Category Archives: America

Worship Wednesday – #Woke – What It Means to This Believer – Amazing Grace

Photo Credit: Statement on Social Justice

[Adapted from the Archives]

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice: blessed are all those who wait for Him.Isaiah 30:18

Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.Job 1:22

When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.
 – Matthew 9:36

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8

In today’s context, “woke” is a word  that I may never understand or fully embrace. However, it is concept that compelled me to research it and consider it.

Being “woke” has some strong, politically and sociologically polarizing applications, but the simplest definitions are captured below. It means “being aware of what is going on in the community; being aware of the social and political environments regarding all socio-economic standings”.Photo Credit: Slideshare, Mike Maccarone

I’d like to tell you a quick story. Then I will hop off anything political and onto the place I’ve landed as a believer.

Last summer, we traveled to a conference in Oklahoma. During the time there, I had the opportunity for a road trip across the Eastern part of the state. It was my first experience of the Native American nations in Oklahoma. Part of my “woke” journey now has this experience folded in. Except for the links below on tribal history and The Indian Removal Act, this topic will be for another day…but it speaks to “wokeness” as well.

We flew back to Richmond, with those experiences still very fresh in my mind.

Walking to baggage claim from our gate, we were surrounded by other travelers from the Atlanta flight. Either visitors to our city or, like us, residents returning home. In front of me for much of the walk was a youngish Black man. He was sharply dressed in khaki pants and a dazzling white t-shirt, and he had all the paraphernalia of someone who travels a lot. A professional appearing man who could easily put on a sport-coat over his white t-shirt and show up for work in some executive suite.

Photo Credit: Augusta Native

It is telling of this man’s experience of his country, this society, and the politics of the day. The slogan first caught my eye (with its particular spelling of America), then the hangman’s noose, and then the list of losses…

[Hard to read because I am grateful to be American. Its history, like so many countries, has dark terrible times in it. I don’t want to forget that…but how to respond to it…]

On his right forearm, this man had a large tattoo in bold capital letters: #BLM (Black Lives Matter).

He was a walking billboard for “wokeness” as a Black person with a loud cry against the injustice he lays on his country.

I don’t think that fellow traveler and I would ever have a conversation. For sure, it felt unwanted that day – an intrusion from a stranger…but I do want those conversations. For now, it begins with my response to him…and others.

In praying through these recent experiences, here are four points of action in this being “woke” as a follower of Christ:

  1. Listen. I’ve been learning to make it a practice to listen with intentionality to people who feel marginalized – for whatever reasons. To hear them, we have to come within hearing. It can be uncomfortable as you know. That’s why we want to avoid it or rationalize or downplay it.
  2. Consider. In nursing school, we learned that Pain is whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever he/she says it does” (McCaffery). The same can apply to what we hear of people’s pain – whether in their present experience or a past horror either theirs or others (with whom they feel a kinship). Again, reacting in a way that rationalizes or shifts blame only pushes away. Consider humbly what they are saying.
  3. Separate political from spiritual. When injustice occurs, we are called by God, as believers, to respond. Even better, we are to stand alongside the marginalized, when possible, doing what we can to lessen injustice. Lots could be said about this, but for today, just a check in our thinking. Our government may or may not act in definitive ways. We as the church have a very different call…and loving action is always a part of that call.
  4. Act. Again, so much could be said here, but today a brief take on it. For sure, we know that the Lord doesn’t require us to cover for the sins of others. Nor does He allow us to put our heads in the sand and ignore the suffering of those around us. To move forward we must leave the terrible wrongs of the past to the righteous justice of the Lord. He calls us to act today on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized…in front of us, all around us. Jesus acted on our behalf; we are to act on theirs.

To be “woke” as a believer is to see the world with God’s eyes and His heart and to engage and respond, in the power of His Holy Spirit. Previously I wrote the following about finishing strong in this life:

An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives.

An example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Wilberforce was able to use his governmental authority to aid in abolishing slavery, but he was also a man of prayer and action in his personal life as well. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about the relationship between Newton and Wilberforce:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Jesus mentored us, His followers, so well. Who are we mentoring in this “wokeness”? Who are we ourselves learning from today?

Worship with me today through this beautiful old hymn, Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. His lyrics speak to being “woke”: I once was lost, but now I’m found; Was blind, but now I see. Consider watching the 2006 film Amazing Grace with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) – Deb Mills

What’s Wrong With Woke? – Tom Ascol

Slavery, by the Numbers – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“This Is All Stolen Land”: Native Americans Want More Than California’s Apology – Sam Levin

Half the Land in Oklahoma Could Be Returned to native Americans. It Should Be. – Rebecca Nagle

5 Friday Faves – John Lewis’ Funeral, Resistance, Viola Davis, Neighborhoods, and Wedding Vows

Here’s to weekends…and Faves of the week. Five of mine follow:

1) John Lewis’ Funeral – Shortly before he died of pancreatic cancer (on July 17, 2020), civil rights activitistCongressman John Lewis, D-Ga., wrote an essay for the New York Times. He asked for the piece to be published on the day of his funeral.Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Here is an excerpt from the essay John Lewis wrote, read at his funeral:

“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.”

I was glad to have watched Representative Lewis’ funeral, seeing him honored by old friends, sweet family, and loyal staff. Then fellow politicians, including three past US presidents. Of the politicians, my favorite tribute came from President George W. Bush. No agenda. No barbs. Just all John Lewis.

2) Resistance – When George Floyd was killed, we heard, experienced and even shared in the national outcry. As the protests have turned into riots and looting, some of us are beginning to wonder when will it be enough…or too much. Not the cries for reforms in law enforcement or other changes needed to address those hurting in our country…but taking the protests to a whole different place – that of disrupting and destroying what is good and decent as well.

This Friday night after midnight, on the streets of Portland, Oregon, a group of protestors kindled a fire with Bibles. This city, like many around the US, has been the site of protests for over 60 days. Here and elsewhere, the body count rises of people killed in the riots. Personal properties destroyed. People divided…all in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

This isn’t right. Resistance to a corrupt system is appropriate, but violence just for violence’s sake is not the “good trouble” John Lewis encouraged.

When the Bibles were burned, it stirred a different kind of mad. There is a place for resistance, but there is also a place for resistance against resistance that hurts people…that hurts our country…that impunes whole groups of people.

I read the following article this week. It is definitely partisan in ways and is a hard read, given we all have people we care about on both sides of our political aisles. However, it delivers a critical, and thought-provoking exposé of modern-day Marxism. The YouTube video also linked is a longer, more comprehensive treatment of the subject by the same author/speaker Larry Alex Taunton (13 points instead of the 8 in the article).

Understanding What Is Happening in America: A Christian Response – Larry Alex Taunton

“Evil will not have the last word. Good will ultimately triumph. God is sovereign. As St Thomas Aquinas put it, ‘God is so powerful that he can direct any evil to a good end.’”Resisting Evil, Bible in One Year

Photo Credit: Organic Runner Mom

Thoughts on Resistance and Forward Progress  to Your Goals – Organic Runner Mom

3) Viola Davis – When you think of someone as beautiful, elegant, and articulate as actress, producer Viola Davis, you might be a bit starstruck. I know I am. You may not be aware of the incongruence also present in her life – a childhood of poverty and abuse. This exquisite woman should give hope to all of us.

Today, she is using her fame and professional platform to give back. One way is the documentary she narrated, “A Touch of Sugar”. She is a spokesperson for prevention and treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

4) Neighborhoods – We all have favorite places and spaces …Richmond, Virginia, is one of those favorite places of mine. It is a patchwork quilt of very different neighborhoods. Once upon a time, Monument Ave., in the Museum District of Richmond, was considered one of the most beautiful streets in the world. Those who thought so were probably not negatively affected by the several monuments of Confederate military generals.

Now the monuments are coming down. The houses on Monument are still beautiful and historic. We’ll see what happens next, after the monuments are gone.

Like in other cities, we continue to have protests, riots, and destruction/defacing of properties. Recently, I made an unfounded comment, “Those rioting probably aren’t even from here, and do they even visit the neighborhoods beyond this one? The neighborhoods where Blacks should hear up-close that their lives do matter.” Again, like I said, it was not a fair statement.

[I wrote here previously the monuments including a local teen’s take on what would help more than monuments coming down here. Original piece by Matt Chaney here.]

Still, I felt compelled to take a trip to some of the neighborhoods of Richmond beyond the Museum District. It had been awhile since my last visit…more beautiful, resourceful, and peaceful than I had remembered.

My own neighborhood is tucked in the near suburbs of Richmond. 10 minutes to downtown. Quiet, safe, middle-class.

When I heard the news of a Tweet that our President made toward suburban home owners not needing to worry about subsidized housing coming our way, I was surprised and saddened. He is known for his tweeting, but this seemed more caustic than usual. Or was it?

In an election year, what would motivate an incumbent to say such a thing unless there was something deeper…something the casual reader might miss?

Pondering this, I came across an article by columnist Eric Levitz which birthed one of those “Aha!” moments.

Those of us Twitter readers who were aghast at our President’s comment would never outwardly show should exclusion of the poor…and yet…

Our city and county schools are in the process of a redistricting campaign (county school redistricting and city school redistricting). As far as I know the decisions have been postponed because of COVID. Still the battle-lines are drawn based on what redistricting will mean more for those homeowners who bought houses to be in a school districts with high ratings. The re-districting, in order to change up the student body percentages in predominantly black schools and predominantly white school, could alter that for them.

Really fascinating. That tweet then takes on a whole new meaning – exposing our not-so-generous motives. Politics can be so twisted it is hard to know what legislation is actually good for the citizenry at large and what is totally related to special interests.

By the way, our neighborhood, as much as I love it, has property values negatively affected by schools with low ratings. We are in the throes of the above school redistricting decision. I, for one, would be glad to see our schools improve in whatever ways seem feasible. Not for my property value’s sake, but for the sake of the children. Also, bring on affordable housing for all…where people can own their own homes and be our neighbors.

Thoughts?

5) Wedding Vows – Let’s happily end on this. Dave and I were married over 35 years ago. As our anniversary comes up again, thinking back over our vows is good for us. We didn’t write them from scratch, but they are totally what we believe…they are our own and we mean to keep them…with God’s help.

This week I came across this sweet little video of last year’s wedding between American Idol finalists Gabby Barrett and Cade Foehner. In this wedding season, with COVID changing young couples’ plans and dates…the most important part of the day is that they make their vows to each other – whether in front of 3 people or 125. You’ll love this. <3

Watch Cade Foehner’s and Gabby Barrett’s Wedding Vows – Jill O’Rourke

That’s it for me…please share your own favorite finds in the Comments. Thanks for pausing here awhile.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Debbie Hampton, Twitter

Photo Credit: Oswald Chambers, Facebook, Pat Findley

This Is Why You Can’t Remember Yesterday – Markham Heid

The World’s Longest-living People Share This Hobby – Why Studies Say It Can Help Add Years to Your Life – Minda Zetlin

Worship Wednesday – Lay Down Your Burdens – Come As You Are – Crowder

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens Crowder
[The piece below is adapted from the Archives. Last night, during an online concert thanks to American Awakening, I heard David Crowder sing “Come As You Are”. It was a much-needed reminder that although the world is crying shame and blame, Jesus calls us to come to Him “as we are”. No shame. No blame. He knows we are frail. That sin darkens our hearts, but we can be free of that and walk in the light of His forgiveness and love.
Today…rest a moment. Let us lay down our burdens and rest in Him. Remembering who He is. The battle is His. He calls us to stand in the battle and to love Him and all around us with His love. We stand with the Mightiest; we stand for His truth. We stand for each other. As the concert organizers for last night’s concert promoted: “We are Better Together.” In Him.]
Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

The decade of my 20s is littered with the debris of a searching, self-centered life. Even as a follower of Christ, the world drew me like a powerful magnet. I was lured by the arguments of those critical of God, the church, and Christianity. After years of standing one foot in the world and one foot in the church, thanks to God never giving up on us, my thinking finally cleared.

The world’s promises of belonging, significance, and security shattered, but not without sending shards of painful memories and regret deep into my heart. The arguments against God turned hollow, emptied of their logic. Those very arguments denied our own personal responsibility for many of the world’s woes. For a season, believing man over God, my course in life was spiraling away from the very redemptive purposes of God. Even to this day, it can still be a challenge to look away, to believe that God can’t use me for the sake of another. Or He just wouldn’t.

Crowder’s song Come As You Are ministers to my heart at every listening. There is nothing so wonderful in life as God and His love and forgiveness. I can’t look back at that prodigal decade without remorse. Yet, because of God, and the truth of His Word, I can lay all that down (again). There is a verse, recorded by the Old Testament prophet Joel, that always encourages me: [God speaking]: “I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25). He has kept that promise in my life, and I am grateful.

How God restored me to Himself was through a couple of friends: one, an older believer, and the other, a close friend, who had survived a similar wilderness wandering, breaking out of it ahead of me. They always come to mind in remembering how God worked in my life back then. David Crowder speaks so clearly about his own journey of restoration:

“As it goes with hypocrisy, judgement, dogmatism, and all the rest of it that Jesus put to death, it’s hard to see in yourself what you readily see in others. And into my cynicism and anger my friend began to dream aloud, “What if church really was like family. What if we pretended the, ‘brother and sister, son and daughter,’ stuff was real. What if relationships were thought to be rare and valuable things. What if it was just a bunch of people that loved each other and were simply trying their best to follow this Jesus we read of in scripture. What if we pretended, the ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ thing was a better way to live…What if we pretended we are all sinners. What if we pretended grace is real. What if the word ‘pretend’ felt less powerful than the word ‘believe’ because we did actually believe. What if…”David Crowder

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 8 - bpnews.net

Rioters throw bricks and bottles at the police on Clarence Road in the Hackney area of London.

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 4 - bpnews.net

MEXICO CITYÕS HOMELESS Ð IMB missionaries and national believers serving among the masses of Mexico City regularly encounter homelessness, prostitution and substance abuse on city streets. Mexico CityÕs parks and city squares are often scattered with homeless men and women sleeping on sidewalks and park benches. (IMB) PHOTO

The meta-narrative of scripture is about innocence lost, it is about displacement, about things not being right and a search for belonging and home and forgiveness and reconciliation, the tension of death and life, what it means to be alive. The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive. The story sold is rarely that…What if we started believing?”David Crowder

There are those in the world who look at followers of Christ as pretenders. Honestly, there are “church folks” that do more to distract than draw others to God. Then there are those whose lives have truly been transformed. True Christ-followers know how far He has brought them from their broken, burdened selves. This world of ours needs that voice of hope – real hope that comes close, as God came close to us through Jesus. In this global wilderness of ours, He calls us to live small and love large, to extend His love as far as He extended it to us. This is the purpose of God’s church – to love Him and to reflect His glory in a true hands-on witness of His love for all around us.

Worship with me:

Come out of sadness from wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy, Oh sinner come kneel

Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens, lay down your shame
All who are broken, lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home, You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can’t cure

Come as you are
Fall in His arms, come as you are

There’s joy for the morning, Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can’t heal.

– Written by David Crowder, Matt Maher, & Ben Glover (Lyrics)

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 9 - bpnews.net

Blog - Lay Down Your Burdens 7 - bpnews.net

YouTube Video – Crowder – Come As You Are (Lyric Video)

YouTube Video – Come As You Are by Crowder Lyric Video

YouTube Video – Crowder – Come As You Are (Music Video)

YouTube Video – Crowder – Come As You Are (Behind the Scenes)

David Crowder Website – Read the Family History – Riveting and Real

Photo Credits: Crowdermusic.com and BPNews.net

5 Friday Faves – School Re-openings, Restraint, Tiny Harvests, Your Next Job, and Communication During Covid

Happy weekend, y’all! This week was another one of those steep learning curve weeks for me. So much to think about and then to figure out how to apply practically to life. Step by step. My faves of the week follow:

1) School Re-openings – Where we live, the final decisions have come down on this Fall’s school re-openings. Finally, we have the answer. What makes this a Friday Fave for me is that NOW we know what is before us – as parents and friends/family of you parents.

For those parents who need to keep working with small ones at home, it will be a continuing challenge. Our city school system and 2 out of the 3 county systems will have on-line instruction (at least for the first quarter of the school year). Photo Credit: Wallpaper Flare

The 3rd county has choice for the parents to pick either all in-school instruction or all on-line. Nice when parents have a choice. There will be health guidelines (masks, social distancing, etc.), but the risk is there for the in-school option should COVID cases start ramping up within the school population (teachers, staff, students, families).Photo Credit: Pixabay

This has been a hot topic since the start of COVID-19 this Spring. Which is better – in-school instruction or online learning? What is considered safer for the short-term may be detrimental in the long run. Brown University economist Emily Oster‘s article “Parents Can’t Wait Around Forever” supports the data that returning to school may not present a great risk. So many stands on this topic in the U.S…

As Central VA school districts opt for virtual learning, CDC releases guidelines in favor of reopening schools

CDC Sides with Trump, Says Students Need to Go Back to School – Tim Pearce

Texas Officials Offer Schools Option to Hold Online-only Classes Until November – Brooke Seipel

Millions of children forced into labor as COVID-19 creates global hunger crisis: World Vision – Anugrah Kumar

Private schools in our area are opening with in-school instruction. Daycare centers and preschools continue to provide support for little ones, but what do working parents do with their school-aged children? It is a conundrum for many.Photo Credit: Pikrepo

Homeschooling is becoming more the norm – whether it’s parental (or other adult) supervision of students with on-line instruction or the exit from public schools to all-out homeschooling. Fortunately, for parents new to homeschooling, resources abound. Almost to a dizzying level.

Photo Credit: Homeschool Hive, Facebook, Instagram @Lifeographer

What’s happening where you are?

I feel for the parents and children (especially those families most vulnerable – single-parent, poor, non-native-English speaking, etc.). On the flip-side, I can also understand the trepidation school systems trying to provide a safe space for learning on-campus. Getting students back in school as soon as can be well-managed seems best for long-term learning, social and mental (maybe even physical) health, and (unpopular opinion, but essential) for the sake of the economy.

What are your thoughts?

2) Restraint – My husband is an introvert; I am not. He commended my every day early-morning restraint in holding onto my thoughts until he had his first cup of coffee. I’m glad, after all these years, he still notices. Restraint is a good thing. It is defined as “the act of holding something back”.Photo Credit: Flickr, Raphael Love

Restraining ourselves is way different than being restrained or restraining others (in case, that word gives a negative connotation). Our culture these days seems not so into restraint. Social media as well as the streets of our cities are ablaze with the activity of “casting off restraint”.

Some actions and ideologies demand intervention on the part of those most affected and those standing with them. Still, restraint has its place in honoring one another. We are not so far down the path of mean-spirited self-expression and group-think that we can’t change the course of culture. That is my hope anyway.

My voice doesn’t always have to be heard. What we do with our thinking is exponentially more impacting than what we say. Especially if we are tempted to “speak” with bricks and lasers… [I get that it feels like a last-ditch effort in some cases.]

Practicing some measure of restraint gives space to hear others and to treat them with dignity if not yet understanding.

For many in our country, we will speak with our vote in the November elections. For every day, we can use restraint as a demonstration of true caring for those around us, provided the action energized by the restraint is well and rightfully aimed.

The Benefits of Restraint – What Are We Practicing? Greed or Restraint? – Alison Bonds Shapiro

Divine Restraint – Alex M. Knight

A Eulogy for a Friend, a Lament for Our Nation – David French

3) Tiny Harvests – This is the time of summer when we are gathering the harvest of tomatoes and peppers. It’s the time for many of our flowers to pass from previous glory into the magnificent “going to seed”. We have many little visitors in our garden these days. I especially love how the goldfinches harvest the seeds of the coneflowers.Photo Credit: Piqsels

They are joined by all kinds of other little feeders and harvesters. Have a look with me.

4) Your Next Job – In 2015, I read a Jon Acuff book, during a season of huge change. It had a huge impact on my thinking regarding career moves. The book was Do Over. It inspired me to actually do a blog series on the book; it was that good.

Dave and I read the book. On a mini-vacation that summer, we took Acuff’s book along and, together, we did his exercise on using index cards to help us look at our strengths and passions. In the pursuit of either a different career or recognizing our fit for our current one. It was very instructive and affirming. Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, table and indoor

In these days, we have friends who were furloughed because of the COVID-19 impact on the economy. You might find this exercise helpful. Jon Acuff has given us a 14-minute how-to YouTube video. As he guides the viewer through this exercise, he encourages us to think big through our strengths.  “This is the hero’s slow walk from the explosion moment. What’s something you’re good, dare I say amazing, at?” Consider doing this exercise whether you’re looking at a job change or you are just fine with your job. It’s a revealing and elevating experience.

5) Communication During Covid – Communication happens. Badly at times. However, we keep at it. Visits in the yard. Drive-bys. Social media. Email. Video calls. We want and need that touch with others.

We are either more consuming or more creating. Sending or receiving or, hopefully, a combination of the two.

I’m so thankful to those creating content. Podcasts and written media. We may not know these creators, but they resonate with us. Many give us something to consider, even to shake up our thinking.  Others just give us a touch into the lives of others. They draw us in and help us feel our own humanity more. We feel kindred.

Feeling kin is a precious commodity. Like in families, we don’t always agree but we belong with each other. Organizations and individuals who are innovating in this whole area of communication will help us stay engaged with each other.

Please share in Comments about communication innovators in your COVID experience – whether it’s a fairy godmother-type neighbor (we have one of those) or a team of folks who keep communication fresh and interesting – drawing a circle around everyone in the organization.

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, is a classical guitarist who arranges covers of TV, film, and videogame themes. During COVID, he began a podcast. What?! It’s honestly been a lot of fun listening to him and cohost Jeremiah Dias, both musicians and friends since high school. They talk music, career, family, and pop culture. It has the feel of a comfortable hang-out or a family gathering listening to the young people talk. It draws the listeners close – to Nathan and Jeremiah – and, in a way, to each other.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar Podcast

I also listen to an array of podcasts under the umbrella of Blogging Heads. In particular, I listen to The Glenn Show. Economist Glenn Loury describes his show as “Glenn Loury invites guests from the worlds of academia, journalism and public affairs to share insights on economic, political and social issues.” It sounds pretty heady, right? It can be but it is so engaging we can all learn from these guys. My favorite episodes are when he and linguistics professor John McWhorter dialog. They are not always in agreement but their respect for each other and their complete focus in the conversation teach us as much about communication as about their subject matter. So good!Photo Credit: YouTube, The Glenn Show

Confession: I consume communication more than I create. However, if anybody out there wants to create communication and wants some ideas, I have some. In the meantime, it’s drivebys, phone calls, and yard visits.

Hope you get some rest in this weekend. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Mike Pineda, Facebook

Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race – Resource Roundup – Katrina Michie

You remember this day? That first check…and the amount you really brought home (after taxes).

5 Friday Faves – Music that Soothes the Heart, God-shaped Racial Reconciliation, Brothers, Hospitality, and the Colors of Summer

Friday Faves! Here are mine for this week:

1) Music that Soothes the Heart – I don’t know how Nathan does it time after time. He takes that one classical guitar of his and he renders video game, TV, and movie themes into sounds so soulful you feel the healing just listening. I don’t even know the two video games The Last of Us (Part 1 and Part 2) or the anime TV series Naruto. These themes below, arranged and performed by Beyond the Guitar, are hauntingly beautiful. Thousands of folks have already viewed his YouTube videos, and their comments get me every time. More and more I see there’s something more to video games (and to anime)…in the stories and music, there is such a heart connection. It’s fascinating. The music, too…wow!

Did you also catch that Nathan is doing a podcast these days? I’m the mom and yet learn so much about him and his work through these (all adult children should consider doing this sort of thing, even if it’s just for their parents’ enjoyment).

2) God-shaped Racial Reconciliation – Just this week, I came across this video on Twitter. Watched the whole thing, with cold chills. I’m not going to give it all away, but you will be spellbound for the 40 minutes of story-telling of how Will Ford and Matt Lockett met and how their stories have connected for generations.

They tell of how God used a dream during sleep in each of their lives that set up a situation for them to meet. They also speak of Dr. King’s Dream Speech and how it was not only “poetic…but prophetic”.

Dream Stream Company – Will Ford and Matt Lockett

The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America – Will Ford and Matt Lockett

3) Brothers – I never had sisters and always wanted one. Fortunately, with three brothers, I have two sisters-in-law who have given me that sweet experience of sisters for life. [Another amazing sister-in-law thanks to my husband’s brother].

Now, back to my brothers. There are three.

One died too young, and we miss him. Our older brother, Robert, died of a “shredded aorta”. The surgeon who operated for hours to save his life told our family they were able to repair the aorta but couldn’t get him off bypass. He was just too tired.

Life was hard on my brother, Robert, twice divorced and struggling with health issues that diminished him. He coped by blaming the hard on others. His siblings took some of the brunt of it…his children and parents also. However, we learned especially from our mom’s example that loving him mattered. Two friends of mine, in separate conversations, gave me excellent advice: “Hurt people hurt people… deflect the attacks and lean in anyway.” I learned what the buttons were that Robert pushed for me and “deactivated” them. I wanted our relationship to survive. Somehow, when I didn’t react to his put-downs or temper outbursts, he just stopped trying to engage in that way. What if I had walked away and given up on him, on us. Thankfully, we had time…not as much as we would have liked, but time…to be close, to laugh over memories, to share the daily small victories, to long together for better days, to make plans for those days. I learned so much from him on dealing with challenge and not giving up. One day I will tell him.

My two “little brothers”, Dwane and Wade, have benefited from what we learned from our older brother. We three have always had strong opinions like our big brother, but less argumentative and more gentle. Now that our parents are gone, we hold together. I can’t imagine any disagreement ever separating us from each other. We are family and I am so thankful for them.

How about you?

Sometimes we lose a parent (or both) through divorce or death. We are with our siblings for most all of our lives. They help shape us for life.

My extended family lives states away. No travel yet for me but it’s coming. In the meantime, so thankful for phone calls with these brothers of mine. And social media, right? Thankful for every connection.

Let’s celebrate our families while we have them. None are perfect. Some are exceptionally difficult. We have much to learn – from our original families – to live well in our own next families…and to love well, even through the hard.

4) Hospitality – What’s wrong with this picture? No people.

This room is the least used in our house during this season of COVID-19. Before this Spring, our living room was hopping with friend visits, mid-week small groups from church, work friends, neighbors, and our children and grandchildren. Those visits have mostly moved outside with the social distancing mandates.

I miss our usual hospitality. Now it requires more creativity and less people. The noise of hospitality is missing, as well as the bounty of it. At the start of COVID-19 restrictions, I was all about writing cards, doing drive-by visits, making videos of reading picture books and posting them to Google Drive for our grandchildren, reconstructing how we celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Four months in, I put away my card box. No more books on Google Drive. It feels like we’re heading into a longer “hunker down” than we imagined. For now, I’m taking a breather…but not for too long.Photo Credit: Pinterest, Source Unknown

As my husband is watching a NFL game from 2019 on TV (Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs), I’m hoping we’re in half-time on this whole COVID thing. Great game, if you didn’t see it (and if you’re a Titans fan!).

Hospitality in the usual is missing for some of us (social distancing being at-risk) and we miss it. So thankful for you out there who have taken hospitality to a whole new normal and haven’t missed a beat. I’m getting ready to join you!

5) Colors of Summer – No words necessary. Enjoy the colors:

Hope your weekend is filled with sweet times and near loved ones (even if it has to be six feet apart).

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 Bonuses:

Photo Credit: World Health Organization, Facebook

Matthew McConaughey Discusses racism and ‘White Allergies’ in Interview with Former Longhorns Star Emmanuel Acho – R. J. Marquez

Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes

I’m a Black Millennial – Here are three ways we can improve race relations

How to Achieve Your Goals By Creating an Enemy – Nir Eyal

Camping ResurgenceThe 18 New Rules of Camping

Elaboration on Why Monuments Should Come Down – Rayshawn Graves

Atlanta is the city of my birth. This was a fascinating infographic. I’d love to find one for our current home, Richmond, Virginia.Photo Credit: Twitter, Everything Georgia, Entymology Nerd

Worship Wednesday – The Hands and Feet of Christ – “Do Something” – Matthew West

Blog - Do Something

[Adapted from the Archives]

Let’s start right here.

Worship with me to Matthew West‘s Do Something:

Do Something by Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still*

Songwriter: Matthew West (Into the Light album) 2014

*Lyrics: Publishing: Songs of Southside Independent Music Publishing / External Combustion Music / Songs for Delaney (ASCAP)

We want to do something, but where to even start in the world all broken around us. After four months of social distancing, I find myself fighting against an odd fatigue…the usual ways of reaching out to others, to serve, to encourage are all disrupted. COVID-19 and the social distancing that comes with it have turned community and ministry on its head.

Yet, the Lord continues to draw near…reminding us to draw near to Him, pointing us to our neighbors near and far, holding Himself to promises that are as constant as He is.

I’ve been thinking lately about muscle memory. Is it possible that as we practice our faith in Christ, no matter the situation, that we develop muscle memory of a sort that keeps us near to God and His mission.  Is it possible to give into a lie? Do the problems we face seem too big for us to do anything about them? Is God still with us, still for us? Of course, He is.

If our faith has taken a hit and we have faltered, we are not done.  So what if the culture around us says what we think or do is insufficient?! God is at work…always at work. We can take both hope and courage in that truth.

If God is at work, then we can do something. Whether a great thing or a small thing made great in love and obedience.

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”Dwight L. Moody

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”Dwight L. Moody

As we pull ourselves out of the doldrums of COVID19, we can lean into a ministry of reconciliation – of serving, as individuals and the church, a world badly broken. I am reminded of 5 things…in these 5 things, we can do something.

1) Be informed. Every day we are slammed with bad news by the media. We are not immune to compassion fatigue and, in fact, can just let the news wash over us, suspicious of what’s true or not. As believers, we must not turn a deaf ear. We must weigh, every day, what is happening in the world, what grieves the heart of God, and what is ours to do about it. So what if we don’t always get it right? We take the news and op-eds, as well as conversations we have with real people, and sift not just the information, but considering (prayerfully) what we are to do as His people. How we answer His call has little to do with the news or social media…but with planting ourselves in the Word. He informs our hearts and infuses our hands and feet with His love and His resolve.

2) Refuse to be silent. – If we are silent, we align ourselves with the persecutors in this world. However, there is a way for Kingdom people to be the voice of the persecuted and oppressed. Language of hate and blame will not glorify God. Will not. We speak love.

3) Pray. Unbelief has to be the worst sin of all. We as Christ-followers resist this temptation, especially in a world so racked with cynicism, lethargy and self-absorption. So pray, believing, dear ones. Every day. Together and alone. Pray.

4) Give. There is so much in the Word of God about giving. Again, the world’s thinking creeps into our decision-making when we don’t give (either through our churches or to relief organizations). “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”1 John 3:17

5) Go. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20

When Jesus gave this Great Commission, He wasn’t just speaking to those within His immediate hearing. He was speaking to the Church through the ages. He means for us to go, in obedience – to our neighbor, our co-worker, our friend. He may also mean for us to go short-term (2 weeks or 2 years) to another part of the world. He may mean for us to take a job with our company or another organization and spend much of our life among the nations. God definitely means for us to go next door…and to those most marginalized in our cities, towns, counties. In obedience. For the lives of the people. For the glory of God.

Send Relief

YouTube video of Story Behind Song Do Something

Matthew West’s & his dad Pastor Joe West’s popwe.org – reaching beyond entertainment – Craft. Share. Live.

5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor – All Pro Dad

9 Ways to Love Your Neighbor In This Pandemic – Justin Whitmel Earley

19 Simple Ways to Love Your Neighbor Right Now – Sheila Dolinger

Worship Wednesday – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – Steffany Gretzinger

Photo Credit: The Cove

But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:14-19

For almost 60 years, Rev. Billy Graham preached to huge throngs of people. Thousands of people would gather nightly in stadiums and convention centers to hear him preach and George Beverly Shea sing. Cliff Barrows would prepare choirs from local churches and lead the singing for the meetings. The whole experience was awe-inspiring – between the powerful preaching of Dr. Graham, the grand musical specials, and the glorious responses of many in attendance every single night.

I grew up with Billy Graham preaching on TV.  Those great meetings were televised from all around the world. Mom and Dad would suspend whatever their plans were when they had the opportunity to watch Dr. Graham preach. Early in our marriage, Dave and I participated in one of these meetings in Hartford, Connecticut.

George Beverly Shea singing “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus” was my first time hearing of that anthem. I sat mesmerized at his voice, for sure, but more at the truth of the lyrics.

No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus was written in 1932 by evangelist Charlie Weigle after his wife told him she was leaving (story and song here).

I haven’t thought of this song in years, until I saw on social media a notice about a song by the same title. It immediately drew me in.

No…it wasn’t the same song actually but one written this year…published in the midst of COVID-19 isolation. Sung by one of its writers, Steffany Gretzinger, this song has so deeply touched my “socially-distancing” heart.

In these troubling days, she reminds us, in this song, that Jesus and His love for us is unchanged. We can rise above whatever circumstances we find ourselves and hold fast to a love that never lets us go. Never. Ever. Lets. Us. Go.

Billy Graham ever faithfully preached about Jesus and His love. Cliff Barrows drew us all into worship as he pulled together choir after choir together – all with one heart, one song. George Beverly Shea sang the sermon before Dr. Graham preached. “No one ever cared for me like Jesus.”

They are all gone now. All with Him. All having their steadfast faith turned to glorious sight. They see Jesus who cared for them like no other.

Beautiful Jesus who pierces through every hatred and every hurt we’ve ever know.

We don’t have the opportunity to hear that old song much any more, but we can bask in the hope and love of this new song…and place our life and love in Him…whatever this strange year 2020 brings.

Worship with me:

If my heart could tell a story
If my life would sing a song
If I have a testimony
If I have anything at all

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
Oh my joy, my joy

Let my children tell their children
Let this be their memory
That all my treasure was in heaven
And You were everything to me

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found
I found my joy

I’m still in love
You’re still enough for me
Still all I want
You’re still my everything
I’m still in love
You’re still enough for me
Still all I want
You’re still my everything

No one ever cared for me like Jesus
His faithful hand has held me all this way
And when I’m old and gray and all my days
Are numbered on the Earth
Let it be known, in You alone
My joy was found*

Photo Credit: Facebook, Elisabeth Panrucker

*Lyrics – No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – Songwriter(s): Jason Ingram, Steffany Gretzinger, Dante Bowe, Chandler Moore

Jesus’ Love – Bible Reasons

Photo Credit: Jeremy Hunt, Douglass Leadership Institute

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans

Photo Credit: Flickr, gnuckx

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it…”from The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson

We are coming off a very different 4th of July (Independence Day) weekend here in the US. Protests are continuing into a second month following the killing of George Floyd. Violence erupting, in cities like Atlanta and Chicago, has taken more lives.

Confederate monuments in our city are coming down, but until they do, they are the focal points of what is going on here. Public reaction to George Floyd’s death and the racial injustices of decades past.

What can we do? What can be done in our country to right these wrongs or, at the very least, prevent future wrongs? With more than sad and angry words spray-painted on signs and statues. [Please don’t hear me say anything other than that…the change may need to start right here…right here on Monument Avenue…but it has to continue from here to wherever we all live, work, and go to school…]

Ben Peterson, a brilliant doctoral student in political science, recently published a definitive essay on this topic, entitled Social Control and Human Dignity.

I quote heavily from his article below, but if you can tackle the whole of his scholarly piece, please do. If you don’t have the time or choose not to take time to read the quotes below, then please read my own bullet points on his take (and that of Dr. Glenn Loury). Dr. Loury, by the way, is an esteemed educator, a professor of social sciences and economics at Brown University. He writes prolifically on both economy and on race. I am thankful to have found his voice recently.Photo Credit: Dr. Glenn Loury, Wikimedia Commons

My takeaways from Ben Peterson’s article:

  • Violent crime is a serious social problem, but punishment alone (especially through mass incarceration) will not alter our course as a country…or keep all our communities safer. In fact, such punishment with no other provision/recourse is damaging to those communities who bear the brunt of mass incarceration.
  • We must hold people accountable for criminal behavior, but with dignity and humanity. We have responsibility in this to assure laws and punishments are fair, and to search out any elements of racism in our laws and punishment.
  • We can strive for the perspective of “we, us, and our” in thinking of persons and communities, instead of “they, them, and their”. In so doing, we press for laws and punishments that we can morally support for our own brothers, husbands, and sons…and that of our neighbors.
  • If a community is struggling, we must treat it as our own, not seeking only punishment for crime, but also developing pathways for restoring those previously incarcerated fully back into their families and neighborhoods. Listening to the leaders in these communities is priority. They live there; they know the strengths; they know the needs.
  • We put reforms in place for law enforcement and education, such that we all benefit from the best our country has to offer. No matter how vulnerable our community is.
  • Racial indifference is not an option for us, if we truly care for our neighbors and this country.

Those were my takeaways. Below you will find some of the powerful and salient quotes from Ben Peterson’s article. I hope I get to vote for him some day.

“…young black men commit a disproportionate amount of the violent crime that persists in this country. That fact surely helps explain why police disproportionately apply force against black men and interact with black men. It also helps explain why our prisons disproportionately house black men. That’s a critical point, but I don’t think we can stop there.”

“…we as a society have chosen to deal, or perhaps not deal, with the persistence of crime in poor black communities.”

“…violent crime is a much greater threat to black lives than police violence, by the numbers.”

“[Loury] argues that our method of social control has damaging effects on many of our communities and the people whose lives the criminal justice system touches, effects disparately borne in poor black communities. These effects are such to make the method of social control we have adopted a systemic injustice that demands the attention of policymakers and leaders around the country. Loury’s analysis is distinguished from others in that he insists on applying moral categories and acknowledging personal agency. He sees the problem in its multidimensional entirety: not simply as a crime or mass incarceration problem, but a problem of social control and ultimately human development. He calls us to a greater sense of social responsibility than our policy since the 1970s has exhibited. We should heed his message.

“…part of treating people with respect and dignity is to hold them accountable for their behavior. One theme in [Loury’s] analysis of race and inequality is that black people have agency and are not mere victims of systemic racism. This is a deeply humane argument, for to deny a person’s agency is to deny his humanity. Loury argues that black leaders and communities have to exercise this agency and find a way to effectively condemn and control immoral behavior in their own communities.”

“While he insists on personal agency and accountability for behavior in black communities, he does not absolve the larger polity of responsibility for the ills of high-crime black communities. He insists that Americans need to shift our thinking, so that we don’t treat the problems of poor black communities as the problems of “those people.” He argues that racism played a role in the development of our policy of social control.”

“…systemic injustice, or a social injustice, [is] a legal and accepted social practice that fails, on a wide scale, to render to each person his or her due…our incarceration system and treatment of people formerly incarcerated, fails to adequately respect the human dignity of prisoners, former prisoners, and their families and communities.

“The charge of injustice is based not on the fact of punishment, but on the reality that the total result of our method of social control is a failure to prevent crime in many communities, a failure to rehabilitate offenders and integrate them back into society, and a failure to leave poor minority communities better off…That argument is certainly debatable, but I would at least submit that many white people don’t see struggling black communities as our own communities.

Racial indifferenceThe problem is not so much with what we do as what we fail to do, which is to allow for the human development of many people and communities, overly relying on a punitive justice system to control the results of social dysfunction.”

“First, we need reforms in the justice system to encourage more dignified treatment of suspects, prisoners, and the communities who the system affects.”

“…find and amplify what’s working well in high-crime communities, offer models for consideration. We may need public funding and more involvement on the part of community members, especially churches and other institutions, in similar efforts aimed at strengthening those bedrock institutions in struggling communities.”

“We need to give more attention to our educational institutions and finding real solutions for lagging academic performance.”

“While we cannot ignore the behavioral problems of the so-called black underclass, we should discuss and react to those problems as if we were talking about our own children, neighbors, and friends. It will require adjusting ways of thinking on both sides of the racial divide. Achieving a well-ordered society, where all members are embraced as being among us, should be the goal. Our failure to do so is an American tragedy. It is a national, not merely a communal, disgrace. Changing the definition of the American “we” is a first step toward rectifying the relational discrimination that afflicts our society, and it is the best path forward in reducing racial inequality.Glenn Loury

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Finally, I want to close with a story about a person very dear to me who found himself on the wrong side of the law. As a young man, he got swept up into drug addiction (naive in ways at the recreational use of drugs and then too soon addicted). Without details, he would make some choices, affecting no one but himself, that would lead to him being charged with a felony. Even with the best legal counsel money could afford, he ended up with a felony conviction. He served some jail time, but he never had to go to prison. Again, thanks to financial support that allowed for a drug rehab program rather than incarceration. He benefited greatly from the rehab program where he was treated with dignity and respect. Unless the laws in his state change, he will be considered a felon the rest of his life…not right. There’s too much “not right” in our country, but not so much that “we the people” can’t work toward change.

The Glenn Show – Glenn Loury and John McWhorter and Others“make space for serious people of all races interested in understanding and discussing problems of race, police, and crime in a holistic way that does not force them to deny obvious facts.”

Embrace Communities – “strengthening and empowering communities from the inside out” – love this organization’s ABCD methodology of community development [What organizations can you recommend to us? Comment please.]

[Below is a short video on anti-racism. I found it helpful.]

Sunday Blessing – The Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

[From the Archives, 2017. Today we are going through a raw and painful season, hopefully that will lead to real change in how we extend love to one another and how we work to heal the hurt in our society. I made very few adjustments in the text…because it is as true today as it was then.]

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, God loves both the black church and our essentially white church, both in the same neighborhood. Oh God, help us – to join together with each other – with those who love God also…and who love this city in a way that can stretch our own love…Maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

Monday Morning Moment – Searching Out the Truth in All the Voices

Photo Credit: Dunk, Flickr

I was talking to a friend recently about longing to be in dialogue where I can actually sort out what is true in all the public outcry.

She said, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” It went right to my heart. I would find out later that this quote is credited to social activist Maggie Kuhn.

My shaky voice has kept me from writing, and even speaking on some of the issues we are facing today. Yet, the voices all around us are getting louder and louder.

We are in a season (I’m determined it is a season and not a new normal) where voices on the streets, messages on signs, even on facial masks are persuasive and divisive.

I’m committed to listening and searching out the truth of what people are saying…but.

Here’s the but:

As long as I’m still free to choose, I can’t support an organization or movement that seems to stir up hatred as part of its strategy. That might not be the intent, but…hatred bubbles up. Hatred for those seen as enemy, as culprit, as guilty with no presumption of innocence.

In the last month, my understanding of our society has grown enormously. Too many times, I’ve had to acknowledge: “I didn’t know.”

Watching the documentary 13th was riveting. This feature-length film exposes how after the passing of the 13th amendment on the abolishing of slavery, and then, decade after decade, the governmental and cultural undermining that decision right through to today. [If you aren’t inclined to watch “13th”, then take 10 minutes and watch Ryan DavisThis Is America.]

I have started realizing that the truth is although I wasn’t consciously racist, somehow culturally and spiritually, I have enjoyed privilege and have been indifferent to many in our country who are hurting.

This broke my heart. Even after years of working in a large public hospital in Atlanta, years working in community development, and years of what could be called Christian service. I lacked the compassion and critical thinking that, ironically, should have been clear and obvious in a life of following Jesus.

So where does that leave me…us? Have you struggled with the cultural messages you are hearing…about yourself, in particular, if you’re white? Have you wholeheartedly agreed with the messages? That we are at fault for all the terrible suffering we are seeing now (if we didn’t see it before), and we have to make it right? I don’t have an answer here…only more questions.

Systemic Racism Explained – Ryan Davis

I am so ready for an advancement of good in our country.

Dialogue. Civil discourse. Reasoning together. Searching for solutions…sustainable, dignifying solutions.

Here’s where I am right now. Listening to friends. Asking questions. Watching news reports and reading commentary. Looking for people who are speaking on the problems in our country, without power or profit agendas. People who seem to care, truly care, for the hurting, but who refuse to go the way of hatred.

An example of what helped to clear confusion for me was discovering the operating strategy of cultural Marxism.

“A collectivist application of Marxist class warfare along a far broader spectrum of identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, as opposed to solely along class lines; intersectionality.
First, Marxism only spoke to the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but now men oppress women, whites oppress blacks, heterosexuals oppress homosexuals, the able-bodied oppress the disabled, & cisgendered folk oppress trans folk; WHO you are is irrelevant, all that matters now is WHAT you are, which groups you are a member of, your personhood reduced to your arbitrary characteristics, to that of an object; this is Cultural Marxism. –  Urban Dictionary

That is what I’m seeing in the loud and angry voices in the public arena right now. Class warfare. One group against another group. This is not the disruption that will enlarge any of us as Americans. We are all objectified by this kind of identification/definition. No justice in this. Only destruction and disunity.

The video below by theologian educator Dr. Voddie Baucham was enormously helpful for me to understand cultural Marxism. [I will warn you: he takes issue with the politics of a very popular US president.] His teaching actually gave me hope. Truth sets us free.

Be encouraged.

We can be a part of a redemptive work. Even with shaky voices and shaky knees. Our only recourse is NOT what the loudest voices call for…but we do need to listen to those who genuinely represent the hurting. And, most urgently, the hurting themselves.

Before closing, here are some of the voices that have encouraged and emboldened me in recent days. They are not all alike in their message, but they speak reason, love, and hope.

Rayshawn Graves. Bryan Stevenson. Scott Sauls. Anthony Bradley. Rolland Slade. Glenn Loury. Bevelyn Beatty. Senator Tim Scott. Darrell B. Harrison. Virgil Walker. Karen Swallow Prior. David Lyle. Jackie Hill Perry. Coleman Hughes. Jared Burwell. Tim Keller. Shelby Steele. Michael Catt. Keith Smith. John McWhorter. Voddie Baucham. Just to name a few.

I’d love to close with a few of the lyrics of Andrew Peterson‘s A White Man’s Lament for God’s Beloved:

“…the mercies of the Lord
Will be the chords to every song…
…it begins as I repent
And bow my head as I lament this broken world
‘Cause every victim, every villain
Was a precious little boy or little girl
This is me and this is you
This is the truth, if you believe it or not
You have always been beloved
They have always been beloved

George, Breonna, Ahmaud
All beloved of God

5 Ways Christians Are Getting Swept Into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment – Natasha Crain