This evening’s drop of hope and spiritual direction comes from my colleagues at the Love Mercy, Do Justice ministry initiative in Chicago:
On June 19, 1865 (over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln), enslaved Africans in Texas finally received word that they had been emancipated. The celebration of their freedom became what is known to us today as “Juneteenth” (a mash-up of the words June and nineteenth).
Jemar Tisby says, “Freedom has always come with an asterisk in America,” and perhaps this year more than any in recent history, we feel that asterisk. We acknowledge and grieve the paradox in today’s celebration of freedom – a freedom that has been underscored by unfulfilled promise; a freedom that has looked different for some than it has for others.
In the early days of celebrating Juneteenth, the day was spent by bringing families and communities together for a time of prayer and thanksgiving. So this evening, gather your family and pray for the brokenness in our nation. Enter into a time of thanksgiving for the freedom we have both as citizens of this nation and as the children of God. And perhaps read or sing these words of James Weldon Johnson’s song “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” the anthem which has become known as the African American National Anthem:
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on ’til victory is won
We will have change when ALL Americans come to realize this is a problem and black lives DO matter. Jeh Johnson, former secretary of Homeland Security
Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. Jesus, from Matthew 5
God of mercy and wisdom, help us surrender our pride and humbly receive advice and direction from those we have wounded and those who know the path we all must walk to healing. Amen
This morning, Fareed Zakaria discussed the problem of racial injustice with the former secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson. Zakaria asked Johnson, What advice would you give us at this critical moment?
Jeh Johnson began with a legendary leadership story. In March of 1965 in the wake of Bloody Sunday, President Lyndon B. Johnson, a white southerner, went before a joint session of Congress and proclaimed: We shall overcome.
When LBJ embraced the words of the Civil Rights Movement his influence became a factor in turning the tide for civil rights legislation.
Jeh Johnson proposes that the most powerful thing anyone can do today is embrace the grievance of black America and use our respective influence to call others to join in the embrace. If parents, pastors and presidents today went to the podium and embraced the grievance then many more would see and believe that black lives really do matter.
Jeh Johnson said, “A starting point for leadership is to acknowledge the grievance and the validity of the grievance. There are more specific solutions, but it starts with leaders embracing the grievance and teaching others to do the same.”
Johnson’s advice aligns with Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: When you have harmed your neighbor, embrace your neighbor’s grievance early in the ordeal– before the moment of judgment, sentencing and no return.
When asked about how he feels personally about racial injustice in America, Johnson suggested a better question. How does America feel? How does the soccer mom in Oklahoma feel? How does the church elder in California feel? How does your state representative feel? How does our superintendent of schools feel? How do the Rotarians feel? How does the City Council feel? How do your friends feel?
How do you personally feel about the way our black siblings are treated in the streets, the courts, the classroom, the prisons and on the corporate ladder?
As Johnson notes: Minneapolis is not a black problem. It is an American problem. Equality before the law is as American as the flag. We will have change when ALL Americans come to realize this is a problem and black lives DO matter.
I am grateful for the community of Christ followers that I call friends and family. I know how you would answer the questions posed by Jeh Johnson. Please join me in prayerfully considering our answers; and may our actions align until together we turn the tide.
My speech was plain, not with a lot of eloquence or human persuasion, but the Holy Spirit’s power was in my words, showing those who heard them that the message was from God. 1 Corinthians 2
God who speaks worlds into being, teach me how to speak from my heart. Amen
This evening’s drop of hope is dedicated to the power of speech.
The NFL Draft is now under way, and the first pick has become a hometown hero for calling attention to something impacting so many families in this pandemic—hunger.
Even before food banks were overwhelmed by Americans desperate to feed their families Joe Burrow had used his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech to remind us there has always been hunger in America.
“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area,” the 23-year-old Burrow said on a New York stage in December. “The poverty rate is almost two times the national average, and there’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and in Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school,” he added, telling those kids, “and you guys can be up here, too.”
The night of the ceremony the people in that community were paying attention. Will Drabold said Burrow’s mention of southeast Ohio struck him like a bolt of lightning. Will put the quote on Facebook and wrote, “Let’s honor Joey’s words and give money to the food pantry.” He didn’t think it would raise a thousand dollars.
But donations poured in from all over the country raising $650K—five years of ordinary income.
The food pantry director told newscaster Lester Holt: Joe has given a voice to this region and to its needs. I hope that this conversation will turn into something that will actually help us go out of business.
This story reminds me that it is not the artfulness of our words that moves people to compassionate action. Even complacent people will recognize the message of Christ when they hear it from a pure heart.
If you’re like me, you’re wondering: What is the message of Christ at the heart of me?
According to Joe Burrow’s example, it’s probably related to gratitude. He said, “I didn’t write it. I just went up there and started talking. I wanted to mention southeast Ohio because so many people had helped me from that area. Then it just kind of came to my mind that I could mention the struggles that area goes through.”
Joe’s dad recalls checking in with Joe before the ceremony. He found Joe writing some notes on a scrap of paper. But when his son received the award and started speaking, Dad could tell Joe was off script and speaking from his heart.
What are you grateful for NOW? What could you say about that?
Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5
Spirit of Christ, embodied by Jesus and the assembly of saints: Help me to host your peacemaking ways in my body too! Help my faith community become agents of peace near and far. Amen
Today Daily Drop of Hope is from Bethlehem! That’s right—we’re coming to you from that sacred space 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem.
Our teacher, Sami Awad, is director of the Holy Land Trust. The Holy Land Trust builds communities of resiliency through grassroots movements of nonviolent resistance. Sami is a friend of Pastor Ryan Howell. Ryan has been going live every day at 10am, and this week he is introducing us to the Howell’s ministry partners around the world.
Sami’s teaching and exhortation especially aligns with Crossroads mission to become a network of every-day peacemakers. He shared the three ways his community is sowing peace in Palestine: Non-violent resistance, healing trauma, and nurturing transformation.
He defines PEACE as something other than safety and security. Peace derives from the risky life-arts of breaking privilege, giving freely, listening well and compassionate service. This brand of peace requires significant disruption!
Ryan talked about the necessity of ending the “myth of sacred violence” that fuels harmful religion, including some modern strains of Christianity.
Sami also spoke of the blessing of being locked down for 50 days. He thanks God for the opportunity to change our way of life. God is giving us permission to turn the tables of economic injustice, pay attention to the brokenhearted and spin free of fearful motivations into deeper movements of love, compassion and care. He urged us to think beyond protecting our wealth during this pandemic and to lean in to the possibilities in God’s bigger vision for humankind.
Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3
Jesus, who taught us the Way of Wisdom, thank you for relieving us of the anguish of impossible decisions. Help us use your good judgment to help ourselves and our neighbors. Amen
Today Pastor Doru Cirdei who leads Filadelphia Church in Chisinau Moldova was Ryan Howell’s guest on the Morning Drop of Hope. Early in their conversation I was struck with a one-word theme: Decisions. They were talking about decisions that faith communities, parents, health organizations and governments are making in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The best decision-making guidance I know comes from the late, great Peter Drucker. His classic book The Effective Executive is like a devotional. Every year, I try to read it slowly and get better at the big themes of his teaching. One of those themes is decision-making.
According to Drucker, good decision-makers do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few, critical decisions they make at the highest level of understanding. Their decisions are based on pre-determined values, principles and rules that they apply over and over. Then when a new problem emerges, the decision is largely processed by applying earlier high-level decisions already in practice.
As my church and my household have responded to the vexing problem of our time—Covid-19—we fairly easily make decisions about how we will operate. We value life, therefore we will limit our freedom of movement, or gathering in person, in favor of protecting all life. We have already decided that Jesus gives special preference to the poor, the incarcerated, foreigners among us and the sick; therefore, our decisions will be made in favor these vulnerable neighbors.
It’s surprising how many dilemmas disappear when we base our current decisions on good decisions already made. And as patterns in our decision-making emerge, these can be named as values, which enlighten any analysis we need to do in a novel situation.
As we all transition from the Stay at Home directive of April to the Safer at Home directive of May, we have decisions to make. How will we use our additional freedom?
What decisions have you previously made in your life which will guide your operations in the month of May?
It matters not if our enterprise is a corporation, a small business, a church, a home or our own spiritual transformation—our choices matter. And by God’s grace very few of these choices are novel and vexing. Most of the time our decisions are as complicated as we choose to make them.
I am heartened to be a spiritual leader in the company of wise persons like Ryan, Doru, Governor Polis and all of you!
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4
Spirit of the Living Christ, inhabit my heart and mind in such a way that I become a purveyor and protector of the peace—for my own good and the good of the whole human family. Amen
Today Pastor Ryan Howell hosted the Morning Drop Hope with his friend Tom MacDonald who pastors in the U.K.. Tom shared about the peace of Christ that Jesus brought into every setting and situation. Tom used the term non-anxious presence, which comes from the work of psychologist, Edwin Friedman—a world-class expert on how anxiety is passed from person to person within families, work places, faith communities and nationalistic movements.
We are living in a time when anxiety is being passed from person to person in our homes, political conversations and leadership groups. I hope for your sake that you are not caught up in a cancerous cell of anxiety-producing drama. If you, or people you depend on, are struggling with group anxiety, reach out to me. We have resources to help you.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear from several non-anxious leaders on Sunday news programs. My favorite was the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz. Just listening to Chancellor Kurz lowered my pulse and gave me hope. Kurz carefully explained the compassionate and wise sequence and timing of Austria re-opening their society. He was empathetic to the U.S. and expressed his hope and blessing that we would be safe and prosperous as we navigate our own reopening.
I also listened to an epidemiologist encourage leaders in all industries to be hopeful about reopening, to watch carefully how their industry is proceeding and to follow carefully a step or two behind the early movers and shakers.
As a pastor, these three non-anxious experts give me wise-hope and lower my anxiety. Tom reminded me that I can be the presence of Christ and bring peace into any situation. The chancellor and the scientist also encouraged me that God will provide the wisdom we need to step this thing out when the time comes.
This is a good time to remember who we are and what it means to be children of God and disciples of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is more powerful than any threat– and able to calm any chaos. But this confidence can only happen in us when we are grounded in our true identity in Christ. Without access to your True Self, you cannot freely exercise faith when storms come. The opposite of being a non-anxious presence is being a fear monger . But we have the option to choose!
For me, the best way to overcome fear is to stop and really feel it and say to myself, “I’m scared, but it’s only a feeling. Fear has no power; but God’s Love does!” When I don’t stop and talk to myself about fear, it spirals. When I stop, breath and confess my fear, I have the opportunity to remember God’s presence and receive Peace. This is not a perfect science, but it’s a good start.
Perhaps the best spiritual practice for spreading peace is to regulate what we read, watch and listen to. Find wise mentors, even in the new media!
I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3
Easter Monday Prayer: Risen Christ, you include me in your mystery of passion, death, waiting, and new life. Because I trust YOU, I trust my own deaths too. Allow me this Easter to go further with you and to trust the Power of Resurrection. Amen
It is Easter Monday: Holy Week has happened; and Spring has sprung. We are perhaps halfway through this BIG Pause, and we’re now fully aware we are making history. We’ve never experienced a global pandemic with a national shutdown before. When it’s over, most of us will look back on this as a live-changing event.
What are you learning so far? What good will come from what we’re going through? To put it another way: When this is over, what are you willing to let back into your life? We have a chance to think about that.
There is a lot of speculation going on about the meaning and purpose of our pain—on the individual and collective level.
This week, I’ll devote the evening musings to the practical process of rising strong in midst of suffering. Learning and growing through hardship isn’t guaranteed; but it’s powerfully possible. Going from strength to strength over the course of our lives mostly depends on the quality of consciousness we bring to the evolving stories of our lives.
And since we’re all in weird times this Easter Week, why not go on an intentional treasure hunt for the next great thing to be uncovered in our hearts? Each evening this week, I’ll bring a different rising strong topic and a new exercise for rising.
This evening our practice is to be mindful of our Easter Monday status of being in-Christ. You are literally filled up to all the fullness of God. I know: You don’t always feel that way, and neither do I.
Listen again to the theme song for this Easter week, performed by our worship musicians at Crossroads. It’s lit up with photos of families who are rising strong.
Read aloud the verses from Ephesians 3 and the starter prayer at the top of this post.
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus speaking; John 12
Starter Prayer: Risen Christ, you include me in your mystery of passion, death, waiting, and new life. Because I trust YOU, I trust my own deaths too. Allow me this Easter to go further with you and to trust the Power of Resurrection. Amen
The worship and devotional practices of Holy Week and Good Friday are meant to teach us about the mysterious and holy cycle of suffering, death and resurrection as ultimately demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth for our salvation. As we read the final chapters of Jesus’s story, and remember his arrest and execution, we are meant to allow his loving mercy to comfort us in our own suffering. This is the purpose of the readings, songs and prayers of a “normal” Holy Week.
But this Holy Week is not “normal.” This Holy Week we are literally living in the drama and themes of Passover, Death and Waiting for Resurrection. Passover: There is a plague in the land, which we pray will pass. Death: But as we pray, “Let this cup pass from us,” people are dying anyway. And Waiting: When will the dying be over and salvation from COVID-19 be realized?
When a seed falls into the ground and dies, there is a kernel of power within the seed. Deep in the darkness of the soil, life is erupting. In time, we will see new life.
I believe these deaths and resurrections naturally occur in the world. And the pattern points to an even larger reality. God is Love, and God works these very same risings in our individual lives and in the events of history until the redemption of the whole world. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that all who believe in him will not die, but will have eternal life.
Pray the Starter Prayer at the top of this post. And in preparation for Good Friday, I urge us to read the Story of the Cross of Jesus from Matthew Chapters 24-27. Pay special attention to the Focus Passage: Matthew 27:45-56 and the Daily Verse for Good Friday: “Truly this man was God’s son!” The full Holy Week Reading Plan is online.
Please join us online at 6:30pm Friday for a live Good Friday meditation led by Pastor Ryan Howell. I know that Ryan will do a beautiful job of simply leading us to the Cross and through the Paschal mystery of Jesus. If you’re able, have three candles and something to eat and drink. We will take communion together.
The Power and the Peace of Christ be yours this Abnormally, Holy Week, Katie
p.s. Online Easter events for adults and Kids are coming Sunday! Crossroads Kids Live Party is at 9am and Easter with amazing music and message is at 10am.
“As you change and become like little children, you are able to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’s words from Matthew 18
Starter Prayer:God our Loving Parent, help me let go of my self-importance, and lead me into a full lifetime of happy childhood.
Joy is the most vulnerable emotion of all. Dr. Brené Brown
Blessings on this Holy Wednesday Evening. As I write this, there is a glimmer of good news about the COVID-19 curve possibly flattening out.
Also, last night during the supermoon, I had my first experience of hearing the neighborhood come outside and howl in support of frontline workers. Both these things give me JOY.
And there is one more. Last night at dusk, the neighborhood streets were full of families riding bikes with kids and dogs. (Well the dogs were trotting along.) It all reminded me of the the JOY Dave and I had taking our girls on bike rides when they were young. We had bikes, and baby bike seats, and at one point– two bike trailers. In the bike riding we felt like children again. The wind in our hair, the picnic dinner in the trailer, the happy children without a care in the world.
Our Crossroads Church family is reading through the Gospel of Matthew over the seven days of Holy Week. This morning my colleague Ryan Howell was live on Facebook talking about Jesus’s statement: “Only as you change and become like little children are you are able to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
All the howling and biking and moon gazing and news of fewer COVID cases is an occasion for innocent JOY. If you participated in enjoying anything like this today, take courage– you are participating in the kingdom of God!
If you haven’t seen Ryan’s mini-teaching on kids and the kingdom of heaven, do yourself a favor and watch it.
I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. Ephesians 1:18-19
Starter Prayer: Lord God who shines in human hearts to make light in the darkness. We look to you with hope, faith and LOVE. And the greatest of these is LOVE.
Blessings on this Holy Tuesday evening. As the supermoon illuminates the planet this Dark Night, I pray you are experiencing glimpses of Hope as you do your best to live faithfully through this different-kind of Holy Week.
If you haven’t heard this new song from our Crossroads Framilycast on Palm Sunday, give it a listen. The lyrics mean a lot during these unprecedented times.
Then breath deeply and pray aloud the truth of Ephesians 1:18-19 and the starter prayer at the top of this post. As you do, I’m confident God will answer your prayer and fill your heart with new Hope.
The Light of Christ be yours this Holy Tuesday and always, Katie