Saturday, July 10, 2010

Father of the fatherless

This morning just after 1am, the man wanted in Britain's biggest ever manhunt shot himself after he was cornered on the riverbank in Rothbury, Northumberland. You can read about it here.

A guest-house owner, who did not want to be named, told the BBC: "He actually said, the one thing that sticks in my mind, 'I haven't got a dad'... and he also said that, 'nobody cares about me'."

My heart is breaking as I read this. I feel incredible grief in my heart like I haven't felt for a long time. Yes, this man committed murder. This man frightened and threatened innocent people. This man was addicted to steroids and probably suffering from withdrawal which may have affected his state of mind, but his final words exposed his heart. It sounds like, all his life, this powerful man with an impressive physique and demonstrative power and control over others - wanted to be loved by Dad.

I also feel angry. Angry at an enemy who seeks to kill, destroy, break up and tear apart family and take away fathers. I'm actually going to use the word "daddy" as it demonstrates the childlikeness and intimacy of that relationship. We have an enemy who wants to take away daddies. Daddies - Papas - provide security. They hold you when you're crying. They provide shelter and safety when you feel threatened. They speak constant approval over you but because they love you so much, they also discipline within appropriate boundaries. They're proud of you and a loving dad actually speaks these words out loud over you and demonstrably shows that with his affection.

But it's not just the enemy that takes away daddies. We have to shoulder some of the blame ourselves. We have a responsibility to resist the spirit of this age, to unclutter our diaries and prioritise being mums and dads to our children. We have to leave the office early with things undone. We resign from that important position. We may not be able to run that event. We who read this may feel that we do not have much control over our work hours but many people who are not Christians have left or changed jobs or career, dropped pay, travelled abroad or VSO'd - because they have felt that urge to change something. (watch Relocation, Relocation, Relocation for proof of this!)

I don't think many Christians intend for work to take up lots of their time but there can be an insipid and unseen force at play to make many Christian dads incredibly busy. Is this the enemy at work? Is it the flesh? Do we need to be needed? I don't know the answer to this but I know that at times within our own family we have felt a rollercoaster of busy-ness to be upon us (probably rarely but at certain times of the year, like June and December)and we have had to say "NO!" No more! Stop! Rest! Thankfully that is where we are just now :-)

There were three things I wanted to have achieved in June - one an event and two certain pastoral things - but as a couple we decided, no, they will have to wait - wrong call?? Maybe. I'm a pastor, after all. Aren't I to be constantly doing and available? But for space for our family to be? For time to draw a breath? Yes, right call. But I don't always make the right call.....

Over the last seven years in many settings (I want to be careful to say this is at national events and at residential activities as well as in local churches) children have come to me crying about not having time with their parents - but especially dad. Stuck in my mind is the child who wrote on a prayer wall: I pray that I would have more time with my dad.

But what do we do about this? Parents feel trapped. They don't need the voice of condemnation for that is the surefire way to feel trapped. They are in a job that requires long hours.

So what about a few wee practical tips from things I have observed in others and do myself:

* prioritise time with your own kids. Depending on how you do social life - consider this: Resist doing lots with other families or adults where our own children are diluted amongst other children. Consider dad/mum dates - taking one child out at a time for one-on-one: the folks I know who do this say it is of immense benefit, particularly where there are several children each requiring time and attention

* switch TVs/Wiis/DVDs off - ration and limit time on these from a young age (its harder to do this when children are older as they then struggle to find alternatives, whereas young children get into the habit of this) - talk together/play games together instead. I believe strongly that the fatherless generation now is not just about broken families where dad lives elsewhere but is about absent fathers - kids in another room, him somewhere else and little chat inbetween. Home, but absent.

*try family soaking times. This refreshes and invigorates parent-child bonds like nothing else I know. It staves off the enemy. He can't stand it. It brings a whole family into God's presence - sometimes we actually feel the room become different; like electrified in its presence, sometimes we don't but we have been quiet and still for 10 minutes and talked to God in prayer and listened to him; all of us together in our living room.

I first saw this in action at the Families on Fire conference in Toronto in 2006 which I attended with my 6 year old and in 2007 I hosted this conference in Scotland. The family soaking sessions got the most postive feedback of anything I have ever arranged or put on for children and families - read about it here.

To do this at home, all you need are 10-20 minutes, a CD player and CD, and paper, pens and Bible. Email me at if you want further informaton but believe me it's really easy to do and you will probably be amazed at how your children enter into this.

Two church prayer meetings ago I got the children to minister to adults and vice versa during a brief (20 minute) soaking time and it was incredibly powerful. One of my colleagues had popped out to the supermarket for drinks etc (it was an all night prayer meeting) and when he came back he felt like electricity in the air - and asked straight away what had been happening. Children were praying for their mums or dads and other adults and vice versa, I replied.

During soaking times, the prayers are not wordy and not even spoken, we simply rest in God's presence (some people don't warm to the word soaking so just change the word - there are many references to resting in God's presence, meditating on his greatness - see an excellent list of biblical references which I teach from here. Check out the FAQs on the right hand side of the page, particularly the one on Soaking and the Bible).

But back to Raoul Moat. I speak and write of these things because, as Mark Stibbe has written today on Twitter: "We are on a Wilberforce mission. We are after the abolition of fatherlessness and the reformation of fatherhood in the UK and beyond. This is why Father's House Trust exists. This is why we want to address fatherlessness. This is why we want to get a Father heart course into every UK prison". Please support Mark Stibbe as he has recently had inroads into no10 Downing Street itself to help shape UK policy. I feel an Esther "for such a time as this" is upon the Father's House Trust. Please do check the website out.

Christians hold the key; the truth and the life; the way to the Father is the way to be fathered.

In 2007 I wrote about this.

Godfrey kindly gave me permission to reproduce the words of his song then.

Mr HIWWC still sings it as a lament in worship (at our last night of prayer actually, 2 weeks ago). It feels like a song for our nation just now and so apt as I cry about those words from last night: "I haven't got a dad".....

Lord turn Your footsteps towards these ruins
We need You here...We need You here...
Our homes are broken
Our children are stolen
We need You here...We need You here....

Our God and King...Ancient of days...
Alpha Omega, Jesus, Saviour
Work Your deliverance in this place.
Yours is the night...Yours is the day..
No-one is greater...come Lord save us!
Work Your deliverance in this place...

Lord turn Your footsteps towards these ruins
We need You here...We need You here...
In these streets filled with darkness
Our children fatherless
We need You here...We need You here...

Godfrey Birtill
© Whitefield Music UK


  1. Margaret7:29 PM


    Work your deliverance in this place. Work your deliverance in this age ..........

    Lord we need you here - in our individual lives, in our families, in our places of work, in our businesses, in our communities, in towns, in cities, in our schools, in our colleges, in our universities, in our governments.

    Our Lord and King, show yourself strong. Yours is indeed the day, bring us a new day. Remove the darkness of the night and cause your light, the light of a new day to shine through.

    Rebuild the ruins. No one is greater, Lord come and indeed work your deliverance in the nations of the earth! Lord hear the cry of the lands for the sake of the remnant, restore hope.

    Father of the fatherless, Husband of the widow, Ancient of days, Alpha and omega, Saviour, we ask that you work your deliverance.

    Margaret Elliott

  2. Amen, Margaret.
    Thank you for visiting.


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