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.

Lord, Have (No) Mercy upon ISIS!!??

Yes, I must write on this too. Please read one more piece on this event. 

I spent much of last night following the reportage of ISIS over the last few months. Unspeakable cruelties, against women, children, fathers, girls, boys. Against Yazidis, Christians, other Muslims. I felt sick, angry. I felt hatred. I did not know what to say except

Lord have mercy, have mercy .  . .

But----NO! In my next breath, No mercy. Lord have NO mercy on this evil! Do something! Yes, Lord, have NO mercy and DO something!

Such challenges never go unanswered, it seems. In my gospel readings, I realized the Hebrew people in Jesus' day felt the same. The injustices and unspeakable cruelties against them! They wanted what we want still and now----a Winning God. 
 A triumphant God, an arm-raised victory-fisted God!!

And this is just who they got! The Messiah they were waiting for, look who He chose! He didn't go to the seats of power; he went straight to the poor, the hungry, the pathetic, the unworthy, the victims.

And there it happened: Healings of every sickness. The dead raised to happy life. Massive feedings from a little lunch. Demons screaming out. The blasting wind and sinking waves scolded into peace. . And finally they got it, these men trailing behind his cloak, watching everyone who touched it get healed. 

"Who do you say that I am?" he asks them.

 Peter answers, knowing for the first time the truth of his own words, "You are the Christ."

Finally, after so many head-spinning victories and miracles, Peter sees him for who He is. 

He is THE CHRIST, the anointed one! They know, finally! What can't this man-God do?? He has done all things well, healed every disease. There is nothing, no demon, no force, no wind, no Pharisee that can take Him down, this Christ!

There He is. I want THIS God, this two-fisted, truth-tongued, all-healing God, who will vanquish all His enemies!

But then, what does Jesus the Christ, the anointed one do, immediately upon that recognition, those words? Listen again:

Peter: "You are THE Christ."

"And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . … and be rejected . . . and be killed . . . 

Do you hear this? Can we hear this through the ears of those men? Now that you know who I am---finally (O ye of so-little faith!)----this is the kind of Who-I-Am I am. I am the Christ, the anointed one who will suffer and be beaten and will die. 

No! No! No! Not THAT kind of CHRIST! We want the Winning God, the Victory God, the Vanquishing God! 

This is where Peter rebukes Jesus, saying, Never Lord!

And Jesus sees Satan in Peter's human words, which would have been our words. 

But of course, Jesus IS the winning God, the victorious God, the Everything-Good God who accomplishes all this with the greatest display of power ever: the power to lay down his life. The power to suffer and die. For us.  For evil. For sickness. For his friends. Yes, for his enemies. 

And He gives us the power to lay down our lives. Even before the knife, kneeling by the Mediterranean Sea, moments before death. Those men, speaking the name of Jesus until they could not . . . .

ISIS believes they have destroyed these men. ISIS believes they have proven the strength and superior power of Islam over "the nations of the cross." They could not be more wrong. In every act of brutality and murder, ISIS proves their weakness, their evil, their own already-destroyed hearts. 
And the ones they kill, attest to the victory of a suffering Christ who lay down his life that we may also lay down ours. 

And finally, these men are not dead, but living still. 

Lord have mercy? 
He already has. In so many ways.
In mostly Muslim Egypt, because of these murders, there is an unprecedented openness and sympathy to the Coptic Christians. 1.65 million tracts have been printed and distributed with Bible verses about blessing in the midst of suffering. And this poignant, powerful poem in colloquial Arabic as well:

Two Rows by the Sea

Who fears the other?

The row in orange, watching

paradise open?

Or the row in black, with minds

evil and broken?

(for more on this, see CT's fascinating coverage here)

I believe there will be much fruit around the world from the words on those pages, from the blood of those men. (Even if the photos were photoshopped and they were not killed "by the sea" but in some studio. No matter.)

Lord have mercy?  

He already has.  The poem reminds us how.

Because of His mercy, we're freed from 

the row we were standing in, the row 

 in black, knives in hand, 

     "with minds 

                  evil and broken."

Because of His mercy, we ask now 

that we too would be given 

 the courage, the faith, the love

to kneel in the sand in orange,

before those who hate us,

                 paradise open,"

and whispering, 

with our last breath

the name that can save them too,


Lord, have mercy. 

He already has.

The Appalling Strangeness of Cigarettes+ the Mercy of God

"You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God."

   ----Graham Green, Brighton Rock

               I never connected cigarettes with the gospel before. But everything became strange then. When someone is dying, there are mercies so odd you hardly know what to do or believe.
                I am remembering  my first visit to my father in his new nursing home. I hadn’t seen him for 8 years. I opened the door and winced at the olfactory cocktail of urine, chlorine, and Febreze. Survivors sat dazed and blank in their wheelchairs in the living room, but no one who lived here was at home here, I suspected.

                  I came because God had tied a noose around my heart and pulled it tight. I could no longer escape the words from Micah : “And what does the lord require of you but to love mercy, to do justice and to walk humbly with your God”?
               I came wanting to love my father near the end of his life—for the first time. I came wanting him to love me—for the first time. And even more—I came wanting him to know the love of Christ. This above all. 


  The visit, five days long, did not go as I hoped. He proclaimed his atheism. I was defensive. I remembered why I had never liked him. I felt like a failure. But I began to see . . . He was so very alone. Did anyone love him? I knew, as I left, that I would be calling, writing, praying. I knew I would come again. Was that enough? How would he know about God’s love?
               It was time now to leave. I inched toward the exit doors, my heart tight and heavy. A woman sat at a table near the door smiling at me. It was Sally. My father had introduced me to her that first day as she hobbled down the hall, her body twisted with arthritis.

 I hesitated, then came over to her table. “Sally, I’ve got to go catch my plane. But I’m so thankful that my father has a friend here. “
            It was strange to even say the word "friend" in relation to my father. He had had no friends. Ever.

        “Oh yes,” she smiled back, her eyes on mine.
         “Does my father talk to you?”
         “He doesn’t say a lot, but yes, we talk. We talk mostly out in the smoking shed."
          Ahhhh, my father still smoked. Of course he did. My lips tightened. He had smoked all of his life, hiding the cigarettes in his car, where he spent most of his days traveling around trying to sell things. He bought cigarettes, hiding them and lying about it, while we ate and lived on a skeleton budget, always hungry. Whenever the cigarettes were found, there was war. We hid, shaking, every time. 
No wonder she was his friend, then. It was the cigarettes.

           I sighed. "He's not supposed to be smoking. He has a weak heart, and I think emphysema too. The doctor said he couldn't live much longer."
           Sally shrugged her shoulders. She wasn't supposed to be smoking, either, of course. Who was supposed to smoke? 
            I smiled ruefully, then was curious. “Are you back there every day? What do you talk about out there?”
             “Yes, we're out there every day.  We smoke and we talk about God. Your father says he doesn’t believe in God, but I’m not so sure. She lifts her eyebrows and looks wise.
                My eyes widened. “You talk about the Lord with my father?” I did not even know she was a believer.
                “I sure do,” she said, smiling her beatific smile.                
                My vision changes. Now I see Sally with my father out back, leaning against the shed walls, sharing cigarettes and the gospel.  I try to forget how much I hate cigarettes. The smoke curling over her head suddenly looks vaporous, almost beautiful.
           I grabbed her hands, curled mine over her swollen, curled fingers. ‘You’re the answer to my prayers.”  We talked for five more minutes, then hugged, promised to pray for one another. I walked out, my mind ablaze.
              Are God’s mercies really this vast---and this strange? How have I not know this? Narrow is the gate that leads to heaven, and so shall it always be, but wide are God’s mercies, so much wider and vaster and more appalling than ever I knew. And this is how it went: Jesus, the hound of heaven, lovingly dogged my father’s heels all his days, even at the last. Even through his killing habit, a loving witness was constantly present with my reclusive, renegade father.

                I don’t know if my father ever yielded to the God he was unsure of before he breathed his last lung of air.  But he saw the gospel as Sally offered him a light, a smoke, a word.
               I could so easily have missed it all, these staggering displays of God’s character and heart. 

       And so can we all, if we don't look beyond what seems ugly or small or hard or trivial or impossible. 

             Narrow is the gate, but wide, wide are His mercies---and, strangest of all,  you and I are part of them! Believe it. Put on your shoes or take off your shoes. Go, with cigarette in hand, or with whatever gift speaks love and life to those who are waiting, dying.  
          Wide, wide are His mercies. 



Just Hatched Eaglets at Fishcamp + Shall I Kill this Sparrow? (video)

"What have you surmised of life thus far, brother?"

It’s been Bird Week this first week at fish camp. I found the eaglets first. 

We began the hike around the cliff of our island, hoping, hoping, staying as quiet as our dog and our anticipation allowed, our cameras around our necks. Could it be possible? Would this generous offering be given again this year?  And there it was--- the perfect-circle nest  on a bluff, just below and beside our island trail. 
The bluff, mostly safe from fox, weasel and us.

And within the circle, a lump of fluff, a puff of exhaustion, so limp I wondered if it lived. And after several minutes of patience and devouring eyes, we saw it. It lifted its head---no, it lifted two heads. There are two! And they are just-hatched, just days old, the youngest eaglets I have ever seen in my many years of eagle-watching.  Do I really get to watch this stunning transformation, from  weightless scrap to a ten pound hulk in less than ten weeks?  Mercy! I am excited---and glad to bring you along with me this summer.  (I have a very long lens to keep me safely distant, but to bring us close. )  

 "Someone get me wings----please!!"

Why is Mom always so stressed? She already brought us two salmon! See? We haven't even finished them! Take a break, Mom!

   "Haven't Mom and Dad fashioned the perfect nest?  It's a masterpiece of found art!"

   "Where do we think we rank, really, in the whole scheme of things?"

"There goes Mom again. We told her she forgot dessert."

   "Will we grow up to be an ostrich, maybe? A chicken? Oh please let me be one of those birds that fly!"

But there is more. This week Duncan brought out a birdfeeder to hang outside our window---our first ever. 

And I  watched again the oystercatchers who patrol our beach as regular as the tides.

And still more. This whole first week at fish camp, a  sparrow has begged to be let in. He has beat at the window, at every window in the house, for hours at a time, every day this week.  It is the same plump bird who flew at the window a month ago, my sons tell me, when they were out here earlier. They  named him “Tubby.”  Tubby  bats against the glass, still not seeing it is there. He cocks his head, peers at me wiping the table, sweeping the floor.  He taps the glass with his beak and feet again and again. 

Did he catch a few minutes of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and left inspired to wreak his own beaked malevolence on the world? Is he angry that we are happy and living in an inside nest and he is not? I am not unmoved by his urgency.  He wants in so badly, I am tempted to  just slide open my bedroom window and give him his own room.  Just another bird in my own nest.  But I have finally decided he is batty,  loony,  this  addle-pated sparrow  who is  mimicking the wrong flighted thing, and I don’t need to feather my own nest with an angry bird, or even a needy bird. 

And I will tell you  a darker truth. Eight days in now, with this bird beating his (questionable) brains against our windows at all hours of the day and night, we are tired.  I got up early to write this morning—my only chance today--- and spent the hours muzzling the dog instead.  The bird beats the dog awake who barks us awake, and as I rush to quell the dog I am scheming the worst---how can I kill this bird?   I have chased it with a broom. I have draped a sheet over the window---but it is not enough. My exhausted fishermen sons and husband, all of us who work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and later, need rid of this sparrow.

But then I consider. I have been just as eager and hungry and needy and persistent at  the nest of the eaglets. I am lured to their nest to watch, to peer.  My eye is pressed to glass as well, the camera lens and I do not want to leave. I am missing only wings and beak, but possessing all the rest: a desperate wanting to see into another life, another species, another nest, another family. I want in. Am I so different? 

As I write this, I have not yet decided the fate of this bird. But I do believe, with  theological certainty, that should I dispense with this troubled and troubling creature, that God will know it. That God will watch the fall of this sparrow by my hand, and what will He think, the Creator of every bluejay and eaglet and dog and man and woman and wren?  

It is a blood-spattered  world since the day the bitten fruit fell from Adam’s hand.  I know the first eaglet hatched will sometimes consume its sibling, with no  intervention from the parents.  I have seen the worm writhing in the beak of the robin, the gasping murre in the talons of the eagle. Shall I join them?  

 I already have, in so many ways.  I killed the goshawk eating our chickens with my own hands and a 2”x 4” one year. I skin the deer my sons shoot for the table. I help at the slaughterhouse when I can. I am as covered in blood as anyone, or more.

And this sparrow, the one who is waking us from sleep,  who is dying to be with us, shall he die too?  

Perhaps I should  be swayed by the same mercy that has given me a window to the eaglets . . .  

Perhaps I should  be swayed by my family’s desperate need for sleep . . . . 

What do you say, you who watch through this window as well? 

Which mercy shall I choose?