Saturday, June 18, 2011

Father's Day

As I write this Father's Day is but a few hours away and I am ready. I've bought my dad the one thing I know he will cherish the most - a six pack of 20 ounce diet Pepsi. I've also bought a card because I know he will enjoy the hilarious photo of the dog on the front. He will chuckle through dim eyes as he strains to make out the image and try to understand what it means. The message inside is silly but that hardly matters. Dad won't understand anyway. I will write a short message inside and sign my name, but both the message and the name will mean little to him. I will sign the message with "love" but I cannot write the message I really feel. He will not understand, and it is too painful for me.
The message I really want to write - the one he cannot understand - is "I love you Dad, and I miss you."
The awful truth, the horror that I witness every day and from which I cannot escape is that my dad is passing away before my eyes. Like so many millions, like other people in my church, he is a victim of dementia and it is slowly, irresistibly robbing him of life. The disease has already taken the personality I once knew and all his power of recognition with it. Except for what feeble life force remains, my dad is all but gone.
You may know someone whose father is hindered by certain physical conditions. Perhaps you are facing an unpleasant Father's Day because your dad cannot do the things you wish, or perhaps he cannot be with you this year. That's understandable. But if your father still knows you, recognizes the sound of your voice, and can have a reasonably intelligent conversation with you, you have a treasure millions of others can no longer enjoy - even if you are miles apart.
Yes, I am grateful that I have my dad at all. Very likely, this is his last Father's Day and I will make it as pleasant for him as possible.
I hope you can do the same. Of all the gifts we can give one another, the power to know, to love and to knowingly give that love is the greatest gift of all.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Of Coaches, Politicians and Other Idols

The biggest news and greatest shock to Buckeye fans across Ohio (of which I am one) was the resignation of The Ohio State University's football coach, Jim Tressel. Coach Tressel resigned largely because of an NCAA investigation prompted by an article in Sports Illustrated magazine. The article had the effect of taking down the greatest football coach in Ohio State's history.
Ironically, Sports Illustrated ran an ad a couple of decades ago that featured a photo of Alabama coach Bear Bryant with a tag line that read "In Alabama, an atheist is someone who doesn't believe in him."
Tressel had obtained similar status among his myriad fans in Ohio. But unlike the rough and gruff Bryant, Coach Tressel was known for a very public religious orientation. He's been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for years. Coach Tressel has a reputation as an evangelical believer. For that reason, I couldn't help but react when I read of his comment to a appreciative crowd who came to express their gratitude for his years of service. Thinking about the next Michigan game, Tressel remarked, "Next November 26th, we kick Michigan's _____."
You notice I haven't finished the sentence. The coach used an expression I am not accustomed to hearing from fellow believers.
Lest you think I'm picking on the coach or being overly sensitive, Gov. Sarah Palin is another example of a very public professing believer. I know that because I've followed her rise carefully and read some of her books and various writings. Gov. Palin is a member of an evangelical Bible Church in her hometown, Wasilla, Alaska. She is accepted (or criticized) by the general public as a believer.
Knowing that, I've cringed more than a few times when the governor has written or recalled her own -how shall I say this?- "colorful" language. Recent published emails from her years as governor of Alaska document what I say.
Call me odd if you wish, but I can't help reacting in a couple of ways. First, why in the name of sense (or Scripture) does a believer damage their credibility as a believer by sinking to foul language? And yes, it is foul. Do public people not realize that everyone is watching, everyone is listening?
Second, do they not realize that some things are just not fitting for Christians whether we are public figures or not? Is the Scripture warning against "filthy communication" not plain enough?
Yes, I know I'm picking. But it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks according to Jesus, and He should know. You think? So as I've read President Bush's own words in his autobiography, "Decision Points," I've been disappointed in him more than a few times. He is given to the occasional off color remark, and that tendency undermines his testimony greatly.
There are two huge lessons here for us all. First, our tendency to put public Christians on a pedestal is not good for them or for us. They cannot live up to it and we are sure to be disappointed as their faults become obvious to all.
The second lesson is equally simple. Small things matter. An off color remark or inappropriate action can have devastating effects on our testimony, causing people to question the validity of our character. The world is crying for consistency; for someone they can believe in. We need Christian leaders and Christian examples. But most of all we need Christians who are willing to live up to the name.