Monday, June 21, 2010

Thinking about Dad

My dad died in 1996 after a ten year battle with cancer. I still think about him a lot.

I think about him when I’m shaving. Gillette Foamy is what he used, and that’s what I use. None of that frou-frou stuff for us. No aloe. No strawberry scent. Plain old Foamy. That smell is embedded in my olfactory memories. When I lather up, I can smell my dad.

I think about my dad every time I watch a baseball game. He passed his love of the game on to me. There was a long time after his death when I would automatically reach for the phone to call him whenever I saw a great play or saw an outstanding “web gem” on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. I don’t reach for the phone anymore. But I still recall our days when we used to watch the Angels and the Dodgers together.

I think about my dad every time I watch a Clint Eastwood western. There were some times when he and I would actually put on our cowboy hats and boots to watch a film together. Not in the theatre, mind you, but at home, where we could prop up our feet and pop open a cold beer.

I suppose I could go on and on telling you about the many occasions when I think about my dad. The most important memories I have of my father have to do with church.

I think of my dad when I put the hymn numbers up on the hymn board near the chancel. When my dad was an usher and an elder, that was one of his duties, and he would often take me along on a Saturday morning and have me help. Someone once asked me, “Pastor, why don’t you let someone else do that job?” I told them that I don’t mind doing it, because as I put those numbers up on the board I’m also reminiscing and giving thanks to God for my dad’s faithful example of humble, quiet service.

I think of my dad when we sing the Te Deum, when we sing hymns about the saints in heaven, and during the preface in the Divine Service: “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven…” My dad didn’t have the greatest singing voice. But that didn’t stop him from loudly singing the liturgy and hymns. He didn’t think, as some men do, that singing was “unmanly.” Dad had his hymnal opened and sang boldly.

Dad also faithfully partook of our Lord’s body and blood in Holy Communion. I used to wonder where dad would go after we would return to our pews. Coming back from the altar, he always slipped out the side door of the church. We didn’t see him again until after the benediction. Only as I got a bit older did I learn that he had to get outside to satisfy his nicotine craving. He kicked that habit years later during his battle with cancer. But years of smoking had already taken its toll on his lungs, adding to his health issues.

Dad wasn’t perfect. Not because he smoked … but because he was a sinner. And he knew that himself. That’s why he also publicly confessed his sins with the rest of us in the Divine Service, acknowledging that he trusted in the shed blood of Jesus for his forgiveness and salvation.

Another Father’s Day has come and gone. To you dads, here’s a question for you: What kind of example are you setting for your children, in particular with your spiritual life and your involvement at church? Many faithful mothers have had to pick up the slack where their husbands have abdicated their responsibilities as the spiritual heads of their households. God bless those faithful women. But remember, men: the example of a father is of immeasurable importance in the spiritual life of a child. Your kids are watching you. Do they see you regularly in church? Do they see you participating? Do they see you volunteering your gifts and talents? Do they see you reading the Bible and praying at home?

That doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. There’s only one father who’s perfect, and that’s our Heavenly Father. He sent his only Son to live a perfect life in our place and to die for the sins of the world, including the sins of us sinful fathers. Repent, receive his forgiveness, rejoice in his grace, and rejuvenate your spiritual life by availing yourself of the opportunities to hear the Word of God and partake of the Lord’s Supper. Guided by the Holy Spirit, you can set the kind of example that will make a difference in the spiritual life of your children.

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