Monday, May 21, 2018

The Freedom Of Speech - In Any Language!

I am currently travelling in a nation with a national language, an official language and more than 100 other spoken languages spread throughout 3 major geographic regions, all utilized in harmonious interaction and cooperation. By comparison, our venomous debates over language in the United States seem beneath us and reflect poorly on us. We forget that at one time, German was so widely spoken here that it narrowly missed being the language of use in this nation. Even French still shows its place in our heritage in creole form in Louisiana, yet no one seems to mind Cajun accents, expressions or the French influence on Louisiana Government and law. Yet, in spite of its influence and contributions to US culture, the public use of Spanish in the US is now viewed by some to be as harmful as being engaged in casual activities in the US while Black. This is grievous and unfortunate. While the vastness of our national territory makes our collective majority monolingual reality understandable, the reality of our varied origins and cultures of heritage should, at the same time, help us to understand the reality of the linguistic diversity in our midst as well. Air travel's practical shrinkage of the world and the availability of international travel should help us to understand the desire to learn more about us from those have come to us. We should also have a greater appreciation for those among us with the ability to communicate in more than one language and encourage our youth to learn more as well. In a society where languages intersect, will there be misunderstandings between people of different backgrounds and will there be spiteful individuals who use misunderstanding as a tool for derision and insult? Of course. There are unpleasant people in every culture and language group. Even when intentions are good and the language is the same, misunderstanding can arise. It has been said of Americans and our British cousins that we are " two peoples divided by a common language." Nevertheless, is it possible for the majority of us, in a desire to build each other up and to act from good will, to give each other a little slack, allowing each other to exercise our freedom of speech in whatever language we choose and to seek to think the best of each other in the process? I would like to believe that it is possible. If not, perhaps we as Americans are forever confined to a trajectory of misunderstanding, hostility and division that refuses to see opportunity in diversity and unity in spite of our differences. I pray that optimism and hope will prevail, but I am concerned that fear and ignorance may prove difficult to hold at bay. May the Lord enlighten us and help us to endure!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Wanted: Servant Who Can Walk and Simultaneously Chew Bubble Gum!

We have arrived safely and are preparing for our first outreach ministry day among the poorest of the poor in the Smokey Mountain area - an extremely economically depressed area which had previously been the location of Manila's city garbage dump.

Thousands of people remain in this area and the needs are immense. Luz, a team of Filipino friends from Wisconsin,  a newly planted church ministering directly to Smokey Mountain and I will hold a special outreach event where we will be introduced, offer some encouragement and material assistance and assess how we can most effectively be of help from this point forward for the long-term.

In our preparation,  while walking down a Manila street following my brother-in-law, I literally tripped while walking and chewing bubble gum! In an effort to avoid falling on my newly repaired hip, in very entertaining fashion, I managed not to fall on my hip and face, but pulled my calf muscle in the effort. One witty Brother said, "You saved the hip, but it took a sacrificial calf to do it!"

Luz and our awesome sister-in-law, Manang Rose,  fussed at my brother-in-law and me saying, "We literally leave you for 5 minutes and this is What happens!"  It sounded way worse in Tagalog than in English. Some ice, rest and Tiger Balming later, and my calf feels better than it did though I am being much more careful and attentive to my walking.

Nevertheless, we press on, very excited as we begin to serve in earnest, eager to help and discern how we can make more of a difference among the wonderful people of Smokey Mountain!

We will keep you posted as the adventure continues...

Your friends,
Sam and Luz Jackson


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Raising Children In Racially Charged Times


My posting of my daughter Victoria’s latest challenging encounter with classmates has provided a great opportunity to receive encouragement from friends and to consider the many ways people process racially charged confrontations and encounters.  The nature of our ministry has given us many opportunities to build bridges between people and has exposed us to some of the best and most disappointing aspects of human nature.

Anytime one posts one’s thoughts on issues with racial implications, one realizes chances are being taken.  There is the vulnerability of exposing one’s less appealing emotions and the risk of being seen as one who complains.  There is a risk of appearing petty and making much ado of a problem normative to the human experience and not handling one’s business well.

Because of such considerations, for many years, especially my years through early adulthood, I said very little about these types of experiences.  I absorbed the harshness, and I rolled with the punches time after time until, paraphrasing the Isley Brothers, I got knocked on the ground by untruths and misstatements that were too ridiculous to ignore.  I realized that others were suffering similarly and because of my “strong, silent approach” their experiences were being discounted by our mutual friends because, “Look at Sam.  He’s never complained about this.  It must not be a big deal.”  I further realized that while I still needed to be strong, civil, positive and to seek healing in every encounter, righteousness also demanded that I tell a more complete story and take time to acknowledge the emotional impact of such encounters to help others who find themselves in similar situations.

Why am I posting such a clarification? First, to assure all who know me that as agitated as Mongo may become, he will never be released from his cage – but, the anger is real!  As Scripture says, feel your anger, but don’t sin.  Luz and I also understand very well that we cannot shield our little ones from all of life’s confrontations. Remember she is not our first puppy, but the fourth who has had to navigate the challenging world of being part of the multicultural family and sorting through one’s own identity and the processing of others regarding what that means in a broader community context.  We are confident that she will navigate the challenges of adolescence and cultural flexibility with character, resolve and faith, sometimes making great choices and sometimes learning from mistakes.  We will advocate for her always and assist her as appropriate.  We won’t be helicopter parents but are aware that some of the players involved have parents on social media too, who when subtly informed, just might read a pertinent post and help the healing process along with their input for their children too.

So, all is well with us and our puppies.  Mongo is securely confined to his cage, comforted by oldies music and goofy comedies.  Luz and I plug ahead by faith, taking one day at time, living in the light of God’s love as we go, trying to share that love as much as we can with everyone we meet until our time comes.  In the meantime, we press on!

Love,

Sam





Saturday, March 3, 2018

Room To Grow


“Nobody’s perfect!”  The reality of fallen humanity expressed in a quick turn of phrase that reminds us that even at our best, humans are flawed at best.  Usually this phrase is a reminder to offer the grace to others we desire to experience for ourselves when our flaws are exposed for all to see.  However, in recent times, I find this phrase is reserved for those whom we feel are kindred spirits, and it is denied to those with whom we have differences. I believe this inconsistency has been especially prominent as the nation reflects on the life of evangelist Billy Graham.

In the reactions to his death, I have found less grace and mercy than I would have expected to see.  American culture prides itself of being a place of second chances and a place where maturity and growth allow an individual to show progressive understanding and deepening character as time passes and as they mature.  While many who share Billy Graham’s faith readily see him through eyes of grace, some who do not see matters of faith as he saw them, seem blinded to the fact that someone who lived for just shy of a century is bound to have made at least a few mistakes – some of them awful, painful and regretful – but that individual is also bound to have learned some lessons and demonstrated the best of humanity as well.

I can imagine that, at the time of my death, it would be relatively easy to scour the records of my life, of everything human interaction I have had and to review everything I have preached and written to find enough missteps to paint me as a very flawed person.  It would also be easy to compile my interactions with other flawed people, minimizing the good partnerships, helpful alliances and fruitful ventures, to make me appear to be self-serving, self-aggrandizing and self-centered in all I said and did.  It seems to me, that too many people are taking such an approach with Billy Graham’s life, and not extending to him, the grace that he most consistently preached and the grace that God extends to everyone through Jesus Christ.

Billy Graham was not a perfect man.  No one is.  Billy Graham was aware of his imperfections and let it be known on numerous occasions. Once, when he was asked if he minded having his name on the Hollywood walk of fame with a bunch of sinners, he responded that he too was a sinner and therefore shouldn’t have any problem fitting in.   Every true preacher of the Gospel realizes that in the end, we who follow Jesus are just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.  We didn’t make the bread.  We don’t own the bakery. We do know the One who owns the bakery and is Himself the Bread of life that satisfies and we make it our business to tell others where to be fed.  At times we are imperfect in sharing that Good News, and we frequently embarrass the One who sent us with the message, but we are called to continue to share the message of His salvation through stammering lips and forked tongues. He knows this and uses us anyway.

I am sensitive to this not because I am a Billy Graham apologist, but because I believe the Gospel he preached and understand the universal need for grace and graciousness.  I especially believe such grace should be readily offered to one who preached it and on the balance lived it so faithfully. My hope is that rather than conveniently take cheap shots at Billy Graham, misrepresenting his life and ministry, we should give honor to whom honor is due. we should learn from the missteps that are common to the human experience and give a faithful man the same room to grow we all need as human beings who are struggling through a journey no one traverses perfectly, but that even a flawed human can finish well – as did our Brother, Billy.

Grace, mercy and peace to you all!



Thursday, March 1, 2018

Will You Still Love Me, Tomorrow?


Over the years, I have appreciated the vast reservoir of wisdom that has been made available to me in response to a question of significant consequence that my dear Luz asks from time to time. “Would you, could you have ever loved another rather than me?”  Though the wisdom that has been shared has been deep and wide, the best answer to such a question can only be found in the recesses of the heart of the one to whom the question was originally presented - mine. How do I respond to my beloved asking me if I could have given my heart to another, when I possess an irrevocable conviction that God ordained our union?

I respond with all the love and commitment that I possess. I assure her that though many wonderful, beautiful, capable, and amazing women crossed my path in my years of singleness - some of whom may have been exceptional life partners in the “would you, could you world” - only she held the key to the combination that unlocked the kind of love that lasts a lifetime in the real world in which we live. Only she had the pin that released the code that ignited the flames of my heart in to a level of holy passion that consumed and continues to consume me body, mind and soul. Only she, Maria-Luz Bautista de Jackson y Roda, is the woman for me.

There are many wonderful women in this world, but only Luz holds my heart in her hands, owns my will at her command, and has the singular and exclusive covenant that identifies me as hers until the Lord calls us home. I offer this verse from the Grass Roots to my Luz, “I’d wait a million years, walk a million miles, cry a million tears! I’d swim the deepest sea, climb the highest hill, just to have you near me!” That's my answer and I'm sticking to it!



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Price of Reconciliation

A LONG but necessary Introduction to an article I recommend, the link of which is found at the end of this reflection.

There are stories that need to be told, but often aren't told because those who experience them are either not in a position to make the stories known, or because of humility those who take risks for the good are usually hesitant to present themselves as heroes. Since 1992, Luz Bautista Jackson and I have served in various capacities as missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, formerly known as the Home Mission Board when our journey with NAMB began.

During that journey, we have met people much like the ones presented in this article. They did what was right, when it was right and it often cost them. I actually rubbed shoulders with Jack Kwok, mentioned in this story and was always amazed by his friendly and supportive manner for newbies like us in the Oho Convention when we first started. This article helps me understand more about his heart and his consistently loving support.

Luz and I were benefactors of people who did what they could to make a difference. The wanted to do something and sometimes, that "something" was calling an eager, yet inexperienced couple, ready to build bridges between people. Richard Alan Duncan, Ken Render, Dennis Betts, Matt Trombley, Kevin Butcher , Paul Rhoads, Jerry Worsham and Jamie Rasmussen, along with countless others took chances and walked with us during very stormy seasons as we joined them in trying to make a difference for the Kingdom of God, among people of different cultures.

As I continue to grow in perspective, my appreciation for these people grows as well. I remember these co-laborers and others like them who embraced us as friends and colleagues. The were not and are not perfect. If perfection is the goal, reconciliation will forever elude us. Along my life journey, I too have made missteps, wrong steps, backward steps and sometimes, no steps where progress should have been made. In many cases, I received much grace and as allowed to press on. Where forgiveness was not extended, I remembered the feeling of hopelessness that came from good intentions rejected out of hand, and have sought to be more gracious in my own dealings when others make mistakes as well.

I share this article to offer a little illumination from the inside. Evangelicals in general and Southern Baptists in particular are favorite targets of those claiming to pursue understanding and unity with the United States between races. While high profile members of any organization or theological bent may make statements that are outrageous and divisive, in a nation as large as ours and groups as large as the Southern Baptist, those with the biggest microphones do not necessarily represent all members of any given group. Also, those fighting the good fight are generally too busy fighting the fight to advertise or "speechify" what they're doing. They are too engaged making a difference than to tell others about it and to do their own promotion as well. In addition, don't expect too many articles or news flashes on pockets of active cooperation and efforts to get along, even when they exist, because good news doesn't tend to attract good coverage.

But do take the time to read this article. The people mentioned therein didn't seek this recognition for themselves. Thankfully, someone noticed the similarities of heart and sacrifice, decided to shine a light on it and to share it for others to be encouraged. Personally, it's great to know that while Luz and I often feel alone, the reality is that God has yet reserved "seven thousand -- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him." May their tribes increase!

They-paid-a-big-price-for-racial-reconciliation

Respectfully,
Samuel D Jackson


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Joy At Calvary

You read a passage hundreds of times. You memorize it. You study it. You preach it. But then, one day, you are gripped by its true significance and it overwhelms you! Jesus, "for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame..."
Because of His love for us and the joy He derived from doing the Father's will, He endured he intolerable. He refused to be overcome by shame, but instead scoffed at it, looked past it, focused on His mission and overcame, loving those who hated Him, forgiving those who punished Him and saving those who had mocked Him, while on the Cross! All He taught on the Sermon on the Mount, He exemplified on the Mount of Calvary!
As the tears flow, the chorus of a great hymn comes to mind,
Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
At Calvary!