Today is my Father’s Birthday. It is his 60th birthday! So I wanted to take a moment to mention a few things I appreciate about him most. In fact, in honor of him, I’ll list 10 things. Here goes.
1. He loves Jesus Christ and his gospel
All of us kids (and kid-in-laws) know that our Dad loves us. We feel prized by him. But we also know that his love for Jesus Christ and his gospel is even deeper than his love for us. This is one of the most loving things that he can do for us. Whether proclaiming Jesus Christ and him crucified from a building basement in Evanston, IL (1 Cor. 2:2), picking up trash in a Chicago alleyway (Alley Sheep), or contending for the faith in articles like “Tinkers to Evers to Chance”, Dad has spent his life making much of Jesus Christ and his gospel.
2. He loves the church
When Benjamin Franklin was asked whether or not he believed George Whitefield’s message (which was the gospel), he replied, “No”. “But”, he added, “I believe that he does”. Sadly, if I was asked if I loved the church when I was growing up, I would’ve said no (if I were honest). It was clear to all us, though, that Dad did. Visiting members in the hospital, having a church group over for dinner, taking the gospel and applying it to their lives, housing church members for years at a time, or doing any number of other things that will never make the headlines, Dad has given his life to the church and it hasn’t seemed burdensome (1 John 5:3).
3. He lives an authentic Christian life, even without the facial hair
I never got the sense that Dad was trying to fit our family into a paradigm he found in some book or that he was trying to impress his friends (or his enemies for that matter). His style didn’t seem to change with the latest contemporary Christian fad. He wears a suit when he preaches, while most of his parishioners don’t. He is who he is, by the grace of God, a humble, careful, and strong man of God.
4. He’s a Go-getter
I was born at an early age in Chicago, IL (that’s for you Grandpa). After about a year and a half, we moved to Fort Worth, TX. Then, we moved to Jefferson City, MO, El Dorado, AR, Indianapolis, IN, Franklin, TN, Kansas City, MO, and then I went to college in Greenville, SC. Since then, they moved back to Evanston, IL (by way of Franklin).
No, we weren’t in the witness protection program. And yes, they paid their bills. The reason we moved so much was due to the fact that we had a Dad who was willing to do whatever God called him to, even if it meant starting over…and over…and over… The God who raised Jesus from the dead gave Dad the fire that propelled him wherever he was needed. The consequences never seemed to phase him. If God said it, he could be trusted with the results. It was a joy to be along for the ride.
5. He is a Cubs fan
If renown Cubs fan, George Will, was right about Cubs fans when he said, “Rooting for a loser makes one thoughtful”, then this explains a lot. Dad is one of the most thoughtful men I know. Dad loves the Cubs. From Ryno at 2nd base to Greg Maddux’s pitching heroics to Sammy’s corked bat, Dad’s interests and hopes for the Cubs have been fun to follow. While “this might be the year” has always been said with his tongue in his cheek, this year actually might be the year! Nevertheless, there is something uniquely joyful about taking in a game at Wrigley with your family. There’s something extra sweet about doing it with your Dad.
6. He is devoted to Missions
If someone called and told us that our parents wanted them to pick us, we were to ask them what the code word was. If they didn’t know the code word, then we knew they were “bad guys”. The code word was Josamar (secrets out!). Where did that come from? Josamar (or Hosamar) was a pastor from Brazil that Dad met on a mission trip. If I remember correctly, he took several teams from his church to Brazil. As a young boy this meant paranas and soccer balls. Unfortunately, for Dad these trips meant hepatitis. I never picked up on any complaints or “I knew I shouldn’t have gone…” I just sensed that international missions cost something and was worth it.
Dad recently went back to Brazil and over to the Pacific Rim. The nations need the gospel and I’m proud to have a father that takes it there.
7. He is committed to Evangelism
I remember standing as a family on the front porch of a stranger’s house in Franklin, TN. We were there officially to share the gospel. I was there unofficially to avoid embarrassment. I remember fretting in my overly confident mind about all the ways that this thing that could go wrong. What if I know one of the kids in the house from school? What will they think? What is the stranger going to say? What if he asks a question that stumps Dad? How do we avoid awkward moments (Sadly, a concern for the persons repentance and faith in Christ was not even near the top of the list!)? I remember it like it was yesterday.
Much to my vain heart’s delight, Dad always navigated the conversation in such a way that I was not embarrassed and, more importantly, Christ was honored. In fact, I started walking out of those situations proud of my Dad. I still am.
8. He has a curious mind
To us kids it seemed like our Father was a walking encyclopedia. Wherever we were and whatever we were doing, when we asked our Dad a question he knew the answer. Part of that may stem from the fact that when he was a kid he did things like make and sell potholders so that he could buy an encyclopedia set. Agreed, that is not normal. But man was it great to benefit from and to continue to benefit from! As we watched movies, examined articles torn from magazines at the dinner table, listened to book tapes on road trips, or walked 9 holes for a little exercise, Dad’s commentary was always present, interesting, and insightful. I know he didn’t know everything, but it sure seemed like it.
9. He loves his wife
There is no question that Dad loves Mom. We saw it as he kissed Mom after walking in the door. We detected it in our back room meetings when we disrespected Mom. Whether he was with her on their routine walk or recalling something about her to us with a smile on his face, Dad loved and loves Mom.
Even now as I think about my parents relationship, it strikes me as otherworldly. There’s something cosmic and supernatural about it. Later in life I learned that the Apostle Paul wrote long ago about what I sensed in their marriage, it was Christ love for his church (Eph. 5:22-31).
10. He loves his kids
Who doesn’t right? Well, there are actually people out there who don’t and we as kids gave them plenty of reasons not to. But even amongst those parents who do love their kids, it is hard for me to imagine a Father out there who did a better job. From throwing the “ragball” at rest stops on family trips, to reading through Pilgrim’s Progress at family time, Dad’s love expressed itself in a myriad of ways. By God’s grace, there will be many, many more years that we get to experience his love.
These are just a few things that came to mind as I was thinking about his 60th birthday. I could go on and on about things I love about my Dad. Josiah has been telling me that I should write about the walks that he loves to take with Grandpa (like the one pictured above). Maybe next time. So thanks for all you’ve done for us Dad. We love you! Happy Birthday!