Note to Self

Note to Self

The Christian church celebrated the breath of God on Pentecost Sunday (May 31), while our nationbegan to grieve and pour out its anger over George Floyd’s death, a man who was refused his breath until he died. We must not lose sight, because of the violence and looting that has taken place in some protests, of the injustice done to this man and countless other African Americans in similar situations. If we allow the minority of violent protesters to write the narrative of the protests that are sweeping the country, we have failed to acknowledge the underlying problems of injustice we can trace to the Jim Crow Laws and the Slave Trade. We must also speak out against the violence of police against peaceful protestors who are exercising their constitutional rights to speak out against injustice. I grew up in a Southern Alabama town with less than 700 people. Our education system was divided by a public and a private school, which happened during the early years of integration. That was the way it was throughout most of the South. Sadly, many Southern towns still look like that. In my community, many people knew Governor George Wallace on a first name basis. He was born nearby, had practiced law in the area, and was a local hero. Growing up, I heard the “N” word in reference to African Americans from many people, as if that was what they were supposed to be called. I was in college before I learned who Martin Luther King, Jr. really was, and what changes he brought to this country. However, I am thankful...

Generosity is Often a Team Effort

A 10-year-old boy from Liberia entered Mass General Hospital in Boston just before the COVID-19 pandemic. He was diagnosed with fibrous dysplasia, an uncommon bone disorder in which scar-like (fibrous) tissue develops in place of normal bone. This massive tissue had overtaken the boy’s face. It was cutting off his ability to breath and making it nearly impossible to eat. Time was running out for little Samakai. Then he met Henry Peabody. Henry is a social worker in New Jersey. A Liberian native, Henry makes frequent humanitarian trips to Liberia. I met Henry during the Liberian Civil War when I traveled to that country in December 1995 during a cease-fire. When fighting broke out again in April 1996, Henry returned to the Budabarram Refugee Camp in Ghana. I was later able to help him get back to Liberia, secure a visa and come to the United States. I was able to arrange for Henry to attend college. He later graduated from Mercer University. Henry has been giving back ever since. When he found this child, he called me and asked if I could purchase plane tickets for the child and his mother to come to the United States. He said he had found a doctor that would do the operation that would save his life. Samakai arrived in the U.S. just a few weeks before the outbreak of COVID-19.  Had he come any later, his surgery may have been canceled.  However, the surgery was done on schedule and he remained hospitalized about six weeks before his recent release.  Doctors say that the surgery was 100% successful.  He will need to be on medication for the rest of his...
Do Hummingbirds Worry?

Do Hummingbirds Worry?

I had a conversation with a bird last week. I’m not Dr. Dolittle, although my wife calls me that sometimes when it comes to doing housework. I asked, “Mr. Bird, why are you singing so much?” He said, “It’s springtime, don’t you know?” I said, “Yes, but people are sick.  Some are dying.  The economy is bad. There is no March Madness.  Children want to go to school, but they can’t.  I can’t play with my granddaughter.” The bird chirped back that all of that sounded terrible, but why should he stop singing? I said, “Well, my feathered friend.  I think people are going to put you way down on their priority list.  No one is rushing out to buy birdseed these days.  Only toilet paper and canned goods.” “Tweetle Dee,” said the bird. “Birdseed makes us lazy anyway. Haven’t you heard that long ago Jesus made us the focus of one of his parables?” “Look at us,” he said. “We do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet the Heavenly Father feeds us.” “I appreciate your birdseed,” said the bird. “God uses you to feed us.  But if not you, then our food will come from somewhere else.  It always has. It always will.” Then the bird flew away. And I thought about what the bird said.  I wondered how I could have a song in my heart like the bird, but I’m worried about so much right now. A little later, the bird came back.  He had something in his beak.  I took it from him and noticed that it was two blades...
Lent Reminds Us to Seize the Moment

Lent Reminds Us to Seize the Moment

Signs of spring are slowly arriving.  The buttercups are opening up.  The rose bushes are covering their thorny stems with new leaves.  Trees will soon begin to bud and pollen will begin to fall. Robins will arrive. It will not be long before hummingbirds make their long migration back to North Georgia. Farmers will be turning the soil and preparing the ground for seed. Butterflies will emerge from their chrysalises. Bream will spawn in ponds and riverbeds. All around us nature is waking up. Preparation is being made for another growth cycle. Within this growth cycle of spring, Easter is coming. It finds its way into the spring calendar every year, its date moving like a Mexican jumping bean. Have you ever wondered why? Why don’t we have a fixed date for Easter as we do for Christmas? In the early church, bishops in the East and those in Rome were celebrating the Easter feast on different Sundays. Apparently, there was no unanimity on the date of Jesus’ resurrection. So, when the bishops came together to address some deep theological matters in Nicaea in 325 A.D., they addressed this practical issue of ensuring the same day was chosen to celebrate the Easter feast every year. Because there was no strong consensus on the original date, they felt Sunday was the most appropriate date to celebrate. Changing to a uniform date did away with any future arguments about the true Easter date. The new system, determined by the moon’s phases, ensured that the Easter feasts would jump around within a small window of dates. Tying the dates to the moon...
Dining With the Most Important Person in the World

Dining With the Most Important Person in the World

Outside of your family, who would you name as the most important person in the world? Let’s imagine you have been chosen to honor that person by preparing or by having a meal prepared for him or her.  Also, you are invited to dine with that person. Imagine the time you would spend pouring over the menu and making sure every detail was right and that the food was the best. Before you carried the meal and served it to this very important person, you tasted each dish.  Mmmm.  It tasted even better than you imagined.  It was so good, you went ahead and ate some, and even asked the cooks to eat some with you. It wasn’t because all of you were starving.  It was just because that meal smelled so good.  It was all of your favorite things to eat.  You couldn’t resist. After you finished, you put the lids back on all the food and put them in the warmer, and off you went to see the most important person in the world, hoping this person wouldn’t mind eating the leftovers. Without shame, you served this meal that way.   You opened all the dishes revealing that someone had already helped themselves to a sizeable portion of the meal. The serving spoons were not even washed.  The bread was almost gone.  The potatoes were cold.  How embarrassing would that be? No one should surpass God’s importance to us.  God asks us to honor Him by bringing something to honor him: time, abilities, volunteering, talents, part of our income. Instead of giving God our “first fruits,” and the...
A Template for Making this World a Better Place

A Template for Making this World a Better Place

It was a warm sunny day in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1962. John F. Kennedy stood before 40,000 people in the Rice University football stadium to deliver a speech that helped launch American astronauts to the moon. Most Americans were not convinced that we should embark on such a bold endeavor or believed that it was even possible. But that day, John F. Kennedy began winning people over to the idea that America could put people on the moon in a decade. We forget how much opposition there was to this ambitious plan now because landing on the moon is such a proud achievement in American history. Less than a year later, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 250,000 people to deliver his famous, “I Have a Dream Speech,” that helped move the Civil Rights Legislation closer to adoption and end the Jim Crow Laws. Both of these men were dreamers. They were optimists, and they dared to lead with courage. Nehemiah was such a man who lived about 450 B.C. He was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, King of Persia. He was a Jewish descendant of those exiled from Jerusalem after the Babylonians conquered it. Nehemiah learned of the dire circumstances in Jerusalem because the walls and the gates of the city were destroyed. When he heard about this, he could have said, “Ah, there’s nothing I can do.” Instead, the news broke his heart. He wept. He fasted, and he prayed. Nehemiah was a dreamer. He was an optimist. He believed he could help engineer an effort to rebuild...