Bruce Parks

[Song]

Robert Harrison

Mr. Bruce D. Parks, 76, of Macomb, IL passed away Friday, April 17, 2015 at his home.

He was born July 22, 1938 in Pekin, IL, the son of William and Clara Strope Parks. On August 13, 1977 he married Lora Shipley at the Oak Street Baptist Church in Burlington, IA.

Mr. Parks was a graduate of the Green Valley High School, Green Valley, IL. He was an avid hunter and loved the outdoors. He enjoyed hunting with his wife and kids. For several years he played in the band, Jan LaCrosse and the Cross Country. He was a member of the LaHarpe Union Church.

He is survived by his wife, Lora, children, Sonya (Scott) Quednow of Stokesdale, NC, Rocky (Ruth) Parks of Manito, IL, Steve (Charlene) Parks of Tulsa, OK, Rick Parks and Troy Parks, both of Burlington, IA, Jimmy (Erika) Parks of Avon, IL and Jena Whyte of Macomb, IL, sixteen grandchildren, Charity, Abby, Blake, Gabe, Bruce, Roxanne, Hunter, Danyel, Ciara, Drake, Dakota, Kiley, Kayoaina, Jemar, Lily and Reed, five great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews and a special friend, Chris Sereda of Burlington, IA.

He was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, Bob and Bill Parks and two sisters, Ruth Hammond and Betty Hendrix.

[Song]

Bruce Parks was a character. He had four loves in his life: he loved his family, he loved hunting, he loved music, and he loved the Lord.

Some people might say there was also a 5th love: he loved himself since he would say things like “I get smarter and better looking every day”; or “It’s hard to be humble when you are perfect” and if you’d give him a hard time he would say, “be careful, you are talking about the man I love.” These things made Bruce sound arrogant . . . but he wasn’t. This was just his game and banter. Bruce wrote, “The old saying that you are a self-made man is far from the truth, you are a God made man and do not forget it.” He also said, “I know without the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and Lora Jean, I would be lost.”

If you even talked to Bruce for a little while you would quickly see his love for hunting and fishing. Bruce was a passionate hunter. He would hunt anything they would allow you to hunt.  In fact, Bruce had his turkey tags and was ready to go after some turkeys.

Bruce’s motto says it all: If its brown it’s down; if it flies, it dies. He saw hunting regulations as suggestions made when there was nothing to hunt. He said on occasion, “It’s not illegal if you don’t get caught”.

Bruce was a serious hunter. One time Steve dropped his gun in the water and Bruce made sure he went into the water to retrieve it. Steve was all cold and wet and they should have gone home . . . but the hunting that day was really good. So, everyone shared one item of clothing with Steve so he would have dry clothes!.

Another time the boat was not tied well and started to float away down the Mississippi River and Bruce told Rocky he had to go swim after it. Hunting was serious business.

Bruce loved his home because he could hunt from his backyard. He hunted literally right up to the end. Hunting was a family affair. It seems everyone in the family hunted and Bruce couldn’t have been happier. He loved to go out hunting with Lora. All the kids learned how to call, hunt and clean everything they caught or shot. They ate everything they caught. Bruce also did some taxidermy.

Bruce helped start the Sportsmen’s’ Dinner (originally called the “Wild Game Feed”) at Harmony Bible Church.

He was a conservationist. He was deeply involved in Ducks Unlimited for 50 years and was always doing little things to help preserve habitats so that others would be able to enjoy hunting as well.

He loved to share his love for hunting with anyone. He loved to visit about hunting and if you ever wanted to go hunting with him . . . even if you had never been before, Bruce would be eager to show you how to do it well. Perhaps he showed his heart when he said, “If God created anything better than women and Duck hunting, He kept it to Himself!”

Though Bruce was obsessed with hunting that was not his only love. He truly loved his family. Hunting became somewhat of a time of family bonding. I wonder if that is one of the things that made it so special to him.

Bruce always knew what his kids were doing. He wanted the family to sit down for family meals. He was eager to teach his children how to have a good work ethic and to be able to take care of themselves. The kids always had friends at the house and Bruce and Lora always welcomed them. Some of the friends considered Bruce and Lora to be almost like their own parents.

One of the regrets of his life was all the traveling he did for work. Bruce wanted to be a good dad but at times he knew he let his children down. In one of his reflections he said, “Just dad and his big mouth. Kind of like a catfish, all mouth and no brains”.

During these last couple of years of Bruce’s life he has come to appreciate and love his children more than ever. They took such good care of him and gave him wonderful opportunities to continue to hunt and enjoy life.  Even with his sickness there was plenty to laugh about. Jimmy thought of his dad as one of his best friends (even though there was that time Bruce was cutting Jimmy’s hair and got distracted and cut it to the scalp. He ended up cutting it all off. Jimmy said it was like a scalp with pepper on it.

Bruce loved Lora. He always wanted to take care of and look out for Lora. One of the hardest things about being sick was not being able to do that.

Bruce was a man who was proud of his family. He prayed diligently for them. He wanted desperately to know that all of his kids and grandkids would be with him in Heaven.

He also loved music. He played in the Jan LaCrosse and the Cross Country band for 25 years. He could really play the piano in spite of the fact that he did not read music. In fact, if I have the story right, this is how he first met Lora Shipley. He asked Lora to dance three times before she finally said yes. In fact, Bruce said one of the things he missed most because of his disease was being able to dance. Bruce and Lora and the kids used to dance in the kitchen all the time. Just weeks ago Jena got her dad up in the kitchen, and they danced.

Bruce enjoyed entertaining. He liked the joy that music brought to him and that he could use that same music to bring joy to others.

Bruce also loved the Lord. He grew up in the church. When he was playing in the band he was busy on weekend and drifted away.

Around 1999 Bruce and Lora decided they needed to go back to church. They started at Harmony Bible Church. When the Pastor left they moved over to Oak Street Baptist in Burlington. It was there that both Bruce and Lora professed their faith and were baptized. From that moment on Bruce worked hard to serve and honor the Lord. When they were getting ready to move to Macomb they joined the Union Church if La Harpe. We have been wonderfully blessed to have them as part of our church family. I have been richly blessed by their friendship and their support.

When Bruce reached a point when he knew people were having a hard time understanding him, he started writing down his thoughts. They are filled with thoughts about his faith. He wrote about one encounter, he writes, “She was hoping she was good enough to get to Heaven. But then I told her, no one is good enough to get to heaven. The only way is through the blood of God’s son, Jesus Christ who gave his life for you and me. There is nothing bad about good works, but they are not going to get anyone to Heaven.”

Bruce was conscious of the fact that he was a sinful man who been extended a wonderful grace by God. He knew where he was going when he died. He believed that his primary purpose in living these last couple of years was to share his testimony with his family and friends and to demonstrate the life of faith. He hated missing church and a few weeks ago he had the family bring him to church. I think he wanted everyone to know that he had not turned away from his faith because he was sick. Bruce died seeking to serve the Lord.

He wasn’t a perfect man. He made mistakes. He was stubborn (like when he insisted on driving the 4 wheeler even though he had no business doing so). For a while he was deeply prejudiced. He could be a little impulsive like the time he decided the best way to get the mattress up the stairs of Jimmy and Erika’s new home was to take a chain saw to the ceiling! Sometimes he would say things he quickly regretted. But Bruce Parks was also a forgiven man. He knew the blood of Jesus was shed for him. His trust was firmly in Christ.

Because of this, though we mourn his death because of our loss, we know he has gone to the place he longed to go . . . to the open arms of Jesus. Bruce’s most fervent desire is for his family to find this same peace, forgiveness, and new life that he found.

[SONG]

We draw comfort from one of Bruce’s favorite passages in 2 Corinthians 5,

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

How you view life, and how you view death is determined by your belief or lack thereof in God.  Those who say there is no God are left with the unhappy conclusion that man is simply a cosmic accident.  There is no ultimate meaning to our existence. We live, we die, and that’s it. It is a very bleak picture.

And even if you say you do believe in God we should ask: Who is this God you believe in?  Is he a god of your imagination or do you believe in the God who has revealed Himself to us?

God has revealed himself to men though the years and this revelation is recorded in the Bible. God has also communicated with us in a special way through Jesus.  He was “God become man to dwell among us”.  It seems very reasonable to me that the God who created us would want to have a relationship with those He has created.  He would want us to know about Him.

Paul says when we die we will have “an eternal house in Heaven not built by human hands.”  Jesus says He is preparing a place for us and He will come and take us to that place when we die. This means Bruce left this world holding the hand of Jesus!

Jesus explained to the disciples that there is only one way to get to Heaven: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”.  Many rebel at these words.  They say they are narrow-minded. But the invitation is not restricted. Jesus invites everyone and anyone to turn to Him as Savior and Lord.  However, not everyone will do so.

Let’s be clear.  Not everyone goes to Heaven.  In fact, it may be safe to say that the majority of people do NOT go to Heaven.  There are always those who say, “I want to go the Hell because that’s where all my friends are.”  But they severely miss the point.  When God’s love is replaced by God’s wrath there will be nothing good about Hell.  The bond of friendship which we cherish comes from God . . . it will be gone.  The delight we feel at the pleasures of the world comes from God . . . it will be gone. Joyous laughter . . .gone. Taste buds….gone.  Amusements . . . gone.  There is NOTHING heavenly about hell.

The Bible tells us no one deserves heaven. Imagine you were in debt of several million dollars. It is not a business debt, it is a personal debt. You make a pretty good income and you pay what you can on the debt. Some people may be able to put $50,000 a year on that debt. Some may only be able to pay $1000. Neither one is going to be able to keep up on paying even the interest on that debt! This is especially true since we keep adding to the debt.

The Bible tells us that Jesus came into the world to pay the debt we have incurred. He came to be our substitute.  He took the failing grade and penalty that we deserved. In exchange He gave us His perfect standing before the Lord. His payment covers the sin of our past, present, and future.

How is this possible? If you were holding a bunch of hostages would you trade all those hostages for the President of the United States?  I would think you would do so without much thought. Someone might say, isn’t it better to have a bunch of hostages rather than just one?  Not if that one is the President.  His great value is in the office that he holds.

On the cross, Jesus as Son of God traded His life for all those held hostage by sin.  Because of the value of His position as Son of God He can trade His life for ours.  But why would He do it?  It’s because He loves us more than we realize.

Jesus is the only way to Heaven because He is the only one who can pay the price of our sinful failures.  All the other religions in the world may be well meaning but they are set up to encourage us to pay off our debt by working harder. However, when your debt is as big as ours is, it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how religious you become. You cannot ever erase the debt you are continuing to accrue.

Jesus said whoever believes in Him will live even though He dies.  He doesn’t impose His gift on anyone.  We must put our faith in Him. What does it mean to believe in Christ?

According to the Bible, believing in Jesus involves several things: First, it means we recognize that we are lost without Him.  It means recognizing that we have failed to meet God’s standards.  Our lives are a mess. Even the best of us have a spiritual resume that is a train wreck. Until we admit we have a problem, we can’t get help.

Second, we must acknowledge that Jesus is the only One who can save us.  It means believing He is God’s Son who died in our place.  It means believing He uniquely and truly rose from the dead. His death was sufficient to pay for our sin debt.

Third we must run to Him. We must be willing to bet and build our life on this belief.  We must personally surrender to him.  We must embrace Him as our King, our Lord, our guide, and our Master.  When Jesus called people we are told they “left everything and followed Him.”  Jesus tells us that the true believer is the one who begins to walk with Jesus. In other words they will begin to change.

Anything less than this kind of belief is just being religious.  Religion without trust in Christ is just another club to which you belong.

Anyone who knew Bruce Parks knew that he had placed all of her confidence in Christ. He trusted him in times of difficulty, He thanked Him in times of blessing, He turned to Him with his concerns, and he rested in His work for his salvation. I share the gospel message today because this is the message I know he would want us to share . . . not only now, but always. This is the Good News of the Gospel.

So there are three things I encourage you to get from all of this:

First, in this time of sadness I hope you will realize that we grieve, but not as those who have no hope.  We know where Bruce is.  We know he is home with the Lord who guided his life.  We believe he has been reunited with faithful family members who have gone before.  We believe he is no longer impaired. He no longer has to struggle to be understood. He is more alive now than he has ever been.  The smile is broader, the laughter is fuller, and the sparkle in his eye is unmistakable.

I don’t know if there is hunting in Heaven. But what I do know is this: Bruce is not going to be disappointed by what he finds in Heaven. Who knows? He may actually discover that there is indeed something better than women and duck-hunting.

Second, If you loved Bruce I encourage you to do a personal inventory of your life. Where do you stand with Jesus Christ?  Do you think you are “good enough” or that you have “earned” your place in God’s Kingdom? Perhaps you are on the other extreme and you think you are “too far gone.”  I invite you to receive forgiveness, new life, and the assurance of Heaven.  You can do this right now. With a simple and sincere prayer you can say, “Lord, my life is a mess. I need you.  I turn to Jesus as my Savior and I ask you to help me follow Him as my Lord and Master.”  Jesus said, “Anyone who comes to me, I will not cast out.”  If you come truly and sincerely you will be forgiven.  You will become a child of God and the Lord will make a place for you in His house.

Make that choice and then spend the rest of your days getting to know Him.  Start living the new life that God intended you to live. Discover the contentment that Bruce knew.  Start looking forward to Heaven. Bruce will be there to greet you. And I know that he will count this day to be one more miracle if you respond to him today..

One more thing, if you trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord . . . tell your family. Let them know that you have been forgiven and are headed to Heaven because of what Jesus has done for you.  If you will do this, if something should happen to you, your family won’t be left wondering.  They will know and they will draw comfort from your testimony.  More importantly, if you share your belief your family may also come to trust Jesus and you will be able to die with the peace of knowing you will see them again.

Bruce Parks will be missed.

  • We will miss his witticisms about being attractive and smart
  • Hunting won’t be quite the same without his unbridled enthusiasm
  • It is going to seem very quiet around the house without Bruce relentlessly telling people what he wanted them to do . . . until they did it.
  • It won’t seem right to see Lora without Bruce
  • We’ll miss the twinkle in his eye that always let you know that he was up to something
  • Some of the adventure of life will be missing without wondering what is going to come out of that mouth of his.
  • We will miss his constant reminders that the Lord is worth following.
  • We will miss his seemingly boundless energy

However we also can take with us some of the things he taught us,

  • True faith is revealed most clearly by the way you handle the hard things in life.
  • A true appreciation of nature means making sure nature is preserved for future generations.
  • There is nothing wrong with working hard. It’s good for you.
  • Everyone makes mistakes. It’s the person who learns from those mistakes who is special.
  • He taught us that life should be fun and it is always fun to make fun of yourself.
  • He taught us that life is only scary if you don’t know where you are going.
  • And finally he taught us that it is always a good time to dance.

We thank God for the life, the music, the love, and the testimony of Bruce Parks

[Song]

Please pray with me. Our Father we mourn today. And we also rejoice. We mourn that Bruce has been taken from us. We mourn because of the emptiness that we feel. But at the same time we rejoice because we know that Bruce is with you. You have sustained him in his life and now you have welcomed him in his death.

Father, please wrap your arms around this family. Draw especially close to Lora. In the times of loneliness make your presence known to her. Give her strength to deal with all the things she has to deal with.

Lord, help us to learn from this day. Help us to find the faith that Bruce had. Help us to remember and to learn. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen