Why haven’t I seen that before now?

Now you see it…

Have you ever been driving in a familiar area, and noticed something you’d never seen before, though it obviously was there all along?  I recall this happening once as I drove my daughter and a friend through very familiar territory near the friend’s home.  As we turned onto the oft-traveled country road, all at once, as if scripted, we all three looked to the right and noticed a horse grazing in a beautiful rolling pasture of green.  There was a brook at the bottom of the hill, and another hill rising up behind that one.  I’ve seen framed art that wasn’t as captivating as that scene was.  We all commented on the fact that we’d been by that spot many, many times, and never really noticed the beauty that was waiting there that day.

How could that happen?  Why didn’t we see it before?  There was no problem with our vision that suddenly had been corrected. Did the scene itself change from unremarkable to remarkable?  There could have been some changes, of course, in the hues and obviously the location of the horse, but the landscape itself had been there in some form since the dawn of time.  What changed?  I submit that a moment occurred wherein all the necessary conditions were met that allowed three people to simultaneously be struck by the same beauty.  Not being a believer in randomness at all, I am sure God had a purpose in crafting that experience ahead of time.

Not the first time

I had a parallel experience almost twenty-seven years ago.  Having possessed a Bible that I had read with some regularity, I had passed by the experience of the early Church numerous times, but never noticed some aspects of what happened to them, and what they said about its relevance to future generations.  I was unaffected by that portion of the Word of God, until about this time of year all those years ago, when I met someone who had been affected by it — someone who had experienced what I had assumed along with many, many others to have phased out after the era of the original apostles, years down the line.

Brought to a point of seeing something in the Word of God I’d never seen before, I had to make a choice as to what response I would give:  continuing to drive by and acting as though I’d not seen it, or incorporating the new knowledge into my overall response to God himself.  Thankfully, I chose the latter, and can say along with Robert Frost of “the road less traveled by”, that has made all the difference.

More eyes than mine

I have recently had the joyous opportunity of seeing other people experience this same phenomenon, to discover that what they assumed wouldn’t be relevant for them was in fact the very thing they’d searched for all their lives.

Often people overlook an answer because of the place where it’s waiting, that appears to them as though it simply couldn’t be anywhere they could find what they needed. This tendency reminds me of myself looking for my car keys and going over and over the only places I was sure I had been with them.  It’s embarrassing to think  how many repetitions of such a totally unproductive “solution” to my problem I’ve gone through, then to finally give up and start looking everywhere. Only then could I discover the keys in an unlikely place, and remember how something had happened to derail me from putting them where I usually do (OK,  so I admit I’m just getting really absent-minded!).

There…? Really?

A church that teaches holiness, righteous living, and separation from the world is often the very last place some would look for their answers. Once all other options are exhausted, however, and desperate to have more of what God wants for them – his answer to their life’s problem, whatever it looks or sounds like or wherever it is – they finally begin to see what he was preparing for them all the time: joy, love and power to live righteously and godly in this present world, and how to have that.

It’s at the church that is doing what the very first church did – teaching repentance (turning from our sins), water baptism in Jesus’ name for the remission (forgiveness and cleansing) of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, as actually happened to people in Acts chapter 2, chapter 10 and chapter 19, among other places.  This fulfills the birth of water and Spirit Jesus talked about in John chapter 3 (3:5), as being necessary for seeing or entering into the Kingdom of God, and was preached as being a promise “unto you, and to your children and all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Sounds like all of us forever, to me.

What do you see?

Does this just sound like so much “partisanship”  (if that term can be applied to ideas related to Christianity)? Splitting hairs?  I submit to you that I have seen with my own eyes that there is a reality in obeying this original doctrine, that it really matters what you believe, and how you practice it, though many would say otherwise.

Let me know what you think.  What have you seen that was really “there all the time”?

I’ll try to reply to each comment, or answer any questions you may have.  Thanks for reading!

State of the Dream

Courtesy of US Stamp Gallery
Courtesy of US Stamp Gallery

What’s become of Dr. King’s “Dream”?

Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s many contributions to the public conscience on race relations, the most well-remembered words of his legacy were uttered in his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered August 28, 1973, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. As we reflect today on his life and legacy, we in some sense are asking, “What became of his dream?”.

I am not at school today, because it is a holiday.  I am the principal of a rather new and predominantly White Christian school in the heart of Mississippi, the first state mentioned by name by Dr. King in  “I Have a Dream” as the state most in need of reform at the time, and not without good cause.

We had a choice when we planned our first school calendar and were deciding what days to observe or not observe, and no laws regulate what holidays have to be taken by private schools. Not all schools of this nature agree on all holidays. So why are we out today?

That question, I believe, can best be answered by exploring the answers to several other questions.
What contribution can I tell our students that Dr. King has made to history, all these years later?

There was a reason for the struggle between those who could no longer live without  access to the benefits of the society their efforts were helping to build and maintain versus  those who saw the possibility of change as a threat. The struggle, I believe, would inevitably would have led to all-out bloody conflict — a war if you will — in a short period of time. The revolutions of other countries, past and present, testify to this reality.

That the conflict was not ultimately decided by violence is a testament to the voices of Dr. King and others, who reminded those who had the most to gain and lose in the conflict that their cause was right, and that it would be championed by One greater than themselves if they would choose to keep themselves from using the basest of means to pursue it, even while those means were being used against them. Dr. King’s words and actions, his leadership, helped give birth to real change that began in the hearts of people, and lived out eventually in changed laws, policies, practices, and attitudes.

Why was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so successful with his efforts when his antithesis, seemingly more powerful than he was, ultimately failed?

Sam Bowers, founder and Imperial Wizard of the once 10,000 man-strong White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which personified the radical efforts to hold on to the status quo,  could easily be seen as the mastermind behind the opposition to Dr. King’s efforts. Why did Dr. King succeed, even posthumously, and Sam Bowers’ cause fail?

Was it because the Source of moral victory weighed on the side of one man’s cause, and against that of the other?

One man’s cause initially represented physical weakness — his people being the numerical minority in the population; political weakness — his followers being disenfranchised and marginalized from choosing the judges and lawmakers who would affect their future; and organizational weakness — his constituents being threatened and made to fear for their efforts to build a coalition that could present itself en mass  to demand change.

The other man’s cause represented physical strength –  his followers were in the racial majority; political strength – they were often able to act outside the law without penalty or serious attempts at prosecution; and organizational strength – a building, gathering frenzy of men who fomented hatred openly.

But their cause wasn’t right, and wouldn’t prevail.

Dr. King died with the legacy of conducting himself honorably, fighting for freedom and the rights of a disadvantaged people.  Sam Bowers died in prison —  a despised and defeated bigot, who finally, finally, was required to repay a little of his debt to society for the damage he spearheaded against a cause that was morally superior to his own.

Were all the players in the struggle so obviously right and wrong?

Some of those on the side of the quest for liberty grew impatient with peaceful means and opted to meet violence with violence, as represented by the Black Panthers. Though undoubtedly inevitable in this type struggle, their efforts as represented by history were less effective that those pursued by Dr. King. Their stories, and those of the KKK who chose to fire-bomb homes, murder civil rights workers and intimidate peaceful organizers and protestors have been well told.

Perhaps less well-represented in literature and the media of that day, understandably, are the  stories of decent people who saw that the system that they as Whites had grown up with – had in fact inherited – was not to be embraced or defended as a way for two groups of human beings to relate to one another, and that something needed to be done.

Not all of these were joining in the public debate or protest, but more often simply standing for right by doing right — doing right by those in their world who were in need, or just who just wanted an opportunity to access what others already were able to have. Making small decisions, one at a time, and sticking to them.

That was a long time ago, though, right? A lot has changed now, right? The Dream has been realized, right? Indeed, a lot has changed. Today has its own issues to deal with. Perhaps today, race relations are even more complex in the South than in Dr. King’s day. Recent political events have seemed to polarize people over the issue of race more than ever before, as evidenced by one last question.
If race relations have come so far, why is there so much opposition to a Black President?

Recently our country had a national election to fill its highest office, and shortly thereafter, our local county had a run-off election to fill a vacated sheriff’s position. I supported the White candidate for President of the United States, and the Black candidate for sheriff. Why?

Perhaps because of my own dream: that one day race will not be suspected as the primary reason a member of the majority group chooses to disagree with a member of a minority group. I continue to be surprised when that is not the case, because I expect that minority members’ confidence in themselves as deep-thinking and resourceful human beings will allow them to embrace opposition to their ideas or actions as a source of challenge to do more, reach deeper for answers in themselves and strive harder to reach new heights. Why? Because they are inferior?  No, because they are equal.  This is what opposition does for any thinking person, any in whom is the potential for greatness. Only the weak of heart and mind see opposition — in the form of discourse with the desire for truth at its heart — as a threat or as a racial issue.

I didn’t oppose President Obama’s election or re-election because he is African-American.  I opposed him because of his policies and actions.  But my saying that is considered suspect among many people, no doubt even some I count as friends. I didn’t support  “Sarge” (Chris Sargent) for sheriff out of some irrelevant desire to change the racial make-up of the law enforcement leadership of our county.  I voted for him because when I met him, I was impressed by what he had to say about how he would run the sheriff’s office (planned policies), and because he was recommended by others who’d worked with and observed him (past actions) and altogether I believed he was the best man for the job.

Isn’t this what Dr. King dreamed of?

So what are your thoughts? Are these ideas that resonate with you, or do you envision the state of race relations in the today’s South to be of a totally different nature?  I’d love to hear what you think.  Dialogue is the means to growth of a civilized culture.

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for several weeks, in order to focus on a bigger writing project,  but am glad to return sharing thoughts regularly related to life in what I like to call the Real South, the one we live in right now.