Why I Walked and Participated in a Black Lives Matters Protest and Justice for George Floyd Rally and What I think I am Learning in this Midst of this Crisis

I took a walk this week, downtown.

I walked with about three hundred people who were protesting police brutality. This protest was only one of the thousands that are sweeping the globe right now.

If you’ve watched the news, then you’ve seen the riots and destruction that are often associated with these protests. If you’ve paid attention, then you’ve also seen moments of tremendous unity, love, and hope associated with these protests.

The protest in Vero was peaceful. The police force did an admirable job making the protest possible by blocking intersections and walking with us as we went. The police chief clearly and compassionately communicated his goal to protect our community, which included the protesters. He was also clear about the department’s support and willingness to stand against police brutality in every possible way.

Once again, as a citizen of Vero Beach, I was proud of our police department and proud of our community.

Later on in the evening, I joined a Justice for George Floyd rally in our town. A rally hosted by the Vero Beach Police Department.

During the rally, I heard a local officer, a black man – one I’ve come to admire – named Darryl Rivers, discuss how it feels to be black and wear a badge. His testimony was moving.

The rally ended with an open-mic which allowed citizens to express their anger, distrust, and desire for change. It was also a time for some to say thank you to our local police force and offer support to their work in our community.

As a minister in our community, I believe it was important for me to be present at both of these events. Marching in the Black Lives Matters protest was, candidly, difficult for me. I found some of the signs (posters) disturbing and the chants disconcerting. I have spent a small amount of time researching the national organization. I am suspicious of the answers they are proposing while at the same time appreciative of the questions they are asking.

So, marching in a protest sponsored by a movement with which I am in disagreement on many issues, was very difficult. And, though I found it difficult, I also found it to be a meaningful experience.

I’ve noted a couple of the reasons why I found it meaningful above in relation to our police force and the citizens of this great community. One I’ve not yet mentioned is the subtle tension I felt as a follower of Christ (there were likely dozens of such followers in this march) supporting a specific cause while recognizing that the answers and resources of the group I am marching with (in this case, BLM) are going to fall short and leave us wanting more.

In that place of tension, I also sensed hope: hope that the resources of Christ’s love are more than ample to meet the need of this desperate hour.

The resources of Christ’s love, however, are designed to be displayed through the presence of His Church – His people. All too often the church has been silent and her presence absent, or antagonistic, in moments such as these.

I was struck with how different every protest might be if people committed to sharing the love of Christ could walk with those who have never heard of such love, rejected such love, or simply cannot believe such love to be true!

While there are more reasons for why I walked in the protest and participated in the rally, I am going to close by listing the things I’ve learned or reflections I’ve gathered from the experience. The reflections are designed as ways to encourage the church – God’s people – to step into the midst of this current chaos and be agents of God’s will.

  • Process Constructively. It’s time to process what’s going on around us in constructive and unbiased (as much as that is possible) ways. Too many of us (I am primarily speaking to the white, middle/upper-class church) simply don’t understand the feelings and emotions that are being expressed and experienced by our black brothers and sisters. And, yes, they are our brothers and sisters. They worship Christ as King just down the street from us. They gather in South Vero, Wabasso, Gifford, and all the surrounding areas of our community. We share true allegiance with them. An allegiance that demands more than any other allegiance we know – particularly our misplaced allegiances to our political parties and cultural sensitivities. One way we can begin processing all that’s going on around us by educating rather than insulating ourselves.
  • Pray Intentionally. It’s time to pray for God’s good to come through us and extend to the least-of-these in our world. God cares about all of us and He is against injustice and brutality in all its forms. Our prayers should absorb this heart of our Lord when we call upon His name. Lest we forget, Jesus taught us a prayer that is a fundamentally subversive prayer. The first request of the Lord’s prayer is that God’s Kingdom would topple all false kingdoms and His reign and rule be expressed over all the earth.
  • Prepare Congregationally and Communally by Cross-Cultural Bridge Building. It’s time to prepare our congregations and communities by seeking to befriend those less fortunate than us or those who are culturally different from us. Our hearts break naturally when we are intimately aware of the pain and suffering a friend or loved one is going through. Building relationships that cross the many divides we experience in our world is vital to the on-going health of our congregations, community, and country. I spent a year meeting with the Pastors Association of Indian River County. This group is primarily composed of African American pastors in the Gifford/Wabasso area. As I got to know these men and women, I began to realize that we share many things in common even as we have vastly different experiences.

As I continue to process and reflect on my experience, I am incorporating a handful of questions to ask myself daily:

  1. Am I willing to listen and learn what I don’t know rather than proclaim and defend what I think I do?
  2. Will I examine my heart in order to expose any personal prejudice and bias that may rest within?
  3. Will I pray for justice and mercy to flow and for God’s good to be revealed to those most in need?
  4. Will I befriend someone who has a culturally, socially, and economically different experience than my own?

Just a few reflections and thoughts on my experience with a few questions to explore.

For now, that is the right place for me to be as I hope and pray they will lead me into what is yet to come!

And, while I do not pretend to know how the church should move forward, any more than I intended to speak on behalf of the church, I believe that if local congregations begin to:

  • Process These Events Constructively.
  • Pray Intentional for God’s Kingdom to Come.
  • Prepare Congregationally by Cross-Cultural Bridge Building.

we may, in the midst of the chaos around us, be positioned to offer the life-giving hope of the Gospel of the Kingdom!

Grace and peace,

Biz

A Way to Pray Through the Day!

Looking for a new, or at least, deeper faith walk this year?

If you’re like me, then you are just now coming to rest after a busy holiday season.  In the midst of the chaos, I rediscovered a way to pray that aligns perfectly with Paul’s encouragement to:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  I Thessalonians 5

This way of praying is one way I am experiencing the presence of God, who is alive within me and active among us!  It’s another step in our journey at Pillar.

An adventure, really.  An adventure called, “Set Sail with Us as we Explore, Experience, and Enjoy, the With-God-Life Jesus proclaims and makes possible.”

One of the ways I am connecting with the presence of Christ and the with-God-life is through the practice of Fixed-Hour-Prayer, or as I like to say, “praying your way through your day.”

If you’d like to settle into the presence of Christ throughout your day, check out this brief video and then download the prayer page!

Youtube Link: A Way to Pray Through The Day

Prayer Page: [download-attachment id=”5456″ title=”Pillar A Way to Pray Throughout the Day”]

It might be helpful if I define the term Spiritual Rhythms (Disciplines) so that you know exactly what I mean:

Spiritual Rhythms empower us to live fully into the present reality of God.  They are not an ‘end’ in and of themselves.   They are a means to an end.  They don’t earn any favor with God or serve as some arbitrary measure of our spiritual success.  They are practices of grace, to be experienced over and over again (habit), that awaken us to the presence of Christ in our midst.  As we are awakened, we are then invited to abide with Him.  As we abide with Him, we then begin to live a Jesus-way of life.  A way of life that will experience God’s goodness in our world as we receive His goodness within our hearts and bring His goodness to others.

In other words, Spiritual rhythms help cultivate a life around the reality that Jesus is in our midst and that He is inviting us into an interactive and ongoing relationship with Him.

That means that Jesus is inviting our children and youth to experience him in their home, the hallways at school, the lunchroom, neighborhood, bedroom, etc.

It’s a life lived with Him at this very moment, in this very space.

Our emphasis in January and February is on living a Generous life and the impact our generosity can make on our communities!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Reclaiming What’s Lost

Christ’s earliest followers sensed a fresh wind blowing.  They sensed that, as the resurrection-story poured forth, they were experiencing and living in the new-kind-of-Kingdom vision that Jesus often proclaimed.

No, they didn’t fully realize what was going on at the moment.

But that didn’t matter.

The earliest followers of Christ stumbled, bumbled, and tumbled their way into this new-kind-of-Kingdom promise of the Gospel.  As they did, they experienced power, proclaimed hope, and dispensed love – gratuitously, I might add.

They began, in short, a journey as a new-kind-of-people within a new-kind-of-community.

It must have been exhilarating.

Can you imagine walking into one of the earliest temples, synagogues, or homes where this new message was the new way?

Continue reading “Reclaiming What’s Lost”

A Hope-Inspired Existence

The early church was a raucous bunch!

Stumbling, bumbling, and fumbling their way into this new-way-to-be-human the Gospel so clearly proclaimed.

You don’t have to read too far into the New Testament to pick up on the sense of dynamic power at work within and among them!

They (the earliest followers) are not a second-guessing kind of people.

They aren’t a “Hey, I wonder-if-this-is-true” study-group kind of people.

We don’t find them huddled up in bible-study groups complaining about how bad the world is.

Nope.

None of that.

Continue reading “A Hope-Inspired Existence”

I Know What You Did Last Weekend!

I Know What You Did Last Summer, a favorite slasher/horror movie of the late 90s, grossed over 100 million at the box office.

The revenue and popularity generated by the original were immense. So much so that they decided to follow it up with two sequels.

As always, Hollywood greed crowded out good judgment.  The follow-ups were flops.

But, as far as horror movies go, the original still gets strong reviews among regular folk like you and me.

I know that many of my readers probably aren’t into horror movies.  But, for some reason, I’ve always been intrigued by them.

As a child, I read every Hitchcock story I could find.  I picked up much of what Steven King was writing as well.  I read Poe, Mary Shelley, Anne Rice, to name but a few.

There are, of course, many things I now wish I had not read or seen.  I am coming to believe, however, that the horror genre, in general, is on to something.

Something to which the church ought to pay attention!

Continue reading “I Know What You Did Last Weekend!”