belonging

Finding and Forgiving Dad

DSC_0038This year I’ve lived forty-nine years beyond my dad’s death. Ironic. He would have turned forty-nine the year he died. Dad passed several days before Father’s Day, 1968. I’ve missed him. Whether I wanted to or not. But he’s been with me every day since, in one way or another. Sometimes a ghost, sometimes a presence, sometimes an ache.

Right after his heart attack, he stayed with us mostly as a ghost. Our mangy dog Pug, carried Dad’s slipper around until it disintegrated. Slept with it in his dog bed. My mom sat at the dining room table, smoking, drinking coffee, in her robe, a ghost herself.

I’d wake in the morning and Dad would have haunted my dreams. Maybe I’d have dreamed about us stringing a barbed wire fence at the horse pasture on property owned by the company he worked for that was then called Martin Marietta. He built Titan rockets.

“Watch where you’re walkin’. You’re so skinny you’ll fall in one of those groundhog holes and I’ll never find you. Or a rattlesnake will bite you.”

I still walk looking at the ground.

Or we were in the garage fixing a car. Dad’d be bent under the hood, knuckles bloodied, droplight glaring on his wrench. I’d be sitting on the concrete floor with an oil pan full of gasoline between my legs, wire brushing bolts or casings.

“Why do I need to clean them?” I’d whine holding my greasy, burning hands out primly.

“You can’t put them back on dirty,” he’d say. “You’re going to grow up and sit behind a desk.”

I did just that. I didn’t realize he was teaching me how to work. He probably didn’t either.

After these dreams, I’d jump out of bed hoping his heart attack had been a nightmare. That he’d be upstairs smoking his Winstons and drinking Folgers. He never was.

But his ghost wafted everywhere. The garage was scattered with his mechanic’s tools, at least the ones my uncles hadn’t permanently borrowed. His rodeo belt buckles hung in the closet. His horseman trophies perched on the dresser. In secret, I’d dig through a cardboard box fingering his Social Security Card, his bolo ties, broken watches, and coal miner lanterns. I still have some of them.

But as a family, we rarely talked about him or his death. My mom sold his Chevy truck and the camper, and worst of all, our Quarter horse, Ginger. She had to. Dad died without life insurance. Still, it was as if to say, “We’re done. We’re moving on.”

We weren’t and we didn’t.

Because our strategy for grief—if you can call it that—was to ignore his death and then when that didn’t deaden the pain, pretend we were better off without him. I was never very good at either of those strategies. But I tried.

Dad was a man of his time, tough. Lord of the house. He disciplined with his belt. And maybe worse with my older sister. So there was reason to speak ill of the dead. Possibly we wouldn’t miss him so much if we painted him with dark colors. When we mentioned him, it was as if he’d run off with another woman rather than died of a massive heart attack.

HCScottHCSCOTT (1 of 8)HCSCOTT (3 of 8)HCSCOTT (8 of 8)I remember when I was about fourteen, brushing my long hippie hair behind my ears, smoking a Camel. “It’s a good thing my dad’s not here. He’d hate my hair,” I said, as if “letting my freak flag fly” was reason to not miss your dead father. Then I’d tell the story about my dad and his friend, the owner of a local Standard filling station, standing in the door of the garage making fun of a hippie walking past on the street.

“Lazy, cowardly hippies,” I remember him saying with his Winston hanging from his clean-shaven lip. Dad served in the Army Air Corp in WWII. But I didn’t remember that then.

This cloaked grief wore me out. When I was sixteen, I drove alone over to his grave in Fort Logan National Cemetery. I stared down at his headstone, sobbing. Slowly, I mastered myself and told him, “These are the last tears. I’m done. You left me. I’m leaving you and I’m not coming back.”

I believed my new-found relationship with Jesus fixed my brokenness and banished Dad’s ghost. Released from the past, I tucked my grief in a different dark pocket, climbed in my truck, and drove away.

The trouble with denial and hiding from pain is it works just well enough. Even though I now belonged to the One who conquered death, loss rumbled inside me like molten rock. I became an emotional volcano.

Jesus did give me a future, though. I married Dee Dee and got busy building a life. Dee Dee opened doors to a life I never dreamed of. We bought a house. We made life-long friends. We decided I should go to college. We had kids. I didn’t know yet that that future included Jesus healing my past.

That retroactive healing began when my dad returned, not as a ghost but as a presence. I was kneeling in the bathroom, getting our toddlers ready for a bath before bed.

“Skin the rabbit,” I said, pulling the shirt up and over the head and off one of their tiny bodies.

Where’d that come from? I thought. Tears burned my eyes. I remembered. It was a hunting idiom and my dad had said it every time he prepared me for a bath and bed. What? He gave me baths and not just belts. A man in the 1950s and 60s who took care of his kids? That didn’t fit my narrative of a cold hard loveless father. I wiped the tears away. Pushed it back down.

But the gate had opened.

“Pull my finger,” I teased my kids just as I remembered Dad teased me.

The memories of the times building fences, wrangling horses, straightening nails, cleaning car parts, sweeping the garage, mowing the lawn—and even being put to bed—erupted and became more than molten nightmares. They became memories of an imperfect father passing on his life and love the only way he knew how.

At age thirty, on Memorial Day, I went back to Fort Logan, believing forgiveness can stretch into the past and beyond the grave. Slowly I had become not only a father but now a son.

A few years later, after I’d become a pastor and “sat behind a desk” as Dad predicted, I was walking back to the office after lunch. I was dressed in a white shirt, dark slacks, and a tie. It was in Illinois and hot. I rolled my shirtsleeves up to mid forearm. As I walked by a storefront window, I noticed my reflection. It stole my breath and the remainder of my false dad narrative away.

I saw my dad walking there beside me. Right before his death, he had been promoted from a missile mechanic to a supervisor at Martin Marietta and often wore what I was wearing that day, sleeves rolled up and all.

I had become my dad. And I was glad.

Years later, for Father’s Day, my youngest daughter had me listen to a rap song by Sean Daley (Slug of Atmosphere) about his dad: “Yesterday.”

“Yesterday, was that you

Looked just like you

Strange things my imagination might do

Take a breath reflect on what we’ve been through

Or am I just going crazy cause I miss you?”

Dad’s presence now permeated my life. And through my grief, once God cracked open the vault, I learned how to reinterpret my life story. Through the loss of my dad, I found my Father. And through becoming the father of my children, I found my dad.

I miss Dad more than ever now that I know the truth about him a bit better.

“You got your love of rivers from your dad,” my mom told me by way of apology the year before she died. Forty-nine years after his death, I’ve learned something else. Jesus most often heals by telling us the truth, even when it is a hard truth. Even when it hurts.CCI13062014

Categories: authenticity, belonging, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, grief, Living Spiritually | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Twist on Tolkien: All Who Are Lost Wander

Sassy

Sassy’s World PC Eugene C Scott

Of all the dogs I’ve owned, I loved the one I lost most. She was a black and white Springer Spaniel we named Sasson, Hebrew for joy. I know, I know. We were young and so spiritual and didn’t have kids yet.

We bought her in our first year of marriage. Dee Dee chose her, dark puppy eyes saying, “Pick me, pick me.”

We called her Sassy. And she was. She was arrow quick, sweet, and easy. I’d return home from my construction job and she’d run around my legs and shake with excitement. She learned to sit, heal, come, stay, and all manner of dog tricks so quickly she convinced me I was a dog whisperer.

We took her everywhere. She loved to ride on the wheel well of my white Toyota pickup, catching the wind.

In the summer of 1980, we took her backpacking in the Holy Cross Wilderness. While I reeled in brookies, she stood on the rock next to me trembiling to see what was on the end of the line. She slept in our tent with us.

At the end of the weekend, as we drove down the long dirt road out of the mountains, she perched on her wheel well. Dee Dee and I planned our next trip and were captivated by a world exploding with wildflowers. We stopped for gas in Eagle. That’s when I noticed Sassy was gone. Instantly I knew what had happened. She had fallen out on the twisty, bumpy dirt road. We raced back and searched the entire route. Desperate, we stopped cars and asked if they had seen a black and white Springer.

“Yes,” one driver said. “Right back up there.”

Our hearts soared. We drove along praying, slowly searching the road and the woods. Another car approached and I got out to stop it and ask. They ignored me and drove by. We drove up and down the road growing more frantic and despondent each moment.

Finally, we returned home, silent, guilty. We burst into tears entering our tiny living room with her dog toys scattered about. We placed ads in the Eagle County papers. We waited. We hoped the people in the car that didn’t stop had her. But we never saw Sassy again. Even thirty-seven years later, I miss her and feel guilty for letting her ride the wheel well, for not watching, for losing her.

DogHeaven

Fb.com/ilovemydogfans

This memory came back sharp because of the Facebook meme: “Heaven is a place where all the dogs you’ve ever loved run to greet you.” That thought gave me hope. Heaven will be a place to be reunited. And with more than lost dogs. My mom. My brother.

But it also gave me pause. If I were lost, who would search for me?

I picture myself standing along that dirt road, watching the truck tires throwing dust. I raise my hand but the truck heedlessly turns the corner. I shiver with shock and thrust my hands in my pockets. Soon the dusk rises cold and dim from around my feet. A fading sliver of light clings to the tips of the dark pines. I glance up and down the empty road. I wait. They’ll come back. The silence and aloneness beat together as an ache in my heart. I’m lost.

Life is often like that. More metaphorically than literally, we’re lost.

And we always believe we’ll find ourselves just over the next rise, or in the next relationship, or job, self-help book, or birthday. I turned thirty, forty, and fifty thinking with each birthday: surely now I’ll know who I am and what I’m about. Finally, I’ve arrived!

Arrived where? Now in my sixth decade, I’ve learned that without a fixed point, a north star, there is no finding yourself. In “Meditations in Wall Street,” Henry S. Haskins wrote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

As inspiring as this oft-misattributed quote may be, God did not design us with an infallible inner compass. It’s as if our inner-Siri tells us to turn north on Main Street, but we don’t know north from a hole in the ground. Even if we deny it, all internal drives find themselves following external maps. Too many of these lead nowhere, at least nowhere good. This is why each new generation sets out to find itself and comes up empty. Self is not something we find, but rather something created and pointed out by God.

John Newton had it right in “Amazing Grace.” “I once was lost, but now am found.” The passive voice in those lyrics speaks volumes. Newton’s internal sense of lostness left him searching until it was confirmed and answered by God. God is the ultimate North.

Thus the Bible describes humans as lost. And worse lost sheep. Jesus especially uses this metaphor. He is the shepherd searching for the one lost sheep. If I were lost, who would search for me? For you?

Though God was not careening down a mountain road and carelessly tossed us out. Rather we jumped. Still, Jesus walks that dusty, lonely dirt road calling our names. Jesus placed a lost and found ad in our newspaper. He weeps for our loss. He has marked your soul with his breath and that lonely heartache you and I feel is for him. He is home. He is North. He is found.

If heaven is the place to be reunited with loved ones, maybe even dogs, then earth is the place Jesus traveled to reunite us with heaven.

Road

Wanderlost PC Eugene C Scott

Tolkien may be right that “Not all those who wander are lost.” But it is just as true that all who are lost wander. And wonder. Where the hell am I? Who am I? Why am I here?

The answer is not within, except when from inside we cry out.

“My God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Jesus felt that lostness.

And God the Father answered. “I Am!” I am with you. Even in death on the cross, even in suffering, even in daily life and periodic drudgery. I am with you. Reach out your hand and take Mine.

Categories: adventure, belonging, Bible, Christianity, creation, Eugene C. Scott, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Hitler, Mother Teresa, and Me

Lake Atitlán

The Stepping-Off Place by Brendan Scott

I have this recurring day dream where I’ve died and gone to heaven. 

I’m standing in line, in the clouds, though the footing is firm enough. My hands are sweaty. My heart is playing the kettle drum. I see the gates gleaming.* A line of people stretches out behind me horizon-like into eternity. Just ahead of me stands Adolph Hitler and just behind slumps Jeffery Dahmer.

Not good company, but maybe good placement, I think. I’m a saint compared to these guys.

Just then I hear my name.

“Eugene, Eugene C. Scott.” The angel sings my name like notes off a blues guitar and waves me forward, smiling.

“Here! Here I am!” I shout, flapping my arms, ducking out of line, and running through the gate, leaving Adolph and Jeffery behind.

Then the day dream reverses and darkens.

I’m on the same cloud, in line, heart stuttering, sweat dripping. This time I’m in line between Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. Good company, but bad placement, I think. No saint compared to these two.

I square my shoulders and stand straighter like my mom used to tell me to. But it does no good. I know I’ll never measure up.

I hear a sound like nails on a chalkboard. “Eugene, Eugene C. Scott?” The angel is pointing like the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.” Away from the streets of gold, I slink.

The dream comes one final time.

The gates rise in the distance. People are scattered about. There are blue patches in the clouds and through them, I see home, my last home. Not wanting to fall through, I move away and bump into someone.

“Sorry,” I mutter. He grabs me. I look. It’s a dark skinned man with a beard.

“Jesus,” I say (not like the cuss word, though, like the name). “You’re not British.”

His face crinkles into a smile.

“What are you doing out here?” I ask, peering at the gates.

Just then the blues guitar plays my name: “Eugene, Eugene C. Scott!”

Jesus pulls me under his arm.

“He’s with me!” he shouts and walks me through the gates.

 

*I realize heaven may or may not be in the clouds and that the streets of gold and gates of pearl are probably metaphors to help us see that what is valued here is building material there. But bear with me.

Categories: Art, belonging, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, grace, Jesus, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Poet and the Painter on Boundaries

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places,” declares David in Psalm 16. That line boundaries in pleasant places is an odd one, especially read in a time when boundaries are readily broken and often despised. What on earth can David mean?

Yes, when babies are new, they love to be swaddled, bound up in a blanket. Babies need to be held tight and secure. They demand boundaries and find them quite pleasant.

But David was not a baby. As we grow, we unwrap ourselves, thrust for personal space. We demand freedom. Our boundaries fade or even cease to exist. It’s as if the swaddling gave us permission to push. Every frontier must fall. We need to breathe free air.

Strayy Night (12 of 10)Starry nights symbolize freedom, that boundlessness we yearn after. Yet, I find starry skies as frightening as they are inspiring. The night sky is an open gate that if God and gravity were to let go, I would be flung out into dark nothingness. When staring into the beautiful, boundless stars, wonder rises in me and becomes entangled with a shivering insecurity. The sky above me is a hole, vast and unfathomable. Under those flickering stars, it is all too easy to imagine floating alone for eternity.

What am I compared to the stars? Who am I measured against their beauty?

In Psalm 8 David wrote: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”

Starry-Night

Starry Night Vincent van Gogh

Is this the vision that propelled Vincent van Gogh to paint his masterwork Starry Night while restrained in an Asylum at Saint-Remy? His brilliant mind grasped two truths and translated their conflicting magnificence onto his canvas. For van Gogh, there seems to be no starry night without solid ground. Firm mountains frame the spinning wonder of unknowable stars. Is it that truth as well as his fabulous brush strokes that draw us to this painting?

Did van Gogh capture an internal landscape as well as an external one?

This is a paradox. Was he showing us that while we push against our boundaries and rebel against any constriction, we also revel in boundedness? At night, with the endless sky yawning above, we yearn for David’s boundaries in pleasant places, the swaddling of God’s love and care. Stars are frighteningly beautiful because from solid ground they call us to recognize something or someone hidden in that speckled dome. Like the swooping question mark in the sky of van Gogh’s Starry Night, the stars call us to question our self-sufficiency our trajectory. In our saner moments stars let us see God has indeed drawn the boundaries in pleasant places.

Strayy Night (9 of 10)

Pleasant Boundaries PC Eugene Scott

P.S. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, those in the U.S. anyway. Obviously, I am thankful you took your time to read this. Do you have a time when the sky–or nature–spoke to you the way it seemed to with David and van Gogh? Tell us about it.

Categories: Art, belonging, creation, Eugene C. Scott, mystery, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

I’m Free: Reminiscing on Veteran’s Day

1972 Bruce and Eugene Flower Children

1972 Bruce and Eugene Flower Children

In 1975, I was stationed on the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk. My friend “Toast” was a short-timer and couldn’t wait to be discharged and get back to Wisconsin. Toast played the guitar (sort of) and dreamed of buying an electric guitar, a pig-nose amp, and playing “I’m Free” by The Who as he marched down the gangplank on the day of his discharge. All of us sailors thought it was a fantastic idea.

Yesterday I heard a radio station play “I’m Free” as a tribute to Veterans. I’ve heard the song before and remembered Toast. But yesterday it caught me off guard. Back in ’75 we thought of the song and Toast’s crazy dream in terms of our personal freedom, freedom from the man, the Navy. The military and service people were hated after Viet Nam. Heck, we didn’t even appreciate ourselves. Few of us thought of freedom as something we provided for our friends, family, and country through our service. But we did. Thanks, fellow Vets. I appreciate you and freedom better now.

June 1974 Boot Camp

June 1974 Boot Camp

Editors note: I posted this on my Facebook page and received such a strong response I thought I might share it with you all as well.

Categories: authenticity, belonging, friends, Veteran | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Epic Wedding or Thirty-five Years of Better and Worse

Wedding on Vail Mountain

Wedding on Vail Mountain

Being a pastor who has officiated over 400 weddings, I know weddings have grown into epic events, sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars. Remember “Franc” in Father of the Bride? A caricature for sure, but I’ve met her (the wedding coordinator) and that wedding was cheap compared to a couple I’ve been ignored during.

In these epic weddings, “the day of” is sometimes fretted over more than a thousand days of marriage. I feel a sermon coming so . . . let’s move on.

This was not so for Dee Dee and me. Our wedding day was—um—shall I say—far from epic. Unless a comedy of errors counts as epic. And unless epic can be had for around five hundred bucks. And unless epic can be defined by—well—see for yourself:

Dee Dee Dressed to Kill

Dee Dee Dressed to Kill

  • Our pre-marital counselor told me I was too immature and he was going to recommend the pastor not marry us. I almost punched him but that would prove his point.
  • Maybe this is why the pastor wandered in late and forgot the words to The Lord’s Prayer.
  • It snowed the night before. We were having an outdoor reception.
  • I looked like a Bee Gee wanna be in my tux (see the pic).
  • Our “photographer” was a “family friend.”
  • Dee Dee’s mom’s oven broke while preparing the food for the reception.
  • People showed up at Dee Dee’s mom and dad’s house before we were done taking pictures and began drinking punch concentrate. And there was no food.
  • Eugene Dressed to Stay Alive

    Eugene Dressed to Stay Alive

    According to a family tradition I knew nothing about, my Croatian uncle kidnapped Dee Dee to raise money for our honeymoon. Uncle Pete kept Dee Dee until many people left the reception and she missed most of it. And he only raised $50.

  • During the time Dee Dee was gone, my groomsmen decided to console me by giving me “the good punch” and I lost track of time, so to speak.
  • I’ve not seen those groomsmen since my wedding day.
  • Almost everyone was gone when we finally cut the cake.
  • We missed all the food Dee Dee and her sister and mother  prepared and arrived at our honeymoon hotel starving. Room service was closed and so we had our first meal as a married couple at Denny’s (Dee Dee’s favorite restaurant, not) surrounded by drunks.
  • My only vehicle was a vintage (read rusty, dog-tracking, oil-sucking, smoke-belching) ’64 GMC pick-up.
  • I had to borrow my father-in-law’s Pontiac for the get away car. Our friends used shaving cream to decorate the car and it ate the paint off, leaving “just married” etched on the hood.

    The Ride

    The Ride

But none of the above is Dee Dee’s fault. She tried to avoid the whole thing. She rejected my proposals twice before finally seeing the light.

Still it’s been one of our favorite stories. And as imperfect as our wedding day was, our marriage has been—not perfect, but an adventure neither one of us would have missed for the world. Never-the-less we decided it was about time to hold a do-over. Last June we renewed our marriage vows 35 years after our epic wedding experience.

Renewing Our Vows Kathleen Peachey Photography

Renewing Our Vows Kathleen Peachey Photography

We asked friends and family who have walked with us through our 35 year adventure to celebrate with us. It was epic. And beautiful. And without nearly as many faux pas.

As a matter of fact, it taught me what marriage is really about. As Dee Dee repeated her vows, the gravity of her words and the God-given depth of her love bore into my heart. I realized she has embodied those words. For better or worse.

You see, she has not only put up with me dreaming and moving and running and stumbling and messing up, she has loved me.

It’s ironic how you don’t see how true some things are until you see them in the light of time. I was too young—and immature—to know the meaning of our vows back then.

35 Years of Growing Together Kathleen Peachey Photography

35 Years of Growing Together
Kathleen Peachey Photography

But this last summer I learned that God’s love can always make our worse better, our poorer richer, and our less than epic wedding into a marriage adventure of a life-time.

P.S. This post came out of reflections on the word “love” in our daily photo-a-day Lent project @the_neighborhood_church #lentgallery on Instagram. Check it out at and join us.

Categories: belonging, Christianity, Community, dreams, Eugene C. Scott, God, Marriage | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Putting a Face on God: The Most Important Face You’ll Ever See

In the Academy Award nominated movie “Nebraska” Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) is losing what little of himself is left via dementia, or via a life and a brain damaged by alcoholism. He receives a clearing house letter that convinces him he has won one million dollars. All he has to do, he believes, is get from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska to collect his prize. The trouble is he can barely walk much less drive. That and he hasn’t really won anything.

Bruce Dern as Woody Grant

Bruce Dern as Woody Grant

His youngest son, David (Will Forte), however, agrees to take him to Lincoln, if only to shut the old man up, prove to him he is not a millionaire, and—maybe—spend a little time with his mentally disappearing father.

Along the way they stop in Hawthorne, South Dakota where Woody was born and grew up. Also, along the way David learns more about who his dad really is, both a miserable failure and a man with a gigantic heart.

In one scene Woody staggers out of a bar with David following. Woody just told his long-lost friends he is going to be a millionaire.

“Did you see their faces? Did you see their faces?” Woody asks amazed.

Suddenly the almost gone Woody is alive. It’s as if Woody remained a good-for nothing-drunk until the proud looks on the faces of his friends lifted him out his wasted life and proved, finally, that Woody Grant is somebody.

We’ve all had Woody’s experience of being affirmed or destroyed by the looks on the faces of those around us. If looks could kill, as a preacher, I would have died several painful deaths. Once, while preaching, I had an 103 degree temperature and kept saying the same non-sensical thing over and over again. It’s a good thing I was too bleary-eyed to see the looks on the faces of the congregation.

Link Enjoying Summer

Link Enjoying Summer

God seems to have given us an eye, literally, that seeks approval or disapproval in the faces of others. Scientists call this facial processing. New

Addi's Fun Face

Addi’s Fun Face

born infants’ eyes track their parents’ faces in a pattern that seems to give them clues about the world they were just launched into. And within days newborns begin to mimic their parents’ expressions. Parents learn just as quickly to mask any facial response to their child’s many near death encounters, else the child actually die of hyperventilating while crying.

But do these faces we put so much stock in reflect reality?

Sometimes.

But often not. For example, single guys are perpetually and particularly bad at female facial processing. This may be why they remain single.

But we can all remember times when we misread facial clues. Sometimes these misreadings have lifelong ramifications. I remember my dad’s face being blank in response to me. And I interpreted that as lack of interest and worse lack of love. Because he died when I was eleven, it has been hard to go back and correct that misperception. So, I’ve looked for love elsewhere. Thank God, I found it.

Giving God a face maybe one of the best of the many reasons God became flesh in Jesus.

The Woman Caught in Adultery by David Hayward

The Woman Caught in Adultery by David Hayward

Remember that sad story in the Gospel of John about a woman who has been caught in the act of having sex with a man she is not married to and is dragged in front of Jesus (that kind of sex was a big deal back then and would have called for not only seriously ugly facial processing but stoning)?

Jesus nonchalantly kneels down and draws in the dirt.

“Go ahead and kill her,” he says. “If you too are without sin.”

Slowly her ugly faced accusers sneak away.

“Where are those who condemn you?” The woman doesn’t know.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Here’s the beautiful thing I’ve seen in this story recently. The passage doesn’t say Jesus looked her in the face or that he had a kind look on his face. But I can’t imagine it any other way.

John 8

John 8

Such kind, firm, life-giving words cannot come from a mouth formed in a scowl. Nor scorching eyes or knit brow. We can all accurately imagine what her accusers’ faces looked like and how Jesus’ face contrasted their withering hate and disapproval.

She could well have said, “Did you see the look on his face?”

And maybe that, along with Jesus’ words, and, of course, his death and resurrection, are what transformed her and allowed her to become who she really was: go and get false love from sex and men’s faces no more.

Diogo Morgado as Jesus in the new “Son of God.”

Diogo Morgado as Jesus in the new “Son of God.”

The question for us is the same as the one Jesus asked this long ago prostitute. “Where are the faces of those who condemn you?” Like the woman, when we focus on his face instead of the myriad of our accusers, we see love and forgiveness, not condemnation. We see his honest omniscient, open face and hear him say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. Look no more at faces beside mine”

Categories: Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Jesus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fathers’ Day Facebook Hangover: The Real State of Fatherhood

Yesterday Facebook was filled with Fathers’ Day wishes and sentiments. I was glad for them and even joined the fray. But judging by the posts you would think fatherhood is a universally admired occupation and is being taken off the greasy shelf in the garage where it was placed to wither in the 1960s.

But as the video above and the one below show, to believe such is a mistake. With all due respect to the feel good holiday that comes every June, fatherhood remains in trouble and it’s loss is one of the main ills in our world today.

Below is a blog I wrote in 2011 about how my fatherlessness is a personal mirror to the statistics of how damaging the current view of fatherhood is.

In 2010 Jennifer Aniston became the spokeswoman for fatherlessness. In her movie, “The Switch,” Aniston plays Kassie, a self-assured single woman, who Aniston describes as “ready to have a child and she’s not in a place where she feels she needs a man to do it.”

Ms Aniston, I don’t believe, was intentionally promoting fatherlessness. She was simply promoting her movie. I don’t think she gave a second thought to the plight of the 24 million children growing up in homes without fathers in America today, at least until trouble-maker Bill O’Reilly brought it up.

I think about it though–maybe too much. I can’t really help it. Like the kid in “The Switch,” and every other fatherless child, I had no choice in growing up without a dad. My father died of a heart attack when I was 11. I often wonder what life would have been like, both good and bad, if dad had come home that night after welding bumpers in his best friend’s garage. I only know after that summer night in 1968, life got down-right hard. So much so if I had my way, no kid would ever have to grow up without a dad–or with a bad one.

So, Aniston really struck a nerve. “[Kassie] wants a child more than she needs a man,” said Aniston. Want and need are key words here. Kassie may not need a man to become a mother–maybe all she needs is a sperm-donor. But the kid needs a dad. And believe me, no kids wants to grow up playing baseball or dolls with just a sperm-donor.

But my argument against raising kids without good dads is not sentimental and anecdotal. My case is both statistical and personal.

  • Kids in fatherless homes are twice as likely to do time in jail. All of my siblings, including me, found ourselves in jail.
  • 63% of youth suicides happen in fatherless homes. I am alive only because my mom–and God–intervened.
  • 71% of high school dropouts live in fatherless homes. I dropped out and three of four Scott kids failed to earn a diploma.
  • Fatherless children are at greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse and mental disorders. Okay, so this is getting too personal.
  • Single parent families are more likely to live below the poverty line. I had to start working at age 13 and at 16 dropped out of high school in order to work full-time.
  • Children without fathers are more likely to beget kids to fatherless homes. This may be the most painful personal statistic. My sisters’ children grew up without their fathers and now several of their children (a third generation) have kids who don’t know their dads, though one family is motherless (equally painful). And the cycle seems unlikely to stop. How I weep for them.

Unfortunately these are just a few of the obstacles us kids without fathers have to contend with. There are myriad more.

Losing my father left a huge hole in my life. Fatherlessness is leaving a vast canyon in our culture. We gape at the hole and then try to fill it up or deny it’s there.

For many years I blamed my dad for his death, just as if he had flipped me off and walked out the door. After all, he smoked and ate fatty foods. There is always blame enough to go around. But that was simply a way for me to try to deal with the loss. Blaming my dad did zero to alleviate the pain and problem. Sure Hollywood, et. al. have exacerbated or glorified the problem by promoting what they think are funny or unusual stories for the sake of the box office. Or worse they have promoted an ideology that sounds progressive and wise, but is not. As a man, I get the feeling some think life would be better without men, much less fathers. (Responsibility is another issue and I believe men, no matter the contributing cultural factors, need to own their role in this epidemic. More on this next week). But blame. What a waste of time.

Denial is another way we try to fill the gap absent fathers leave in our lives and world.

My family often said we were better off without him. He was strict. Dad would have never let me grow my hair out like I had. Real men didn’t wear long sissy, hippy hair. Sometimes dad got really angry, especially with my oldest sister. Today he may have bordered on what we call abusive. And he made me mow the lawn and sweep out the garage and clean greasy car parts.

But even as we sat around the basement living in denial, my heart ached for my dad to yell down the stairs: “I told you kids to get to bed. Don’t make me come down there.”

If you tell yourself something untrue long enough, maybe that’ll make it so. It didn’t. Listen to pop culture on fatherhood and you will come to believe it is, at best, archaic, and at worst abusive. It’s not.

In his book “To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing up Without a Father,” Donald Miller relates how hard he tried to fill his father gap. To no avail. Not even God, the Father of all will fill it. When something crucial to our lives goes missing, God is not capricious enough to replace it with a stand-in, or even stand in the hole Himself. As it should, this is why grief lingers. Forty years after my father’s unexpected death, I look back at all the silly, hurtful, even beautiful things I tried to replace him with. I’m glad I failed. Now–mostly–I live with this hole in my soul willingly. I know now to fill it is to not acknowledge it.

Perhaps that is what we, as a culture,  do too. Like bewildered people watching a fault line grow in the street before us, we deny, blame, anything but say, “Look, a terrifying hole. What are we going to do about that?”

Jennifer, Kassie may not need a man, but we all need a father. And it’s okay.

P.S. See fatherhood.about.com/od/…/a/fatherless_children.htm for more stats and http://www.co.jefferson.co.us/cse/cse_T86_R33.htm for more local Colorado stats.

Categories: belonging, Christianity, Eugene C. Scott, Living Spiritually, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fathers’ Day Remembered and Redeemed.

Memorial Day 2013On June 17, 1968, we buried my father in Fort Logan National Cemetery. Fathers’ Day after that became only a painful reminder of loss and fatherlessness. But God, the Father, is a Redeemer even of loss so deep.Harold C Scott

In June of 1972 God invited me into his family by offering to be my Father who would not leave or forsake me. Then on March 1, 1982 God made me a father with the birth of Katie. Next came Brendan in February of 1984 and then Emmy in March of 1993. Each of them have shown me who God is as a Father by loving me as their father.

But God was not finished. He brought Addi and Linc along and I became a grandfather. Redemption indeed.

I still miss my dad today, forty-five years after his death. But because God can turn even ashes to beauty, Fathers’ Day is no longer a painful reminder of loss and fatherlessness but a day filled with meaning and love and hope.Redemption

Categories: Art, belonging, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Good News of Les Mis

The Grace Board

The Grace Board by Eugene and Dee Dee Scott. Photo by Eugene C Scott

A few months ago I saw a thought-provoking work of art called “Before I die I want to.”  It’s an artistic bucket-list.  As it was designed to, it made me rethink what is important to me.  I wound up thinking about who I want to spend time with–not what I want to do–before I die.  I wrote a blog about it you can read by clicking here.  As art and an image conveying an idea, it stuck in my head and heart like a splinter.  I’m glad for that.

But it also made me realize very little of what we accomplish in life provides a real, lasting feeling or knowledge of worth that so many of us long for.  To paraphrase that old folk tune “My Bucket List’s Got a Hole in It.”  We check off item after item after item after item endlessly adding new items hoping that the next one will fulfill.  But still we just don’t feel right or good or worthy.  Like puppets, we live with strings attached, pulling or being pulled by our desire to be loved unconditionally.

“I love you,” we say, hoping for a like response.

“I’ll help,” we offer, dying for someone to recognize how important we are.

“Look at what I did,” we shout like a child on a swing for the first time.

How different could our bucket-lists be if we knew we were loved, important, watched over by a God who does love us unconditionally, who loves us whether we deserve it, earn it, want it, or even love back?

In Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Misérables” Jean Valjean receives this kind of gift, a gift of grace.  Caught stealing the Bishop’s silver and facing, once again, life in a tortuous prison, Jean Valjean is “dejected” and “overwhelmed.”

Then the Bishop gives him a second chance.  “Well, but how is this? I gave you the candlesticks too, which are of silver like the rest, and for which you can certainly get two hundred francs.”

Thus freed Jean Valjean cannot believe, because he has done nothing to deserve this.  Then the Bishop says, “Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”

Jean Valjean had made no such promise.  But the truth that Hugo proclaims here is that when we receive unconditional love and grace it changes us.  It frees us.  Cuts the strings.  And we must be different.  We can be different!

Because of the Bishop’s grace, Jean Valjean is able to become a new person, start a new life, live under difficult circumstance, run a factory, adopt an orphan, and inspire heroism.  That’s quite a bucket-list.  What are you able to do because of God’s grace?

Imagine then, who each of us could be and what we each of us could do if we received and believed in God’s grace the way Jean Valjean receives and believes in the Bishop’s.  It would matter not that the bucket’s got a hole because God has an endless supply.  And maybe the hole is part of the point.  We let God’s grace and love and forgiveness and eternity out our holes and into the lives of others while God fills us back up.

Oh, that is how I want to live.

So, inspired by “Before I die,” “Les Misérables,” and mostly by the grace of God I have received, I made “The Grace Board.” We set it up in church and wrote what all of us are now able to do because of the grace of God.

The Grace Board

The Grace Board by Eugene and Dee Dee Scott. Photo by Eugene C Scott

Now it’s your turn.  In the comment section finish the sentence “Because of the grace of God, I am able to . . .”

Categories: Art, authenticity, belonging, Bible, Eugene C. Scott, God Sightings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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