In the next few weeks, my parents, Jim and Dudley Seale, will each celebrate their 79th birthdays and enter into their 80th year. They have been happily together for over 60 of those years. There is much to celebrate about their lives—the many gifts they have given and continue to give to their world, and the tremendous love they share. As I celebrate the launch of the Center for Transformational Presence, it seemed fitting to celebrate them as well, for so much of who I am and what I do has its roots in them. I want to thank them in this public way for the gifts they give to me.

My mother, Mary Dudley Harrod Seale, will celebrate her birthday first. She is the model of Southern grace. From my mother I learned about creating a space of grace and beauty. I learned about being a host and the importance of helping people feel welcomed, honored, and valued. I learned to “look for the bright side” of things and how to “put your best foot forward.” I learned about organizing a house and about the beauty and texture of fabrics and clothes. I learned about standing up for what is right.

From my mother I also learned about learning—not just education, but about learning from life. I’ve watched my mother challenge her own beliefs about things, stretch herself, and grow, not being afraid to transform her stance on things that mattered. And I’ve watched her gather the courage to speak of those things to others who may not agree. I am so grateful for these ways in which I feel my mother in me now.

My father, James Millard Seale, will enter his 80th year a few weeks after my mother. During those few weeks each year that my mother is “a year older,” he takes great delight in reminding her that she is much older than he is.

This past spring, my father, a retired minister, had been invited to preach at a nearby church for the Easter services since they were without a minister. He had been struggling with significant physical challenges, and I couldn’t understand why it was so important to him that he be in the pulpit that Sunday. It was not until later that day, after he had returned home from preaching, that he wrote to me and told me that on that day he had marked 60 Easters as a minister. Then I understood, and was overcome with emotion at what this had meant to him. That is the story of my father in a nutshell. His commitment to his faith and the people he has served in more than 60 years of ministry is unmatched.

From my father I began my learning about the art of ritual. For him it was about the design of a worship service. For me it is about workshops and lectures. Being by his side during my early years as he designed special services and meticulously cared for every detail of each service and special event taught me about the importance of details and the bigger picture of taking people on a journey through ritual and structure. Even at home, my father is still the master of creating surprise events and keeping big secrets. There is one in the works now, in fact, as he has invited my mother to be ready on Sunday afternoon, September 6th, with her suitcase packed for a two-day trip. All she knows is that transportation will arrive in the driveway in the early afternoon and that she should be ready to go. She has no idea where they are going or what is going to happen. That’s my father.

Watching him be “called” up the professional ladder and respond to the call throughout his professional life has also had great impact on me, although I’ve only recently come to realize this. As I look back, I don’t recall my father ever focusing much on how to “develop” his career or what the next move should be for professional advancement. Rather, he focused on doing his job well and being the best he could possibly be as a pastor and preacher. Then he simply responded when opportunities arose for taking the next step up the ladder. He always had tremendous faith and trust that his life was being guided and that when the next step was to be taken, he would recognize it. Indeed, many opportunities did come. While I was growing up, he was invited to join the national staff of his denomination. He would go on to serve in two significant national leadership positions in the church, and be recognized internationally for his work. Even today, he still holds fast in his faith and trust that his life is guided and that he will always be alright. My journey has followed a similar path.

My father has a great passion for ideas and learning. He is always reading several books at a time, and is always sending me articles or quotes from books he is reading so that we can have a conversation about them. He is driven to understand spiritual and philosophical concepts at ever deeper levels. This passion, and even the practice of reading several books at once, he passes on to me.

Both of my parents have a great love of travel. They have traveled all over the world. Growing up, travel was always a part of our lives, and we have continued to take trips together at least every couple of years. Because they have traveled to many parts of the world, some of them quite remote, and have spent time with people of different faiths and who live in very different ways, they have a great appreciation for people from all walks of life. My father comes from deep in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, my mother from a tiny farming community in Central Kentucky. Who could have imagined that they would expand their horizons they way they have? They have passed on that great love to travel to far-away places and cultures to me.

Recently my father was asked to write a short entry for a book entitled The Meaning of Life, a compilation of writings from retired ministers. The following is what he wrote:

As I thought about the statement The Meaning of Life, several quick answers came to mind: being able to love others and to be loved, an opportunity to do some good in the world, the enjoyment of God’s world of creation, knowing your life is in the hands of God, and others that could be named. Any one of these primary statements could call forth a definitive statement.

However, looking back across 47 years in active ministry, I worked to become a better helpmate, parent, pastor, preacher, server of God. My daily prayer was that God would use me to touch the lives of others in love and compassion. When retirement came, that prayer was still a focus on reaching out and touching people’s lives as helpmate, parent, grandparent, great-grandparent, volunteer, friend.

Paul Tournier has a phrase in his writings which I have remembered through the years. He writes about “perpetual becoming” in meaning for his life. I have changed that to a descriptive term one of my dear friends gave to me: “encourager.” Our son, Alan, is a life coach and he helps people sort out their lives to develop what he calls Soul Mission. To pick up on his teaching language, I would say the Meaning of Life for me would be “perpetual encourager.”

Recently, I had a near death experience in which my kidneys were almost at the point of completely shutting down. Doctors worked through the night and a team of 12 – 15 specialists worked with my problems for three days. During that time I was constantly being encouraged in the progress I was making by their reports and by the prayers which were coming in from many loved ones, friends, and even strangers. With this renewed view of life, I intend to work even harder at being a “perpetual encourager.”

With age and with physical disabilities, life changes but there is the continuing challenge to know the presence of God more clearly, to love others more dearly, and to have an even greater appreciation for God’s world of creation. In doing those things I will continue reaching out with God’s love to encourage others.

“Perpetual encourager”—that is my father and my mother both. These days they are the perpetual encouragers for each other as they both have their own physical challenges. Life is not always easy—in fact, some days, downright hard. Yet they lift their heads, look into the new day, thank God for the gift of life, and keep living it to the absolute fullest that they can. My father continues to keep up with what is happening in the church nationally and internationally, to encourage younger ministers and colleagues, to read and learn, and to create surprises. He’s even planning our next trip together to Alaska. My mother continues to host lunches and dinners, do small acts of kindness for people in their community, and bring her great smile and warm heart to every gathering.

Each in their own way, my parents have encouraged me, supported me, loved me, and most importantly, have given me great gifts of themselves. From them I continue to learn about grace and wisdom, laughter and tears, accomplishment and disappointment. They both have found their own powerful presence, and their presence in many people’s lives, not to mention my own, continues to be transformational. When my mother enters the room, she brings with her hospitality and heart-felt connection. In my father’s presence there is palpable joy, optimism, and love.

So this autumn season as you enter into your 80th year, I honor and thank you, Dudley and Jim Seale, Mother and Papa, for carrying the torch of grace and wisdom, love and encouragement, lighting the way for so many of us who come behind you.

Author's Bio: 

Alan Seale specializes in coaching leaders to live and work from a greatly expanded personal consciousness and a high level of self-awareness, to facilitate transformation, and to realize their personal and leadership potential. He has spent his life studying higher levels of communication and connection through fields ranging from music to world religions, intuitive development to evolutionary consciousness and the quantum field. His childhood among wise elders, and his rich career path as an international performer and teacher, interfaith minister, award-winning author, spiritual mentor, leadership and transformation coach, and consciousness consultant, have laid a powerful foundation for his ability to realize and live his soul mission: I liberate and empower. Alan is privileged to help others discover and live their soul's mission, develop their intuitive abilities for success, and become dynamic and effective leaders in both their personal and professional lives. The essence of his work is re-awakening soul awareness in our culture, initiating and inspiring soul-informed conversation, and igniting new paradigms of leading and living informed by authentic soul expression and connection. For more, visit