Nope. Not a typo up there even though I am notorious for typos and errors in general. I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a happy Independence Day, but then I wanted to talk about what I consider a much more important day. Dependence Day. So, first off, let’s talk about Independence Day. Independence Day was the day that several men decided to put their lives on the line to try to declare independence from an oppressive, over-reaching, government in an effort to form a new country whose values were established on a foundation that saw God as the sovereign giver of rights. These men knew men to be fallible and wanted to establish a government that would have the ability to rectify wrongs as they became apparent. The world has seen many cultures and societies come and go over the centuries. Yet, the American experiment has been unique. Never has a country attained so much power and used it to advance the human condition rather than attain more power over humanity.
I am grateful that in God’s providence He saw fit to assemble a group of people whose character was such that rather than attaining power, these men resolved to form a better nation. The United States of America was founded in a way that made it clear that it aspired to bring about a society where true freedom was afforded to all its people. Slavery. Bam. Right off the bat there was an obvious and glaring discrepancy in what the founding fathers claimed in their establishing documents. Still, despite in-fighting due to the sinful nature of mankind and the blinding influence of greed, the country determined that for the founding declaration, “That all men are created equal,” to be lived out, slavery must NEVER be allowed to exist in THIS republic. It was outlawed. Still, the people who had been oppressed weren’t necessarily treated as equals. Far from it. In many cases they were treated as second class citizens if citizens at all. This isn’t necessarily an indictment of America. No. Countries around the globe have been faced with similar, if not, greater infringements on the dignity and respect due citizens of their societies. Yet, in many of these cases, the countries have made decisions to maintain the status quo. Even today, many countries continue to marginalize large portions of their society because it benefits those in power. Not so from a systemic standpoint in America. No. I’m not saying that there aren’t systemic issues with equality in America. There are. What I am saying is that the system we are operating within has been set up so that we can FIX issues when we see them. We have issues and we need to fix them. What Christians don’t need to do is to forget the way of Christ in going about fixing REAL issues. Violence and vengeance are two things that scripture makes clear do not work.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”[g]
says the Lord.
Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
So what about Dependence Day? August 17, 1984, is the day that I was released from the oppressive bondage of my enemy and given freedom through dependence on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you are a believer my request of you today is to think back to the day. You may not remember the date, that’s okay. Think back to the moment that you were freed from sin and granted life eternal. Think about that. My request is that you stop and thank God for His seeking you out and redeeming you. Thank Him for pursuing you and saving you. If you are not a believer, my ask of you is that you reach out to me or someone you know, or to God Himself today and ask Him to grant you the freedom you so desperately need.
God Bless. I love ya’ll.
I’m contemplating going out to the park to ride my bike this afternoon. Meanwhile, being the avid weather nerd that I am, I looked at the forecast. High around 93 degrees with humidity around 60% with a resulting heat index of around 100-102. It actually brought back memories. I have vivid memories of life in the south as a kid. The summers were scorchers, but we seemed to always find something to cool us off. Back then, moms and dads would tell the kids, “Go outside and find something to do.” Or, they’d tell us, “Go mow the lawn,” or anything to get us out of the house. As dangerous as extreme heat really is, my friends and I came out okay.
Starting off as a kid on Kawanda Lane right behind Huffman High School, me and my best buddies, Chris, Scott, and Walt, would find things to do. We’d play in the sprinkler or go try to catch crawdads in the creek by Randy’s house. The bottom-line with our parents was that we stay busy outside until the street light came on in the cul-de-sac where I lived. A great event that occurred daily during the dog days of summer, was when we heard the familiar sound of the music-box-like tunes in the distance. Each kid would take off to the house to get 50 cents or so. Then we’d all sprint back out to catch the popsicle man. Depending on how much change your mom gave you determined whether you’d get a Push-up, Fudgsicle, Popsicle, Bomb-Pop, or one of the really fancy things that cost about 75 cents. Some days when it was too hot, a parent may decide it was time to go to the public pool. There was one pretty close by in Center Point, but there was an amazing place called, “Cascade Plunge.” It seemed HUGE and had big platforms that seemed like they were 30 feet high that you could jump off of into the COLDEST water in Alabama. It was freezing. But it was fun.
When I was about 9, we moved to Trussville. The only major difference was the names of my friends. Now, Chip, Scott, another Scott, Tommy, Andy, Jimbo, Alan, and others had to bare the intense heat of Alabama summers with me. Again, we’d make do. This time, we had the Cahaba River down a ridge from my neighborhood. We often found deep pools to swim around in. Plus, the area around the river was all wooded which meant SHADE. So, we would spend entire days out in the woods. One day me in some of my friends decided to see how far we could float down the Cahaba. We did this without telling anyone. Bad move in the days before cellphones. We ended up floating from our neighborhood down to Camp Coleman. As a crow flies, it’s probably only two to four miles, but the river winds all over Jefferson County. We were in the river for hours. The 1980’s brought on the first wave of regular people getting in-ground pools. Lucky me, my best friend, Chip had one put in at his house. Later, another of my close friends, Alan and his brother Stephen had one put in. Meanwhile, down the hill in my neighborhood Michelle and Brett had a nice above ground pool with a trampoline right by it. That was also a blast. During this time, my dad, an avid golfer, was not coaching. He was selling insurance. So, he actually had time for other things in the summer. So, he got a family membership first to Cahaba Valley Country Club, and later switched to Grayson Valley Country Club. We were high falutin in the Gerelds’ house at that point. Grayson Valley was the bomb. It had two diving boards. The small one and the 10-foot one. We spent hours at the pool. Anyone who has seen me in shorts knows I haven’t got a lot of melanin. There were a few gnarly sunburns from those days.
When I was 15, my family moved to Tuscumbia. Again, a new influx of friends and new ways of trying to stay cool. My buddies were Bill, William, Al, Hugh, Lew, Kye, Andy, Bob…man, it was like Boystown. Being the coach’s son, lent itself to their being a lot of guys around, plus, my two sisters probably helped in that as well. One of the great aspects of living in the area known as “The Shoals,” was access to the Tennessee River. Man we had fun. Sometimes we went over to the bluffs in Sheffield and jumped probably 40 feet down into the big river. Other times we’d bum off our older friends like Buddy and go out in the boat and ski and tube and just have a great time.
Anyway, I know it’s hot. Some of us probably need to be careful in these type of conditions. But, if you can’t go out, maybe it’s a good day to remember fun times.
People often ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Others ask the opposite question, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Those of us who are Christians understand that the reality is that no person, apart from Christ is truly good. Jesus Himself was the only truly good person to have walked the earth. When a rich man came to Jesus to ask Him what he could do to inherit eternal life, Jesus’ answer explained that there was no magic pill for gaining eternal life, and that it wouldn’t happen for anyone who was counting on their own righteousness as their hope. His answer included this statement:
“Only God is truly good.” Mark 10:18b
That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of people who are “relatively” good. By this, I mean that there are people who are good compared to other people. That definition of good is inaccurate. God’s perfection and goodness are the actual standards for defining goodness. That said, our questions above regarding good things happening to good people start with a false premise, the premise that there are truly good people deserving of the good things. The man with whom Jesus was speaking had a long list of good deeds he had done. But in the end, the man realized that he wasn’t as “good” as he thought when Jesus revealed the man’s heart.
Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Mark 10:21-22
I believe it is only normal for us to look around and see horrible things happening to people in the world around us. Some of these people may be godly, sweet, caring people. It definitely has caused me to question God at times in my life. Likewise when we see people who are blatantly corrupt, cruel, and even evil, living it up with wealth, health, and all that goes with that, it can be hard to stomach. Atheists, agnostics, and others who would consider themselves a-religious often point to the presence of horrific pain, suffering, injustice, as a reason for not believing in God. I disagree with them and could write for hours about why I believe the presence of these “bad” things going on as an evidence for a loving, just, kind, and merciful God. But, for the moment I just want to say that I think it only makes sense for people to question the nature of God when we encounter the evil in the world. It especially makes sense when bad things are happening to us or to our loved ones. As I read the Psalms, Lamentations, and various other books including several accounts in the New Testament, I find that there has been a long history of bad things happening even to those who had a close, loving relationship with God. When reading these things I realize that God’s ways are not my ways, and that God’s sovereignty in working in and through His children isn’t a sort of karma.
For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matt. 5:45b
No, His ways are not my ways and my thoughts aren’t His thoughts. Somehow, God is able to use the very worst experiences, things that are truly evil, to work for good (Rom. 8:28). Because God created man with free-will, man is capable of great things, but he is also capable of dreadful evil. In God’s goodness, mercy, and sovereignty, He uses all that we experience to draw us closer to Him. The term “Mountain-top experience,” is often used by people when they have a significant experience with God. Likewise, we have used the term, “valley,” in describing down times in our experience with God and others at least as far back as David and his reference to “the valley of the shadow of death.” I’m writing today to encourage you that you’re not alone. God is in control. God is good. And, the ups and downs of this life are a part of the wild ride we call life. The amazing thing about this ride though is that it’s even better when the ride is over. Take heart. Even if your life seems like a rollercoaster and your grip is getting weak…God is good, and He’s holding you.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, John 10:28a
Sometimes as we’re going through the bad times we may forget about all the good times. If that is you, take a moment and thank God for all the good that has come your way. Maybe even write some of those things down. Just like the rollercoaster, things can change fast. We may not know what God is doing, but He does. I’ll close with a little humor relating to the “wild ride,” of life from a movie I really like.
The main idea of this post comes from a sermon/booklet written by a Nineteenth Century Pastor named Thomas Chalmers, called The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. The thrust of this text/sermon is that people cannot, “pull themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps” to become better people, or to rid themselves of sinful habits, behaviors, or patterns. Instead, Chalmers contended, people must find a “new affection,” to replace the other things that were driving their behaviors. Jesus seems to be indicating this principle in one of his parables.
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ 25 So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. 26 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.” Luke 11:24-25
In the parable, Jesus is specifically talking about a demon leaving a person. However, He makes the point that the person has not filled the void left by the vacationing demon. So, in the end, the demon brings seven spirits even more evil to fill the void. I believe this to be a universal truth. That is, I believe this to be true in the spiritual realm, in the physical realm, emotionally, politically, etc. For example, if I want to lose weight, I can’t effectively lose weight and keep it off without developing a stronger affection for something more so than I love to eat. Just taking away foods may work in the short-term, but without a motivating innate, passion for something else, I am doomed to failure. Natural really does hate a vacuum. Something always rushes in to replace whatever has been pushed out.
So, what is my point? Currently there is a lot of protesting and a fair amount of what has come to be known as “Cancel Culture.” Nearly everyone agrees on doing away with police brutality and is rightly pushing for reform to protect citizens against such horrific behavior. I’d be willing to bet that most police officers would be in full support of reform that protects the public and those entrusted to serve as peace officers in our communities. My concern is about the vacuum that will be formed if many, well-meaning people push out good policing along with reforming the bad. Something or someone will fill that void.
In order for true reform and change to take place, we have to have a stronger “affection” for the change. This means that there must be an alternative solution to the need that we are in favor of…not just passionate disapproval of what has happened. Anger alone without something better to fill the vacuum will only bring further harm to the people of our communities. Pointing out the bad is a part of reform to be sure. But, true reform has to be rooted in a better solution.
Today, most of the country realizes we need to do something to ensure that what happened to George Floyd never happens to another person ever again. Some have suggested doing away with the police force. To me, this makes no sense as I know that there will still be a need for someone to protect the most vulnerable among us who can’t protect themselves. Without trained men and women in those roles we would find ourselves in more of a “wild west” scenario where every man or woman is out for themselves. So, what can be done? I’d love to hear input on what can be done to ensure that the police officers in our communities don’t cross the line into brutality when dealing with suspects or others. I think it starts with the hiring process and better vetting of candidates. Possibly developing other non-lethal means for apprehending suspects? I’d love to hear your ideas.
I love to go speak to churches, businesses, men’s groups, ladies’ groups, football teams, basketball teams, student bodies…heck…I pretty much like going anywhere they’ll give me a microphone and some people I can talk to. I get to do this from time to time, but during the months following the release of the movie Woodlawn, I had the opportunity to speak to probably over 100 different groups. In all these forums whatever the racial makeup, one of the things I have said is, “Mankind doesn’t have a race problem. We have a SIN problem.” I believe that to be the truth. Racism is real and needs to be dealt with objective actions that can restrain what may be in the hearts of humanity. Still, the underlying issue is a spiritual issue that requires the Supernatural intervention of Someone Whose love is greater than our sin.
The fact that forced slavery is still in many countries emphasizes the fact that mankind doesn’t necessarily see each person as being created in the image of God and therefore having value and dignity by his/her mere existence. It also indicates that this problem isn’t relegated to the United States, but instead is unfortunately global in prevalence.
The map above (courtesy of The Global Slavery Index https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/)
illustrates the prevalence of slavery around the world today. It also lists the top ten countries in terms of prevalence. The numbers next to the names of the countries is the probability per 1000 people of being enslaved. In North Korea or Eritrea in Central Africa, you have roughly a 1 in 10 chance of being enslaved. Obviously, something is wrong and it isn’t race. In many of these places, the populations are largely homogenous. That is, the massive oppression and exploitation of people is happening not because of racism, but because of something else. I don’t know the exact “sociological” cause. But, for some reason the thought of the “Seven Deadly Sins,” came to my mind. I’m not sure how all these could contribute, but I’m pretty sure about some of them.
Pride—“I am better than these…”
Greed—“Free labor allows us to make more money…”
Envy—“We deserve to have what others have so we’ll exploit these people to get it…”
Lust—Much of the slavery is sex slavery. No need to guess on this one. Greed obviously contributes.
Sloth—“I don’t need to do the work. I’ll exploit people to do it for me.”
Gluttony—Not sure on this one.
Wrath—I have to believe that some of the slavery around the world is due to having been vanquished by a conquering force, or due to political dissension. (See China’s Organ Harvesting Program).
Any of these sinful patterns of relating to the world can lead to horrific exploitation and oppression of other people created in the image of God. In light of this what should we do?
Two options that definitely won’t help are: 1. Do nothing and hope it gets better. 2. Take the matter into your own hands and try to “fix” everything through vengeful acts of wrath.
As believers, we MUST pray (which is an action), and we must do what we can to affect change in our society. This can be through serving, helping, initiating legislative discussions, listening, loving, and learning. We can give to organizations that are helping minorities and other marginalized people in ways consistent with what God says.
No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. Jer. 22:3
Let’s be people of action, God’s way. Please share your thoughts and any ways you know of that we can help!
One of my best friends going through college was a young man named William. Rarely did any of his closest friends call him William. To us he was “Chump.” Chump was kind, smart, really funny, and a great athlete. He played free safety for us at Jacksonville State University. He lived just down the hall from me and I’d go hang out with he and his roommate Solomon from time to time. Chump grew up in Reeltown, AL, population 766 (as of 2010). Reeltown was just down the road from Tallassee which happened to be their big rival in high school football. Both of these small towns are located in Southeast Alabama between Montgomery to the west and Auburn to the east.
Before I tell you more about Chump, let me share with you something I learned when I first got into sales over 25 years ago. In going through sales training, one of the important things that I learned was how to deal with objections. “Objection handling,” is what it was often called among sales trainers and other sales “gurus.” The reality is that there are two kinds of objections.
For our purposes, we’ll deal with real ones. Fake ones are when someone is just trying to get rid of the salesperson and they’re just making stuff up. Real ones are when someone has a real concern and they are unsure if your product or service adequately meets their needs. Good salespeople are able to snuff out the fake ones and uncover the real ones. The principle I learned in this is that the good conversations often take place after the objection. Many salespeople pack up and leave when the person gives them a reason that they may not want the product. Great salespeople listen and are not offended, put off, or angry with these objections. They look at it as an opportunity to learn how they may (or may not) be able to help their potential customer. (Comic Relief—Warning: in the first 10 seconds the “s” word is used, otherwise, clean clip—don’t watch if you don’t want to hear the “s” word)
Back to Chump. I can say that I truly loved being around Chump. He was just a genuine good guy. The fact that he made me laugh a lot was a bonus. But beyond the laughter and fun we had some serious conversations. Sure we talked about sports, girls, and those things, but we also talked about life, God, and race. One evening Chump and I found ourselves sitting in the hall looking at an interesting article in the USA Today. The article asked a series of questions to white Americans and black Americans and compared the answers. The questions were to get the different perspectives on different social, political, moral, and other types of things. We sat and went through each question. Sometimes the answers were painful. I can remember learning things in the conversation that really surprised me. Some of his perspectives, based on his own experience and upbringing was hurtful to me. Chump wasn’t trying to be hurtful. He was being honest. And, I was a better man for having had the conversation.
I share these memories because I see our current climate as shutting down conversations that need to happen before they even get started. Back to my sales training comments above…many times the best conversations occur after someone has said something we disagree on. This is not the time to shut down the conversation or to get angry. I’m speaking to those of us who claim to be followers of Christ here. If someone, anyone is engaged in conversation about race, police brutality, social inequities, etc. Listen. All of us. We must listen. Even if we vehemently disagree with what is being said, instead of making assumptions about the person’s character, we need to consider that for some reason the person thought it was important enough to talk about. That is a starting point. Disagreements cannot be the end of the conversation. In many cases we can let them be the beginning. I believe that God is doing something through the horrible events that have brought us to this point. My pastor shared a verse Sunday that was one of my memory verses years ago as I began the battle of controlling my tongue.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20
My prayer is that God will use the Church, the Body of Christ, to bring healing. It can only happen as we listen, learn, and love. By the way, Chump, thanks for being a great friend, it would be great to see you again.
I really love to cook. I have 3 primary hobbies. Probably my number one hobby is mountain biking, followed by 2a and 2b guitar and cooking. I’ve already shared about my love of mountain biking and I’ll share about guitar another time. I decided to try to put into words why I enjoy cooking so much.
I’m sure part of my love of cooking comes from my love of good food. To me, good food runs the gamut. Great sandwiches, tacos, burgers and fries, to potato gnocchi with blue crab and perigold truffle, grilled oysters, tuna tartare, to outrageously hot chicken whether it be a wing, finger, or whole bird style, yummy rice bowls with all sorts of great things in them, pizza, to banana crème pie, white chocolate bread pudding with raspberries, or dulce de leche. From Restaurant August in New Orleans, to Howlin Ray’s Chicken in Los Angeles, or from Pat’s King of Steaks (or Geno’s across the street) to Chego’s in Los Angeles, or Hodad’s (for an amazing burger) in Ocean Beach, CA to Hattie B’s in Nashville (and Birmingham!). I am all about finding good food. I really think that the Food Network should let me come work with Guy Fiere as his scout for finding great diners, drive-ins, and dives. Or, I could work for the show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” as that would allow me to go to some of the fancy places around the country.
All this writing about food has gotten me really hungry. So, I love food which has often showed in my physique. But I think my love of food plays into why I love to cook for others. I believe that food is one of those things that God has given us to show us what kind of God He is. Good food is an amazing experience. God could have given us innumerable ways to get our needed nutrition each day. He could have had us plug into an outlet to re-charge our bodies. He could have made us without taste buds at all and let us get our nutrients through photosynthesis or some other crazy way. Instead, he gave us food. We get to experience it with our eyes, nose, mouth and even our ears when it is sizzling. Like many of the beautiful experiences He lets us enjoy, I believe He gave us food to help us know what kind of God He is. He even uses the analogy of food in beckoning us to get to know Him.
Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalms 34:8
Jesus also used eating as a means of expressing how we are to know Him.
Then he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. Then he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. For I will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God has come.” He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. Luke 22:17-20
God speaks to us using food because He knows that we enjoy it and we can all relate. It is a universal part of humanity. We enjoy good food.
I believe that God also made us with a desire to give to others.
You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35
Science has recently caught up with the Bible in that there have been multiple studies showing that human beings are “wired for generosity.” These studies have confirmed that people who shared and gave to others experienced more happiness and fulfillment than receiving gifts. I also believe that part of being made in God’s image is that we like to create. Those two things combine to make me a passionate amateur chef. I love watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks, researching cooking techniques, and then getting in the kitchen and making it happen. I like to do it for my family and friends. And, I enjoy the fruits of my labor as well.
Feel free to share in the comments below any favorite dishes, restaurants, or places that I need to try. Bon Appetit!
We were playing at the pool at my sister’s house. Her youngest son, Jake had been throwing the nerf football back and forth over the pool with me. At one point I threw it and it landed in the pool. Jake shrugged it off, squeezed the ball to extract as much water as he could, and we continued. It was a little more difficult now as the ball had added a few pounds due to the water he was unable to squeeze out. At one point his dog was sprinting back and forth and around the pool chasing the ball that we were throwing. It was sort of an unintentional game of keep away. Finally, as we noticed the dog’s tongue dragging the ground and our arms getting a little tired, we decided to end our game of catch. At this point Jake turned and punted the nerf ball away from the pool. The ball made an odd squishy thud sound coming off his foot and arced skyward away from the pool and toward some parked cars. One of those cars was our family van. The ball zeroed in on the windshield of our van and sure enough, SPLAT!!!! Almost dead center. But, it was a nerf. No big deal. Or so we thought. About an hour later we got into the van to go celebrate my sister’s birthday at a Mexican restaurant. Oh my! There was a HUGE spider-webbing series of cracks stretching across the entire windshield. We were shocked. We couldn’t believe that a nerf ball could do so much damage. But, sure enough, in the middle of the series of cracks we could see the outline of a football.
We went on to dinner without telling Jake, then brought him outside to show him the damage his punt had done. He was so sorry. I knew he was sorry and that he didn’t mean to destroy my windshield. So, I was happy to forgive him and move on. Still, there was real damage done that would involve getting my windshield repaired. Jake and his dad, my really cool bro-in-law Stacy, knew this and offered to pay whatever it cost to get it fixed. Fortunately, we had insurance and our out-of-pocket was only $100.
As I’ve thought about this incident I see some parallels to some of today’s issues as we as a nation grapple with the reality of racial inequities and how to make sure we live in a society where justice and opportunity are afforded every person regardless of skin color. Unfortunately, as in any human interaction the current conversation is rife with misunderstanding and oftentimes hurt, anger, and frustration from well-meaning people who have differing perspectives on things.
When Jake punted that ball he had no idea that the weight of the ball could potentially do great damage to my car. I’ve known Jacob Norwood since he was born. I know about his character. It was easy for me to see that he had no intention of damaging my vehicle. Many times in conversation, or even in social media posts, etc. people may have a very different opinion of an issue than me. The person may have no idea that their opinion or view is very weighty to me as I am personally affected by and emotionally invested in the issue. So, what may have seemed like an innocent nerf ball comment by the person comes crashing into the windshield of my heart and mind. At this point, I am confronted by a choice. To I assume that this person is a bad man and assign motives to him. Or, do I assume, like I did with Jake, that it was an innocent mistake due to a misunderstanding of the weightiness of the issue? My challenge to all of my brothers and sisters who call Christ their Lord, is to consider the weightiness of a matter before posting or responding. Secondly, that we would presume that the person with whom we disagree has good intentions until proven otherwise.
For us to make progress on racial harmony and unity as a society and even more so as the church, we must be able to listen without immediately making a judgement on those with whom we speak. God enable us to listen and love even with those with whom we disagree. Differing policy opinions and even ignorance isn’t a reason to judge our brothers and sisters. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he said:
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Phil. 2:1-4)
This is our calling. We can be difference makers by listening, loving, working together, and considering others more important than ourselves.
God Bless and have a great week!
When this posts I will probably be in the hospital. I am “electively” having my heart fixed. Two months ago, I was having dizzy spells and I asked a friend who is a healthcare professional to check my ears. I thought I had fluid in them from a sinus infection I had been battling. She said, “Sure. But, let’s do your vitals and everything first.” I thought that would be fine, but knew everything would be fine with my vitals. I was wrong. The first thing they do when checking your vitals is stick a little doohickey on your index finger called a Pulse-Oximeter, or Pulse-Ox. It checks two things, your heart rate/pulse, and your Oxygen concentration in your bloodstream. My oxygen looked fine. But my heartrate. OH MY GOODNESS! That little doohickey said my heart was flying along at 176 beats per minute. My normal resting heartrate is right around 60, so this was a bit of a shock. I said, “That’s got to be wrong.” So, they stuck what is called a 5-lead EKG on my chest and re-checked it. Sure enough, I was experiencing tachycardia. Or, a REALLY fast heartbeat. They wanted to send me to the local hospital (I was out of town) by ambulance. I told them that my doctor and my family were in Birmingham so I would drive back. I had to sign a release that I wouldn’t hold them liable if something happened to me on the way back to Birmingham.
I got to Birmingham, and a close doctor-friend had gotten a cardiologist to see me when I got there. He checked my heart with the EKG and this time it said 181 beats per minute. For a bit of perspective, I checked max heartrates on a couple of riders in the Tour de France during an intense climb in the Alps or the Pyrenees and they were in the 180-183 range. The simple formula for calculating your maximum heartrate by age is 220 – your age = Estimated max heart rate. I’m 52. My max heart rate, according to that formula should be 168. During the time I’ve been sitting here writing, my heart rate has been all over the place, including up to 165 beats per minute. The doctor looked at the EKG then looked at me. He looked back at the EKG, then back at me and said, “Man, you are flying!” He then told me to go over to the ER and to give them the EKG strip. He said, “You won’t be waiting in the ER. Watch how fast they move when they see this.”
Part of the story that I think is important is what I may have done to contribute to my heart going crazy. As I’ve said before, I am the poster-man for ADHD. Up until this happened with my heart, I had been on medication for this disorder. I also was a caffeine FREAK! Caffeine didn’t affect me like you would think. I was calmer and it helped with my focus. I could even sleep right after a cup of coffee. That said, like many people, I was constantly pushing the limits on work/play/life…always wanting to get the most possible out of every day. I had a serious case of FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. So, in line with this screwed up perspective, I bought some coffee that was supposedly, “The Strongest Coffee in the World.” It didn’t list the caffeine amount, but I found out later, that it was outrageously high in caffeine. Like, 479 milligrams per cup instead of 150-ish mg in normal coffee. That would have been bad enough, but I was drinking about 5 cups a day. I was so jacked up trying to go-go-go, all the time that I may have nearly done myself in. In trying not to miss out on life, I nearly cost myself my life.
That’s what brings me to this point. The heart is an amazing creation from an amazing Creator. It is a perpetual motion machine that works from the time a baby is around 5-6 weeks in the womb. And for most, it keeps beating until the day they die which in America averages out close to 80 years later. Wow. That is a remarkable part of an incredible conglomeration of parts that allow these bodies to take us through life. As I lay in the hospital bed with skilled healthcare workers buzzing around me, I was awestruck by how incredibly fragile yet resilient we are. I was also surprised by the peace that I had about whether this was the end for me. I am grateful for life. It is a miracle. I am grateful that God put me right where He put me, with those whom I have gotten to share this life. I did tell Him that I’d like to keep on living, but I was at peace either way. The main thing is that I didn’t want my kids to be without their Dad. I knew Jenn would be sad, but losing your Dad early is really tough for anyone.
After three unsuccessful attempts to normalize my heart rate and rhythm with a drug called adenosine, they decided to put me in the ICU. There, using various drugs including one called amiodarone, they finally got it to slow down. Since then, various drugs have been used to try to keep it down. I have had a few weeks of normal rate and rhythm. But, with the procedure coming up to fix it, they had to take me off one of them two-weeks prior and the others a few days before. So, now I’m back to flying. But, I’m ok. God is using this to teach me about being still. Listening to the wind…Enjoying my kids…Enjoying my wife—she’s really pretty…my dog Bo...A good meal. Stopping. Listening. Life is in those relationships, moments, and pauses.
Going forward, I’m hoping I will be ever more grateful for each beat of my heart. God knows how many I have left. I trust Him with that. I just want to make sure I make the most of the rest of them and I hope you do the same!
I was deeply saddened by the events that have occurred over the past week. First, I am heartbroken over the brutal murder of George Floyd. To once again have an officer who has sworn to serve and protect the public act in a manner that is criminal with the end result being the horrific killing of one of our citizens. I am heartbroken for his family, friends, and others who feel less safe today as a result of this killing. Everything about this is tragic and wrong.
I am also saddened by protests gone awry that become riotous rampages in cities around our country. I know that we are all susceptible to the adrenal surge that prompts a “fight or flight,” response. As a man, I know that I feel much more empowered and strong when I got the “fight” route. Flight can make us feel weak. So, I understand why the anger is manifesting in this way. Still, I know that there is another way. Through Jesus man was given an avenue beyond the constraints of our adrenal glands. This way was the way of love. I want to share words from some men who chose this much more vulnerable yet noble route. I’ll start with Jesus of Nazareth.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt. 5:43-48
Next, Paul the Apostle.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 [b]bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Cor. 13:4-7
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
“Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but it must be followed by a sense of futility.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.
“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”
All of these speak of how believers are to be revolutionary. Love is revolutionary. Still, I can list just as many quotes about how standing by when evil is perpetrated is unacceptable. Dr. King also said the following:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right.”
Finally, King Solomon, widely regarded as the wisest man to ever live, said the following:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. Proverbs 31:8-9
Our nation needs healing. We, the church, need to be leading the way. What can we do? Pray. Yes, pray. What else? Speak truth. Root out racism, bigotry, prejudice, and hate, and speak love into these circumstances. How do we do this? I encourage us all to talk to each other. Pray together. Let’s ask God to show how we can make a difference like the men quoted above did through love.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.