Back in the 1950’s, there was a popular television show, Father Knows Best. I don’t remember much about the show other than the opening theme song and the credits. But the title reflected a belief that I held, then rejected, and finally came to realize again that my Dad, Harry Monroe McDougald, most of time, did Know Best. Now, as a father and grandfather myself, more than 60 years later, I have come to see that being a father is much more difficult than my dad, Robert Young, Andy Taylor, or Ward Cleaver made it seem. And you know guys sometimes we are right; just sometimes. I often wished that God had given us a list of specific spiritual rules for being fathers—something like a set of ten commandments for dads—so we could just tick them off one at a time. Instead, Jesus talked a lot about his Father, his Father’s “kingdom” or “house”, if you will. His usual way was not direct, but in what must have seemed at times like a code, for he was constantly having to explain and re-explain these parables of the Kingdom.
I did learn a couple of things. First, I experienced from my Dad, grandfathers, and other men who served as father figures in my life—some who are still active—that we may never recognize how important TIME spent with sons and daughters may be. Charles Adams, the 19th century political figure and diplomat, kept a diary. One day he entered: "Went fishing with my son today--a day wasted." His son, Brook Adams, also kept a diary, which is still in existence. On that same day, Brook Adams made this entry: "Went fishing with my father--the most wonderful day of my life!"
Second, what we are looking for is not so much a father who ‘knows best’, but a Father who ‘forgives best’. My Dad was not perfect. I wonder a bit when I see someone post on social media that their dad was “the perfect dad”. But some of my most vivid memories of my own father are framed by circumstances of forgiveness and acceptance, usually fairly quickly after I had messed up. I’ve shared this story before about the father in Spain who had become estranged from his son. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Javier, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” On Saturday 800 Javiers showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.
I hope you know that the Eternal Father has the same message for you.
P.S. By the way, THANK YOU, Harry Monroe McDougald, for all the time and acceptance you showed this son of yours!
It was almost 57 years ago, June 9, 1963, that I witnessed up close and personal what frustration turned to anger, of what racial inequality looked like. I was with my father, who managed the Howard Johnson’s in Lexington, North Carolina. Lexington was a textile and furniture manufacturing town not too far from Greensboro, where a couple of years earlier a lunch counter sit in happened and captured the attention of the world.
I was 10. I lived in a mostly white world. The only African-Americans I knew were the cooks, dishwashers and clean-up crew at the restaurant. They were friendly enough. My father was driving one of them home that evening, because he was afraid to walk, or catch a bus, because there had been trouble that day on Main Street. Some African-American teens, frustrated with the slow progress of integration in public facilities had gone “across the yellow” line. I don’t remember the name of the street, but in ran a block or so off Main Street. Main was where most of the shops, the movie theatre, and a couple of the best places to eat were located. The “yellow line” was painted on the South side of this particular street. Blacks were not supposed to cross the line, unless they were going to work uptown. These teens crossed that line, not to work, but to visit the Red Pig, the matinee at the movie theatre, and a few other stores.
By that evening a group of concerned citizens had taken action. With clubs, baseball bats, and perhaps guns, they had gone to the south side of the street to send a message to these teens, and anyone else on that side of town who might think about “crossing the yellow line”. We got to this street, where the cook said, “No need to go any farther, Mr. Mac, you get back home”. My dad got out to witness a crowd of African-Americans, all angry, some crying, many shouting. To my 10-year old mind it seemed to me that all they really wanted to do was to feel safe. Shots rang out. Twenty feet away a falling man groans, then another man with a camera and note pad hits the pavement. The man with the camera was wounded. The other man was still, dead.
I share this story not because it changed me in that moment into a person without bias, or racism. I am a white, son of the South, after all. I was reminded of it this week in a conversation with a church member about the frustration that still exists, the anger and fear that must flow out of hearts that almost always just want to feel safe. I share this to remind myself how little things have changed. What can I do, to help, now? What might we do together, as a congregation do to help, now? Pray about this. Let me know where those prayers lead you; share those with each other. Reach across the “yellow line”, while it is not painted on any curb, it is still is there, in our community. Do this not as the so-called concerned citizens, but in love and the fellowship of the Spirit.
|FPC PC(USA) Starkville, MS||