than the money, that horse helped to create a significant transformation in my dad. Until this fortuitous relationship, my dad was unusually shy. He would avoid new relationships at just about all costs. People scared him to no end. The life of a racehorse owner did more than bring him out of his shell. It launched him into the (very intimidating) limelight.

A quick rabbit trail: What does an 18 year old do with $2k? He walked into the Ford dealership to buy a brand new car. What does an 18 year old with $2k who gets snubbed by the Ford salesman do? He walks across the street to the Chevrolet dealership and plops down a wad of cash for his brand new car.

My parents were married for over 20 years when I was born. They had four kids in 10 years and one more (me) after another decade had past. I have known the blessing of a very good man I called “dad”. He made many sacrifices for my benefit, including sending me to a Christian school and teaching me a solid work ethic (it didn’t hurt me one bit either).

Dad hit his head almost exactly a year ago. A brain bleed caused a traumatic brain injury. It frustrated him to no end that he couldn’t make the rounds at the food bank. His body completely failed him, and he shared with me how badly he wanted to be with Jesus.

One of the highlights for my dad over the last year  was listening to the stories of me being a part of Rooftop 519 and becoming a Pastor . He would introduce me to his nurses as “The Pastor” or, “Mr. President”. He lived his life vicariously through me, pouring in encouragement and advice every time we met.

He’s with Jesus now, leaving behind a legacy of great relationships with friends and family. Thank you, Dad. I love you and we will all miss you. Until we meet again.

Christmas Guilt

I am the last of five children; twenty years younger than the eldest and ten years after my parents were “done”; four kids a family makes. When Christmas presents came, I might have well been an only child. Although I remember Christmas when I was three or four, it’s the Christmases of my elementary years that really stand out.

Some of my best Christmas memories are about my favorite big brother and me. He had a knack for mischief, and one of those times involved my mom’s present. He was 20 or so, home on leave from the Navy. I was seven, and his biggest fan in the world. My mom loved Almond Roca, and the scant giftwrap did nothing to hide the fact that the tasty confections rested inside.

“Let’s eat them,” my brother goaded. I was speechless, the carrier of an impeccable conscience that in my seven year old mind had never done wrong. “C’mon,” he said in a sinister tone, “She’ll never notice if a few are missing.”

I only remember bits of what happened next. I remember being on the floor on my back, him straddling me, opening my mom’s Roca. We were both laughing; him holding unwrapped pieces in front of my nose and over my lips. I loved my mom. She loved Almond Roca. She really loved her Christmas Almond Roca… from Dad, with love. But the crushing weight of temptation, not to mention the weight of my brother’s butt on my stomach, was way too much for my will to fight.

At least one went down; maybe two or three. It tasted so good! There we laughed, next to the stockings, presents and tree… a swirling mess of colored lights, tinsel, Santa and guilt. Guilt! There you are. I felt it. An unrelenting pressure of knowing that I’d made the worst possible choice. I stole, and now the temptation came to lie in order to cover up my wretchedness.

“We’ll just put the wrap back on & she’ll never know,” smirked my big brother. How could she not know we ate half her candy? How could I look her in the eye… the evil son that exchanged his birthright for some chocolate, scrumptious toffee and wonderful crushed almonds?

This was my first life experience with what Paul writes in Romans 7:19. “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Several significant things happened around that same time in my life. Within the next year or two, I recognized that I had bigotry in my heart. Other family members had undoubtedly influenced me in ways that I knew weren’t right. My mom prayed with me for Jesus to allow me to love people the way he does. It took.

The other thing that happened was that I asked Jesus into my heart. Sitting on the piano bench with my mom, we stopped from whatever we were singing. I asked my mom what it meant to have Jesus in your heart. She explained that he wants to have a relationship with me, that he would forgive me of my sin (and guilt), and then she asked me if I wanted to ask him into my heart.

I did, and He did.

Back to the forbidden Roca – my mom did find out. The guilt was short lived. I blamed my big brother for everything and he got the evil eye and a tongue-lashing. I told her how sorry I was, and she forgave me. Grace! There you are. There’s nothing that feels as good as the salve of knowing that you’re forgiven.

Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”

Thank you Jesus for coming! Happy Birthday. Now pass the Roca.

Oh, and Rick, if you’re reading this, you’re still my favorite.