Continued racial tension in US—why??

This is a first.  I am reposting a blog from Peter Lundell. It is a wonderful read concerning why we continue to have much racial tension.  Thank you for reading.  I will be here next week…

Connections

I was going to write something happy this month, but the nation is gripped. I grieve at the rioting, but in this longer-than-usual post, I hope, as a white guy who’s learned a few things, to share some reasons why the USA continues to have so much racial tension—and my greatest hope. I’ve hyperlinked terms in case you’re not familiar with them.

My friend Jerry is still in Louisiana, but we still have long talks on the phone. Last year he despaired that injustices against African-Americans like him never seemed to change. And he was most concerned for his grandkids.

Some injustice happens, and I think, “Now things will change.” But mostly they don’t. To get the nation’s attention in the past, people had to arrange for the media to cover things—like the Emmet Till murder or the Birmingham demonstrations. Now people have smartphones. So will things get better? Maybe a bit, but the often-overlooked main issue runs deeper.

Equal Justice Institute director, Bryan Stevenson, says that the greatest evil of American slavery was not involuntary servitude or forced labor. It was the narrative of racial superiority/inferiority created to legitimize slavery. Why? Because after emancipation, that narrative fueled the Black Codes and Jim Crow laws, which in things like lynching (which was a form of terrorism) and convict leasing (where men were imprisoned, sometimes for the slightest reasons, then rented out and worked often to death) were worse than slavery. This narrative carefully evolved the myth away from the slave-era Negro’s being a benign, subservient field hand. If they couldn’t be kept as slaves, at least they could be kept down and out. So the myth of black inferiority intentionally morphed into their being lazy, untrustworthy, up to no good—and to the men was added being lascivious and dangerous. Simply having dark skin came to imply that a person was inferior and dangerous. And this mindset pervaded the entire country, even Canada.

In the past the myth was overtly taught and implied. Today it still lingers as a way of thinking that, if not overt, creeps under the consciousness, pretending not to be there, with many people not even aware it’s there—until it’s revealed and things erupt. Awareness is essential because otherwise people will think and do things without realizing it.

So piece together what you repeatedly see in the news, and it makes total sense. And when a young African-Americans get these messages their whole lives, don’t be surprised when they act them out. (Interestingly, “terrorist” is not part of the myth, and we never see African-American terrorists.)

Jerry helped me understand why black men resist arrest—they’re so frustrated. And statistically, they’re far more likely to be arrested, presumed guilty, and convicted for a given incident than a white person would be. Part of the reason they often get into trouble in the first place is that generations have been disenfranchised. For example, throughout the Great Migration blacks fled the South, but in nearly every city of America they were forced by the practice of redlining into ghettoized areas with limited opportunities. Discrimination has been not only individual but also systemic—did you know that recipients of the post-WWII GI Bill were 99 percent white? From 1877, when post-Civil War Reconstruction ended, African Americans were beaten down, shut out, and denied opportunities—overtly until 1965, then in more subtle ways after that.

Jerry told me how the black nurses at the hospital where he works yell at injured black men who cause trouble because they legitimize and fuel the anti-black narrative. And with him I do my best to feel the existential despair that after all these years since the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one can still be suspected, profiled, stopped, and killed for driving, walking, standing, going to church, even sleeping while black.

Thankfully, everything has gotten much better than it once was, but we still have further to go than most of us realize because the history has been so whitewashed.

Above all the laws or politically correct things that may change, it’s the human heart where the biggest difference is made. And that goes for every race. We can take hope in incremental improvements we see in each successive generation.

Jerry’s and my greatest hope in is the Kingdom of God—God’s reign and activity here on earth. What do you think drove Martin Luther King and all the historically black churches that were foundational to the Civil Rights Movement?

We may not be able to change every person’s heart. But we can determine who we are as people of God—no matter what—and be the message.

Knowing why the nation is as it is, we find the power to change people’s hearts in the Kingdom of God. And it is happening. This gives us something to live and die for. It gives us peace, hope, and strength.

Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile [or black or white or anything in between], neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

This is about more than hoping. It’s about the people of God grasping the reality, then thinking and acting by their new identity in Christ and the life of God’s Spirit in them. We all identify with one color—the blood of Christ. And if any one of us is cut, we all bleed that same color—red.

May God’s Spirit fill you, and through you may he influence the world in which you live.

How might that happen in your life?

Peter Lundell

With thanks to Jerry Green and Sidney Mitchell, who vetted this post for me.
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… grounded in love…

Some gardeners call this the plant from hell.20200505_163434

Tom and I have been reworking most of the gardens on our plot of ground while  undercover these weeks.  We are taking back the grass… mowing is easier than weeding in old age.

This invasive plant has flourished in an area by the driveway, sharing space with large rocks and other flowers. It took two days—6 or 7 hours a day—with both of us digging 2 feet… that’s 2 feet! down to remove the aggressive plant by the roots. There is no other way to get rid of this.  We filled this wagon twice with the roots of this unstoppable plant.20200512_095007

20200512_100605The Houttuynia Cordata Chameleon performs wonderfully if you can contain it. Growing tenaciously in steep, rocky places, this plant can also be a great ground cover.  The problem comes only when you decide to be rid of it. Some gardeners swear it is impossible; they moan in the belief that you can NEVER eradicate this plant.

One site informs that this plant spreads indefinitely and vigorously.  The roots of the Chameleon grow as wide as they do deep; this explains why the plant is not easily removed. The Chameleon spreads by underground rhizomes, and also roots from broken stems and even pieces of the plant. You are advised to burn all traces of the flower, the rhizome, even the smallest pieces to assure the plant will not come back to life!

Initially, I was stunned at the amount of roots deep down in the soil and was going to blog on the lessons of being rooted in wrong or dangerous places.  The more I pondered  this, I see a beautiful, positive lesson of being rooted in good soil. Indeed, I spy a lesson in comparing the Houttuynia plant to a strong Biblical faith. Well, sort of…

“I pray . . . that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” Ephesians 3:17  NASB

I love how the verse reads in the Amplified: “May Christ  through your faith, actually dwell—settle down, abide, make His permanent home—in your hearts!  May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love.” Ephesians 3:17

The idea here in the Greek is of roots plunging or pressing down deeper and wider into soil. To be grounded is to be ultimately resting on a firm foundation, standing strong against  the winds that blow.  These kind of roots are totally invasive, yes. Every area of life is captivated with God’s powerful, unfailing love. “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” Psalm 36:5. “How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 36:7.

Some find the ‘fragrance’ of the plant a bit offensive. It does have a strong odor, and herbalists often use it for antiviral purposes. “Anti-houttuynia-ists” boycott the garden centers where this plant is sold 🙂

We find ourselves in unsettled, shaking currents. Now is the time to be resolute in standing secure. My desire is to press deeper… down, down into the only  firm foundation upon which there is peace…

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

… grounded in love…

 

 

 

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… speaking gold …

“That is so stupid, Barbara.”

Where in the world did that thought come from? I asked myself quietly, but knowing exactly why that phrase came. Words buried in my memory surfaced as I peeled a mango one morning this week. Tears mixed with sticky juice as I rested my knife…

I remembered…

The last of many times time my mother pronounced that judgment was August 2001, less than three weeks before 9-11-01. I had flown home to Tennessee from Vienna, Austria, with a strong prompt to see my mother. We enjoyed a good visit that morning, and I was helping with lunch.

I was peeling apples, letting the peels circle on the counter. (I’ve always loved making a long strand of peel—even at my age!) She swooped them up, made the first statement, and snapped, “How stupid to move them twice?”

Words… just words.

Funny…  what we remember.  That was the last time I was with my mother. She died suddenly the following Christmas Day. Through the years that one statement can still bring hurt, especially when I pile vegetable or fruit scraps on the counter. And I still do.

I am not sure I could have shared with her how those words impacted my sense of security in who I was. Did I even know as a young girl or a teenager how it would affect me for years? I do know it is critical the words embedded in young hearts.

I write this blog today for all of us who are more at home with those we love than we have been in a long while. We had four children—I can only imagine if we were quarantined when they were all teenagers!  Would I have said things they would remember with pain for the rest of their lives?

I have prayed for years that my children would be blessed with a terrible memory when it comes to ‘hearing’  hurtful words from the past. Words said in times of impatience or exasperation with little ones. And if they do remember, I sincerely hope they forgive me—again and again. I desire Now…  to speak words of affirmation, encouragement and love to somehow offset the painful memories caused by my words then.

In defense of my mother, I grew to understand that she was denied a strong affirmation base from her childhood.  She had no collection of books from Christian family authors. It was a common word, perhaps, she had heard often. I don’t think she believed I was stupid. But it has taken a life time of learning I am not.

Each time those words whisper pain, I forgive her, and I smile, knowing the truth of God’s grace. And I am thankful for the gifts she has given me. Perhaps, as I forgive, I need to be reminded that my words to others should be kind, never judging.  God, in His mercy, has shown me that I am created in His image.

Words… just words.

“He who guards his lips guards his life.” Proverbs 13:3a

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

I love this one, “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15: 4

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There are multiple verses in Proverbs concerning the tongue, our speech, our witness, truth… Ninety eight verses are marked in my Bible on the pages of Proverbs with a T; I am sure there are many more unmarked. (There are thirteen on this one page—the four faded T’s on the right are on the next page.)

We can all embrace these words during this time of confinement   “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, my Father…” Psalm 19:14

Father, my prayer is that my words be as gold to Tom as long as we are in this house… just the two of us, NOW.  We can each pray that our words be uplifting, encouraging, truthful… in this NOW to our children, to our spouse, to our parents, to ourselves

Don’t you marvel at Proverbs 25:11…  “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Note: My personal journey of listening to the Lord’s whispers will be published this summer—  in it you will glimpse how I came to understand the truth of God’s words.  Whispers on the Journey

 

 

 

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. . . trusting? . . . and washing feet?

So, maybe I am not as content with confinement as I thought . . . confined . . . but free . . .

Something is wrong–just not quite right. This morning I just couldn’t bring myself to joy in the NOW moment. I wondered what had happened.  Even the birds’ chorus seemed a bit off-key.

I should be content. My cupboards are full; everything  replenished this week. Tom and  I have made great progress in ridding the gardens of  weeds. I even see humans! We seldon have walkers down this country road, but these days, people have the time to walk more miles; they wave and shout greetings. Our daughter is recovering from the virus. All is good. Right?

So what is this sense of doom, this complete hopelessness that threatens to tangle me in its web? In my ABC world (I often pray and praise with the letters of the alphabet . . . with the ABC’s), negative words tumbled onto my journal page. . . Anxious, Burdened, Confused in the Controversy, Disillushioned —– on and on so quickly— Fearful, Perplexed, Questioning, Restless in spirit, Uncertain.

Stop, stop. . . I scolded. Am I this afraid?  I began to read a Psalm for the day, then, two, then another.

It was the last Psalm I read that clinched the morning’s truth. “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” Psalm 147:10,11. I pondered this truth.  This is trust. I took a deep breath.

This Creator God delights in my trust. . .

. . . in the storm. . . any storm.

I began to relax a bit, not quite questioning as much. I picked up a book I am re-reading.  Many sentences in Brennan Manning’s Ruthless Trust  are highlighted, underlined, starred in some way as his words are so honest in regard to the truth of trusting.  I read this book years ago, and asked all my children to get a copy. I wonder if they did!

In the first pages, Manning shares that trust is the secret to living life.  Simple. . .  trust.  Jesus says in John 14:1—“Believe in God, believe also in Me.” Some translations say, “Trust in God, trust also in Me.”

Manning  gives us the words of the fifteenth-century theologian Angelus Silesius,“If God stopped thinking of me, He would cease to exist.” Manning believes this is a paraphrase of Luke 12:6-7. “Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.” The Jerusalem Bible.  “God, by definition is thinking of me.” Ruthless Trust  pg4.

Can I believe that this God has me— has you, each one of us— on His mind in the middle of a world health/ economic crises? Today, on this Maundy Thursday.

You may have received a message on social media to forward . . . if you love Jesus.  The idea is —  if you love Jesus, send the message to eight, ten or twelve people within fifteen minutes—or you will break the chain.  What chain? Hum . . . I wonder. . .

This God who asks that I trust Him, to believe that He loves me as I am, who says that the greatest commandment in all the world is to love Him with all my heart and the second one is to love my neighbor as I love myself . . . Mark 12:29; Matthew 22 :37. He knows my heart; He knows I love HIm.

The world doesn’t need to hear that I or you love Jesus; it needs to see this love. Hurting humanity, heartbroken people, some who feel unlovable, even some  family members. . . someone this Easter needs to know that I/you love them.  During this Easter time, I believe our precious, loving Savor would delight in me and you sending eight, ten, or twelve messages or cards, making that many calls to those we have failed to forgive and love.

I love the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet the night of the Passover supper. Only John of the four Gospels shares the servant heart of Jesus as He stoops to wash their dusty feet during dinner.  This night . . . Thursday . . .  is the time to reflect. I ask myself whose feet do I wash?   I have to be creative in this—- in this NOW 🙂

God confirmed His love for each one of us at Easter.  Now I am to spend every day proving the truth of Easter love . . .  to my world.

“A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35.

. .  . trusting . . .  loving . . .  forgiving . . .  washing feet . . .

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A little bit of Austrian Easter memory

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. . . confined . . . but free . . .

There is a scene in the film Count of Monte Cristo that triggers fear in me . . . even now . It has been years since I saw the movie. I remember the close confines of the dungeon’s rock walls. One small window. Edmund Dantes’s 6 years of solitary confinement . . .

I can barely breathe.

What is it about confinement we dislike?

Then there are my bluebird houses.  The interior floor space is a mere 5 x 5 inches or 12.7 x 12.7 centimeters (for my European readers). That is just enough space to accommodate an entire brood of three, four or five baby birds snugly without too much excess space that would cause the hatchlings to chill.

20200325_121622(A new nest  . . .  eggs may come in a few days).

That is, indeed, a tiny space, but God’s design. The birds are restricted here, but this will enable them to enjoy freedom when they scatter on their journeys.  We, too, are limited in some freedoms at the moment.  What do we do when our freedoms are curtailed?  How do I respond to this incarceration?

I’ve been thinking about this— the house is in order–drawers and files are cleaned and organized.  Nothing remains to be done except a few pieces to iron. Oh, I just thought: I could go through all my recipes and put them in order, discarding those I will never use again. Ugh!  I have the freedom to read, write, study, call friends, do crafts, cook new dishes, bake more–Tom would love this one! — work in the gardens if rains stop — such freedom to choose my activity for this moment.

We have always been confined. Yes, but free. As Christians we are confined within the security of a loving God who constrains us to love, to serve, to give, to obey.  Currently we must find novel ways to fund this love.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

I received an email this morning from a friend in Vienna, Austria, sharing how she is doing in her confinement.  I love the comment after she tells me she is well and staying active in her apartment.

“Interesting, enough people seem to be closer than ever before. Neighbors are doing the shopping for each other . . . a lot of discipline of the inhabitants of the city. That’s one of the good news.”

Interesting .  . . is it possible our home imprisonment could germinate compassion . . . across the entire planet? We can choose to embrace this crisis of staying at home in a productive, resourceful way.

“In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free.” Psalm 118:5

“Set me free from my prison that I may praise your name. . . then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” Psalm 142: 7

After Edmund’s six solitary years, mentioned in the film above, a prisoner tunnels into his cell.  For the next eight years, Abbe Faria, a brilliant man, mentors Edmund in languages, mathematics, history, philosophy . . . preparing him for his future life as a Count.

What an amazing choice in confinement?

We heard on the news this morning of an eight year old girl who is baking homemade bread with her grandmother.  She had noticed the grocery store shelves were empty of bread one day, so she decided she could do something.  Her neighbors are now ordering her bread!  We have a daughter-in- law who is making colorful masks for friends in the health care industry.

Tom and I are in a better place than many— here in the countryside of Tennessee. No cases of the virus in the county; we’re staying six feet away from all the cows.  And we have not lost a job.  I understand those concerns of others.

“Live as free men. but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.” 1 Peter 2:16 . . . giving compassion . . . by writing, phoning, doing whatever you can six feet away!

In confinement . . . this NOW, I  am free . . .

 

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an apology is in order

To those on the journey to NOW with me,

I apologize for the inconvenience of yesterday’s blog. You, no doubt, received 2 posts— two and an half hours apart.  Our internet service was totally unpredictable and sporadic yesterday; I should have left my desk and walked away. Because it was our anniversary,  I so wanted it to post on the day!!

The blog had failed to post about 3 times, and then when service was connected again, it posted with abnormalities! I immediately  deleted the version which was out of order with triple pictures.  But it was already on its way in space, waiting to bombard your email.

I am so sorry. I had to delete all previous ones and rename it.  That’s why you have two with different names.  If you didn’t read the one . . . rewinding . . .  then please try again.

Thank you for your understanding.  What would we do without social media?

Sending thankfulness to each of you as you travel with me,

 

Barb Suiter

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. . . rewinding . . .

The clock struck an early hour. I lay still, listening to its steady whispers as time ticked away . . . one second after another. This heirloom has been ticking and chiming a long time.

The clock was Tom’s grandmother’s; the faded paper on the back reveals a date of 1907. We know she received this before she married as her maiden name is on the bill of sale holding fast with yellowed glue.

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There have been minor adjustments, but as far as we know, this family heirloom has never had a major overhaul.  Often we can hear the unhurried, almost laborious hums, as if the time piece is begging for a new burst of life. Without a timely winding, it would be silent.

As I lay there in the predawn, hearing the unbroken purr, I compared our marriage to this family heirloom. Tom and I have been married fifty six years TODAY.  That’s five decades plus six. Longer than many of you have lived!

Surely, there have been moments, even hours, when our hearts were out of tune with each other. Early years presented its difficulties when a rewinding was in order. But for most of these years, we learned that regular maintenance and a rewinding is mandatory for the continued beating of hearts together.

This clock is an eight day clock—means it HAS to be wound every eight days, or it slows until it stops. With proper care, this constant beating continues.

Normally the meaning of an heirloom is a valuable object that has belonged to a family for several generations. I like this definition I read this week:

“A memorable contribution to family dynamics. You can create heirlooms even more valuable in the hearts of the heirs than any monetary worth could afford them. . .”  Jessica Toothman

We cannot leave our children anything  of  great monetary value. So what will we leave them.  The heirloom we leave our children and our younger friends, those couples we have married and mentored  these fifty years, is an example that  ‘two can become one’. Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4,5, Ephesians 5:31. And that it can, indeed, continue ticking and chiming into the good, possible and rewarding union the Creator designed for mankind.

When I lead women’s classes and conferences. I always stress  “you should learn something new about your man every day. Study your man.” Learn what makes him tick and how he ticks and when. And he should be learning how the wife ticks.  It is a life journey, a process of listening as time ticks away.

When the children were young, we tried to rewind  twice a year—I mean, an especially BIG rewinding.  In those early years we would go away for a night and two days—just to fall in young love again.  Those times became a strong foundation for our years then . . . for the NOW in this season on the journey. During other times, we always made time together—quality  time—to walk and talk, getting to know each other’s heart.

The ticks of a marriage are the everyday constant, even mundane kindnesses, the conversations that say, “I hear you”, the unexpected winks, the wiping away of tears. Chimes ring out in  the special events, the days of celebration, those surprise moments on the journey. Just as our clock would be silent without its regular 8-day winding, so our marriage would be silent without the proper attention given these fifty six years of learning how to become one.20200314_123306 (1)

So, to our children and grandchildren, we leave you this most valuable, cherished and exciting truth that when two hearts beat as one . . . anything is possible. We leave you an heirloom without any monetary value attached to it. We leave only one . . .  tarnished and worn, with countless mistakes, tears of forgiveness, years of love, much laughter and  thousands of hugs.

And our promise that we will always rewind . . . in order to leave you a beautiful heirloom.

 

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