Letters to My Son: Forests & Shoulders

Screen Shot 2018-05-03 at 11.24.38 AM
Dear Elliott,

You’re so tiny still.  You’ve been packing on the pounds in these first few weeks, but I can still pick you up and sway you around effortlessly.  Our afternoon dance parties have kind of become a thing.  I absolutely love it when I place you on my shoulder to burp you and your cheek touches my face.  I know mine must feel rough and whisker-y, but yours feels so soft and warm to my skin.  I’m pretty sure my brain instantly releases some sort of happy chemical each time this happens becasue your little head next to mine fills me with pure joy.

As I hold your miniature body up, I’m reminded that in so many ways we are all held up by others.  The family and home that you were born into has been cultivated by your mother and I and your mother and I are the products of those who did the same for us.  We all stand on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us.

In your family tree are many interesting stories and people.  The DNA that you carry in each atom of your being represents a limb that stems from a branch which comes from a limb, which connects to another branch, and still yet another.  Though the path of your newly sprouted life will certainly be its own unique extension of our tree, it will still always have come from ours.

This tree of life, within which you will always and forever have a home, is teaming with life and complexity.  And we’re a part of a forest that stretches as far as our eyes can behold.  If we were to read the tree-rings that tell the story of those who’s shoulders we stand on it would tell of people just like you, created in the image of Divine love.

You’ve got ancestors who fought in wars and others who nursed wounds and prescribed medicine.  There are arms dealers, bootleggers, ocean-crossers, head-hunters, para-troopers, car-sellers, church-starters, emergency room nurses, mothers, daughters, sisters, fathers, daughters, and sons.  You are them and they are you.   Wars, medicine, and everything in between.

Your mom and I hope you pick up the best of who we are.  Already, I think you’ve got some of your mothers looks, which is a good thing, trust me.

At some point you’ll start to see that though your parents love you unconditionally, they are not perfect.  Folks who study child development tell us this starts to happen at some point near you teenage years.  Whenever it happens for you, just know that it’s as normal as taxes and traffic.

You see my son, in this life are some of the most incredible people who bring the most incredible goodness to those around them- but there is no one perfect.  All of us, including you, will make mistakes and let others down.  This is humanity’s legacy.

Here is what I want to communicate to you about the shoulders we stand on and the forest that nourishes us:

As you look into the past and begin to understand where you come from, you’ll surely notice many imperfections and shortcomings.  There are the big things like environmental destruction and racial oppression, and there are also the more specific things like the particular flaws of your mother and I.  In the midst of that all, I hope you know that the beauty outshines the brokenness.

I hope that you can be the kind of person who does not get discouraged by all that’s wrong with the world and those who came before you, but that you will take the baton of history’s grand march and keep moving things forward in a way that brings an increasing amount of equity, goodness, justice, and love into the world.

Son, it won’t be long before it’s your shoulders that will carry the weight of others, and as your Father who loves you more than you’ll ever know, my ultimate hope is that you would come to know that underneath all that holds us up is a Love who cradles all of it- both our beauty and brokenness.

Anyways, those are some thoughts that I had as you rested on my shoulders the other day.

Love you buddy,




The Pitfall of Novelty and the Pursuit of The New

Screen Shot 2018-04-26 at 4.25.36 PM

Over the years I think we’ve all become a little numb to how dependent we are on new experiences, especially folks my age-ish and younger.

Think about it:
How long have you held your current job?
When was the last time you switched a connection to a community?
When was the last time you stuck with something longer than a few years?
How often do you try new things?
How frequently do you dream about changing things in your life?

Every year, month, and day there are new products for us to consume, new items to taste, and new places to travel.  We map out our calendar and fill it with new destinations and new experiences. When Alie and I want to go out for dinner we’re often drawn to something new and different.  When a new show that I follow gets released, I usually watch it within a few days.  While there is nothing wrong with new things and while I’ve got as much wanderlust as anyone, I think there is a danger when our constant attraction to novelty bleeds into the deeper parts of our being.

In my line of work I interact with people at various stages of life and it seems that this cultural force has affected most of us beyond products, podcasts, and places to eat- I think our magnetic movement towards novelty has changed how we do relationship with people.

The story plays out over and over.  We open a new door in our lives, excited about a new job, a new romantic interest, or a new community.   Then the high wears off and we become restless.  As the buzz of newness fades, other things begin to surface and we start to notice the effort required to remain consistent, the flaws of this new thing or place, and our own insecurities or struggles.

Instead of using this moment as a chance to learn, grow, and face these more challenging dimensions, we pull the shoot and peace out.  We bounce to the next new experience, selfie-worthy location, romantic interest, or church community and are pleasantly surprised by the chemical buzz of novelty that we find there again.  It fills the hole and covers up some of what’s underneath.

See, I’m beginning to think that while novelty has it’s place, our pursuit of its intoxicating force keeps us from what we are really longing for.  What is it that we’re longing for underneath it all?

At least in part: Intimacy, connection, and belonging.

That’s what my limited but fruitful years working with people on a “soul” level has pointed me to.  We’re all aching to know and to be known, to love and be loved, and to find home.  Marketers and software engineers are experts at hot-wiring this human longing and sucking us into an endless cycle of novelty.   They make the best, most polished, sexy menus but leave us never actually enjoying food that nourishes.  And as our tolerance increases, our pursuit is fueled by an abundance of opportunities to consume new things.  Meanwhile our hunger pangs simultaneously increase and are also buried further down in our being.

I’m convinced that we long for community and intimacy at the deepest levels, but we’re held captive by these cultural forces.   I can’t tell you how many folks have come to our church (after stints at other churches), super excited at first, but once the honey moon wears off, end up drifting to the next new thing and then repeat the cycle.  I’ve seen it over in over in the way people do friendships, careers, and romance.  To combat our addiction to novelty requires intentionality and effort. We’ve got to call it out and work towards change.

See, there is nothing efficient about intimacy.

In many ways it’s an antonym to the word novelty.

It happens after the honeymoon wears off and we let our guard down.  It happens when we stick with something long enough to let others see our flaws and as we begin to notice those of others.  It’s in those moments that we may want to run for the door, but if we catch this impulse, we should try our best to counter-culturally override it.  On the other side of the novelty buzz is a slow and steady depth and richness.  It takes time, effort, and faithfulness.  It requires us to invest in these relationships in a way that cultivates the soil of being known- warts and all.  Though it’s not always sexy or easy, my experience tells me that this is what we truly desire.

If things rings true for you in some way, find some relationships that give you life and stick with them.  They will surely get boring and stale at some point, but keep going.  Years later you’ll see the slow and steady fruit begin to bear in your life.  Decades after that an emerging sense of connection and belonging may surface in your soul, and you wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.





Reptiles & Repentance


When I was tween I suckered my parents into letting me get a lizard terrarium, and in my own bed room even!  The whole thing was sort of a mess.  Each week I’d get mom or dad to take me down to the local pet store so that I could purchase a plastic bag of crickets, which were what my Green Anole or Brown Skink would eat.  They’d be stored in a container next to the reptile tank and chirp all night.  Some would inevitably escape their insect death-row and be discovered later around the house.   When feeding time came my prepubescent eyes would would widen as I watched nature do its thing and my pets would transform from harmless creatures into ferocious dinosaur descendants, consuming those squeaking little protein-nuggets as I looked on in delight.

Though it was a fun aspect of my youth, I wasn’t a very good lizard keeper.  The cage would often go weeks without being cleaned, something that should have been done consistently and repeatability, which would in turn create a not so subtle smell-region of our house.  One of the reasons most reptile terrariums need to be cleaned often is because the tenants do this thing called moulting.  Basically moulting is when the animal sheds its skin and emerges fresh and new.  In my lizard tanks, the shed skin would be left sitting around way too long.   I still remember avoiding my responsibility to clean out the tank and reset the environment, which was to the detriment of both my pets and my family.

So what does that all have to do with the second part of this post’s title? With repentance?

The easy metaphor is that like reptiles shed their skin and are made new every so often, we need to shed our “skin”, the parts of our being that hold us back or don’t reflect the God of love.

That’s a great image.

But in this illustration the church isn’t the reptile, but the reptile keeper.

Just like I was irresponsible when it came to what maintaining the life of those creatures took, I think the church is similarly guilty.

We enjoy the show of church, the way it makes us feel, the shallow and entertaining elements.  We like to watch from the sidelines as both spectators and critics, but when it comes to actually cleaning out the whole tank, we’re nowhere to be found.  Meanwhile things are literally rotting.

That’s the way the church-landscape often feels to me.  I read yesterday that white evangelical support of President Trump is at an all time high, even though the his words and actions couldn’t be more antithetical to the gospel of Jesus.  Though some of us are deeply engaged in the hard work of community, compassion, justice, and being people of good news,  most of us aren’t.  Sure we notice the smells and sounds that tell us change is needed, but we’re not very comfortable getting messy to the detriment of ourselves and our message.  My experience is that because of our neglect and apathy, we don’t smell that great to those around us.

I think there are many, many elements of our faith ecosystems that need to be cleaned out.  We’ve sold out to marketing and flashiness.  We’ve largely worked in silos building our own brands.  We’ve turned the grace of Jesus into an us-or-them ultimatum, leaving entire communities who don’t meet our standards on the outside.  We’ve wed ourselves to corrupt politicians.  We’ve neglected the poor.  We’ve worshiped at the idol of nationalism, when we should be people of a backwards kingdom.  We’ve lost our first love.  Meanwhile things are literally rotting.

Thankfully, there is this thing called repentance.  It’s one of those things Jesus preached often.  It means to reverse direction- to acknowledge our need for change, and turn.  It means that we take the time to clean out our tanks, something that we must continue to do over and over, and in the process we’re transformed into something completely new.

There are a myriad of examples of this sort of change in the gospels.  One example is of Zacheus, a tax collector who made loads of money fleecing the people of Jesus’ homeland.  In one encounter with Jesus he went from working for the occupying empire of Rome, to following a radical religious leader from the sticks.  He even gave back all the wealth he had accumulated and then some.

My prayer is that our churches would become known not for the shows or products that we offer, but for this very process.  That we would be communities of repentance, where we consistently confess our shortcomings and do the work of change.  It can happen, I’ve seen it.  Maybe then we wouldn’t smell as bad.

Confession of Sin

Most merciful God,

we confess that we have sinned against you

in thought, word, and deed,

by what we have done,

and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart;

we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,

have mercy on us and forgive us;

that we may delight in your will,

and walk in your ways,

to the glory of your Name.



Letters to My Son: Ninjas & Imago Dei

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 12.59.45 PM


I’ve been kicking around different subjects for this letter for a few days.  There are so many things to write to you about, and since this is my third message, I feel like it has to carry some significance.  Do I start with the big stuff?  Do I wax poetic about the mysteries of the soul or the universe?  Should I settle for you once and for all why Ninjas are better than Pirates?

I guess those questions tap into one of the emotions we have about you at the moment.  Tomorrow marks your third week amongst us air breathers and there is so much still ahead.  So far our time together has consisted mostly of diapers, nursing, sleeping, not sleeping, and lots holding you, rocking in our arms- that’s my favorite.  Oh, and we did take you to your first A’s Opening Day on your two week birthday.  They won in a walk off.  Other than that it’s been mostly a lot of hanging around the house.  In the coming months, years, and decades we’ll get to explore life’s vastness and so I guess I should do my best to enjoy the simplicity of this moment.

Hearing your tiny vocal chords chirp as you guzzle milk, feeling the softness of our skin on mine (there aren’t really words to describe how soft your skin in),  and watching your fresh blue eyes open for those few moments during the day- those gifts are more than enough for now.

Life really is precious my son.  Every breath that fills your newly exposed lungs is a gift to be received.  The presence of beauty and goodness are with us always, if we notice it.  Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves and miss what’s in front of us.  For now, you are what’s in front of us.  And bundled amidst your swaddling cloths is a heart, a soul, and a mind that holds all of life’s mysteries in one elegantly ordained body.

You my son are beauty, curiosity, miracle, joy, and wonder.  Before anything else, you are a reflection of all of that is sacred.  Within your being is a capacity for what I’ve come to believe is truth itself: love.  This is who you are,  created in the image of the Divine, the Imago Dei.  All the rest of us too.

There will be many contrasting messages sent your way in the future, and many dividing forces that will do their best to quench this flame, but I want you to know that we will always see this in you.  You will always be a reminder of the grace that is life and our hope in love’s source and home.   As we enjoy this season of our lives with you, this is what we behold.

Next time I’ll probably share some really great fatherly wisdom about life and faith, but for now I think I’ll go back to you.


Your Dad

Letters to My Son: Surprise!

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 1.04.47 PM

Elliott Matthew Scott, Born March 15th 2018

Dear Son,

The day you were born the newspaper headline in the East Bay Times boldly read in all caps, “CAN’T HOLD US BACK!”.  Those words, describing a current political movement led by young people, poignantly framed your arrival into the umbilically detached world, as you entered center stage 5 weeks before your show was set to begin.   I had every intention of writing a series of messages to you that would have been nicely wrapped up before you came, sort of like the way you are currently swaddled in a blanket, but life does life stuff.

It’s hard to find words that can possibly capture the magic, mystery, and miracle that you, your mom, and I have lived these last few days.  Where can I even begin?!

First of all, your mother is amazing.  Anyone who ever tells you that women are not as strong as men has likely never spent any time in Labor and Delivery.

Her water broke at about 10:30 pm on Wednesday March 14th.  We had house-guests that night and we were so not ready.  After calling the hospital to check in about her symptoms, we quickly headed over filled with anxious anticipation.  Over the previous few weeks and months we talked constantly about meeting you.  Once we arrived and checked into the room, the room that would be the place of your first breath and touch, the nurse told us that you were coming.

The human body is a mystery.  I’m told we still don’t know what makes a woman go into labor or what makes her water break.  Maybe it was hormones, maybe it was the Mexican food she had for dinner, or maybe it was something more divinely orchestrated.

One of the many overwhelming experiences of the next 12 hours of labor was watching your mother beam with expectant fear and joy, even in the midst of tremendous pain.  As the contractions swelled like a rising tide, there was a palpable sense in the room that something immense, life-changing, and sacred was near.  There was also a sober awareness of life’s precious fragility as one drop in blood pressure or shift in heart rate could turn the tide completely.  Those moments were unlike anything else I’ve experienced.

Before the final push came, our hearts were beyond overwhelmed as we were about to encounter the emergence of life itself.  It was then that your mom asked if we could pray.  We asked for God’s protection and strength and offered our thanks for the unspeakable privilege of being present to all that swirled around us at that moment. There was energy in the room and our job was to let go. We cried and kissed, completely carried by the currents of labor.

She pushed in increments of ten.  We counted each number off, slowly growing louder and louder as the breaching tides of contractions rose higher and higher.  From somewhere deep inside her being, your mother pulled from the primal strength of creation and you began to emerge like the glimmers of first light.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.  GOOD! BREATHE!  YOU GOT THIS, PUSH AGAIN! ONE, TWO, THREE….”

Finally, your head plunged into the atmosphere.  Then your blue and pink body.

Our Doctor immediately carried you to your mothers chest and I wept tears of total and uncontrollable joy.  You cried as you breathed air. We kissed your soaking head.  It was beyond overwhelming.  In my life I’ve experienced a few moments of joy and transcendence, but nothing quite like the first time we met you.  It was pure, vulnerable communion.  Ecstatic and elated.  Holy and home.  It was a glimpse of God.

You Elliott are a glimpse of God.

As family and friends showered us with their company and their gifts over the next couple days, we soon took you back to our home, though it came after some time in the NICU since you came so early.   We couldn’t be happier having you here.  Watching you receive life and sustenance from your mothers body is amazing.  Holding you on my bare chest as you breath and nap is so special.  Having to get up every few hours in the night to make sure you get fed isn’t so bad, though it’s a lot more work for your mom (be sure to thank her one day).

Yesterday I went on a jog and was brought to tears as I thought about how blessed we are to have you.  I’m sure folks who saw me must have been confused as I cry-jogged around our neighborhood.

Son, I want you to know that you are a gift to us.  We are so in love with you.  I hope and pray that you hold that deep inside of you for the rest of your life.  And I hope you know God’s love.  It’s really hard to explain it, but it’s the one that all other loves reflect in some way.  It’s the one that filled the room as your mother held you for the first time.  It’s the one that brought me to tears yesterday.   And it’s the one that I see in your eyes.

Elliott, we can’t wait to learn that love together from here on out.  There is so much to explore and experience and encounter my son!  Welcome, welcome, welcome!

Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 1.06.31 PM




Letters to a Future Son: 6(ish) Weeks To Go

Screen Shot 2018-03-10 at 9.35.46 AM

Artwork from Sleeping At Last’s song “Son” created by Elicia Edijanto

*Before reading you might want to read an explanation/disclaimer about this series of blog entries found below.

Dear Son,

The past months have been a journey, especially for your mother.  Pregnancy is crazy.  It’s been fun and strange to watch your legs and arms rub against Alie’s belly.  I wonder if you can hear us.  It seems like you like food based on your activity after Alie eats.  You take after your father.  Anyways, we can’t wait to meet you.

This week we’re about 6 weeks from your expected delivery date.  It feels so close but also an eternity away.  We’re slowly but surely getting your room ready.  I wish we had a bigger home for you.  One with a yard.  I wish we didn’t live on a noisy street, but I’m sure you’ll come to love where we live.  It’s a wonderful city in a beautiful place, and like a portrait of humanity, is messy and amazing at the same time.  I’m also excited for you to meet our dog Sonny.  He chases shadows and loves to cuddle.  I’m sure you’ll find his fluffy, quirky presence intriguing, and hopefully he’ll be good around you.  Either way, we’ll keep you safe.

There is so much to see.  I can’t wait to show this place to you.  I can’t wait to watch you discover things.  I can’t wait to watch you learn words, remember faces, and become who you are.  We’re committed to loving and supporting you for who you are no matter what.

As long as you’re an A’s fan.

But seriously my son, there is so much to experience: movies, touch, redwood trees, ice cream, philosophy, giraffes, time, Myanmar, ocean waves, jokes, laughter, literature, friendship, scotch (we’ll save that one till later)…

There is also pain.  We won’t be able to spare you from that, and we all hate that it even exists.  Just remember that the bad things of life do not get the last word.

I’ve been praying for you.  Praying is a concept we’ll talk about at some point.   It’s sort of a hopeful trust in, surrender to, and communication with the ultimate benevolence of reality.   It comes from a part of our world that is a big part of my life, faith.  Faith and  the things we’ve created around faith reflect the best and sometimes the worst of us.  I think we’re all people of faith and for me, my faith is in Love.  Which is another big topic.  We’ll get there.  There are some pretty amazing stories that will help.

But like I said, I’ve been praying for you.  Praying that you are healthy.  Praying that we’re ready to care for you in the ways you deserve.  Praying that you’ll know that you are loved.  Praying that you’ll be a person of compassion and heart.  Praying that you’ll be the kind of baby that sleeps well.  All the books say that’s sort of a challenge at first.

So here we go.

For me, this moment feels like a waiting area before a marathon race.  Last time I ran a half marathon it was delayed for about 45 minutes.  There I stood, on a foggy Oakland morning, waiting, wondering if I have what it takes, if I’ve trained enough, and curious about each step, sight, sound, and scene that lay ahead.

Son, I already love you and I can’t wait to rediscover the world with you,

Your Dad




*This post if from a series of blogs written in the 6(ish) weeks before my wife and I meet our first child, who the doctors tell us will be a boy.  As a soon to be father of a son, my insides are a kaleidoscope of fear, excitement, insecurity, amazement, stress, and wonder; and I’m not even the one growing a human being within their body.  Words can’t capture the respect and admiration I have for my soul mate and life partner as she’s endured the precious miracle of pregnancy.  What follows is written from my vantage point- a personal exploration of anticipation as I get closer and closer to becoming a dad.  While there are a legion of topics that intersect with this current point in our lives, ranging from social gender constructions to spiritual pontifications, the aim of these posts is not an attempt at resolution or reconstruction.  My agenda in these messages is to explore things my soul longs to tell this person, who will soon reset my whole reality, about life as I’m learning to see it.





Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves


A poem/prayer of lament for myself, my friends, and our world:

You, the great promise maker
The one who said you’d always be there
Where’d you go?
Don’t you see us?

Down here at the bottom
Below who you’ve made us to be
Alone with everyone else

We can’t get out
We’re all drowning
And it’s getting worse

Send us a line
Break these barriers
Do something!

If we do our best to be still and hear you, will you say something?
If our lives become holy prayers why do you still let us suffer?
Why are you so silent to us?
Why do you let us drown in these depths?

Swimming for air we’re powerless
Our best efforts have only brought us deeper
We’ve lost sight of north and south
Where have you gone?

Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves
I thought you loved us?
I thought you were near?


Still nothing


Currents change in the dark wavy light
The pressure lessons
The tides wane
The shadows subside

Before we could understand
Before we could open our eyes
Before we could reach out our hands
The threshold is broken

We choke and cough and gasp
Salty sea and saliva
Painful breath
The first painful breath, every time its the same.

Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves
Draw us out
Pull us up
Stop neglecting our muted prayers

Carry us through
Give us the shore
Warm our icy skin

Breath into our lungs
Be who you are
Be the one who’s always been there

We’ll do our best to trust
We’ll try our hardest to hope
But we’ve only got so much
Do for us what we cannot do for ourselves