Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oh, My Papa!

To me, he was so wonderful...
I'm quite sure I'm dating myself, but I remember so well the words to the song, "Oh, My Papa", sung by Eddie Fisher,  'back in the day'!  Something like, "Oh, my Papa - to me he was so wonderful, oh, my Papa..."  Can I get an amen from anyone out there?  That's a song I have always loved and brings to mind the man I loved, who was my dad.

Lately, I've been missing my father. Seems strange because he died over thirty years ago. Some losses we never quite get over. We manage them. We adjust to them. But, we never completely close the book on them. I think that's the way God wants it. He wants us to remember and to look forward to a great re-union in heaven someday. I am totally there! I cannot wait to see the big, gentle, Irish cop that I was privileged to call Dad. It will be well worth the wait...

I have decided to post a little loving tribute I wrote for my father on Father's Day last year. I know it's not Father's Day. But, it could be as far as I'm concerned. He is on my mind so much. I miss you, Dad. This is for you.

A good dad is simply irreplaceable...
I lost my father 33 years ago this summer and I still miss him like it was yesterday. I celebrate my dad this Father's Day with a few snap shot memories of him as I was growing up. This is especially for my kids, some of whom remember him well, and some of whom never knew him...

Earliest memory of him - placing my tiny feet on top of his (size 13!) and dancing around the room with me to his favorite Al Jolson record! I knew I had found my first love at the age of 3 or 4!

Him insisting my sister, Kathy, and I, sing "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" into the new tape recorder he had just purchased. Age 6 or 7.

Him loving Christmas! Decorating the "flocked" Christmas Tree he had purchased and then setting colored flood lights under it so that it changed from pink to blue! He thought it was fabulous. We were so embarrassed by his lack of subtlety and sophistication! Age 9 or 10.

Him (6'3) coming up behind my mother (5'1) and hugging and kissing her unabashedly in front of all of us kids! We were mortified and in love with him for it, all at the same time! He loved my mother and wasn't afraid to show it - all through his life... Age 11 or 12

Him working two or three jobs most of his life to feed and clothe his eight children.

Him, dressed in full uniform (he was a Chicago cop), with a gun on his hip, a shoulder holster, and a "snub nose" concealed in his sock, placing a rosary in his chest pocket and saying a prayer unfailingly just before he left for work on the midnight shift. I watched this with amazement as this big, powerful cop acknowledged his need for God and asked for His help every night before he left for work. Every time a siren went off, I envisioned my father in a gun battle that took his life. To this day, I say a prayer of safety every time I see a police car with lights on, siren blasting, on the way to a crime scene. Most of us never realize the danger a police officer is in every day that he goes to work. But you can be sure the reality of that risk is always on the minds of the wife and children he or she has left waiting at home.

His big hands cradling my daughter, Christy, his first grandchild!

Passing out cigars the day his first grandson, Don (his namesake), was born! Loving every time a new grandchild was born. He reveled in being a grandfather.

Him struggling with adjusting to the loss of his leg in the last two years of his life. He was a brittle diabetic and lost his leg to gangrene. He was only 52. This was an enormous trial for him and one that he tried to meet with faith and grace. He met the challenge when he came to visit me with his new "artificial leg" that he was still battling to accept. When he tried climbing the stairs and couldn't, he removed the leg prompting my daughter, Kim, (age around 5) to run screaming from the room that "Grampa took off his leg"! I watched him laugh and laugh for the first time since his amputation, even though I knew he was still grieving the loss of a part of himself that represented his independence and strength.

Him in the hospital, dying from lung cancer at the age of 54. I loved him dearly and had never lost anyone to death before. In the midst of excruciating pain, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and a smile on his face and told me not to worry - he was going to see Jesus and what could be better than that.

The last two years of his life had taken him through a journey of pain and suffering that led him to a rock solid faith in Jesus as his Savior. He knew where he was going and wasn't afraid...

He wasn't perfect. He was just human - flawed and in need of grace like the rest of us. But I loved him and still do. He was my dad and I thank God for him every day.

He loved my mother, his kids, his grand-kids and his Savior. Not necessarily in that order. Not a bad legacy for a Chicago cop with a 6th grade education. Remembering you today, Dad. I have never stopped missing you...

"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, 
nor has it entered into the heart of man,
the things which God has prepared for those who love him..." 1 Cor. 2:9

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Simple Hospitality of My Parents...

Give us this day our daily bread...

Poverty was a well known bedfellow in the home I grew up in. One of eight children, we simply never had enough. Never enough clothes, shoes, toys, books, money, or, the most basic of necessities – food.

As kids we learned the lesson that food was, more often than not, a luxury on our table. Nobody had to tell me about the theory of 'survival of the fittest'. At our table it was survival of the fastest, the strongest, the - boldest.  When the food came to the table, it was no time to be shy – grab what you could as fast as you could or you would leave the table hungry. There was no such thing as seconds – many times there were barely firsts. As a little girl, seated at a table with four hungry and aggressive brothers, I often went to bed hungry. In the morning, when we got up, there was very rarely anything for breakfast. I could not wait to get to school in the morning to drink the carton of milk the school provided for each student. That was the only breakfast I would see on most days.

As time went on, my father managed to find part-time work to supplement the meager salary he made as a Chicago cop, which was certainly not enough to support a family of ten. Little by little, fortune began to change and the table was one of the first places we could see the change. Even a little increase in the food brought enormous relief to a mother and father with eight hungry and growing children, depending on them for survival.

When I look back on that time, what I remember most is not the poverty, although I do remember that. Not the hunger, although I do recall the pain of never having enough. No. What I remember most is the stunning example of hospitality offered from a place of need, not surplus, by my parents to anyone who ever knocked on our door. As a child, I watched as an unexpected guest would be welcomed into our living room by my father, who would invariably call to my mother to “put on some coffee and make something to eat” for Joe or Sue or whoever had come over. It was simply unquestioned that they would lay a meal out, however simple, for anyone who came to visit us.

To this day, I can hear my father calling to my mother to make something to eat for this unexpected guest. I can see my mother in the kitchen frying eggs and bacon, preparing to serve something hot and fresh from the stove for this guest in our home. There around the little table in our already over-crowded, very recently impoverished home, my parents would sit down with their guest and enjoy conversation and a hot meal that spoke the words of welcome in such a clear voice. They didn't have the money to take him or her to a restaurant. Even if they had, I don't think they would have. To them, their home was where they welcomed a guest, made him feel a part of the family, and shared with them from their own “riches”. This might sound trite, but the riches they had to share were things that money could not buy - a genuinely warm welcome and an always open door to “come in and sit down with us – have something to eat...”

This is one of the strongest memories I have of my parents. How did they learn to give in this way? I don't know. They never told me. They never even talked about “hospitality”. They simply did it. No bells and whistles. No fancy parties. Just everyday, “pull up a chair and let's eat together” generous and gracious giving to a guest from the storehouse of their hearts. They left me with a legacy of love and pride in them for this simple act of kindness, played out a million times over in front of my young eyes. Did they know I was watching? Did they think about that? Did they realize what they were teaching me, without saying a word, about “hospitality”? I doubt it. It was just a part of who they were.

I will always remember, with great admiration and affection, the example my mother and father set for me. Simple and magnificent, all at once. They taught me what it is to practice hospitality. I will always love them for that.

There is something so incredibly loving about the simple act of preparing a meal for someone and sharing it with them. One of my favorite stories in the Word of God is the scene after Jesus' resurrection where He waits on the shore for Peter and the disciples to come in from fishing. He, the Lord of the Universe, cooks them a meal and sits down to eat it with them! There is an intimacy in this simple act of hospitality that is so loving and inviting. It is there on the shore, in the warmth and love of a meal, prepared for him by His Savior, that Peter finds His way back to the Lord. 

Jesus shows us over and over again throughout His Word the high value He places on hospitality.  How grateful I am that I had parents who never preached a word about it, but who lived it out every day before my eyes.  I cannot wait to sit down at the table of the Lord and share a meal with my Savior.  And with the parents who taught me by example the meaning of "hospitality."

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me...?”John 21:15

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Summoned to the Table of the King

"I will come into him and dine with him and he with Me..."
“Is there still anyone who is left of the household of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake? ...And Ziba said to the king, 'There is still a son of Jonathan who is lame in his feet.' Then King David sent and brought him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar. So David said to Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father's sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul, your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually.” Then he bowed himself and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

To the utter amazement of Mephibosheth, King David proceeds to instruct the dead King Saul's servants that he has restored to Mephibosheth all of the land and holdings of King Saul, and orders them to serve Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son. The story from 2 Samuel, Chapter 9, ends with the statement of the king, “As for Mephibosheth, he shall eat at my table like one of the king's sons.... And he was lame in both his feet.”

I heard a reference to this story recently and it touched me very deeply. The tribute that David pays to the memory of his dearest friend, Jonathan, through the blessing he bestows on Mephibosheth, is something for us as followers of Jesus Christ to ponder and understand. It is a picture of the blessing of the promises of God to us because of His great love for the Son. As surely as Mephibosheth was summoned before the King, so are we summoned to the unimaginable privilege of dining at the table of the King. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

As someone who has recently had the humbling experience of being “lame”, I can well imagine how Mephibosheth must have seen himself. He had been dropped as a very young child, by a servant who was trying to carry him to safety while fleeing from the enemy who wanted to kill him. From that point on, he was lame and hidden away. It is very difficult, even today, to experience the limitations of lameness in a world that has no time or patience for the slow, the needy, the less than perfect. We live in a culture that worships the appearance of perfection and shuts its eyes to the cries and the needs of those who, simply by their presence, rock the pretense that we are indeed perfect. It was no less so, I'm sure, in David's day.

When David ascended the throne, after Saul's death, it was the custom of the time to summon the heirs of the previous king for the purpose of slaying them. Mephibosheth expected nothing less. His reference to himself as a “dead dog” says it all. This was not a man who expected to be treated well. He had lived a lifetime of hardship, shunned and kept in hiding. But he is the grandson of a king and the son of the best friend the new king ever had. He was too little to know about his father Jonathan's friendship with David. But David had never forgotten Jonathan and his oath to protect any heirs that might survive after Jonathan's death. David knows who Mephibosheth is. He is an heir to the royalty of his grandfather, Saul, and his father, Jonathan. David sees beyond any limitations Mephibosheth might have and honors him, purely because of his love for Jonathan. He sits him at his table. He restores his lost land and honor due to him because of who he is. He is Jonathan's son. That's enough for David. Out of his great love for Jonathan, David treats him like one of his own sons.

Do you see yourself at all in this picture of grace extended for no other reason than your relationship to the Son? Do you hear the King summoning you to the table of the King? Are you ashamed to enter in because of your flaws? Have you gotten so lost in the reality of your brokenness, your sin, your failures, that you have forgotten who you belong to? Are you afraid He's calling you to condemn you? Do you see him bending over the throne of God searching for you? Calling you? He's looking for you! Not to bruise you but to bless you. He wants to dine with you. He wants to celebrate with you. He wants you at His table. Do not miss the grace of God extended to you, because of the great love of your Savior for you. No matter what else you do, make sure you have a seat at the table of the marriage feast of the Lamb...

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” Revelation 19: 6-9