Category Archives: Faith

Dear Dad…

When there are so many things to write about and so many things to reflect on, today is a day that my focus shifts.  As a father and a son, Father’s Day is a day when I can do what ever I like (in theory).  However, it is the day that I represent all that is important to me.  Not too many fathers will admit, but the truth is that we are far more important than we are given credit for.  This is not to diminish mothers or grandmothers or even grandfathers, aunts, uncles, or anyone else that helps raise up a child.  But on this day we focus on the importance of fathers.

As an educator, I spend very little time discussing any of the “holidays” because of the need to focus on everything else.  I don’t place a high priority on any holiday because I end up having to justify and dance around beliefs systems. Otherwise I’d try to make a way to incorporate the meaning of the holiday into a bonafide lesson.  And because Father’s Day usually falls so close to the end of the school year that it gets overlooked anyway, no one complains–not even the dads.  The mayor of a local town recently posted to his Facebook page that he is so proud that 15 dads came out to the “Annual Donuts with Dad Breakfast. ” This kind of puzzled me.  I certainly could address that, but I’d like this story to take a different direction.

As a social worker, my focus on dads was minimal because mothers usually accepted all the responsibility in the household. For court, counseling, and intake interviews moms carry the load.  Sure there’s mention of dad but there’s always a compelling reason that he could not attend.  And although there’s a shared responsibility of raising a child, there are usually responsibilities that are often overlooked that dad is actually fulfilling.   Dad is not there to defend himself.

As a father, I do not need to defend myself.   As a son, my father’s absence had an explanation.  I never questioned it.  I knew and I understood.  But because the moms of the world were always there to offer an explanation, the real reasons were diluted.  Our world has two sides to it–the explained and the unexplained.  This is a balance that is necessary to keep things in check.  Although we might not be comfortable, please understand that balance is required in everything.  The ying to the yang, the male to the female, the rational to the irrational, and the list goes on…

But we force an inequality.  We demand more than we should and accept less than is acceptable.  It’s a paradox!  We overlook the need for balance.  Mother Nature will find the balance though; just like Father Time will never cease (even though we don’t see him until it’s too late).

My father is no longer here.  My mother is.  Balance.  I miss him.  My mother demands that I miss her.  Irony.  I have to laugh to keep from crying.  Today I celebrate the fathers who can no longer be there with their children.  I recognize the reasons.  I embrace those reasons even though I may not endorse them.

In this world full of so much tragedy, we manage to find some happiness.  Balance.  When the scales are tipped too much in one direction there is chaos.  We’ve come to accept certain arguments and conditions. Someone might suggest that the scales need to be re-calibrated.  This rings true in just about every aspect of our natural world–and probably in the supernatural realm as well.  Let’s explore that for a moment.

I spoke to one of my pastors yesterday who suggested that our role in the church has become antiquated. Men don’t come out to church as often as they should because the church is perceived as effeminate.  We refer to our Savior as a man who is caring and compassionate, who counsels and nurtures, who provides and heals.  This sounds more like a mother than a father.  I replied that “We call Him Father, but treat Him like a mother…”  Make of that what you will.  I’m certain that it will become a preaching point in today’s sermon.

My father was no mother.   As caring and compassionate as he was, he was still assertive and stubborn in his ways.  He provided resources that the family happily consumed.  He provided for several families and raised more children than he conceived.  He married more often than his wives would have preferred, but he was respected by each until the relationship had ended.  He loved his trucks and his sailboats.  He loved his projects and his books.  And he loved his children.  He was riddled with the guilt that he hadn’t enough love to give–even though he had given all that he had.  That’s not effeminate. That’s the type of man he raised me to be.  That’s the type of man that all of his son’s have turned out to be.  These are traits that I am modeling for my son.

dad

In his absence, I’ve learned the meaning of balance.  I only had him as a constant in my life for 13 years.  Too short?  No way!  That’s way longer than than I’ve been in my son’s life (so far); and way longer than most children have their fathers in their lives.  I am blessed to have been conceived by him, to be supported by him, and to have him there to show his love to me.  My father demonstrated balance in his life.  He was a poet and a sailor.  He lived his life like a well-narrated story, filled with comedy and tragedy.  He rarely completed a project, and his ultimate demise mimicked his projects.  This was no accident.  As I said, he was a poet.  Had he been a painter I’d suggest that all of his brush strokes were deliberate.  Instead, I confirm that all of his “I’s” were dotted and all of his “T’s” were crossed.  He left this earth of his own free will.  It’s been impossible to grieve his death because I daily celebrate his life.  Although I’m criticized for my perception of my father, I will learn from his model.  I will live my life the way I know best and I will teach my children how to LIVE life to the fullest.

Today, I also celebrate my children.   They were conceived in love and are nurtured daily by a mother and father who want nothing more than for them to be healthy and happy. Our children’s lives are not traditional.  However, “traditional” is no longer the norm. Therefore, their existence is actually better than most–and certainly better than what they could have had–no father.  I am the best father that my children will ever have! That’s as easy as affirming that I am the only father they will ever have.  I had a step-father for a few years who once told me, “you only get one mother…” Puzzled, I asked him if the same was true for fathers.  He had no answer.

034IMG_0001kids and me

Dear Dad, I love you.  Knowing that I will never see you again, I am happy for those years we had together.  You will live on in me as I provide for my children.  And one day when I too have left this earth, my children will be great people and live happy lives.

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The Rock

Who’s your rock?  My friend used to call me her rock.  I didn’t understand what she meant, but it sounded like a compliment so I received it happily.  She was going through a storm and I seemed to resemble a beacon of hope.  She put a lot of faith in me which made me nervous. I felt a little unworthy. But who was I to dispute her opinion, especially when she was in duress.

Years later she’s come through the storm and has the battle wounds to show for it.  She made it through the worst on her own, as far as I knew. When I called upon her recently to reiterate some of the “good advice” that I offered her, she only said, “be still”.  She told me that was the best advice that I’d given her.  In fact, she admitted that it took years to realize how important being still was to obtaining serenity.  I was confused because the same advice I had given was the precise advice that I needed.


I’d forgotten the power of release.  Sacrifice comes in many forms.  Personal sacrifice requires an understanding as well as a commitment.  The most important component of personal sacrifice is that it can’t be dictated by someone else.  We find comfort in sharing someone else’s experience, but we can never truly make their experience our own. Even in a book, we can only be provided an out-of-body experience.  However, living the tale is a story unique in its own right.

When we are lost, we look to a map. The map may come in the form of a fold-out paper with a key and squiggly lines, or it can be a valuable testament of biblical proportions.  My pastor used to tell us to remember to bring our map to church every Sunday.  But we worshiped while learning how to interpret the map.  I put my faith in the map.  I put my faith in the Bible, and I put my faith in  the the preacher.  It sounds like a good plan.  Putting my faith in good should yield positive results, right?

Where we put our trust we put our faith.  When we put our faith in the wrong person, the disappointment shutters our belief system.  No more so than when everything hinges on a single belief that there is a master plan that doesn’t work.

The rock.   This is where we want to put our hopes, our trust, and our faith.  More emotional than any of these is love.

Lovers Rock
When my father died, this song was what I played each time I entered his solemn abode. It was a new release at a time before Pandora, mp3s, or satellite radio.  Putting the cd on repeat was the worst thing I could have done. It made me hate a song that I’d have otherwise loved.  It was symbolic.   At a time that my family lost its rock, I was the replacement pebble.

For my formidable years, my father was my rock.  I was certain that I’d be the rock for my kids soon enough. But the circumstances by which my father’s life was lost left me wondering if I’d placed my faith in the wrong person. For me there was faith in the father, and there was faith in the Father.  I thought that the two weren’t mutually exclusive.   My father was instrumental in my walk with the Lord. When he was gone, my walk truly became my own.

After fifteen years of progress without my dad, I’ve lost more faith in man and garnered more faith in myself.  As a man, faith in self is an arguably less popular trend.  As a Christian, faith in God’s will is enough to restore any lost faith in myself; but it does nothing to restore my faith in man.  I am.
 I’ve learned to distrust.  Having faith in relationships, organizations, colleagues, and family has left me empty and disappointed.  We know the importance in having faith. We simply struggle with knowing how to cope when things go wrong.  There will certainly be disappointment.  But the vagueness on how our map was constructed or how to combat the struggles en route to our destination–that’s the hardship!  It’s those milestones and all the tribulations along the way that really test our faith.  You see, that rock seems worthless if we don’t step off of it.  I mean, how do we lead a life without movement?  We step off the rock, assess the situation, and proceed with caution.  The whole while we are keeping the rock in sight (in case we need to run back to it).  And what do we do when we falter?  We seek the rock. Mankind can not merely savor the comfort and sanctity of salvation.  #Savorthefavor

 Who’s your rock?  Have you invested so much faith in man (and the world) that you’ve lost sight of the Rock?   Will you turn to your rock when all else fails?  Or will you not only stand on the rock but encourage others to do the same?

Nuna

Ten years ago, I found myself in a new career, uncomfortable scenarios, and little hope.  With no idea what situations brought me to this place, and with very little hope for escape, I was lost.  One night at the Bridgeton Police Station I met an angel case managing a family in crisis.

Her unfamiliar confidence and passion to stabilize an unpleasant event was intriguing.  All I could offer was an old rap song to distract the children from the police interrogation.  That night she privately affirmed me and explained that she wouldn’t be there long because her marriage couldn’t endure it.  Although it made sense, I had come to work for the agency in hopes to restore my own marriage.

She told me that she was going to become a teacher.  It was an approach that I hadn’t considered for myself since my freshmen year in college.  Nonetheless, it sparked my interest.  She said that she wanted to work with children.  Sounded good to me. That’s what I wanted too.  I just hadn’t figured out how.

Before I knew it, she had resigned.  She’d been hired at a local elementary school teaching English-As-A-Second Language, Language Arts, Math, and Science.  This inspired me to spend the first two hours of every day looking a career in education.  I too needed an escape to a more fulfilling career–one that embraces hope, is heralded as a noble profession, and helps without hurt.

The years that followed found me in a classroom of my own.  Our paths would not have crossed again had it not been for social media.  On the rare occasion that her actual photo graced her profile was the day I connected with her online.  Nuna was her online handle.

MySpace, Yahoo IM, and eventually Facebook became the mediums through which we shared ideas and accomplishments.  She saved her relationship and introduced me to someone after my marriage collapsed.  Like good friends do, we partied, celebrated life, and enjoyed the company of our mutual friends.  Relationships dissolved and our professional lives took on new forms.  We supported each other’s endeavors from a far;  only commenting when asked for an opinion.

Although not an integral part of my career or my personal life, I’ve shared with her my most emotional experiences.  From her own perspective, she’s offered advice.  Younger but wiser, her advice was always valued.  Her own expertise has been recently recognized by higher authorities which has positioned her assent to a new level of achievement.  I’m so proud of her.  She continues to inspire me.

True friendships cannot always be defined by cliches.  In this case, no cliche can adequately define the value of my bond to Nuna.  Exciting times…