June 26, 2010

First Father’s Day without My Leebo

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Leebo, my Dad, went to his Heavenly reward on February 2nd of this year. In the days leading up to Father’s Day 2010, I let myself get really sad on a few occasions, as I pondered this first Father’s Day without him. I leaned on the many blessings I enjoy every day … I read Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” … I thought about Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” … I looked at dozens and dozens of pictures of and with Leebo and recalled lots of good times. I mean good times … And I held on tight to the cross in my pocket that says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.” And by the time Sunday night rolled around and Father’s Day weekend came to a close, I had been blessed with a most meaningful and fun Father’s Day.

Saturday morning started with a 7am rise. Sandi and I loaded up Tabitha (granddaughter, age 8) and Anna (granddaughter, age 4) in the car and by 8am, we were headed west to Ft. Smith, where we would meet the granddaughters’ mom and their early summertime visit with Memaw and Papaw would come to a close.

We scurried back to Little Rock because it was our week to clean the church. With temperatures in the high 90’s and the heat index hovering in the 105 range, and our church sanctuary being in a converted warehouse, the church was a little warm. Nonetheless, I always get a unique feeling of satisfaction after cleaning the LORD’s house. But Sandi and I were a little wiped out. And we knew we had a long night ahead.

We met Kaleb (grandson, age 15) outside Verizon Arena in North Little Rock and went inside for the HELLO TONIGHT concert. This is the Chris Tomlin (“Hello Love”) and TobyMac (“Tonight”) invention that is a study of opposites: night and day, ying and yang, mild and spicy, calm and storm, and so on. As we looked across the audience, we marveled at the age diversity … from 5 or 6 years old to 80 years old. Could these two Christian musician/performers bridge the gap and encourage all to worship? The answer is a resounding, “YES”! When Chris Tomlin leads worship, the tears flow freely; such beautiful and meaningful words and lyrics. When TobyMac leads worship, you feel as though your heart is going to burst with love. It was just plain awesome! No doubt some liked Chris better than Toby and vice versa; that was certainly the case with the three of us. But you can’t listen to and sing Our God, Jesus Messiah, I Will Rise, and How Great Is Our God, without being moved. Just can’t. And you can’t listen to and sing Made To Love, Lose My Soul, Catchafire, City on our Knees, and Get Back Up, without being moved. Just can’t. For me, this was a not-so-gentle reminder from God that worship comes in many forms and all those directed to Him, for Him, about Him, are enjoyed by Him.

Favorite moment: My favorite TobyMac song is, “Made To Love”. During his performance of this song, he climbed up on the railing in our section and sang from there. We were three rows back! Then he was back on stage, on his knees, singing the chorus to God, “Anything, I will give up for you. Everything, I give it all away.”

After the concert, and on the way to Greers Ferry, where we had started the day some 18 hours earlier, I thought about the next day – Father’s Day. I wanted to go to Barren Fork cemetery, where we buried Leebo four months ago. Then it occurred to me that if we were going up there anyway, why not go in the morning to the church service? So we did. Barren Fork is without a pastor right now and they had a guest speaker, Herb Wilson. He’s a middle-aged African American man who works at Bad Boy Mowers … and … is an evangelist, working through the Kevin Wade Johnson Foundation. Barren Fork was Leebo’s first church and where he was saved at age 18, Mom’s first church and where she was saved at age 12, and my boyhood church where I was saved at age 10. I don’t ever recall seeing an African American at church, much less in the pulpit, but my oh my, was he blessed by God to deliver the Good News on this particular day! In 45 minutes, Brother Wilson delivered the clearest, most articulate, and most convincing case for “why Jesus” that I have ever heard. He used prophecy after prophecy from the Old Testament and identified the scripture in the New Testament where Jesus fulfilled it. He did so in support of his message that if we’ve read the Word and accepted Jesus as our savior, then we know Him and are prepared to deliver the Good News (and are commanded by God to do so). Sandi and I visited Leebo’s gravesite for a few minutes. Leebo is not there, so I don’t visit to talk to him, but it is a memorial and one I care deeply about.

We had a Father’s Day celebration back at the Greers Ferry lakehouse mid-afternoon, with Mom, Grady, Kathe, Kaleb, Dawson, and Kealee, all joining me and Sandi. I had asked for an iPad (at the last minute) and none are available in Little Rock, so am now thinking about that versus the iPhone 4. Hmmm, tough choice. I got some wonderful cards, two neat drinking glasses from Sandi, a t-shirt from Mom, and a “lakehouse” sign from Mom (which has already found its appropriate place). Grady got cards, a t-shirt from Mom, and a Busy Father’s Bible. I think he liked the “Coach Grady” embossed on the front.

Sandi, Mom and I took off for Sunday night service at Journey Church (www.discoverjourneychurch.com) and Grady and family headed to the marina to take the kids tubing on the lake. Pastor Alex delivered a moving message focused on the gift of children and the attendant responsibilities. His foundation was that, “children are a gift from God” and the parents’ responsibility is to: (1) Thank God for your children, (2) Obey God in the raising of your children, and (3) Trust God with your children. This is Alex’s first Father’s Day as a father and his message was so genuine. One of the worship songs was “It Is Well”, which was Leebo’s favorite hymn and was sung by my sister and her daughters at his funeral. Dad was in the house!

After church, Mom, Sandi, and I joined my sister Belinda and her husband Jay, and two of their children and their families for another Father’s Day celebration and dinner at American Pie Pizza. More really good times and fellowship with such an incredibly loving family. And the pizza was good too.

Afterwards, we drove back to the Greers Ferry lakehouse where we brought the day to a close. About bedtime, I saw a tweet come across the screen that said something like, “Father’s Day is about over. Tomorrow is the first of the next 364 days, which we call Mother’s Day.” I second that. I am so blessed to have so many loving, caring, giving, God-fearing mothers in my life. And so blessed to have a God that knows what I need – with Sandi at my side and holding my hand, from Chris Tomlin to TobyMac to the Barren Fork congregation to Brother Wilson to two family Father’s Day celebrations to the Journey Church congregation to Pastor Alex – this first Father’s Day without my Dad was planned very carefully by my Heavenly Father and it was awesome!

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