Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Only One Life Matters

This is probably one of the more heart-wrenching photos you will ever see.

This is the family of slain Baton Rouge police officer Mathew Gerald, who was ambushed with other law enforcement officers a couple weeks ago. There are no words to describe what this family or any of the other slain officers families are feeling today. And not only them, but for all of the other families who have lost loved ones to the senseless act of violence in the world, especially these last few months here in America and abroad.
Hatred is hatred and evil is evil, you really can't separate them no matter how much you try. Sure, each individual's circumstance/incident may be different, but at the end of the day someone was violently taken away from a family that loved them and they each bled red.
Only one life matters, the one that bleeds red.
 Today in America we have Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter, Democrats vs. Republicans and Republicans battling Democrats, the media vs. reality, the LGBT community vs. The Church, and denomination vs. denomination. What do all of these battlegrounds have in common? They each cause division. They draw a line in the sand between them and the one's they oppose or are offended with. As much as some of these groups intentions may be for good, some still carry with them a spirit of animosity, a spirit of the real culprit...Satan.
"A nation divided against itself cannot stand", Abe Lincoln
Instead of creating or teaming up with a group that causes division we should be trying to find ways to unite one another. Solutions not tactics against each other.
Just recently Michael Jordan stepped up and did more than just speak words of wisdom. The iconic sports figure whose own father had been murdered in a senseless crime donated one million dollars each to two different organizations, one to which I had no idea existed and the other does more than what you and I probably thought:
The first being The International Association of Chief's of Police's newly established institute for community police relations, which promotes and educates the best practices in community policing.
The second was for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation's oldest civil rights and their ongoing work in support of reforms to build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement.
Hmm, organizations that bridge the gap between races and communities without the threat of violence, what a novel idea!
Some people might say that it is impossible to unify America now, but history tells us otherwise.
In recent days I've decided to dust off that dusty ole' cover and re-read the book The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw. Within the book are the stories of Americans of all different races who united and fought together to get through the Great Depression and WW2. (If your looking for inspiration through history this is it, you can find this book at your local library.)
George Washington Carver once said,
"Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom."
But he also said,
" How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."
Some great words of wisdom to live by!
And lest we forget,
"Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Garden Party

A student said to his master, "You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?"

The master replied, "It is better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war."

A recent road trip with my buddy Brian led us to a war museum on 500 acres of land called Cantigny Park. I found it ironic that all around the outskirts of the museum that took you through 3 wars of American history were gardens. Not just any gardens, we are talking the most exquisite, lavishing, beautiful gardens imaginable.

Can peace co-exist with war?
In case you are unfamiliar with the cease fire on Christmas Day during WW1 you can scroll through my archives (December 2012) for Joyeux Noel, and read my Christmas movie review of this fascinating story.
Can peace exist within my own personal battle?
To be a warrior in a garden simply means you have readily and willingly put on your armor of God daily just as Paul instructs us to do in Ephesians 6. Even though our life may be all pretty and perfect at the moment we still need to put on that armor for we know not what lies ahead,
"Put on all of God's armor so you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil."
To stand firm as a warrior also means you have to have peace. A peace in knowing that God's got your back. The armor of God is there to protect you as God has said,
"I'm going to relieve you from defending yourself against your enemies. The battle is not yours, it belongs to Me."  (2 Chronicles 20)
Someone once said, "Looking at nature makes your brain work better." I believe that to be true.
Next time your needing peace within your storm find a place of refuge, a place of comfort, a place where God can restore your faith. Hmm, perhaps a beautiful garden!

Monday, July 11, 2016

What's Really Going On

It was a mid-summer night last August and there we were, a bunch of white folk serving a hot meal to a bunch of African-American folk in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the inner city of Chicago. On most Monday nights this would be the normal for us working with the Night Ministry, but this night was different.

On this particular night 300 miles away in Ferguson Missouri, there were riots taking place after an African-American young man was shot by police after peaceful demonstrations turned ugly with looting, rioting and shootings. To make matters worse this demonstration was taking place on the one year anniversary of another shooting by a police officer.

As we began dishing out food into containers for each person in line, the line was more quiet than normal. We've been serving in this neighborhood for quite awhile and have built relationships with many of those that we come in contact with, so a quiet stillness was not the norm. For myself this would be a night that put everything into perspective as I would pierce into each persons eyes and view a peaceful comfort within each of them as their hearts were filled with hope.  Some of their eyes told a story of wonder, a wonder of why can't everyone else be like this. On this night their gratitude was more overwhelming than previous nights. It was a night where black or white did not matter, we were all as one.

In recent days America has seen it's share of violence, racism, and hatred. These are all just components to something more, something greater, something called evil. I find it coincidental or maybe even prophetic that Graham Cooke would eloquently put everything America is facing into perspective just a few days before all of these events happened:

"What is the biggest problem in America? It's not drugs, it's not crime, it's not poverty or low education, it's not terrorism, it's not abortion, it's not the gay community, it's a lack of goodness."

"The bible says we overcome evil with good. It is the goodness and kindness of God that leads people to repentance. Jesus went about and did good and healed all that were oppressed by the devil. It is not our job to call out sin nor judge others. It is our job to call down the grace of God on our community, to be salt and light, to be ambassadors to reconciliation."

That lack of goodness Cooke is referring to here in America is simply a lack of the visibility of The Church within it's community.

Just as Abraham Lincoln said, "A nation divided against itself cannot stand," so it goes for The Church, which is you and I. God never intended for The Church to be divided.

 Within America it's time for The Church to put aside it's theological and political differences and be The Church God intended for us to be. The role of the Church is to bring the goodness of God because we overcome evil with good, always. And in case any follower of Christ has forgotten the role of The Church, the Apostle Paul reminds us of it in Ephesians 4:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Wow, if each of us could even have an ounce of measure as the complete standard of Christ and use what we've been taught to deliver love and hope to those in need, imagine where America would be today. The Apostle Paul goes a little further instructing us to,

15" Instead, speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."

Love is the motivating factor. Without love all hope is lost.

Serving the less fortunate within your community is not only an expression of love, but gives people hope. A hope in mankind, a hope for a future.

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."
 - Mother Teresa

It's time for America to see that light again.

 It's time for The Church to get outside of it's four walls and be that light. If light dispels darkness then we need a whole lotta light.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Simple Something

"Be Happy for this moment. This moment is your life."

One day last week while driving through the neighborhood in the morning, I drove past a neighborhood park and spotted a kid on a swing, swinging as high as she could go. What's so unusual about this, you may ask?

 Well, for starters it was an early 9am. There was no one else in the park at that time. And the kid was actually a pre-teen young lady who just happened to be on a bike ride and apparently hopped off her bike to go for a swing, hence the bike parked nearby her. The girl was smiling from ear to ear  and giving her body a kick so she could swing as high as the sky. Ahh, those were the good ole' days when as kids we just wanted to kick our bodies into high gear and swing to the stars.

I loved the fact that this young lady was just on a bike ride and decided to hop on a swing to make herself happy, even if were for just a moment.

Sometimes that is all it takes for any of us, just a simple something to bring joy into our life. A few weeks before summer kicked into full gear, I found a nice quiet shade tree near a lake to quietly sit under and drink some coffee. It was a quiet moment of peace that brought me joy.

Don't hesitate to take time out for yourself and find a simple something to bring you joy and peace.
Sometimes that's all we need!