(All scripture references are from the NIV)
My Dad’s birthday is approaching – on January 25. If still with us he would be turning 94. But having left this earth WAY too early he left a family that loved him and still think of him often, along with all the life lessons he taught us. Needless to say, the inevitable memories claim us at this time of year.
My Dad was very much a man’s man. He was born in 1925 and when he was 12 years old, his father deserted the family – just disappeared with no explanation, no warning, never to be heard from again. (They would hear the occasional story about someone having seen or talked to him. But my grandmother finally had him declared legally dead some years later when he had not been found and she met someone else that she wanted to marry.)
My Dad, along with his mother and two sisters had a hard life after his father left, because this was during the Great Depression. As a young boy, he would go out and work any little odd jobs he could find in order to earn anything then he would bring it home and give it to his mother to help them survive.
He was a very smart person even though his education was cut somewhat short. He was drafted during WWII before he completed his senior year of high school. Consequently, because of the life he had lived he knew the meaning of hard work and difficult times and was one of the hardest working men I ever knew. As a result, he provided a good life for our family.
Now I will go to 1946 when my Dad was 21 years old and I was born. I am the oldest of three children. My first brother came along when I was 6 years old and the second brother was born with I was 15. I do not remember a lot of details about my growing up years before age 7. I do remember some picnics at the big city park in Lubbock as well as Christmas celebrations with our extended family. I remember that there were fun times playing other children in our neighborhood; and, cookouts with some of our neighbors.
The summer I turned 7 we moved from Lubbock to a small West Texas town. After we were settled in there I started going to church – first just to Sunday school – my parents would take me and drop me off then pick me up later. As I got older I started staying for church services as well. When I was about 12, our church got a new preacher – Pastor Ed Hall. He was about the same age as my parents and a great many of the other younger parents in town. He was an excellent preacher – even the young people would sit still and listen to his sermons. Our church attendance started going up dramatically and then behold, my parents starting attending the Sunday services too.
On Palm Sunday when I was 13, I was helping organize the young children for the special processional down the aisle with their palm branches. Myself and another young teen lead them down the aisle and sat with them on the front rows. I could not tell you what the sermon was about that morning, but I can tell you it had to have been special. When the pastor gave his altar call at least 6 or 7 men (maybe even more) went forward – including my Dad. I too was touched that morning and went forward to be baptized and officially join the church.
I knew that my Dad had a real encounter with God that day, because I saw a true change in him. With true spiritual conversions, the person will turn their life around to face and embrace God – desiring a better way of living. They will generally turn their back to some or all of their former negative habits and behavior – they turn from darkness to light. I could sense the difference in my Dad’s life. Was he perfect? No. Did he change overnight? For the most part, no. But the differences were recognizable even to me as a young teen. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) “…..I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
To know and understand that my Dad had become a believer in Jesus Christ was such a comfort to me when just 8 years later, at the age of 41, my Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. A couple of weeks later he turned 42 then after just 6 more weeks he died. I really struggled with this loss for many months afterward. But it was encouraging to know that because he had become a believer, and because I am a believer, I would see him once again in heaven. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Every single day during my prayer time, I pray for each and every one of my family members by name. My heart’s desire is to see each of them draw near to God with a true conversion. I want to believe that when our time on this earth comes to an end that we will all have a beautiful reunion in heaven. I shudder to think that any of them should not be joining us there. This most definitely would be the desire of my Dad’s heart! “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) “..if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
Happy Birthday Dad – I love you and miss you still!
Written by Karran Martin