Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Two Sides...a few Thoughts.

Growing up as a young boy (very, very, young) in the 60's I knew about the racial tension and the plight of African Americans to secure equal rights.  I knew about it from a great distance since I lived and moved about in a lily white existence.  It wasn't that we were segregated from anyone of color by choice, it was just the fact of living in rural northern Indiana during a time when venturing out of your community didn't happen much, especially for me.  The closest I came to interaction with an African American would be on the basketball court when I was a little older.  In my home, I was told that color wasn't an issue for how you treated someone.  I grew up singing: "Jesus Loves the Little Children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the World."  

Because I grew up in a "white cocoon" I wasn't aware of the struggles facing the African American community regarding prejudice and the reality of their existence in many places of America because of skin color and bias.  I cannot begin to imagine what it's like for an African American pastor who drives through neighborhoods and is routinely pulled over and knows he better place both hands out the window in order to signify to the officer he has no weapon in his hands. 

The situation in Ferguson, MO is not as cut and dried as some from both sides of the issue try to make it.  There are complexities based on political bias's, economic realities, media ratings, historical facts, and evil intentions.  As I have watched, listened, and read about the events, I feel inadequate to offer much to the discussion other than, this is NOT how God intends for us to live.  Because of my inexperience in the African American community, I cannot offer a verdict to the reality they face daily.  I'm saddened by the events, the death of a young man, the uncertainty of what life will be like for a police officer who was trying to do his job, the community that is being ripped apart by violence (not necessarily by the residents of the community), a nation that can't seem to get a handle on how to live together.  

In a recent post written by Benjamin Watson, Tight End for the New Orleans Saints shares his thoughts surrounding the issue at hand. I think his perspective as an African American can help in this issue.

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

 I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.

I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.

I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Puppy Training & GOD

Meet Toby, the newest addition to our family.  Toby, a Snoodle is 16 weeks old and has a bladder the size of a BB. Can you guess what “we’re” in the midst of?  The thing is, with Toby I know he truly wants to please me.  Yet something gets in the way that pulls that desire out of him and results in…well, you know! 

Sometimes I wonder if God looks at me and laughs out loud as he watches me maneuver life with Toby.  I can imagine he watches me try to “train” Toby and says gently…”welcome to MY world!”  I know how frustrated I’ve gotten over the last few weeks of impatiently wanting Toby to get with the program on WHERE HE’S SUPPOSED TO GO, I get a small glimpse into what God must sense with me!  How many times does HE have to instruct me in something as simple as Love God & Love Others?  This is very basic in my relationship with Him, yet how many times I act like a little puppy who seems to at will do whatever, where ever he pleases, not resembling any restraint and oops, there’s a mess to clean up.  How many messes have I made?  Yet, the remarkable thing is God is so patient and compassionate with me, even when I act more like a puppy than a grown man.

I’m so similar to Toby.  Still in training.  Thankfully God is extremely patient and loving in the process.  “TOBY…do you need to go outsi…too late!!!”  Maybe next time!  Thanks God for the reminder!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The fine art of Shoulding on myself!*

“I should have studied harder in school.”  “I should have invested in Apple in 1980.”  “I should have prayed and read my bible more.”  “I should have been kinder to others.”  These statements may be true but sometimes I get so caught up in what I should have done I lose sight of what I could be doing now and tomorrow.  Regret is a potential monster that can steal away time, energy, and hope.  The Apostle Paul in Philippians 3:13 says there is one thing he does about the past, he…”forgets what is behind and looks toward what is ahead.”  If I keep “shoulding” on myself I will only live in the regret of what I “should have done” and not what I could be doing! 

So, my advice regarding your past regrets: STOP SHOULDING on YOURSELF! 

*this statement is not original with me as much as I wished it were, credit is given to my friend Denny Howard

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Last week Ruthann and I flew to San Diego for vacation.  I LOVE flying and enjoy the entire process that takes place to get from point A to point B.  Although, I don’t appreciate the reduction of snacks and meals.  How do they expect me to drink my “free” drink without the plethora of gourmet, tasty pretzels they used to provide?  The perspective of the airline is they are now saving money, keeping them from going bankrupt by not providing such extravagant snack items!  That’s their perspective! Mine is a little different!

One thing that strikes me every time I’m up in a plane is the difference perspective makes.  As the plane takes off and we rise above the ground my mind shifts into overdrive as I try to identify things from a different view.  It amazes me how we can take off on a cloudy, overcast day and eventually we pop through the clouds and the bright sunlight streams in the windows. 

Living in the Midwest I’ve had my share of cloudy, overcast days.  At times I forget the sun is always shining and the clouds begin to shape my outlook. That’s one reason why I like flying so much, it reminds me of this principle of perspective and no matter what’s happening, the sun is still shining.  I have to admit there are times I get stuck with a perspective that is below the clouds.  I become impatient when I don’t see things clearly.  Or, I become frustrated when another view isn’t my own.  I then demand they view life through my lens.  I have to constantly remind myself I’m not the center of the universe. Although, everywhere I go, there I am!  There is only ONE who is the center and I’m not Him!  Flying reminds me of this as I look out the window trying to grasp how large He is and how small I really am. 

There is an art of seeing things from a different perspective that I need to explore.  As I do, I begin to learn and understand others better. I may not agree with them, but I’ve gained a sense of understanding where they are coming from and how I relate to them may change.  And, I begin to see me for who I am, one of many who need to be reminded what life is like above the clouds. 

I don’t have to wait until the next time I fly to get a different perspective.  I can do that by looking to the ONE who sees things from a higher elevation and understanding. He desires me to fly on wings like eagles in the process.  So, I’m going to grab some pretzels and keep looking for His perspective where the light is always shining!