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.

Politics, Religion, Social Justice

Dr Martin Luther King Links

I’ve previous post on Letter from a Birmingham Jail on how I like to read Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail every year.

After reading it again today I thought I’d post a few links on the day we celebrate his life. There is much more to the man than the few quotes we see every year on this holiday.

This quote from his letter has been bouncing in my head today. Like John Piper’s Letter to Dr King, I think this is prophetic:

But the judgement of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. I am meeting young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright disgust.

Some links from the always interesting Jemar Tisby. First, he had some great comments on #BlackLivesMatter and the pro-life movement. His is not the only opinion on the page, but he resonated with me most.

Next, take time to read this: The Master Narrative: The Popular, but Problematic Memory of the Civil Rights Movement.

And finally, a great video of Tisby, Trip Lee, and Alex Medina discussing “What About the Minority Experience in America Do Whites Often Miss?”

Speaking of Trip Lee, I watched a great 3 minute video from him on the Gospel and Race. It’s worth your time.

Finally, two book suggestions. Both of these help give you an idea of who Dr. King was, not just the sanitized version that is popular today.

The first is The Radical King. It is a collection of speeches and writings from Dr King that give you an idea of how the man thought. It’s organized by category, and is easy to read in small bites. The comments from Cornel West help supply context without getting in the way.

The second book is Death of a King, about the final year of his life. Tavis Smiley does a great job showing how, while he is popular today, King’s views about state violence and poverty made many people withdraw their support. Before reading about this I had never heard this part of the story. There is also a great interview with Smiley on The Daily Show discussing the book.

Take some time and learn about Dr. King. He truly is an American icon, and with good reason. I believe it will be time well spent.