Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent: Abundant Life in Heavenly Peace

Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard. Practice wellness.
Play with abandon. Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Continue to learn.
Appreciate your friends.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.
Mary Anne Radmacher

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
Author Unknown
Advent calls us to find peace in the midst of a busy life.

The two quotes above are on magnets next to each other on my refrigerator.  I have looked at them a few times recently and thought that it may not be a complete coincidence they are together.  There is a sense that we live our lives in the space between these two quotes. 

The first quote encourages us to do what Jesus said that he came to enable us to do—live life to the fullJohn 10:10. Like Jesus, Radmacher seems to be encouraging us to give all we have to this thing called life.  Be intentional… play hard… have no regrets… do what you love.  Live like this is all there is. 

Most of us live full lives; our schedule is often booked to overflowing. But a full life doesn’t necessarily mean we’re living life to the full.  We can do all that activity and feel tired and empty at the end of the day.  What’s the secret to doing all that full-throttle living and not ending up burnt out?

I think that’s where the second quote comes in.  This unknown author seems to be alluding to the same kind of peace that Jesus spoke of in John 14:27.  He spoke to his disciples about peace, even as the authorities were closing in, getting ready to arrest him and lead him off to trial and crucifixion. Jesus knew life was about to get difficult for his followers.  How could he possibly speak of peace in a time like this?!

I think the answer is that Jesus understood peace in a way the world generally doesn’t. The peace he spoke of didn’t depend on our external circumstances (absence of noise, trouble, or hard work) but rather the Presence of God—which is hidden within us no matter where we are or what we’re doing. 

When you think about it, that’s the story of Advent in a nutshell.  Jesus came and bought God’s Presence to a world full of a world full of noise, trouble, and hard work.  Jesus was God with us then, and continues to be God with us today.

In his book A Testament of Devotion, Quaker theologian Thomas Kelly writes: "This practice of continuous prayer in the Presence of God involves developing the habit of carrying on the mental life at two levels. At one level we are immersed in this world of time, of daily affairs. At the same time, but at a deeper level of our minds, we are in active relation with the Eternal Life."

Advent is a good time to reorient to this multi-level living that Kelly describes.  On the surface, we will no doubt be busier than ever this Christmas season. The secret to having peace in the midst of it is to actively engage that deeper level of our minds.  We do this every time we take a break from all the Holiday preparations to intentionally focus on the remarkable reality of Advent.

God the Creator sent Jesus to become one of the created, so he could experience solidarity with us and save us in every way a person can be saved. 

With this in mind, I would encourage you to immerse yourself once again in the old familiar stories of the season.  Try and experience them through the eyes of the characters—not knowing how things turn out.  See what new insights God might have for you this Advent Season. I hope you find abundant life in heavenly peace among your Christmas wrappings.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Is That Really Me??

A few weeks ago, I had a bit of an unexpected nostalgia trip.  We were making a quick overnight visit to my parent’s farm.  Our kids love to visit their grandparents and run around the farm, and frankly that place is a fundamental part of me too, so it’s nice to get back and visit.  When we visit, our family sleeps in the same room where I slept as a boy. There is still a fair amount of "my old stuff" in my bedroom: dusty books, school notes, photos, etc.  Much of it could probably be thrown away, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened yet.

As I was getting ready for bed, I happened to open the top drawers of the dresser and found various old items. I discovered an old pocket watch that I had been given at some point, commemorative coins, and a smattering foreign currency collected during trips we took. I found a couple of cassingles (remember those?) and an old tobacco spear (do you know what that is?). I came across a couple of post cards that I had received from my dad and brother back in 1988 that sparked memories of the year I graduated high school. I found couple two-dollar bills; I even found $100 cash! Not sure why I had left it stashed at my parent’s house all these years, but when I found it, it went straight in my wallet.  Cha-Ching! 

The most intriguing find in my dresser drawer was some old ID cards from 1997 and 2000. Upon seeing the images from over a decade ago, my comment was: "Gosh, I look like a different person."

My wife Laurie was also struck by the difference.  She compared the old ID cards to a recent picture of me taken for our church directory. The difference between the photos was quite striking. I think she summed up it up well when she said:

Is this really me?!
"In the old photos you look like a boy; now, you look like a grown man."

While the simple fact that I have aged 13 years accounts for some of the difference (e.g., my hair is a little more gray around the edges) I think it's much more than that... I haven't just aged physically—I've matured spiritually.

Even more than with physical growth, you don't always notice spiritual growth when you are "mucking through the middle of it". In fact, some days it seems like it's one step forward and two steps back. Some things that were "issues" for me back when those photos were taken are still are issues today—and, frankly, they probably always will be. It can be discouraging to realize that there are certain things about me that are so fundamentally linked to who I am as a person that they very likely will NEVER change.  Though I can modify them, they’ll never “go away.”

As I mature, I begin to realize that those very weaknesses I so loathe at times are part of what makes me, well, me.  To have the positive side of my unique God-given gifts, I must also accept and embrace the negative side. 

I think the other night I was permitted a rare glimpse at the Bigger Picture—a mere fraction of the perspective God always enjoys.  As I looked back at that old photo from 13 years ago, I was undone.  I saw a "different person" looking back at me

Indeed, that was me once, but it is NOT me today...  

I can only conclude one thing: Somewhere along the way, when I wasn’t paying attention, I must have done some growing and changing.  By God’s grace, I have matured spiritually.

The me of 2000 had a rather pale complexion compared to the me of 2013. I'm not sure why that was... but it probably wasn’t purely physical.  I don't really look very happy or healthy in the photo—looking back, I probably wasn’t.

In 2000, I was physically “grown up” but not all that mature.

Like the Apostle Paul, at that time in my life, in many ways, I had not really put away childish things.  Though I was almost 30, I was still more my parent’s son than a mature man confident in his own identity in Christ—and I think the photo reflected that lack of confidence.  Although I longed to be married, at that time I wasn’t, and even after a fair number of frustrated attempts at dating, didn’t have much of any prospects.  Even though I had lived away from my parent’s farm for several years by then, I always lived in rental properties.   I still thought of the place where I grew up as home and returned there frequently to visit friends and family.  In 2000, I was “playing at” living on my own and “being a man”, but I had not yet completely severed the apron strings to my parents.

I was also searching for my career identity in that timeframe.  I had held a couple of full-time jobs at NASA since finishing graduate school in 1997, but each only lasted a little over a year.  I still hadn’t really settled into my current job as a writer/editor—that happened in 2001.

I also was struggling with my spiritual identity at that time— really trying to figure out where I belonged.  I didn’t really feel that I fit in the United Methodist church I grew up in anymore.  There were precious few people my age, so I couldn’t really study or fellowship with people my own age. I had experienced some other ways of worshipping in college (InterVarsity) and wanted to find a better fit for me. 

Up until then I had “gone to church” where my parents had worshipped.  I had not given it much thought—but now was the time when “the faith needed to become my faith.” 

That separation from my parents was necessary; in the long-run it has been good, but the short-term result was much spiritual searching and restlessness.  During graduate school, I got involved in a very conservative and exclusive group for a time—not the best experience.  After that I bounced around some, returning to my parent’s church, and worshipping at several other places.  Ultimately, I ended up at Cedar Ridge Community Church, which is where I was when I met my wife in 2002. 

My family today—Spring 2013.
Since that 2000 photo, a whole bunch has changed; my whole life has been reoriented.  On July 5, 2003, I embarked on the adventure called marriage and I now have two children this side of eternity—Brady (7) and Becca (5).   They are “my family” now, and home is wherever they are.  

I've surely done a lot of living in the past decade. Along the way, there have times to rejoice and times to mourn—and a whole lot of "ordinary times" in between. The process of living through all those days has changed me—I hope ultimately for the better.

It's not just getting older that turns a boy into a man nor is it simply the act of getting married or having children. No, true maturity comes as we pass through the "crucible of life" and choose to allow God to use our circumstances to transform us.

Many things have changed in the intervening years since those old photos were taken.  My journey has had many twists and turns that I could not have predicted and never would have imagined. There have been many wonderful friends throughout the years that have come and gone.  My family has been and continues to be wonderful gift to me.  Through them I learn much about the person God has created me to be.  But I dare not confuse the gift with the Giver.  It is God who I ultimately look to as my source of strength, comfort, and guidance.  I give thanks to God for bringing me safely to this point and for all those who accompany me on my journey. 

God gets all the glory for the “grown man” that looks at me in the mirror today.  I am challenged every day to more fully embrace that person, believe in that God-given potential, and work to release it for the good of the world.

I am sure that just as a photo of the me of 2000 looks so very different from the me of 2013, were I to flash forward ten years, I would hardly recognize the me of 2023Of course, we usually aren’t permitted more than a fleeting glimpse of the future—viewed through a mirror dimly.  (Always in motion the future is. J)  I think maybe that’s because a tease of what might be is all we can stand.   If the me of 2013 actually saw all that the next decade would bring all at once it would overwhelm me. (I look back on ten years of marriage, and it’s hard to believe all we’ve lived through!) 

Instead, I must trust that in due time, all things are possible with God, believe in the good future that God has planned for me, and commit myself to walking with God each and every day I am given and doing my utmost to make that promised future a radiant reality.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Year Later: Settling Down... Planting Gardens

I just completed my flower gardens for 2013.  I always like to have it done by around July 4.  It is especially important this year as we will be on vacation during the first half of July.

I enjoy gardening; it's wonderful introvert time, and a chance to create a thing of beauty. Once I finish, I find myself liking to just look at the finished product—and subjecting others to photos they might not care about in the least :).

Surely, I could have planted these flowers earlier, but every year I procrastinate.  Why is that?  I know it will be hard, that's why.  (This weekend alone, I spent about 10 hours working in the yard.) It's hard work to create the garden and it takes work to maintain it:  weeding, raking, chopping, digging, planting, mulching, watering, etc.  And, of course,  plants grow during summer; so it tends to be hot, sweaty, grimy work.  If you're going to garden you gotta be willing to get your hands (and for that, matter most of your body) dirty; there's really no getting around it.

Much as I would prefer to simply walk in the back yard one morning and have the flower garden waiting, in 42 years I've never seen it happen—I keep waiting. The potential is part of the property but until I put forth effort to "activate" that potential, it will not become reality.

What is true for my garden also was true for the people of Israel.  Much as they might have preferred it, they didn't simply walk into to Canaan unopposed.  Yes, God led them to the new place and was giving them a new home that was brimming with potential, but they would have to work hard to start turning that potential into reality.  Israel still had to overcome considerable obstacles before the land would be truly theirs.  In fact,  they literally had to fight to take possession of their new home.

Tomorrow (July 1) is the one-year anniversary of our first Sunday at Good Shepherd.  Like Israel entering Canaan, for the past year, we've been taking possession of this place we now call home—Waldorf, MD. Along the way, we encountered obstacles, not the least of which was mold in our basement (again), but God has been with us and has given us what we need to respond to each challenge.  God often uses our difficult experiences to stretch us and, if we let them, make us better people.

Last year, so much of our time was spent moving in that there wasn't much time for gardening.  I did plant flowers, but they were kind of an afterthought.  A year later,  it seems that we are settling down (for what we hope will be a long stay) and planting vineyards (or in our case, Vinca and Impatiens). We feel  thankful that we are part of a church community where our gifts are appreciated and can be put to good use for the Kingdom of God.  We are thankful for the welcome we have received and looking forward to what lies ahead for our family in this place.  We pray more of the potential planted in this place can become radiant reality on our watch.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Share Your Spark

I got a new grill for Father's Day—a very nice gift from my family.  Even better for a guy like me, who is not the most handy of men, most of the "set up" was done for me. They pretty much put the grill together; I just had to hook up the propane and fire it up.

Or so I thought... As they say: The best laid plans. Our plan was to barbeque on Father’s Day, so that morning I went out to make sure everything was working right.  I hit the ignition button—nothing happened.  DOH! I was supposed to hear clicking sounds; I heard nothing. Double-DOH!

I knew it was not a lack of fuel for the flame; we had a full container of propane that we moved over from our old grill, and I could hear it flowing when I turned on the burner. All that potential for grilling was at my fingertips, but something was missing. There was no spark to start the fire.

Frustration. You can't have a Father's Day barbecue on potential alone; you need real flames to cook! But for longer than I would like to admit I couldn't figure out why the burner wasn't igniting.

It only takes a spark...
It turns out the fix was simple.  The igniter switch unscrews to reveal the housing for a tiny AAA battery.  Once I figured that out, and put a fresh battery in, the potential that was there all along roared into reality. The burners ignited and the power of my grill was available for cooking. Barbeque saved!  Relief.

This got me to thinking. The flame on my grill hinged on a tiny spark. Without it, the fuel could flow indefinitely, but (barring a the imposition of a match or a freak lightning strike) we would never see a flame. The battery seems like a small insignificant piece—so much so that the instruction manual doesn't even say where it's located—and yet without it the potential of my grill would never be realized.

It only takes a spark
To get a fire going
And soon all those around
Can warm up in its glowing...
Pass it On, verse 1

 I think there is an analogy to our spiritual life to be drawn here.  
You and I are like that battery on my grill.  We seem very small in life’s grand scheme, and yet we play a crucial role.  We are the means—the spark—that God uses to turn Kingdom-potential into radiant reality on Earth.

Creation pulses with God-given Kingdom-potential.  Every life form lives outs its purpose in its own unique way but all Creation ultimately exists to glorify its Creator[1].  Human beings represent the crowning achievement of creation—and Jesus was the ultimate revelation what human beings have the potential of becoming.  Humanity had strayed far off course, but the coming of Jesus puts us back on track.  We now have the possibility of fulfilling God’s original intent for our lives. 

But potential alone won’t produce a thriving spiritual life. The abundant life remains elusive until we make an intentional effort to connect to Jesus and “share our spark” so God’s Kingdom-potential can flow through our lives.

We see a dramatic display of the power of a “sharing a spark” on Pentecost. While we can debate if the "tongues of flame" Luke describes in Acts 2:1-11 were literal, we cannot deny their lasting impact on the world.

God's Spirit was, is, and always will be the fuel for our spiritual lives. God has always been with God's people, reaching out to relate to them in different ways throughout history. After Christ’s ascension, God was ready to be with us in a new way, but like the propane in my grill, God needed a spark before all that Kingdom-potential could start to become reality in our world. The Pentecost experience seems to have provided that spark for the followers of Jesus. Whatever happened in that room, it had a dramatic impact on all those who had gathered there that day. They went away changed, and then went forth to change the world!

Before Pentecost, the Way of Jesus was a local movement, but like a spark on dry brush, the flames of Pentecost unleashed a time of rapid expansion for the fledgling Church.

From that time on, "the Church" was launched into the world. Sometimes willingly, other times as a result of persecution, the apostles went forth from Jerusalem.  As they travelled, they "shared the spark" of Pentecost with the world[2].  

Within a few short decades what began in and around Jerusalem had become a worldwide force for transformation. The book of Acts tells the story of how the Message of Jesus spread from Jerusalem, to Judaea and Samaria, and to “the ends of the Earth”—which in that day was Rome.  Since then, the Church has literally circled the globe and, despite its very real struggles, continues to be a force for change in our world.

Along the way, a man named Saul became part of proclaiming that message.  He had his own “Pentecost” that converted him from one of the Movement’s greatest threats to its greatest evangelist—Acts 9; Galatians 1:11-12.  He even changed his name after it—to Paul.  The Scriptures record many of Paul’s letters.  In 2 Timothy, Paul (or more likely a later follower using Paul's name) encourages his young apprentice to "share his spark" with the world.  Using the parlance of his day, Paul urges Timothy to "fan the flame" and activate the gifts God has given him—2 Timothy 1:6. The elder Paul knows of young Timothy's potential having served with him for a period of time.  The student has clearly left a good impression on his teacher—and friend.

Now, however, Paul knows that his time is passing—2 Timothy 4:6. It is time for the young apprentice to, as it were, become the master. Timothy must increase as Paul decreasesWhat God wants to accomplish next relies on Timothy "sharing his spark" with the world.

We too are called to "share our spark." Though not always as obvious as on the day of Pentecost or on the “Damascus Road,”  Kingdom-potential is present with us everyday.  Our job is to train our “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” so we will able to “share our spark” when and where it can be most effective.

I am happy to be part of a congregation that has learned to hear God’s call—and respond.  Over the past year, I have experienced this place to be filled with disciplined and mature disciples of Jesus—people who see what needs to be done and then come up with a plan for action.  Every day at Good Shepherd, dedicated individuals and groups love God and love their neighbors in a multitude of practical and tangible ways that are making a difference in our church, our community, and our world.  Perhaps most important, we seem to be a people who are open to learning new things, changing things that aren’t working, and “trying something different.”  Maintaining that spirit of humility in Christ will carry us far! I believe God is pleased with our efforts to date to “fan our flame” and make good use of the gifts God has entrusted to us. 

And God promises us the best is yet to come! Just as was the case for the early apostles, as we continue to “share our spark,” others along our way will surely take notice.  As pulsing Kingdom-potential becomes radiant God-reality in the places where we live, work, and gather together, people will be drawn to the Spirit’s flame.  I pray that the light of that flame will guide Good Shepherd forward into the good and prosperous future that God has planned for us, a future that enables us to continue to be a beacon of Christ’s love for many years to come—for Waldorf… and for the world.

[1] In Orthodox theology, a creature’s logos—or its reason for existence—can only be fully realized within the proper skopos—or correct goal—of experiencing deeper intimacy with God.  Thus, every creature lives out its unique logos but all Creation ultimately moves toward the same skopos.
[2] While this is a general statement, here are in fact, two more “Pentecost” stories in Acts: the Samaritan Pentecost in Acts 8:14-17 and the Gentile Pentecost in Acts 10:44-47.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Confronting Our Past to Forge a Better Future — Reflections on "42"

Recently, our family saw the movie 42, which tells the story of Jackie Robinson, who broke through baseball's "color barrier" with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Despite the language, we felt this was a good movie for our kids to see.  Certainly, 42 reminds us of a rather unpleasant chapter in our history—one some would probably just assume forget about, while others claim they had “nothing to do with.”  But we need to remember the darker aspects of our past, else how can we hope to be better in the future? 

This movie presents us with what we once were as a society, and our kids, need to see that past, so they can learn from our mistakes as they seek to forge a better future for our world. 

Before Branch Rickey made the bold move to bring Jackie Robinson to Brooklyn, baseball, like the rest of society, was divided along racial lines. "Separate but equal" was the law of the land—and the unwritten rule of Major League Baseball and other team sports. It was "normal" and "accepted"—especially if you were white and lived in the South. It was what you knew, what you grew up with, and, in 1947, the average person didn't really question it.

In one poignant scene from the film, a young white boy watches a game with his father. When Jackie Robinson comes to bat, the white fans—including his dad—begin to heckle Jackie and shout racial epithets at him. The boy hesitates at first, but eventually, as if to "fit in" with the guys, decides to join in the derogatory onslaught.

And so the vicious cycle of learned hatred perpetuated. Segregationist views passed from generation to generation as parents passed the language and attitudes of racism to their children. And we hardly gave it a second thought; it was just, "the way things were" in America.

But what Jackie Robinson accomplished on the baseball diamond helped to begin to change all that. The crossing of baseball's "color barrier" was the vanguard for changes that would eventually sweep across the broader post-World War II society leading to the end of segregation with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent legislation in the 1960s.

Though his motives were not completely altruistic, in the film, Branch Rickey was portrayed as something of a visionary for his day. He saw a new era was coming for baseball, and he faced the same choice we all face when change confronts us: resist it or embrace it. Deep down, Branch knew in his spirit that the "segregated status quo" in baseball—and in society—was neither sustainable nor moral.

Despite the doubts of friends and family, Branch chose to embrace change. As the film begins, he announces his plan to bring a to bring a black man to the Major League. Branch was a Methodist, a man of principle and deep conviction, who sensed the time had come for an end to division based on race, and set forth to affect change in the one place he could—the Brooklyn Dodgers. 

At one point Jackie asks Branch why he is doing this, and Branch replies that he saw, "something unfair at the heart of the game he loved," and reached a point where he could no longer ignore it.  

Branch knew that whomever he chose to break the "color barrier" would take abuse. They would need to be a strong man in every way—i.e., not just a great athlete but a man of impeccable character who could stand firm in the face of trial. As he said it in the film, "I need a man who has the guts NOT to fight back."  In Robinson, Branch thought he found that man, someone who would have, "the same strength our Savior had—the strength to turn the other cheek."  Jackie Robinson would prove Rickey's hunch right over and over again.   He was willing to, "submerge himself to serve something greater." And the world is a better place because he did.

But as Branch predicted, it was not easy; in fact, at times it was gut-wrenching for Jackie. The film shows the verbal abuse Robinson took from fans opposing players and managers—and even his own teammates. At times, what is being depicted on the screen is hard to watch. It's hard to accept that such racist views were once commonplace. Now, they seem so "wrong," but then they were "normal".

Slavery may have ended in 1863, but in many ways, segregation perpetuated many of the racial divisions in our country.

In one particular scene later in the movie, Jackie and Branch chat about all the abuse Jackie is enduring. After one particularly difficult game where the opposing manager unleashes a barrage of hate-filled vitriol, Jackie is starting to falter and lose heart. He is ready to lash out in anger. Who can blame him, really? Branch tries to encourage him to hang in there. He admits that as a wealthy white man, he doesn't know what Jackie is going through, saying at one point, "You are the one that's living the sermon," and likening Jackie’s struggle to break through the “color barrier” to Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Nevertheless, he pleads with Jackie to remember the "greater good" he is working toward. He offers a number of good arguments, but what seems to have the most impact on Jackie is when Branch tells him that while driving to the stadium today, he saw a white boy pretending to be Jackie. 

My kids didn't understand the significance of this statement. In fact, I'm not even sure I fully "get it." I was born in 1970—and on top of that, I am a white male—so I know very little of what it was like to live under segregation.

But Jackie “gets it;” he has lived the painful reality of "segregation" all his life. In 1947, right after World War II, patriotism was high.  America was “on top of the world,” and claimed to be a great beacon of freedom and democracy.  The problem was that most people seemed to think that freedom was only for those whose skin happened to be white.  The average person was comfortable with team sports being “separate but equal.” 

The notion that a black man would play on the same team as white men made a lot of people fearful and agitated—and, as the film illustrates, human beings can get downright nasty when we’re scared and upset.

So you can see why, given that context, the notion that a little white boy playing baseball in his backyard would imitate the stance and swing of a black athlete would have so much impact.  What Branch shared made Jackie realize that what he was doing was truly making a difference.  It would take time—lots of time—but eventually the scene Branch witnessed would become much more “normal.”

And since then, because Jackie was willing to take a chance, myriad other non-whites have been given a chance to “play ball.” And the game is so much stronger. Robinson’s pioneering risk changed baseball forever—and, in time, changed the world of his day.  The crossing of the "color barrier" in baseball set the stage for broader desegregation in society. To this day baseball remembers what Jackie Robinson did—#42 is the only number "retired" by all Major League teams.  Not only that, the world remembers his courageous actions. We tell our children why he matters—and they continue his legacy.

Flash forward almost 70 years to the present day.  My son Brady is playing baseball right now and having fun on his Little League team.  He loves to practice hitting and pretend he is a baseball player.  The morning after we saw 42, Brady was in the living room, and I overheard him say to his sister: "Look Becca, I'm the brown guy!"

Brady was pretending to be the baseball player he saw depicted in a film, who happened to be an African American.  Skin color was simply a descriptive term for him—nothing more. 

When I saw that scene unfold in my living room, I couldn’t help but think back to Branch and Jackie’s conversation in the movie.  In 1947, the idea that a white boy would emulate a black athlete seemed revolutionary, but now it is much more commonplace.  Today, many of our greatest athletes are non-white—but kids don’t seem to care.  Even our President is African American—voted in by people of all races.  

Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey
made history together when Robinson
broke baseball's color barrier in 1947
and played for Rickey's Brooklyn Dodgers.
While we still have a long way to go in terms of living up to our ideal of being a nation that offers, “liberty and justice for all,” a movie like 42 is a good and uplifting reminder that we have indeed made progress toward that vision. 

I’d like to think Jackie Robinson looked down on Brady that morning and, as perhaps he has done many times over the last six decades, smiled at yet another little white boy pretending to be him.  Maybe he thought: “This is why the struggle was worth it.”  Then, I imagine Branch Rickey walking up behind him, putting his arm around Jackie, giving a grin, and saying: “Yes son.  My hunch was right.  You were the “right man”—and you done good!” 

And then I imagine another individual standing in the background—unbeknownst to the other two.  He too is a “champion of the underdog,” who broke down “barriers” that divided people wherever he went.  He offered the ultimate example of “submerging himself to serve something else,” when he died on a Roman cross.  He was the human embodiment of what it meant to “have the guts not to fight back.”  And the world was changed because he did it…

The third man is, of course, Jesus, and as he quietly watches a white man and a black man embrace, he is smiling too.  He is happy, because in a moment like this, the Divine dream inches a little closer to coming true. 

This compelling vision of all God’s people playing for “the same team” and working toward the common good was what inspired Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson to do what they did in their own time and place.  That same dream continues to inspire us today, and by God’s grace, what will inspire children for generations to come.

Pondering the Patterns of God's Garden

Creation is messy… Creation sometimes appears random. Until you look more closely… I have the largest flower bed on our cul de sac—ma...