Leading When No One is Looking – Lessons from my Dad

Some of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is from watching my father when he didn’t know I was looking. I watched moments when my dad would stop to listen to someone who needed help. I’ve had to wait for my parents after church because they were talking to a new family who was down and out. They both severed others with a real genuine love. There were times when they would open up our home and let families live with us, just so the family wouldn’t be out on the streets.  I remember overhearing my parents read the newspaper about a friend they tried so hard to help who was homeless, he was killed across the street at the bus stop. The news broke my parent’s heart.

I often tell myself, “It’s none of my business,” when I see a person in need, but to my parents, they make other’s problems, their business.  They lead in the background. They help those who need someone to talk to, pray with, council, or mentor. I’ve watched my parents wake up early, read books, read their bible, I see how there first reaction to life’s difficult issues is to bring it to God.

Today, I am still challenged to serve others because of both my parent’s example. I was born into a family that gives of their ‘off the clock’ time, I was given a father who stops to listen to the panhandler’s story. My mom tells me tales about when they were first together before my dad met Christ. Stories about her willingness to not give up on him – to pray for him and to love him when he was failing as a husband and father. It makes me wonder what life would have looked like if she gave up or if he gave up on himself.

The man in her stories is but a distant person who no longer exists. It’s hard to honor my dad, without honoring my mom. Both a team – together making life an adventure.

I am challenged everyday by both my parents to help the hurting, they know first hand, the power of a transformed life by living a life after God.

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Book: Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

When I was in Vancouver my friend and I were seeing a movie a day. Not on purpose just because her and I really like films. We came across this small theater in the middle of the city. There weren’t any big movie names playing just abstract posters with strange titles. We looked at them and picked one called, “Finding Flynn.”

Watching the movie surprised me that I had never heard of this film or the book it was based on. The story was compelling and truthful. The first few minutes of the movie I wasn’t sure where it was taking us but by the end of it, the characters became real people to me. It was the movie that answered questions I always wondered about, “What was it like to be homeless? how did they get there? where was their family?”

The movie was beautiful. At the end of it my friend and I sat there thinking about the characters we just encountered.  My friend Ada said she saw his book in her bookstore, she noticed it because of its odd title, “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.”
On our way home we stop by her store and I bought the book. They transformed the book perfectly to the screen but I wanted to hear more about the story.

It has been since high school since I read a book like this. In fact I wish high schools would add this to the list of books to read, next to The Catcher in the Rye.

There is so much to say, where to start. I wish we were all in a cafe talking about it. There are so remember able passages in this book. It wasn’t until mid way did I think to mark them so I can share them with you here.

The book itself is a memoir, written by Nick Flynn. His father Jonathan Flynn is a hard headed man who says he is the next American great writer, through out his whole life he claims he is writing a book but instead lives a selfish life, and ends up homeless. His son encounters his father randomly, mostly though letters his dad sends him but one day Jonathan Flynn ends up at the homeless shelter that Nick Flynn is working at in Boston.

“Men come through the door with lips and canes, with walkers, crutches, in wheelchairs, and crawling. Some are carried in, draped between two friends, feet dragging behind One has a glass tee he keeps losing. One has F you tattooed on the inside of his lower lips. A few have tears tattooed on their checks, which means they’ve killed someone. Some have scars from the corners of their mouths to their ears which means they squealed. Many fingers are gone, or half gone, to heavy machinery or knife fights….”
Nick Flynn would sum deep thoughts beautifully.

“… I see no end to being lost. You can spend your entire life simply falling in that direction. It isn’t a station you reach but just the general state of going down. Once you make it back, if you make it back, you will stand before your long-lost friends in some essential way they will no longer know you.”
“The shelter was meant to be a waystation, a halfway house, but halfway to where wasn’t specified. The cot and the roof and the plate of food were only meant to tide one over. It was never meant to be a life raft. Even a life raft is only supposed to get you from the sinking ship back to land, you were never intended to live in the life raft, to drift years on end, in sight of land but never close enough.”

“We all need to create the story that will make sense of our lives, to make sense of the daily tasks. Yet each nigh the doubts returned, howling through him. Without doubt there can be no faith.”

“I now find myself writing a book about an absent father who writes letters to a son about the novel he is writing. A novel the son doesn’t believe exists. The Great Unseen American Novel.”

“For the only book written about my father (the greatest writer America has yet produced), the only book ever written about or by him, as far as I can tell, is this book in your hands. The book somehow fell to me, the son, to write. My father’s uncredited, non compliant ghostwriter. Not enough to be stuck with his body, to be stuck with his name, but to become his secretary, his handmaid, caught up in a folly, a doomed project, to write about a book that doesn’t, that didn’t ever, that may not even, exist.”

You may wonder about the book cover or about the title, but the neat thing is by the end of the book you’ll get it. And you wont forget it.

This book has left a print on me.

Nick Flynn.org

Short Film: The Prodigal Father

Reality is, the past few generations have grown up with out a father. My mother’s father was a drunk and his father disowned him. My dad on the other hand, has been there from the moment I came into earth.  Most of my childhood photos he is holding me in this arms. My dad has been there for me through every season of my life. His wisdom has put me on the path I am on today. He leads me. Yes, I am talking about my earthy father.

This is how I can comprehend God’s love for me. I know the Father’s love because my earthy father loves me. I know my value cause my dad values me greatly. My dad would die for me, and that is how I know my Heavenly Father did. Having a dad love and honor God, is the reason I have lived doing the same. My dad forever changed generations by dedicating his life to God back in 1982.

Even though most people don’t have their dad around, they can still learn the characteristic of what a father should be by embracing the one and only Abba Father. All of this to bring me to the short film I created for Father’s Day.

I was inspired by my cousins father who was in prison most of their life. When their dad finally got out, he gave his life to God and began to spend time with his now adult children. Since then they’ve grown this beautiful bond with each other.  I’ve witnessed how God has restored their relationship. We can forgive the unthinkable cause He has forgiven us.

“Happy Father’s Day”, rather you have an earthly father or not.

One thing I did realize when creating this, I want to make films that bring healing and hope to people. I know, I’m crazy. 🙂