Monthly Archives: January 2013

Thursday 1.31.13 Insight from Rev. Glen Shoup

Rev. Glen Shoup is the Executive Pastor of Worship and Congregational Care pastor for those who have last names beginning with J – L.

Greed is good, greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, for knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.  And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA… Those words (as most that came of age—as I did—in the 1980’s can tell you) were spoken by that sage philosopher and morally challenged corporate raider Gordon Gekko.  And I think what made Oliver Stone’s fictional character in Wall Street so entertaining and simultaneously resonating was the fact that he personified both the cultural mores of the years leading up to the movie’s release in 1987 and that inner appetite towards acquisition we all confront.  If some is good, then more is better. 

But truth be told, the 1980’s (or the 2000’s) don’t have the corner on the market when it comes to love of money.  In fact, as we find in our reading today, the apostle Paul was trying to remind his young associate, Timothy, that even seeking to follow God can get twisted, prostituted and commercialized for personal gain.  Paul, in fact, says that some actuallythink that godliness is a way to make money! (I Tim 6:5).  As a pastor, I’ve had more than one conversation in the last 15 years with persons who couldn’t understand why we/I wouldn’t allow them to market their service or business to their fellow church members.  After all, they were Christian and they just wanted to be able to let their fellow Christians know that they provided this good or service so that when they had need for that good or service, their fellow church members could know where to go for reliable and trustworthy service.  And some I truly believe had nothing but the best of motives (and some were nothing more than those who thought that godliness is a way to make money).  Of course this example is just one dimension of what Paul was communicating to Timothy in our reading today.

To me, the far more compelling and important message Paul has for Timothy (and for us) is found in verses 9 and 10—and the way the translation provided in today’s GPS articulates this is so poignant and compelling.  But people who are trying to get rich fall into temptation. They are trapped by many stupid and harmful passions that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal (I Tim 6:9-10).

Why?  I mean we know that this is true, but why?  Why has the seductive and numbing lust for more, proven time and again to be so overwhelming and shipwrecking in so many families, marriages and lives?  Why are verses 9 and 10 so true?  …Well I think the answer to that lies in what’s truly underneath the seducing power of greed.  And I would suggest that what’s ultimately behind our pursuit of wealth is our pursuit of power and control.  After all, what is money if not power?  What is wealth if not control?  The ability to buy whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want, wherever we want is the most accessible picture I know of as to what it looks like to have absolute power and control over our lives (and the lives of others, at least the others in our life).  You see, the real reason why greed isn’t good, the ultimate reason why Gekko had it wrong is that at the end of the day, the seducing power of money isn’t even found in the money; it’s found in that deadliest of the 7 deadly sins—Pride.  I don’t need anybody else to be god for me, I can be god for myself…thank-you very much!  And the tireless lust for acquisition and more, is really nothing more than a tireless acquisition for power and control—a seducing and killing pursuit to sit on the throne of your life and rule…absolutely. 

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some have wandered away from the faith and have impaled themselves with a lot of pain because they made money their goal.  But as for you, child of God, run away from all these things. Instead, pursue righteousness, holy living, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness. (I Tim 6:10-11)

 
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Wednesday 1.30.13 Insight from Rev. Steven Blair

Rev. Steven Blair is the Congregational Care pastor of Celebrate Recovery and Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry.

The Cycle of Bad Behavior …  and Gardening
WEDNESDAY 1.30.13   Luke 8:4-8, 11-15

I stumbled onto a book called “Out of the Shadows” by Patrick Carnes.  He introduced this diagram on why we make destructive choices.  I swear it relates to the Scripture about seeds and soil.

 

I would like for us to replace the word addiction with “damaging behavior.”  This damaging behavior can refer to over-shopping, avoiding tough decisions, enabling others, and trying to earn love.  We all keep doing things that we have found difficult to stop.  When we do, we follow this path.
Belief System  Every destructive behavior begins with a negative view of ourselves. “I’m not loveable.”  “I am a mess-up.”
Impaired ThinkingFrom there, we develop impaired thinking that “We deserve this addiction, after all we are good in other areas of our life.” Or, “It won’t hurt anyone.
Then we drop to the lower cycle
Preoccupation – At this point we start becoming infatuated with the behavior that has silenced our pain in the past.  At this moment, the brain starts releasing dopamine as a feel good chemical that puts us into a Zombie-like trance.  I have limited experience here, but what I know from Zombie-Movies, is that Zombies have a one track mind.  They will rip through walls for “Braaaaaiiiiinnnnnssss.”   When we get to this point of preoccupation, we become so entranced with the object of our desire that, like zombies, would do anything to satisfy our desire.  We walk to the computer thinking “Porrrrrnnnnnoooogggraphyyyyyyyy!”  We prepare a heated conversation thinking “Reeeeevvvvveeeennnnnnnge!”   This is also true for our desires for Acceptance, Romantic Love, Friendship Love, Status etc.   Because the dopamine is dripping in our brains it is hard to “snap out of it.”  Pastor Adam Hamilton calls this the “Moment of the Maybe.”

Ritualization – This step refers to the ways we move closer to the object we desire: driving towards the liquor store, checking the spread on the next game, etc.  Dopamine continues to drip.
Sexual Compulsivity – This can refer to any compulsive action.  It is the moment we “give in” to the temptation; the moment we buy something our budget cannot support.  It is the moment we silence our voices to please another.
Despair – “Giving in” is followed by a deep sense of despair since we did the very thing we have been trying to stop.
Unmanageability Here, with the fresh evidence of our giving into temptation, we feel our life is out of control and things must change.
Belief System – And now, with the memory of our mistake in our mind we feel we have more reasons to believe   “I’m not loveable.”  “I am a mess-up.”  The more times we travel this path, the easier it is to follow it again.

There are a host of ways you can stop the cycle once it has started.  Calling a friend, removing yourself from the ‘Moment of the Maybe’ are a few.  However to thwart this cycle from returning, you have to correct your Belief System.

You are not your mistakes.    
You are not your hurts.

The Bible says You are:
A child of God – John 1:12
Forgiven and cleansed – Acts 22:16
A new creation because of Christ – 2 Cor. 5:17
Blessed to be a blessing – Gen. 12:1-3

THIS IS WHO YOU ARE!!!!
   If you hold onto this belief, you will be planting your discipleship to Jesus on good soil.  It is deep soil to help you stand in tough times.  It is a persistent growth that escapes the thorns of temptations because we no longer have the need for the temptation to make us feel better.  If your belief system on who you are is grounded in God’s Word, the temptation for that something else fades. 

No matter what it is you struggle with, your past is not your future.  You are loved by God (who knows the parts of us that we hide from others). You are loved with a radical love that chases us down and embraces us.   Once we all can grasp this and hold onto it, the seed Jesus is planting can grow.

A quick advertisement, I pastor Celebrate Recovery here at Resurrection that meets on Thursday Nights.  If this message seems interesting and hopeful to you, we invite to join us as we spend the next weeks using this diagram to help us learn how to change behavior.  Last week we had 135 people present who struggle with everything from being too nice to having a destructive object of desire for worship.  No matter your need “There’s a Group for That.   www.cor.org/celebraterecovery.  

Steven Blair
Pastor of Live Well Emotional Wellness Ministry
steven.blair@cor.org

 
Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Tuesday 1.29.13 Insight from Rev. Molly Simpson

Rev. Molly Simpson is the campus pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation,”  Jesus instructs the disciples in Luke 22.

The disciples are going to face severe temptation to deny their faith in Jesus Christ, their relationship with him, and their allegiance to him.  The GPS asks, “can you think of circumstances that are difficult or impossible to avoid that you know will test your allegiance to Jesus and his ways?”  I read that, and re-read it.  I sat and thought… and thought… and thought.  I kept searching my mind for big, scary, extraordinary situations that might test my faith, but I couldn’t come up with anything.  Sure, serious illness or some deeply tragic experience is within the realm of possible.  I’ve watched people very close to me experience great pain and have their faith deeply shaken because of tragic loss, financial ruin, and life-threatening illness.  But who anticipates those kind of things, expecting them to happen?  There isn’t anyone lying in wait to destroy my faith.  I won’t be persecuted because of my beliefs.  I certainly won’t be threatened with death.  The truth is, I live in a time, place, and social context  that is relatively safe, privileged even, and I’m confident enough in my beliefs that I don’t really care if someone wants to think I’m weird because I follow Jesus.

No, the circumstances that test my allegiance to Christ aren’t big, dark, or scary. Instead, they are quiet and life-threateningly insidious.  They are things like being too busy to pay attention to God’s leadership in my life, or letting Jesus land at the bottom of my priority list.  Or believing that the good things I do earn me some kind of eternal reward points.  Worse yet, my life is comfortable enough to trick me into thinking that I’m pretty good at taking care of myself and that I don’t really need Jesus after all.

This is the temptation that Jesus might warn me of today, suggesting that I spend time in prayer.  And too often, I find myself like the disciples, falling asleep.  Or checking Facebook.

My prayer for you is that you find the space and time to pray today to resist anything that would destroy your faith in Jesus Christ or undermine your relationship with God.  And may God help you along the way!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Monday 1.28.13 Insight from Jeanna Repass

Jeanna Repass serves as the Kansas City Missions Program Director at Resurrection.

There’s an adage that I’ve heard preachers tell about the reason that God created human beings on the last day of creation before he rested. This was because God knew that if he created human beings on day one, then by day six, human kind would be standing next to God saying: “Wow – God look at all this amazing stuff that WE did!” God knows us well enough to know that when we see the glory and greatness of things – we are by nature tempted to want to claim that glory for ourselves. God knows that a constant battle goes on inside of each of us – a tug of war between right and wrong; good and evil; humility and vain-gloriousness. He knows that evil is seldom packaged as darkness, loneliness or death. Evil is often wrapped up in the prettiest ribbons of fame, glory, riches and gratification.

I wasn’t there in the Garden of Eden at the dawn of creation, but I was in my living room in the summer of 2000 watching one of my favorite track stars, Marion Jones, set a record for medals won by a female athlete in one Olympics, (five) winning three gold and two bronze medals. Coming from a family of athletes – (for Orduna’s, football is number one and track is number one, subset “A”) – in the summer of 2000 I was a 30 year old former track athlete myself. Watching Marion break speed records and setting Olympic records made me proud and in some ways, I lived vicariously through her accomplishments – “Look at what we did!” I admit it – when I see a woman or a woman of color achieving something “great” I secretly take some pride of ownership in their accomplishment (call it a solidarity of sisterhood).

So I was heartbroken when three years later the allegations of Marion Jones’ use of illegal and banned performance enhancing substances began to come to light. After years of denials, Marion confessed to the use of the banned substances and to lying to federal investigators. She served time in federal prison and lost her right to compete as an amateur athlete. Of course we know Marion Jones was not the first, the last or the only highly exalted athlete to take performance enhancing drugs, continuously lie about it and then ultimately have to admit to their deception. Why do they do it? Don’t they know cheating is wrong? Don’t they know how much they’ve let us all down? These are role models after all! The nerve!!! Thankfully I would never do anything like that! I mean – I would never break the law and think I could get away with it… except when I’ve gone over the speed limit, crossed an intersection when the red hand is up (STOP) instead of the green person (GO), or taken a few grapes from the store grocer to “test” their sweetness without paying for them (they can’t be weighed and priced once they’re in my stomach).

I hear the moans from here – of course there’s no comparison between my little, tiny infractions to what these highly paid athletes do. I agree with you moaners – there is no comparison – mine are worse. With the athletes, at least they can say they were chasing fame and money. For my usual lawlessness, I can only say that I am being selfish and “Jeanna-centered” at the time. There’s no real reward in j-walking or speeding, other than to get what I want when I want it – leaving a few minutes or seconds to spare. So far my illegal activity hasn’t lead to a life of serial fruit eating in the produce isle and my occasional burning of the speed limit hasn’t led to any serious car accidents or even a ticket (recently). So what’s the worry? Well, God tells us – in James 1:15; “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Death! From eating a few grapes that I didn’t pay for?!? Well maybe if I choked on one… But that’s missing the point.

James is warning us that the path to death and destruction is a slippery slope – one that we can find ourselves on when we are not diligent. Guard your heart against the temptations and desires that lead to destruction. Come to church and worship in a body of believers. Get into a small group who can/will hold you accountable. Read the word of God daily (the GPS is a great way to do it!). Pray – talk to God daily. He knows you better than you know yourself. He knows how to keep you from falling into temptations. He knows you well enough to create you in his own image – but to do it last – so you can appreciate the glory of creation instead of glorying in what you think you created with God. He loves you enough to die for you so that you can be spared eternal death. He rose from the dead so that you can rise into eternal life with Him in Christ Jesus. “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” Amen.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Saturday 1.26.13 Insight from Carol Cartmill

Carol Cartmill serves as the Executive Director of Adult Discipleship at The Church of the Resurrection.

“Weeping may stay all night, but joy comes in the morning.”

We all find ourselves “in the pits” once in awhile. We go through seasons—we experience times of great joy and celebration, and we endure times of struggle and hardship.  And, for each of us, the intensity of these experiences comes in varying degrees. Our pits are different, but we are all going endure nights of weeping at some point in our lives.

The good news is, as our Scripture points out, while weeping may last for the night, joy will and does come in the morning.  There are three things I try to bring to mind when I find myself experiencing the depths – these have helped me and perhaps they will encourage you as well.

  1. The first is the message of Scripture and the many stories we find about good triumphing over evil.  Redemption and restoration stories abound, culminating with the ultimate story of triumph over sin and death we celebrate in the resurrection of Jesus.  The stories captured in the Bible remind me of God’s faithfulness throughout sweep of history.
  2. Whatever happens in this life pales in comparison to what we will experience someday in heaven.  How does that help me now, in the present?  Looking at life through the lens of eternity changes my perspective.  Suddenly, today’s problems aren’t as overwhelming because of the eternal hope I have in Christ.  I trust the words from today’s prayer, “the worst thing is never the last thing.”
  3. Finally, I reflect on personal life experiences where the faithfulness of God carried me through tough times, losses, and sorrows.  Remembering that I did indeed, with God’s help, get out of the pit in the past renews my faith and confidence that light will once again overtake the darkness I’m currently facing.  It also motivates me to be a conduit for God’s comforting presence to others.

Darkness precedes the dawn, but the sun rises again with each new day.  God heals our sorrows and turns our weeping to joy.  We live in confidence and hope.

There are times when the darkness overwhelms us and becomes depression.  If you are walking through a season of darkness, you do not have to walk alone.  Call a Congregational Care pastor. The church will be hosting an event, Six Ways to Fight Depression, on February 2. Click here for more information.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Friday 1.25.13 Insight from Sarah Newberry

Sarah Newberry serves as the Worship Arts Leader at the West campus of The Church of the Resurrection. Sarah joined the church staff in March of 2012, and was a volunteer with the Vibe service before that.

I just love how God works sometimes. Last week at Resurrection West (the campus I lead worship for), I sang a song by Patty Griffin titled, “Up To The Mountain”, based on this same speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Here’s an excerpt:

“Sometimes I feel like
I’ve never been nothing but tired
And I’ll be walking
Till the day I expire
Sometimes I lay down
No more can I do
But then I go on again
Because you ask me to.”

I say again that I LOVE how God works, because my place of employment before Church of the Resurrection was called…guesses, anyone?

Good Samaritan.

I was ecstatic to see that my guided scripture for my GPS Insight this week was the story of the Good Samaritan, because it gave me an excuse to hop by and see all the residents I used to care for as an Activity Director.

On Wednesday morning at 9:30, I got to walk in the doors of Good Sam once again and go down the “neighborhood” hall to the living room, where one of the ladies groups was meeting. There were some beautiful familiar faces, and many new ladies I got to meet for the first time. We talked for a few minutes about what it meant to be a Good Samaritan, and how they saw the “modern day” Good Samaritans in their lives. Helpful, selfless and other adjectives were among those listed.

But of course, it was a ladies group, so let’s be honest here… we spent most of the time talking about men and wisdom they shared from their lives.

As we drank coffee and ate cookies together, I looked around and realized that this may not be what some would consider a “normal” social gathering. Most of the ladies in that room had at least 60 years on me, and with the variety of hearing aids in the group, the normal social standards of volume of voice go out the window.  But I thought about the Good Samaritan, and how we’re called to care for EVERYONE. Working in long term care is taxing not just on your body and mind, but on your heart.

It breaks my heart to know that some of the residents there don’t have any family left to call their own, and they depend on strangers to care for them from morning through the night. What would happen if those CNA’s chose not to go to work in the morning? Or if the dietary department didn’t cook their meals everyday? Time changes us all, and we’re all aging…and we all need help now and then. Thank God almighty that they have dedicated and loving staff to provide support and quality care.

Luckily, it’s Friday, so many of you have a day or two of relaxation to look forward to. I’ll challenge you with this: Weekends can be REALLY bare at Nursing Homes. Families visit more on the weekends, yes, but that can be hard for those with no family.

Even though you might be tired from your week, would you consider looking into doing something for someone who is in need? Whether it’s going to read to someone at a Nursing Home, or volunteering at a Soup Kitchen? Or maybe it’s getting involved with one of our partner schools? God is asking us to care for His children, each other!

Here are some links to get you started:

Silver Link Ministry
Kansas City Missions

If you get a chance to jot down what you decided to do, send me a quick email; I’d love to hear about your volunteering adventure!

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Thursday 1.24.13 Insight from Madeline Crawford

Madeline Crawford is the Website Communications Director, and has been a member of The Church of the Resurrection since 1994.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a doer. I like to start off every “To Do” list with a “gimme” task, simply so I can get rolling on crossing things off the list. (For example, “Write GPS Insight” is on today’s list, but directly above it is “Plug in the Computer.” If you haven’t yet caught on, I’m already halfway through knocking out that list!)

As I broaden the scope from my notepad to our nation, I realize we currently have an extensive “To Do” list, but how do we get past our two-party political stalemate and get started on eliminating poverty, fixing the debt ceiling, amending 900+ pages of health care policy, etc.?

I look back on Pastor Adam’s challenge to President Barack Obama to help us resolve our differences and cast a unifying vision for our nation, and I’m reminded of these words from today’s scripture: “If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”

That seems like a pretty big challenge, but I’d like to give Scripture the benefit of the doubt and think maybe we are capable of leaving our comfort zones to love our enemies and pray for those who harass us. I find it easier to grasp concepts like these when I see them play out in real life, so I’ll share with you an example I found of God’s complete love in an unlikely place: The Middle East.

I’m not going to try to explain the conflict between Iran and Israel, so let’s agree that there’s some heavy stuff going on over there–things I’d have to Google for hours to have an intelligent conversation about. Despite my limited knowledge, I was taken aback when I discovered that in March 2012, as Iran and Israel leaders renewed their call to war, Israeli citizens took to Facebook and spread love to their Iranian enemies neighbors with profile pictures like these:

And instead of bombs, the people of Iran dropped these in return:

In addition, the people of Israel also created a Youtube video for Iran. (Click here to view it.) In less than 30 seconds more than 20 people reiterated the phrase “I love you.” They invited Iranians to join them for a cup of coffee to talk about sports, art, music, fashion, cinema, technology, and most importantly, peace.

The people above enveloped one other with agape love. They extended olive branches into the darkness, and found that when they practiced complete love, they were joined together in a unified vision for peace among their nations.

I hope that as we consider how we approach conflict, whether with neighboring countries or our neighbors next door, we’ll seek to understand one another, practicing the agape love that God freely shows us, so that we may work together to ultimately push back the darkness.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Wednesday 1.23.13 Insight from Angela LaVallie

Angela LaVallie is the Member Connection Program Director at The Church of the Resurrection. She provides oversight to our member connection efforts through the New Member Welcome Team,  and our Spiritual Gifts Placement Team.

Whenever I consider people who are persecuted for their beliefs, I tend to think of those who are mistreated for belonging to a certain religious faith. I often forget that people are often harassed because of other beliefs that might be encouraged by that faith but not exclusive to it.

There are people of many faiths—or those with no religious beliefs at all—who believe in freedom and justice, but as Christians, followers of Christ, we are called to stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves simply because of whom we follow and what he teaches us.

We are not persecuted on a large scale in America for being Christians, but when we stand up for the victims of violence and abuse and exclusion and are met with obstacles, it can feel like persecution. We have to choose to fight back against those obstacles. Sometimes, this battle is fought by large groups of people working together and organizing marches and boycotts. Sometimes it is one person fighting against the darkness and the oppression alone or in a small group, and that can be scary or feel like there is no way to possibly make a difference. Today’s passage of scripture known as the Beatitudes reassures us that even if the battles we are fighting are so small it seems no one will notice, God notices.

In his sermon at the National Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington DC yesterday, Rev Adam Hamilton said, “Humility and courageous compassion for the marginalized and oppressed are central to the heart and character of Moses and are meant to be central to the heart and character of this nation.”

Humility and courageous compassion for the marginalized and oppressed are central to the heart and character of Jesus Christ, and as his followers, they are meant to be at the heart and character of each and every one of us as well. Even when it’s really, really difficult.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Tuesday 1.22.13 Insight from Rev. Anne Williams

Rev. Anne Williams is the Congregational Care pastor for members of the Resurrection family who have last names beginning with S-Z.

Micah 6:8 is one of those great passages that is so easy to pull out of our back pocket and quote. Some may claim it as their life-verse. I know it is one of the more appealing verses of the Bible to some non-religious folk.

As I read it in context today, I notice that this beautiful verse we quote so often comes from a place of serious frustration. Micah as a prophet is speaking on behalf of God to the Israelite people who have forgotten who they are. By that I mean, God points out to them that they are a people whose story is marked by receiving justice, and yet they haven’t given the same courtesy to others. They missed the “pay it forward” lesson. Although God blessed Abraham’s family so that he might be a blessing to others, the Israelites have claimed many blessings of God without taking the time to return the favor. They have forgotten those times they were once on the side of the victim, were saved, and were overwhelmed with God’s grace. Surely if they remembered where they had come from, they would not have the guts to ignore the injustices they are participating in, the injustices they are turning a blind eye to, or the injustices they are too busy to be concerned with.

Surely our own passion for justice ministries begins with remembering where we have come from–remembering the saving acts of Christ, the acts of grace and mercy given to us before we had power of our own. As a female pastor, I myself have to remind myself that if I were born in another time or another place I wouldn’t have the opportunities to live out my call to ordained ministry. But others have come before me and have paved the way. As long as I remain grateful, I too feel called to make sure justice ministries are an important part of my work in the world so that together, we might continue to fight to make sure all people are treated with the dignity and respect God sees in them.

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.

Monday 1.21.13 Insight from Rev. Chris Holliday

Rev. Chris Holliday serves as the associate minister at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection West.

I grew up in a small southern town in eastern North Carolina. It was a nice quiet place with a church on about every corner, not a lot of crime, and people who waved and smiled as they passed one another by. It was a one McDonalds, one Pizza Hut, one high school kind of town, and it was my home.

Mrs. Mansion was one of my all time favorite teachers. The thing I remember most is how kind and caring she was. Mrs. Mansion happened to be African-American. So did about 50% of our school population. I had many African-American friends – good friends whom I enjoyed singing with in choir, marching alongside in band, and serving with in various school clubs.

Finally, my senior year came; and before I knew it, it was time for graduation. Each year we had a party for the seniors at the town’s one and only country club. It had been done this way for years. The only problem was that the party was only for “white” seniors. Our assistant principal’s daughter, Tina, was African-American and in my graduating class. She and her parents decided to have a party for ALL the seniors at their house that same night. Tina was a friend of mine whom I’d known since grade school; and her Dad was a great assistant principal who was well liked and respected in the school and in our community.

I wish I could tell you that I went to Tina’s party, but I did not. I went to the country club party with all my white friends, and didn’t think too much of it. Yes, I was in church from the time I was a baby; and yes, my parents were and are wonderful, loving people. However, we had adjusted to a broken, unjust system and accepted it without any real thought or proper consideration. I did what we had “always” done in my town.

As I grew older and as my world became larger, my eyes were opened to the prejudice within me. How could I not have seen or understood how wrong my decision had been, and how hurt my African-American friends must have been by our actions? One of the scariest pieces of this whole thing for me is that it didn’t happen in the 60’s or 70’s. I graduated from high school in 1985!

Fortunately, a lot has changed, even since the mid-eighties. The racially segregated high school senior parties are long gone from the small town I once called home. And as a country, we are certainly moving closer to what Dr. King described as the “bright and glittering daybreak of freedom and justice.” However, there is no doubt that much societal injustice and inhumanity still plagues our communities and our world.

May we realize our mistakes and learn from them. May we rise up and stand firm against prejudice and evil. May we truly make a positive, Christian difference both locally and globally.  And may we help open the flood gates, so that “justice [can] run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Return to the GPS Guide to read today’s scripture and reflection questions.