Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15 (NIV)

 [To my readers: On February 11, 2012 my father suffered a stroke which weakened him physically and took away his speech. The search for a cause of that stroke revealed stage four cancer in his body. For the next several weeks my father battled the cancer as well as the effects of the stroke. On March 22, 2012, just 11 days after his 85th birthday, Dad won his battle with cancer and was ushered into the presence of his Lord Jesus to join those who have gone before us.

The words that follow are my tribute to my Father. A tribute I was honored to share with those of us who gathered together to celebrate his life. May you be challenged and blessed by these words.

Since that time, I’ve taken time away from my writing to regroup, deal with some personal issues, and rest. It’s time to re-enter the world to share what God has laid on my heart. I pray he will give me the strength to balance life and writing so that you will be blessed by the words I am given. May the God of Heaven richly bless you. Amen.]

How do you sum up 57 years of memories in a three to five minute speech? The easy answer to that of course is…you can’t! It’s been so encouraging to hear your stories of how Dad influenced your lives; to hear how many of you will spend eternity with Jesus because of the ministry Dad had to you. There aren’t too many 84 year old men who can relate to someone who is 14 one minute and a 70 year old the next.

Dad, Pastor Max, Grandpa Max, was more than a father to me, especially in these later years. He was a mentor, a friend and one of my main cheerleaders whether I entered the pulpit or faced some new challenge in life.

Over the last eight years I had the honor of having breakfast with Dad nearly every Wednesday, in our usual booth at ‘Our Place Café’. You know you are a regular when you show up at a restaurant and your coffee is hot and poured, your eggs are done just the way you like them and the servers greet you by name. Wednesday mornings will never be the same.

One of the memories I have growing up was the role of music in our family. We were by no means the Von Trapp Family but mom worked hard to get five rambunctious pastors kids all singing on the right page…usually. We learned to sing on our 90 mile trips over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house. Mom taught us to sing in harmony.. Dad taught us the importance of living in harmony. Together they taught us the vital importance of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

While Mom had an ear for music, Dad had a love for music. They are not the same. On one occasion I remember Dad being asked, not so graciously, to refrain from singing with us since we were practicing for Sunday night church and he was throwing us off key.

Dad had a song in his heart even though it didn’t always come through his lips as well as it left his head. Nothing could quench the song in my Dad’s heart. Anyone visiting his Face Book page knew his love for music, and especially the old hymns. I helped him publish his last hymn. Even though he couldn’t talk and was weakened from the stroke, he knew exactly which hymn to put on his page.

Wonderful, Wonderful Jesus

There is never a day so dreary, there is never a night so long, but the soul that is trusting Jesus will somewhere find a song. Wonderful, wonderful Jesus, In the heart he implanteth a song, A song of deliverance, of courage, of strength, in the heart he implanteth a song.

I share that story because the chorus we just finished singing [Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace. I’m going to see my Saviors face; Heaven is a Glorious, Heaven is a Marvelous, Heaven is a Wonderful place.] was the last song my Dad sang this side of heaven. That was the same day that he called us four sons together to tell us that his time would be short and how much he’d enjoy our company for the remainder of his stay here on earth.

57 years of memories. 57 years of lessons Dad taught me. Some I’m still working on. Others I’ve forgotten, but some of the biggest lessons still ring true in my heart.

Lesson One: You can always come home. I think each of sons and at least one grandson took Dad literally on that by moving our families into his house. Looking back I don’t think Dad was inviting us to move our families into his house. He was teaching us though that no matter how many mistakes you’ve made and how much you struggle with life, Jesus always welcomes you home with open arms.

Lesson Two:  Jesus forgives ALL sin. Too often we like to categorize sin by saying “Your sin is worse than mine’ or this sin isn’t as big as that sin. Dad showed me, especially in these last years that forgiveness was for ALL sin, ALL the time.

Lesson Three: Listen to the Spirit and follow his lead. Dad often told me the story of a time when he was prompted by the Spirit to make an unexpected stop at a friend’s house. A stop he didn’t want to take but a stop that resulted in several major events. People found Jesus. People were sent into ministry. Broken families were healed. All because of that one time when Dad chose to listen to the Spirit.

4. Lesson Four: God has forgiven you. Have you forgiven others? Have you forgiven God? It’s so easy to get angry when we are mistreated. It’s so easy to hold a grudge, refuse to forgive and promise retaliation. Those things only keep us imprisoned. Dad inspired us all to love and live freely.

There were many other lessons of course. Too many to mention. But perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from my Dad was never verbalized by him. In fact, if he were here today he’d probably not agree with me. You see, my Father was, to me, an example of my Heavenly Father. Don’t get me wrong. Dad wasn’t perfect. He ate too much ice cream and took too few walks. He confided in me some of the struggles in his own spiritual life. But he gave me a clear picture of my Heavenly Father because of his unconditional love for me.

In church circles we talk about a God who is our Heavenly Father. A Father that loves us regardless of what we do or say or think. While that is true, it’s sometimes hard to find a good example of that in our world. When we are young and afraid we look to our Daddies for support. As we grow older and struggle with life and things don’t work out the way we planned those closest to us may fail to support us because we don’t meet their expectations. No so my Dad.

My Dad walked me through some of the darkest, loneliest days of my entire life. He showed me love, forgiveness and acceptance when my choices disappointed him. Sometimes those choices were unintentional, sometimes they were the result of my own bull-headed Scandinavian heritage. Regardless of the choices I made, I learned that my dad loved me.  I’m proud of my Dad and I know he was proud of me.

I had supper with my dad shortly after he entered Parmly Life Points Care Center. It was a Saturday evening and I was preaching the next morning. I was talking with him about my sermon and from time to time he’d try to interject some scripture I should use.

The gentleman across the table asked me, “Is your dad a pastor too?”

I smiled, “Yep, he’s been a pastor for…over 60 years.”

Dad corrected me very clearly, “67 years” He said slowly, “But God shut me up!”

I remember putting my hand on his shoulder and saying, No Dad, God hasn’t shut you up.

And so, I close with a request. Please help keep Dad’s message alive. His voice is now directed towards praising the Savior in heaven. But while his voice may be silenced here on earth, please keep his message, the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the message of grace, alive by showing others the patience, care, understanding and love that he showed so many of us.

Don’t shut up the message of Pastor Max.