Each Day … Father’s Day

given on Father’s Day, June 21, 2009

Each day we get up, we honor our parents.  We also honor God, our Holy Father.  How we live from the moment we wake up to the moment our eyes close and sleep comes over us is a composite of choices.
When I visited the Cokesbury display, I spotted a book entitled Grace for the Moment.  The title seemed to match the Bishop’s theme, but it was the beautiful binding that drew me to it first.  I feel a little guilty about admitting that I am a soft touch for a good-looking book, but this time I really am glad that I picked it up.  It is a morning and evening devotional book written by Max Lucado, a Christian author you probably are familiar with already.  This was one choice I made which I am finding invaluable.
Now how does this choice of a book fit in with each day being a Father’s Day.  Go back to the beginning.  When God created us, he gave us free choice.  We are in charge of the choices we make each and every day.  Lucado opens his book with an introduction entitled “Each day …” and the emphasis in that section is making choices.  These choices are ones that each father must make and teach to his children.  We can honor our fathers and our Heavenly Father but making positive choices.  No one can dictate how you or anybody chooses to live, but Lucado states,   “For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands.  It is now (the early morning) that I must make a choice.  Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose.”
As I read through his choices, I found my thoughts turning to my own dad and how he chose to live his life.  I also realized that he taught me those same choices and hopefully I have taught my children.  Today we honor our fathers and we can honor our Heavenly Father by reviewing these values which are outlined in Galatians:
“16… live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. … 19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:  sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and 21envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.   Against such things there is no law.”
This is the same list of qualities or values that Lucado uses in his introduction, “Each day …”
I choose love …
No occasion justifies hatred:
No injustice warrants bitterness.  I choose love.
Today I will love God and what God loves.

The choice to look at the world through God’s eyes makes it much easier to love.  When a father looks at that newborn child, a bond begins to develop.  If we look at each other as though each is a newborn child of God, we choose unconditional love for one another, which eliminates so much hatred and bitterness in this world.
Lucado continues with the qualities Paul lists, even in the same order:
I choose joy …
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance.
I will refuse the temptation to be cynical …
the tool of the lazy thinker.  I will refuse to see
people as anything less than human beings, created by God.
I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than
an opportunity to see God.
I choose peace …
I will live forgiven.  I will forgive so that I may live.
I choose patience …
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world.  Instead of
cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so.
Rather than complain that the wait is too long,
I will thank God for a moment to pray.  Instead of clinching my         fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.

I have to stop for a moment because patience is a quality that fits our community so well.  As a rural community that depends on the land, we learn patience.  Dad farmed, too, and patience seems to be a requirement for farmers.  I honor my dad for his patience, and I honor God for his patience, too.  Look at how long he must wait on his children to learn their lessons and begin making positive, Christian-based choices.
My patience is tested daily, but probably the most difficult concern is my dad’s situation.  He has now been in a care facility for 15 years.  The encephalitis, which caused severe brain damage in 1993, should have killed him, but he had a miracle physical cure.  The doctor could not explain it and used the term miracle.  Unfortunately, the brain damage was irreversible, and we wait upon the Lord for Dad’s release.
God knew patience was not an easy quality to keep and we have the story of Job as our Biblical reference.  Job cried out to God as he tired from his problems, and we hear his frustration in verse 11:
“What strength do I have, that I should still hope”
What prospects, that I should be patient?
Do I have the strength of stone?
Is my flesh bronze?
Do I have any power to help myself,
Now that success has been driven from me?

Still with patience we can look at life with joy and courage, as Lucado says, rather than with complaining and clinching our fists.  And Lucado continues to list his choices:
I choose kindness …
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone.
Kind to the rich, for they are afraid.  And kind to the unkind,
for such is how God has treated me.

Kindness.  It sounds like such an easy thing to do, yet we know how hard it is, especially when we listen to the evening news.  The theme of kindness has come out in a wide range of formats from the movies; we have Pay It Forward, we have the movement Random Acts of Kindness, and we even have the saying “kill them with kindness.”  Kindness also becomes a moving force for ministry.  In today’s society, kindness is often overlooked, and our churches can honor our Heavenly Father by providing missions filled with kindness, and that can demonstrate to other fathers how far kindness can reach.
I choose goodness …
I will go without a dollar before
I take a dishonest one.  I will be overlooked before I will boast.
I will confess before I will accuse.  I choose goodness.

The Ten Commandments said this even in the Old Testament.  Remember that commandment:  Do not steal.   Choosing goodness is even more than just stealing though.  As we watch the gas prices bounce up and down the chart, we have a tendency to question the goodness of our personal dealers even though they did not set the price of the gas.  Our corporate leaders have a poor track record in managing the ethics of big business and sometimes, as an employee, we are asked to make unethical decisions.  We are responsible for our own choices, and we must take a stand to choose goodness even if it is in corporate America.  We honor our Heavenly Father and our earthly fathers by choosing goodness.
I choose faithfulness …
Today I will keep my promises.
My debtors will not regret their trust.  My associates will not
question my word.  My wife will not question my love.
And my children will never fear that
their father will not come home.

Lucado surely heard the hymn as he wrote these words:  “Faith of our fathers, holy faith.”  We grew up with that hymn, but Lucado points out just how difficult it is to choose faithfulness, especially, as long as the hymn says, “We will be true to thee to death.”
Our fathers have taken vows to remain faithful and today we know that the marriage vows are tested over and over.  Lucado quietly reminds us that it is a choice to remain faithful.  As Christians we must work to remain faithful not only in our relationships, but to God, too.  We must choose to remain faithful so that our families stay strong, and our children learn that quality, too.  Our friends and neighbors can see how faithfulness strengthens not only our relationships, but our communities.
I honor my dad because he demonstrated faithfulness despite the challenges to his faith.  I see that that faithfulness continues as his mind breaks into different situations and time frames.  I am sure that his faithfulness will carry him home to his Heavenly Father when the time is right.
Lucado, still following Paul’s words to the Galatians, continues with the choices he makes:
I choose gentleness …
Nothing is won by force.  I choose to be gentle.
If I raise my voice may it be only in praise.
If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer.
If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I choose self-control …
I am a spiritual being …
After this body is dead, my spirit will soar.
I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal.
I choose self-control.  I will be drunk only by joy.
I will be impassioned only by my faith.
I will be influenced only by God.
I will be taught only by Christ.
I choose self-control.

The choices Lucado identifies echoes the qualities that Paul outlined for the Galatians.  Paul told them that these qualities were the “fruit of the Holy Spirit” given to us because we have turned our lives over to Jesus.  Understanding that connection, one can see why Lucado says that each day we have to make a choice.  The self-control we chose will provide the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  I ask, is there no better way to honor our Heavenly Father than by choosing the self-control to follow Christ?  I ask, is there no better way to honor our earthly fathers today and each day by choosing to follow Christ and therefore making these choices?
Lucado closes his thoughts on “Each Day …” with these words:
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
To these I commit my day.
If I succeed, I will give thanks.
If I fail, I will seek his grace.
And then, when this day is done,
I will place my head on my pillow
and rest.

Today, I must say that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are indeed a gift.  These qualities provide us a life filled with absolute joy, peace and contentment.  Making these choices becomes easier and easier as we practice them each day.  In making these choices, we honor our Heavenly Father.  By living our lives with the Holy Spirit working through us, we honor our earthly fathers each day, too.  We will see the world through God’s eyes.  We will love one another.  We will serve.  We will receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Dear Heavenly Father,
We look to you and your son to find the choices in this earthly life that will bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  We know we will make mistakes.  We know that there are times we do not listen.  We know that you granted us your grace and sealed the covenant by giving us your son.  Let us follow your example as a father, and love unconditionally.  Let us honor our earthly fathers by living the Christian life modeled by your son.  And for those days we fall short, thank you for your forgiveness, your understanding and your grace as we start fresh each day.        –Amen

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