Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Must See Movie

Yesterday was my wife's birthday so last night we went to see "The Butler."  We both loved the movie and were deeply moved throughout.  It was amazing to feel the sweep of history over the years we have lived.  For me it was one of the finest movies I've ever seen.  So I'm recommending it as a "must see" for all who read this blog.

It was a moving day yesterday as I started the day reading Dr. Kings speech from 1963.  Before the day was over I had listened to it in its entirety several times and heard some of the speakers from the Mall in Washington.  Then to see this movie brought it all together.  As I noted in yesterday's blog, I am humbled.  We have a lot to answer for in this country for how we have treated others and I think what stands out to me is how insensitive so many are to how deeply this is still being felt.  You cannot wipe this long history of racism and oppression under the rug. We have a long long way to go.

May God bless my brothers and sisters of every race, color and persuasion.  We are one human family.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Day for Humility

I HAVE A DREAM...It's been 50 years since Dr. King gave his historic speech. As a young white boy in the old white south I didn't understand or appreciate the events of 1963.  But as time has passed, it has gained increasing importance in my life, especially in my efforts to be the kind of person Christ would expect me to be.

This morning I took the time to carefully read again the full speech of Dr. King.  I do not believe there has been a truer or more eloquent speech in my lifetime.  Looking back it was a sad fact that racism was so horrific 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.  But, what is even sadder for me is how much racism I still witness in the hearts of so many after another 50 years.  Yes, some things have changed but any celebration of that change has to be muted by the distance we still have to travel.

I was stuck again by the phrase, the fierce urgency of now.  Many want to claim that because a black man was elected as President racism is a thing of the past and that those who say otherwise should get over it.  Especially as Christians we should know better.  The extending of true and complete equality and justice to all (not limited to race) should be the fierce urgency of now for all who follow the way of Jesus.  We should lead the way not by words alone but by the way we actually conduct our lives.

On this hallowed day I have a request of all who read this blog.  It you read this, then you have a computer.  Please bring up the I Have A Dream speech and read it in its entirety.   Make it your devotional time for this day and surround what you read with a time of personal prayer.  I trust it will speak as powerfully to you as it did to me again this morning.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What about being fair?

I believe that Jesus would want us to stand for fairness.  It is an injustice when the systems under which we live become fundamentally unfair.  When that happens the church should be clear about where it stands.

I think we are quickly becoming a third world country where the rich get rich purely on the backs of the masses for whom they care little.  The rights of those who labor have been decimated as those making the profit force wages down so we are more like cheap third world labor.  Profit is fine but it becomes evil when it becomes a god to which we bow and sacrifice the fairness we have taken away from others.  

Here are a couple of facts from our local Sunday paper.  The article was pointing out how many people who work in Lee County cannot really afford to live in Lee County.  People employed in 57% of jobs studied cannot afford to rent an average two bedroom apartment in the county... the study looked at 76 jobs from dishwashers and janitors to accountants and police officers.  Here is another national figure from the article.  71% (of jobs) don't pay enough to buy a mid-priced home. The article only reinforces what I shared in a recent sermon when I told you that if you own a home you are better off than 95% of the rest of the human race on this planet.  Just consider this one item.  If you are never going to earn enough to rent a decent apartment or someday purchase an average home, what kind of future do you have?

There are those who think anyone can climb the latter of success if they want to or if they work hard.  I believe that is true if the playing field is a fair one.  Increasingly that isn't true.  Well meaning and hard working people are finding themselves in a labor market where they will never get ahead.  They cannot look forward to a living wage and health coverage let alone any retirement.  This is not a matter of equality.  This is not about everyone having the same income or benefits.  It is about being part of a country where there is equal opportunity built not on words but on fairness.  

It's easy for those considered "less than" to be put down.  They have little or no voice.  But as you hear all the clamor, as a follower of Jesus, give some thought to this issue, are we really being fair?  Think about it.  The Jesus I know from the Gospels would be in favor of doing the right thing for others instead of being all about profit.

Friday, August 9, 2013

God, don't let me become cynical!

Yesterday was really painful as I was scammed twice.  One was very troubling because the person was really good, as skilled as the best Hollywood actor. What hurts the most?  Well it hurts when you reach that moment when the light comes on and you feel really foolish.  It hurts a little when money is involved.  But, what hurts the worst is the emotional involvement and that piece of your heart you gave to the situation.  A big part of my life for two days was tied up emotionally in a fake tragedy.

What seems funny about the timing of this is Sunday's Gospel Lesson.  This weeks sermon is all about helping those in need.  Being so soon, I will probably have a little twinge when I start preaching.  Those who are cynical already will pay it little attention.  And some will simply label me a bleeding heart liberal. Which again is part of the problem - viewing life only through the eyes and terms of our world.

What I am trying to be is a Christian, a follower of Christ.  The teachings of Jesus are the exact opposite of our cultural perspectives.  The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World are counter kingdoms. The teachings of Jesus are hard teachings which is why so few really take them to heart.  For me life has narrowed down to this.  Will I do what I can to live out the simple teachings of Jesus or not?  Everything else is of little significance.  So as I begin this new day my prayer is, God, don't let me become cynical.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Mexican Petunias & God

There is hardly a lawn in Southwest Florida without some Mexican petunias.  They are easy to grow and for many that's the problem.  They don't stop growing and spreading.  So, people are always saying, "don't buy any you can have some of mine, please!'

I have one bunch in our front yard and I go out to see them every morning.  Why? Because when I come home from work each evening there is only green.  The heat of the day and the nature of the plant results in every flower falling off.  There they are the little purple flowers all droopy on the ground.  But the wonderful thing is that at first light and everyday without fail I walk out to beautiful purple flowers.

I'm not thinking anything profound or new here but this morning I was reminded of a couple of things I think we all need to remember more often than we do.  First, I was reminded of the faithfulness of God.  I see so much of myself in my late father's life.  I've always had the same emotional makeup resulting in similar worries.  I'll worry about the next dime or how any and all situations will turn out.  I certainly can identify with Lord I believe help thou my unbelief.  I do trust God but not nearly enough given God's track record.  For just about 62 years now God has never failed.  When I thought all was lost it never turned out that way.  He never left me or stopped loving me or being patient with my doubt.  So this morning I was thinking again of those words, great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see.   

God is faithful every morning of every day.  No matter how I lived the previous day I awake each morning to new mercies.  My relationship with God might look like the droopy purple flowers laying dead in the mulch at the close of the day but rest assured of what the morning will always bring.  This daily aspect was reinforced by my praying our Lord's prayer.  You know, the part about daily bread.  God's provision is just that, daily.  Oh that I would live just one day at a time.  All I have needed thy hand has provided; great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

So I really do appreciate the gift God has given to me in my little patch of Mexican petunias.  Through them I am reminded each morning not only of their beauty but of God's character and his readiness to walk with me through each new day.