Forgiveness

Love's Record of Wrongs & How Do We Keep Loving?

Oh sweet roses and chocolate, it’s almost V-Day, which is not short for Venge-ful Day! This is about Love! I have many reasons to be smiling this Valentine’s Day. It’s my 41st

with my husband. (And I'm hoping for a 42cd---so I'm also hoping he won't see this post.) 

Here it begins, Love’s (mercifully short) record of wrongs, like this:

#1.

(

Three, count them! coats on the bannister, next to the coat closet. Everyone knows that men are genetically unable to hang up their coat, yes?)

    #2.    If a truck (or a tractor or tires or anything) was good 50 years ago, and it might be good for something else again, why would anyone want to get rid of it? It’s the Alaskan male way:

(Don't be distracted by the beautiful sky. It's still a 50 year old rusty truck full of junk buoys)

#3. Kitchen crimes! Here, notice the position of the silverware?

(Should be

down!

 So they stay clean when you take them out.)

       (Kitchen counters used as office space! Wrong! For further kitchen crimes, go here: 

Who Will Save Us From the Kitchen Wars?

)

And then there are the “Things That Happened”---like, 

#4. When I  was “volunteered” to ride behind an ATV on a piece of plywood on the ground heaped with the mess of offal from two beasts. (We raised our own beef for 35 years out on our fishcamp island.) I hung on for dear life, face inches from the warm guts, trying to keep them from spilling while Duncan roared the ATV down to to beach for disposal.  (no photos of that traumatic event. Here, as close as I get to cattle guts now.) 

#5.  The Banya. The banya,

 a kind of sauna, is where and how we bathe in the summer. But the year we moved to this uninhabited island to build a house, we didn’t have time to build a house AND a banya AND an outhouse.  So---someone in the marriage proposed a temporary solution: Ta daaa!!! A Two-Fer: To combine the outhouse and the sauna in one tiny building.  Yes, flies and smell and all.  I laugh now (after the eyerolls) when I think of hauling all my babies and children out there to get clean, while swatting away the outhouse flies . ..  And don’t worry---it was only for 12 summers.

      (How we bathed before the banya, oh so long ago! .. ..This is part of the record of wrong because when Duncan used to give slide shows of Alaska, he'd sneak this photo in, not telling me of course until I was blown up on the wall in front of 100 Ohio farmers. "Red" was not a bright enough color to describe my face.)

#6. The last: the storms. Yes, all the storms we've fished in, and what happens to the voice and to the marriage in such storms? (We don't fish together anymore. At all.)

      So, how DO we keep loving one another? How DO we keep forgiving one another? We all bear 1000 wounds. All of us. But don't take them back, though sometimes I want to. Sometimes I want to erase whole years. But I can't---and I won't even try. Who are we without those wounds, the places we've been, even the ways we've hurt each other? 

     Even now, it's not 

too late to forgive. It is not too late to heal memories. It is not too late to “remember well.” Each time we return to our past, we have the wonderful chance to reclaim it and tell a truer story. (Okay, I

did

 volunteer for that gut-ride, masochistically). We each can tell a truer story that begins with our human failing (Mine: my failure to communicate.  Yours: not wanting to listen.) A story that sees all the ways we've hurt each other. That recognizes we are sharers alike in what L. Gregory Jones calls the “universal disaster of sinful brokenness.” 

When we "remember well," we will find the presence of God even in the outhouse/banya, and especially in the dark and stormy places. Even in memory, we can find Him there shepherding us toward a better love, a love that can finally disarm the haunting and the hurt of what others have done to us.

Why, my friends, would we choose an emptied past over a healed, reclaimed one? Because we know, even with our mouths stuffed full of chocolate on Valentine's Day, that it is not pain itself that diminishes us; it is our response to it that determines the kind of lives we will live, the kind of people we will be, the kind of loves we will possess and give away.

How do we love each other? Let us count the ways. 

#7. 

Tell us, bless us with one way you have "remembered well"---or loved well this week??!!

10 Reasons You Can’t Forgive Your Father this Father's Day & 1 Reason You Can




1.    Because of all he’s done---or failed to do---in your life.
You know: the deceit, the absences, the excuses, the abuse, the work-obsession, the affairs, the abandonment, the drinking. All the ways he didn’t father-love you.

2.    Because if you forgive him, he’ll get away with what he did. You’ll unbalance the scales of karma and give him what he doesn’t deserve. Justice is mocked.

3.    You don’t want him back in your life. You’re happier without him. If you forgive him, that means reconciling with him and letting his poison back in your life.




4.    He’ll never confess or repent or ask for forgiveness. He’s clueless about what he did when you were growing up, or he simply doesn’t care. Why forgive someone who doesn’t even know he’s guilty?

5.    You don’t care about the past anymore. Your life is steaming ahead in spite of your father and your energy is better spent looking ahead than behind.

6.    He’ll never change. Nothing can penetrate his iron heart, so there’s no point of even trying.



7.    He’s happy just as he is. He likes himself and he likes his pathetic life, such as it is. Why intrude upon a man when he’s living just as he wants?

8.    You’re happy just as you are. You’ve constructed a reasonably good life, thank you very much, and it’s taken a long time, so leave it alone. Don’t upset what’s finally working.

9.    Your father doesn’t care about you; why should you care about him? Why give to him what he never gave to you?


10.   You want him to suffer the consequences of his own miserable choices. He’s cut everyone off from his life. No one loves him---good. Let him enjoy exactly what he’s earned.






I know. I felt many of these as well. But I can't end there. Neither can you. Here it is. And maybe you know it, but remember again,


1 Reason You CAN Forgive Your Father


Because God has forgiven you. If you have asked him for forgiveness, and follow after Christ instead of yourself (or someone else)----all your crimes and misdemeanors, your selfishness, small mindedness, deceit, pride, all the ways you have brought small deaths to others in moments large and small . . . . 



You know how long your list. I know how long my list. But Gone. All of it---all that crud, wiped away.

You’re CLEAN! Perfect, righteous, holy in His sight. When you wake up in the morning, remember---You’re free!! Completely utterly free from the weight of your debts against a holy God.




It feels really  good. But that freedom is not just for you. Not just for you to run away from the cross free, happy, unburdened to live your own happy life.

The freedom and mercy you’ve received is exactly for this: It’s for others. For all those mean, miserable, lonely, hurting, prideful, selfish people who were just like you: guilty before a holy God.

It’s for your father. It’s for your mother. It’s for those who have hurt you, abandoned you, abused you, ignored you. THEY are the ones who need forgiveness. THEY are the very ones who need mercy now. This is what they need  most in the world, though they do not even know it.




But you do. Christ has done this for you so you can do this for others: Pass it on.

Pass on the absurd mercy and outrageous love God has poured out on you to those who least deserve it.

This is the gospel. This brings the kingdom of God among us. This brings the glory of God to our table. This is Christ’s peace. This is how we begin to heal the wounds of the world.

Right here, in our own families. Where it is hardest. To those who most need it. To those who least deserve it.

Where it is most needed.

Right here. Your father.



Can you do it? Can you let go of his debts and sins against you, and turn them over to God?

Can you let God take care of justice and fairness and equity?

Can you extend God’s kindness and mercy to him, expecting nothing in return?

Can you treat him as God sees him---as someone precious, made in the image of God, and deserving of forgiveness?



You can.

I did.

God did this in me and for me and for my father. And it was beautiful. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Even to a father who was able to love

Only a little. Just a little.

But I am SO loved by God, I could love him a LOT.

This is more than possible for you, this day, this week, this month.








Father’s Day is coming. This can be the best Father’s Day ever----with a little forgiveness.




                       ******************************

Need some help with this? May I send you a book (Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom From Hate and Hurt) I can send a book to 6 people (Wish I could send to 100!!)  If you would share this message of hope on your social networks and let me know here, (along with your email), I’ll draw 6 names and get you the book asap. 




Thank you! Praying for us all, that the beautiful aroma of the lovely Christ will waft through our hearts, through our families especially on Father’s Day weekend.















Get Out of Your Prison!





It's Spring Break. I should be writing about hummingbirds and daffodils, which are here in abundance these few thousand miles from Kodiak (glory!!). But I'm writing about prison instead. I was there last night. In my semi-sleep. I was remembering something very painful that happened 2 years ago. I was plotting a way to hurt this person back. (What, me? The woman who wrote Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hate and Hurt??  Yes, me. I need to forgive and be forgiven as often as I need my daily bread.) 








But I wasn't there in prison alone. Someone else was there with me. Just before I left Kodiak, someone sent me a message----secretly. Anonymously. A passage highlighted from a text. Who? Why? I pondered it for awhile. And then I knew.    





I knew who sent it. I’ll call her Debra. I know Debra’s story. And, strangely, Debra has sent this to me not about my own sin this time, though God knows there is plenty to choose from. (She has let me know about these as well.) But this time someone else’s mistakes and sins. Debra hopes I can pressure a friend we hold in common, I’ll call her Sheila, to confess her wrong-doings against Debra, so Debra can be healed and move on. This is not Debra’s first attempt to extract a confession from Sheila, through me.





I write this now to her and to all of us who are stuck sending desperate notes and jabs anonymously from an underground prison. Because most of us have been there---or are there now. In one form or another----we are there waiting. Waiting for those who beat us, who tricked us, who yelled at us, who spilled their human failings upon us . . . we are waiting for them to come forward out of the shadows of the past,
waiting for them to fall to their knees in sorrowful confession for what they have done.  Ah, the sweetness of that moment! To see them humbled! To be vindicated! Who doesn't want that?





And while we are waiting, we are not standing still, of course!  We’re  working very hard at hiding. We’re nursing our hurts and bruises. We’re busy making poor decisions in other areas of our lives. We huddle there in that cell …..  "safe." 





But what happens there, in that safe place of memory, where we can relive the bruising and gashing as long and as often as we want? The worst thing possible. We switch places. We become the torturers exacting our own sad form of "justice" from our offender. 







And---we're going to keep at it until that person comes back and apologizes, confessing her crimes against us. If she would just do that, then look who I could be!! Look who she's keeping me from becoming!!

I could be this lovely Christian who forgives as she has been forgiven.

I could move on with my life.

I could be whole and happy again.

I could love God again.

I could be myself again.






You can be fully yourself now. You can be more than yourself by forgiving. Instead, you're holding yourself hostage, pinning all your hopes and your life to come on a person so much more broken than you are. On a person who has herself borne other’s anger and failures.

Dear Friend. Listen. For God’s sake and all of our sake’s, pry your hand open and look what is already there in your hand. Look. Yes, it’s a key.  You’ve held it in your hand from the very start of all this.




That key was given to you the moment you found Christ and he set you free from your sin-bent heart, when he freed you from your selfishness and wont to use and hurt others. Just as he did for me. For all of us. We are all the same this way.

We once walked out of those barred walls, rejoicing. But we’ve crept back in, under our own power. And locked the door behind us. And wailed in our misery, “Let me out!”

I cannot say it any plainer.  Let yourself out of the prison you have built.





The prison is real. Ravensbruck was a real prison as well, a Nazi concentration camp for women, where 92,000 died . . .  A prayer was found here in the clothing of a child's body, 


"O Lord, remember not only 
the men and woman of good will, 
but also those of ill will. 
But do not remember all of the suffering 
they have inflicted upon us:
Instead remember the fruits we have borne
 because of this suffering—
our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, 
our humility, our courage, our generosity,
 the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble.

When our persecutors come to be judged by you, 
let all of these fruits that we have borne 
be their forgiveness."







I don't know if I could ever be like Christ enough to pray this prayer. But I can write these words:  Through Christ, 
we’ve been given all that we need to be whole people, people of peace, a forgiving people who won’t allow others’ sins to crush or smother us or imprison us.

This morning, when I woke up from whatever kind of sleep that was, because of Christ, I forgave him again, this man who so grieved me two years ago. I opened his cell door---and mine. And I thought of Debra, prayed that she too could open that door . . .






Dear Debra, I pray this for you. 
Dear Readers, I pray this for you. 
Dear me, I need this too. 

Walk on out of those bars and walls. 
Do you feel the wind on your cheek, 
the sun in your eyes, 
the love of God in your heart? 




Do you know how much he has forgiven you?



Do you see how sad and beautiful your offender is now?










*Would you help me help others out of prison?I will send a book to any bloggers who repost this on their blog. Email me here to let me know: leslieleylandfields@gmail.com or FB me with the link. 












Why Desmond Tutu is Wrong



Friends, later this week, I’ll bring another report from this wild fishcamp island. (And there’s plenty of news!) Today----I must speak back to none other than Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Yes, I know who Desmond Tutu is. I know he won the Nobel Peace Prize, that he has played a key role in the reparation of South Africa. These are massive achievements and I admire him greatly. And his new book, The Book of Forgivenesscontains many stirring and illuminating truths. Who am I to challenge such a man? (To my new readers, I'm not entirely an outlier on this topic. I've written a book as well: Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers.) But hear me out. 

This message must stop. 

This part of Tutu’s message on forgiveness (now running in the Reader's Digest) echoes word for word our western culture’s clichéd and self-centered understanding of forgiveness. These words below, titled “Why We Forgive” (excerpted from his book) utterly shrink the gospel.

Here’s how the excerpt ends:


When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and our feelings. We become our own liberators. Forgiveness, in other words, is the best form of self-interest. This is true both spiritually and scientifically. We don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves.

Who else says this---"we forgive for ourselves"--- besides the gas station attendant, the man behind me in line at the bank, the woman in my Sunday School class and everyone I run into? Nearly everyone I hear on major media, including these luminaries: Fred Luskin, the founder and director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects, says outright that “forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.”  T.D. Jakes appeared on CBS This Morning this spring proclaiming,  “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.” 
Dear Bishop Tutu and Ladies and Gentlemen, this notion is killing biblical forgiveness.


Here are 4 things wrong with this view, and why it matters.


1.  Biblical forgiveness is a gift first to the offender and to Christ---not to you.
I know you’ve been deeply hurt. So have I. I am right there with you, aching, crying, mourning what’s been lost, angry at the betrayer. But----even so---it’s still not all about us! I know that’s a hard pill to swallow in our me-first culture, but never does God “sell” forgiveness for its benefits to us. He simply commands us, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Pass on what’s been given to you. That’s a huge gift you can give to the very ones who don’t deserve it. And that’s just the point---because that’s who WE are as well: undeserving recipients of God’s forgiveness.
Do we get something out of forgiving others? Absolutely! We experience a marvelous sense of peace and “letting go” when we release our offender’s debts against us---for their sake, and for Christ’s sake. That gift comes as the overflow of obedience and love, not as the goal itself. I believe the more we seek our own happiness first, the less we achieve it.
2.  Biblical forgiveness is concerned with the well-being of ALL people, especially the guilty and needy. 
This is what we’re called to, friends! We who have experienced God’s own forgiveness are to be concerned with the welfare of others as well, especially those who are most in need of forgiveness! That’s good news--not bad news ! We get to be agents of reconciliation wherever there is brokenness and pain, especially in our own lives. Because God cares about all people---and we should as well.

Are we so far gone that the only appeal we can make for the greater social good is our own personal happiness and health?  If so, we have a much larger problem. And indeed, we do. 

3. Biblical forgiveness does not free you from the offender; it frees you to love the offender. 
Secular forgiveness brings freedom by releasing the victim from all obligation to the offender. Dr. Phil urges his followers to forgive as a means of reaching “emotional closure.” But he advises us to find “the easiest thing you can do to resolve your pain.”
Forgiveness does indeed free us: It frees us from our self-focus. It frees us from hate; it opens our hearts with empathy; it frees us to love even the enemy. Forgiveness frees and strengthens us to bring us close to the offender, to bless them, to love them with the love of Christ. I would have missed SO much if I had “forgiven my father” and then simply stayed away---and he would have missed so much as well.  Yes, it's easier to remove ourselves from the offender,  but we’re called to much more than self-protection. (But do please note: there ARE people who are too dangerous to be around and must be avoided. Use your God-given wisdom.)




4. Forgiveness is not about letting go of the past, but about redeeming the past
Many writing about forgiveness emphasize “letting go,” of the past and focusing entirely on the future. I understand this value, especially in a culture where horrific things have happened, but God does one better than this.
In biblical forgiveness, God redeems and heals the past rather than erases it. 
God continually admonishes us to “remember” Him and to remember the events of the past, both the triumphs and the disasters.
When we turn from the past entirely, we will miss the wisdom and compassion that we can learn from our wounds. As Dr. Dan Allendar has written, “Every tragedy in the past is an opportunity for redemption. And each time we forget, we lose another moment to experience God’s mysterious redemption in our lives. “ 


Here's why it matters. When we're asked to forgive for our own sake, if it is truly all about us, than we might just as well NOT forgive. Nursing anger and hurts is gratifying and can be fun! Some people love to be victims. Some people live for their anger. Some people---and we all know a few of these--- find far more joy and satisfaction in unforgiveness. 

May I give you a different vision of forgiveness?

"“We may begin the journey of forgiveness to ease our own burdens. But along the way we discover a chance to live out the fullness of the gospel: loving the unlovely, forgiving seventy times seven. In so doing, we reflect the kingdom of God among us. I could so easily have missed it. I could so easily have listened to those voices rather than to the man who hung on the cross praying over his betrayers, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ In the moment of his executioners’ greatest wrongdoing (and therefore their greatest need), Jesus offered forgiveness. We are called to do the same.  " (Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers)


When you do this, (and yes, it's very hard---and can only be done by God's enabling)  do you know what happens to you as the beautiful overflow?

Something wonderful. You become a gracious, merciful, compassionate person who reminds others just a little bit of the one went to the cross not for himself, but for all of us----Jesus.


One more reason, then, to forgive:

Forgive that you may be like your Father in Heaven.


Please, DO forgive for the sake of others. Including God himself.


And whenever you hear someone say these words, "We forgive only for ourselves"----please love them, help them and kindly share the great good news of Jesus' gospel with them,

for their sake.



------------------------------------------






--------------------------------






---------------------------------------






                          *********************************************

Dearest Friends, if you don't have a copy of Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers and you really need one, please write me (leslieleylandfields@gmail.com) and tell me why you need one, and I will do my best to send one to you. They are not expensive, but I know budgets are tight.  (I would like to send a book to everyone--but I know I will have to make hard choices) I'm trusting the Lord on this, and will send what I can. My heart is for you and with you. To those who have been praying for me, my deepest thanks.



Love's (brief) Record of Wrongs+How Do We Keep Loving?

Oh sweet roses and chocolate, it’s almost V-Day, which is not short for Venge-ful Day! This is about Love! I have many reasons to be smiling this Valentine’s Day. It’s my 41st

with my husband. (And I'm hoping for a 42cd---so I'm also hoping he won't see this post.) 

Here it begins, Love’s (mercifully short) record of wrongs, like this:

#1.

(

Three, count them! coats on the bannister, next to the coat closet. Everyone knows that men are genetically unable to hang up their coat, yes?)

    #2.    If a truck (or a tractor or tires or anything) was good 50 years ago, and it might be good for something else again, why would anyone want to get rid of it? It’s the Alaskan male way:

(Don't be distracted by the beautiful sky. It's still a 50 year old rusty truck full of junk buoys)

#3. Kitchen crimes! Here, notice the position of the silverware?

(Should be

down!

 So they stay clean when you take them out.)

       (Kitchen counters used as office space! Wrong! For further kitchen crimes, go here: 

Who Will Save Us From the Kitchen Wars?

)

And then there are the “Things That Happened”---like, 

#4. When I  was “volunteered” to ride behind an ATV on a piece of plywood on the ground heaped with the mess of offal from two beasts. (We raised our own beef for 35 years out on our fishcamp island.) I hung on for dear life, face inches from the warm guts, trying to keep them from spilling while Duncan roared the ATV down to to beach for disposal.  (no photos of that traumatic event. Here, as close as I get to cattle guts now.) 

#5.  The Banya. The banya,

 a kind of sauna, is where and how we bathe in the summer. But the year we moved to this uninhabited island to build a house, we didn’t have time to build a house AND a banya AND an outhouse.  So---someone in the marriage proposed a temporary solution: Ta daaa!!! A Two-Fer: To combine the outhouse and the sauna in one tiny building.  Yes, flies and smell and all.  I laugh now (after the eyerolls) when I think of hauling all my babies and children out there to get clean, while swatting away the outhouse flies . ..  And don’t worry---it was only for 12 summers.

      (How we bathed before the banya, oh so long ago! .. ..This is part of the record of wrong because when Duncan used to give slide shows of Alaska, he'd sneak this photo in, not telling me of course until I was blown up on the wall in front of 100 Ohio farmers. "Red" was not a bright enough color to describe my face.)

#6. The last: the storms. Yes, all the storms we've fished in, and what happens to the voice and to the marriage in such storms? (We don't fish together anymore. At all.)

      So, how DO we keep loving one another? How DO we keep forgiving one another? We all bear 1000 wounds. All of us. But don't take them back, though sometimes I want to. Sometimes I want to erase whole years. But I can't---and I won't even try. Who are we without those wounds, the places we've been, even the ways we've hurt each other? 

     Even now, it's not 

too late to forgive. It is not too late to heal memories. It is not too late to “remember well.” Each time we return to our past, we have the wonderful chance to reclaim it and tell a truer story. (Okay, I

did

 volunteer for that gut-ride, masochistically). We each can tell a truer story that begins with our human failing (Mine: my failure to communicate.  Yours: not wanting to listen.) A story that sees all the ways we've hurt each other. That recognizes we are sharers alike in what L. Gregory Jones calls the “universal disaster of sinful brokenness.” 

When we "remember well," we will find the presence of God even in the outhouse/banya, and especially in the dark and stormy places. Even in memory, we can find Him there shepherding us toward a better love, a love that can finally disarm the haunting and the hurt of what others have done to us.

Why, my friends, would we choose an emptied past over a healed, reclaimed one? Because we know, even with our mouths stuffed full of chocolate on Valentine's Day, that it is not pain itself that diminishes us; it is our response to it that determines the kind of lives we will live, the kind of people we will be, the kind of loves we will possess and give away.

How do we love each other? Let us count the ways. 

#7. 

Tell us, bless us with one way you have "remembered well"---or loved well this week??!!

Forgiving My "Worthless" Father on Fox News+Book Trailer




Today is launch day. This week is launch week. This very day.  This very week. I have been anticipating (and fearing) it for three years now. (The day "Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers" releases.) May I invite you into this day and week with me? 

But--however strongly I feel about forgiveness, and its power to heal the "universal disaster of sinful brokenness" ----I want you to know, too, that this space will not be overtaken by the book. Next week, we return to normal, which will mean a bit lighter fare (hmmm, thinking about Leslie's Alaska Fashion Tips,  or Happy Winter Survival Strategies?? We'll see how the spirit moves!)  

I plan also to expand and post twice a week rather than just once, in the second post highlighting the best work of thinkers, writers and artists whose work will enrich our own lives. 

But in the meantime, here we are: In the land of broken relationships. In the place of Mercy. In the posture of hope. And there is SO much reason for hope. It IS possible to end generational cycles of "hurt people hurting people."  I'll begin here, with the piece I wrote for Fox News, running here now. 




 "Forgiving My 'Worthless' Father"


      I never called my father worthless. That was his own word for himself.  I had other words to describe him. But in a way he was right. 
       He said it on the phone after I told him I was flying down to see him, from my home in Alaska to the rehab facility in Florida. My sister had flown down already and was there with him now. Other siblings were coming later. He had had a stroke the week before and now could barely speak. 
      "I’ll see you in about three weeks!” I said, trying to make my voice cheerful, to lift him from his misery. 
      “I’mmm . . . not . . . worth . . . ,” he stumbled.
       “Of course you’re worth it!” I protested, horrified. But I knew instantly what he meant. In the human balances of justice and fairness, he had done nothing to deserve this kind of sacrifice and attention from his children. He could not or would not hold a job, leaving us impoverished and ashamed throughout our childhood. He seemed incapable of forming relationships, and treated his children as though we were invisible, except for the abuse visited upon some of us. Soon after we grew up and left our house, he moved to Florida to live alone, thousands of miles from his children. I was glad.
      I saw my father three times in the next thirty years, always me traveling four time zones to see him. I went each time needy and hopeful that he would express interest in me, show some kind of affirmation. I left each time hurt, hollow. He would barely speak to me, and when he did, he ridiculed my faith. The last time I saw him, I resolved never to go back. 
     But eight years later, I was gently pushing his wheelchair down the hallway, sharing meals with him, watching TV in his room, reading to him. In all of it, I could not shake the injustice and inequity--that every gift and kindness given, he had never shown to me. Ever. But something else was even stronger. A desire to forgive. 


                 FOX NEWS ARTICLE FINISHES  Here: 


                                           ***********************************


     Friends, how else to say this? Without forgiveness, there is no hope for the brokenness that surrounds us all, that moves in with our own families. This very week, a disaster threatened one of my most important relationships. I was terrified. And in the midst of it, when I had given up, because no words could undo this-----words did undo it. Compassion did undo it. Mercy rescued all of us. Forgiveness delivered us. This is the scandal of mercy----that when we earn only slivers of love, we are given doses and mugs overflowing, plates heaped up and spilling over ...... so much are we given, we spread it and share it and make feasts under every tree, laughing with our mouths full among those we are loving more and more. 

Thank you for sharing this place--and this hope--- with me. It is my deep, hopeful prayer that God would somehow use Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers  to bring relief and respite from some of the "disaster of sinful brokenness" that haunts us all.


   With much hope, and with much gratitude,

               Leslie



A Tale of Two Fathers: The End of Hate


(Dear Friends,  next Tuesday, the 21st, my new book finally releases: Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers: Finding Freedom from Hate and Hurt . A project that has taken me 3 years to write---and a lifetime to live---with much pain and tears along the way---and deep, amazing mercies, above all. Here is a tiny snapshot of what God has done in my life---and a glimpse of what He can do in yours.) 
                                            (Here:)

Duncan and I are alone in the kitchen, sitting at the table, tense. We are having words, the kind a long-married husband and wife have when they cannot agree. We are not calling each other names, but we alternate between frustration and anger as our words trigger painful memories. Somewhere in this exchange, I feel my stomach and heart soften.  I listen closely now to what Duncan is saying and what he is not saying. I begin to understand how he feels. I mentally close the door to long past hurts and relax into my chair.  It is not long before we are making tea together.



            Our disagreements don’t always end so easily, but it happens more these days. We are both becoming our real selves, the people we want to be, who put on the habit of forgiveness more often than the robes of bitterness. I have my father to thank. He was a supremely selfish, damaged man who barely spoke to me throughout my life. But God had something in store for me through him. It started with a phone call from my sister a few years ago.
 “Leslie, Dad was at the VA hospital last week.  They thought he might have had a little heart attack. I just found out today.”
My father was in his mid-eighties by then. In the then twenty-five years since I had left home, I had seen him three times, but I saw him then, lying helpless in a hospital bed. 
                                                                  egnorance@blogspot.com
“How did you find out?”
“I talked to Dad on the phone today.”
“You’re talking to Dad?”
“Yes. I’ve been calling him almost every week,” she said, her voice calm and assured.
“Every week?  And he talks to you?” I could not hide my amazement and confusion. I couldn’t believe that out of the six siblings, she was the one calling him, the one who was consistently abused. We didn’t know it until decades later.  And my father had no relationship with anyone, as far as we knew. He showed no interest in his six children, nor did he have any friends.  When all of the kids left home, he moved 2000 miles to Florida to live on a tiny dilapidated sailboat. I was glad.
I was silent for a moment, then asked, “Why are you doing this?”
“I’ve forgiven him.”
I could not speak, astounded. His abuse of my sister was enough to justify my anger against him. But there was so much more. Throughout our childhood, he refused to seek any employment other than as a traveling salesman. But his detachment and his inability to fulfill simple tasks cost him job after job, until no one would hire him.  Without an income, we lived in unrelenting poverty.  Once he took the only money we had left to live on and drove away, leaving us penniless.  
“Dad ruined my life, you know?” Lora had said to me one time.  Yes, I knew. We all knew. I had never even thought to pray for my father, who was an avowed atheist.

                                                                    telegraph.co.uk

A few weeks after this phone call, I was praying the Lord’s prayer, head down, eyes shut tight, and I hit the middle of the familiar words, “And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” I stopped as though hearing those words for the first time. What did I just say? I mouthed the words silently, then ran for my Bible. What was that phrase doing there? “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”? How could I have missed that all these years? Was God really attaching, in some way, his forgiveness to our forgiveness? I could run no further from these words.
                                                                morethanscars.com
I have always believed in forgiveness, of course. Isn’t this the heart of the gospel? Don’t I know that God’s forgiveness of my law-breaking heart brought me this crazy life of freedom and joy and constant second chances? But---forgive my father?
            And so began my return to my father’s life. I flew from my home in Alaska to Florida repeated times to visit. After he suffered a stroke, I pushed him around the rehab facility in a wheelchair, helped him in and out of bed, took him on outings in a rented car, sat with him at mealtimes, watching him eat his baked beans with trembling hands.  I bought clothes for him. Sent him gifts on his birthday and Christmas. My children and I prayed for him. Constantly.  

                                                                                                seethatdad.com







These attentions were difficult and guarded at first.  He did not speak much, as always. He seldom thanked me.  He told me repeatedly and defiantly that he was an atheist.  And in the midst of my care and attention, I could never quite shake the awareness that every act of kindness I was showing him, he had never shown  to me.  

            
             But I began to see the pain in his life. I saw that few—maybe no one?—loved him and some had done violence to him. I realized that he likely suffered from schizoid personality disorder and was incapable of loving me as I hoped or wanted. I stopped crying for myself and was able to cry for the hurts he himself had received.                   
I could not ignore all the harm my father had done to me and my family; in fact, forgiveness requires an honest accounting of all that happened. But I was no longer fragmented by feelings of hate and hurt, nor even the more insidious feelings of apathy and numbness. I grew into an ever-deepening realization that God’s forgiveness of me, his release of all my debts against him---uncountable debts---could heal me to release my father from his much lesser debts against me.       

  
And I did. But this is no fairy tale. Forgiving my father’s debts did not turn out exactly as I hoped. 
 I hoped that he would reciprocate my actions; that he would  acknowledge me, thank me and even say he loved me. More, I hoped that my own forgiveness of him would lead him to seek God’s forgiveness before he died. None of this happened. Though his heart softened for a time after his stroke, as he returned to better health, he reaffirmed his unbelief and turned stonily from any mention of the gospel. Nor did he express concern or love for me, even on my last visit, when we both knew we would not see each other again.


I cannot lie and say this doesn’t hurt. But I have found God’s love so empowering, I believe we are enabled to love and forgive even those who have hurt us and cannot love us back. Here, then, is an ending I had not foreseen. Forgiveness of my father is healing the broken and bitter parts of me and bringing me closer to my real self, the person God desires me to be: whole, not easily offended, full of mercy, quicker to forgive. 
 It has taken me two fathers to truly know this: one who hurt and one who continually heals. He can do the same for you.


   Have you experienced this freedom yet, dear friend? I pray you will. The mercies of God are so much vaster than we can imagine. 
                                

                               *********************

 Next Tuesday, on the release date, I'll be here again offering some copies to give away.  Would you all pray with me that this book will go out into the world waging forgiveness and peace and winning freedom for the captives? Thank you. Thank you.

 (The book is wonderfully inexpensive and can be pre-ordered now)