This little episode made me think about the many ways I have been addressed over the years; the labels we use to categorize one another. When a child is born, we speak about him or her as an infant, as they grow we refer to them as toddlers, then children, adolescents / teens, young adults, adults, parents, seniors and grandparents.
My parents named me 'Kenneth Murray' after my grandfathers. My great aunt called me 'Kenny'; she's the only one who could do that! My older sister called me a brat; I've been called worse! On the first day of High School, while reading of the list of students in his class, my gym teacher, read 'Clarke, Ken' and immediately called me 'Superman'; not very original, but a nickname that stuck with me through my High School years. My manager at Dominion Stores called me 'KC' and my teammates called me 'Clarkey'. For the past 30+ years I have been called 'Pastor' or 'Pastor Ken' and more recently I've been getting more 'Sir' or 'Mr. Clarke'; that's when you know you're getting older!
Of all the ways I've been addressed there is one name that is most meaningful to me, 'Dad'. One of the greatest joys in my life is to be the father of Lisa, Scott and Andrea, to share life together with them. Our journey has changed through the ages but the somewhat irrational and powerful bond that started the day I held each of them in my arms continues to grow stronger with the passing of the years.
I think of the concerts, the hockey and volleyball games and school events we attended to watch one of our kids, the times I would pick them up and surprise them by taking them out to lunch, the walks along the beach, the countless number of papers I have edited over the years and the phone calls and text messages that continue to keep us connected. I think of times I have simply listened or challenged their thinking or offered words of encouragement and the many times we have prayed for our children. I think of the 'big events' we have shared but also the more ordinary, everyday times that are perhaps more meaningful.
Last year, on her wedding day, Andrea gave to me a card and note that I have cherished. I asked her if I could share just a few sentences from it and so I have her permission to share the following words; words that capture how blessed I am to be called 'Dad'.
Saying thank you will never be enough to express how thankful I am to have you as my father. You have always been a strong, guiding presence throughout my life. A father's unconditional love is truly a blessing. I am so glad God has blessed me with a wonderful childhood and two loving parents. Dad, you have always been there for me no matter what...you have made me a better person. I carry a bit of your stubbornness but also your incredible strength and intelligence. You have taught me everything from finances to living a life of faith...thank you, dad for being my teacher and mentor...you have given me a strong foundation to live my life. You have always pushed me to finish what I start and be the best I can be. Thank you Dad!
I don't know if there are any other words more encouraging...thank you Dad.
As I think of my on-going role as a dad and what it is I want my life to be about in the time that I have left on this planet, I cycle back to one of my stated purposes for this season of my life; to bless those closest to me.
To paraphrase the words of Genesis 48:15-16, where Jacob blessed Joseph and his sons, May the God... who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, bless my firstborn daughter, Lisa, my only son, Scott and my youngest daughter, Andrea. Dads, may we find great joy as we seek to be a blessing to our families all the days of our life.
As I reflect on all this, I am reminded again that I have a heavenly Father who cares for me. I may not always get it right as a dad, but there is One who is always caring and ever faithful, ready and willing to respond to me as His child. If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)