Four Father’s Share Stories

What the Word Legacy Looks Like to Me

By Tyler Raborn

Every Christmas my grandfather, Ray Downey, sat down in front of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to read the story of Christmas as told in Luke chapter 2. He’d pull out a Bible and read the story, while the kids (myself included) impatiently waited to open gifts.

As the years went by, and my faith grew (although erratically and with many bumps), I began to listen more intently to him tell the story of the birth of our Savior. He told the story with passion in a slow intentional method.

One year I started learning Spanish, and I bought a Spanish Bible to read. When Christmas came around that year, and it came time for Ray to read the Christmas story, my mother—with her strange sense of humor—brought him the Spanish Bible to read from. He did not speak Spanish.

So Ray opened up the Bible to Luke, chapter 2, and began reading the Christmas story— without missing a beat.

And it dawned on me. He was never reading the Christmas story. He was reciting it.

This man had committed to memory the Christmas story, and only requested a Bible each year out of humility.

Early Sunday morning, April 26th, the sheriff knocked on my grandmother’s door to tell her that “Brother Ray” had been in a serious car accident. He had come by to let her know and bring her his Bible, which he had taken from the scene. Broken glass and plastic filled the pages.

Web-Pic--Grandgathers-BibleBut when I opened the worn book, the broken glass and plastic barely caught my eye. Instead, highlighted verses, written notes, and red ink popped from the pages. And all I could think about wasn’t what this Bible had been through in the past few hours, but what this Bible had been through in the past few years. And how the man who owned this Bible had used it.

This was a man who studied the Word. Meditated on the Word. And never stopped yearning to learn more from the Word. This was a righteous man. A man of God.

I don’t write this to bring light to a wonderful man (although he deserves the recognition), but to bring light to what he left me. And what I implore all fathers to leave their loved ones.

A picture to cherish—Ray Downey with great-granddaughter, Ann Brees Raborn.

A picture to cherish—Ray Downey with great-granddaughter, Ann Brees Raborn.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, ESV).

In verse 13, Paul references “others” who have no hope. I am not of the others. I am of the brothers. Although I grieve, I grieve with the knowledge of his salvation. I am temporarily sad in this place, but I know you and I will be together “to meet the Lord in the air,” and “we will always be with the lord.”

This I know with absolute certainty. And that is a gift. The ultimate gift I could ever receive from a father on this fleeting Earth.

Tyler and ABI became a father on August 20th, 2014 to a sweet baby girl—Ann Brees Raborn. So, this is my first Father’s Day.

As I’ve considered this day, and what it means to be a father, I am instantly drawn to what my grandfather left me—an unwavering certainty in his salvation. And as a result I am joyfully driven to ensure the salvation of Ann Brees, as well as leave her with the certainty of mine.

Because at the end of the day, our loved ones don’t care about the things of this world—they pass away. They care about eternity. The things of the Lord. And thus, they care about our souls.

“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17, ESV).

To all of the fathers out there—make sure you leave that gift to the ones you hold dear. There is no greater gift you could give. And no greater gift I could leave that baby girl.

Happy Father’s Day!


The Other Robertsons

By Tara Dowden

Tom's in the older days.

Tom’s in the older days.

The Robertson men have been putting cars together “since the beginning of cars.” Tomʼs Automotive Service Center is a complete car and truck repair service specializing in mechanical and collision repair. They have served the Tupelo area since 1952, through three generations of Robertson men: Tom, Jeff, and Jay. Their legacy and love for mechanics, engineering, and creativity began with Jay’s great-grandfather, who used a horse and buggy to unload the crates of Sears’ catalog cars that were delivered to Tupelo by train. He hauled the car parts to his mechanics shop located in the back of his Broadway home and then assembled some of the first cars.

Growing up with a love for cars, Tom opened Tomʼs Automotive Center in 1952.

In 1988, Jeff Robertson, Sr., took over the family business. Jay took on the business in 2011 after his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He had been working alongside his father since 1994. Jay says his father instilled in him a “strong work ethic, a commitment to helping people in need, and the conviction of running a business based on good character and biblical principals.” His father and grandfather also left a reputation of honesty, integrity, and fairness, in which “right was right” and “the truth was the truth.”

Jay’s grandfather, Tom Robertson, started Tom’s in 1952.

Jay’s grandfather, Tom Robertson, started Tom’s in 1952.

Tomʼs Automotive is still very much a family business as Jay keeps his wife,Hope, and their three children—Ty, Cooper, and Olivia—close by his side. Jay explains, “Hope is the hub of my business, running all accounting and parts purchasing.” “We couldn’t make it without her.” Jay and Hope have proven to be an amazing team at work and home, especially when it comes to taking care of their autistic son, Ty. Jay’s advice to other dads whose children may face a similar diagnosis is, “Live life and don’t think your life is over.” Jay says, “Ty loves music, sports, being active, reading, writing and he is joy to be around.” Ty has grown to enjoy one of Jay’s more recent hobbies as well—storm chasing.

Jay attended a storm spotter training in 2002, which sparked a passion for storm chasing and led to a second career. He is now a member of North Mississippi Storm Chasers, with its own storm-chasing vehicle. He has helped create Mississippi Weather Media, a fully operational weather channel with a complete weather studio.

Jay Robertson and his dad, Jeff Robertson

Jay Robertson and his dad, Jeff Robertson

Preparing local communities with upcoming weather events, along with helping serve orphans in Nepal through New Beginnings Adoptions, have become two strong passions for Jay, his family, and Tomʼs Automotive. Jay feels blessed to be a part of generations of hardworking, honest men. He is thankful for the years of working alongside a godly father who taught him that owning a business is never “just about business,” but about your “faith and personal character.”

Visit Tomʼs Automotive 317 Magazine Street in Tupelo. Stay updated on local weather @mswxmedia. Partner with Mercy Nepal at www.NewBeginningsAdoptions.org.



I Wasn’t Expecting Special Needs…

By J.J. Jasper

After losing our only son, Cooper, in an accident on our family farm, you can imagine the excitement we felt knowing we had twins on the way and one of the babies was a boy! For the record, we weren’t just surprised that we were expecting—we were shocked! After the shock wore off, the joy and gratitude settled in. We had babies on the way!

Because we were older parents and expecting twins, my wife, Melanie, was considered high risk. Along with that label came mandatory visits with a maternal fetal medicine specialist. One of the visits revealed what he described as a “soft marker” that indicated both babies could possibly have Down syndrome. He assured us that it was only a slight indication and for us not to worry.

Unlike Melanie’s other pregnancies, there were complications with the twins. They almost arrived at 29 weeks and Melanie was put on strict bed rest. The babies came at 34 weeks and were placed in the NICU. We named our beautiful baby girl Teagan Claire, and our sweet son Bode Ellis. A few days after their births the doctor informed us that blood tests revealed Bode had Down syndrome.

The news wasn’t just discouraging; it was devastating. I’m ashamed to admit my early feelings. I’m sure my selfish reaction early on would rival a two-year-old’s temper tantrum in the candy aisle of the grocery store. Thoughts of, “This is not fair!” “We don’t deserve this!” etc. flooded my mind.

The news was upsetting to Melanie but she handled it much better than I did. After we privately processed the information, we gathered three of our daughters, went through a fast food drive-thru, grabbed some burgers, and then went to a park to tell our girls. After we ate our burgers I explained the reason for our impromptu picnic.

Twins-photo“We have difficult news to share about the twins,” I said. After that statement our daughters were wide-eyed and we had their full attention. “Bode has Down syndrome.”

Maddie, our 12 year old, said, “Oh, he’s going to be awesome! Down’s kids are so kind and they’re so sweet and so loving.”

Our 14 year old, Sadie, said, “Oh, I’m so glad they were born into our family. We’ll love him unconditionally and he’ll love us the same. Down’s children are just so adorable.”

I was not, however, prepared for the next thing Maddie said, “But wait, you said you had some bad news. What’s the bad news?”

Children get it! I couldn’t be prouder of my daughters. Melanie and the girls passed the test. Me? Not so much. They realized that every life is beautiful. Babies are a gift from God. All babies. They may not come in the package that we desire or expect but they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the womb by Almighty God. Psalm 127 declares that children are our heritage, a blessing, a gift and a reward.

Jasper-FamilyGod is sovereign. He makes no mistakes. He has a plan. He is the potter, we are the clay. In Isaiah, we read, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

Our feelings are fickle. You can’t trust them. Instead of relying on how we feel about disappointing circumstances we should always go to God’s Word for truth, comfort, and clarity. You can trust God. During my several-week-struggle trying to sort out all of the “whys” that I was bombarded with, a pastor friend offered this wise counsel. He said regarding Bode, “God made him perfect for his purpose here on earth.” Wise words. Good advice.

The “why” question was what I was tripping over. After losing our only son, after praying for healthy babies and having radio listeners across the nation join us in prayer, why is our child born handicapped? Why God? How does this seem equitable?

Regarding the why question, I was visiting with Dr. James C. Dobson in Nashville, Tennessee, as we were taping the extra features for the documentary Flame On. Dr. Dobson tackled the why question and his counsel was so wise I included his comments in the book Losing Cooper: Finding Hope to Grieve Well.

“You should not try to come up with simplistic answers to profound questions that involve the very heart and motivation of God even though the why question has plagued every human being who has ever lived,” Dr. Dobson said.

“We all asked the question,” he said. “We have reason to ask it because we go through difficulties and moments when it’s happening to you. So, we all ask. I draw comfort from the fact that even Jesus asked when He was on the cross, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’

“God rarely answers that why question,” Dr. Dobson insisted. “In the Bible, Job suffered terribly and asked the Lord deep and penetrating questions—brilliant questions. But he got no answers. Why not? Because God will not be accountable to man. Period. No one can answer the why question,” he said, adding, “You can put a thousand theologians in a church and keep them there for six months talking about the why question and they are not going to come up with the answer.” Dr. Dobson continued by saying, “God says He is close to the broken-hearted; He will not leave us; and He sticks closer than a brother.

“Our task in this life, then, is to keep trusting in God and His love for us. You can trust Him even when you can’t track Him or understand His purposes.

“One day our toil and trouble in this life, our sorrow and pain, will be over. The sovereignty of God will bring things right,” Dr. Dobson said. “We know that because Scripture tells us.”

If you’re struggling with a situation that doesn’t seem fair or you feel cheated, please be patient and allow God to finish His work.

It took me several weeks to arrive at this place after much prayer and Bible study. But now as I gaze into the angelic face of my sweet son, Bode, I am one hundred percent convinced that God made him perfect for his purpose here on earth.



My Son Has a Purpose Too—
An Autism Father’s Story

By George Stewart


September 16, 2010 was one of the happiest days of my life. It was the day that my son Landon was born. Before Landon, my wife and I lost three children, each just a few weeks into my wife’s pregnancies. Doctors said that if Landon could make it to 24 weeks, he would have a chance at life. In order for Landon to make it to 24 weeks, my wife would have to undergo a surgical procedure; the same procedure done when we lost our second child. So with losing three children, a 24-week hump we had to get over, and the uncertainty that this surgical procedure would even work, you can imagine how nervous my wife and I were throughout this pregnancy. But on September 16, 2010, after being in the womb for 38 weeks, my son had arrived.

Within Landon’s first few months leading up to his first year of life, my wife and I noticed that Landon was not exhibiting “normal” baby behavior. The first thing we noticed was his inability to make eye contact. Another thing my wife and I noticed was his lack of interest in things that babies are typically interested in, such as appropriately playing with toys and playing with other children. The biggest thing my wife and I noticed in Landon was by the time he turned a year old, he was not speaking and was not showing any signs of even trying to speak. With us both being educators, we knew something was not right. So after researching autism and discussing it, we decided to have Landon tested. This would prove to be a very good decision.

After going through various tests, my son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. For those who don’t know, autism is basically a developmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. As parents, you never want to receive this kind of news about your child, especially knowing that there is NO cure for autism. The first thing that you think about is your child and the difficulty he/she will have, as he/she ventures through life. As a father, you wonder if your son will ever have a chance to play sports or be able to effectively engage in “guy talk.” The silver lining in my son’s diagnosis is that it was detected early, which is very beneficial for the child.

Not too long after my son’s diagnosis my wife and I made a very bold move. We moved from the economically rich city of Houston, Texas, back home to the economically strapped state of Mississippi—a move that we thought was in the best interest of Landon. The support that Landon receives from family is truly a blessing, and to see him interact with his cousins and show affection to not only his mom and me, but to his grandparents, aunts, and uncles is enough to bring tears to my eyes. And with the services that Landon is receiving here, he keeps getting better.


Landon and his dad, George

So how is Landon today? He’s progressing. He’s 4 years old and still not talking, but every now and then he shows signs that he’s trying to. He still has crying fits and makes noises that attract strange looks when we are out in public, but not as often as before. His sleeping has gotten better, his eye contact is amazing, and he is showing slow but steady progress in school. Oh! And he has a little sister, who is also helping him with his development.

Despite the many limitations that Landon has, he has a purpose. He has moved me from a “Why My Son?” father to an inspired father, by watching his son move through life with a huge smile on his face. He’s taught me how to love on a whole new level, and I would trade places with him in a heartbeat just to see the world as he sees it.

But most importantly, my faith has grown immensely just by watching what God is doing in his life. Landon’s impact moves beyond me. Anyone who gets to know Landon falls in love with him. You get the feeling of being a better you from your interaction with him. What’s awesome is he’s only scratched the surface of the impact he will have on this world. His story has just begun, and I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to be right by his side, like the proud father I am, watching it unfold.

George Stewart II is an educator, author, youth advocate, licensed Baptist minister, and speaker who has dedicated his life to the academic, social, emotional, and spiritual development of his family and the community at large.