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Celebrating the love of a father

This year is a unique year for me.

For those of you who have read my Father’s Day columns over the past 20 years plus, you know that I say that almost every year.

First, it was unique because my father and my grandfather died, making me the oldest male in my immediate family. Then it was unique because my daughter got married and left home.

Then it was unique because I turned 50, 60 and 61, etc. In 2017, I was blessed to get married to a beautiful woman who has two daughters. Then Father’s Day was not just for my natural children, but for what some call stepchildren and I like to call love children.

I think you see the pattern. I’m now convinced that every year you’re alive is a unique year. Not to overdo the phrase and lessen its importance, this year is a unique year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial unrest over challenges with the police in dealing with people of color.

When you think of race relations and the challenges that we are seeing today, I feel as if we’ve been somehow transported back to the ’60s and the civil rights marches. What happened to George Floyd and so many others was never right and never will be right.

It does not mean that all police are bad, nor does it mean that all people no matter what race are good. The truth is there are challenges on both sides of the ledger.

I have never had to deal with it so much in my face, so being a father, husband, pastor and provider for my family during this time is unique.

When Dr. Robert Hoffman died in early 1988, he left behind 11 children and 24 grandchildren. Everyone who knew him knew that.

What wasn’t as well-known was the secret to his family’s success. What enabled him to produce 11 respected, hard-working, God-honoring children who were passing the heritage along to their families?

Oldest son Paul, speaking for the family at their dad’s memorial service, revealed his secret.

He said that his dad was so committed to his family that he decided early in his career as a dentist to work only three and one-half days a week so he could dedicate the rest of his time to his family.

“My dad could have made a lot more money,” Paul remarked, “but he knew what was more important to him.”

He had his priorities straight. He provided for his family’s material needs without overlooking their need for a caring father.

Although most fathers could not get by on a shortened work week, we can learn from his commitment.

Parents, think back to all the activities, tasks, and jobs you did today.

Did any of them have more lasting value than your spouse or children do?

The time and commitment you invest in your family will pay higher dividends than any other project you undertake. The spiritual and emotional health of your family should be your top priority.

One of the most difficult challenges facing a busy father is finding time for his children. A loving father, though, will try to give his sons and daughters the attention they need.

In his recent book titled “Balancing Life’s Demands,” J. Grant Howard illustrated his point from his own experience. He wrote, “One evening after supper, I settled into my easy chair with a good book and began to immerse myself in its stimulating, stretching insights. Down the hall and into the room came our 3-year-old bombshell, Juli. ‘Daddy,’ she said, ‘will you read to me?’ I looked at the book I was reading– “The Providence of God” by G. C. Berkouwer, translated from the Dutch. I looked at the book she was holding in her pudgy little hand — “Myrtle the Turtle!” That’s when love stops being sentiment and theory. Are you going to shoo the kid off with some lame excuse or put down your book and let her crawl into your lap while you crawl into her world of turtles? That sacrifice from an adult who has long since graduated from children’s literature. That night I sacrificed Berkouwer for Myrtle … Parental love must be willing to sacrifice some of its own needs in order to meet the needs of the child.”

King Solomon who wrote in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible evidently took the time to counsel his son, for some of his advice is recorded in Proverbs 1:8-19.

It basically says any father who gives up some of his own desires to meet his children’s needs is wise indeed.

I like the way Langston Hughes put it in his poem called “Live Your Creed:”

“I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one any day. I’d rather one walk with me than just to show the way. The eye is a better pupil and more willing than the ear. Advice may be misleading but examples are always clear. And the very best of teachers are the ones who live their creed, For to see good put into action is what everybody needs. I can soon learn to do it if you let me see it done. I can watch your hand in motion but your tongue too fast may run. And the lectures you deliver may be very fine and true, But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do. For I may misunderstand you and the fine advice you give, But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.”

Our hearts were made happy and sad to hear about the North Carolina father who saw a shark attacking his 17-year-old daughter while they were on vacation. The shark bit the daughter and the father kept hitting it until it released her. It left her with scars, but she’s alive.

Charlie Winter and his daughter, Paige, were standing in waist-deep water in Atlantic Beach when a shark attacked and pulled Paige under. Charlie kept hitting the shark in the face until the shark let go of his daughter. She did lose, sadly, her leg, but the father did save her life.

Many parents are still wrestling for their children with the sharks of drugs, unemployment, divorce and other issues that have tried to snatch our children’s destiny away from them. It is the love of a parent that makes them run into shark infested waters when everyone else is running out. May our fight, with God’s help, be more successful.

It goes without saying that being a parent, mother or father during these times is not easy. I am convinced that with patience and love we can all get through it and turn something that was meant to be negative into a positive outcome. Happy Father’s Day!

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