Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Father's Love

1 John 3:1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Today is Father’s Day and both Tammy and I have fathers to be proud of. We not only both look like our Dads, but they each had a huge role in making us who we are today. We were both raised in Christian homes, and our fathers each influenced us, and our spouses. They are a constant reminder of our Heavenly Father’s love.

My Dad, Ray, went home to be with the Lord January 23, 2005. It doesn’t seem like more than four years ago, and I miss him dearly. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

All my life I marveled at the fact that Dad could demonstrate a father’s love so well without a good example of his own. His father took off when he was 8 years old, and that was actually a blessing because of the way his father treated him and his siblings. He was a remarkable demonstration of sacrificial love to my brother and me.

My Dad was a straight shooter. You never wondered what he thought. He was tough, but we knew that the toughness was only to make us tougher. When we needed him to be loving or gentle, he was.

Tammy remembers that my Dad always spent time with the kids. When we had church picnics in the park, he always sat with the kids and laughed and joked with them. Tammy remembers that she often was the only girl in the group, so he made her feel special. When I asked Tammy to marry me, I think it was one of the happiest days of his life, as well as mine.

When I was in high school, when a lot of friends were trying to get away from their “old man,” many came to my house because my Dad was so cool. When he was a dorm parent at Manhattan Christian College, I had to share Dad with 60 college kids. At times I was jealous, because they were taking his attention away from my family and me. Then I realized that he was doing what God put him on this planet to do--minister to kids.

I have cousins who referred to my Dad as “Pooh Bear,” because of his loving, gentle spirit with them. At his memorial service, a friend came up to me and said, “I know where your Dad is.” I said, “I do too, Don.” He said, “No, I mean I know what he’s doing right now. He’s welcoming the new people to Heaven. And he’s making sure the kids feel welcome too.” It really touched me, because I knew how fond he was of the kids.

As I grew up, I knew my Dad was proud of me. He didn’t tell me face to face that often, but he didn’t have to. I could see it. And I heard often enough how he “bragged” to others about what my brother and I were doing. Like all kids, my goal was to make my Dad proud. I’m very thankful that I did, and I am proud to be his son.

Tammy’s Dad, Lynn, is very special to both of us. Tammy says, “My Dad is special to me because of a lifetime of sacrificial love. When my brothers and I were little, Dad showed us unconditional love. He would take us fishing, and he was great at making us toys out of wood or whatever he would find around the house. He was very imaginative and inspired us to make the most of our situations.

“We didn’t have the money to go buy a lot of new stuff, but he still wanted us to have some of the things our friends had. He took great joy in making those things, many of which my kids and my brother’s kids played with when they were growing up and even to this day. He did all these things because he wanted us to be happy.

“He sacrificed a lot of his own desires to make sure his three kids were taken care of. That hasn’t stopped, even though we grew up and he retired from work. As I go through my battle with leukemia, he and Mom are the ones who take me to most of my appointments at the Cancer Clinic, two or three times a week. They also stay with me while David is at work and David Lee is in class or at work.

“He also instilled in my brothers and me a desire to worship God. He didn’t just take us to church; he was a leader in church. He taught our Sunday School classes. He taught David and me in Sunday School in second grade.”

It was in that second grade class that I learned to appreciate Lynn. When I was baptized in the spring, I chose Lynn to help me prepare for baptism. It was the practice of the church at the time to have an elder help the men get ready and an elder’s wife to help the women and children. I said, “I don’t want a woman helping me, I want an elder. I want Lynn Young.”

When my family moved away from Kansas City after our fourth grade year, Lynn drew a big picture of my family for the entire church to sign. It hung in my parents’ basement for years. I remember being in the basement (rec room) and looking at that 8’ x 10’ sign and seeing Lynn’s name on it. I missed him and his family. And then I’d see Tammy’s signature and secretly think, “I sure wish I could marry her.”

Lynn and I have had a special bond for years. We share a love of sports, which is far less than our shared love for his daughter. Some of my fondest memories to this day involve sitting on his back porch or my front porch and talking about “guy things,” like we did today. Without my Dad around, Lynn is very much a father to me in the most special way.

Both of our Dads are great examples of God’s love. He lavishes love on us, even when we do not deserve it. There is no greater demonstration of this love than when He sent His Son to die for us.

Just like we want to do things to make our earthly fathers proud of us, we want to do things that make our Heavenly Father proud. That is why we love each other. That is why we love our kids. That is why we love our neighbors. It’s why we have traveled half-way around the world to serve in the missions field. All of these things bring great joy to us, just like loving us brings great joy to God. We hope that as you read this blog, you are blessed by it. We are serving God, trying to make Him proud by what we write.

We desire, more than anything, to hear these words spoken in Matthew 25:23 “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!

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