In the swirling, emotion charged conversations about race and law enforcement and justice, I, like many of you, have asked some self-reflective questions. What do I think about all of this? Does one man’s brutal murder deserve such national outrage? Is there really such a bias toward minorities, particularly blacks? Am I racist if I don’t agree? And I think that a lot of us hear the volume and think, “Well, I am grateful I am not racist. I grew up with black friends, Hispanic friends.” And then we pull out the big gun and say, “I am color blind. I don’t even notice what color someone is”. By color blind, we mean, “I see everyone the same. There is no difference to me what color someone is”.. But, is the goal to be color blind?
I am realizing that in saying we are color blind, we may not be realizing the real issue. To our black friend, (or brown or anything other than white) they are NOT color blind, because their color has profoundly influenced their life, and still does. For them, there really is a systemic, cultural reality to their color. You may be color blind, or at least try to be. But, much of our world and system is not. And so, your friend sees their color, their children will see their color, because they are reminded of the impact of it in ways we may have no idea of.
This was brought home to me in a variety of conversations this week. It happened in conversations with pastors I know and love. I would serve with them on a church staff in a heart beat. They are hurting. They told me (and other pastors of our tight prayer group) of how much they have been reminded of stories of their own lives (up to this very day) where they suffered humiliation, fear, and real abuse because of their color. Their respect for authority, their obedience to Romans 13 (obey those in authority) is without hesitation, but, they face honest fear, in the face of the system of justice. Now… they have police officers in their churches. They would be the first to defend the notion that there are countless “good cops”. But, there is a conviction that they are viewed as less thans in the system of justice. I had a conversation with a deeply intelligent, soft spoken, well read African American man, who I consider a friend. He made an astonishing statement to me, after watching the news throughout the week (not just the George Floyd travesty, but the response to the protesters, etc). He said, “Pastor Mark, I asked myself, who am I in the eyes of the justice system of our country? And I concluded, ‘I am less than human’”. Now, you may say, “Well, that is an over reaction!” But, brothers and sisters, we must be listeners. Don’t think you get it, and that you don’t need to learn because you have friends and buddies who are black and you see them as great people. We need to see more. We need to see their color, and not be blind to it, because they are not, nor is the world they have to face.
I received today an article that my good friend, Pastor Cedrick Brown wrote. He is a local pastor, and the Area Superintendent for the Evangelical Free Churches of this area. I hope you will read it. https://www.efca.org/blog
I woke up this morning, headed down the hall and glanced outside from the upstairs window. Not good. A 45 foot white pine lay sprawled across my yard. My concern was that the freeze would damage our flower gardens. A 45 foot Pine was not on my radar.
I immediately thought of my 18” chain saw. Not good. I had used it a couple of weeks ago on a small branch. It was very dull. Definitely not ready for a 45 foot long, 15” diameter tree. I wasn’t ready for a downed tree. The goals I had for today, now included some unexpected yard work. So, “Hi, ho! Hi, ho! It's off to the hardware I go” (with apologies to the 7 Dwarfs). I had already scoped out places that might have my chain in stock, and was a bit concerned where to find it. Mercifully, I found it at the local True Value.
I came home, and got out the saw. It was dirty. I needed to clean it. It was low on bar chain oil. I added it, but spilled some. I did this in our family room (Marian was not around, which was good). I wrestled the new chain on. I adjusted the tension. Then, just to make sure, I visually checked things against the manual’s drawings. I had put the chain on with the teeth facing backwards. This would be like shooting an arrow with the arrow’s point on the string and the feather end toward the target. Had to take it all apart and repeat all steps, having reversed the chain direction. I finally had it ready. Had to sweep the floor of dirty sawdust and grime (Marian still not around… God is clearly for me). Put away papers, tools, etc. From the time I started getting my chain saw ready (including research into places for a chain, visit to hardware, working on chainsaw), I have invested 2.5 hours of my life. I went out and attacked the tree. In 30 minutes, I had cut almost all of it up into log sized sections, moved the branches into sections and the logs into piles.
So much of life is being ready. I was not ready. I could have been ready. I knew I needed to get the chain sharpened or get a new chain. I did not do the maintenance I needed in order… to…… be…..ready. So, I shot my morning in a mad dash to catch up. A 30 minute job, took 3 hours.
So much of living the Christian life is being ready. A tremendous amount of Scripture talks about living ordered lives. Lives where we do maintenance on ourselves. Where we keep ourselves ready for what God purposes to bring our way. Listen to these verses about being ready.
Titus 3:1 - Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.
I Timothy 6:18 - They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share
Ephesians 6:13 - Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
I Peter 3:15 - But make sure that in your hearts you honor Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have.
Soul maintenance is what help us have an ordered internal life. It is what keeps us ready for conversations that God brings us into, for attacks of the Evil One, for needs calling for spontaneous generosity, and the normal interactions of life with others. It is very, very easy to overlook soul maintenance. The result is our soul is not ready.. it is not at rest, it is agitated, it is self absorbed. We aren’t ready.
Maybe God has timed this little devotional for you. Maybe it is a just a reminder of the importance of investing in the maintenance of your soul, so you are ready.
If you are in need during this pandemic, we want to help in anyway that we can. We realize that we may not be able to handle all the needs to come in, but we are trying to resource our church family up against the needs that arise in the community. Please don't be shy about reaching out.
If you have a home need, a shopping need, a spiritual or counseling need, please reach out by clicking here so that we can respond.