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INTRO: Football practice was over, and Denny was sore from head to toe. Slowly he climbed the graffiti-laden stairway of the aging apartment building.

Suddenly, his mother’s chilling screams pierced the cold, still air. He had heard the sound many times before. Still, a sickening knot formed in Denny’s stomach. Denny had tried for years, without success, to quell his father’s drunken fits of anger and abuse. Today would be different.

Something snapped inside him. With adrenaline pumping, Denny stormed through the apartment door and tore his dad away from his mother. Hardened by years of football training, he hammered his dad with two quick punches. Then, empowered by years of burning memories, he lifted his father from the floor and threw him through their second-story window.

Amazingly, his father sustained only minor injuries in the fall. But memories of what he’d done haunted Denny through two marriages and a string of friendships shattered by a fiery temper. Alcoholism, something he swore would never destroy his life as it had his father’s, slowly ate away at him as well. Little did Denny realize that if he had any chance at all for a worthwhile life, it would come by learning to honor his dad.

Miraculously, even Denny discovered the freedom to be found in honoring his dad. After six years Denny finally consented to attend church with an old high school team-mate and placed his faith in Jesus Christ. Soon he met and married a wonderful Christian widow. Prompted by his wife and several Christian friends, Denny placed three phone calls to his dad over the course of seven years. Each call began with, “Dad, I love you,” only to be abruptly cut off with a prompt “click” on the other end. Finally, on the fourth attempt, Denny was able to convince his father to listen. In the ensuing moments, he explained how much his life had changed, and how he could forgive and honor his dad now because of all he had been forgiven.

Several months passed. One day his mother called him at the office with the shocking news that his father was near death. Before he could leave for the airport, his mother called again to report that his dad had disappeared. His father had checked into an alcoholic rehabilitation clinic in order to be able to talk with Denny about spiritual things, sober, before he died.

Denny did see his father again, and had the incredible privilege of leading him to the Lord. Several months later, his dad died. Denny waits with great anticipation to see him again, eager to pick up where they left off.

Having found the freedom in giving the gift of honor, Denny now moves through life unencumbered by the chains of hate that once paralyzed him. By choosing to bestow honor, even when it wasn’t deserved, he liberated himself and brought his dad to Christ. For Denny, and for many others, the gift of honor is the gift of life. (Gary Smalley)

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