Thursday I arrived back from almost a week at a summer camp with our youth. Every summer for the past 7 or 8 years we have taken our kids to the same place: Lake Forest Ranch. Many churches around the area take their students to Centrifuge camps or other conference type locations. Lake Forest Ranch is a Christian summer camp that focuses on one-on-one ministry. Also they minister to the leaders at the same time. Lake Forest Ranch is located in between Louisville, MS and Macon, MS. Lake Forest Ranch or LFR has been ministering to youth for over 50 years.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman
“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” – Tolkein The Hobbit
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” – Proverbs 3:11-12
“Train a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
“No….I am your father.” – The Empire Strikes Back
When I was born way back in 1986 many things in pop culture had already taken a foothold. One was The Lord of the Rings trilogy and another was the Star Wars trilogy. I knew nothing about these things in 1986 mainly because well I was an infant. I used to love a good story read to me. And I will always remember the night that dad either got tired of reading the same old stories or decided I was ready for something more and he brought in an old beat up looking book with yellow pages. He said, “I read this book when I was young and I think you will like it a lot.” It started like this:
“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
At that moment I was completely lost in the world of Middle-Earth. And I would continue to be for the next few months as my father read me this story. I remember the spiders, Gollum, Beorn, the Trolls, and of course The Battle of Five Armies. Also the death of two of my favorite characters was the first time a book truly made me cry. It was around that same time that my father told me about Star Wars. I remember watching the first movie at our old apartment that we lived in while my parents current house was being built. Again I was opened to a whole new world of adventure and good vs. evil. I could feel myself using the Force to move things and I WAS Luke Skywalker and lets me honest, every kid took a stick/light saber and made the noises while we fought enemy Stormtroopers. The very next night we watched The Empire Strikes Back and the ending was the biggest shock of my life. I don’t think I have ever freaked out at a movie more than when those famous words were spoken. We hesitated for a few months before watching Return of the Jedi, solely because my dad told me you saw Darth Vader’s face at the end and I was really not ready for that. I had nightmares about it. But these were the days of VHS recordings and our whole trilogy of Star Wars movies were recorded from HBO. So when we actually did watch Return of the Jedi the recording cut out before I saw Darth’s face. It took quite a few more years before I did and yeah it wasn’t so bad.
Why do I tell these stories? Well most everywhere on the interwebs on Sunday there will be Father’s Day posts. People will change their profile pictures to them and their dads, they will post great stories like the ones I tried to tell well above, and most of all people will eat Sunday lunch or dinner with their dads and then give him a gift card, tool, or some other item of the manly persuasion. I can’t be with my dad this year on Father’s Day because I will be at camp with our youth group, out in the middle of nowhere Mississippi, enjoying the fun and festivities that come with summer camp.
The first thing that I must say about my dad out front is that he is nowhere near perfect. That might always be the toughest lesson for a kid to learn growing up is that their dad is just like themselves….human. But that’s where I have to stop and say my dad is far from a failure. He is a hard worker and has always provided for us way beyond the essentials of life. Because of my dad’s finance savvy mind, we were able to take long family trips together every summer and we never missed out on something at school, church, or community because of money. My dad showed me how to love my family and heritage. He taught me how throw a baseball, how to drive a lawnmower and weed eater, how to grill the perfect burger, how to play poker, how to swing a golf club, and that’s really only getting started. He also helped to teach me how to give your time at a church, how to use your connections to help others in need, how to lose and win gracefully and with the highest sportsmanship (this is referring to our love of Mississippi State NOT card games, where my dad is an avid cheater:), how to appreciate the smallest of things in life, and how to use your talents for others.
But one of the greatest gifts that my dad gave me was not in the above list, in fact, it is something that not many sons can say their dad did for them. My dad showed me that cancer could be beaten. 15 years before I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma Stage 2B, my father was diagnosed with the same disease, same stage. Because of the advancements of research and medicine my dad’s struggle was a lot worse 15 years ago than my struggle this year. But the point is that when I was diagnosed, I was not afraid of cancer, because I knew it could be beaten. Also I had faith that God would deliver me from it and if not, I would praise Him anyway. My dad brought me up to give back and that is why he is running a half-marathon in my honor in January. And because my dad knows me he is running the Walt Disney World Half-marathon. So because I want to give back too we are both running as are our families. We run to give back to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and help the next generation of cancer patients realize that dragons can be beaten.
So thanks dad, for teaching me how to love Bluegrass, a furry footed hobbit, Jedi, Bulldogs, family, God, and a good grilled burger. And thanks dad for beating cancer and for loving me, while I did the same. Happy Father’s Day.