Dealing with racism is not easy and it takes a lot of energy and forethought that will often move us into uncomfortable places. It is crucial for Christians to create safe sanctuaries where we can have difficult conversations about racism and other topics that promote injustice. Where should we start and what is the expected outcome?
It’s time for THE CHURCH to step-up and to lead the way forward. I know that the church has been more problematic than problem-solving, but I still believe that the Church of Jesus Christ can and should lead our nation and our world into a brighter future. The healing balm that is needed right now has always resided within the church’s capabilities. It’s time for the church to put on our work clothes and to get busy dismantling racism. Even as I write this, I am aware that the battle within the church will be harder than the battle outside of its sacred walls. As a black man serving in a majority-based denomination I’ve seen the underbelly of the church and have experienced institutional racism from within for over 40 years of ministry. God has not given up on the church and I believe and trust that God can and will turn things around and the church will be the instrument used to accomplish the world that we seek. It’s time to confess the sins of our past, repent, embrace reconciliation and begin to chart a new path for moving forward as sisters and brothers rooted in the sustaining love of Jesus Christ. I know that it sounds simple enough, but it is hard work.
It is the job of every Christian to serve as conduits of grace, mercy, and love so that the dark forces of our world might experience the liberating light of Jesus Christ. It is our job to help stamp out hatred in any form. Therefore, I encourage all United Methodist to pray for the families that are affected by this most recent tragedy, as well as those suffering a similar plight in recent months. I remind us all that it is our duty, as sisters and brothers, to stand-up, speak-out, and advocate for those that are hurting and marginalized, so that justice may become a reality.
During my May 21 office hour, we discussed three exciting new possibilities: a Minecraft VBS/summer camp type experience, a family faith formation model from Faith Inkubators called FAITH5, and a spiritually-formative small group model called "Come and See." None of these require the pastor to take on one more thing, and all will be pilot-tested soon - I'll be leading the last two myself!
In the words of psychiatrist David Burns, MD, people who are depressed are often masters of illusion. Their pessimistic outlook — and some unconscious tricks of the mind — can turn triumphs into setbacks, and setbacks into personal failings. Those of us prone to depression may be successful and accomplished, but we’re often plagued by negative thoughts about ourselves and our future. This thinking distorts our view of the world until everything seems dreary and hopeless. But negative thoughts don’t have to be a way of life — and neither does depression. If you’re in the grip of depression, you need to seek professional help for your illness; if the depression is accompanied by mania, hallucinations, or suicidal feelings, you need to get help immediately. Help can be a call to a crisis center, to your local mental health agency, to your primary care physician, or even to 911.
I am going to share the 7 Directions prayer I say often, especially when I am having a hard time finding things to be grateful for. Many Native American tribes incorporate a similar prayer into their spiritual life. We start with the 4 cardinal directions, East (beginnings), South (learning), West (Change), and North (wisdom, endings) then move to the 5th direction (Father Sky), 6th direction (Mother Earth), and finally the 7th Direction (your own inner world).
In simple terms, health describes your condition… or how well you are expressing life. If all of your parts are functioning at 100 percent, all the time, then we would say you are 100 percent healthy. Since we can only have the number of parts we have (we cannot add an arm at will), and “all the time” is a constant, then our health condition comes down to how well we are functioning. The better we function, the better our health.
I’m not talking about “crying” in a metaphorical manner, I’m talking about don’t care who sees it, gut-wrenching, getting-ugly, faced-streaked, nose-dripping, water flowing tears.
This tragic pandemic is an opportunity for the followers of Christ, around the globe, to unite and engage in spiritual warfare that will defeat and destroy the works of darkness. Each Christian, within their own unique context, will need to decide how God has called them to engage in this spiritual battle. Each Christian leader will need to listen for the Lord’s voice (and nudging) to decide how best to rally, equip and deploy the troops under their direction. We dare not sit silently and idly by wringing our hands and thinking that we are powerless against this pandemic. Jesus said about US, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15). NOW IS THE TIME to let your light shine for Jesus. People are searching for solutions and seeking answers to this pandemic. Believers are not powerless. We have been given weapons to assist in fighting against this evil. It is our job to stand up, stand out, and proclaim victory even before we see the end of the battle. Let us not shrink back or shy away because we don’t believe we can do anything. Remember the story of Jehoshaphat. This battle belongs to the Lord. I’ve read the back of the book and we win. Ultimate victory does not excuse us from engaging and utilizing the weapons God has provided for us to use in defeating this pandemic. Perhaps God has strategically placed us “for such a time as this!”
Fishing is easy, that’s why anybody can do it!