66 Assurance Way: Pressing towards the Mark in 2017

By Greg Silverthorne

“But allow me to offer a little bit of hope, a reminder of what the soul actually is and how it is constructed and valued. 

It is not external, it is internal.  It is not made, it is given.  It is not earned, it is instilled.  It is not of humanity, it is of God.

And as such, it is not subject to the changing winds of culture or politics.   It is more stable, more lasting, and more resilient than anything else we possess”. [Emphasis added]  

Rev. Noah Van Niel (11/13/2016)


John14As I approached the 3rd anniversary of this blog (Sept 21, 2016), I had envisioned an Anniversary Series beginning in late September – and ending by December 21st.  So much for my grand plans. Smile.

On December 20th I published a post that captured a lot of what had happened on and since the November 8th Elections. “When Hate Arrives, Silence is Tacit Approval” One Man’s Story” was surely an example of faith in action!

The results of the Elections exactly 2 months ago, and many events (good and bad) since then, caused me to postpone the launch of the Series – to mid-January.  The silence is tacit approval post, along with the first post of 2017 (“Sermon Says: Hopefulness, God’s Presence, and Racial Harmony”), are posts I felt deeply called to do.  The young Priest , Rev. Noah Van Niel, featured in the Sermon Says post is a phenomenally eloquent and empathetic man of God!  The words that led this post are from that Sermon by the way.  When I first read the Sermon he delivered -the Sunday after Elections- I was immediately moved . . . and knew I had to share his profound perspective on the soul as a Christian’s stronghold. 

66AssuranceWay blogger


While I’ve written in the last 3+ years on topics beyond spiritual encouragement and Gospel music, like worklife/career issues, I’ve generally avoided blogging on politics.  Notice the tag cloud in the right sidebar. I haven’t done a lot of deep blogging on race issues.  However, the events of the last 2 months, including some enlightening dialogues (and deep self reflection), have been unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 55 ½ years on this planet as an African-American!  As bad as things look at times, I trust that ‘all things will work together for the good’ (Romans 8:28).  I trust that God will keep being a Way Maker, and not forsake me, you, or any abiding Christian.

  • Silver linings?  Yes.  I’ve personally seen, and helped others see, the racial dynamic of the US in a more nuanced way.   As well I’ve seen some extraordinary actions that caused me to NOT loss faith in humanity; my faith in God remains changed!  So, in the words of the late Maya Angelou, I will -from time to time- be a ‘trailing wisp of glory’ in shining light on a dark place in America – race relations.  I have accepted your assignment God!

That said, I will continue to blog about Christian assurance, gospel music, worklife issues, and spiritual encouragement & empowerment.

  • I will publish a post that I first envisioned just after Labor Day next weekend.  The story behind a lead singer for the Mississippi Mass Choir (Mosie Burks) is one I love!  Like Tiffany Joy (singing “Amazing” with Ricky Dillard), Burks is an anointed singer with an intriguing life story.

Greg Silverthorne, 66 Assurance Way

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Sermon Says: Hopefulness, God’s Presence, & Racial Harmony

If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality

that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be.”

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Keeping the Courage to Be: Your Hopes, Your Dreams

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am personally the victim of deferred dreams, of blasted hopes, but in spite of that . . . I still have a dream, because, you know, you can’t give up in life. If you lose hope, somehow you lose that vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of all. And so today I still have a dream. I have a dream that one day men will rise up and come to see that they are made to live together as brothers”. [Emphasis added]

These words are from the last Christmas Sermon (December 1967) that King delivered, prior to his assassination in 1968. The importance of having hope and having dreams are expressed in this sermon by the embattled civil rights leader.   Racial harmony is based in all people really ‘living together as brothers’.   Therefore, simply uttering the word Unity in a single speech doesn’t mean that a diverse, divided country is magically transformed!  In the 1960s, when I was a young child living in New York, or now.

Sadly, in 2017, nearly fifty years after the death of MLK from an assassin’s bullet, we’re still a nation that judges people too often on their color – not their character.   Men of God like the other man who I showcase in this post, Rev. Noah Van Niel, give me hope that MLK’s dream is still possible.  A deferred dream, not an impossible dream.  

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Your Soul: A Stronghold Against Hate and Fear

Rev. Noah Van Niel

But allow me to offer a little bit of hope, a reminder of what the soul actually is and how it is constructed and valued. It is not external, it is internal. It is not made, it is given. It is not earned, it is instilled. It is not of humanity, it is of God. And as such, it is not subject to the changing winds of culture or politics. It is more stable, more lasting, and more resilient than anything else we possess. Our lives are liable to be molded and shaped by all sorts of forces beyond our control. But our soul—that bit of God that resides in each of us—is unchanging in that it is always pure, and righteous and good and it is always there no matter how much hatred, or anger, or worry, or fear is piled on top of it. And it will, always, have the last word”. [Emphasis added]

In that God has the final say, your soul will have “the last word”.  Period.  End of discussion.  This powerful Sermon was delivered on the Sunday after the recent Elections (11/13/16) by Rev. Van Niel.  I thank my friend Thomas, who I profiled in “When Hate Arises, Silence is Tacit Approval: One Man’s Story, for bringing this Sermon to my attention.  I’ve personally thanked Rev. Van Niel for delivering a message I, and many others, needed to hear!

The eloquence and empathy of this young, white Priest was one of the most calming things I experienced in the days after the candidate I didn’t vote for won.  To this fifty-something Black man in NC (yes, NC . . . Pray for me!), God knew I needed something compelling, spiritual, and anointed to deal with the changes I was enduring.  Reflecting on this Priest’s words was part of my own post-election strategy to not loss hope – when the candidate I voted for lost (in the Electoral College).  

God’s presence in our souls is something no Christian should take for granted.  Your soul is a stronghold like no other!


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Strategies for Dealing with Life’s Storms

Leslie Vernick

The sermons of Dr. King and Rev. Van Niel serve as a foundation for the insightful strategies which Leslie Vernick offers.   In times of disappointment and discouragement, even the most abiding Christians may feel like they can’t go on.  Sermons, without specific coping strategies, may not have had the impact the Lord desired for this post today – my first in 2017.   

In “5 Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You” Vernick offers some spiritual steps that you can take when facing disappointment.   They are in my humble Christian opinion a very good complement to the pulpit-delivered words of King and Van Niel.   

  • After offering four ways that abiding Christians can be discouraged, Vernick offers “five (5) steps you can take when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up“.   With ‘the God in you’ that is your soul, with ‘that courage to be’, and your dreams, you CAN deal with tough times like a champion.  You can go on!   The steps, described poignantly in her article, are:

1. Be honest.

2. Take care of your body.

3. Pay attention to your thought life.

4. Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time

5. Press close into God


Link to full Sermons:

 


Our soul—that bit of God that resides in each of us— is

unchanging . . . and good and it is always there no matter how much

hatred, or anger, or worry, or fear is piled on top of it”.

Rev. Noah Van Niel



Photo credits:

Bible – honorbound/fickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson & Rev. King – U.S. Embassy New Delhi/flickr  (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Cross – Dave King/flickr  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When Hate Arises, Silence is Tacit Approval: One Man’s Story

If you are neutral in situations of injustice,

you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Desmond Tutu

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Watching the election results 8 years ago (2008) with my smiling, 76-year old father, seeing the election of the first Black U.S. President together, was a day I remember very fondly. Watching last month’s Elections (2016), given the character, campaign behavior, and temperament (alone) of the man who won, I was quite disgusted.  A 180 degree difference in my emotional reaction to two Presidential elections.

Unbeknownst to me, a 55-year old African-American man (Greensboro NC), a white, Boston friend of mind was in Atlanta on business on November 8th. Thomas, a friend and classmate (Brown University), was clearly -based on our text message exchanges- as disgusted with the outcome as I was!  However, those at the Georgia bar beside him on Election Night were elated – and engaged in a hate-laden celebration. The story he later shared with me, 4 days after the Election, is one I felt I needed to share with others.


He watched the election results while he was having dinner at a hotel bar in Atlanta GA. He was sitting in a room filled with Trump enthusiasts who were getting increasingly drunk, loud, and hateful (words) as it became increasingly more apparent that the man they’d backed, not Hillary Rodham Clinton, would win. The loud men in the bar weren’t locals, but out of towners from places like Texas attending a conference.

Finally the guy sitting next to Thomas, who was tall and ‘built like a retired football lineman’ my friend said, crossed the line, saying racist and misogynist things he felt he could NOT tolerate.  Some of the man’s fiery rage he told me was directed at First Lady Michelle Obama.  By the way, the married father of two would never be mistaken for a football player . . . or a NBA player for that matter.

They got into a pretty heated verbal exchange when my friend could not remain silent any longer.  He told me:

He asked me where I was from and I told him Boston, where we judge people by the content of their character not the color of their skin, their religion, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation.

In response to this he then yelled out “we have ourselves here a Yankee liberal”.  I ‘dressed him and all other Trump supporters down’ by calling them out for looking the other way on the hateful things which [the Republican nominee] had done; I rattled off a large number of hateful things that Trump had said or done. I told him my issue was less with Trump and more with his followers “like you” who now feel entitled to speak hatefully, as he had been doing for the previous 5 minutes.

Thomas was eventually able to end his verbal exchange with the ranting man without getting into a physical fight.

My friend went on to tell me later:

I had my chance to let off steam by calling out xenophobia, misogyny and racism. The hateful rhetoric then ceased.  I had made a bit of a scene so I went over and apologized, not for what I said, but apologized if I had caused her any problems with my making a scene.  The hotel manager pulled me aside . . . She said that she appreciated my calling him out and ending the hurt. The young black woman said that I represented her entire staff, who were all minorities except one white man.  Some of whom were in tears when the room of white Trump supporters started saying hateful things.

The hotel manager appreciated what he’d just done.  She actually gave Thomas a complimentary room upgrade to an executive suite.  Seems like, for this Good Samaritan, there was a better ‘room at the inn’ for his getting in the rowdy, hateful man’s face.

Frankly, I was impressed with what my friend chose to do that night. He risked getting hit or injured, or perhaps having to hit the man!  One of them could have left there ‘horizontal’ – for a trip to a hospital emergency room!  When I asked him about his motivations to do what he did, he stated:

While I will try my hardest to be respectful of Mr. Trump when he Is president, I will not listen in silence to hateful talk.  Silence is tacit approval”.

No doubting Thomas here!


He responded to a public situation he deemed to be intolerable.  Many I suspect would have kept their mouth shut or just left the bar altogether.  Sadly, hundreds of acts of hate have occurred in the 42 days since the Election. Thankfully the man I showcased in this post, just there eating dinner and watching TV in the Southern bar, chose to speak up – on behalf of the bar workers who were hearing the Trump enthusiasts that night.  My friend, in the presence of all of them, stood up to one of them directly – a loud, vulgar man running his big mouth.

  • My friend Thomas knew what was right and what he believed and didn’t hesitate to act on these beliefs. How would you have responded?
  • The twins of Love and Kindness can do a lot to offset Hate.
  • Sometimes people, be they morally-grounded people or abiding Christians, need to make split-second decisions to stand up against injustice. Some choose to speak up and assist; others choose to avoid. The words of Desmond Tutu, about the impact on justice of one’s neutrality, and the fearless Boston man whose story I’ve shared, “Silence is tacit approval”, are both powerful food for thought.  In the next post in this race relations series, more powerful words, from a gifted Episcopal Priest in the Boston MA area, will be featured. They speak to the role of one’s soul as a stronghold against hate and bigotry.

Greg Silverthorne

66 Assurance Way (12/20/16)


Photo credit: Via Tsuji/flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4 Habits of God-fearing Christian Voters (2016 Election Results)

 

The way to God


We’re often reminded to ask ourselves, when we’re at a critical juncture, this simple question: What Would Jesus Do? Frankly, as I’ve reflected on the 2016 US Presidential candidate who was declared the winner, I’ve mused on a similar question: How Would Jesus Vote?  The spiritual voice in my head keeps telling me firmly that the man who prevailed on Election Day wouldn’t have been Christ’s choice.

  • If you feel as I do, this post is for you.  Can we talk?

While our faith in some of our fellow citizens may have been badly battered, we can’t let our faith in the Almighty waver.  We can’t. Scripture tells us that when we’re weak, he’s strong.  In times like these, strive to find comfort in those who voted like you . . . and the one who walks with you and me and ‘makes our path straight’. Acknowledge the Almighty, even on those days when you turn on the TV and see something about politics that makes you want to scream or cry.

  • To put it simply, when abiding Christians are presented with a mountain, they must trust that they’ll have the power to climb the unclimbable. They know they’re not climbing alone.

Four Habits for dealing with your Post-election mountain

How can you successfully deal with the huge mountain that the events of the last 35 days, and the campaign season which preceded it? There are 4 habits, four steps to climb the political/societal mountain that you, I, and those who voted for one of the defeated candidates should practice.

  1. Stay: Don’t flee and run from a challenging situation.   When you do choose to stay, be engaged, not paralyzed due to indecision – like a deer in a car’s headlights.  Those deers don’t fare very well, do they?   Stay engaged and face the situation at hand.
  2. Pray: If you do, a way to deal with the giant may be divinely revealed to you.   Guess what?   With some help from Him, you may even be able to take down the giant without casting a single stone!   The Lord doesn’t utter ‘void words’! (Isaiah 55:11).
  3. Slay: If you haven’t run or avoided asking the Lord for help, you’ll be in a far better position to deal with the situation – slay the giant.   Your ‘walking buddy’ will not leave or forsake you.  David (1 Samuel 17) knew this! You and I should too, right?

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The 4th Habit is about what you can do for OTHERS.

  • Assist others, don’t avoid or abuse them.

This is based in the well-known Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 – 37).   A Sermon my Pastor (Dr. Rev. James A. Webster) gave on September 18th on this parable revealed how people in life, when faced with ‘man lying on the side of the road’ situations, generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. Assisters (the category God wants abiding Christians to be in)
  2. Avoiders (crossing to the other side of the road)
  3. Abusers

You may be asking now: Who might be someone needing an assisting, Good Samaritan like me? Three groups of people come to mind:

  1. People who are the victims of post-election hate, racism, bigotry, or anti-immigrant hatred. You may be able to assist such people in a way that they’ll never forget. Ever!
  2. Like-minded Christians who need to be reminded to stay, pray, and slay. If this is a racially-diverse group, this has the potential to be mutually beneficially. There is great power in knowing that people who don’t look like you DO share similar feelings.  Even if they aren’t very religious, the things you hear from spiritually-grounded, moral people may make their day – or yours.
  3. Someone who voted for the man who was the victor, but who is now having reservations about the voting choice they made 5 weeks ago. This may be the toughest group to work with. However, what you do could change how they vote and live forever.  You may be the designated angel to convey the benefits of studying the Bible and using the What Would Jesus Do question to guide their life – and future election choices.

I can speak to the amazing power of interacting with those in the second group.   In the next post on this blog I will share a story of someone who helped people (1st group) who were the victims of racist and misogynistic rants.  Who says Good Samaritans only happen in the Bible?

  • A New England businessman, in a rowdy Southern bar on Election Night, got more than he could stand.

Peace be with you.

Greg Silverthorne

66 Assurance Way

 

Under the Umbrella: You ain’t alone! (Christian Faith)

“I command you to move today.
Because of faith, I have a brand new day.
The sun will shine, and I will be okay.
That’s when I told the storm!”


  • In the aftermath of the 2016 Elections, this gospel gem came to mind.  I love this song!  The lyrics are excerpted below.
  • At a time when it seems a storm of hate (not love) is rampant in the USA, I know that the Heavenly Father is under the umbrella with every abiding Christian who faces (or is at risk of facing) hateful or violent acts and talk – because of their race, immigration status, or religion.  Where is the love?
  • When God speaks, be assured he will tell the current national storm of hate and bigotry we’re facing to go away.  The battle isn’t your’s, it’s the Lord’s!  

  • Meditate on the lyrics and audio of Greg O’Quin ‘n Joyful Noyze’s song, “I Told the Storm”; this YouTube has over 21 million views by the way (that’s not a typo).  Know, like the 3 Hebrew boys in the fiery furnace, you ain’t alone. God’s there too!
  • Pray everyday for a cease in the ugly storms we’ve faced all over this nation (since Trump won).  What are you telling the storm?

Even though your winds blow.
I want you to know.
You cause me no alarm.
Cause I’m safe in his arms.

I command you to move today.
Because of faith, I have a brand new day.
The sun will shine, and I will be okay.
That’s when I told the storm!

Death can’t shake me!
Jobs can’t make me!
Bills can’t break me!
Disease can’t shake me!
You can’t drown me!
Cause my God surrounds me!  
That’s what I told the storm?

Hate can’t shake you!

Racism can’t break you!

 66 Assurance Way


Harmony, not hate and ‘darkness’ (M.L. King)

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate,
violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness
in a descending spiral of destruction….
The chain reaction of evil —
hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars —
must be broken,
or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968)
Strength To Love speech, 1963

 5332424980_cfecb39780Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson & Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964)


You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:43-45a (NASB)


Photo credit:

Signing of Civil Rights Act (7/2/64):  U.S. Embassy New Delhi/flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. (8/28/63) : ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech


Today is the ANNIVERSARY of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous I Have a Dream speech (transcript) . . . delivered on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.


“I have a dream that my four little children will one day

live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin

but by the content of their character”.

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1964)

August 28, 1963