Hope for Unity Day by Day

Divisiveness is a word I’d never paid much attention to until I officially became an adult and began teaching school in Cambridge, Maryland, following my graduation from Frostburg State College (now University) in 1968.

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You need to understand that I grew up in a Christian home where I was taught that all people are equal in God’s sight. My father served as a minister in Farmville, Virginia, for the first eight years of my life. He left that pastorate in 1955 because he foresaw what was coming and knew his congregation would never tolerate his loving, tolerant attitude towards people of color and even shut down the school system to avoid integration.

When we moved to Norfolk in 1959 I ran into the effects of prejudice more personally. Mayor Duckworth–I referred to him as Duckworthless because I resented him so much–refused to let the schools open that fall for several months in opposition to integration. Once the schools finally opened, we had to attend classes on Saturday for a while to make up some of the lost days.

Integration was in, but in my six years in Norfolk, I don’t think I knew a single black person.

When my father took a pastorate in Cumberland, Maryland, I began attending the local community college which, incidentally, was meeting in what had previously been the black high school, I had at at least one good black friend. Neither of us had any reason for prejudice. We viewed one another as individuals, not members of different races.

During my senior year at Frostburg and during the summer, I started applying for teaching positions throughout the state. When I heard back from Dorchester County–Cambridge–I didn’t even have to return from my summer job in North Carolina for an interview. They were desperate, and I got the job over the phone.

Yes, they were desperate, but little did I know why. I’d been in school, isolated from any knowledge of the race riots there in 1963 and 1967.

Teaching in 1968 brought me into the remnants of hatred and prejudice, even though I’d been brought up to oppose such things. Things were still tense, and I couldn’t escape the reminders of what had gone on several years before, including the burning of seventeen buildings.

The tension reached a high point for me personally in 1970 when H. Rap Brown was to be tried in absentia for inciting the riots.

After dreaming I’d heard a gunshot during the night preceding the trial, I learned from my landlord’s daughter that my dream had actually been the dynamiting of one corner of the courthouse, which was just a block or two (as the crow flies) from my apartment. Was recent history going to repeat itself so soon?

I don’t recall the names of any of my less lovable black students, but I can still remember many of the ones who were as accepting of me as I was of them. Much to my pleasure, one of them has become a good friend on Facebook.

I had one extremely close black friend during my teaching days. Close enough that he and another friend were happy to drive to Illinois to participate in the wedding to my first wife.

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I hate the racial divisiveness that seems to have come back into America stronger than ever during the last eight to ten years. It’s so unnecessary.

That’s one reason I so enjoy walking at the mall, where I see an equal number of blacks and whites and no obvious signs of prejudice on anyone’s part.

I usually see two particular black ladies, one of whom is pushing a double stroller with two of the cutest little kids. We–the kids as well as the ladies–are so used to my coming over to speak to them that they realize I’ve grown to love those children in a special way. No matter how squirmy they were, the boys didn’t object to my taking this picture.

Although the smaller boy in front can be quite shy at times, he’s usually willing to give me a handshake. He obviously doesn’t know what prejudice is, and that gives me a sense of hope for much-needed unity, if only for the duration of that day.

But I know I’ll see those kids again, and I pray that–as they grow older and are no longer being pushed around the mall–they’ll grow up to be among the best of the best, helping to replace divisiveness with true unity.

Feel free to comment about this or any of my other posts.

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I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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The Pursuit of Something Worthwhile


Suppose you were suffering from an ailment that the doctors couldn’t diagnose, much less find a cure for. And then you came upon someone on the Internet who was talking about having had the same symptoms you have.

But there’s a difference. That person had been healed.Completely.

Her life was back to normal. A better normal than before because not only was the pain gone, but the uncertainty about what was wrong.

And suppose that person posted free, detailed information about what you should pass along to your doctor so you could be healed, too.

After prayerful consideration, wouldn’t you get to your doctor as fast as you could? That would be the pursuit of something worthwhile.

Or suppose you’ve been downsized after working nineteen years at the same company–the company you’d expected to remain at until you retired. Unfortunately, your skills had been very specialized; you wouldn’t be apt to find an exact need for them elsewhere. You’re frustrated by the prospect of needing work but not knowing what you would actually be qualified to do.

But then a friend passes along a tip to you. He’s heard about a new company that’s using such new and innovative technology that they’re willing to train new employees rather than waste time and money looking for the handful of workers who already know how to do that kind of work. Furthermore, an indication of loyalty to past employers is one of their most important requirements.

Wouldn’t you get in touch with that company as fast as you could?

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Papua New Guinea, a small island country near Australia, is made up of numerous tribes who speak their own individual languages and live in constant fear. Animism is at the root of their belief system, and it promotes fear and uncertainty among all of the tribes.

Suppose one tribe–let’s call them tribe Y–learns that the people of another tribe (we’ll make them X) have totally changed–their fear has disappeared and they’re living and behaving in a totally different way–a more positive way.

Is it surprising that tribe Y would want to learn what freed the other tribe from their centuries-old fears?

They learn that a team of families from America had moved to Papua New Guinea years earlier to live among the members of the now-peaceful tribe X . The Americans didn’t live typical American lives, however. They chopped down trees to build their own houses, they spent years learning the language and culture of the tribe they were living with, and they developed an alphabet in the host language so it could be written down.

But that wasn’t their ultimate purpose in coming. This team spent additional years translating the Bible into the language they now had a means of writing down, and they led native tribe X to understand that God alone is God and He is love and Jesus is the only way to reach Him. And the team members demonstrated through their love as well as their words that Christianity is the only key to lasting peace and hope.

Not surprisingly, the natives of tribe X became Christians. And they’re now enjoying the kind of hope and peace they’d never thought possible.

When the members of  tribe Y learned why such drastic changes had taken place in tribe X, they started begging for a similar team to come live among them and do for them what the other team had done for tribe X.

For that to happen, tribes must submit a written request each year for five consecutive years. Then they must wait an additional five years for someone to be available to come.

Those tribes apparently never give up. They are enthusiastic. And desperate. This is their first opportunity to hope for a meaningful life. They are in pursuit of something more worthwhile than they’ve ever experienced before.

The Bible says, “The fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few.”

We’re thankful for the opportunity to help support the DeCuir family as they prepare to begin an anticipated twenty year work as part of a team among a single tribe in Papua New Guinea. And we’re thankful the DeCuirs were willing to answer the call to go to Papua New Guinea’s extremely white fields.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

         

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Almost You’re Smiling

Since tomorrow is Christmas Day, I wanted to share one of my original songs with you. A Youtube video of me singing “Almost You’re Smiling” can be seen here.  A free lead sheet is available here.

If you’re like me, you’ve often wished you had been around two thousand years ago to witness Jesus’s life and ministry in person. But wishing doesn’t change the fact we were born two millennia too late.

Rather than fret about it, let’s imagine we were among the shepherds who saw and listened to the angels’ spectacular announcement of Jesus’s birth–no Super Bowl commercials could come close to matching it!–and have come to the stable, where we’re looking at Jesus as a newborn.

Hmm. No matter how special the angels said He was, He looks pretty much like any other baby, doesn’t He? Or does He look a little bit more peaceful than a regular baby as he lies there sleeping?

He opens His eyes. He appears to look first at you and then at me. Strange. Newborns aren’t able to focus that way, are they? More amazing still, He appears to be deep in thought. But babies can’t think yet; thought requires a knowledge of language, something  babies aren’t born with.

Of course, we know He’s both human and divine. So isn’t it possible He can observe things a normal baby can’t observe? And think or feel things babies shouldn’t be able to think or feel?  Alas, the Bible doesn’t tell us.

I speak to baby Jesus, aware that He shouldn’t be able to understand me. Yet He appears to be listening to my words. Perhaps even comprehending them. As if He might truly be more than just an ordinary baby. After all, fully human and fully divine is a strange and powerful combination. Not to mention a unique one.

Yes, Jesus is unique. Even so, I’m certain He won’t be able to answer my questions or comment about my observations. But I’ll ask and comment anyway.

“Little baby in a manger, almost You’re crying.
Can it be You feel the coldness of the world You’ve come to?
Do You somehow miss the warmth You’ve left at home in Heaven?
Little baby in a manger, almost You’re crying.

Do you see Yourself as just an ordinary baby,
Or do You somehow recognize that You’re the Son of God?

Little baby in a stable, almost You’re smiling.
Can it be You feel the joy of those who wait Your coming?
Do You somehow know what hope You’ve brought to earth from Heaven?
Little baby in a stable, almost You’re smiling.

Do you see Yourself as just an ordinary baby,
Or do You somehow recognize that You’re the Son of God?”

I don’t know how Jesus differed from ordinary babies while–at the same time–still being quite ordinary. It doesn’t  matter. Even as a baby, He deserved and deserves my praise and adoration–during the whole year. Not just at Christmas.

Please share a comment.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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What “Good Old Days”?

Old people–sometimes mid-lifers, too–are known for their tendency to talk endlessly about “the good old days.” I don’t do that.

Yes, of course I remember a few good things from my childhood and youth and occasionally mention them to someone. But not as many things or as often as some people I know. Too much of my young life was darkened by an unwanted move when I was eight years old.

I’d never expected to be uprooted and have to leave friends and familiar things–my whole life, seemingly–and relocate to a new city in another state and start life all over again from scratch. I was hurt and angry. So I wasn’t inclined to try to adjust. Consequently, I spent a number of years growing fatter and more miserable.

Not exactly what I’d call “good old days.”

Moving away from there was a pleasure–I wouldn’t have cared where we went–and I hoped things would be better with the new city. I was a pre-teen then, however, and growing into adolescence is tough–no matter what.

But when I came down with acute viral encephalitis during the eighth grade and almost died, what hope I might’ve had for a better life seemed to die, even though I lived. Recovery was long and stressful, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt nearly as strong and “normal” as I had before.

I can’t say whether my very small store of memories from childhood and my early teen years is a result of the encephalitis, but the memories I have are sketchy and sporadic. I don’t remember that much about high school or college, either. Even a lot of my adult life seems to be blurred or at last hiding in some inaccessible spot in my brain.

All of that to say I am not an old person who thinks back to the good old days. I remember too many days that aren’t worth talking about and too few to bother talking about.

If I  sound miserable talking about my past, I apologize. The fact is I’m not overly concerned about a past that seems, well, to be so very far in the past. I’m more interested in the present, anyhow. And in the future.

Being able to wake up every day and function just as well as I did the day before is more wonderful than you can imagine. Productive projects that keep me productively busy are definitely something to be thankful for. And the assurance of Heaven someday is far beyond wonderful.

I’m not in a rush to get there, you understand. But I’m thankful I have eternal life in God’s presence to look forward to. It will be perfect in every way this earthly life has so often proven imperfect.

What about you? Are you focused on the past, the present, or the future? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger