Dad’s Passing

Dad’s Passing

May 11, 2014
This morning about 8:00 my dad when home. Like anyone, I have a mixture of emotions. There is some sadness in loosing a parent, but it’s the natural order of things. Our parents raised six children and each is still alive to experience his passing. I feel somewhat envious that he has entered the gates of heaven and we must stay behind. I wonder how long it will be before he designs and builds an elevator someplace in his mansion.

Dad will be missed, but he has given us the tools to live successfully while we’re here. He has provided an example of how to live, then an example of how to die. I’m fortunate to have been back from Florida soon enough to spend a valuable day before his passing. He was alert and planning projects, and yet took the time to, once again, explain all his final details.

Mom is still with us in body, but suffers with Alzheimer’s. Dad stayed by her side, reminding her of his love regularly, even though she was unsure of who he is. She is blissfully unaware of his passing, but may already be joining him in heaven.

Now, we take the baton, now we have to be the grown-ups. We have to sort through documents, statements, records, and memories. We have to make decisions that we’re not ready to make. We have to sort between emotions and facts, between personal bias and reality, and between expectations and needs as we weave through the web of surviving siblings.

Thursday we will plant him in the ground, the death of a seed. May the blessings of our Lord water the seed to become an inspiration of Godliness, the hope of future generations. May he blossom through his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren for countless generations.

50 Years

50 Years

It’s new to me, being 50 and all. Honestly, I’ve never been 50 before, so I really don’t know how to act. But I have assembled some history that hopefully will guide me for the next 50 years.
First, I realize that I’ve successfully completed over 18,500 days since I first opened my eyes to the wonders of this world. The first couple thousand days were rather uneventful, at least as far as my memory serves. I’m sure other family members might have various opinions of those early days, but for me it was much more simple; food was readily supplied, sleep was long and often, and not a lot was expected from me. As the days progress, the adventures grow.
I’ve tried to assemble some numbers that relate to the last 50 years.

For example, as of the day of this writing, I’ve woke to a new day 18,575 times. I spent about 2500 days in school. I’ve owned over 50 cars/trucks, some of them ran and some never would. I’ve owned 5 homes and one big bus, the bus has been our favorite home. I’ve earned $9,849,597 and apparently lost almost exactly the same amount. I’ve loved just one woman who I’ve known for 11,825 days and we’ve had sex 10,248 10,249 times in nearly every state in the country, and in a few foreign countries. She’s fixed me 18,380 delicious meals and just 1 awful one. That explains the 60 pounds I’ve gained in the last 11,825 days; (that’s about 1/2 pound every 100 days). I’ve driven enough miles to get to the moon and back twice by car and enough air miles to at least circle the globe. I’ve read the Bible straight through from cover to cover at least 12 times, but read most of it hundreds of times. I’ve worshiped only 1 God, I’ve wrestled with him and worshiped him, and I’ll continue to learn from him and about him for the next 50 years.
I’ve fathered 1 boy, 1 girl, and given birth to 3 kidney stones. As of this writing I have 2 grandsons plus 2 granddaughters on the way. I’ve tried to remember how many jobs I’ve worked, but that’s rather difficult to define, I’ve had 7 in just the last 2 years.

I remember, when I was 12 I saw my first color TV…I didn’t think it would catch on. I remember when the idea of a phone in a car was science fiction, and when we shared a phone with our neighbor down the road. I remember having to lift the hood to start the car every morning, and I remember being pulled out of the ditch once on a snowy day by a team of horses. I’ve run from the law and sat on a jury. I’ve played behind huge waterfalls, and explored deep caves. I’ve read lots of books, published some magazines, and even written a book. I’ve cowered from bats and stood toe to toe with a bear. I’ve hiked mountains, swam in lakes, rivers and oceans, made love on the beach, spent nights under the stars gazing at God’s handiwork, I’ve tobogganed off a cliff and was carried home on a backboard (I’m still hurting from that), I’ve ridden horses, shot at Indians, ridden trains, planes and countless taxies. I’ve worked for the circus, built houses, raised kids, made a few really good friends and and buried a few friends too. I’ve preached sermons, and needed to hear a few. I’ve stood and shook my fist at God, and have been on my face and worshiped Him. I’ve done incredibly stupid things, and I’ve been blessed to be a part of great things. I’ve lived long enough to see this country prosper under a Godly leader, and I’ve watched this country fall under the leadership of a godless traitor. I’ve seen men die to protect this great land, and I’ve seen the ungodly march in the streets for their right to spit in God’s face. I’ve met great men, and wealthy men, and I’ve learned the most from men of who are poor in spirit. I’ve broken hearts, and had my heart broken. I’ve reached out to heal, and been healed by those who would reach out to me. I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor and I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter. Most importantly I’ve loved deeply and been loved deeply.
So 50 ain’t that bad. I often tell my kids, don’t feel bad for me if I drop dead tomorrow. In the last 50 years I’ve really lived! I’ve enjoyed life, and I haven’t sat on my butt and watched it go by. I’ve risked it all lots of times, and lost it all a few times too. 18,575 days ago I had nothing but my first breath. One day, probably within the next 50 years, I’ll take my last breath and I’ll take nothing with me. But in-between, I’ve lived!
They say you spend the first half of your life for success and the second half for significance. I’m not sure that either of those have ever been my goals, but I understand the sentiment. I hope the remainder of my life leaves some positive hunger in the people around me to know the Lord more. I guess my greatest struggle is loving an invisible and incomprehensible God. I think too often we find it to be an overwhelming effort, so folks don’t try – I can relate. But when I stop to think about it, I’m with Peter when he said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” So, I struggle anyway. Too often I give up too easily, then, I dig a little deeper. I guess that’s life!
My father-in-law would anguish that he would be remembered after he was dead. I don’t feel that way, I don’t care if I’m remembered. But I hope that I will leave behind some disciples for Jesus. I hope someone will wrestle with God the way I have. I hope somebody will learn to love him openly and passionately. If I’ve accomplished that, only then have I scratched the surface and done the bare minimum of what should be accomplished for the Kingdom of God… and that just isn’t enough.
My only real regret is that I can’t take what I’ve learned these last 50 years and live them again. I wouldn’t change much…I don’t think, but it would be fun to try. Tomorrow, Lord will’n I’ll open my eyes to day #18,576. I can’t imagine what’s in store!

30th Anniversary

30th Anniversary

I once stood inside this courthouse, in front of an intimidating and graceful judge. With tears of emotion and commitment I said to a fifteen year old girl, “If you’ll have me, I’ll give you my life.”
Our story was very much like so many others. And, so very different too. Amy and I were best friends. We had been best friends for four years. We never really dated, she was only fifteen after-all. Yet, there was turmoil, there was pain, there was frustrations that drove us together and drove us to that courthouse deep in the south.
Many people, including those closest to us, prophesied that our marriage was foolish and doomed for a painful destruction. Many even claimed that it was immoral. Yet the truth had not been told.
The reason for the marriage was not to thwart the socially imposed sexual taboos, it was not because of an unplanned, inconvenient pregnancy, it was not even because we were “in love” and couldn’t wait another year or two.

We understood the implications of our actions. We understood the risks. We even knew that we would be miss-understood.

Amy’s family was going through a violent and dirty upheaval. Lies, abuse, and destruction were blasted in every direction by those who should have been trusted. Ungodly friends got involved and pressed their agenda of hatred. Lawyers stepped in and complicated the trouble even more. Amy and her younger siblings were used and abused as pawns in a game of control and anger. Each child endured in their own way. As the oldest, Amy was caught in the cross-fire.
We carefully considered our options, as a fifteen-year-old girl, her options were limited. Foster care as a form of legal and government protection was soon to be imposed. I would give my life to save a person I loved from the devastation of this type . . . and I did.
On May 6, 1987 we stood together before Judge Raymond Eubanks in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and made official a promise I had already made in my heart.

“Amy, if you’ll have me, I’ll give you my life.” She looked at me, and made the same promise.”

That was thirty years ago today.

Our father in heaven has a way of taking all things that are intended as evil and turning them to our good. That does not mean that everything will turn out good in our eyes. That means, that God will use the evils, the pains, the destruction of this life, and bring from it glorious and abundant life.

Our marriage was not built on the “butterflies of physical love.” Our marriage was not built on uncontrolled passions. It was not simply even an escape from the turmoil of home life. Our marriage is much simpler than that. We stood before Judge Eubanks, and before God himself, and made a promise. As immature youngsters, we couldn’t know the depth of that commitment. We couldn’t know the years of struggles and tears. We would never imagine the arguments, the frustrations, and the anger that would occasionally rear its ugly head. But we also couldn’t imagine the joy and the laughter. We could never imagine the endless snuggles and “I love you’s” we would share for the next thirty years. And we could’t imagine the two beautiful children we would birth . . or the next generation of grandchildren.

All of this reminds me of another relationship that we share. Another relationship with the same chaos, and the same promise.
In the custom of Jesus’ day, a young man, a girl, the father of the boy, and the father of the girl would meet, would exchange some wine, and the boy would say to the girl. “I wish to marry you. I love you and give you my life.” The father of the boy would pour a cup of wine. He would hand the cup to the girl and the boy would say “I’ll give you my life.” If the girl accepted the “marriage invitation” she would take a drink of the cup. If not, she would hand the cup back to the father. (can you imagine the insult).
If she accepted, the boy would then say these words to the girl, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am.” Then, he would return to his father’s house to build ‘an addition’ on his fathers house for his bride. She would return to her father’s house to learn to be a good wife, mother, and lover. Everyone would know that she now belongs to him alone.
Do you remember those words from Jesus to his disciples in the upper room just before his death? Think of that next time you take communion. Jesus offers you a cup, and in essence says to you “I’ll give you my life – will you marry me?” How do you answer? Do you take that cup — and say to the Father in heaven, “I accept, and I give you my life” or do you return the cup to the Father and walk away?

I believe this is often the failure of marriage. I believe this is why ‘christian’ marriages fail at the same rate as the world. People have forgotten what “I’ll give you my life” means. With that failure, the blessing is lost as well. Long marriage comes with indescribable blessing and joy. Not just comfort and familiar, but true joy. Struggles? Arguments? Frustration? Of course! But don’t you dare say “it’s work”. No, it’s sacrifice. Why do we sacrifice? Maybe our culture has forgotten that too. We sacrifice because we love. We sacrifice from a heart of gratitude. Does sacrifice hurt sometimes? Yes – and therein is the joy as well.

I’ve accepted that cup from Jesus. I’ve accepted my role in this “marriage”. “Jesus, I give you my life!” That means it’s not mine anymore. It belongs to him. He loves me, why wouldn’t I give my life to him? My promise to Jesus is just as immature as my promise to my wife was thirty years ago. But the promise holds. I don’t know what’s ahead. I don’t know the struggles or the joys. I can’t image the fruits, but I stand firm on that promise forever.

And the same is true of our marriage. We stood together in the midst of chaos on that warm day in early May of 1987 before a Judge in South Carolina and accepted this “cup” of marriage. “Amy, I give you my life.” Why wouldn’t I give my life to her? She loves me.