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In one word, can you describe your relationship with God: master, servant, judge, lawyer, friend, counselor, service personnel, psychologist, Ticketmaster? If you read the Bible, you will notice that God is often referred to as a “Father,” but what does that mean? It means that dads in the biblical world always passed on secrets and skills to the kids so they will have a livelihood. Abraham comes along, and he is a wandering nomad. Moses appears, and he is a runaway slave with a rap sheet for murder,  Peter comes on the scene, and he is a self-proclaimed sinner. All three are flawed, and they would be the last people you would pick to do great things in the world. Yet, we cannot forget that they are sons, and the Father passed on skills that allowed them to change the world. That is what dads do. They were all incompetent, but God as their Father gave them skills.

One time I was fishing with my father. (You are going to think that all I do is fish, but I actually do a few other things as well.) We were at Barnstable Harbor, and a dory pulled up to the boat ramp. It had a wide open hull, a milk crate for a seat, and a motor. Its sheer simplicity allowed the boat to hold a number of large bins. We went over to check out the bins to see what he caught. They were filled with horseshoe crabs. I heard that they use them for medical purposes. My father, who knows how to catch a lot of fish, was curious and asked the captain, “How do you catch horseshoe crabs?” The man answered, “If I told you, I would have to kill you.” He explained that he got the knowledge and skill from his father, and now he has a nice career. Back in the ancient world that is what dads did. They passed on their trade, their skill, to their kids so that they would have a successful living. When the kids use the skills, everyone knows who the father is. I bet if I went into the coffee shop and said, “Hey, everybody, I just saw a guy with a boatload of horseshoe crabs. Anybody here know how to catch horseshoe crabs?” A guy at the counter will put down his coffee and say, “That must be my son, and if I told you, I would have to kill you.” God gives us what we need to do divine work.

My mother is an artist. She painted beautiful landscapes including sunsets in the desert and sand dunes by the sea. When my brother was about eight years old, maybe nine, my mother gave him a set of charcoals, the variety that is used for drawing.  He took them with a canvas and climbed up a mountain. When he came back, there was a drawing of a beautiful landscape. If I remember, the charcoals did not come with a set of instructions. No one went up the mountain with him and stood over his shoulders telling him what to do. That prompted me to ask, “How did you do that?” He said it was easy. “You just take open he box, take out a charcoal, at a tree, and start to draw.” It is an amazing thing to think that the skills and gifts of parents can be transferred into the kids.

I had a similar experience. I used to help dad at work when he hung doors. This is how I used to help him. He would ask me, “Peter, go to the lumber yard and get me some shims…Go to the truck and get my drill bits…Get the coffee.” I never hung a door because I was too busy getting stuff for Dad. One day someone hired me to hang a door. It was a glass industrial door, and I remember it was very heavy. I hung it alone and without assistance.  After I finished, the owner opened and closed the door a few times and said, “Gee, you are good at this.” I said, “Oh, thank you.” I thought, “How can I be good at something if it is the first time I did it?”

When we say that God is our Father, we are recognizing that He gives us skills that allow us to do things that are really hard for other people to do. God is good at forgiving. He is slow to anger and rich in kindness. He is generous and making sacrifices for others. He is compassionate. These are not easy skills, but the Father passes them off to us so that we can use them in the world. So if someone asks us “what is our relationship with God?” Now we know. The Father gives us skills to do godly things that will make a positive impact on others.

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