The Love of a Father

If you are “fifty something” then you may remember this ad from when we were kids:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQg0BoXURBo]

I remember it vividly because of one of my earliest childhood memories about my dad. My dad turned 91 this year and so I find myself replaying memories of him more and more.

On this occasion our family had returned from and evening Vacation Bible School at our church (a friend of mine who held Christian education responsibilities in our denomination once told me what when it came to Vacation Bible School for kids there was only one word in the name that they are interested in and it wasn’t Bible or school). When I got home I carefully took off my name tag to make sure I had it for the next night and went to bed.

Lying there in the dark I heard a little pitter-patter that sounded like someone walking around. It wasn’t constant. It was like someone was walking around in my room, stopping and then walking again. So I immediately called out: “Daddy, daddy there is a little man in my room”. I just knew what it was: Manners the Butler was in my room!

So my dad comes in the door and says “What’s the matter”. I exclaimed that I heard a little man like Manners the Butler walking around in my room. He listened and heard nothing but got down on his hands and knees and looked under my bed and by brother’s bed and around the room. He assured me that there was no little man and turned off the light. As soon as he left the room and I settled back to bed there was the noise again. “Daddy, daddy there is a little man in my room”.  My dad returns this time looking in the closet, looks in all the places “the little man” could hid. No one there. He again assures me that he could find no one there and assures me there is nothing to worry about.

Third time is the charm. Happens again. I assure my dad that every time he comes in and turns on the light Manners runs off and hides in a place Daddy cannot find him. So he turns off the light, climbs in bed with me and as soon as things are quiet, wonder of wonder he hears the noise! Well he turns on the light and discovers that I have put my name tag in just the right place for the oscillating fan to cause it to “rattle” every time the fan swept past that part of the room. When my dad was in the room looking for Manners, he was near the fan and it did not blow across my name tag. My dad moved the name tag, kissed me good night and turned off the light. No more Manners the Butler in my room.

I tell this story as a reminder of my father’s love for me. Rather than telling me to “grow up, there is no such thing as little men” or getting angry after the second and third time, he patiently worked through this “nightmare” with his son. Over the years I have counseled many man who have been wounded by their fathers. I have participated in numerous men’s groups where much of their struggles have to do with failures of their fathers: fathers who left them, fathers who introduced them to porn, fathers who were drunk more than they were sober. I have wept and prayed with these men and tried to understand their woundings. It has been one of the great joys of my life to have the father I have had. I can recount time and time again when his love and concern for me was clearly demonstrated.

My dad is a man of few words. I have both of the letters he has written me in my life but his actions truly has spoken louder than words.

Thanksgiving and the Psalms

Since the end of June I have been reading in the Psalms almost every day. In the Book of Common Prayer there is a list of readings in the Psalms for the daily morning and evening prayer services of the Anglican community. The list is set up so that the entire book of Psalms is read through every month. As I have read through this book almost five times in the last five months many, many things have surprised me. Just about every emotion can be found here: joy, sorrow, love, bitterness, suspicion, you name it. What is amazing is that God puts these in the Bible to let us know we don’t have to fake it, we don’t have to pretend to be happy when we are actually sorrowful.You also find a wide variety of attitudes toward God: joy, love, praise, complaint, questioning, anger just to name a few. As I read the Psalms, however, the heart attitude that I find occurring more and more frequently is thanksgiving. Variations of thanks, thanksgiving, thankful occur in 46 verses in the Psalms.

As I am confronted with this almost daily I come to the conclusion that when the Psalmist is joyful about God’s providences in his life or when he is sorrowful or when he is simply mad and disappointed, he almost always returns to thanksgiving. As I have read the Psalms over and over again in these past five months, I have discovered that the major difference between myself and the Psalmist is the he has developed a lifestyle of thanksgiving. As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, we are often reminded (and I think that this is a good idea) that as Americans our thanks at Thanksgiving, often now has no “object” we are not thankful to someone or some thing for our benefits. It is rather a nameless, spirit of thankfulness. I think it is good to remind our fellow Americans that initially this holiday was established to declare a thankfulness toward God. But I think we Christians need more. Our thankfulness should not be primarily about material blessings and prosperity but rather a heart of thankfulness toward God for his love, mercy and grace toward us.

More often than not when the Psalmist is thankful in the Psalms it is for God’s lovingkindness, his tender mercies, his abiding love. Even when the Psalmist finds himself in difficult situations (sometimes being chased through the wilderness by his own son or by the father of his best friend) he remains thankful toward God for his lovingkindenss. Here is what is says in Psalm 63:3 “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you”.

I know that I am far from the lifestyle of the Psalmist but one thing I can tell you is that reading the Psalms every day reminds me of that deficiency in my life and is starting to create in me a heart that cries out for that lifestyle.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.