Photo courtesy of https://rechargesportsinjury.com/carpal-tunnel-syndrome
So, I’ve failed to keep up my two-blog post per week plan over the last few weeks. Several things have contributed as we’ve had an enormous amount of “life” happening. Still, one of the primary deterrents to me doing something that I love (writing my blog) has been this intensifying pain and numbness in my right hand. I have battled with carpal tunnel syndrome for years. I have had several things contribute to this malady. As a matter of fact, several things that I love have collectively contributed to make my hand a nearly constant source of pain, irritation and frustration.
The first contributor to my condition has been the numerous injuries I sustained over the years playing various sports and doing crazy things with my friends. One of these injuries was a displaced fracture of my right radius and ulna sustained after sneaking onto the Talladega Superspeedway with Brad Ryan, Todd Lyles, Andy Ryan, and Jerry Hanks. We had successfully climbed the 7-foot fence and three strands of barbed wire, climbed up inside the big orange “76” Ball at the top of a tower, and slid down the famous banked turns of the legendary track. After accomplishing these great feats, we noticed a car coming around the service road along the top of the track’s walls. The car had a spotlight shining down on the track and over the other side down toward the fence we’d climbed earlier. We all jumped down the hill into tall weeds and laid flat on our bellies until the Police car passed by us. Then, one by one my buddies jumped the fence. I was last to go over and everything was fine until my foot caught that top strand of barbed wire. Having jumped to go over the top, my foot catching that wire caused me to flip so that I fell headfirst into the ground about 9 feet down. I apparently tried to catch myself and mangled my arm. I could go on about the rest of that night, but I’ll leave it at the fact that it wasn’t pleasant.
A few other contributors to my ever-increasing discomfort have been bicycling thousands of miles every year for decades, playing the guitar a lot for the last 10 years or so, and my fondness for writing. All of these things, except for the illegal sneaking onto a racetrack nearly 40 years ago have all been good things. Yet, after talking to my doctor today, the damage done to my arm and the irregular anatomy in my wrist probably reduced the joint’s ability to take the wear and tear of those good things. That stupid decision has contributed in a big way to my hand being rather ineffective today. Apparently, the bones may not have been aligned properly all those years ago. How crazy to think that something so stupid could cause me to stop doing something I love and that I believe God has called me to. As crazy as it may seem, I believe God has called me to be an encouragement to the body of Christ through my writing. That said, my hand was really causing me to avoid sitting down and writing. There is good news, however. I am seeing a doctor who is going to repair this problem and it should restore my hand to its proper functioning.
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. I Cor. 12:12, 21, 25-26
The Church is the body of Christ. Each member has a role that makes the entire body function properly. If the hand is wounded the whole body hurts. Sometimes body parts carry wounds from things that happened a long time ago. It may seem that we are doomed to just have to live with these injuries. There is good news, however. And, it is even better news than my news about there being a doctor who can help restore my hand. This news is that there is a Great Physician Who created us and who knows perfectly how to restore us. He is even able to take the injury and use it to make us even more effective in the roles to which He has called us.
I am grateful that I am going to see a skilled hand surgeon who will hopefully help restore my hand. I am even more grateful that I know the Great Physician Who is and has been healing the wounds that hold me back from fulfilling God’s purposes for which He created me. If you feel like your wounds are holding you back, take heart. He is there and He can heal.
All of us have either done things ourselves or have had things done to us that have affected our ability to live out our calling. If you need help, I encourage you to talk to your pastor or to seek out a Christian Counselor/Therapist. I know several. If you’d like any information about any of these, just send me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org
I was recently rummaging through some stuff out in the garage or in some other extremely messy part of my home. I came across a single sheet of paper that was a copy that had been made of someone’s notes. The handwriting looked very familiar…very familiar. As I looked over the content of the notes I thought, “Dang, I think this was some of Dad’s stuff.” Scrawled out in that familiar penmanship were the following:
2. Learn from your mistakes.
Continued mistakes are not mistakes, they’re decisions.
3. Teach others from your mistakes.
4. Move beyond your mistakes.
Section 2: Passing Culture Down
1. You must model it.
I have no idea what number 1 was up there in Section 1, or even what Section 1 was called. I have to believe it had something to do with mistakes. Section 2 will be followed up on in an upcoming blog post. Today, I want to focus on the words scrawled out in Section 1.
There are very few things about which I would call myself an expert. One thing that I will unabashedly claim expert status on is the subject of mistakes. I am an expert on mistakes. Having made so many in so many different areas of my life, I am well qualified to speak on mistakes.
Areas where I’ve made mistakes:
Personal behavior (no need for detail here)
I could go on, but I think you get the picture. Over the years mistakes have often caused much pain, heartache, embarrassment, and may have even cost me some money at times. That said, most of the little bit of wisdom I’ve acquired has often been a result of these same embarrassing lapses. As I read the notes I shared above, one of my dad’s other sayings regarding mistakes came to mind. Dad always told me, “Make your mistakes full speed.” Dad was big on asking his players to give maximum effort every play. He said that even if you make a mistake, if you’re going all out, sometimes good things will happen. He also wanted to insure that if a mistake was made, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort. That stuck with me. At times, I may have even gotten out of balance on the whole, “do everything at full speed,” mantra. That being said, I really believe that Dad was on to something with this approach. Allowing for mistakes as long as the effort was there meant that I was freed up to take risks and to be “loose,” in the way I played the game. His direction in the notes he scribbled made that clear.
1. Learn from your mistakes. Continued mistakes are not mistakes, they’re decisions.
Like a dog that returns to its vomit, a fool does the same foolish things again and again. Proverbs 26:11
My pastor teaches us that God often uses the toughest stuff we go through to help others who may be going through the same type of stuff. We make the mistake of thinking that the mistakes we’ve made disqualifies us for ministry. Oftentimes, it is these very mistakes that allow us to have the empathy, humility, grace, and love necessary to truly convey God’s love to someone in crisis.
For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. Proverbs 24:16
Far too often we allow ourselves to be defined by our mistakes. On the other hand, we may seek to be defined by our successes. Both of these miss out on Who defines us. We are not defined by anything we do. Rather, we are defined by a good God who has acted on our behalf to tell us who we are and what our value is. Mistakes are tough in the moment. But remember, God is the redeemer of our mistakes. He truly will use these things to help others and bring glory to Himself. In the meantime, He allows us to experience a life filled with purpose and fulfillment as we live out what we were created to do, love God and love other people.
My teenage years in Tuscumbia, Alabama were some memorable times. It was during those years while living in the Richmond Hills neighborhood that I met one of my very best friends. He is two years younger than me but lived almost directly behind me. I spent so many nights at this house sleeping on the couch, the floor, or the old bed down in the basement, that his mom got me a really nice blanket as a graduation gift. We often joked that it was because she was tired of seeing me in my underwear sprawled out across her den. I’m not sure she was joking. It was during my senior year that my buddy, William Christopher, told me that he liked my little sister (Jill). Because I knew how he was being raised and what kind of person he was, I was fine with it. I knew he’d be a good guy to my little sis. And, he has been. He and my sister have been married for over 25 years now, and his family is like actual family to me.
Tommy and May Woody Christopher were an extra set of parents for me in the years that mean so much as you transition from kid to adult. May Woody was the more talkative, sweet, outgoing one. But Big Tom was always there. He didn’t talk just to hear himself speak…unlike some of us. But, when he spoke, you’d do well to listen. He was the kind of man who spoke for the sake of the other person. Tommy Christopher grew up in Tuscumbia and was an amazing athlete. He ended up attending Auburn University where he was an All-American in Track and Field in the Pole Vault. He set a record there that wasn’t broken for many years after he’d gone. He was V.P. of the Foundry of the Shoals and founded Shoals Fabricating. He was a hardworking and fair boss for many people who came through there over the years. I think one of his employees at one time was my buddy, and his son, William. He served in the National Guard Reserves for 32 years and retired as a Colonel.
When you think about the people God brings across your path in this life, the ones who seem to matter most are often those that aren’t looking for attention or a pat on the back. They are more content to work hard, take care of the ones they love, and who enjoy their time with their families and friends. That was Tommy Christopher. Tommy Christopher passed away Friday, July 3, 2020. I went up to be with my brother-in-law and best friend William, his mom May Woody, and his sister Mary Cecelia Youngblood earlier this week. When I said, “He didn’t talk that much,” May Woody laughed and said, “Really?” We all smiled, and I then said, “But he was just…just…he was just solid.” As I said earlier, when he spoke to you, he was doing it for you. He was just solid. I used to love seeing him and my dad talking and laughing. They “got” each other.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you want to know if your life has made an impact, at the end of your time here on earth, if the people who knew you best know that they were loved well because you were in their life, you did it. You had an impact. You made a difference.
As I looked at hundreds of people wearing face coverings and standing six feet apart gathered at Oakwood Cemetery earlier this week, I could see sadness in their eyes. But I could also see a sense of admiration that they had. They knew, this was a good man. More importantly though, was the time I got to spend with his son, daughter, wife, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, and a boatload of grandkids. They knew that Tommy Christopher had loved them well to the very end. They will all miss him so much. If you’re friends of their family, keep them in your prayers and check in on my other Mom sometime. I know she’ll appreciate it and so will her son and daughter. Meanwhile, I am hoping that at the end of my life, my wife, kids, and other loved ones will know they were loved like Tommy’s family knew he loved them.
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!
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.