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Posts Tagged ‘Faith and the Glory of God’

Memories of my Dad

Posted by MDViews on November 28, 2008

All of us come from somewhere and none of us are here by accident. The sins of the fathers and the righteousness of the fathers can have a great influence for generations. God chose to bless me with a Christian father, not a perfect one, but a solid Christian man. He passed away about 2 months ago, the victim of longstanding coronary artery disease, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). His funeral was a glorious affair attended by a large number of family, friends, work acquaintances. I said a few words at his funeral which I publish now to honor his memory. I hope you enjoy learning something about my dad.

MY MEMORIES OF MY DAD

Memories—they tend to be colored by our emotions and blurred by time. As such, memories are always unreliable representations of actual persons and events. Because of that, my recollections, although true to me, may not be true to you. So, forgive me if what I say about Dad doesn’t fit with your remembrances. It’s just my memories.

Dad worked hard. All his life, he worked hard. I’ve joked that if you looked up ‘work-a-holic’ in the dictionary, you would find his picture. But, it’s hard to imagine being so young with so many children, as was his lot. Dad started work at Terrace Park Dairy in the plant as a milk bottle washer, the lowest job there. He worked his way up until he finally got a milk route, the worst one they had. He grew it to the biggest—they cut it in half. He grew it again, they cut it again. He kept doing that until they made him a supervisor. As a guy, I know he must have felt tremendous pressure to put food on our table and a roof over our heads. But he met the challenge by working hard. In fact, working hard was probably Dad’s defining feature. He never apologized for it. He didn’t have to; it was the right thing to do. I remember him saying to me on more than one occasion that his goal was to teach his boys how to work hard. From chores on the farm by Tea, feeding chickens, picking eggs and general helping, the message was clear—hard work was a virtue and real men worked hard. When Larry and I reached the teen years, Dad was always finding work for us, (much to my disappointment, I might add, as I would have rather watched TV). But we worked. We mowed lawns, swept the entire Terrace Park Dairy parking lot by hand many times and even tore down houses. He was so proud to have volunteered us for any work, any where, anytime. Manhood and hard work were synonyms to Dad. Proverbs says, A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands, and poverty will overtake you like a bandit and want like an armed man. Dad was never rich, but we never faced poverty or want, a testimony to the truth of the Bible. Dad worked and provided—no small task.

Dad was never lazy. He took pride in showing up early to work, especially when delivering milk. He was often there, loading his truck at 3:30am. That was back when the work week was six days long, not five days. He would tell me how much he like his job and would talked about the importance of loving your work. He found a work home at the dairy, for 31 years. He was so disappointed when Terrace Park sold out to Land ‘O Lakes. My dad, the quintessential conservative, even helped form a union to try to save his job but he lost it anyway. I know little about his work at the Lutheran church or the school system since I was grown and on my own. I just know he always landed on his feet working. I knew that retirement for Dad would just mean different work. With retirement, he concentrated more on small engine repair. When mowers became harder for him to fix, he went to work at HyVee. What a surprise that he lobbied for the job starting at 3:00 in the morning. He worked until the end, to the very day he passed on. He finish well and with honor.

Dad was an athlete. I don’t know where Dad got his love for baseball and softball, but love it he did. The Twins were always on the radio at home. Church league softball was his love. He pitched and was pretty good at it. One summer days, he would get home from work and start throwing to me or Larry. For hours, it seemed. He worked on his fastball and curve. He was a good hitter and fast on the base paths. He had a level swing and hit line drive base hits with regularity. His arms were strong from lifting milk all day. Dad even coached our teener ball team.

Dad was generous to a fault. I’m sure he was taught that from his youth. He taught me to never borrow something without returning it in as good or better condition than I received it. If I borrowed a vehicle, I should always return it clean with a full tank of gas. If someone needed help, go help, no questions asked. I was so blessed last night as person after person told me how my Dad had help them in a time of need.

Dad was a salesman. He was a great salesman. But he wasn’t a great salesman because of some artificial desire to sell. He was just friendly, whether selling or not. He always made friends easily. He was genuinely interested in people and not afraid to introduce himself and and strike up a conversation. He could gain peoples trust because he was trustworthy. He was real and genuine and cared. And those qualities showed.

Dad was smart—way smarter than I was or am. He could remember names and faces. He was quick with numbers. His memory and ability to work with numbers was the stuff of legend. I was interested to read the letter he wrote to Ross when Ross was in second grade. He told Ross that in his one room grade school, he read all 80 books in the small library there. Dad never went to college, but I’ve no doubt he could have mastered any topic.

Dad loved to sing. Singing was part of our lives. When we were little and all in the car, Dad would often sing while driving. He loved choir and he really loved the quartet. He was the glue that held it together.

God, in his wisdom and grace, visits upon us all calamity and struggles. I had already left home when Dad’s failed relationships and untreated depression were nearly his undoing. By God’s grace, he was somehow able to survive the next many years. Then, 25 years ago he married Lois. Even looking from a distance, Bea and I could see that Lois was the best thing that happened to Dad. She had a concept of family and pushed him to the family gatherings. She became as much a twins fan as he was, which must have provided for hours of lively conversation. She loved him dearly and it was easy to see that he shared that emotion with her. Lois, for your influence on Dad and your many years of love for him, we will always be grateful.

Dad was committed Christian, as long as I remember, a tribute to the faithfulness of God and the faithfulness his own mom and dad and the generations before which was populated with pastors. He loved God. He worshiped God. He served God. He lived his life for God. He encouraged his children, all of us, to seek out a Bible-believing church and make worship and service a regular part of our lives. For that commitment I am so very thankful. Being a father and grandfather myself, I know that getting the family to church and providing for their spiritual training is no small task. But Dad did it. Growing up, we were in church every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening and every Wednesday night prayer meeting. I know that my walk with Christ would not be where it is today without that discipline. I never got to see the end of the Wonderful World of Disney or the Wizard of Oz until I was an adult because they were always shown on Sunday night. But Dad’s dedication to my Christian upbringing was a blessing that I cannot overstate. His commitment to Christ was a gift of immeasurable worth and one I have tried to pass on to my children and grandchildren. So, thank you Dad for your commitment, your dedication, your faithfulness and your love for God. You ran the race. You fought the good fight. You persevered to the end. Now, by God’s grace, you will receive your reward and enjoy the glory and majesty of the God you served so faithfully.

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Children, a gift from God

Posted by MDViews on January 29, 2005

My wife of thirty two years and I have four children. They are a blessing to us…well, OK, they are more than a blessing to us. They are…well, let me try to explain.

Since so many books, articles, blogs, conversations and interactions are written and spoken about children, it seems that anything I would write or share would be a useless redundancy. And it is redundant, I’m sure. But you know, that’s how it is with most things in life that are really important. How many love songs are there? Has the topic been exhausted? How many times have you heard the Christmas story or the Easter story? Just when you think that you’ve explored every angle to the Easter story, here comes Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ. What about marriage? Has the story of the best marriage been told? I’m sure not. How many movies have been made about love, sacrifice, honor, bravery and daring? And they are still being made.

So that’s why I think its appropriate to share my thoughts about children, particularly my children. I hope you find them worthwhile.

My first thought of the meaning of fatherhood and parenthood exploded in my brain the first time I held our oldest son, Nathan, and looked into his face. I saw his delicate features and watched his somewhat irregular breathing. He had been born prematurely and struggled with his breathing. He was hospitalized for about a month before we could bring him home. As I held him, I felt an emotion that is so difficult to put into words. At that moment, I bonded to him. In a split second, I clearly felt the magnitude of my responsibility and could see the path I would take for the rest of my life. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of love for him. It just washed over me and surrounded me in a way that I had never before experienced. I experience an overwhelming desire to do whatever it would take to protect his little life and give him a start on his life’s journey. It was like God, at that moment, gave me a glimpse of true love. And it was much different from romantic love. It was a dedication, a strength that I felt well up inside, a feeling that I knew at that moment was permanent, lasting and forever. I knew that no matter what happened over the next months and years and decades and lifetime, that I would never be able to escape that love. It held me and became part of me and became part of who I would be from then on.

I felt that way with each of our children.

Sometimes I try to explain to couples pregnant for the first time just what they may experience when they finally meet their child. I relay to them the emotions I experienced. They usually have a somewhat blank, polite look, like I must be a little crazy after delivering babies all these years. But later, when they return after the baby is born, they generally understand. I always add that once you have children of your own, you will know why people with children always talk about their children. You can’t help it!

I read a story last year about a pontoon plane that went sank in an Alaskan bay. I don’t remember all the details, but it went something like this. Of the people on board, there was a father and a young teen son. There was a tide going out to sea, so making it to shore was a difficult swim and the teen was not a good swimmer. The father could have saved himself and made it to shore with the rest, but stayed with his son, trying to help him to shore. They lost the battle with the tide. It carried them further and further from shore. Neither survived. They died together. If I were to guess, I would imagine that the father used his last ounce of strength and effort to keep his son’s head above water.

That makes perfect sense to me.

How could a father do anything else? Could a father let his child perish? When I think of my own children and picture them in harms way, I have no doubt that I would do whatever I could to save them from danger. When I look deep into my soul, I like to think I could make a similar sacrifice for a stranger, but I’m just not completely sure. Probably all men, myself included, like to think that we would be brave, bold, and self-sacrificing if in a dangerous situation and would rise to the occasion, but I’ve never been tested like that where my physical life was on the line. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn’t. But for my children…I would. I have no doubt.

This love that we feel for our children comes from God, I am sure. He put it there. He made us to feel that bond. He designed we men to experience that desire to protect and provide for that little life gifted to us. He designed women with a different desire, but one no less strong or powerful. Women are gifted with, I believe, the desire and need to conceive, carry and give birth to life, and also the desire to nurture and provide care after a baby is born. I see it every day in my practice. It is beautiful thing.

Thank you, God, for this gift. Thank you that each time a child enters this world, you provide these feelings and emotions to new parents. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of what real love must be like, even though our sin may dim its splendor. Thank you for the gift of children.

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World-wide Tragedy

Posted by MDViews on January 10, 2005

The tsunami that devastated southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka and Africa is truly one of the great natural disasters of our time, especially in terms of loss of life. The latest figures I’ve read place the death toll at 149,000.

149,000. The number numbs the mind. 149,000 souls now gone from this earth.

So, where does the Christian put this? How does one answer questions about God in the face of such disaster? Does God exist? If he does, how could he allow this? Is He in control, or is this just a random, senseless act by nature? Without a solid theology on the supramacy of God in all things and the love He has for us, even Christians can be shaken in their faith by such events.

John Piper, the pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, has addressed this issue in a way that gives Christians a way to comprehend and understand this in relation to our faith. I can’t say it better than he, so here is an excerpt from his sermon on 1-2-05:

Our grief in these days since the Tsunami struck (December 26, 2004) has been doubled—first there is the untold suffering and death. One entire church on the coast of Tamil Nadu, India was wiped out while they were worshipping. Only one survivor from the whole church. Story after story breaks your heart.

Then there is a second grief: the religious people around the world, including some Christians, who say so many God-belittle things. Like one article in the Wall Street Journal, that said, “No Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God’s inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God’s good ends” (David B. Hart, “Tremors of Doubt,” WSJ, December 31, 2004). Such talk compounds this calamity with greater and greater evil.

Biblical hope and love in this calamity are sustained in many different ways by the Bible. The central one is that Christ came into our suffering and conquered it so that it does not have the last word. But Oh, how much more the Bible has to say so that we are not carried away by calamities from our hope in the sovereign wisdom and power and goodness of God. How could a person say what this man said, if he read and believed his Bible? He writes as a Christian theologian!

Shall we not believe in the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Genesis 19:24—“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” Genesis 13:10—“The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Shall we not believe and worship the God of the Exodus? Exodus 13:15—in the final plague on Egypt it says, “The Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.”

The people of God in those days knew far better than we do what Moses would write later in Deuteronomy 32:39. Thus says the Lord: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”

Shall we not trust and reverence the God of Joshua? Joshua 10:11—the Amorites gathered against Israel, but it says, “The Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.”

Shall we not fear and worship before the God of David? 2 Samuel 12:15—when David committed adultery and made Bathsheba pregnant, it says, “The Lord afflicted the child . . . and he became sick” and he died. God owns all life. He gives and he takes according to his own wisdom which mingles justice and mercy in perfect proportion. He does not owe any human any life (Job 1:21).

Over and over in the Scriptures we have descriptions of God’s judgment on the nations and on his own people. For example Amos 4:10 where God reminds Israel what he had done: “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses,and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.”

Or in the same time Isaiah 37:36 describes what God did to Sennacherib and the Assyrians when they came against his people, “The angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.”

And this is what the book of Revelation says will happen in the last days of God’s wrath on the world. For example Revelation 16:9 describes one stroke against the earth: “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursedthe name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.” Oh, let us not be among that number.

Paradoxically, stories like this from the Old and New Testament keep us from being knocked utterly off balance by the calamities of our own day. They keep the solid foundation of God’s sovereignty under our hope. They sustain hope. The heart-rending calamities of our time are not new—and they are not over. We don’t know all that God is doing in them. But to say that God cannot be in them, and that his “inscrutable counsels” are not at work, and that this suffering does not “mysteriously serves God’s good ends”—to say that shows (to use the words of Jesus) “you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

What Pastor Piper says is so true. Knowing how God has acted in the past, knowing His sovereignty in all things, knowing that His inscrutable counsels may be hidden to our finite minds provides us hope and assurance.

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