Monday Mayhem: Why King Isn’t a Superhero


That’s what I think of as we celebrate Martin Luther King today.

His life of sacrifice. His dedication to civil rights and his life long commitment to the struggle for equality–not just for African Americans–but for all Americans. It’s what made him so well loved and hated  (by some) in his time.

Yet, this idea of sacrifice is often thought of in such lofty terms that we don’t consider King’s humble beginnings. We don’t think of the small churches where he organized, the small following he began with and the many naysayers he had who criticized his methods.  In hindsight, King is a hero, in retrospect we hail him “King” with little thought for the cost of his kind of sacrifice.

But, hindsight is a funny thing. They say it’s 20/20, yet looking back tends to bend the prism of our perspective on how change happens. Thinking back on the marches and protests, petitions and progress of King and other leaders, we assume it all just happened as smoothly as turning the pages of our history books.

Thus, when we set out to make change we expect the same smooth strides from what is to what should be. We demand it, in fact, and become angry when it does not happen as quickly as we expect. We lament the “good ‘ol days” and bemoan the loss of “good ‘ol” leaders, like King, who can rally the people towards the goals we’ve set.  Obviously, hindsight is not 20/20. Nostalgia blinds us to the reality that change is never easy, rarely smooth and always requires sacrifice.

Sacrifice isn’t sexy.

Those who sacrifice have to give up something–they have to determine that one thing is worth losing in order to gain the other.  The problem comes when what is sacrificed is of greater value than what is gained.  King was willing to put his life on the line for the sake of an entire nation of people. His life was certainly valuable, but his legacy has meant a better life for millions.  You don’t see many like him these days. In this generation, it seems people are more concerned with their legacy first.  Everyone wants to be a leader, but no one wants to be a servant.  Sacrifce? We would rather be served!  “Butler, bring in the silver tray!”

We look to leaders in our communities to inspire us, but what made them leaders? Did they possess some special powers? Was Martin Luther King superhuman? No. He was a simple man who had a simple beginning and made a simple–not easy–choice that you and I can also make: to do what matters, to value what is important, to put the needs of others first.

While we like to look at the end result, we should not forget how it all began and where each of us can begin–right where we are.  It’s not about the legacy, it’s about the daily living. Each one of us can make a difference, but we need to do two things: (1) shift our focus away from how we think things used to be and (2) stop looking for an “ideal” leader to bring about a change that we ourselves are capable of creating.

The question is, what are we willing to sacrifice in order to obtain the future we wish for? How you respond to this may be in terms of where we are socially, politically or personally. The basic principle is the same.

Happy Monday



Monday Mayhem: Merry Christmas!

Whew! Merry Christmas!

I didn’t quite make it, did I?  I had hoped I would get away to wish you all a merry Christmas before the day was done, but with all of the gift-giving and food-prepping, guest-greeting and holiday-meeting there just was not enough of the day left for blogging!  As you can imagine, all week I’ve been racing around town searching high and low for the perfect last-minute gifts for loved ones and grocery-shopping for the holiday meal. I barely had time to clean the house before mom arrived–everything has been a whirlwind!

So, as I was wiping down the kitchen counters and putting away the last of the leftovers, I wondered, what could I say to you all tonight? The day is done. You’ve already opened your gifts and eaten your turkey and pies! Then I looked over and saw the kids sitting around the table, preoccupied with their devices, quiet for the first time all day. In fact, the house was quiet for the first time all day! All that played in the background was a song by the Oakwood Adventist Academy choir called “Rest.”  And I thought, how perfect.

After weeks of preparation for a day like today, when the focus has been on everything else, this is the perfect way to end it, with a reminder of why it began, because of the birth of the one who came to give us rest. My prayer is that all of you had a perfectly wonderful Christmas and that in the midst of all the hustle and bustle you were able to find some peace and quiet.  Here’s to sweet Christmas dreams and a heart filled with a peace that passes all understanding. Rest, in the truest sense of the word.

(belated) Merry Christmas!


To learn more about the OAA choir and their newly released CD entitled  In My Soul, contact director Justin Shane Jordan

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Monday Mayhem: What You May Have Left off of Your Christmas List!

I visited a rustic bed and breakfast recently—an old cabin in the woods, really, that had been refurbished and renovated with modern furnishings and appliances to suit modern tastes and sensibilities. The idea was to make the old, new—to give guests the feeling of stepping back in time—so that we could cast off the cares of work and busyness—but  without the loss of modern luxuries.  Inside it was warm and cozy.  Old magazines were scattered about on carefully distressed wooden end tables, and here is where I found a copy of the September 1959 issue of Life magazine resting safely inside a plastic sleeve amongst other plastic-covered classic issues.

I had to chuckle at the iconography of Life, literally and figuratively captured in that idyllic space.  Tucked ever so carefully in its plastic sleeve, it presented to me in words and pictures America as it was in 1959. The cover image of “The Astronauts” caught my eye. As I eased the stiff periodical from its plastic penitentiary then gently turned its crinkly pages I was transported to another place and time where advertisers beckoned me with “new” electric appliances and bid me to marvel at wood paneling! (“Go ahead, touch the wood. Weldwood paneling is so beautiful you can’t help running a hand over it.”)

I was transfixed, indeed, by the stories that tracked the training and selection of the first astronaut to be chosen for America’s “man in space” mission and as I stood in that old cabin made new again, I thought about how this old story was made new again last year as Margot Shetterly’s research into NASA’s use of black female mathematicians to fill a labor shortage during World War II unearthed an untold story. Because of her those hidden figures are “hidden no more” and other hidden figures have come to light since then.

Tomorrow I will tell you a “hidden figure” story, but today is Monday Mayhem!

Today I want to talk about the old made new.

Besides that, today we have exactly ONE WEEK! We are literally careening towards Christmas, ready or not!

So, let me bring it home…

Snow covered winter countryside at the sunset in Latvia

As I think about the holidays, I think about that old cabin in the woods—where I stood marveling at the old and the new, marveling at the attempts we so often make to package the old and make it new to suit our sensibilities and make ourselves comfortable. That’s really what Life in America has been all about, hasn’t it? Packaging.

And so, as we careen towards Christmas, and I think about the astronaut story that I read juxtaposed with the Hidden Figures story that was recently revealed, I marvel at all the other packages that will be so carefully wrapped this season and tucked gently under the tree as we paste on plastic smiles for the pictures and pretend that there are no hidden figures to be concerned about.

I don’t mean to sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas, I would just like for us to think about the power that hidden figures represent: reality. What is there whether we like it or not–whether it’s pretty or not? Whether it’s the same color as us, same gender as us, same religion as us, same belief as us–or not?  Whatever the reality is—in our family, in our office, in our neighborhood—in ourselves—we may wish to push it aside for the sake of optics, but what made Hidden Figures so awesome to me is that the real power came when everyone recognized their need for the Other and stopped fighting against what they feared.

As you head out to catch those last-minute Christmas sales, just remember that the best gifts may not be available in stores.

Happy shopping & Happy Monday!


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