MH900090477Still thinking about Martin Luther King Jr., I remembered my favorite lines from his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, to over 200,000 civil rights supporters:

I have a dream that my four 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.

What stuck me this year about this quote was that it’s not just about race relations. It’s not just an inspiring quote to drag out once a year to honor a great man or to stir the crowd at a civil rights rally. It applies to how each of us lives . . . every day.

Jesus said, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24 NIV).

Until recently, I sometimes found this to be hard. I mean, I’m not a particularly prejudiced person. I have learned that–under the skin–we are all the same in a lot of ways. However, there are times when a person’s outward appearance is pretty hard to overlook!

Recently, I stumbled upon a helpful strategy for relating to annoying, embarrassing people. (I’m sure the Holy Spirit had something to do with it.) I learned to back off momentarily and consider the person’s spirit. Seeing genuine kindness in a toothless, unkempt woman, and enthusiasm in a motor-mouthed man, had a surprising effect on my attitude toward them. I actually started to . . . kind of like them.

And that’s how God sees us, thankfully. He sees our hearts. He sees something good in each of our hearts. When we give our lives to Christ, we are capable of the same love for others.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28 NIV).

Dr. King followed the cadences (and one phrase) from this scripture in the last paragraph of his speech:

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Click on these links to read or hear all of Martin Luther King’s world-changing speech.


CHRISTMAS: Glitter and Feed Troughs and a GIVEAWAY

MangerWhen I visited Israel in June, I was disappointed to find that most of the sites I really wanted to see were covered up by a church. Where was the cave-stable where Jesus supposedly was born? Somewhere under the floor of the Church of the Nativity—only a bit of the rock visible through an ornate peep-hole in the floor. Then there was the Church of the Multiplication, built around a mound of rock where Jesus probably laid the loaves and fishes before multiplying them. There was a Church of the Sepulchre, a Chapel of the Ascension . . . you get the picture.

I got a grip on my irritation by considering that the millions of pilgrims and tourists flocking these holy places would probably have worn them down by now, if they had not been protected by buildings.

Then my fellow tour group members, Agnes and Cienne, gave me a new perspective. These two sisters (both in their 80’s, I understand) were Catholic women, originally from Haiti. Whenever we walked by a church, our two Haitian/American friends went AWOL. They could be found inside, in sincere adoration. Guess the ornate woodwork and stained glass weren’t meant to hide, but to celebrate, the glory Jesus had brought to that ordinary place.

But I still wish I could see the rough cave where Jesus was born and a manger (feed-trough) like the one that became his cradle. Come to think of it, I did once–kind of. It happened when my son was born right before Christmas. The Nativity meant so much to me that year as I marveled that my newborn babe would someday be . . . what? Something amazing, no doubt.

I read and re-read the Christmas story in Luke and Matthew. Each time, I captured some of the awe and hope of that birth that was even more momentous than the one I was experiencing. That December the usual presents and decorations and holiday meals brought me special satisfaction because my heart knew what we were celebrating.

Every year, millions of us look to the glitter and excitement of the season to bring us joy. It’s like trying to be as happy as everyone else at a victory celebration . . . even though we didn’t watched the game.

This Christmas, how about peeling back the layers of holiday traditions and getting a heart-full of the Babe in the manger? Let the radiance of heaven-come-to-earth shine in your heart. That’s what the glitter of the season points to.


Please share your experiences and thoughts about a meaningful Christmas. If you do that today, you will be entered in a drawing for a chance to receive an autographed copy of Friend of Angels. The winner will be announced TOMORROW (December 20). If you win, you may receive it after Christmas–to extend your celebration by reading about what probably happened after Jesus’ birth. (If you prefer to buy one now to give as a gift, please follow this link.)


Still Fresh and New

For how long does a prized possession stay new? It depends . . . right?

Several months ago I ordered a high-speed blender to make smoothies. It was so shiny and new that I hated the thought of letting water spots collect on it. After using it, I immediately cleaned it, per instructions, and toweled it completely dry—even pushing the towel through the hollow handle to catch the drops there. All this, before drinking my smoothie.

I wondered how long I would keep doing this. . . Well, it’s been three months now and my blender—which sits in plain view on my kitchen counter—still looks brand new. I’m beginning to believe that it will continue to shine for years to come.

It reminds me of a statement about Christian living that I’ve heard all my life: “You can’t expect to live on the mountaintop.” I take exception to that. Even as a child I noticed Christians whose peace, love, and joy seemed fresh all the time. They lived in the valley of real life like the rest of us, but they carried a mountaintop on the inside.

In Revelation 3:14-20, Jesus let the church of Laodicea know they were lukewarm—and he didn’t like it. How many of us have become lukewarm followers of Christ? . . . You mean, that’s not normal? You mean, that’s not to be expected?

Apparently not. Evidentally, it is possible to stay fresh and new in our relationship with the Lord. Do you like the sound of that? I do!

So what’s the key? Well, a big one is in verse 20 of Jesus’ message to the Laodiceans:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Wow! He’s not banging the door down to come in and read us the riot act. He’s knocking in hopes we’ll let him in . . . so he can share a meal with us . . . get re-acquainted . . . show us that he misses us.

Making It Personal

  • If your relationship with God is pretty dull, what will make it shine again? Languishing in a prison of guilt? Or letting him help you back on course?
  • Are you real and honest with God? Without that, your heart will not really belong to him.
  • Are you living from a glad heart that wants to please God and knows he rooting for you? Or is your heart crushed by the rocks of fear-that-God-is-upset-with-me and anxious-striving-to-do-what-is-right? Or the rock of what’s-the-use-anyway–it-just-doesn’t-work-for-me?