My father is 80 years old today. That is hard to believe.
He and I have always had a good relationship, but it is more rich today.
When we speak on the phone these days, we talk for a long time, usually discussing the Bible, the church, Christianity, or sometimes conservative politics. We talk about things that matter to us. I am very thankful that we can do this.
We don't do it enough.
He encourages me regarding my faith and my family. He always suggests I "keep looking up," rather than focusing on my circumstances.
I am aware more than ever today that he made sacrifices when I was growing up. I always remember him being there, even though I know he worked long hours. He made the choice to set his hobbies and his interests aside, instead of limiting his time with us.
This became real to me when I once asked him how long it had been since he had gone fishing or hunting, knowing it had been years. Taking care of children got in the way of his leisure time - and that is the way he wanted it. He didn't see it as a sacrifice. He still doesn't.
He wasn't thinking of himself. He doesn't think of himself. He spends his life making sacrifices for others.
I hope I can do the same.
I hope theology, the Bible, and the church are important to me when I am 80. I hope I can also look back on a life of sacrifice.
It will not be important for me to remember all the fun I had for myself. I would rather remember a life poured out for others, a life that meant something to someone else, like his life has meant something to me.
My dad is looking toward heaven more than ever now.
I wish I could take him on a great elk hunt before he gets there, but perhaps his arthritis wouldn't allow it.
Somehow I think he will be content with just hearing about my life and watching my kids grow up. That is the kind of man he is.
He will always be a hero to me. He will always be someone I want to spend time with. He will always be someone I can point to as an example. I will always love him.
Below you can listen to my four children sing Happy Birthday to Grandpa. I know he will like that.
Happy birthday dad. I wish I could be there with you.
I love you and pray for you every day.