Last night, a remarkable friend celebrated 60 years of a life well lived. His wife Donna organized a big party at a restaurant and many folks flocked in from near and far.
John has spent most of his life in service to the deaf community, both as an interpreter and the pastor of deaf churches. How amazing to watch a room full of deaf and hearing persons signing, talking and laughing together for several hours.
Long before anyone else in the room knew about this amazing character, I became his friend when he was eight years old. A rabid Star Trek fan even then, he dreamed of exploring other galaxies and settling planets far from Earth. We hid behind sofas and recliners firing our phazers at each other, as he mimicked every sound from the instant-classic television show starring William Shatner.
By showing himself friendly and often putting others first, he won himself a roomful of admirers and friends. Although tired from a long drive in the rain, I smiled and laughed just watching him entertain and interact with people of all ages and backgrounds.
In my own life, he's shown a knack and his Father's timing for showing up at just the right moments. More than once he's driven eight or nine hours to comfort me at the death of a loved one or celebrate a big occasion.
John wasn't dealt the best hand in life. His birth mother and father got into considerable trouble and John ended up in the foster system. From the beginning, he embraced God's care for him and rose above the mistakes and bad choices of those around him. How I admire him for being so much stronger than I could have been in his circumstances. All the while, he continued to show others the way to Jesus.
Now, John has an amazing family that he built with Donna and the Lord's help. His son Charles couldn't attend the party as he is serving at a post in the Middle East. But his other Marine son, John Michael and his daughter Hannah shared their obvious affection for him throughout the evening. Perhaps the highlight of the whole night came when John Michael laid hands on his Dad and blessed him.
Surely God has blessed John for his faithfulness. Despite life's inevitable setbacks, John always responds by turning to the Lord and depending solely on Jesus for the answer. Recently and facing decisions about his future ministry, John undertook a crazy long fast that had his family and I concerned about him. But again, God met John and poured out blessings to guide him on his path.
It was my honor to toast my friend on the occasion of his 60th birthday. I felt God lead me to a Psalm as the perfect toast. After a few fond memories, we lifted our hearts to wish John these words describing his life.
"Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth;The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house,And his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends;He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken;The righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, Until he sees his desire upon his enemies" (Psalm 112).