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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day, 2017

We are commanded to "Honor your father and your mother" (Exo 20:12). Paul says it is "the first commandment with a promise" (Eph 6:1-3). Nowhere is there an exception clause. "You only have to honor honorable parents." "Honor good parents, but not bad." "You can stop once you become an adult." It's a simple, straightforward command.

I, thank God, have been blessed with an honorable father. He is a man that loves God, loves his wife and my mother, loves his children. He is a man who has always sought to do what is right whatever the cost. Maybe some of my memories of him will serve best to tell you the kind of man my father is.

My father loves coffee. Always has. Well, to be precise, he loves coffee-flavored cream and sugar. He will drink it any time of day, any opportunity. Rarely will he say "No" to a cup of coffee. I remember on multiple occasions he would get a bowl of vanilla ice cream and pour coffee over it, mixing his own "coffee ice cream". I think it's one of the reasons he's still so healthy at 87. He walks a couple of miles a day to his local Starbucks. Good for you, Dad.

Something else my father has always loved is fishing. I have memories of fishing at a very young age. Our summer vacations would be a family camping trip where there would certainly be fishing. We would take extended weekend trips to Ensenada to go deep sea fishing. We took a 6-week multi-family vacation to Alaska to include some top notch salmon fishing. We'd go to the beach and while we played on the shore or romped in the waves, he'd be surf fishing. I remember a backpacking trip we took, Dad and my brother and I with some of his coworkers, deep into the Sierras. I remember standing by that pristine mountain lake with pole in hand and a line in the water ... when my reel exploded. "Dad!" Of course, his fishing was done; he had to take care of my disaster. Calmly, coolly, without any indication of ire or frustration, he started scooping reel parts out of the lake and trying to put things back together. My younger brother, age 8 at the time, was pulling in trout, begging for help, and forced to do it on his own -- get the fish off the hook and on the stringer, throw the half-eaten worm back in, repeat -- but Dad never wavered, never complained, never raised his voice. Because that was his character. I never really knew which it was -- was fishing his excuse for spending time with his sons, or was time with his sons an excuse to go fishing? I wonder.

I remember when my parents decided to move closer to Dad's work and our new church. (My parents changed churches because they were concerned that we kids were not getting fed at the church we had always attended. I tell you that to demonstrate their priorities.) In the search for a new place, Dad bought a fixer-upper. On weekends he took us boys to the house where he would work and we would play. We hunted gophers in the yard, capturing them and putting them in a special glass cage Dad built so we could watch them tunnel and live. He gave us sledgehammers to help him take out a wall in the house, real fun for preteen boys (and beyond). He fixed it up and sold it, but I remember the time spent with us because he did that a lot.

In retrospect, it was hard to tell if he was doing a lot of what he did for what he did or for time with his boys. He took us fishing. He took us camping. He took us hiking. He took us to men's prayer breakfasts. He took us to skid row. Yeah, that's right. He took us to where he was bringing the Gospel to street people. We helped out in the rescue mission. We went with him on the street where he offered tracts and the Gospel. Because if there was anything that described my dad, it wasn't "camping" or "fishing" or "flipping houses" -- it was a deep and abiding love of the Lord. If the church's doors were open, we were likely there. He took us to Billy Graham events and revivals at church. He saw to it that we went to winter and summer camps with the youth group. (He even used them as additional training techniques where he paid for us to go by having us do work around the house to earn the money.) I remember my father gathering the family in the dining room one day and sitting us all down ... to confess. Yes, to tell us how he had been wrong. He hadn't been serving God as he should. He hadn't been the example he should. He hadn't been loving his family as he should. And through tears he asked if we would forgive him. Because above anything else, my dad loved the Lord. Still does.

There is a lot more. We have discussions about church and worship and the state of things. He's pretty sure my theology is skewed, but that's okay because one thing he has demonstrated time and again is his abiding love for his kids -- even me. I remember, at 18 (or so), leaving home to go live with a girl. I tried to sneak out, leaving a note, but he caught me and stood at the door. "I'm not letting you leave," he said. "Dad," I answered, "you can't stop me. I'm an adult." His answer has been with me ever since. "If you were on a raft in a river and I knew that you were headed for a waterfall, I would do everything I could to pull you off that raft." Because my dad loves me that much.

Today I honor my father. I thank God for him. I rejoice in God's kindness in giving me this father when it seems like so many other fathers fall so short. And I hope that it is not only today that I honor him. He has always served as a shining example of God at work in one of His own children. Thanks, Dad.

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