I always write these articles about a week in advance and as I write these words now at my desk - it was 6 years ago today that my dear Dad- Rudy Sr. graduated to heaven after a bitter battle with cancer, back in September of 2000.
Even though some years have passed, I still feel like at any moment I should be able to pick up the phone and just be able to chat with him about life, my job, how good the Mets are doing and whatever else may be going on at the moment.
I know we live in a culture where we are supposed to move ahead and pick ourselves up and proceed right on- but even after all this time- I know deep down in my heart that I won't ever get used to life without him here on earth.
I cherish each and every precious memory that I got to experience with him and I challenge myself and every father out there to never underestimate the investment well made when we make it a priority to pour valuable treasure into our children by deciding to spend quality time with them.
I received a wonderful gift just last week from my youngest daughter Abbie, who is presently a sophomore at Middle Township High School, and what she gave me had nothing to do material possessions or with stuff you could buy at the mall. As a matter of fact, the present she presented her Pop - without probably even realizing it- had more to do with intangible qualities that included respect, honor and influence.
When I was a kid, I played a lot of sports - with baseball always being my favorite - and whenever I was given a uniform, I always asked for the number 41 because when I was young, I wanted to be just like Tom Seaver - the Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Mets.
I could listen to the ballgame on the radio and in my room. I would be able to recreate his every mannerism and actually pitch the ball to the plate at exactly the same time, the same way, as if we were mirror images.
I knew just about everything there was to know about Tom Seaver. This is why I always wanted his uniform number - because I felt a kinship to him even though we had never met before. If the team I was playing for didn't have a shirt with the number 41 on the back- then I would ask for 14 because at least it was close.
Later in life, when my ball playing days were far behind me and I gave my heart to the Lord and decided to follow God and serve Him in a career that included knocking the ball out of the park for Jesus, I still kept a uniform with the number 41 in my office.
I don't wear a robe when I preach from the pulpit, but I have been tempted to break out my old Seaver uniform for a Sunday here and there! But this time - my reasoning for wearing it had nothing to do with Tom Terrific.
I want the number 41 as my identifying label because I have a goal that in all I do and in all that I am - I want everything to be done "For One," and that "One" is the God who has done so much for me.
Now I have shared this reasoning many times with all of my children, trying to instill in them this ambition and encourage them that whether it is in the classroom, or on the ball field, or at the work place, they make it their goal to keep their eyes on a higher prize and do what they do "4-1" and with the result of their efforts being directed heaven-ward, they would be able to bring honor and glory to the Lord who made it possible for them to be able to do what they are doing!
And here is where the Lord rained a bit of heavenly sunshine into my world through the actions of my Abbie. She is playing Volleyball this year for Middle and when she came home the other day, she was chomping at the bit to show me her new uniform and to share with me that she had chosen the number 14, (they didn't have 41!).
Her reasoning for picking that number was that if she was going to play this year she wanted it to be "For One" and the One not being me, but the He that she and her Daddy has considered it a privilege to play for and serve with every day of their lives!
At that moment, I really did consider myself a pretty rich man that even my teenage daughter would consider following in her Daddy's footsteps.
And so on a day that I can no longer physically walk behind my earthly Dad, I am grateful for the legacy that he left me and I can only hope that I am in "one-tenth" a way leaving something even remotely similar in and for the lives of my Rudy, my Leah, my Abbie, and my Joel.
To love someone is to be willing to take the time to be able to accurately reveal to them the God given talent and beauty that they have been created with.
So many people have no idea what wonderful people they are! They are allowing their world around them to mislabel them. This is where we come in and give them a new uniform to wear made especially with them in mind!
My Dad did that for me and I want to challenge us today to make an effort to do that and be that for our children. It is time to turn the uniform numbers of our children from zero to hero starting now! There is no greater impact that we can give. Will you?
Thanks Dad and I still miss you!!!
Pastor Rudy invites you out to The Lighthouse Church with Sunday Celebration Services held at 9 and 10:30 AM held at Middle Township Elementary School #2 in Court House. Call 465-6690 for information and directions.