Stay Warm

It is bitter in our city today. Cold comes up from the sidewalks, slaps our faces at building edges, and grabs us by the jaws when we turn corners. We’re bundled up, going mostly from the car to the door, to some door. We are warmer than most people in the bitter cold world. At least as warm as possible.

I heard something that I want to plug on the blog as a reminder to myself, as a reminder to you, son. I was at my desk at the hospital and I overheard part of a colleague’s phone conversation. He was ending a message he was leaving. He said something like, “Okay, stay warm.”

His words stuck with me. I took a deep breath, held the tender love in his voice, and relished it. It was intimate, soft, and interesting, especially given the person I was listening to. He isn’t the warmest man upon first impression. And I immediately wanted to pass on his words and the emotion underneath them.

You haven’t been the most wonderful son these weeks. In fact, you’ve been exploding with more tantrums in three weeks than has possessed you in three years. You’ve been out of character. And yet, I’ve been reminding myself that “This is my son, too.” I’ve been saying to myself and to others that “The boy does this too. This is him.”

I would love for you to be that other kid. The kid I know and not the one you keep presenting to your mother and to the public when I’m not around. I’m turning over the matter in my head, grabbing at the minds of friends for their thoughts about matters. I’m thinking things through in terms of emotional process, differentiation, family dynamics, and mostly because I’m reading Generation to Generation which makes me think longer and wider about individual problems.

And then comes those words, that greeting, that wish. Stay warm. In some ways, it’s a reminder to me because it captures a version of the Christian life. At the end of the hour, at the close of the day, I want to be the man, the father, the husband, who stayed warm. The environment is frigid, numbingly cold, sharp and painful even. But I want to stay warm.

And in some ways it is my only wish for you. So this is what I want. I want you to stay warm. Have your tantrums but be warm about it. Have your space to fully feel but stay warm about it. Don’t hurt your mother because you can have a whole existence that is fully Bryce but that doesn’t impose upon her. Don’t hurt your friends because their young enough to leave your nutty beautiful self and you’ll wake me up one day and try to borrow some of mine and, of course, I will tell you to go somewhere and talk as you do about how long it took me to cherish those friends I fully intend to keep and not share.

In short, the world is cold and your feelings may be sharp and windy and may causes internal scratches. But get inside some place and cultivate a warmth that keeps your interiority ablaze. You have what you need to be fully present to the pain of life and the source of life. You can be warm.

You can stay warm.

“Grief” by Stephen Dobyns

Trying to remember you

is like carrying water

in my hands a long distance

across sand. Somewhere

people are waiting.

They have drunk nothing for days.

 

Your name was the food I lived on;

now my mouth is full of dirt and ash.

To say your name was to be surrounded

by feathers and silk; now, reaching out,

I touch glass and barbed wire.

Your name was the thread connecting my life;

now I am fragments on a tailor’s floor.

 

I was dancing when I

learned of your death; may

my feet be severed from my body.

 

(Posted in remembrance of our father, Mardell Culley, Sr. on the second anniversary of his death)

“We Must Act”

If racism manifests itself as violence, we cannot be content simply to dialogue or just to talk over the negative consequences of prejudice. We cannot dismantle racism by fostering cross-cultural awareness. We must find the spiritual courage to speak truth to power, to take a public stand against the institutional evils of oppression. We must not engage in conversation, we must act; we must actively, as Martin Luther King, Jr., put it, strive toward freedom. We must live our truths to transform society.

From Manning Marable’s essay in Black Faith and Public Talk, 78

Prayer at the Close of Day

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, Lord, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Gilbert Meilander’s Working

20 Things Worth Saying to Our Children These Days

In no particular order:

  1. People die everyday but I want you to live a long, full, gorgeous life.
  2. Don’t believe that there aren’t safe spaces for you. We will find them together, protect them, and play in them.
  3. Slow down and be as small as you can for as long as you can, because I only see big things in you. When those things mature, you will turn the world upside down.
  4. Turn off the TV and listen to the words of Jarena Lee, Ida Wells, Booker Washington, WEB DuBois, Benjamin Mays, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Renita Weems, Louis Farrakhan, Michael Dyson, and your pastor if she or he has courage to speak to right-now-issues.
  5. The news does not define you and neither does the pain that envelopes our people. We include the pain in who we are, but we are more than our pain.
  6. I want the best for you, and though I will make mistakes in pursuing that, I commit to you that I’ll live with you in mind for the rest of my life.
  7. Your skin is precious, so precious that it can get you into as much trouble as death if you’re black, free from accountability for your actions if you’re white. This is still the country we live in.
  8. The unmistakable print of God’s finger is on your life and people may not call it that because of their own faith differences, but know deep down that you were made by the most fascinating Creator to live a most fascinating life.
  9. Talk to your oldest relative about the way they make sense of the bottom parts of life, and then write down what you hear and how you feel and how it makes you want to be better.
  10. You are beautiful, you are brilliant, you are beloved. This a benediction I pronounce over my son and I gladly share it with you for your children, for your revision.
  11. Obey those who have rule over you. This is a biblical warrant, so listen to your parents when we tell you “how to act” in public.
  12. Disobey authorities when necessary for goodness sake and do so for a worthy cause. You won’t be the first to “go down” for justice, and when you do, your blood will join the saving stream of God’s heroes.
  13. Make noise in life and be a bit irreverent because the people who’ll complain about your noise will be those of us who have lost our throats, who need you to inspire us, and who will, surprisingly, follow your lead.
  14. Take the helm of something that stirs the hearts of people, challenges the fixed impressions of others, and helps you practice your best values.
  15. Love the women in the world because they will be more reliable than the men and they will support you harder than the men and in your love, you will continually lift them.
  16. Love the men in the world because your love will correct and heal our broken places, places we’ve spent years covering, hiding, avoiding, and convincing ourselves aren’t there.
  17. I do not want you to die, but you will die as will I. Live with that end in mind, and move the world toward something more beautiful, more compelling, more attractive, and more whole while you’re here.
  18. Give something away and get into the habit of giving. It will save you when the world takes and takes and takes because you will have defined yourself and your needs and your hopes in a generous way.
  19. Be a messianic force for peace, tolerating no violence, even the violence in your own soul because that self-control is the strongest grace, the most Christlike offering you can give the world. It may save us.
  20. Tell me what I should have said and feel free to update me as we go along.