20 Things Worth Saying

I’m re-posting this as a reminder on the day after my second son’s originally given due date. It’s a reminder as I become a dad all over again in some ways.

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.
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A Parent’s Prayer

This is a prayer from Debbie Pearlman’s Flames to Heaven: New Psalms for Healing & Praise. It’s a wonderful collection of psalms which Pearlman translates for our use, especially around themes of healing and celebration. This is number one hundred twenty-two.

Photo Thanks to Danielle MacInnes

Photo Thanks to Danielle MacInnes

I am trying, Life-Arranger, I am trying

To live with uncertainties.

I am trying to yield control,

To listen for the calm beneath.

My task nearly done, I am trying to trust

My nurturing and modeling

Have grown a complete person

Ready to enter the next territory.

All my caring words, instructions

Repeated and reworded are no armor.

Only faith in Your kindness

Will secure each tomorrow.

Letting go my protecting hug,

Releasing my shielding body,

I relax. And then I feel You.

You alone must be the Shield about us.

Only to be whole and to be happy.

Only to be well-loved and productive.

Giving and friendly, untroubled by terrors.

Parents’ sighs rise to You.

Son, Please Forgive Me For…

I’m revisiting earlier lessons from my blog, and here’s a meditative list I could still say, with near accuracy, five years later in asking for my son’s forgiveness. I’m very grateful he’s putting on his own seat belt though:

  1. Not understanding those things I think only you, your angels, and God can understand
  2. Keeping you strapped into your car seat when all those tears fell, asking to be freed
  3. Making you eat more than sweet potatoes and beans
  4. Being less than patient and for moving too quickly more times than I’ve slowed down
  5. Letting your mother make you wear shoes that were too small
  6. Raising my voice and thinking that it would help you understand an instruction
  7. Not forgiving the way you do, quickly and effortlessly
  8. Leaving you in the room with all those relatives you didn’t know in Alabama that day
  9. All those pictures we took
  10. Having strong opinions…about everything
  11. Not finding more ways to put you into the hands of people who love you well and consistently
  12. The mistakes you’ll notice that I won’t
  13. Being angry with you when you were really really little because you cried more than I knew to expect when we brought you home
  14. The times I said you were a “miracle from the Lord” because it was true but didn’t really treat you that way
  15. Failing to love your mother as much as possible to the best of my ability
  16. My dullness when I was tired and too exhausted to enjoy your excitement about some random thing
  17. Overlooking all those moments when you were trying to get me to see something I was too busy to notice
  18. Not listening
  19. Teaching you things by my example and my words which were wrong
  20. For keeping this list so short.

What We Need From Men

Since I’m reprising earlier lessons, here’s something I read five years ago at church. It’s for men in general and fathers in particular.

What We Need From You

We need you to pay attention to God and to you and to others—though not necessarily in that order.  We need you to wake up in the morning and to spend your days doing what will contribute to your block, community, neighborhood, and world.  We need you not to be convinced by advertisements and commercials and publicity which say that you must have something or someone else other than what God has placed in front of you today.  We need you to communicate your fears and the things that keep you awake.  We need you to take your work seriously, to take your city seriously, to take your own health seriously.  We need you to cultivate an ear, not just for God and for others, but for yourself because the ability to hear others is tied and twisted with the ability to listen well to ourselves.

We need you to stop making excuses and to give yourself to God.  We need you to realize that God gives grace to the humble and that humility is simply seeing you for who you really are and the Divine for who God really is.

We need your life to matter for something other than how much you make, how many women you’ve loved, and how many babies you’ve had.  We need you to look again at numbers altogether and to turn upside-down the notions you’ve attached to them.  We need you to build wealth but in more areas than you first thought or have often been told.  We need you to give yourself to some hobby, some way of playing, some way of re-creating so that you can stay sane.  We need you to build and to create and to draw and to envision and to breathe deeply when you see something fantastic and unmistakably amazing.  We need to draw away even when you want to keep talking.  We need to pull a part so that you can be counseled by other voices.  We need to find times of silence daily and to lock yourself into the rhythm of Sabbath, keeping the command made for you.

We need you to love our children, particularly when they aren’t your own, because nobody else may love them.  We need you to, a year from reading this list, know at least one child’s name, one child’s family, one child’s story, and one child’s pain.  We need you to cultivate a relationship with a person who will live longer than you.  So that you can hear their fears and concerns and spend all the days you have left addressing them by God’s grace.  We need you to find a family whether or not they look like you and to give yourselves to them in big and small ways.  To make sure that the parents feel supported even if you know nothing about parenting.  To make the children feel encouraged even though children may scare you.  To make sure that some figure in that family unit is a reminder that there is great love and possibility and integrity present.

We need you to commit to our sisters, to our women, and to treat them as precious, powerful gifts whose purpose is to please God.  We need you to respect them and to cherish them, especially when they aren’t your wives because they don’t get enough respect.  We need you to listen to them and to befriend them for no other reason than that.  We need you to hear their pains without another motive.  We need you to take their burdens upon your shoulders and to carry their problems with them so that they can feel a community around them consisting of more than other women.  We need you to pray for our sisters more than you pray for yourselves.  We need you to question the men claiming to love them and to make sure that their relationships aren’t destructive but life-giving.  We need you to be faithful to your wives if you’re married, holding them up as significant gifts.  We need you to remind them of your love for them and tell them through word and deed what they mean to you.

We need many things from you, more than what I’ve named.

So will you, by God’s help, be greater than your station in life, than your present situation, or than your status at this point?  You are more than a box that you’ve checked, more than an unemployed or very employed person.  You are more than some unknown because we know you.  We know you to be a beautiful man.  We know you to be a strong man.  We know you to be a man of God.  We know you to be these things.  We need you to be these things.