NOVEMBER 30, 2018



Frederick Douglass was the most towering figure of the 19th century. In his biography on the oratorical giant, David Blight notes:

“Douglass was the most photographed American of the nineteenth century…Although it can never really be measured, he may also have been, along with Mark Twain, the most widely traveled American public figure of his century. By the 1890s, in sheer miles and countless numbers of speeches, he had few rivals as a lecturer in the golden age of oratory. It is likely that more Americans heard Douglass speak than any other public figure of his time.”—David Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

When he died, congress shut down for the day in honor of him. 

His body was laid in state in the very same place where Abraham Lincoln’s was—the first African American to be given such an honor.

Not bad for a former slave.

Douglass left his mark not only on his generation, but on the sociological landscape of our nation for generations to come. Without his piercing pen and oratory, slavery may have lasted some years longer, and people like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a host of others would not have had an example to model their lives after. In a word, without Douglass, there would have been a significant void in the struggle for equality. We all owe him a debt of gratitude.

I found myself keenly drawn to the life of Douglass because in some ways I have moved into the same space he once occupied. As I devoured Blight’s biography, I found myself asking the question, “How did Douglass not only leave such a seismic impact, but do so without becoming overwhelmed in the ocean of bitterness and cynicism?” This is a question everyone working in the area of racial equality and justice should ask. Douglass shows us the way:

1. His passion for racial equality emerged out of his personal pain in experiencing racial inequality. Douglass was a slave whose mother was black, and father was believed to be his white slave master. He was savagely beaten, denied the right to read (He eventually learned how to read in secrecy at great risk) and was found to be so obstinate as a slave that he was sent to an extraordinarily cruel slave master who specialized in “breaking,” disobedient slaves like Douglass. All of these events and more, show us a man in deep pain. And it was out of this pain that his passion to be a voice for the voiceless emerged.  Rick Warren had it right when he exhorted us to not waste our pain, but to channel it into our passions. No one is a better example of this on the stage of world history than Frederick Douglass. And many of the leaders in multiethnic ministry and racial equality have likewise experienced pain along the way at the hands of racial cruelty.

2. A contained fire. It was the prolific writer, James Baldwin, who once remarked, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all of the time.” One gets a sense of this reading the life and speeches of Douglass. He both spoke and wrote vehemently against injustice, outwitted whites who came to disrupt his messages and threw fists at those who threatened him.  No, Douglass was not a hot head, but his was more of a controlled rage, held neatly within the firepit of rich, nurturing relationships with whites. Frederick Douglass refused to demonize all whites, and along the way he made himself open and vulnerable to relationships with them. I think this decision more than any other kept the fire of his “rage” tamed within the confines of walking in fellowship with the ethnically other. This is what is needed in justice ministry.  We must feed on relationships, not just in general, but with those who represent the very ones we have a problem with. Without this, the flames of our pain will be a force for destruction and not for warmth and good.

August 7, 2018

Reflections From A Season of Rest

About a decade or so ago, our family made a decision that has turned out to be one of our best—to spend all of our vacation in one shot. Abundant Life has been gracious to allow us to continue this tradition, and we want to thank you. This summer was especially sobering, because it is our last full summer together as a family. Around this time next year, we will be sending our oldest son off to college, and thus will begin the steady, and prolonged “see-you-laters.”  If all goes according to script, 5 years from now, Korie and I will be empty nesters. It’s hard even writing that phrase.

So you can imagine as we began our vacation on the Big Island, we wanted things to move like those sea turtles we visited in the evenings as the sun was setting, slowly, so we could soak up every moment. Through the graciousness of a friend, we were able to enjoy Hawaii from his home overlooking the ocean. Our days were spent reading, golfing, swimming and enjoying the company of close friends who made the journey with us. A few days in, our family turned to each other and said this was the best vacation we ever had. The following weeks offered more of the same, just in different settings: A Christian camp in Texas. Sitting in the stands in a not-so-Christian place known as Las Vegas, cheering our youngest on as his team finished in the top eight of his national AAU tournament. Spending a weekend with one of my best friends, laughing and talking about Jesus. These are but a few of the gifts God gave us this summer.

As I prepare to re-engage Abundant Life for the next season of ministry, there’ve been a few things God has put on my heart:

  1. A renewed commitment to our value of “Going.” During my time away, I felt a constant nudging in my spirit to become more vocal about the gospel, both personally and at our church. God’s given me a vision for what this looks like in our body, and I can’t wait to share it. My prayer for us is not so much for opportunities—we don’t exactly live in the Bible belt—but for boldness. As I’ve prayed to become bolder this summer, I’ve seen God move in exciting ways.

  2. There’s a word I kept hearing for us as a church, and it’s the word “sticky.”  We’ve taken strides to be an equipping and sending church, but God also wants us to be a connecting church where we go deep with one another in community. When there is a sense of belonging, this is where the church becomes “sticky.” Later this month, for our state of the church address, I’ll share more vision about this.

  3. The third thing I both reflected on and took better strides in, is my health.  Korie, Quentin and I are getting into the world of CrossFit—and it’s killing us. Of course when I say “us,” I’m talking about the forty-somethings, and not our oldest who gets a kick out of watching our near-death experiences, as he floats through the workouts. Every year, I fuss more at Adam and his eating of the fruit that brought sin in the world. Paul was right when he said our bodies were wasting away. As a mentor once said to me, “Our ministries will only last as long as our bodies do.” Sage advice I’m trying to live by. Our family loves you all so much, and wants to steward well what God has given us so we can be with you all for a long time.