Donna...just found your blog...I absolutely love it! And I love your singing! I'm at work right now and it was just exactly what I needed to hear to help me make it through tonight! Thanks for your ministry here! - Robert

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Father's Day: Playing for My Father



The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.
– Exodus 15:2 NIV


Luther Jack Riley, L.J. for short, was not a musical man. His wife, Mammie, grew up singing, and when they visited her family, the whole clan gathered around the piano to sing for hours. But not L.J. – he sat to the side and listened, never singing a note.

At the age of nine, Lavawan, the youngest of L.J. and Mammie’s four children, found out his dad had a plan. Even though no one in the family had ever expressed a desire to play a musical instrument, for some inexplicable reason, his father decided to buy a piano.

Lavawan waited on pins and needles for the piano to be delivered. Somehow he knew, as if by instinct, he’d be able to play it. He’d already begun calling it "my piano.”

Finally the day arrived. It rained hard that day, and the movers covered the wood with plastic sheeting. They rolled the old upright into the living room, and Lavawan’s anticipation grew as they peeled back the plastic. He had such an unusual feeling about it all. He knew before he sat down he could play that piano.

All four children took turns trying to play. One by one, they quit – except Lavawan. Every single day, he spent hours picking out notes. He had no teachers, no lessons, just a tenacious determination to learn.

L.J. worked shift work at the paper mill and often had to sleep during the day. It would be difficult for most people to sleep with a kid banging on the ivories for hours on end, but not L.J.

Lavawan’s mom pulled him aside to tell him she'd noticed something odd. "When you play the piano, your dad sleeps. When you quit, he wakes up."

One day Lavawan knelt down beside his bed and prayed a fervent prayer. “Please, God, if you’ll give me the ability to play, I’ll use it for Your glory the rest of my life.” Within a few months’ time, he could play almost every song the congregation sung at church. He became the church pianist at the age of ten.

Over the next few years, he learned to read and write music fluently. He became a concert pianist, and played for thousands of people. Thousands more sang as he played in worship services. Lillenus Publishing Company has released several books of arrangements for piano by Lavawan Riley.

He testifies, “The call on my life depended on a decision and act of my father totally independent of me. He did not know I would become a pianist and serve in the ministry all these years. I know God guided the steps of my father.”

L.J. Riley passed away a few months ago at the age of 84. Lavawan played for his father’s funeral. While he played, all he could think of was that rainy day many years ago when his daddy felt led by the Holy Spirit to buy a piano.

As he filed past the casket, Lavawan laid his left hand on his father’s lifeless right hand and prayed another fervent prayer. “God, these hands have finished their work. They toiled for years, and now they toil no more. But in my hands, there is still life, and I will use my hands to serve You the rest of my days. Thank you, God, for giving me such a father.”


******************************

Lavawan and his wife, Sheila, are dear friends. I’ve been blessed to see him in concert many times. When he plays, the Spirit of God fills the room.

I never knew L.J. Riley. When I asked Lavawan about his dad, he sent along a picture taken two years ago. He looked exactly like I imagined he would – a short, pudgy man in a ball cap with a friendly smile.

Even though we never met, I am grateful to L.J. Riley for his openness to guidance from the Lord. My desire is to be led of the Spirit the same way in every area of my life.


Prayer: Lord, I love You and give thanks for the gift of music. I praise You for my own musical ability, and pray I will be faithful to minister for Your glory. Like Lavawan, I am grateful for my earthly father, but most of all, I thank You for being my heavenly Father. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.


*Originally posted Father's Day, 2004

NEWS! Look for this story  in The Best Dad in the World - in bookstores now! (and another one in The Best Grandma in the World!)

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Donna, what a beautiful, moving story. Thanks so much for sharing it! Janet Seever

Anonymous said...

Donna,
I know my father seen things in me I didnt. This story reminds me of the faith and confidence he had in me. From taking off my training wheels, passing ball, to buying me a brand new car when I was 16. To him I could do no wrong. My father has been gone now for over 13 years. When I look back I can see all the Godly qualities of him. I thank God that he gave me a father that loved me, spent time with me, and that I was able to pray with and hold his hand on the evening before he passed away. There is no greater treasure than watching your father lift his hands in his last stages of life and reach toward the heavens. I will never forget that peace. Keep writing and using your God given talent, your a blessing to all of us.
Geraldine(?????)

Anonymous said...

Donna

Once again you have given us a beautiful devotional. I wish I were capable of putting my hands on just the right bible verse for each situation as you do.
My father died in a plane crash when I was eleven. I miss having him in my life. He was an agnostic and I have often wondered if he accepted Jesus before he died. I hope so.

Heavenly Father, help me to be a blessing to others as L.J. was a blessing to his son. Amen

Shari :o)

Anonymous said...

Donna, this is simple wonderful. I'm going to post a link to it immediately.

-Hal
The Great Separation

Elizabeth J. Mills said...

Donna, what a beautiful story of the fruit of being obedient.

Elizabeth

Anonymous said...

Donna, you made me cry with that article, and made me realize how very grateful I am that I have a loving earthly father to help me better understand and relate to my heavenly Father. It also makes me grateful for the father of my children. How sorry that I need to be reminded! Thanks!

Ellen

Anonymous said...

Donna,
You've done it again! You made me cry this time though. I don't have very many good memories of my dad. He wasn't one of the best dads in the world. At times, I thought I was so lucky to have such a wonderful dad, then he would get drunk & make us all miserable. Every time I felt proud of him, he'd go on another binge & destroy the pride I had for him. I don't know why - maybe he had a rotten life as a child & didn't know how to show love. It's sad to think that I went through a big part of my childhood not knowing what my dad was going to do next or to whom. But what hurts most of all is knowing that I didn't show him as much love as I should have. He died in 1983, but our pastor felt led to go visit him right before his heart stopped. The pastor told us that our dad had prayed & asked for God's forgiveness...We choose to have faith & believe he went on to Heaven. My sisters have let me know in the past few years that I was my dad's favorite. They remind me of all these little things & when I stop to think about it, I guess I really was his favorite. I just wish I had known when he was alive! So, the moral of my story is: let people know how much you love them before it's too late! You just never know how much time you will have together.

-gkv

Anonymous said...

Donna,

Thanks so much for the story and bringing honor to my father on Father's Day. You did a wonderful job on it.

It is nice to know that through the gift of writing the name of someone can live on and honor be brought to them. There are many of us like me and also Don (who is one of our most oustanding leaders) whose fathers were not ministers. I know that Don lost his father many years ago.

My father was just an ordinary person - far from being a minister. He was a hard worker. This article you wrote honors my father, who deserves far more honor than he ever received in life. Thanks you so much for just keeping his name alive. It meant a lot to me.

Lavawan

Anonymous said...

Hey Donna,

I really enjoy reading the devotions.

Jessica

Rhodi Alers de López said...

What a beautiful story of the Lord's guidance. And what a privilege it is to be used by Him!
Thanks for sharing this beautiful testimony of how the Lord is willing to use his children when we come to Him as we are!

Anonymous said...

DONNA, THIS WAS TRULEY WONDERFUL!! I TOO HAD A GREAT DAD! AND MOTHER WHO RAISED ME IN A GODLY HOME, NOT BEING THEIR BLOOD CHILD, THEY TOOK ME, THEY CHOSE ME TO BE THEIR OWN, AND TAUGHT ME TO BE ALL I COULD BE, AND INSTILLED GOD INTO MY HEART.I WAS A REBELLIOUS TEEN, WHO FELTLIKE SPENDING TIME WITH FRIENDS WAS MORE IMPORTANT THEN SPENDING ANY TIME WITH MY PARENTS. I TODAY REGRET THAT, BECAUSE I MISSED OUT ON A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP, WITH MY DAD.I LOVED HIM AND HE ME, BUT I WAS STUPID, I WISH I COULD GO BACK, BUT I HAVE ETERNITY TO BE CLOSE TO HIM. BECAUSE OF MY PARENTS, BETTY AND CHARLES GOERKY, I AM A CHRISTAIN TODAY!!THANK YOU GOD FOR A GREAT MAN LIKE DAD, THAT YOU GAVE TO ME, TO BE MY FATHER!! AND A AWESOME MOM TOO!!MY ADVISE TO SPEND AS MUCH TIME WITH YOUR PARENTS THAT YOU CAN, CAUSE WHEN THEY ARE GONE, IT IS TO LATE, CHERISH THEM AND HONOR AND HONOR THEM!!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful story, Donna! Your story shows that there is a purpose, a mission for everyone...

Toni

Kelli said...

Thank you for sharing .. I too recently lost my dad, who spent his life populating heavan. I've written about it in tribute. The legacy that is left for us is something we should strive to carryon for our children.

I've recently discovered your blog, and will be back. THank you.

Donna J. Shepherd, Author of Love Under the Bubble Wrap said...

Thank you ALL for leaving such kind and encouraging comments! And thank you, Lavawan, for sharing your father's story with all of us.

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