Years ago I lived with Dad while I was going to college. I remember coming home one day full of frustration and complaints, ready to spew at my dad. Just I was about to open my mouth, my dad said, “Hold on, there’s something important we need to do!” I said, “OK, what?” He went and got some clippers, and clipped some roses from his rose bushes. Then he gathered them together and put them in a bunch, and said “Follow me!” We walked down the street, and he knocked on a neighbor’s door. “Is little Katie here?” “Yes, Jim, she’s right inside, let me go get her.” It turns out that Katie was a sweet little 5 year old girl that Dad had made friends with. He kneeled down and handed her the flowers, telling her to be careful of the thorns, and they made some small talk about her day. They were obviously friends and the family clearly knew and loved Dad. She was thrilled to get the flowers! As we walked back to the house, he asked what it was I wanted to talk about. Of course I couldn’t remember!
Dad was a beautiful man. He had an endless sense of humor. He loved giving people gifts, and he was a huge texter. Here is an example exchange about a present he was sending to me for my birthday:
Howdeeeeee and GOOD MORNING to you!! Your exquisite, totally unique and even outrageous birthday present has been ordered and has been dispatched to you even as I click on these keys!!!✌👌👀 this one will absolutely blow your mind! BOOM!! I really don’t want to keep you in suspense about this because this is not in my nature as you know. [Actually he did this kind of thing every single occasion! – Jim] However, you’ll just have to wait until the incredible gift arrives. I want to ask you, Jim, to not even think about the totally astounding gift until it arrives. Love, Dad
And also, Happy Birthday to you!!!😀🎊🎉✨💥💫🌈
PS: Think about other things!
The BIG ONE is on it’s steady path to you!!
Me: You’re cracking me up! I can’t wait! I miss you so much dad!
Him: You will never be the same once you receive this super creative gift. This will change everything in your life forever!
Me: Oh my! I better enjoy my current state while it lasts then!
Him: I got to thinking and having second thoughts about the completely unique, one-of-a-kind present that I had the maker send to you. Actually, there is only one person in the world that truley DESERVES this gift–and it’s not you. All things considered, the one person that should have the creation is—ME! Therefore, I asked the creator to redirect the package to me. He said it was toooo late. Turning philosophical for a brief moment, that’ just too doggoned bad for me. I hope you enjoy the present-and, of course, that you don’t feel guilty in keeping something that really should be mine!!! Hahaha
Me: I may feel guilty about enjoying a thing that only you are good enough to have, but I’m still determined to enjoy it despite the terrible injustice of it all. I can almost hear your terrible sobbing now!
Him: Yep, I’m over my deep sorrow that you will receive and even use my amazing gift which I should have sent to myself. I kind of understand how (the Corrupt One) Hillary feels about losing what she thought was hers. I found out from the manufacturer and sender this morning that your exquisite gift will not arrive at your house until Monday–a day late for your birthday. Sorry! I blessed them out good about that using some choice words which I won’t repeat in writing!!!
Me: I’m glad you’re over your deep sorrow about this because whatever it is, once it is in my greedy hands, I will shamelessly enjoy it and never give it back!
I will work on forgiving you for this travesty of making me wait an extra day, while I wait forlorn and forgotten on my actual birthday! Somehow I will soldier on in anticipation of this great great gift!
Him: Oh yes, that’s the best attitude Jim. With your comments, I think you truly deserve the GREAT GIFT😀 Just wait until you👀 it!!!
Let me know when you get your exquisite present!!!
So now you have some kind of picture of what life with my wonderful dad was like. He was fun, he was kind, he was always surprising. People will try to cast the Galatians 5:22-23 fruits of the Spirit as more commands, but my dad really had this down. Grace led to freedom, and to these fruits:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Gal 5:22-23 NASB
His fun was born from genuine love. And when you love someone, joy breeds fun with them! He understood that fun was no good if it was not kind, and all of this bred a sweet gentleness in him. Without there being a law to compel him, he inherently exhibited these gifts, which is exactly how the gospel is supposed to work. People think that “too much” grace leads to a license to sin, when in actual fact, it leads to the kind of holiness and goodness that was abundantly evident in my father. He inherently understood and consistently lived out Nimi Wariboko’s theology of play and the Holy Spirit:
One of the great theological books we discovered last year was Nimi Wariboko’s The Pentecostal Principle, a book which unpacks how the Holy Spirit creates the capacity for new beginnings in human life and communities. He views true religion as play, because it goes beyond the instrumentalism (do this to achieve that) of the Law to make room for spontaneity. According to Wariboko, our ordinary world is constantly open to the Spirit’s disruption with new initiatives, feelings, experiences, communities, and patterns of thought. Recognizing the Spirit’s capacity to recast any assumption or situation, The Pentecostal Principle allows us to be humble in the face of future “potentialities,” since change of the status quo is always possible; at the same time, it facilitates an open-handed hope in the open-ended potentialities of human life. – Ethan Richardson, http://www.mbird.com/2015/05/grace-is-play-our-magazine-interview-with-nimi-wariboko/
Whenever I preach on the father heart of God, I always have to dance around the fact that many people have had absent, mean, neglectful, abusive fathers. But I cannot escape the fact that I had a wonderful father who uniquely reflected the heart of God. Surely God has tremendous joy and fun in blessing us and forgiving us and in fellowshipping with us. After all, the ultimate picture of heaven is that it is a banquet – which is basically a big giant party (Rev 19:7-9). Every day my father made each moment a tremendous creative labor of love and fun. Being around my Dad was a party. Not to say that he wasn’t profound. To the very end he was taking college classes in philosophy and history and taking DVD courses in brain science and literature and even mathematics. But he was no stuffed shirt – unless he sensed you were interested you would never know this side of him. But you did know that you left feeling refreshed and absolutely great about life. I think this is the real mark of a genuinely humble and godly man.
In fact, he and his wonderful wife Lou Ann ended up being very active in the Anglican Charismatic church. Yes, there is such a thing. I am certain now that Dad entered heaven with trumpet fanfares and trombone flourishes, with confetti pouring down and much dancing and rejoicing. He touched so many people one-by-one with his beautiful kindness and gentle fun, disarming so much discord with his humble love and sweet wisdom. His last words to me, uttered at great cost to himself, were “I love you.” He was solid in his ways to the very very end. I miss him terribly.