41 Years Later and Charleston

As we stood outside Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthplace Friday afternoon under the blazing June sun, a park ranger approached the man behind me, “Sir, I’m not sure you’re going to be able to take that in,” referring to the book bag slung over his back as he stood with his second-grade son and teenage daughter.  The ranger went on to explain, “The police, the FBI came by here this morning and put us on alert, we just have to be extra safe.  Concern for copycats.”  He walked away to ask his associate to check those filing into the house with purses and packs of their own. 

“Copycats,” I thought. 
Copycats are those kids in class next to you who didn’t prepare for their tests or forgot to do last night’s assignment or who were just too lazy to do their own work. 
Copycats are not murderers.
But somehow, in a world full of hatred and bitterness, they can be.
Minutes before, my eyes were welling up with tears reading the exhibits at the MLK Visitor’s Center.  An entire wall devoted to the Jim Crow laws, with heinous statements like:
 All persons licensed to conduct a restaurant, shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room or serve the two races anywhere under the same license. Georgia

The board of trustees shall…maintain a separate building…on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana
My daughter kept moving me from exhibit to exhibit, hoping the next one didn’t bring tears, but it didn’t work until we went to the room where we were told about Dr. King’s nomination and subsequent award for the Nobel Peace Prize.  This man wanted justice, but he also wanted peace.
And yet, after his death, the theme of bloodshed continued, the victims in his family. 
In 1974, a gunman, a 23-year-old black man from Ohio fatally shot MLK’s mother, “Mama” King and Deacon Edward Boykin and wounded three others in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a place that King described as a second home, a place where his father served as senior pastor for over four decades and a place where Dr. King himself served as co-pastor.
In a span of 6 years, Rev. Martin Luther “Daddy” King Sr. lost his two sons and his wife, as his son A.D. King drowned in a backyard pool in 1969.
“How long, Oh Lord?”
I had been teary, worried, anxious, muttering things like, “What can I do?” over and over again and the other night I sat down and listened to the reactions of the family members of the Charleston shooting: “You took something very precious to me…but I forgive you.” 
How do we root out these seeds of bitterness? 
I don’t have the answers, but I saw how these victims reacted and I drew strength. 
Here is the secret.  We don’t lock ourselves away, we lock arms in solidarity, in embraces with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We listen, we grieve, we pray and we keep forming those bonds, we remain true to our word like our lives depend on it, because they do, because these bonds may be hard to piece together to begin with.
We love, because he first loved us. 
Do you hear me?  Respond to that voice mail, that text message, follow up on that conversation and Love, because love is the only thing that is going to cast out fear. 
Love is the only thing that is going to bring reconciliation. 
Love always protects, always hopes. 
Love never fails.
If I speak with the tongues of angels and have not love, I am a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  My words have no worth unless they are followed through with action.
Change you laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom, humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up in due time.  This is not the time for empty platitudes.  This a time to put our faces and our knees to the ground and ask for mercy, once more, and know that love casts out fear.
We note, too, that life is short and the only things that matter are eternal.  So whether God allows you to see 90 or somehow, life is cut much shorter than that, you leave behind a legacy that these 9 people did to their families: that of faith, of forgiveness and yes, love.

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How Our Tiny Baby Brains Are Formed

Yesterday I dragged Little A to Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  Being placated with a Wendy’s frosty on the way, she was fairly calm by the time we got there so I–I mean we could see the new brain exhibit on display.  As is typical for any museum visit accompanied by a child, you are allowed to read approximately three things and then your time is consumed by interactive exhibits that warp your voice, scare the stuffin’ out of you or make you feel stupid because you can’t solve a simple puzzle. 
However, I did glean someknowledge.  A great deal of attention was focused on neurons, how they form, why they form, how our actions (reading, trying new things, challenging ourselves with complex puzzles or tasks) can cause them to grow. And for some reason, I took a picture of this statement: “Your brain began forming before you were born, building the intricate network of neurons that help you survive in the world.  Once developed, the basic structures for sensing, feeling and thinking last for a lifetime–yet your brain continues to change.  The neural connections keep making adjustments with every experience and everything that you learn.”*  Next to this blurb was a three-phase picture of the neurons inside a child’s brain as it learned to walk, progressing from a few, tiny neurons to a whole intricate network of spindles connected together to form a mass of spaghetti clumps.
Just beautiful.
So, as we were reading a couple of chapters in the Psalms, this knowledge brought the following verses into a whole new light:  Psalm 51: 5-6 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.”
Since, in the womb, God was teaching us wisdom, wouldn’t that mean that even more so, we would want, like that passage in Philippians commands us to do, to pursue those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy, that we should think about such things?
But, this to me, points to a loving God, who wanted us to know so much about him and cared for us so much, that He began teaching us wisdom even before we were born.  If this doesn’t cause you to sit back in awe, then there’s a good chance you are a robot–or a scarecrow.
Any thoughts you’d like to share on how awesome our God is?

*”Brain: The Inside Story.”  Fernbank Museum of Natural History.  767 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA  30307.  15 June 2015.

Be Content With What You Have

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
I moved just a few weeks ago to a cheaper apartment, just two miles down from my old one.  The first few weeks were…scary.  Apparently the previous tenant had left things helter-skelter and they had to do a major overhaul, new carpet, appliances, etc.  They only had about a week and a half to get things ready before I absolutely had to move in.  So, there were a lot of loose ends when I did, a LOT of loose ends. 
I called a friend (so sorry) at around 1 a.m. the morning of my first night’s stay and started crying, I think I went through a laundry list of everything that was wrong and ended with, “This place smells weird.”  It did, it smelled like a hotel.  Hotels are great for a night, maybe even a week, but to set up permanent residence? 
No thanks.
About two weeks later Little A and I left to see my family for a week.  When we came back about one quarter of the apartment was flooded.  Every time the people upstairs took a shower, water came out of the pipe under their shower and dumped directly into our bathroom–and surrounding areas…
God is good.  If this kind of thing would have happened in my 20’s, my head would have no doubt popped off my head.  But this could be fixed.
Lately, before the move, I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff, how to get rid of it, what to get rid of, how easy and simple a life of minimalism really is and more often than not, the first part of this verse in Hebrews has been running through my mind at the store, “Be content with what you have.”
Someone once said to me, “Everything has a shelf life.”  Good point.  If your shoes have holes in them, buy a new pair. Need new underwear?  Buy it.  You’ll meet extremes in this life for sure, but these (extreme minimalism vs. extreme excess) take a lot of work.  Why not look to the ant, consider it’s ways and be wise as scripture says, or the flowers of the field and how God clothes them.  Thank God for the little extra that flows in at times and be grateful and share it.  When things are lean, buckle down, save your pennies and still find ways to be generous.  The Sunday School teacher put it pretty beautifully this last Sunday to the group of 2nd graders: she told the kids to extend their hands in front of them with palms up.  “See,” she said, “how can you expect to receive anything if your hand isn’t outstretched in giving?”
The apartment is dry now and for that I am thankful.  Albeit, the closets have acquired a new smell: spicy. 
Care to share a way that God’s been teaching you contentment recently?