Sheptock, Rudy

Pastor Rudy Sheptock.

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I have been telling everyone for the last year that I’m 60 years old. It becomes a reality Feb. 24, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

It seems like yesterday that I was starting school, playing Little League Baseball, learning how to drive, going on my first date and combing my hair. Now, in the blink of an eye, everything that was once on my horizon is in my rear-view mirror and is slowly fading out of sight, especially my hair.

It is a sobering thought to admit that most of my life has already happened. I am not ready to ride into the sunset anytime soon, but it’s hard not to be reflective when you approach a milestone like this.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was president when I was born. The number one record was “A Theme from a Summer Place” by Percy Faith.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the NFL champions, the Pirates upset the Yankees in the World Series, and favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, didn’t exist. Later in the year, John F. Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in a neck and neck election.

In 1960, a new house cost a mere $12,700, and the average income per year was $5,315. Also, a gallon of gas was 25 cents, and the average cost of a new car was $2,600. The minimum wage was $1.25 an hour, a gallon of milk was 95 cents and a movie ticket was only $1.

You could get almost six burgers for a buck. That didn’t mean my dad was ready to splurge though. He was more of a buy a loaf of bread and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the car kind of guy.

I grew up as my dad’s right-hand man, who regularly went to work with him and helped him in any way I could. My pay for my efforts was a quarter, in which I would quickly buy five packages of baseball cards where you not only got the pictures of your favorite players, you got that unforgettable pink cardboard piece of gum.

I still have those cards. I wish I still had my dad. I miss that man so much.

He died shortly after I turned 40 years old. His absence has made a noticeable difference in the last 20 years.

Cherish your loved ones while you have them with you. There is nothing more valuable than loving and being loved by the people who matter most.

As many of you know, I grew up in a highly religious family. We were Roman Catholic, and I’m thankful for those roots because they lead me to a personal relationship with Jesus that would turn my world around.

In 1975, God got ahold of my heart and put a call on my life that would lead me into full-time ministry. I knew that I was going to be a pastor. It’s funny because before I asked Jesus into my heart, I was a straight-A student who was driven to perform at the highest level, so I could be loved and accepted.

I could memorize well, so even if I didn’t understand the subject practically, I would still score sky high academically. I laugh to this day because I never believed that tests were the best way to prove that you knew what you were talking about. After Christianity became my passion, my grades went down, but for the first time in my life, I was finally living fully.

Baseball was one of my first loves, along with my hunger to hear all kinds of music. You could always find me with a bat in one hand and my transistor radio in the other. These were the days of playing baseball in every yard in the neighborhood.

We’d play in the street until the last inkling of sunlight to get one more inning in. There were no video games. We did it all outside, and nobody ever wanted to be inside.

I know I didn’t, but if I had to be home, I’d go down to the basement, with the old reel-to-reel tape player, and pretend I was the disc jockey on my own make-believe radio station. I would spin the tunes and perfect my delivery. 

To this day, when people ask me if I do any preparation for my current radio shows, I say never. I actually can do radio in my sleep because it is so ingrained into my being. I’ve been doing it forever.

The first album I bought with my own money was “Meet The Beatles,” and my first 45 record was “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups. I grew up listening to my parents’ music by Sinatra, Joni James, Al Martino and Nat King Cole - I loved it all.

I cherished the fact that I never got stuck in one genre, and to this day, I love when my kids share their music with me. At The Lighthouse Church, I make sure that we are open to the whole catalog of Christian music, covering all the years doing the hymns, as well as the newest tunes from Elevation Worship.

I am a big fan of cross-generational crowds and believe that too much of today is siloed into specialized compartments. How can the youth look up to their elders if they are never together? How can the seniors get inspired by the juniors if their paths never cross?

I believe God wants us all together more than we are. Now that I am getting older, I especially love being with the entire church family. I played church softball last year with our College and Career Group - it is that important.

I am truly blessed. Life has been more difficult than I thought it would be, but I know that, like George Bailey, in the Movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” I am a rich man, no matter what my bank account says.

Terri and I have been married for almost 38 years. We have four beautiful kids, who all follow Jesus, and we will welcome grandkids five and six when the twins arrive this spring, to Leah and Jeff.

Recently, I was playing with my granddaughter, Lucia, setting up Hot Wheels tracks on the floor. I love getting down, even if it means I might need an extra hand to get back up.

I think I will forever be a big kid at heart. I get excited about the opening day of baseball season, and I love Christmas Eve. I will still jump in puddles, throw snowballs, and freely laugh out loud.

I’m not afraid to show my emotions, wear my heart on my sleeve and often shed a tear. I will tell you, “I love you,” pick you up and hug you and sing a song to you, despite where we are. I hate waiting in lines, love doughnuts and feel like I’m visiting family every time I enter a Wawa.

I know that I am far from perfect. I am sorry for the times I played it too safe and missed out on an adventure that might have had my name on it.

I wish it would snow more in the winter, and time would just slow down altogether. I know you can’t go back, but if I could, I would love to see all my loved ones again.

Somebody asked me what I wanted for my 60th birthday, and if I could have anything, it would be a reunion with everyone who has called me pastor. I would love the opportunity to hang out together again. I guess that what’s heaven is for.

All I do know is how fragile life is. Every day must be unwrapped, as the precious gift that it is. Thank You, Lord, for the first 60 years and because of Your promises, I am assured that the best is yet to come.

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House.