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A Father’s Day Tribute

by The Rev. Dr. Ron Sparks, Community Church of California City, UCC

     Father’s Day always brings bitter sweet memories for me. My father died at age 58 almost 30 years ago. Mom is now with him.  I can truly say with Abraham Lincoln (with some revision) that “All I am, and ever hope to be, I owe to my mother and father.”  I received my sensitive nature from mom and, unfortunately for my friends, my weird sense of humor from my dad.  My dad came out of the old school where men didn’t show much affection.  I never heard the words “I love you, son” from him.  However, it was in his loving and caring actions that this message was conveyed.
 
     One of many such times was when I was about to leave for Vietnam and I walked into the housing unit out in the middle of the desert (McGregor Range) at Fort Bliss, Texas.  The Officer of the Day informed me that my father had been there to visit with me.  He had gone to El Paso to locate a hotel and I found him there. To make a long story short, he had taken off work and flown to Texas to spend some time with me before I deployed.  It was joyful spending quality time with my dad in El Paso.  I can still remember seeing the movie “Born Free” at the local theatre.  When he left to go back to Boston he hugged me and said “come back to us safe and sound son.”  I saw a tear in his eye.  It was only years later, at his funeral, that I turned toward his casket and said:  “A son should never embarrass his father but I do so now and tell you that I love you.”   A day does not go by that I don’t bring him close to me via the “vehicle of sacred memory.”  I hope and pray that my words and actions have brought honor and dignity to the gift of life he gave me.
 
     So, this Father’s Day, I want to share the thoughts of another father.  The author was General Douglas McArthur (third cousin to my mother).  It is entitled: “A Father’s Prayer.”

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
 
“Build me a son, whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee–and that to know himself is the fountainhead of knowledge.
 
“Lead him, I pray, not in the paths of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge.  Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here, let him learn compassion for those who fail.
 
“Build me a son, whose heart will be clear, whose goals will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master others; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
 
“And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.  Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom; the meekness of true strength.
 
“Then, I, his father will dare to whisper: ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

Thank you, dad, for being a role model to your son and for teaching me the essential moral, ethical and spiritual values of life, not with voluminous words, but through your extraordinary and virtuous example.

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