“There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” (John 1:6) Its pithy isn’t it. It’s like the Apostle John was given an assignment-sum up the life of John the Baptist in one sentence. Let’s see. I could talk about his humility. I could talk about his courage. I could talk about his complete willingness to decrees while his cousin Jesus increased. One sentence? Here goes. There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
Today is my dad, John Nordstrom’s, birthday. I don’t even like to think of some future day when he will no longer be physically with us, but I know what I hope is on his tombstone. John 1:6 is a fitting summary of my dad’s life.
He turns 78 years old today. Did I just see a pig fly by? That is the likelihood of my dad’s lifespan. He should have died in his early thirties. His health completely failed; his kidneys both died. This happened to coincide with the year he was planting a church in Northern Illinois. I remember dad sitting down to preach. Miraculously, he received a matching kidney from his mom until it failed some fifteen years later. Even more unlikely, he cheated death again and received a kidney from his brother, which is functioning perfectly over thirty years later. In more recently years, he beat prostate cancer making his longevity even more unlikely. I frankly grew up with the feeling that I needed to be grateful for every year with my dad. I assumed his life would be much shorter. The words his doctor told him early in his diagnosis became a guiding principle for our family-“Give your children memories.”
I cannot and will not ever forget his voice. The quality of his voice alone is a national treasure. Our family is a musical family and my dad is hands down the best singer of us all. At the insistence of his choir director in college, he made an album called “Down From His Glory.” I can sing every lyric of those songs from wearing that record out. He has a classical voice with tones that reach down past his vocal chords and into his soul. He must have sung the Lord’s Prayer at hundreds of wedding and funerals.
But then there is his preaching voice. My father’s preaching shaped my life. I recall a message he preached at my niece’s baby dedication encouraging people to “Be Faithful Over a Few Things” He spoke about loving God and loving your family and keeping it down to just the most important things. I’ll never forget him preaching a sermon called “A Cloud About the Size of a Man’s Hand” It was a message on hope when all seems hopeless. He preached a message one time called “My Son, My Son.” It was about David’s heart cry for his son Absalom. I, however, heard his voice crying out for me to walk in God’s ways.
I hear his voice every day. Even on days we do not speak I hear him. It’s what Isaiah talked about when he said, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)
His voice encourages, warns, loves, guides, and comforts me. Like John the Baptist, my dad is extremely humble. He’s somewhat shy, but when it comes to caring, he is the best pastor I know.
These may sound like the words of a doting son, but I assure you that hundreds of people can attest to these words. Dad is loved my so many and his influence continues to spread. My mother Phyllis of course was the rock of our family always and especially during dad’s lean times. She sold real estate, World Book Encyclopedias and was the business manager of a car dealership to keep our family afloat.
Dad, I’m honored to be your son. The older you get, the more encouraging you get. Thanks for being such a tender and strong voice in the sound track of my life.
There is so much more I could say. I could talk about alcoholics he provided shelter to in our home while they were recovering. I could tell about his love for people of every race. I could tell you that the church he planted just celebrated 47 years and is being led by my older brother and his namesake-John. I could talk bout pastoring with him for a decade in Southern Illinois or fun family vacations. He deserves his own book. However, if I had only one sentence I suppose I would echo the eleven words of the beloved Apostle, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” Happy birthday dad.