Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: My Year in Review

As I reflect back on the year that was 2014, I am filled with many emotions. Some of those, indeed, most of those emotions are very positive. A few of them are not. Perhaps the following reflections on the year will benefit others as much as writing it as helped me put the year in perspective. 

1. Thankful for Accountability
In December 2013 the Overseers at the church I serve met with me to discuss the value of my social media interactions. At the time of the meeting I was not very happy. I had been held accountable, and that is seldom a place of comfort, especially for those of us who “pride” ourselves on being independent. But, upon reflection (in a deer stand the next day), I realized God had placed these men in my life for my good. They want me to succeed; they don’t want me to fail. Their willingness to challenge me derived from their love for me, nothing else. 

So, in beginning January 1, 2014 I implemented a series of changes in how I interact in social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. I established a set of principles to follow (you can read about them HERE) and eliminated every post, meme, picture, and article that did not fit into those principles. It took me three days to completely purge my page…which tells me that I was in desperate need of the accountability my Overseers provided. 

As the year has gone on it has not always been easy not to respond to the events in our nation via social media. This is particularly true with regard to evangelical leaders like Thabiti Anyabwile and John Piper who made irresponsible and factually ignorant comments about law enforcement tactics on the events surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cincinnati, and Eric Garner in New York. Indeed, as I think about my own journey in social media, it occurs to me that Mr. Anyabwile could use someone with the courage to hold him accountable for his social media interactions, which have become as sadly one dimensional as mine had become a year ago. 

2. Blessed by Submission
On August 26, 2014 I had my quarterly doctor visit. Such quarterly visits have been standard since being diagnosed as Type II diabetic. At this particular visit my doctor informed me that my AIC had risen to 7.6, my weight remained “steady” at 301. (For those unfamiliar with diabetes, an AIC over 7.0 significantly increases the risk of heart disease, lower extremeity circulatory problems and eyesight problems.) 

My doc was concerned and planned to increase my meds to bring down my blood sugar numbers. I stopped him cold. “Doc,” I said, “what do you want me to do?” He asked what I meant. I said, “To get these numbers down, what do you want me to do.” He said he would have me do his VLCD, which stands for Very Low Calorie Diet. (That did not sound real good, to be honest!) He said the VLCD was comprised of 4 protein shakes, one bar and one high protein meal per day. I said, “Fine. I’ll do whatever you want. I won’t cheat. I’ll do exactly what you say.” 

It hasn’t been easy, but I found tremendous freedom in submitting to his direction for my health. Since that day, August 26, 2014, I have lost 56 pounds (to date) and my AIC has dropped to 5.5 (normal is anything under 5.7). I am convinced that part of the success can be attributed to the fact that I was willing to submit to someone who knew better than me how to lose weight and get my diabetes under control. And, that submission has actually benefitted my doc as well. In fact, he has been encouraged by the fact that a patient has been so committed to doing exactly what he asks.

3. Saddened by Division
I alluded to the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner earlier. The deaths of these individuals have revealed a racial divide in our nation that saddens me. You see, my family has an interesting history when it comes to race issues. My grandfathers were both racists – one a communist, the other with white supremacist leanings. I was raised in one of the most racially divided areas of the United States (according to James Loewen’s Sundown Towns). During the late 1960’s my mother was attacked (and later stalked) by three black men as she worked at a music studio in East St. Louis. I share those details so you understand that I know my history and tendencies when it comes to matters of race relations. And, because I know that history and those tendencies I have fought to treat people as people, regardless of race. 

Yet, it seems our nation wants to simultaneously ignore race and make much of race. We hear some (especially evangelical leaders) talk about white privilege and systemic racism, and point to these when there is an injustice committed. At the same time, such claims ring hollow when we consider the following:
  • The President of the United States is African-American (AA)
  • The highest legal authority in the land (Attorney General) is AA,
  • A record number of AA candidates ran for Congress (85) in 2014
  • When the 114th Congress convenes in January 2015, it will include 45 AA members of Congress and 2 AA Senators. 
  • The most powerful person in entertainment is an AA, Oprah Winfrey
  • The most powerful couple in entertainment is AA, Jay-Z and Beyonce
  • Last year’s entertainer at the Super Bowl was AA, Bruno Mars

And, the list is far longer than that. Now...none of that is to say that there are not issues in our nation related to race that need to be addressed. It is to say that the impression given by some that little to no progress has been made in race relations or in the progress made by African Americans simply does not fit what we actually see in the world around us. Frankly, my guess is that race relations between “real people” is better than those who derive their living from racial division would have us believe. 

4. Optimistic for the Future
Having said all of this, I remain optimistic for the future. Why? Because history is not dependent solely upon the choices that we make, but God is shaping and moving history to his ends. His purposes will be accomplished. So, this year, whether you are challenged by those close to you to make changes or whether the news and events in our nation sadden you, remember that God is in control. He will accomplish his purposes in you, in us, and in the world. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

In Honor of George Whitefield's 300th Birthday

Today marks the 300th anniversary of evangelist George Whitefield's birth. In honor of the occasion, I thought I'd post a link to a research paper I wrote on Whitefield a few years ago. I hope it is a blessing to you.

George Whitefield: A Life, A Legacy