Tag: Peace

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The day I stopped to listen (MLK Day)

The day I stopped to listen (MLK Day)

Martin Luther King Jr. day is one of those holidays that I always forget about. It seems to sneak up on me every year, and it passes by with little fanfare. This year as I sat at home with little to do, I decided to finally read Dr. King’s famous speech in its entirety. I was surprised to find how few of the battle lines have moved in the past 55 years. We still are dealing with issues of prejudice, bias, and hate today. Yet it seems like the weapons of our wars have changed drastically in the past few years. Today, I want to take a step back and look at how we fight. Are our actions leading us further into the society that Dr. King spoke of in his dream, or are we drifting out into the sea of injustice?

The day I met a feminist

A little less than a year ago, Jessica and I were out shopping at the Mall of America. Jessica decided to brave the crowds at the Bath and Body Works semi-annual sale to get some scents. We were separated by the crowds, and I began to wander the store looking for her. As I rounded a display table, I found myself in the path of a woman in her forties. She set her face in a scowl as she strode forcefully through the store. Her eyes flashed with anger, as if she were ready to challenge anyone there to a fight at a moment’s notice. I immediately dropped my gaze and stepped to the side (as did everyone else in her path). As she passed by, I noticed a button on her lapel. It read “This is what a feminist looks like.”

In the days following that split-second encounter, I looked back and wondered if the woman’s statement was really true. Is there a way that we can fight for freedom and equality without becoming wearied veterans? Is there a way to preserve my neighbor’s countenance even if we find ourselves on the opposite sides of a debate? Two months after my encounter, “Pride Day” rolled around. My Facebook feed filled up with angry, hateful, and ignorant comments from both sides of a modern debate. As I scrolled through the mutual hate and ignorance, I discovered the root of the problem.

Are we fighting for equality or superiority?

In every debate since history began, the world has been divided into “us” and “them.” But this attitude will never bring us into true equality. As soon as I divide the world into two groups, I lose the ability to set “them” on the same level as “us.” If the issue is about one of two groups gaining power, then I cannot honestly desire to see “us” enter the minority. Many of the debates I see today begin by drawing the battle lines and dividing us into factions. But “us” and “them” debates  will never bring change, save by violence or intimidation. If I want to see the chasms in our nation healed, it is up to me to stop placing “them” in a category and start treating everyone like my neighbor. (see Luke 10:25–29)

2000 years ago, God willingly gave up His power and majesty when He came to this world for our sake. He was the only person in human history to truly deserve a position at the top of Earth’s society. Jesus didn’t take what was rightfully His. Instead, He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8) When Jesus gave Himself for us, He started a new movement: those in power willingly laying aside their positions for the betterment of their fellow man. If I can live like Christ through His power, I can begin to break down the barriers that exist in my life.

What this holiday has to teach me

As I read a little bit today about Dr. King and his efforts to bring equality to our nation, I learned a little bit about the opportunities I have to make a difference. In his speech, Dr. King called out the white people who joined the march for equality in his day: “many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny.”Jesus commissioned every one of us to stand with the poor and oppressed. This means that I have a responsibility to listen and to care.

The answers aren’t always easy. But healing begins when we are willing to stop and understand each other. I cannot find my worth in my worldly position, but from my place in God’s hand. Armed with this knowledge, I can honestly rejoice when my neighbor is exalted, even when they reach a position far above my own head. “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Today, I want to begin placing the needs of others before my own. Justice starts when I lay down my rights and fight for the rights of my neighbor as if they were my own.

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More than the Sparrows – Part 2

More than the Sparrows – Part 2

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

Two months ago, God used some car trouble to teach both Jessica and I some lessons about dependence and worry. Shortly after I wrote a blog post about it, my parents lent us enough money to get a good, reliable car. They helped us find a Mazda5 which fit our needs and our budget. Jessica named her “Silvermist,” and we rejoiced that our car troubles were over. We enjoyed two months of safe reliable transport. Then on Wednesday, it all came crashing down. After 8 years of driving, I finally had an accident. I totaled our car, and we returned to the same place of uncertainty we were in two months ago.

For the second time in a row, God was quick to bless us through the trial. First off, I can be thankful that no one was injured in the accident. It happened right next to Jessica’s work, so she was able to walk to the scene of the accident to support me. Our insurance agent (who is next door to Jessica’s office) saw the wreck on his way in. Less than two hours later, I sat down next to the guy I hit and talked through the insurance process with my agent. We filed every necessary piece of paper right then and there.

Alli came down and provided transportation for us. We went to the hospital to get checked out, and then we grabbed a rental car. Friends and family came around to support us in prayer, and my parents began to send us links to potential replacement cars.

On Friday, Jessica and I signed our car over to State Farm, and they cut us a check. It was the fastest claim process our agent had seen in his entire career. God was so quick to bless us that He apparently broke records in the process. Not only did the money come extremely quickly, but we received a check for $30 more than we had paid for the car originally. They claims department had valued our car at nearly a thousand dollars higher than the original price, so we gained money in the transaction, even after they subtracted the deductible.

On Saturday, we found the a nearly identical car to the one we lost. It was $1000 below our budget. The only problem was that we didn’t have money in the bank yet. I mentioned it to the manager, and he offered to hold us the check. “We have been in the business for a long time. We know who we can trust. Just leave us the check and take the car. When you get your money, give us a call.” Jessica and I were able to drive off the lot in our new car three days after we lost our previous one. The manager gave us his number and asked us to let him know if we had any troubles with the car. At the end of the sale, he took us across the street and bought us dinner.

Throughout the whole experience, God’s grace was obvious. At every turn, we were met with compassion. The car dealer and our State Farm agent were both grateful that I wasn’t hurt. Friends and family reminded me of God’s goodness. It felt like God was moving mountains in order to take care of us. Our insurance check cleared the bank yesterday, and this story came to an end – only six days after it began! I suppose there is nothing more I can say about it other than “thank you.”

Thank you to my parents for giving us the advice we needed and for helping us find a replacement. (Also, thank you for helping us finance the first car). To Alli and Sarah, thank you for helping us get around when we didn’t have transportation of our own. Thank you to Steve from State Farm and Jerry from Vera Auto Sales for surpassing our expectations and providing compassion to a stranger. Above all, thank you to everyone who supported us through prayer. I thank God for the incredible story that only He could write.

To anyone who is in the midst of their own struggle, I hope that our story can provide a little hope. God is the author of our stories, and He never writes tragedies about His children. This week required a lot of work on my part, but I never had to worry. With every new day, I find more reminders that my Father in Heaven cares for me. I hope that there is not a “next time,” but I know  God will carry us through if there ever is.