84th BD

Two things drive this post, both from God’s word.

One, honor for the aged (Lev. 19:32).

Two, never neglect to say thank you (Luke 17:11-19).

My father turns 84 today. The whole gang celebrated yesterday at Kettles’ Castle in Melbourne. We had a blast. Three words say it all: Chocolate Avalanche Cake. Well, we enjoyed other sweet aspects of our time together, but good gracious that bad boy rocked!

When I first considered the concept for this post, I said to myself, Heff, you’re insane. Dad means a lot to you and the rest of the sibs, but do you really think you can conjure up that many specifics? Easier than I thought. See for yourself.

Happy Birthday, pops!  I want you to know that I thank you on this, your 84th birthday, not necessarily in any particular order, for the following:

  1. Giving me your name (Yes, the man adopted me). Nothing common about my handle.
  2. Keeping your wedding vows to my mother all these decades.
  3. Taking me to my first Phillies game at Connie Mack Stadium. Remember? We sat on the third base line.
  4. Losing all that sleep when you let me drive the Vette to the prom.
  5. Treating me no differently from your own kids.
  6. Rarely, if ever, losing your cool.
  7. Humbly admitting your faults like you did at our last family meeting.
  8. Willingly participating in family meetings even when it means constructive input.
  9. Joining me at a Harlem Globetrotters game at The Spectrum.
  10. Pulling off the vacation of a lifetime with that two-week RV trip out west.
  11. Giving new meaning to the word “frugal.”
  12. Coming to my plays–even all the way up to Penn State.
  13. Insisting on the 2/3–1/3 college payment plan.
  14. Listening to me preach now and then.
  15. Working your tail off to provide for the family.
  16. Not disowning me when I quit PSU against your wishes.
  17. Having the guts to throw me out of the house (see #16). For the record, I deserved it.
  18. Taking me back into the house after I wised up a tad.
  19. Reading my book on peacemaking when it gets published. Don’t you love the presumption?
  20. Allowing for our personality differences.
  21. Being able to fix just about anything.
  22. Putting those gadgets in your ears.
  23. Supporting me through seminary.
  24. Helping Vista Church purchase a video projector.
  25. Contributing generously to the Joshua Place Playground.
  26. Helping me negotiate the deal for that orange VW Beetle.
  27. Encouraging me to marry Nancy.
  28. Wearing a tux at my wedding (see #26).
  29. Not forcing me to ride a dirt bike.
  30. Tossing the football with me in the yard.
  31. Caring deeply for all your children.
  32. Never using sarcasm with me as a put down. Well, there was that one time, BUT REALLY, THAT WAS IT.
  33. Doing the grocery shopping.
  34. Single handedly driving up Aldi stock.
  35. Same for Steak & Shake (see #34).
  36. Making a killer pizza.
  37. Keeping fit in spite of #36.
  38. Caring about the science behind claims.
  39. Opening your home to others. Think cousin Howie. That took guts knowing that wild and crazy but hugely lovable character!
  40. Giving generously to your kids when you make a killing in real estate.
  41. Permitting me to omit Formula 1 from my list of personal passions.
  42. Being there at the hospital for my cancer surgery.
  43. Making wise investments to benefit our family.
  44. Persuading me to go to Penn State.
  45. Supporting my call to pastoral ministry.
  46. Caring about your grandchildren.
  47. Never shaming me for my lack of athletic ability even though you have always been a jock.
  48. Letting me run the attic fan on hot summer nights in the Berwyn house.
  49. Getting me the job with GE one summer assembling modular homes.
  50. Never, ever whining.
  51. Listening to me whine.
  52. Having the courage to make huge decisions–like relocating cross country–twice.
  53. Letting me fish off the MI house dock. Remember those two huge drum I caught that day?
  54. Teaching me to change the oil in my car. For the record I go to Jiffy Lube now.
  55. Always ending our phone calls with, “Love you, man.”
  56. Attending my graduations.
  57. Showing patience through my battle with CFS.
  58. Not Baker Acting me for moving to the Idaho wilderness.
  59. Saying “No” to my request to take on a paper route. What in the world was I thinking?
  60. Coaching me through the torture then known as the new math in Mr. Donnely’s 7th grade class.
  61. Not rolling your eyes that grading period in high school when I flunked gymnastics (see #47). Hated gymnastics.
  62. Making conversation more important than watching TV when I visit.
  63. Springing for the vacation of a lifetime at Green Acres in the Catskills. What was a nice Gentile family like ours doing in a place like that anyway?
  64. Teaching me to drive a stick shift.
  65. Letting me drive the Mercedes when I got my license (see #64).
  66. Never calling me stupid for failing back then to appreciate #65. Man, I’d love to own that rig now!
  67. Never tooting your own horn. You really are a humble man.
  68. Sending mom to help with the newborns.
  69. Respecting relational boundaries.
  70. Listening attentively. I’m amazed at your self-discipline in not interrupting others.
  71. Being a man’s man.
  72. Giving me hope about that other mansion we talked about one day not too long ago. I keep praying.
  73. Being the motor head all motor heads everywhere envy.
  74. Recording the family history.
  75. Modeling extraordinary perseverance.
  76. Quitting driving when the time comes. More presumption. I’m counting on you for this, Pop.
  77. Doing any project the right way or not at all.
  78. Making me help build that stupid wall at the Berwyn house. BUT NOT FOR HAULING THOSE RAILROAD TIES!
  79. Always being yourself.
  80. Not holding grudges.
  81. Having a living will.
  82. Not giving me a middle name (see yesterday’s questioning around the table–really, I’m not upset about it).
  83. Reaching 84.
  84. Not expecting me to do this again when you hit 104.

Love you, pop. You’re the best!

Question: With apologies to those who have no positive memories about their dad for whatever reason, for those who do, what is something you admire most about him? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Sappy and Green

I am fond of several sayings. One of them is this: “Getting old is overrated.” I quoted it again just before writing this post. I talked with my mom after an outpatient surgery she underwent the other day. We both agreed. Getting old is overrated.

At least it is physically. I didn’t have surgery this week, but I feel the effects of aging after turning sixty-one the other day. I won’t bore you with the anatomical details. I take solace in the fact that getting old spiritually is definitely NOT overrated. I say that because of two passages of Scripture, one New Testament and the other Old Testament.

Consider 2 Cor. 4:16 – So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. Wasting away. Couldn’t have said it better about the physical body. But this text is decidedly good news for someone who, by God’s grace, has walked with Jesus for nearly forty-one years now. My inner self, the immaterial side of my being, is being renewed day by day. That means I have come a long way, baby.  I am not the man I was and I am not the man I will be. Thanks be to God. Let the transformation continue.

But the news gets better. Consider Psalm 92:12-15.

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 13 They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, 15 to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Living in Florida, I get the imagery. Palm trees endure through absolutely everything. They shoot relentlessly to the sky sprouting their luxurious fronds. Cedars of Lebanon I am not so familiar with. Wish I were. Had to do some research:

These giant, beautiful, evergreen trees grow in mountainous regions, at altitudes of 3,300-6,500 feet (1,000-2,000 m). They can be found in Lebanon, south-central Turkey, and Cyprus. They produce cones which grow on top of the branch. The trees can attain a height of 100 feet (30 m) and the trunk may reach 6 feet (2 m) in diameter. Compared with the trees of Israel, the cedar is indeed a mighty tree, and it is highly praised in Scripture.

When I think about the reality of becoming an increasingly older man, righteous in God’s sight by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone, I am thrilled to consider this not as something overrated but highly desirable. The promise of God for those planted in the house of the Lord, at home in the courts of the living God, is that such will flourish, grow, and still bear fruit even in old age. The last thing I want to be is some grumpy old codger making everyone miserable in a self-centered, morose, miserable endgame. Full of sap and green. That’s for me. Let me live out my days doing exactly what v. 15 says, declaring that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Sappy and green. Sappier than ever, brighter green every day. Let the aging continue. Definitely not overrated.

Matthew Henry said it well:

In God’s trees the strength of grace does not fail with the strength of nature. The last days of the saints are sometimes their best days, and their last work their best work.
Lord, may my last days be my best days, my last work my best work.
I promise. I’ll give you all the glory.