Again, Lord?

How long?

How long must your people suffer at the hands of your people?

It doesn’t make sense.

How could it make sense?

Who can explain Minneapolis in any other way than pure evil?

God?

Help those of us who are white to stand up and say…..

This is not right.

This is not right and we will join our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and neighbors and the guy on the other side of the counter at the gas station and the bank teller and …… and …… of color and stand for change.

Help us, because we are obviously failing miserably.

Help us to realize that Colin was right.

And

we

were

wrong.

Don’t just read this and move on.

Don’t just shake your head and wonder what this world is coming to.

Don’t just say, “Oh, there is so much death and suffering right now….”

That’s no longer good enough.

We must

ask questions. Ask hard questions.

We must

look inward – even if we dont want to look at what we know is there.

We must

have higher standards. .
,,.,

Especially for those in positions of authority.

Governmental authority – good call by the Mayor of Minneapolis for the firing of the 4 policemen.

But not just higher standards for sound bites.

Higher standards for real.

Higher standards for our families.

Higher standards that value all of us.

I’ve lost friendships over the “Black Lives Matter” compared to “All Lives Matter” school of thought.

Let me ask you a question…..

Do you think George Floyd matters as much as he would if he weren’t a person of color?

That’s the problem with the “All Lives Matter” statement.

What’s the problem?

The problem is that currently on a consistent and frequent basis, we are seeing reminders that black lives don’t matter as much as white lives do.

And its not just a problem in big cities.

We see it. We just need to open our eyes and look. Look where we hold people dear and look where it hurts.

To quote the Christian musician group, “Mikes Chair.”
⁃ then I shook my fist at heaven and said, “God why don’t you do something?
⁃ “I did, I created you.”

He created you and me and him and her and the people next door, all of us to make this world a better place.

But we need to acknowledge that this starts closer to home than most people are willing to admit. I live in a “bedroom community” about 15 miles from downtown Grand Rapids. You wouldn’t think you’d see it there. I have twice in the last two months, both very harmful to kids.

One last thing. I’m wrote most of this Tuesday night and the local news comes on – I had the NBC station on. They led their broadcast with the story of the tragic murder of George Flynn.

The first things that they said beyond one intro sentence were up on the screen in big letters:
⁃ He looked like……
⁃ He had previously…….
⁃ He………..

There were four things that the news reported about the victim. There was not one thing said about the police officers who murdered him. Nothing about their training or the number of years they have been on the police force or anything.

Is it merely a coincidence? Or did the people who originally wrote the news report either purposely or without realizing that they were attempting to make the police look better and the victim look worse, did they write it that way?

Lord, be with George’s family. They mourn without reason.

Help us to work towards this never happening again…..

Tom

The Scene Beneath Rarely Gets Seen

My son attends a multi cultural urban school in Grand Rapids (shameless plug – www.tphgr.org) and he sings in the Gospel Choir there. Recently, they were invited to sing at the Christmas dinner for one “section” of one of the largest retirement communities in West Michigan. Some of us parents came along as chauffeurs (sounds more important than taxi driver – doesn’t it?)

We got to sit in the back and listen to them. They did a wonderful job and these kids and their love of music and the way Mr. Nate leads them is truly amazing to hear.

But I got to see something more.

As I looked around the room, there were maybe 10 to 12 tables with maybe 10 to 12 people sitting at each one. They were obviously just finishing dinner and enjoying dessert. As The Potter’s House Gospel Choir was introduced, you could see they were looking forward to hearing the choir. Many pushed their chairs back so they could drink their coffee and see and hear the kids better.

Now I’m totally guessing, but I believe that, based on what I saw, that many of the residents expected to see and hear a traditional choir singing traditional Christmas songs.

The PH Gospel Choir is a traditional Choir.

It’s just not the same tradition that the audience was used to.

And that’s where it was really a privilege to not only hear these kids but to see the change in the reactions in the audience. It very quickly went from expecting the traditional “Caucasian” Christmas concert to a sense of curiousity.

“Who are these kids?”

To

“I think I recognize that song”

To

“Oh, I like this.”

To

“This is something special”

To

“These kids are something special.”

To

“God is up to something special at that school.”

Okay, I have to admit I wasn’t the most excited about being a chauffeur to the other side of Grand Rapids wasn’t high on my list of “things to do” on that Monday night.

But I saw a scene that rarely gets seen.

I saw 10 high school students use their God given gifts to share with another generation.

And God made a difference.

And it was good.

TV

Really? Are you?

Isaiah 25:1-5 (portions – highlighting is mine)

God, you are my God.

I celebrate you. I praise you.

You’ve done your share of miracle-wonders,

……Superpowers will see it and honor you,

brutal oppressors bow in worshipful reverence
.

They’ll see that you take care of the poor,

that you take care of poor people in trouble,

Provide a warm, dry place in bad weather,

provide a cool place when it’s hot.

Brutal oppressors are like a winter blizzard

and vicious foreigners like high noon in the desert.

But you, shelter from the storm and shade from the sun,

shut the mouths of the big-mouthed bullies.

Isaiah 25:1-5 The Message

A couple of things that stick out from what the Prophet Isaiah said in this section:

  • God, you are MY God – He isn’t praying to some God somewhere in hopes that maybe he will get an answer.  He’s talking to someone he has a deep personal relationship with.
  • The dictators and evil ones, the terrorists and the drug lords (I could go on and on) are going to get what’s coming to them.
  • You (God) take care of the poor people – providing them safety and shelter.

Now a couple of thoughts that I’m pondering this morning…..

Do you think that Isaiah is saying that providing lodging is all that God is saying needs to be done for those who are less fortunate than us? 

No, I don’t think so either.  I think Isaiah is using those as examples of providing for the daily needs of the poor. not listing the only things that the poor need us to do.

Do you think he’s going to do it through one great big miracle?  “Bam!” Suddenly all of Africa is lush green farmable land and no one in Africa is ever hungry again.

Could he?  Will he?  Yes he can but I doubt he will however, anything is possible.

Jesus and Social Justice – I attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in Chicago a few weeks back.  I plan on writing more about it, so I’m not going to say much right now.   But one thing that I knew but I learned again and again and again.

If you look at what Jesus was about, he was about social justice.

If you look at what he did, it was about social justice.

If you look at the people he had in his inner circle of friends, they were fishermen, an IRS auditor, an embezzler  (and that was just in the inner circle.)

Isaiah, in this passage, lays down the framework for Jesus ministry here on earth.  Jesus ministry here on earth is about healing the sick, feeding the hungry and saving the lost.

If you ever sang the song by Fernando Ortega,  “Lord I Want to be Like Jesus in My Heart, or you wore one of those rubber wrist bracelets with WWJD on them, ask yourself a question….

Really? 

Are you really ready to be like Jesus?

  • – because Jesus is about caring for the “less thans.”  
  • Jesus is about caring about the caravan that is soon to reach the Mexico/California border. 
  • Jesus is about attending Kent County meetings protesting their contract with ICE to turn over under documented people.  Kalamazoo did it, Grand Rapids should be able to do it too.

Being like Jesus takes a lot of work.  It’s not easy.  There’s a lot of time when it’s not fun.   But it’s good.

Because He is our God.

And He is good.

TJV

Looking at Old and Seeing New

Met a long time friend for coffee this afternoon.

Talked about kids, church, college, gap years, social media, health, her new job.

We talked about her new job – “It’s great! I get to do what I love 6 days a week!” (Did I mention she was my kids youth director prior to this?)

“Hey have you got a few minutes – you should come see our building?” It was a short drive.

As I pulled in the driveway, and throughout the tour, I thought, “You might have saw an old church building, I see new opportunities.”

You might see a building that is not in very good condition, I see a place that can be a solid foundation for kids with a less than solid foundation in their lives.

You might see the worn carpet and the creaky doors as a sign of struggle, I see it as God using His people to meet these kids where they are at.

You might see an old tired building that’s “past it’s prime” and not really good for much. I see a building that is full of stories.

Stories of good.

Stories of sadness.

Stories of life.

Stories of God.

Stories of God at work.

Stories of God’s people pushing back the darkness.

And many stories to come.

It’s called New City Kids and starting next Monday, they will kick off their 2018-2019 season of making a difference in the lives of inner city kids in Grand Rapids. Kids who need someone to care about them. Kids who need to hear about the love of Jesus.

Throughout the coming year, there will be a lot of kids showing up a New City Kids. There will be a lot of stories coming out of and through that old building.

Some of them will be happy.

Some of them will be sad.

Some of them will be easy.

Some will give you hope.

Some will make you hurt for the next generation.

I hope to be able be in a position to share the stories with you as time moves on.

I hope you’ll join with us and help influence these kids.

Stay tuned.

Tom