Monday, January 20, 2014

A Modern Day Moses

"And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." (Exodus 3: 9-10)

This week we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. While doing my daily Bible reading, beginning the book of Exodus, I began to draw a parallel between Moses and Dr. King. I thought that surely I'm not the only one who ever entertained this idea, so I went on a search. Sure enough, I wasn't the only one."Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the Moses of the 20th century", said Charles E. Mock of the National Baptist Convention. At a Martin Luther King Jr. annual awards dinner, Charlton Heston said, "A great many people think of me as Moses parting the Red Sea but if the 20th century ever had a real Moses who led his people to the promised land that man, of course, would be Dr. King." (2004 Jewish Post of New York) These are only two examples among many that I found.

Dr. King himself must have felt this kinship with Moses as well. At a rally in Memphis, he said, "I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up the mountain. And I've looked over. And I have seen the promised land. And I may not get there with you, but I want you to know, tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land!" Compare this to Deuteronomy 34: 1-4. "Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land - from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it." Both men saw the promised land .... both men never got there.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., graduated from Morehouse College (B.A., 1948), Crozer Theological Seminary (B.D., 1951), and Boston University (Ph.D., 1955). The son of the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King was ordained in 1947 and became (1954) minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. He may have had expectations of leading a middle class, quiet lifestyle, but God had a different plan. He grew up mostly protected from segregation but he had a different calling on his life. Not that he didn't know what was right and wrong. His father was an example to him. His dad refused to patronize a shoe store that made blacks be served only in the back of the store. He also corrected a white police officer who called him "boy", declaring that he was a man. (Detroit News, Jan. 16, 2006) His son Dexter Scott King said, "Greatness was thrust upon him, and for some internal reason or external destiny he did not turn away."

Just like Dr. King, Moses saw the oppression of his people in Egypt. Fleeing for his life after killing an Egyptian, Moses was living a quiet life, married, having children and tending the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro, when God interrupted his life and called him to service. And he did not turn away. Not that both men didn't have some fears, insecurities and self-doubt to overcome. Dr. King had to surrender his expectations of the way he thought life was going to be, to heed the call to become a leader in a movement bigger than himself. He had to muster up boldness, willingness and surrender to his God to go forward.

Moses questioned his own abilities. Low self esteem said, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Exodus 3: 11) Doubt asked, "What if they don't believe me?" (Exodus 4: 1) Lack of any confidence in himself said, "I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (Exodus 4:10) Fear screamed, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it. " (Exodus 4: 13) Both men trusted in their God, heeded the call on their life, and obeyed.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963, Dr. King gave his famous "I Have A Dream" speech. In the shadow of Mount Sinai, Moses read the commands that were written by the very finger of God to the people.

Both men presented the way to a better life. The way to peace and prosperity. Both men's words are still being ignored.

So what does this mean to us, on January 20, 2014....thousands of years after Moses and years after Dr. King? Have we reached the promised land? I believe we have come a long way but I also believe that we have a long way to go. Racial prejudice lay behind more than half of the 7649 hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2004. I personally see racial profiling in action in my community when motor vehicles are pulled over for traffic stops. There is still a huge disparity between blacks and whites in America.

Closer to home, many of us grew up in families steeped in racial prejudice and hatred. And appalling and ugly as it may sound, it grows like a festering sore in many of our churches. Sunday morning is the most segregated morning of the week. Despite my attempts at educating those that don't know any better, I have heard white Christians say that black people like being on welfare and are just too lazy to work.

So back to...what can I do? I must become intentional about improving relationships that I have with those brothers and sisters not like me. I am blessed to be in a fellowship that is very diverse and is quite intentional about being so. I must understand that the church that Jesus regards as after His own heart is diverse and very colorful. Look at what Heaven will be like: "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb." (Revelation 7: 9)

I must teach my children and model for them that racial prejudice is wrong. I must believe that every person has worth as an individual and that they are entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color. I must strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions. I must speak up when I see racial prejudice by others. Like Moses and Dr. King, I must trust in my God, obey His word and never turn away from what I know is right because of fear or rejection. I would like to be a part of that "beautiful symphony of brotherhood" that Dr. King spoke of in his speech. The one where "we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."

And as I hold your hand, my white brother or sister, and with my other hand, hold yours, my black brother or sister, may we all give the world a little glimpse of what Heaven will really look like.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Different Kind of List

An expert in the law came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus simply told him to obey the commandments. "Which ones?" the man asked.

He was looking for a list.

The holidays have come and gone. It's a new year.  The stress of the hustle and bustle is over. We breathe a big sigh of relief. Anxiety has turned to peace. Worry gives way to excitement for a new and fresh start.

Why can't we just leave it at that?

Instead. This.

We've made a list. We've checked it twice. If we do it we won't be naughty. We'll be nice.

We'll be spiritual. We'll be approved. We'll be holy.

We'll be ((((((((((((((((((((fill in the blank)))))))))))))))))))))).

I'm choosing to live another way this year. Some women are making me tired just reading about all the things they're committing to do in 2014. Not to mention, husbands to love, children to nurture, jobs to go to, service at church. Woman! I need a nap!

You see, I don't think that Jesus would want us wearing ourselves ragged to please Him. This is the Son of God who says, "My yoke is easy. My burden is light." 

Back to the beginning of the post. Jesus answered this teacher by affirming these words:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"   
I believe there's a pathway to peace in this coming new year. I am purposing to live differently. It was for freedom that Christ has set me free and darn it! I'm going to start living free.

Here are a few things I'm going to do, sooner, rather than later. I'm not telling you that you need to jump on my bandwagon, because I will never lay a yoke on you that's not yours. Read them over and if one or two resonate with you, join me. If not, eat the hay and spit out the sticks.

  • I will spend the first part of my day in quiet time with the Lord with my Bible and ONE study/devotional book.
  • I will be an active leader in the Scripture Memory Community I started on Facebook a few years ago. Nothing is more important than hiding God's Word in my heart. I am powerless against a very real enemy of my soul without the Sword of the Spirit overflowing from my heart and out of my mouth. A real community of friends has been forming there over the years. We pray for each other, praise together, and connect in a real way while renewing our minds around God's Word. I wouldn't miss these women for the world.
  • I will once again review my Facebook friends and those I follow on Twitter. I will not friend to be friended, or follow to be followed. To say nothing about the overload of information to be taken in every minute of every hour of every day. Do I really need to know? Do I really want to know? Is what I'm reading building me up or tearing me down? The Bible says to guard your heart, because out of it flow the issues of life. What am I letting into my heart? Does it consistently make me angry and prone to argue or does it build me up?
  • I will never commit to a schedule of posting on my blog. I will only write and post when God has given me words that He has anointed to go forth. Anything else is a struggle to perform. 
  • I will follow, friend, and read only a few blog posts that really speak to my heart in a godly manner. There are thousands, millions, of wonderful bloggers out there. I love you girls, but I can't read you all. I can't comment on every post that I read. The writing is great. The ideas are good, but I will not let cyberspace and the blogosphere be my full time job. If I don't gain any followers or even lose some because of this, so be it.
  • I won't be a news junkie. I won't let the news make me anxious about the world around me. The Lord is my Shepherd and my Provider and my Protector. There is no lack in His economy. No recession or depression. I have His great and precious promises. I live in this world, but I am not of it. I live as a Kingdom of God citizen and by golly, things are different in God's Kingdom!
  • I will not be a false Christ to anyone. This means that I won't allow myself to be the answer to everyone's problems. Only Christ can do that. This one is particularly difficult for me. I genuinely want to make everything okay for everybody, even if it is to my detriment. If I allow myself, I will worry over you endlessly, try to come up with a solution to your problem, even try to BE the solution to your problem. Six times out of seven, on any given day of the week, someone close to me has a problem. On the last day of last year, I promised myself, and Jesus, that I would now let Him be Christ. I am not. I will help if it's within my power to help. I will give counsel as the Holy Spirit leads. I will listen, and I will pray for you with all of my heart. I will then point you straight to Jesus Himself. Anything more than that has found me anxious, feeling like I can't take a breath. No more!
  • I will serve and give in the places that God lays on my heart. Not out of compulsion, not because someone thinks I should, and not ever out of duty. 
  • I will live fully, laugh out loud often, and love deeply. 
  • I will let it be okay to spend afternoons reading good books and taking naps.  
  • I will love the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my strength and with all my mind; and I will love my neighbor as myself.
Because the One Whose yolk is easy and Whose burden is light, said that the entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Here's The Thing

This morning was like any other except that it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. Routine, I bundled up in my coat and gloves, pj's underneath, to take out the trash. The snow service had been here at midnight last night, so I thought that at least I wouldn't be ankle deep in snow. That was true, but as I made my way out of the garage, the wind kicked up fierce. Snow was blowing everywhere and it was like 8 degrees with a windchill below zero. Let me tell you how fast I high-tailed it back into the house!

Right there, shaking off the cold and being grateful to lock my door against the harsh outdoors, is where I began to weep, because here's the thing.

Right at that very moment, somewhere, someone didn't have that luxury.

If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I've worked with the homeless for a good many years. Just like so many who serve God in this way, after a while you get tired. Sometimes it seems hopeless. Sometimes they don't listen. Sometimes there's just no way to make things better. You burn out. That's exactly what happened to me. I moved on to other areas of serving.

God has a way of bringing things full circle. A short time ago, someone very close to me found themselves in a homeless situation. So that I do not ever dishonor anyone, no details. The point is that you just never know.

Someone that I love deeply could call no place home. Sometimes they were cold. Often they were hungry. They couldn't just run outside and run back in to a place with heat pouring out of vents and hot coffee in the pot. Like I did this morning.

As I thought about all those people who may have been out there today, with no place to go on this horrifically cold January morning, my heart broke again. Just as He has been doing over the last few months, God continues the surgery to remove the stiff adhesion from my heart. He had to break me in a personal way, so that my heart could break with compassion for others.

Because now I know. I know that every last one out there in the cold is somebody. Not only are they a person dearly loved by God, but they are, each one, somebody's son or daughter. They are somebody's brother or sister. They are someone's mother, aunty, uncle or dear friend. They're not nameless. They have a name and a face and a heart and a family somewhere. And you know what? It doesn't matter why they're there. This isn't a social science experiment. These are people.

Just like I prayed that someone out there would see my loved one and help them, some one is praying that you would see their least of these, out in the cold, and do something to help.

God, please! Don't let us continue to walk by.  Help us to see! MAKE us see!

Oh, that someone would put a warm cup of coffee in their hands to warm them up. Oh, that someone would offer a McMuffin to go along with that coffee and make the hunger pains go away. Oh, that someone would point the way to a shelter with heat and a cup and a bowl and a listening ear or just a touch on a shoulder. Just a touch. As I prayed that for my loved one, I know that there is a momma or daddy or sister or brother praying that someone would help theirs. That YOU would help theirs.  

Let's stop looking for someone else to be the someone. I know it now. It breaks me now. The adhesion is gone. The raw is there. And isn't that just what Jesus wanted done in me? In you?

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

Picture Credit: Unknown