The irony of four score and seven years ago

29 05 2017

lincoln-photo-631

I may be wrong, but I think Lincoln stated more than just giving context to the beginning of his speech dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg Battlefield in 1863. Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago from his perspective was 1776 – the year of the Declaration of Independence. Such irony! Lincoln wasn’t just pointing to the date Read the rest of this entry »

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Juneteenth, Part the Second

10 07 2010

(See the previous post for Part the First)

Curious and clueless, I looked up “Juneteenth”.

Thank-you Wikipedia!

On June 18th, 1865, General Gordon Granger and 2000 Union troops entered Galveston, Texas and took possession of the state.  The next day, General Order No. 3 was read to the people in the last state to officially abolish slavery and recognize Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation made almost three years earlier:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”

The next year, jubilant public celebrations marked the anniversary of freedom, and the holiday became shortened to “Juneteenth”.

I am as Caucasian as the snow that falls in Northern Michigan.  I haven’t really experienced racial prejudice, and I’ve certainly never been a slave.  Yet, even when I was young, photos and stories of people enslaved caused a visceral response in my gut.  And recently, without any conscious intent, my hatred of slavery showed up in a song I wrote.

Way past midnight as I alternately sang and wrote, the beginning of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address forced its way into the lyric because I needed a rhyme.  Not knowing why it was in the song, I read and re-read the short speech that he gave in 1863 to dedicate the Gettysburg cemetery during the Civil War on the site of the bloodiest battlefield in our nation’s history.  Around 2:00 AM I understood.  Lincoln wasn’t giving a history lesson in the opening sentence.  “Four score (a score is 20 years) and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  His last phrase was an indictment against the people of the United States for giving lip service to freedom for the past 87 years while brutally enslaving hundreds of thousands of fellow human beings.  The issue had been settled in 1776 in the Declaration of Independence, which he quoted at the end of his opening sentence.

Those 87 years (and many more before 1776) of slavery should never have happened.  Juneteenth should not be a holiday.  All Americans should celebrate Independence on July 4th.  Stupidity, arrogance, and mismanaged power, however, made a second Independence Day necessary.

A couple of months ago I heard Efrem Smith*, the African American pastor of Hip Hop Church, speak on the freeing power of the arts.  He asked himself as he was wedding the arts with worship in his new church, why music, storytelling, and other arts were so important for his enslaved ancestors.  What was it like for a slave to connect his artistic gifts and his devotion to Jesus?

“Their identities were totally transformed as they went into the back woods under threat of being beaten after working a 15-hour day.  In the darkness, broken people, through song and dance, through art and storytelling, became the Beloved of God!  Worship wasn’t about a performance; it was about freedom.  It was saying, ‘I’m not a slave, the oppressed and broken, I am THE BELOVED OF GOD!'”

That is the story of the day on which I was born.

I gladly give up my claim on June 19th to celebrate freedom.  An ordinary girl fades into the background to become part of something far more important.


*http://www.efremsmith.com/ (his blog)

*http://www.towardwonder.com/prodsb.asp?invtid=PR34350 (download the mp3 or DVD)





War & Near

25 12 2009

Seeing pastoral nativity scenes every December fills me with a warm Christmas glow and almost lulls me into a sentimental stupor in which I conveniently forget what really happened the night Jesus was born.  What took place in the spiritual realm when God was born as a human baby reads more like the plot of a sci-fi fantasy-thriller than a nostalgic Christmas card:  A red dragon pursued a woman giving birth while his dragon-army fought Michael’s angels in heaven.  The dragon, not able to overpower Good, was hurled to the earth where he chased the woman and her Child.  Then, frustrated that the pair escaped, he turned on the rest of her offspring—“those who hold to the teachings of Jesus”.   His demise, foretold long ago, was accomplished by the Baby who crushed his head, but not before the serpent struck the baby’s heel.

So much for syrupy “Baby Jesus, meek and mild” Christmas stories—this is war!!

Easter is the ultimate triumph, but not the incredibly amazing part of the story.  At least, not to me.  If Jesus really is God, what is so surprising about Him rising from the dead??  I would expect God to be able to do that.  The part that devastates me is that He would set aside all his glory, privilege, and power to become a helpless, finite human baby; that He, the Creator of the world, would so completely reduce Himself to pursue me.

As He entered the world, the time-space continuum and all other realities couldn’t help it; they erupted in strange behaviors.  A supernaturally bright light burned in the sky; prophecies converged in fulfillments; heaven was ripped open; angels spoke to shepherds; and then all was quiet.  But everything was different.

The curse was broken; the dragon defeated.  Hope became tangible.  Our slavery-yoke of sin… shattered.  Light put out darkness.  God was approachable.  And people were drawn to Him.

He came to us so that we could come to Him.  And although He ascended to the Father, He still promises to draw near to us if we draw near to Him.  The book of Job contains a concept of what that looks like: Leviathan, the great creature of the deep, is covered with scales so near one another that no water or air can come between them.  They are so close that the two most pervasive materials on earth cannot sneak in.

The red dragon is still at war with us, but his Vanquisher is our Champion:  Immanuel.

The snowflake kaleidoscope is made from a paper cutting of a dragon crafted in Hong Kong. It represents both the red dragon and the scales of Leviathan—a reminder that with Jesus’ birth, the dragon is defeated, and that we can be so near to Him nothing can come between us. Luke 2:8-18; Matthew 2:9-11; Revelation 12; Genesis 3:15; James 4:8; Job 41:15-17; Isaiah 9:1-4








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