84 YEARS AND 84 THANKS

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 that 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.

Dads in the Gap

Learned something I didn’t know before from the DG pastor’s conference this week.

Rick Husband, the commander of the Shuttle Columbia that disintegrated upon reentry to earth’s atmosphere back in February of 2003, loved Jesus and cared deeply for his wife and children.

Before he lifted off into space, Husband recorded a series of videos of him leading family worship for every one of the days he would spend away from them in space. He also led a weekly prayer group at his church called Dads in the Gap.

A portion of a videotape of his was played at the memorial service at his church. In it he said this:

If I ended up at the end of my life having been an astronaut, but having sacrificed my family along the way or living my life in a way that didn’t glorify God, then I would look back on it with great regret. Having become an astronaut would not really have mattered all that much. And I finally came to realize that what really meant the most to me was to try and live my life the way God wanted me to and to try and be a good husband to Evelyn and to be a good father to my children.

Joel Beeke referenced Husband and his passion for leading his home in family worship in a message well worth hearing by every family man.

You can listen to the audio here.

May God give us men who stand in the gap for their wives and children.

How Do You Pastor Your Family?

Some one sent me a helpful post on this immensely practical subject.

Here’s a tidbit:

Dads, it’s important for you to call the family together. Don’t force mom to keep looking at her watch, to always be waiting for you, to nag you to get started. Call the family together. Get the Bible. Know where/what you’re reading. Lead your family. Wives, this may be new or unfamiliar for many dads. Go easy on him. Encourage him. Honor his leadership. Don’t undermine. Don’t criticize. Model respect and love for your children to see. And remember, the kids are watching.

You can read the entire post here.

Powerful Incentive to Pray

CarsonJesus taught His followers to open their prayers this way: “Our Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:9). Paul wrote in Eph. 3:14, “For this reason I bow my knees before the  Father.” Before both the Lord and the apostle revealed the content of their praying, they prescribed and modeled a certain manner of address toward God in praying. Call Him “Father.”

This is no small thing, particularly in the ancient eastern culture. The ancients revered their fathers as those who led the family unit and cared for its well being, doing it good and bestowing upon it favors. So by using the term “Father” as a means of addressing the Lord, we should see a ground of our praying that can powerfully motivate our praying. God is no mere transcendent Other to which we bring our petitions; He is the ultimate Father.

Once again, D. A. Carson, in his terribly helpful book on prayer, A Call to Spiritual Reformation (Baker, 1992, 230 pages), helps to motivate and equip in the all important means of grace that is intercessory prayer.

So as Paul approaches God with his petitions, he reminds himself that the God he addresses is his heavenly Father, the archetypal Father, the Father of all who are truly his people in heaven and on earth. He is a good God; he knows how to give good gifts. Paul dares to approach this God with these requests because he knows God to be good God, a heavenly Father. Thus the nature and character of God become for Paul the fundamental ground for intercessory prayer (p. 201).

Now here is where Carson takes the truth and brings it home to our prayer lives.

The more we reflect on the kind of God who is there, the kind of God who has disclosed himself in Scripture and supremely in Jesus Christ, the kind of God who has revealed his plans and purposes for his own “household,” the kind of God who hears and answers prayer–the more we shall be encouraged to pray. Prayerlessness is often an index to our ignorance of God. Real and vital knowledge of God not only teaches us what to pray, but gives us powerful incentive to prayer (p. 201, emphasis mine).

How is your prayer life? Do you need some incentive? Contemplate the nature of your God in Jesus Christ as Father. And then, when you pray, bow your knees and begin with, “Our Father in heaven.”