Being a dad can be the most rewarding thing in the world. There are those times when your heart is so full you don’t think it will hold anymore. This past weekend I had such a time. Although my fiftieth birthday is still a few days away we celebrated over the weekend because our three out-of-town kids were here over their Spring Break. We had a really wonderful dinner at home and retold some funny stories from the kids’ childhood. It was a lot of fun. After dinner our kids brought out some birthday gifts. Jacque (my wife) had told them to be creative, very personal and to not spend much money.

Jessica, our oldest gave me a beautiful scrap book that she had loaded up with stories from her life. On each page she captured a different phase of our life together. Some of the memories were fun and some even a little painful. Each of them express our lives together as father and daughter. Among many other things she said, “I would not be the person I am today without you.” In the back of the book she had written out the words to the song, I Love You, Lord. It’s a song I used to sing to her at bedtime when she was a little girl, and then when she got married I quoted it within the ceremony. It has always been a special song for the two of us. At the bottom of that back page was an envelope and inside was a CD. She and our son Ryan had recorded their own arrangement of the song the night before. Listening to it is just one of those moments for me. It will never get old — go ahead and listen.

Ryan, our fun loving, non-sentimental son (the one who engineered the recording of I Love You Lord, and played drums, keyboards and who knows what else) gave me a card and inside he had written words that I will cherish the rest of my life. While I’m unwilling to share all of them with the world I will proudly say that according to him, I am his hero and inspiration — it doesn’t get any better than that. Along with the card he gave me an N scale, toy train caboose to keep on my desk. He’s always loved trains, and he and I have had some great model train memories over the years. The caboose will remind me of him every time I see it.

My baby girl Aimee made me a beautiful card and mounted it in a floating frame. The card says,

Holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail. I love you. Happy 50th.

It summarizes what she knows about me. It will find a special place on my office wall.

Jacque and I are very blessed and proud parents. We’ve got three great kids of our own and two of them have married great kids. Throughout our adult lives people have asked us how we’ve raised such great kids, and while I think the reasons go far beyond this simplistic answer I usually say something like, we spent lots of time together. Much of it around the dinner table sharing the highlights (and sometimes lowlights) from our day, laughing and occasionally crying.

I could keep writing but there’s really no point. God has blessed us and I’m thankful. Turning fifty couldn’t be any better than this

Last night my older brother was in town — the one who shoots the dorky home videos complete with his on-air style commentary — and he decided it was time to show us some classic Cork family Christmas footage. I have to admit I wasn’t looking forward to enduring the combination of embarrassing imagery and motion sickness (my brother doesn’t have much of a steady hand when it comes to videography). However, in spite of bad hair and dated fashion I found myself enjoying the reliving of rich moments from the Christmas of 1994.

That particular Christmas Jacque and I were leading Christmas Eve worship at a young church we were a part of and all three of our children played key roles in the service. So last night we saw a 7 year old Aimee, minus her 2 front teeth reading a rather lengthy Christmas story, a 9 year old Ryan singing Silent Night (his first public solo) with a very high voice. We also enjoyed hearing Jessica play flute on Away in a Manger, which was a duet with me on trumpet. This was especially entertaining because of the looks Jessica shot me when I made mistakes — she still gives those same looks.

We also watched the entire Cork family in gift-opening action Christmas morning, and then around the dinner table that afternoon. As I watched our dad praying before Christmas dinner I was reminded of the open heart surgery he had undergone just weeks before and how thankful we were to have him with us then, and still today nearly 13 years later. I was reminded of how much our children have changed since then yet how similar they remain.

At that moldable time in their lives we poured as much of ourselves into them as possible. We exposed them to things we felt were important, involved them in a variety of experiences, including being in front of people as they were that Christmas Eve in ‘94. Why? Because our job was to prepare them for the future. Now that they’re old enough to make their own choices and involve themselves in the things they find most appropriate, all three of them continue to place ministry related service as a priority in their lives. It’s what they saw modeled as they were growing up so it just comes naturally to them.

I’m sorry if this trip down memory lane was boring, but my heart got pretty full last night as I reflected on family life, and I couldn’t help myself.