Monday, January 30, 2012

Father to the Fatherless

It's my son's birthday today. As I often do with each of my children, I reflect on the moment we met, when I first saw the face of the much-longed-for child.

This boy was born into strange circumstances. He would never see the face of his runaway father. This child was mine alone. I carried him alone, bore him alone, and raised him alone for many years. But he was not a burden, rather a delight, curious and sweet, a high achiever, a boy of many interests. Now he is a man with a tender heart and many degrees, still curious. He is changing the world for the better with his expertise. My boy is not only my son but my friend. We can talk of many deep things. He brought a wife into our family, adding to my joy. And maybe later children?

Me, a fatherless child. My son suffered the same fate through no fault of his. Are we the people we are because of that fact? How might we have been different? I can see God our Father's hand on my life from the beginning, a frail and broken child made strong. And on my son's life too. This Father has been ever-present, ever-faithful.

My son read Psalm 103 on my wedding day when I married Fred so many years ago:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field, for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The excitement has died down and I've had time to think all this through about my father. I am grateful for all the information, some of it quite interesting, but little came directly from him. He really has given me nothing and has made no effort to contact any of us. People keep saying this has a greater purpose. God has a purpose, I know, but I'm not sure what that is yet.

However, we have learned some interesting stories and fascinating coincidences! My parents met in California (my mother born and raised there). They got married and moved to Nevada. I was born in Nevada, and my father still lives in the same city. As a child, without him, we lived in Arizona a long time and then came to St. Louis. Later I lived in Oklahoma and many other places along the way. I didn't come to Pennsylvania until 1983, and I did not feel at home here for a long time. I always felt like a nomad, never being able to settle anywhere. I still remember the day I claimed Pennsylvania for my own. I was in an airplane that was landing and I looked down at the familiar river and the highways and the airport and thought--this is home. I don't want to ever move away.

Through the research, I found out my father was born and lived in a neighboring suburb of this very same city where I live now. In fact, his home was just a few miles from the church where our family attends. His father and grandfather and great-grandfather all lived in this area. I've been surrounded by my ancestors all these years and didn't know it! They are buried here and had successful businesses here. I probably have cousins nearby.

Another strange connection: My great-grandfather applied for a passport in 1916. He was planning to go to CHINA! Amazing! His business manufactured surgical instruments and I guess he was traveling to sell these products overseas. He planned to sail on a ship called the Empress of Russia, leaving from Vancouver. Many years later, I would be making my own trip to China.

So those are the facts. What about the heart issues? I never had a father growing up. My step-father never cared about me and I never even knew what a good father was supposed to be. When I became a Christian and heard God was my father, I thought He must be a hard disciplinarian to be feared, ready to pronounce judgment and condemn. When I married Fred I saw what a good father looks like--a provider, protector, comforter, encourager, source of wisdom. One to whom little girls can run to when they are frightened or sad. One who listens, one who has compassion for the small and weak. One who guides and leads. I didn't know. I began to see God in a new light and found that He is all those things. God is my Father. And not just to me. He promises to be "Father to the fatherless." (Psalm 68:5) "I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me." (II Corinthians 6:18) And, "If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ." (Romans 8:17)

When I was fatherless, God adopted me into His family. I've learned that He is a good father. He provides, protects, comforts, encourages, and guides me in wisdom. My inheritance lies in heaven with Him. My need for this earthly father is over.

I will see where this all ends up. But I don't have any real desire to talk with my father. He could have called me, after all. I think I would be disappointed in him because he wouldn't hold a candle to the father I see loving my two daughters every day.

To those searching for a father's love, the promise is for us all. "See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (I John 3:1)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thought for the New Year

Arielle has been reading poetry for her literature class. Here are the closing lines of one of them:

"Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"

(Mary Oliver from "The Summer Day")

What is it we plan to do this year? Will it fade into oblivion, stacked onto the previous years we can't remember? How do we slow this mad rushing torrent of time? I want this to be a year of significance, a year to pay attention and take notice and love well my family and friends. What about you?

When was the last time you read Our Town by Thornton Wilder? I think it is wasted on high schoolers, when, really, it has much more meaning for us older folks.