In 2015 I wrote a column about Mothers’ Day relating many sweet memories about my mother. Shortly thereafter, I was asked to write a similar column about Fathers’ Day. I “cheated” when I wrote that column because I did not talk specifically about my father. Rather, I wrote about characteristics of a good father.

The reason for this is I felt I did not have a particularly good relationship with my father. Maybe that was his fault, but I probably shared the blame. From my perspective, Dad’s interests revolved around work and church.

I do remember wrestling with him as a little kid, having baseball catches and going to a handful of Philadelphia Phillies games with him. I played baseball from fourth grade through my senior year in high school. Even though Dad played several sports in his school days, he never came to one of my ball games. Actually, I don’t know if Dad ever set foot on the school grounds.

I have only written a couple of reviews on DVDs. The one I viewed entitled “I Can Only Imagine” (110 minutes), which is a true story, left a lasting impression on me. The synopsis of the story says: “….in this uplifting, music filled movie that beautifully illustrates the power of forgiveness and God’s love.”

As I tell you a bit about it, it’s important to know that I was not treated the way Bart Millard (J. Michael Finley), the star of the movie, was.

It starts in Greenville, Texas in 1985 concentrating on a 10-year-old boy, Bart and his parents. Bart’s father (Dennis Quaid) was demanding and he abused both Bart and his mother. His mother left home after she dropped Bart off at summer camp, leaving him heartbroken. Bart’s dad continued to break his spirit in many ways.

Bart tried to please his father by playing football in high school. However his father let him know that Bart could not hold a candle to him when he had played. Bart was blessed when he was so injured playing football that he was told he would never play again.

I know it sounds like a paradox but let me explain. With the extra time he had not playing football, he joined a school glee club to work in the sound booth. When he thought the room was empty, he began singing and, after his teacher heard his voice, she was relentless in making sure Bart developed his singing talent. He went from starring in the school play of “Oklahoma” to joining a band named MercyMe and travelling in an old school bus around the country as the band’s lead singer. During this time, his father was diagnosed with cancer.

The band had its ups and downs, but eventually had a scout named Mr. Brickel (Trace Adkins) provide them with constructive criticism, and eventually led to auditions with singers “Michael W. Smith” and “Amy Grant”. MercyMe became well known by a single Bart wrote in honor of his father called, “I Can Only Imagine.” Amy Grant was supposed to sing this song at the end of a concert in Nashville, but she introduced Bart and gave him the privilege of singing it. Bart came to know Jesus Christ at a young age and his father at a much later age, which brought them together after all the years of being separated.

Over 61 million viewers have seen this video and I hope you will, too. View the song and an additional inspirational message at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lrrq_opng&feature=youtu.be

Wikipedia notes that the film “I Can Only Imagine” was released in March 2018. It was made on a budget of $7,000,000 and grosses world-wide were $85,000,000.

I saw it last summer with our Bible study and have viewed it twice since then on DVD. The Bible study discussed the film after watching it. How did it change me? I realized that many in our former generation did not show affection. Not one of the men in the study could remember their dads telling them they loved them. Although the four of us kids were made to go to church on a regular basis, there was not much spiritual talk at home. Work hours were longer then with Dad usually working five and a half days per week and involved in much travel.

I was blessed by working fewer hours, adjusting my schedule so I could see the majority of our oldest son’s soccer games and track events and by being able to be at school when awards were given out or other important happenings in our three boys’ lives. My eyes were opened after all these years, allowing me to forgive Dad for being absent so much!

To my three sons: I LOVE YOU!

Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, contributes columns to Tri County Record.

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