Monthly Archives: May 2014

Best Words to Say to Sons

The other day a friend on FB posted a short video entitled “The 3 Worst Words to say to your Son.” They are, according to the video, here, “Be a Man.” They come from the Representation Project and the goal, from the website, is to change the perception our media portrays of men and women.
Been thinking on this…
There will always be fathers who, frankly, are idiots. Can’t change that. But, the initial video bothered me because no alternative was offered. It didn’t say what we should tell our sons. And I find, in our society, boys are not encouraged to be boys. People don’t seem to appreciate that male emotional expressions are different from female… or that it is okay. We haven’t just feminized emotion. We’ve said that’s the way emotions look. We are remarkably clear in our society on what is wrong with males, and seemingly most particularly that they are male. No one seems to be seeking to demonstrate how potency, resolve, camaraderie, honor, silliness or even ironic humor are all worthy of respect and encouragement. Not to say women can’t experience these things but they don’t seem to make the same emotional expression of them as most males (figuring we are all on a spectrum of one sort or another with majorities at ends). The manner of emotional expression in males has not been sufficiently explored or appreciated.
So… here are some words you can say to a son…

It’s okay to be silly.
Rough housing is fun.
Show me what you made.
Seek after wisdom.
Make a friend.
Let’s play.
Can you take me with you?
Do you want to help me?
Try it again.
Don’t worry about crying.
All men cry.
We’re going exploring.
I’m taking you out of school so we can go to the movies.
You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to.
That’s how human beings work.
That’s not how human beings work.
Wow! That must hurt. Want to give another shot in a minute?
Tell me a story.
When we marry somebody we become partners in life.
Choosing that can damage your soul and that’s not a good thing to choose.
Always kiss your mom good-bye.
Honor yourself.
I love you.

It says Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. Seems to me that if that’s true, some of these kinds of words were probably said to him as well. Just some thoughts…


I am preaching on our lifetimes as journeys of faith in church. Yesterday, I spoke on how childhood is all about exploring, discovering and receiving God’s wisdom. I also lifted up the experience of wonder and how wonder and doubt are closely related. When I opened my email this morning I started the week with the questions in this email from a member of the church. One of the other pastors suggested that I share the questions and my response. So, here you go…
I’ve been thinking about the remarks you made regarding doubt and wonder in your sermon this morning. A couple of thoughts about them:
1. Can doubt be shifted to become wonder? What does it take to do so?– more concrete evidence? Willingness to recognize that some degree of ambiguity exists in all considerations?
2. Conversely, can wonder be transformed into doubt? What does it take to do so? — more concrete evidence? new information? new interpretations of older evidence? reexamination of “first principles”?
3. Does doubt come first, then wonder, or is it vice versa? When/how does wonder and mystery become grinding cynicism?
4. Is faith more wonder than doubt? You started your sermon by a question that would suggest that it is the former, not the latter.

Thanks for such a thoughtful response to the sermon.
I suppose that I begin by delineating wonder and doubt less than most people. I see them more like cousins in our family of emotions. One relies more on past experience while the other relies more on prospect, but they each begin with unknowing. Cynicism is when we do not admit to a lack of knowledge and claim more assurance than we have realistically. It corresponds with arrogance and sadness. We have enough disappointment that is based on past experiences that we do not feel like it is reasonable to allow expectation or alternative. If we’re not careful or encouraged by others, however, that can lead us into feeling like we know and therefore contain the final word within ourselves. There are no questions.

True wonderchild-in-wonder2 is when we are profoundly overwhelmed with the immeasurable. From an adult perspective we may see a child’s wonder contained within parameters they cannot estimate, but it is still the same. We hold onto wonder as adults by admitting that even when we find a measurement, our experience is still pretty, freakin’ amazing. The small child and soap bubblesThe speed of light, the aurora borealis, galaxy UGC 1813, the experience of a hot mineral spring on our skin, the breeze in a spring afternoon, middle C… all measurable in some manner and yet all beyond us.

When we admit this, allow it to reflect what is immeasurable within us, we start to open ourselves to faith. Faith becomes personal when someone is speaking to our immeasurable from their immeasurable and we find an assurance within that allowing us to trust it. Then we are able to step into the unknown. For most people doubt is taught, while wonder is natural. Wonder must be subdued, in the sense of captured and restrained, for doubt to own the field. But doubt can lose and be turned into wonder.
Thanks. Nice way to start the week. Happy to continue the conversation, also.


Mean People

I saw a young woman in an old green car waiting for the traffic to move so she could pull in from an alley way. So, I slowed and stopped and waved her in. She smiled, gave a little wave and pulled into my lane. As she did, I saw a bumper sticker on the back of her car. Have you ever seen those stickers that read, “Mean People Suck”? This was one of those, but the top line had been carefully cut off, so now the sign read, “People Suck.” As I finished reading I looked up and she was looking right into my eyes in her rear view mirror. I created a gentle smile and she looked away.
I get the sentiment. I get the reasons that coalesce so that my past experience becomes my identity, and it must be stated explicitly. Everyone can know me then and can be influenced to know this truth with me. I’ve known more than a moment when this wasn’t just a passing feeling. I’ve known a large season of my life when it was my identity as well. I get the sentiment.
It would have been cool to have a cup of coffee with her and to hear.
What we state explicitly in front of the world is our identity. What we state explicitly but without signs is also our identity. Influence is such a subtle thing. It’s a woven thread and what we have to be most careful about is thinking that it is only within the tapestry of our lives. We must be aware that tapestries are images and images influence. They do that down to the threads.
Choosing not to be influenced is an immense undertaking within a day’s living. Will be influenced by the attitude of the waitress who brings our coffee? Will we be influenced by the beggar who doesn’t just ask but accosts? Will we be influenced by the reporter on the morning news show, the Facebook post, the late night email, the way the person coming out of the drug store who doesn’t seem to notice our reality let alone hold the door? Is it even possible not to be influenced?
And who is influenced by us, our face, our lack of or our complete composure?
I carry within me an image of wind and waves, and of my father teaching me to use a tiller in a small sailboat. tiller2He taught me how to guide the rudder within the wind and waves. I wasn’t to worry about how I was pushed, rushed or even jolted. Those things just happen. I was to keep my eyes on the horizon, to a point, a fixed point that I saw and could keep seeing. The boat was going to shift. It would ride the current and get pressed by the wind. But those things didn’t control the boat, my hand on the tiller guided it. The fixed point guided it. My job was to bring it back to the fixed point, gently, and with comfortable confidence. I was to respect the wind and the waves, but not believe they dominated me.
We read that a man was told to get out of a boat and to walk on the water out to his friend. His name was Peter and he did what he was told, but then he looked at the wind and the waves. He had never seen someone walk on water before but he completely understood the power of wind and waves. In a moment, they dominated him and the fixed point disappeared. Jesus remains the fixed point.
Mean people claim dominance, but they don’t have it. They claim assurance, but the volume at which they state it reveals their insecurity. Every now and then mean people become anyone and even, it seems sometimes, everyone, but that’s not actually true. It just feels that way. The truth is that we can always be the truth that not everyone is mean. We can always be that… with a fixed point.

When I messed up…

Been thinking on humility lately and that put me in mind of moments when I learned it. I wrote a short story once about a boy who comes to bat and hits a grand slam, game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth. I wrote that story out of personal experience. Twice I got up to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, but both times I struck out. Twice, with two different teams, I walked off the field having let down my coach, every teammate and parent on our side. I know how miserable feels.littleleague
I spoke at my college baccalaureate and had seated in front of me every important person in my life at that moment. I was one of two students chosen by the rest of the class to speak at this service on the eve of graduation. It was there that I completely lost my place in my speech just a paragraph into it, couldn’t find any way to move ahead with an incredibly dense silence hanging around me and finally ended up reading, simply reading, my outline. I know how empty feels.
I closed a church that I founded. A small group in that church sought to recreate the nature of the church and I couldn’t recapture their hearts to help them recognize what we had or how we were doing things. They couldn’t hear the mission of the church and so they left with destruction in their wake. closedAfter a last worship service and giving away all the material goods of the church, I locked up the doors and left without a job prospect. I know how defeated feels.
These aren’t all the times I missed but they were significant.
I know what it means to come up short, to forget, to pick wrong, to reveal too much, to enable users, to allow others to think what isn’t true, to choke, to not pay attention. I know how losing feels. I know what it feels like when a little piece of my soul goes dead.
And one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t win life.
You live life.
It didn’t teach me this initially. At first all I learned was that I was a loser. Other people can be great instructors of that. I didn’t learn to try harder or to give it another shot or to find a way. I learned I was worthless and I pretty much accepted that. I grew in deep, dark confidence that I was a loser, until I came upon people who had lost more than me. But when I found them they were not caring about losing or winning. They were caring about people. And the reason they cared about people was because Jesus cared for them.
It was through them that I learned to surrender.BXP157711
I’ve learned that I am not the center. I saw the destruction of so many kinds in my life was re-handled, cleaned, cleared and reshaped. It lead me to see how big life is once again. It made everything slow down, get wider, taller, and thicker. Losing wasn’t as real as living. Neither was winning.
Not too long ago, I had a friend turn to me and in joyful evaluation of an event at church say, “Well, I’d call that a success.” And I didn’t know what to say. I suddenly realized that I didn’t evaluate success the same way anymore. I didn’t evaluate myself the same way anymore.surrender1