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!



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!