Tag Archive | Baltimore

The Consequences of a Random Act

Looking Glass

A friend of mine recently told me this story…

I was sitting in a restaurant when I noticed a couple of police officers enter. It was lunch time and, obviously taking a break, they were promptly seated across the busy room. I didn’t think much more about it, and went back to my meal and conversation. After a while, the officers finished eating and rose to leave. They passed by my table, but stopped before they reached the door to talk to the manager. I noticed the manager point back toward my table, at which point the two officers began walking back in my direction. Just before reaching me, they stopped at the table right next to mine. There was a family — dad, mom, and a couple of kids — sitting enjoying their meal, when I overheard one of the officers speak to the dad.

“Excuse me… I feel like maybe we weren’t supposed to know, but somehow that got lost in the translation,” the officer said to the father.

The father smiled knowingly and shook his head. “You weren’t.”

“Well, that was very kind, and we just wanted to come back and say thank you,” the officer replied.

“Yes… Thank you, sir. That was a very nice thing to do. We really appreciate it,” the other officer said.

“Well, I just wanted to say thanks to you guys for your service and for all you do,” the man said.

“Wow! If I’d have know you were buying, I would have gotten desert,” the first officer joked.

They all laughed, shook hands, the two officers exited, and the family went back to their meal. Several minutes later, I rose to leave and happened to find myself standing next to the man at the doorway.

“Excuse me for asking, but I overheard what you said back there to those officers. Do you know those guys?”

The man smiled at me and said, “Nope. Never met them before.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, why did you do that?” I asked.

“Those guys get a lot of bad press for doing a very, very difficult job,” he said. “I’ve had several friends who were policemen, and I have a great deal of respect for the job they do. I just figured buying their lunch was the least I could do to say ‘thank you for keeping us safe’. I wanted them to know that they are appreciated.”

He went on to tell me that, when he paid the manager, he told him he wanted it to be anonymous. However, it was a Asian restaurant, and the manager’s English was not very good, so his anonymity got “lost in translation” (as the officer said).

We hear a lot in the news about the negative stereotypes of “bad cops”. However, the overwhelming truth is that police officers are good men and women who have to carry out a tough job. In today’s media, deference is too often given to the perpetrator, and good officers are guilty until proven innocent — before facts are established, and before the truth can be ascertained.

In Romans 13, Paul writes…

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

When we show respect and honor to those in authority, we have no reason to fear. Godly authority is there for our protection, in order for us to be allowed to live our lives in relative peace and safety. In the vast majority of stories I hear about violence involving police officers, those two things are always missing — respect and honor. Does that justify unwarranted “excessive force”? Not at all. But sadly, in the age of hostile news media, unfiltered social media, and “instant everything”, images mocking violence against police are posted online at lightning speeds, and only exacerbates how police feel they are being unjustly perceived, and magnifies a culture that has lost its moral compass, respect for authority, and reverence for God.

With all of the negative things we hear about police these days, and the repercussions that officers are experiencing with recent random attacks and killings, I wanted to share this positive story of good will. Actions have consequences, and all too often, we hear about the consequences of a random act of violence, or of a sequence of events that ends tragically…

It could be that the consequences of this random act of kindness are that a couple of officers spent the rest of the day feeling appreciated, and a father set a good example for his children.

It could also be that this story inspires someone reading it to go out and commit a random act of kindness today.

#CharlestonStrong

Emanuel AME2

A week ago, on the evening of June 17, Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — one of the oldest AME churches in the nation — with the alleged intention of starting a race war. Hiding a gun in his backpack, he sat and talked with parishioners during their mid-week Bible study. Approximately an hour into the study, Roof pulled out his gun, and began firing. When he left the building, 8 people were dead, with one critically injured who later died at the hospital.

Within hours of the shooting, reports began to fill the airways and internet of the tragic events at “Mother Emanuel“. With 9 people dead and the subject at large, tensions were high as people already began to assume that the shooting was racially motivated. The next day, Dylann Roof was apprehended in Shelby, North Carolina — some 245 miles away. He was returned to Charleston where he was promptly charged with the murders. As news crews and TV personalities descended upon Charleston, and images of Ferguson and Baltimore still vivid in the minds of people across the nation, many on the outside of the situation wondered if this tragedy would spark yet more civil and racial unrest.

The answer came on June 19 when, in his bond hearing, Roof was addressed by the people he had deeply wounded — the people of Emanuel AME and the families of the victims. They spoke of the hurt and pain he had caused in their lives — of the wounds born of his act of hatred. Yet, in spite of the pain in their hearts and voices, they had an overwhelming message for Dylann Roof…

“We forgive you.”

In the following days, as reporters broadcast from outside of the church, what they experienced was a wounded community coming together to worship and heal.

As the “usual suspects” of racial division and disunity began to sing their familiar song of prejudice and fear, citizens of the Charleston area joined hands and hearts across racial divides and came together over the next few days in churches throughout Charleston, including the following Sunday at Emanuel AME, where Reverend Norvel Goff had a message for the world…

“A lot of folk expected us to do something strange, and break out in a riot.
Well, they just don’t know us.
They just don’t know us because we are a people of faith. And we believe that when we put our voices and heads together, working for a common good, there is NOTHING we can not accomplish together in the name of Jesus!”

As politicians and activists began attempting to re-invigorate the “anti-gun” message, the message coming from inside the walls of Emanuel AME Church was one of love, forgiveness, and faith. It was also a message of warfare against the REAL enemy…

“… For those of us that are here this morning, I want you to know that  because the doors of ‘Mother Emanuel’ are open on THIS Sunday, it sends a message to every demon in hell and on earth that no weapon formed against us shall prosper… Some wanted to divide the race — black and white and brown — but no weapon formed against us shall prosper!” ~ Rev. Norvel Goff

There will always be people of every color in America. Because of our differences, and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be INDIVIDUALS — like Dylann Roof — who have a heart filled with racial hatred. However, I do not believe that America is a racist country. In a country with a population of over 300 million, you cannot ascribe to an entire population or people-group the actions or attitudes of an individual or minority. This is not the America of the 1960’s. It is time that all of us — red, yellow, black, and white — take a stand against the voices of fear and division that would try to use these types of tragic events for nefarious and self-serving purposes. It is time for we, as a united people, to stand up and say with one voice…

“No more!”

It is time that we, the church, follow the example of Jesus in heated and uncomfortable deed, and not just in air-conditioned and comfortable word. For the people of Emanuel AME to stand there, two days after such a tragic event, look into the face of the twisted, hate-filled heart that took away the lives of their beloved family members and friends, and say, “We forgive you” — It put the love of Jesus in full color, front-row view for the entire world to see. While those with no understanding of such love asked the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?”, Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of slain Pastor Daniel Simmons, summed it up in an incredible way on Fox New’s Hannity program…

“God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.”

What we have witnessed in the people of Emanuel AME is the example of Jesus…

  • In the shadow of His inevitable death, He shared a message that said…

“… Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and PERSECUTE you.” ~ Matthew 5:44

  • In the agony of His own undeserved death, He reached out to a thief dying next to Him and assured him…

“… Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” ~ Luke 23:43

  • As He hung between Heaven and Earth, Jesus pleaded for forgiveness for the very people who had put Him on the cross…

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” ~Luke 23:34

It is an example that the worldly mind will never understand.

Forgiveness silences the critics.

Forgiveness takes the ammunition away from the agitator.

Forgiveness leaves the voices of hatred and assumed offense in stunned silence.

In the aftermath of the events in Ferguson and Baltimore, protesters and politicians were front and center in the media for weeks. In the case of the acquitted officer in Ferguson, although he was proven to be innocent, the false narrative of the tragic event was still being advanced by people with no regard for the truth.

But in Charleston, forgiveness took the teeth out of the story.

Anger never got the front page.

The root of bitterness never found fertile soil to grow.

The forces of hatred and racism never got enough traction to have to be reckoned with.

At the end of the day, Jesus showed up in the hearts, faces, voices, and actions of a group of hurting people who understood love and forgiveness are stronger than hate.

And to those who are trying to keep the story alive by focusing on some of the fringe issues like the Confederate flag or more gun control — please — let’s keep the story where it belongs, for now…

On the lives of the “Emanuel 9”.

If we do that, we might find the message of healing and forgiveness so absent in our culture today.

The message of what it means — REALLY means — to love like Jesus.

For THAT is the message a hurting world needs to hear.

Putting Things Into Perspective: #Baltimore

Flag half-mastOver the last couple of years, we have seen a rise in acts of rioting and rebellion in the name of “social justice”.

We hear the cries of “police brutality”.

We are barraged with uneven media coverage and biased commentary.

We see the acts of “civil disobedience” perpetrated in “honor” of people like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner.

We witness brave first-responders being maligned, attacked, and assaulted for simply doing their jobs.

You get the picture. You’ve seen the stories. But before I go on, let’s put this into perspective…

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 318,857,056 people living in the United States as of 2014.
  • According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, there are approximately 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States.
  • According to FBI statistics for 2013, law enforcement made an estimated 11,302,102 arrests (including 480,360 for violent crimes and 1,559,284 for property crimes). The highest number of arrests were for drug abuse violations (estimated at 1,501,043), larceny-theft (estimated at 1,231,580), and driving under the influence (estimated at 1,166,824).
  • Some other 2013 statistics from the FBI include:
    • An estimated 14,196 murders.
    • Approximately 724,149 aggravated assaults.
    • An estimated 79,770 reported rapes.
    • Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.5 billion in property losses.
    • About 699,594 motor vehicles were reported stolen.

I cited these statistics, in part, to call for a little perspective. With over 300 million people in our nation, and almost 1 million law enforcement personnel, while any loss of life is tragic, a response of chaos on the scale we have seen is far out of proportion. Now, before anyone says that these statistics do not justify bad behavior on the part of law enforcement, let me just say that you are exactly right. When those in authority abuse their power, they should be held to account, and dealt with appropriately in a just and fair way. Those individuals deserve the same due-process that every American citizen accused of a crime is afforded by law. But to assume all policemen are bad because of a handful of questionable incidents is unfair to the nearly 1 million officers serving today.

Think about this…

There are approximately 1,696 players in the NFL, with an average salary of $1.9 million (2010-2011). During the off-season of 2013 (February to June), 27 players were arrested for a variety of crimes including child abuse, assault, drug possession, DUI, and murder.

So with a rate of less than 2% of players being arrested for questionable behavior, should we demand a ban on pro football in America? Should there be rioting in the streets because one of America’s favorite pasttimes and institutions has been tainted by “the criminal element”?

In the three high-profile police cases I mentioned, let’s assume (for the sake of argument) there were 20 police officers involved. That is 20 out of 900,000… or .002%.

If 2% of all law enforcement in our nation were “bad”, that would be around 18,000 “crooked” officers.

When it comes to police violence, the rule seems to be “guilty until proven innocent”, with a free-pass given to anyone who wants to riot in the meantime. Honestly, I fail to see what destroying cars, assaulting individuals, looting and burning businesses, and laying waste to American communities has to do with social justice.

Growing up in the South during the ’50’s and ’60’s, I am familiar with the lasting impression and power of peaceful protests. Back then, it was about taking a stand for something other than a sound-bite or false narrative. People peacefully and courageously stood their ground, and didn’t resort to looting and vandalism while hiding behind masks and bandanas. Protesting was about seeing real change come to an unjust social landscape that included legalized racism and segregation. It was about brave men and women standing up in the face of violence with non-violence.

But how can we accomplish this today? How can we stop the kind of violence and chaos we have witnessed in places like Baltimore and Ferguson?

  • Parents can start being parents again. By now, most of us have seen the video of Toya Graham, the mother who pulled her son out of a crowd of rioters in Baltimore. While some may criticize her methods, no one can fault her motivation. She did not want her child to end up as another statistic — she wants better for her only son than the life of a street thug and criminal. It’s time for more parents to stop trying to be buddies with their kids and start being the loving voice of wisdom, experience, and (if necessary) correction that their children need. The Bible says…

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6

  Parents, your children have plenty of friends, but only two parents. As I heard someone say, regarding the riots… “Send the police home, and just put a bunch of angry moms out there on the streets. They’ll get things straightened up!”

  • We must have a culture of accountability. While the focus in these incidents is centered on the police — and in some cases justifiably so — we must also demand accountability from media outlets and elected officials. Sensationalizing the news, making offhand comments based on conjecture and hearsay, and pronouncing judgement before all of the facts are in is irresponsible at best, and in most cases, serves to throw gasoline on the fires of racism, hatred, and distrust of police and other authority figures. In the Michael Brown case, many people from elected officials to celebrities to sports teams advanced the “hands up – don’t shoot” narrative, which turned out to be a complete fabrication. In their attempt to be first on the scene, first to report, and first with a “soundbite for the ages”, the apparent attitude of media personalities and publicity hounds flies in the face of the Apostle James who said…

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ~ James 1:19-20

  Advancing a false narrative in an age of technology such as we have is beyond irresponsible and dangerous. Those who do such things should be held to account for their actions and words.

  • Get back to the Bible. We MUST return to the principles that our country was founded on — the principles and truths of the Word of God. The prevailing thought in many circles today (political circles, for one) is that people can believe what they want to believe, and there are no absolutes. There is little in society today that is as wrong, as dangerous, or as insane as that belief. We cannot pick and choose our morality, or cherry-pick what principles in the Bible are “relevant”, and what ideas are outdated. If the Bible is irrelevant and there are no absolutes, what makes it wrong for a person to walk into a school and start shooting children? If the measure of right and wrong is a person’s personal belief system, then what made it wrong for Hitler to kills 6 million Jews because his “belief” was that the world would be better off without them?

  In our nation today, we have laws on the book that state that, if a person kills a pregnant woman, and her unborn baby dies as well, that person can be charged with two murders. Yet, an unborn baby can be killed by the cruel act of abortion, and that is deemed by society as “acceptable’. What kind of “crazy” logic is that?

And more recently, we are seeing the hypocrisy of those trying to advance the LGBT agenda who are attacking Christians for standing up for their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is wrong, and exhibiting rabid intolerance for Christians in the name of “tolerance”.

My friend… God sent Jesus into this world to die for our sins, but we must come to Him on HIS terms; by admitting our need for Him, confessing our sins for what they are, and coming to Him in repentance of our sins, and acceptance of His free gift of salvation. Until we are willing to turn to Him, as individuals and as a nation, we will continue down the slippery slope of narcissistic self-destruction.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

All Lives MatterIt’s time for sanity to take its rightful place in the public discourse, for good and honest people to speak the truth in love, stand their ground, and make a difference in all of our communities… red, yellow, black, or white. It’s time to do the right thing, one neighborhood at a time, and show the love of Jesus every step along the way.

It’s time to get God’s perspective, and follow His leading.

Sleepy In Seattle

seattle-skyline

On April 13, baggage handler Willa Junior dozed off in the cargo hold of a Boeing 737 while working his job at a Seattle airport. Junior was awakened abruptly when a piece of baggage hit him in the head, and he was faced with darkness, engine noise, and the feeling that the plane was ascending.

He tried to call his company, but they thought it was a prank call.

He tried to call 911, but his call was cut off.

He then began banging on the ceiling of the cargo hold, which was heard by the plane’s passengers directly above him.

The plane was forced to return to the Seattle airport to release its sleep-deprived captive from the cargo hold — alive, and probably quite embarrassed.

On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil into the sea. At the time, this was the worst oil spill in United States history (eclipsed in 2010 by the Deepwater Horizon spill). Allegedly, the Valdez spill was caused by the ship’s third-mate falling asleep at the helm, causing the tanker to leave the shipping lanes, and run aground on Bligh Reef.

In the Bible, we find the story of Jonah. In his attempt to run from God, he boarded a ship. While asleep in the hold, God sent a mighty storm to stop the fleeing prophet. Being awakened, and realizing the storm was on his account, Jonah instructed the crew to throw him into the sea (see the book of Jonah).

We find the disciples asleep in Jesus’ hour of need, at the very time He needed them to watch and pray (see Matthew 26:36-46).

SleeperSleep deprivation can have horrific results. These stories are just a miniscule sampling of the thousands of instances of someone falling “asleep at the wheel”, and being met with tragedy. Countless car accidents, plane crashes, and other disasters have been caused because someone dozed off at their post, with tragic results.

In our nation and our world, the Church is suffering from spiritual sleep deprivation…

We have forsaken the diligent study of God’s Word for entertainment and lullaby religion.

We have allowed our prayer-times to devolve into blessings at dinner time, and fox-hole, final exam, and health-crisis pleadings.

We have fallen asleep in the Watchtower of Righteous-Indignation, and allowed the voices of immorality, narcissism, self-indulgence, and anti-Christianity to storm the walls and drown out the sound of the Good News of Jesus.

We who are alive in Christ must engage this culture if we are going to change it. The liberal agenda in our nation is making no bones about changing the fabric this country was built on, making room for no dissenting opinions, and taking no prisoners. As those who have come out of darkness and into the light of God’s love, it is up to us to make our voices heard, in the churchhouse, the schoolhouse, and the statehouse. We must put feet to faith, reach the ears of our detractors with truth, and reach their hearts with love-based action. As the late Keith Green pointed out, “God bless you, be at peace…’ just doesn’t cut it with a world that is starving for truth, looking for love, and dying from self-inflicted misery.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.” 

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. ~ Ephesians 5:8-16

So how do we do this? How do we stand against the waves opposition and persecution we are seeing today?

  • Come together. There is an old adage that there is strength in numbers. It’s time for the church to pull together, cross denominational and cultural barriers within the Body, and stand on the truth of God’s Word. It’s time we stop “forsaking the assembling of ourselves”, and stand side-by-side against the tide of public perception and political correctness.
  • Speak the truth in love. Anyone can be a shrill voice of dissention. It takes well-grounded, Spirit-filled minds and hearts to thoughtfully, intelligently, and truthfully vocalize Biblical opposition to the deception overtaking our nation and give an answer for the hope we have.
  • Live it. Talk is cheap, and costs nothing. It is in living out our convictions, particularly when it is uncomfortable or costs us something, that our critics take notice, our adversaries are silenced, and we make a difference in the world. It’s not enough to simply talk about Jesus’ love if we are not going to put feet to faith, and make our presence known in a very real, very tangible way in our neighborhoods, communities, counties, and world.

So get involved! Find a way to make a difference. Open your eyes to those around you, and touch the life of someone who has no way to repay you. Let that be a start… the seed to greater things for the Kingdom of God.

Every great oak began as an acorn.

Every great idea began in the mind of someone brave enough to dream, and bold enough to think they could succeed…

And with the God of the universe in your corner, you can too!