But the best thing happened after Nicholas had gone to bed, when a discussion between myself and my two brothers about the moral underpinnings of The Lord of the Rings turned into a general conversation about the state of the church today and what might be done to make a positive difference. For my Dad I think that was the best present he could have wished for... he loves it when we talk about spiritual things as a family, but of course you can't force a conversation like that, it has to happen naturally, and last night it did.
In the end it all came back to LotR again, amusingly enough -- my brother Steve suggested that the church would be much better off if we were all more like hobbits in general and Frodo in particular. Not trying to take the spotlight, not wanting power or glory for ourselves, not even imagining that we could make everything right if we only had the means (i.e. like Boromir with the Ring), but humbly serving each other and quietly doing what God wants us to do, even if other people think we're crazy to do it.
Anyway, happy birthday, Dad. We love you.