Everyone Wants a Quick Fix

Everyone wants a quick fix. Can we agree on that? No one wants to put in the work when there is an easier option out there. The problem is that often the “easy way” falls short of the desired result; this is no different when it comes to injustice and racism in our country. We want sweeping social change. We want change to our justice system. We want fair and equal treatment. We want the whole story to be told. We want, we want, we want… but do we want to do what we need to do to have it? 

I am not saying that changes from the leaders of our country are not important, but I am saying that is not where we begin. If we truly want to see reconciliation, and I am talking about reconciliation on both sides, white and black, we need to bring the issues to a smaller level. We begin at our dinner table with our spouse and children, around the coffee pot at our jobs and really with every interaction we have throughout our days. Person to person, home to home and community to community-- this is the formula and it starts small. 

It’s easy to hold up our picket signs and point our fingers at the big wigs telling them what they need to do and how they aren’t doing it, but now the heat is on us. So where does one begin? I submit that we begin with one simple concept: Grace. Before you let out a sigh of relief at such a seemingly simple task, I would like to expand on what exactly “grace” is.  

She is often mistaken for her cousin, “Lack of Concern” or even her aunt, “Acquiescent.” You will easily find one or both together at just about any social gathering. While they may bear some resemblance, they don't own the same gravitas she does when she enters a room. When Grace is invited, she cannot go unnoticed; she is the type to “light up a room” when she walks in. You know she has arrived, without a doubt, when the atmosphere gets lighter when conversation gets deeper. If the topics become more sensitive, she is the one to lift judgement from the table and make space for second helpings of understanding. Whenever hurt and disdain have tried to crash an event, she is the one to escort them to the door and repair with unmerited favor whatever they attempted to destroy. While other guests may try to sneak in the back door uninvited, Grace will not show up unless her presence has been requested. This is what I believe is the very first step: inviting Grace in. 

In order for us to truly see mindsets change, it must start with the concept of never-ending grace entering our hearts. Only then will the mindsets of others around us change. We must be the ones to offer grace first. This is painful at times and it will not happen quickly. It is kind of like they say in the movies before the bad guy begins the torture scene, “this will be slow and painful.” I am not saying having grace is torture, but it will inflict lethal injury to our pride. Grace means absorbing it when someone offends you and loving them through it. This is not Aunt Acquiescent who by definition accepts without protest; this is Grace who doesn’t just accept and leave the room. She loves and doesn’t shut down. She forgives and continues working through the issues. 

What about when someone offends me on purpose? Grace. What if they don’t want to listen to me? Grace. What if they don’t understand how wrong they are and they don’t see it from my perspective? Grace. What if, what if, what if? Well, if you found yourself in the beginning chanting “we want, we want, we want” and you still “want,” you must begin here no matter what they say about you and no matter how hard it is. They will call you weak and they will not understand. Grace.

I'm Not Alone

It has been a week since blogging my metaphorical stepping off of the plantation. You can imagine the fear that haunted my character leaving his slave masters and fellow slaves, but does it honestly surprise you when I say that a very real fear gripped me the moment the blog posted?

I was afraid I would be alone, that no one else would come with me. Going somewhere I didn’t even know if I would recognize when I got there, made worse only by the thought that I would most likely be going alone. Of course I had a hope that others would be inspired...

What happened next made everything else worth it. Not only was I not alone, but I was surrounded by others, and from what I could see, there was no clear majority. It was one of the most incredible pictures of pioneering I have ever experienced first hand. So many others walked off their plantation and stepped foot in the very waters that once divided them.

And they didn’t just leave because they were uncomfortable. In fact, I found entire groups who were lavishly living in the master’s house; but once they heard the message, they couldn’t continue in their situations with the responsibility to help others gnawing at their conscious. For them, the pain of leaving was less than the pain of staying the same. And still, there were others who feared what their fellow slaves would say even more than they feared the reactions from their masters. All from different backgrounds, all called to walk off, and I found myself in the middle not being able to tell one group’s origin from another.

If you ask me have we arrived, my answer would be that I am not sure. We are where we are, presently making room for ourselves, building from the ground up. We do not all agree and I don’t think we will, or even that we are supposed to.

If you ask me how we are living so closely together with such different backgrounds and beliefs, I would tell you to not to look at what we build with but what we build on. Our foundation is made of equal parts grace and truth. We drink from the same creek that once babbled with the sound of division, but now seems to flow with sweeter water.

We build together not for the sake of unity, but for progression. This progression is in forgiveness and reconciliation. We do not sweep the big issues under the rug, we serve them in generous portions. And just like I had hoped we would, we sit together, we write new rules, we change the narrative, even if just one day at a time. If you ask me what it will look like when we finish, my answer would be that I do not know. But, if you ask me if there is room for more, my answer would be a simple invitation to follow the water, walk whatever path you must, and know that it will not be easy.

We will see you when you get here.

I'm Stepping off the Plantation

As usual, I have found myself in a curious predicament - I am a slave to not one, but two masters and I belong to both plantations. I’ve conveniently traveled back and forth between my plantations because they are situated opposite each other with a creek dividing them.

On one side, I work for my white slave master. This master falls under the “Evangelical -white –church” category; and to tell you the truth, his plantation kind of feels like home. My master likes me most when I shout across the water and remind black people that they need to be better fathers. He especially loves when I gaze across the divide and scream about how they need to stop living off America’s welfare. He enjoys as I rattle off abortion rate statistics. I can spend hours talking about black on black violence; how maybe just pulling up “their pants” could solve so many problems, sometimes shouting across the divide makes me feel a little free. But like clockwork, the next day I find myself across the creek I formerly scrutinized, working just as hard.

My black slave master is a little different; he is more of the militant type. He has me put my toes at the edge of the creek so that the white plantation can hear every single word I say. I try to make him happy by wearing my Black Lives Matter t-shirt and shouting about how police brutality needs to be called out and pursued courts. I stand at attention and remind the white people of the unemployment rates the black community faces. My black slave master is never impressed, no matter how hard I try, he calls me an Uncle Tom and demands that I blame it all on the other side. I like being here and I always feel wrong when I leave to go back across the creek the next day.

Today I have decided that despite my greatest efforts, I can’t make either side happy enough; in fact, I no longer want to. Wrapped up in the stench of anger and offense, there is the slight fragrance of truth running between each side. However, both are still wrong even when words flung across the creek of divide seem right. Both sides lack love and compassion as they shout to the other side. I can no longer be chained to the two. Why can’t I care about the condition of the black community and refrain from blaming it all on white people? Why can’t I say that black men need to be more present in our homes as better fathers and husbands without being sent back to the other side? I am thankful for law enforcement, but I also believe that police brutality is an issue that needs to be addressed. The issues are real from both directions, but there will never be reconciliation when the messages are delivered through bull horn. So I am resigning my life as a slave. I am stepping off the plantation; I am leaving both plantations. I am setting out to follow the creek to where the waters run like a river.

I understand that this causes both masters to disown me but I have to seek out my own land to nurture and grow. I want to help cultivate a culture that seeks reconciliation across all land and water, but through grace and truth. I want to help pioneer a place that raises the standards of morality in our nation, a place that can stand up for the truth and not be silent about injustice. We will write our constitution laying the foundation for new rules and hoping to change the narrative. This is our time and this is our land.

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” Amos 5:24 or “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.” Revelation 22:1-2

Water to wine - a vision becoming a reality


I have been on a rant about vision lately. Many people have ask me: How do I get vision? What does it take to make it a reality? and How do I sustain it? Last week I answered the first question in my post titled Where Does Vision Come From?. Now, I want to ask you 3 questions. If you can answer them correctly, it will help you turn your dream into a reality.

 

1. Are you willing to pay for it?

To say the cost for vision is a premium would be a gross understatement. If people could exchanged currency for its true value, it would be hard to say that any could afford it. I can’t tell you the price of vision, but I can tell you what you will have to pay for it. You will pay in countless sleepless nights, complete mental and physical exhaustion, precious time and money you might, or might not, get reimbursed for. These expenses will be on you, no one is going to pick up the tab to fund your vision; if you want it, you will have to pay.

 

2. Are you willing to suffer for it?

After your vision has bankrupt you, will you still think it is worth it? If the answer is yes, then you must now ask yourself if you are determined to stand by your vision, even when everything else is falling apart. Paying a high price for something that may only have value to you is difficult on its own, but now you have to crank up the heat. The winds will howl, the ground will shake, and the flood waters will rise, this I can guarantee. This storm is where visions die and this storm will be on a direct path to you. The added everyday pressures coupled with specific resistance will leave you with two options. Will you let your vision be lost to the riptide, or will you suffer through it and fight to keep it from drowning?

 

3. Are you willing to risk your reputation for it?

What happens once you have paid the highest price and suffered through the greatest opposition? Do you get to win the battle? I will argue that you are not out of the rain yet. Before victory, you must be willing to sacrifice even more. “But what more is there? I am beat up, broke and out of breath; simply, I have nothing left to give!” You would be almost right to say this, but there is still one thing left that your vision might ask you for. When you pay and when you suffer, the world may just decide to reject you. Those closest to you: family, friends, even colleagues who were once seemingly on board in the beginning, may disregard you as nothing but a lost cause. Can you face rejection, stare humiliation straight in the eyes and not back down? Vision has lost the reputation of scientists, explorers, geniuses, artists, writers, and so many more who were already passed before the world chose to bestow praises and graces back to their names.

What if your vision is only realized by the masses once you are gone? Will it still be worth it to you?

Where Does Vision Come From?


Judge me if you want, but yes, I bought a ticket for the Powerball a couple of weeks ago. Waiting for the numbers to pop up on the screen, for about two minutes I felt hope swell inside of me. I felt there was a real possibility that I could actually win. Like everyone else anxiously waiting for the winning numbers, I began to make plans with my winnings. It started out with the obligatory pay of my house; then I would set money aside for my kids future plans, and send my in-laws on a vacation around the world. Then my thoughts began to scamper down the rabbit hole of possibilty even more. I began to think about what new business I would start, I began to dream about starting a purpose-developing institute that would be known as a world class company. I began to dream about how much money I could give away to young startup companies and churches. I started thinking of my friends and how I would put money in a trust for their kids. I could even buy new church buildings for my pastor friends.

My train of thought was completely derailed as soon as the first number popped up on the television... not a match. In fact, not a single number on my paper matched the numbers on my screen. I felt deflated, 15 seconds knocked me into reality and shattered my Powerball dreams. I sat there for a moment, and then, it dawned on me… my dream was limited.

True vision cannot function as a product of perfect circumstance. In fact, true vision thrives in any circumstance and it does not back down on the count of bad weather or a shallow bank account.

This is my advice: imagine what you would do if you had all the time in the world, all the money in the world, all the resources and connections in the world. Write that down. Get busy!

As cliche as it may sound, take it one step at a time. Once you accomplish step one, then figure out how to accomplish step two. Do not get distracted with how to get past step 46 if you are only on step 10. Your vision will probably need to be refined in the process, and yes it will be a process. I also recommend getting some trusted advisors to check in with along your journey.

If you have a vision, if you have a dream, don’t wait for the Powerball… think bigger.