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Racine, WI 53405

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Blessings of Abba

“Forgive Me” 
Forgive me dear father
For all the trouble I caused
The missed curfews
The missed classes
Your unfulfilled dreams for me
Forgive me dear father
But your dreams are not my dreams
Forgive me dear father
And I will forgive you
For missed moments
That you sacrificed
So that one day I could follow my dreams

Forgive me my son
For whatever errors I have made
Forgive me my son
For what I did not know
Know that I sacrificed
So that one day you could follow your dreams
May all our failings
From generation to generation
Lead one day to wisdom
But until then
We will always have love.
Maybe that is wisdom enough.

                 by Rev. Jay Wolin

Written from the viewpoint of a father looking at his own childhood, and then looking at his son's childhood, he has come to a place of deeper understanding about the struggles of both being a child and being a parent. Both make mistakes, they don't always make it easier for the other, nor did they necessarily appreciate the other’s intentions and struggles at the time.

The part addressed to his son ends by hoping that all the mistakes and failings would one day lead successive generations to deeper wisdom, but until that day, he says, we will always have love. And perhaps that is wisdom enough.

Love. Love between a parent and a child can be a tricky thing. We love them, but we don’t always agree with their choices. We love them, but sometimes our dreams for them don’t mesh with their dreams for themselves. We love them, but we have to set boundaries. We love them, but if they do something harmful to themselves or others we can’t let that go without consequences. We love them, but we’re often flying blindly, doing the best we can and hoping we’re doing better than our parents sometimes did with us.

Jesus, as our spiritual teacher and guide, doesn’t talk about his earthly father at all, but his use of the name Abba for God (which means father in Aramaic, although a less formal rendering of the word, more akin to dad) leads us to believe that he thinks of the divine as a very close “dad” presence. Not so much a formal, reserved, strict, “father” presence who is more concerned with following the rules and making something of yourself, but a dad whose number one quality is “loving.” In John 15:9, Jesus says, “As my Abba has loved me, so have I loved you. Live on in my love.”

Jesus asks multiple times for his followers to know that the love he has shown them is simply Abba’s love passed on, that this is how God loves – without condition, without deserving, welcoming, accepting, celebrating the “you” that you are. These are Abba’s blessings for each and every one of us. So, Jesus’ fervent hope is that each person would take that love into themselves, to know it, feel it, live it, share it. Spiritually, this is the model set for every parent’s love.

Fred Craddock tells about a vacation to Tennessee that he and his wife took together. One night they found a quiet little restaurant where they looked forward to a private meal, just the two of them. While they were waiting for their meal, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, “I hope he doesn’t come over here.”

But the man did come to their table. “Where are you folks from?” he asked amicably. “Oklahoma. Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there. What do you do for a living?” he asked.

“I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University.”

“Oh, so you teach preachers, do you. Well, I’ve got a story I want to tell you.” And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down. Craddock groaned inwardly.

The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started to school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply.

“What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through you. They were all wondering just who my real father was. When I was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me.

“Whose are you, son? Whose boy are you?”

“I felt the old weight come on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. ‘Wait a minute,’ he said. ‘I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God.’

“With that he slapped me on the back and said, ‘Boy, you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.’”

The old man looked across the table at Craddock and said, “That was the most important single sentence ever spoken to me.”  With that he smiled, shook the hands of Craddock and his wife and moved on to another table to greet old friends. Suddenly Craddock remembered. On two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected an “illegitimate” to be their governor. One of them was Ben Hooper.

Hopefully in this day and age this would not happen, but the message is clear regardless – we are all children of God, blessed and loved by Abba God without condition. Our fathers, or mothers may not have given this to us, but there is a beautiful spiritual presence that does.

In Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Remen shares a story about meeting her godfather for the first time when she was perhaps three. He lived in another city and when it was clear he was dying her mother took Rachel to see him.

Even though she was very young, she remembers the meeting very clearly., especially her godfather’s bed. It was very high, higher than she could see, and made of a dark carved wood. Her mother had lifted her up to see that there, lying among the pillows with his eyes closed was a very old man. He was completely still and so thin that the covers didn’t rise up over him very much. Her mother put her down next to him, between him and the wall and whispered softly to Rachel, but Rachel wasn’t listening. She watched her godfather with great interest. Then his daughter called to her mother from the kitchen and she turned away and went out into the hall for a short time. In those few moments, her godfather opened his eyes and looked at her.

She remembered how blue his eyes were, and how warm, In a voice that was barely more than a whisper he called her by name. He seemed to be trying to say something more. Rachel was very young, but knew that whispers meant secrets, so she leaned toward him to hear. He smiled at her, a beautiful smile, and said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

Now, Rachel’s family were intellectuals, formal, well-mannered people who were not openly affectionate or demonstrative. Her godfather’s eyes and his smile were full of a great love and appreciation. For the first time she felt a deep sense of being welcome, of mattering to someone. His hands were resting on the covers and, still smiling, he slid one a little toward her. Then he closed his eyes. After a short while he sighed deeply and was still again. Rachel continued to sit there remembering his smile until her mother came back. Her mother looked closely at her godfather and then snatched her up and ran from the room. He had died.

Her parent’s hired a child psychologist to help her over the “trauma” of it all, but that hadn’t been her experience at all. She said it was years before she could tell her parents what really happened and how important it was to her.

There is nothing like feeling unconditionally loved. In her godfather, Rachel finally felt that kind of love. How simple it can be to convey a blessing - a word, a gaze, a touch.

In all that Jesus did and said, we find the blessings of Abba being passed on, because the love of God lived in him. May that love now live in us, and may we pass on those same amazing blessings.

Love & Light!