Breaking a Promise

I told myself I wasn’t going to do it.

My kids agreed it was a good idea to stay away from it.

My cousin proved by his comments on my Facebook posts that it wasn’t going to be easy.

But, I’m currently attending a seminar at church (well, from my basement) on healing racial trauma.  One of the things that was brought up was Dr. Martin Luther King’s book, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”  He is “down” in Birmingham helping them fight back against segregation and he gets thrown in jail.  No surprise if you ask me.

Well, while he’s in prison, he can’t talk to people on the phone, can’t e-mail, can’t do much.  So he wrote letters.  One set of them got turned into a book – “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”   It was written on April 16, 1963.  There is a lot of good stuff in this book.  I mean there’s a lot of good stuff if you want to try to make a difference in the world.

That book, particularly the part that I quoted right below this paragraph, is a large part of why, even though I said I wasn’t going to talk about race and the political situation, I am.   But……

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.’’’

I’m going to talk more about some of the details Dr. King brings up, but for today, I just want to share one point

I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace…..

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Letters from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

I believe, from this relatively close to middle age white guy, that there is no better or more well respected leader of the civil rights movement from that time.  And when he says the moderate Christian is his biggest stumbling block it would do well for the church to sit up and say, “Who me?  We’re always supportive of Civil Rights for all people?

Are you really?   Are we really?  Are we really prepared to step out of our comfort zones and be more of a neighbor to those who don’t look like us?   According to Dr. King, no we are not.

According to Dr. King, we are worse than the Ku Klux Klan.

Ouch

You know those guys who used to ride around on horses in the middle of the night, plant burning crosses in the front yard of black families and then haul out the men and/or boys, tie them up and lynch them.

He said we’re worse than that?  Yes, he did.

We are just over a month away from the presidential election.  Some call it the greatest freak show on earth, some call it the most amazing transfer of power in the governments since the time of, oh I don’t know, the Crusades?

Presidential Debate

Between the natural disasters, the medical disasters and the political disasters, there is a LOT of stuff going on.  And it’s time, actually it is past time to engage these issues and try to make a difference the way God would want us to.

I’m going to talk about this more in the coming days and weeks, but I firmly believe that we have a huge problem on our hands – the problem of the one issue voter.

You know the guy, he says, “I’m going to vote for _________ because he was endorsed by the NRA.”   Or “Mr. Smith is pro-abortion and so I will never vote for him.”   When someone does that a couple of things are happening:

  • They are totally ignoring the rest of what that person stands for.   You might like this particular policy but are you really willing to put control of _________ in the hands of someone who has never __________?
  • Mr. Smith says that he’s pro-life.  He says that he would only allow an abortion to save the life of the mother.   What’s his stance on the discrepancy in funding and everything related to that for schools – where, on average, black schools get, I believe, close to half of what white schools do?
  • Does he support reform in the mental health and adoption/foster care areas of life that both need substantial reform?
  • What is his or her stand on immigration?
  • What is his or her stand on healthcare?

There is a lot more to being pro-life than just being anti-abortion.  So, when someone says they are going to vote for ______________ because of his stance on gun control, then you are ignoring a lot of very important issues related to guns, related to domestic violence, related to immigration, related to free elections that all are impacted by someone if they say they are pro-life.

So if someone says they are opposed to adoption, ask them what they think about the kids being “warehoused” literally, in vacant Walmart stores.   If they aren’t really upset about that, ask them how they can be pro-life and not opposed to that?

The world is complex.  Very very complex.  We are in the first election in my lifetime where you can no longer say,  “If they say they are a _________________ then you can vote for them because they believe the same.”

It doesn’t work that way right now.   If you vote for someone who meets your rules for one issue, they might be totally against what you stand for in other ways.

Don’t look only at one issue.  Don’t look only at whether they say they will or won’t raise taxes.  They can say one thing now and then something else later.

Don’t be a moderate one issue voter.   Look at multiple issues and also those other “things” like character, flexibiliy, truthfulness, respect, treatment of those with disabilities and the list could go on, but there’s too much other ground to cover in the next month (and beyond.)

Thanks for reading, stay tuned.  I don’t know what all we are going to talk about, but I know it will be “interesting” to say the least.

Respectfully,

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

Getting Smart

In the previous post, we talked about how it is important to push back against confusion and misunderstanding. We talked about how it’s important to push back against those because if we can clear up confusion and misunderstanding, it’s easier to push back against evil.

Why? Because evil likes to create confusion.

Evil likes to use misunderstanding to hide from the light of day.

Now I want to make it more personal. I don’t want to talk about government policies that are confusing. I don’t want to talk about how the motives behind what so and so does are being misunderstood.

I want to talk about you. I want to talk about me.

I can’t speak for you, maybe you do. I don’t.

Don’t what? I don’t know everything.

Not even close. Actually, so far from close that it’s funny to even think about.

But I know that if I get smarter, I can make more of a difference. If I ask questions, I can learn more. If I read about things, I can learn what is going on.

Most people are more afraid of what they don’t know about than what they do. If they don’t understand what is happening or why, that can create fear. It can create contempt.

I don’t understand your music – so it must be bad music.

I don’t understand your language – so you must be talking nasty about something or someone.

I don’t understand your religion so I don’t like you.

I don’t…….

The list can go on and on and on.

But if I do understand, then I can see you for you, not for what I didn’t understand.

If I do understand, then I can see the reason behind behaviors and not be afraid of the behaviors as evil or hostile.

If I understand your history, then I can appreciate your cultural festivals and respect them and you better.

If I understand the reason behind events in history, then I can see them for the impact they have on you and on me.

Most people are afraid of things that they don’t understand.

Many people will, when they understand things or people or traditions or habits or whatever, respond in a way that furthers communication and relationships.

And that makes the world a better place.

Tom

Tom

When…..

When I’m an adult…..

When my kids are out of school…..

When we get the house paid off……

When I get my college degree…….

When……

When…….

Guess what – God doesn’t work that way.

God doesn’t say, “When you’re an adult, I want you to……”

“When your medical problems are gone, I want you to…..”

“When you graduate, then can you……?”

“When your kids are out of school, then……..”

“When your kids go back to school, then…….”

God says, “I am God, your God. I love you more than you deserve or can even understand. You don’t have to do anything to “earn” my love, it is given freely.”

But God also says that when we are helping the poor or the sick or the needy or those in jail, we are doing that to him and for him. So, we can help the needy and show, through our actions, how grateful we are to God for his love. Or we can ignore those in need or worse yet, support programs and policies that harm those in need and we are in direct conflict with God’s designed purpose.

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:37-40 MSG
http://bible.com/97/mat.25.37-40.msg

There’s an author by the name of John Pavolvitz who makes me think. He writes a lot about the current happenings in the world and one of the reasons he makes me think is because I don’t always agree with what he says, but he is very persuasive. He’s a hard writer to just “brush off.”

He wrote a piece on Tuesday, you can read the whole piece at https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/07/03/pick-a-hill-worth-dying-on-america/
But let me read you one paragraph…..

“So instead of lamenting how horrible it all is, accept the invitation to make it less horrible.
Instead of looking to the sky and wondering why no one is doing anything, you do something.
Step out of the cloistered place of your private despair, and into a jacked-up world that you can alter by showing up.
Use your gifts and your influence and your breath and your hands—and fix something that is badly broken before it breaks beyond repair.”

Don’t just stand there and complain about how bad things are, pick something that’s important to you and get busy trying to be the change.

Be the change for kids in foster care.
Be the change for immigrant families on the border with Mexico.
Be the change for your church.
Be the change to combat racism in your community.
Be the change to elect truly competent and wise people to run our government – at all levels.
Be the change for the kids who attend schools that are underfunded and overcrowded.
Be the change for……..

Don’t just stand there and talk about how awful things are. Don’t just stand there and say, “there’s so much that is wrong in this world, how would I even make a difference?” God doesn’t want us all to do everything.

God wants each of us to do something.

What’s your something?

Tom