Happy birthday, Dad!

Today (March 9, 2020) is Travis Irwin’s 70th birthday.

Travis Irwin is my dad.

Will you give me a few minutes to tell you about him?

It is a miracle that Dad made it to his 70th birthday. It was just a couple of years ago that he got a rare cancer that we thought would kill him.

By the grace of God and the doctors at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, he is alive and cancer free today.

Nothing will make you feel so thankful for someone as almost losing them.

And since today is another day we get with Dad–and a milestone day at that–I’d like to tell you why he is worthy of celebration.

If you had, or have, a good father, you know how hard it would be to write down everything you want to say about him. You would have to write a book, right?

Since this is a blog post and not a book, I’m going to share just one thing about Dad. But I think it may be the most important thing for you to know.

What are the first words that come to mind when you think of your father?

For me, those words are: “pure in heart.”

Here’s what I mean:

I think that most of us men get our sense of self worth from the titles we get for ourselves. If we can get better titles, people will think we are better men. They will let us have our way. They will look up to us. They will tell us we are great men. They will give us all kinds of perks.

And we think that when we finally get those big titles (whatever they may be and whoever gives them), we will finally know that we are lovable. We will finally know that we matter. We will finally feel like we can do some good.

The truth is: Most men are so desperate to prove that we matter, we will do whatever it takes to get those titles that we think will prove it to everyone.

This “doing whatever it takes” is what I call “guile.”

We all know what it’s like to work with people who use guile to get ahead.

Maybe we even know what it’s like to use guile to help ourselves get ahead.

So, back to Dad…

Dad has no guile. At least none that I ever saw.

I know he wanted to know his own worth as much as the next man, but I never saw that change the way he treated people. I never saw Dad put other people down or use them to help himself get ahead.

Dad always put other people ahead of himself. He truly loved them and truly wanted to serve them. Truly.

That will always be my lasting memory of Dad: Serving others.

I have more to say about this, too.

Do you know anyone who serves others, but always with his eye on what he will get out of it? You can serve the famous, the powerful, and the rich so that maybe they will do some favors for you.

Again, that’s guile.

But Dad always seemed to serve the people who could do nothing for him in return. He was always at the funeral home, the hospital, the jail, the nursing home, and the “wrong side of the tracks.” I never saw him go to those places with one bit of pity or pride; he seemed to truly enjoy the people he met there. He seemed to truly enjoy being around them.

No guile. Just a pure heart for people.

The late Rich Mullins wrote a song with these lyrics:

He was a man of no reputation
And by the wise, considered a fool
When he spoke about faith and forgiveness
In a time when the strongest arms ruled

But this man of no reputation
Loved the weak with relentless affection
And he loved all those poor in spirit just as they were
He was a man of no reputation

These lyrics could be about my dad, but Rich Mullins wrote them about Jesus Christ.

I have no doubt that thousands–yes, thousands of people–know what it is to be loved and visited by the Christ because they were loved and visited by Travis Irwin.

In the Gospel of Matthew (5:8), Jesus Christ said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

I don’t know how many more birthdays we’ll get to celebrate with Dad. Nobody knows. But what I do know is this: Because his heart is pure, he is one year closer to awakening to the smiling face of God.

Happy birthday, Dad.


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