Personal, Social Justice

It has to stop

I was supposed to go running this morning. But we got to bed around midnight and, when my alarm went off at 5, I decided to just sleep in. I meet a friend for breakfast most Thursdays, so I figured I’d sleep until 6 or so and then get ready and go.

I couldn’t get back to sleep. I kept thinking about the killing of Alton Sterling. I lay there, by turns incredibly sad and angry, and finally got up. My phone said it was 5:59. I thought I would sit down and write up my thoughts.

Then I saw the news about Philando Castile.

I’m still trying to process all this. I have no wisdom to offer here.

Here’s what I know: Two men, made in the image of God, are dead. And they should not be.

As a Christian, I can’t be silent. We white Christians have been silent far too long. Martin Luther King, Jr., condemned us in 1963 for our silence. Our brothers and sisters today do so, too. They are right to do so.

I don’t know what this means, exactly. Right now it means listening, and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Here’s the paragraph from King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail that still rings true:

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.


DC Not Making Marvel’s Mistake

DC Super Heroes

DC Super Heroes

After the race Sunday we went to Disney Springs to get some lunch and walk around a bit. We went into the Marvel store. I wanted to get something for K, since she has on several occassions talked about how much she likes superheroes.

So I wanted to get her some cool girl superhero toy, because one of my missions in life is to convince her that superheroes aren’t just for boys.

And what did I get her? A tshirt. Yep, that’s all they had. It’s a cool shirt, but no action figures, nothing really girl-oriented. This has been a recurring problem for Marvel.

And this is why I’m happy to see DC isn’t making the same mistake. I’ll definitely be going to get stuff from Target. I dig the action figures (K will call them dolls) and I like the tshirts, too.


Remembering Ivey Spence

Amber and I got to church a bit late yesterday. We sat next to my sister- and mother-in-law. As we were about to join in the singing, I saw Jean (my ma-in-law) telling Amber something. I didn’t think much of it, until Amber turned to me.

“Mom saw this morning that Ivey Spence died.”

Ivey gave me my first preaching opportunities. He also had a lot to do with me learning how to handle just about anything that happens during a sermon.

I first met Ivey when I was in Boy Scouts. My most distinct memory of him is asking him to wake me up from a nap during summer camp. I had completed one of my courses early, and so had a break after lunch. I had brought a hammock, which was hung between two trees behind my tent. He told me he’d get me up in time.

And true to his word, he did. When it was time for me to get up, he hooked his cane on my hammock and flipped it over. I woke up just in time to see the ground rushing to meet me. Of course I complained, but he calmly pointed out he had woken me, as promised, and I had not specified how he should do it.

In the fall of 1996 Ivey approached me at First Baptist and said he’d heard I felt called to preach. I said yes, and he told me about something called Truckstop Ministries. He said I could come preach there if I wanted. I told him I’d love to. When I saw him next, he tossed a bag at me. Inside was a blue Truckstop Ministries shirt with the word “Chaplain” on it.

“I didn’t say I wanted to be a chaplain,” I told him.

“Do you want to preach?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then you’re a chaplain.” And I was, for the next six years. Once a month (at least) I got to preach. I’d show up, and Ivey and his friends would be sitting around eating breakfast and laughing. I preached my first sermon there. It is a sign of God’s mercy to me that no recording of that exists. But I learned how to handle just about any type of disruption, and that has served me well.

As much as Ivey would joke — which was a lot — he never once made a joke about my preaching. Lord knows he could have. He was, however, constantly encouraging, and helped me learn how to outline a sermon, how to develop my points, how to build a hook to hang the message on so people would remember it.

Ivey and the gang were already in their sixties, and I was twenty. But I was one of them, and they looked out for me. I remember talking with a guy after one sermon who told me I was too young to know much. He asked how old I was (probably 22-23 at the time), and told me that, at 63, he knew that Jesus wasn’t the only way to Heaven. So I called out to Ivey:


“How old are you?”


“Can someone get to Heaven without Jesus?”


I turned back to the guy and pointed out Ivey was older than him, so he must know more.

Ivey had a knack for making you feel like you were the most important person when he was talking with you. Which was a perfect fit for something like running a ministry out of a truckstop. But it came out everywhere. Just a couple weeks ago I bumped into Ms Anna at Kroger. She said, “Ivey’s around here somewhere. It takes him a while because he talks to everyone.” And it was true. I spotted him twenty feet away, leaning on the cart, chatting with some random people.

He would normally greet me the same way: “Well hey there, Brine.” (Not two syllables) “You feeling good? You look good.”

Ivey taught me a lot about ministry, and what it meant to be a Christian. I clearly remember him talking with someone and telling them, “You can’t hate like that and be a Christian. God isn’t going to let you just hate people.” Honestly, that was the first time I had heard a statement like that, and it has stuck with me.

I never knew Ivey to complain much. Once I was talking with him before a church service, and no one else was nearby. He told me he’d had a rough time getting up. His back, he said, was really hurting him that day. That was the most I ever heard from him: Not a complaint, but a statement and request for prayer. But before I could say much, someone else walked by. Ivey spotted them and, for a few minutes, they became the most important person in the world.

Godspeed, Ivey. Enjoy your reward, and I’ll see you again one day.

Personal, Religion

Paris, evil, and the ignorance of childhood

My two kids, and our current foster kids, have finished breakfast and are happily playing. K keeps running to show me what she’s built or found.

They are blissfully unaware of the attack in Paris. They do not even realize such evil exists in the world.

I am dreading the day they become aware of it.

The reason I hate prosperity theology is that it cannot handle evil. (And yes, I mean the word “hate,” not dislike or something else lighter.) Osteen and his ilk basically give you a spell by which you can bind God, speak the words and God will have to bless you. Then some terrorists set off bombs and kill (according to the most recent account I’ve seen) 127 people and all the big smiles in the worlds will not handle it.

True Christianity has no problem explaining the existence of evil. Not that it will give you an explanation, the “why” behind each act of evil. But it gives me a framework to understand it, to fight it, and to maintain hope through it.

I’m solid on that, I understand it, I’ve taught it to others.

But this morning I am looking at these kids and thinking, God, I really don’t want to have to teach this to them. I know it’s unrealistic, but there it is.

Come quickly, Lord!