(Pop Pop trying to rescue Kent who climbed too far up)
I don't know how you managed to divide yourself among your wife, your four children, your job, your service projects at church and in the community, your extended family, and your volunteer coaching posts....I think it's because you put God first, others second, and yourself last. This is a formula that you have practiced, yet is foreign to our culture.
To have four children who feel completely secure in your love is a testimony to you. We each feel as if you have loved us unconditionally, disciplined us in love, and been a faithful support in our lives. Time and time again I have seen how female friends have suffered as result of not having the love and attention of their father figure. They compromised their standards in love and life in order to fill a void that they have. They chased love and affection, and sacrificed their cores for the acceptance of a man. I have never felt the need to sacrifice for love, because I had yours. I never felt like I had to compromise for a relationship, because I had the attention of my father. I never had to lower my standards, instead, your relationship with me caused me to elevate my expectation of the man that I would marry. I have such a wonderful marriage, and I am with a man who respects and accepts me, and I am sure that this is because you set the tone for how I view myself. Thank you for setting me up for relational success!
As a parent, I often find myself thinking, "How would Dad handle this?" My first tendency is to react to situations with my children...maybe it's their fighting, maybe it's their attitude, maybe it's their actions. But I can remember so many times you coming in my room, and simply talking to me about my choices. Instead of judging me, or instead of making decisions for me, you helped me to navigate through the process of making right choices. You were so humble in your approach, as you shared your testimony with me time and time again. You shared how you were raised in a home where "The Good Lord", was acknowledged, but how you made some poor choices in your late teenage years. You spoke of how the Lord graciously rescued you before you destroyed your life, and you've served him ever since. I want to take that parenting cue from you. I want to be humble, and share my mistakes with my children. I want to give them permission to make choices, and I want to walk beside them instead of behind them pulling puppet strings.
You never wanted robots, but rather you encouraged me to seek the Lord for MYSELF, and to follow the dreams HE implanted in my heart. When I wanted to be a police officer, you signed me up for the academy in Naperville. When I wanted to quit Track for Softball, you let me. When I wanted to go to Russia when I was 15 and stay in the orphanage, you helped me raise money. When I wanted to go live in the inner city of Chicago and help out at the church there, you drove me. When I wanted to attend an unaccredited college to study Bible, you supported me. When I wanted to marry a boy when we were only 21, you gave your blessing. When I wanted to move 4 hours away to a new church and take your two grandchildren with me, you reassured me that we were doing the right thing. I could always count on you as my counsel, and as my support.
I have learned so much about ministry from you as well. More often than I have liked, we have encountered many discouragements as we have served in ministry. People are people, and pastors are no different. Many of our hurts have come from those who have been in leadership over us, and many times I've wanted to throw in the towel. And even on a few dark dark occasions, I've thought, "Serving the Lord isn't worth it." When I've shared those thoughts you have talked me off many spiritual ledges. You've reminded me that God is good, that He doesn't forsake those He loves, and that He is faithful to His children. You have shared with me that you feel as if the Lord called you and Mom in to ministry when you were in your early 20's when Sharon and I were toddlers. You felt as if you couldn't respond due to your family and financial situation, and you have stated that you regret that choice. After I had been serving in ministry for a bit, you shared with me that you believe that I was your second chance at ministry. You felt like God had passed that call to me. What I love about you is that you kept that to yourself until God had called me, and I responded. I feel humbled, and I feel inspired to continue on the ministry road when sometimes I don't want to. You've helped me to realize that I'm serving God, and regardless what others see, He sees.
Really Dad, I could go on and on telling of how your life has shaped mine. Your love for Mom, and the respect with which you treat her will forever be a blessing in my life, and in your grand children's lives. The way you have served others in our community, and within our church is so convicting...you give and give and when you have nothing else to give, your give more. The way that you are the same man in public as you are in private, the way that you've never met a stranger, the way that you've worked your body until it literally has fallen apart, the way that even in your darkest hours, you have remained humbled...all of these reasons reveal the true colors of who you are inside.
You have truly chosen to "live justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God." You may not have been in full-time vocational ministry, but you have impacted more lives than anyone I know, using your life as a pulpit.
Happy Father's Day to you. I am forever blessed that I was raised in your home, and under your care.