Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Dad is 85!

Dad and me at David and Lauren's wedding--May 26
In June of 1927, two twin boys were born prematurely in New Orleans, Louisiana. Neither was expected to live, and one of them died after two days.

The other twin managed to survive, and just a few days ago we celebrated his 85th birthday! My father's name is Ralph Earl Kayler. But hardly anybody calls him that. When he was about a week old and his mother was trying to nurse him to health, his older brother had a suggestion for infant nutrition. Not knowing the baby's name, he blurted out, "Give Jack a cookie!" And ever since then, my dad's been known as Jack.

Dad was one of nine children--8 boys and 1 girl. Today he and his sister are the only ones still living. They grew up poor, at one point living in a three-room house in the country with a dirt floor. Later when times were better, they lived in the city of Gastonia, NC, right next to West End Methodist Church. It was in that church that my father heard a call to ordained ministry. He's been a Methodist preacher for over 60 years now. He has served small rural churches in the middle of nowhere, and he's served mid-size churches in cities like Charlotte and Greensboro. He retired in 1993, but almost immediately went back to work as an interim and as a church staff member. He even worked for me as "Minister of Visitation" at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte!  Dad only quit working regularly a few years ago when severe back pain and a 10-hour surgery forced him to stop. Today he has to use a walker or ride in a wheelchair to get around; but despite his physical limitations, his mind is still sharp, and he still preaches from time to time!

At my Ordination Service in June, 1992
Something that has always amazed me about my dad--and it continues to this day--is his ability to remember names, faces, and what's going on in people's lives. When he talks to people he always asks about what's going on in their particular situation: "How's your mother doing? Did your daughter get that job she was applying for? What about your brother who had surgery last month?" That's a pastoral gift that I don't have. 

My father is a special man whom God has used to touch countless lives. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!


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