Review: One Blood

One Blood

Gentle Reader,

The Bible says that God made all nations from one blood. This tells me that He intended that humankind would be a people that were spiritually connected despite their cosmetic variations. This speaks directly to the call in 2 Corinthians 5 for people to be reconnected (or reconciled) to both God and their fellow man. … We know just from looking at God’s creation that He delights in diversity, even as that diversity is rooted in common traits. Did you know, for example, that there are more than 31,000 species of fish? They make up endless varieties of colors, shapes and behaviors, yet they are all fish. There’s a reason why God did it this way. I believe He loves to showcase unity amid diversity.

– p. 46

I had never heard of John Perkins before receiving an email from Moody Publishers offering me an advance copy of this book in exchange for a review. As I read the synopsis, I knew that this would be an important read, and so accepted the offer without any hesitation. Over the last couple of years I have become more and more invested in the issue of racial reconciliation, despite (or perhaps because of) living in a relatively ethnically homogeneous area. I want to, somehow, do my part to foster peace, understanding and forward-movement, yet I’ve been at a loss as to how to contribute.

Perkins subtitled his book “parting words to the church on race.” The man is pushing 90, so he knows his time is short. Thus, there is an urgency to his words. There is no pandering to anyone. Perkins pleads with his readers, black, white and every other skin shade under the sun, to understand that racial barriers are false. Man-made. Slipped into the historical narrative as a way of justifying unjustifiable prejudice and hatred. We are all truly one people, one blood.

The church has failed to preach and practice this reality. We have, to our shame, turned away from working for social justice, derisively labeling that those who do engage in that work “cultural Marxists.” We have separated the message of the Gospel from the act of caring for our fellow people, which means that we aren’t following the example of Christ at all. In fact,

…too much of our energy and drive has been misdirected toward materialism, comfort and convenience. Many of us no longer keep our church buildings open to provide a safe harbor for our children after school. We are concerned that our buildings may be torn up. We have shut out the children in our communities who need the influence of God’s people and God’s Word on their lives. We have become inwardly focused and are not the healing agents we once were. This is part of our confession and we must be broken about it.

– p. 81

Perkins outlines three steps that we must take: lament, confession and forgiveness. Tears that fall as a response to the pain of others are never wasted. Admissions of guilt and sorrow, even through clenched-teeth, as they often are, are the first steps on the road to healing. Forgiveness – seeking it from God when we discover our prejudices, seeking it from those we have wronged, forgiving those who have wronged us – brings freedom. These steps, by the power and grace of God, enable us to remove the blinders from our eyes and the hardness from our hearts.

I am deeply sober as I write this review. I think of traveling to England nearly a decade ago and experiencing my first encounters with men and women who had emigrated from Middle Eastern countries. I was afraid. Afraid of people I didn’t even know because they were different from me. I grew irritated because their customs and ways of doing business were not was I was used to. Now, I realize that I missed out. I realize that I have contributed to the problem. Lord, forgive me.

When I saw you from afar, I thought you were a monster. When you got closer, I thought you were just an animal. When you got even closer, I saw that you were human, but when we were face-to-face, I realized that you were my brother.

– p. 164

I highly recommend One Blood. This is not a book of politics or picking sides or putting all the blame on one set of cultural shoulders. Perkins’ call is for everyone – step outside of our comfort zones, allow cherished notions to be challenged and demolished, learn to see the “other” as, really, “same.” You and me, people together, made by the awesome and creative hand of Almighty God.

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I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK IN EXCHANGE FOR MY FAIR AND HONEST REVIEW.
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Five Minute Friday: Secret

Reach

Gentle Reader,

It’s been a month since I last participated in Five Minute Friday. Missed the chat tonight because I put off exercising until 5:15 p.m., which I rarely do, because as much as I hate mornings, I hate exercising at night even more. As often as I’m able, I roll out of bed, slide my feet into my shoes and get the job done. The sweaty, annoying job.

So. Anyway.

Kate says: secret.

Go.

I am not a health nut.

When I talk about my exercise schedule or the way I have to eat (which is pretty much vegan at this point), some assume that I’m an amazing gym rat or that I spend my days crafting fabulous, quinoa-based recipes. No. Not at all. Not true.

What I am is a lazy junk-food addict. I love Pepsi, chips, cookies, Arby’s and bacon. I don’t like getting up and doing burpees or hefting weights above my head. I want to binge-watch Netflix all day while sitting in a barrel full of Doritos. I want to take as many naps as possible. I want to become one with the couch. If I believed in spirit animals, mine would be the sloth.

So what’s my secret? How did I manage to change my diet? How do I keep up with the exercise?

There is no secret.

Taking care of our bodies to the best of our abilities falls under the realm of stewardship. We don’t own these flesh-tents. God made them. They belong to Him, just as our hearts, souls and minds do. Being the humans we are, we easily slide toward laziness, as I do, or toward obsession, spending hours and dollars crafting the “perfect” body because we hope that a beautiful outer package will fill the inner void. Neither is healthy.

Stewarding our bodies really is as simple as “eat less, move more.” We don’t like hearing that. We want the quick fix. We want the diet fad. Having to make deep, lasting lifestyle changes? #nothanks

So if there is no secret, and the route to success is truly simple, why is it so hard? Why do I (and maybe you) have so much trouble aligning our attitudes, thoughts and desires with the actions we know we must take?

Because we forget the spiritual aspect.

…let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

– Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

This verse is eschatological. Paul draws us to keep our eyes on what lies ahead, knowing that serving Jesus now is worth every effort and toil because in the end we will receive the great reward of being with Him, face-to-face. There is a broader principle, though: sowing and reaping. In verse eight,

…he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

– (NKJV)

Again, eschatological and broad. We have everlasting life by “sowing to the Spirit,” meaning placing our faith in the saving grace of Christ. But the kingdom is not just “then.” It is also “now,” within us, by the indwelling of the Spirit. We are to live as people who see things differently, who comprehend a new reality.

So I pray, Jesus, help me. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to make a salad. I don’t want to do push-ups. You’ve got to enable me to do good. You’ve got to empower me to listen to the Spirit instead of myself. 

And He does.

Stop.

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The Wednesday Writers: Carol Graft

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

It’s The Wednesday Writers!

No idea what I’m talking about? Read this.

Today we hear from my friend and fitness accountability group member, Carol Graft.

The Gift and Fruit of Grace and Mercy

Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.
Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve.

– Author Unknown

We are familiar with Galatians 5, the chapter that includes the Fruit of the Spirit passage:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

– vs. 22-23 (NKJV)

Notice that “fruit” is singular. It’s all the same value. We are to have all of the attributes. All the fruit of the Spirit should be manifest in our lives as believers in and followers after Christ. But if we are honest, we have our strengths and weaknesses in this area just as we have in any area of our life. We can get down about this.

We forget about grace.

We forget that it’s a gift. Instead, we focus on passages like this:

…for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

– 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NKJV)

I know some don’t think these words are relevant; the time for passages such as this is long gone. Given that the Word of God is living and active, not just pages of wood pulp with typeface on it, I beg to differ. (But that’s another post).

Those gifts listed above are plural, meaning multiple gifts.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone has them all, though most have several, just in varying degrees. We get wrapped up in that. We focus on what we are able to do.

What about grace? Mercy? The ability to rest in Him, instead of striving and fretting?

These two things fall into both the “gift” and the “fruit” category.  Straight from the heart of God, we simply must have grace and mercy flowing in and out of our lives.

Grace: unmerited favor. Favor that we didn’t earn.

Ihis book Grace: More Than We Deserve Greater Than We Imagine, Max Lucado talks about a night in an upper room.

The grace of God.

Hours before Jesus is to be killed, to take the sin of the world then and now upon His shoulders, He shows grace, compassion and unconditional love.

John 13: the Last Supper, that last Passover remembrance.  After the meal, Jesus grabs a basin and a towel and proceeds to do what would normally be done by a slave. Wash the feet.  

Jesus didn’t exclude anyone from what He was doing.  Not the doubter Philip, not James and John who always wanted to be first.

Not Peter, who turns his back on Jesus,

We see Jesus is so full of grace that He washes the feet of Judas himself. The man who very shortly will sell Him.

Could you do that? Could you wash the feet of your betrayer? Could you wash the feet of your boss who fired you?  Could you wash the feet of _______ (fill in the blank)?

To be gracious women and men, we need to walk in Christ. To walk as if Christ’s love is surrounding us and in us.

If I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you too must wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do.

– John 13:14-15 (CEB)

To accept grace is to accept the vow to give it.

Mercy: withheld punishment.

Scripture says we are redeemed by mercy.

In His love and mercy He redeemed them…

Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

– Isaiah 63:9 (NIV); Romans 11:21 (NKJV)

Because we have been granted mercy by God, we need to be merciful to those we meet every day. Those in our lives that try our patience. Those who don’t know the Lord.  If we only remember where we were and what we were brought out of, maybe that would soften the attitudes, the hearts of us and our judgments to others, especially those who don’t know yet the wonderful cleansing of God and His love for us.

The gifts of grace and mercy enable us to live as He wants us to. The fruit grows when we are planted deep in the soil of His love. We are changed, for:

What shall we say [to all this]? Are we to remain in sin in order that God’s grace (favor and mercy) may multiply and overflow? Certainly not! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?

– Romans 6:1-2 (AMP)

 

Remember today that God’s mercy and grace is so very, very rich.

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”

– Ephesians 1:7 (NIV)

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Carol lives in West Michigan, close enough to the beach to chase the sunsets when she can. Married 33 years and counting. Mom to 7, mostly grown, children. 3 daughters in love, and blessed with grands. Loves hot beverages, prayer and worship. Love to teach and encourage others in this Journey with Jesus. While I think my writing is rather rusty, I am learning to lean in and follow the call, stepping out on the water.  Keeping my eyes on Jesus.

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And so the Balance Shifts

Rage

Gentle Reader,

What better way to come back from an unscheduled hiatus than with something that will press the hot button of the day?

#thatshowIroll

The title of this post is taken from “Guns and Ships,” a first-act song from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award winning Hamilton. The Marquis de Lafayette has just returned from France with money and materials necessary for the very rag-tag Continental forces to engage in (what would be) the climactic battle of the American War of Independence. The balance, the characters sing, has shifted in their favor. A greater arsenal must equal victory.

That idea was imprinted upon the psyche of a young, new nation. We have yet to shake it – to our detriment.

It’s not about political parties. It’s not about philosophies regarding the role and function of government. It’s not about what the Second Amendment does or doesn’t mean.

It’s about us operating out of fear and anger.

I have to protect myself. Nothing and nobody is going to get me. They can’t tell me what to do. I know best. This world is scary.

I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t own a gun. While I don’t see the sense in it, I recognize that people have to make that choice on their own. Gun ownership is an issue over which reasonable people can disagree. I am here to implore you to take a step back and consider the frantic rhetoric that crackles through the air – especially if you claim the title “Christian.”

See, I know what it is to wake up and immediately be on the defensive. As soon as my eyes open, my mind begins to wonder what dangers await in the coming hours and attempts to devise plans to keep me safe. When my feet hit the floor, the sense of unease, connected to everything and nothing, pulses through my body. Therapists call this Generalized Anxiety Disorder and there’s nothing rational about it. Of course we must eschew recklessness and keep ourselves safe, i.e. you don’t pick up a rattlesnake for funsies, but there’s a difference between living within logical boundaries and paranoia.

Over the last couple of years I have watched my fellow countrypeople move toward paranoia. Neighbors aren’t simply neighbors anymore; they are potential enemies. Some find it impossible to be in relationship with those who may vote for a different candidate. Everyone is suspicious. Everything is a conspiracy.

Groups like the National Rifle Association fan the spark of fear into full-fledged flames of idiotic anger. Advertisements paint a picture of near civil war, with the “liberals,” whoever they are, out to “take your guns” or “trample your rights.” Their picture appears to be legitimized when some, perhaps well-meaning, perhaps not, call for a ban on all weapons, believing that the Constitution is more flexible than it is. Meanwhile kids get shot at school and cry out, begging the adults in charge to do something, but their voices are drowned out by the sound of large donations spilling into campaign coffers.

Nothing changes.

Fear and anger grow.

We who say we follow Christ have to get off this crazy train. How can we possibly go out into the world and preach the Good News, as we are commanded to do, if we see everyone around us in terms of friend or foe? If we are obsessed with being “right” in political, temporal terms? If we won’t learn how to listen to those with whom we disagree?

Paul tells us in the famous “Armor of God” passage (Ephesians 6:10-20) to put on the shoes of peace. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we are meant to leave footprints of grace. While none of us is perfect, those whom we encounter should have at least some sense of us being different. That there’s something about us at marked contrast with the world at large. More than the things we oppose, more than the things we don’t do. When we come into a room, others should sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.

This is not something we manufacture. This comes about by daily, momently, submitting to His lead. Fact is, He doesn’t lead us to territorialism, tribalism, politicism, or any other -ism you can think of. He doesn’t goad us to anxiety and rage. He doesn’t teach us to see people as obstacles or enemies. The Holy Spirit is the fresh, clean, cool air that untangles the knots in our souls and expands our hearts to love as He does.

This past Sunday my pastor preached on hospitality and how it is so much more than having a nice meal with friends or family. At its root, hospitality is the love of stranger, the willingness to open doors and arms to those who are different – which is exactly what Jesus did.

We have to recognize and accept the role we have played in both creating and furthering divisions in this country. I am under no delusion of utopia. This, right now, is not Eternity. Nothing is as it should be. I am, however, under a strong sense of conviction. We – I – cannot waste time building fortresses, living in echo chambers or believing the lie that one man-made, man-led political party is more “godly” than the other. The world watches us in our pursuit of power and they don’t like what they see.

We can’t blame them for that.

Let’s decide, you and me, today, to remember that people are people. We don’t have to be afraid of or scorn someone because they vote differently, believe differently, dress differently, etc. God loves people, wherever they are in relation to Him, and it’s our job to be about the business of sharing that love. The way we live must align with the words we say, otherwise we truly are blatant hypocrites and can hardly be angry when someone points that out.

In our spheres of influence, however large or small they may be, let’s work to shift the balance toward peace. Toward a living out of “God so loved the world.” Let’s step out from behind our walls and break them down, brick by brick. Let the light shine and the grace flow.

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