Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Eventful" Is An Understatement

I'm a pretty sorry blogger. But if I've ever had an excuse for not writing new posts, 'tis now. In the last few weeks my father quickly declined and passed away, my daughter's boyfriend asked our permission to propose to her and they were engaged, and I turned 50! I've also been writing in hopes of one day publishing a book about my father. All of this is in addition to pastoring and teaching at Providence Church!
I'm not seeking sympathy. In fact, I'm a little concerned that I'm feeling as upbeat as I do!
Big sister Duncan on the left in 2004 at age 8. Big
time daddy's girl. Now she's getting married.

I have always dreaded the day my little girl would be engaged to be married. I'm the guy that has always had to turn off the radio when any of the many songs like "Butterfly Kisses" comes on. I just can't hardly bear to think of it. But God is so gracious. My daughter, Duncan, couldn't have found a better guy. Ben Davenport is the one for whom I've been praying for over 21 years, since when we found out that Darla was pregnant with a little girl. Ben is humble and loves Jesus more than anything else. His character is strong. He loves and esteems Duncan and treats her with the utmost of respect and gentleness. He's a hard worker and is honest to a fault (if that's possible). When I say "Duncan couldn't have found a better guy," I truly mean, God found Ben for her. She has always had extremely high standards for guys, hardly dating at all in high school, and has taken some ribbing from friends for that reason. Ben is why girls are wise to be picky. When I say he's "the one for whom I've been praying," I mean he's not just that future husband "somewhere out there" who I prayed for, but he's the kind of man for whom I've been praying for my daughter.
Duncan and I at the beach.
I pray (and did again even now) for the woman who God has for Drew, and the man God has for Dara. Far more important than getting our kids through college and on their way to a healthy and financially stable and happy life, is that they marry godly people. This is, from a worldly perspective, the single most important factor that determines all the rest. I believe God is in control of this and that they, by yielding their lives to him–trusting him with all their hearts, he will "direct [their] path." And it is true for anyone.
So I am joyful in my heart about Duncan's engagement.

Coach Ken Sparks with his
game face circa 1988.
I was playing at CN during this time.
My father's decline and death was a seismic event in my life. He has been without a doubt the most influential person in the world to me. Even in his last month, I watched him continue to grow closer to Christ. He read a book about heaven. He wanted to talk with me about dying well. He wanted to work on a book about how the Gospel had changed him and others through him. He told me of how he understood the sovereignty of God more than he ever had and talked about God's perfect purpose and will. And he wanted to go to be with Jesus. The last three or four days of his life were brutal. He was so weak. He couldn't even turn on his side or sit up by himself. He was trapped in a body. But despite his pain and helplessness, he still exhibited the fruit of the Spirit. My phone was accidentally silenced when Carol (my stepmother) called me to tell me he had passed away. She tried several times early that Tuesday morning. She finally called Darla who told me. Upon hearing, I was immediately thankful and relieved. A couple of days beforehand, I had begun praying that God would take him because he was suffering and wanted to be with Christ so desperately. God answered.
My dad, sister, and I in August 1971. That's
our red 1968 Volkswagen dad bought new
that later became my first car.
The funeral was all good. After the private burial with family and his coaches and their families, we had the longest receiving of friends I've ever seen! An exhausting four-and-a-half hours. My feet were killing me! Dad had asked me to do the funeral. You can see it here. Other than a very brief battle with emotion in the first few minutes of the sermon, I never struggled or cried. Still haven't! I have felt a little guilty about this. "Why have I not broken down and shed tears about my dad's passing?" I have asked myself. Well, because I've had almost five years to say goodbye. And because I know how ready he was to see Christ. As long as I can remember, he has been talking about that day when he would "shed his earth suit." Well, that earth suit was ready to be shed, let me tell you.
The last thing I said to my dad was, "I love you." And the last thing he said to me was, "I love you too." I am profoundly grateful God let me be his son. I want to live up to his example.

Turning 50 is no big deal. It's kinda fun to joke about. I got my AARP card. Funny, I got one when I turned 20 for some reason, so I guess Darla's right that I've been kind of like a senior adult for 30 years now! Truth is, I feel great, I lost 35 pounds about two years ago and have kept it off, and I've been running since my dad's death. Someone said I looked frail. Frail?! Perhaps flabby or funny or fifty, but frail?! That's a first, and it kinda hurt a little. I haven't run in several months, so I decided it was time. Sadly, I didn't even own a pair of shorts I could run in! All I had were either too big or the elastic was worn out. My shoes are so out of style. My over-sized sweats hang off my body like I'm a kid wearing my father's sweat suit (actually it is a sweat suit my dad gave me). Running isn't very fun when you're out of shape. I'm past the soreness stage, now I'm just trying to increase mileage (I can run about two miles right now) and make it worth the effort. When I get to where I can run six miles, I might be able to eat about anything I want (that seriously motivates me)!
I remember not too long ago when 50 seemed so over-the-hill! I came to Providence as a 29-year-old and our oldest member was 50!! Wow. It doesn't feel that old to me. I just embrace it. I'm happy. I just pray that God will perhaps help me overcome some of my long-time hangups and struggles and favorite sins. I want to be more like him. I want to be useful to him. I'm not really wanting to live too long, however. My grandmother turned 100 in February, and I really don't think I want to live that long. And having watched my dad decline, I'd rather not die slowly from cancer. I think I'd like to go quickly, perhaps on my knees shouting "Jesus is Lord" as an Isis swordsman beheads me. That would be better. Until then, I just want to be faithful and consistent and ever-growing closer to Jesus.

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