Last Thursday morning I was most keenly aware of the mystery of God’s mercy.
If the man had pointed his gun at Jenna’s car as she drove by that morning, her whole life would have changed in a split second. And my life. The life of her husband, her extended family, her friends—all changed.
E.J., a 21-year-old African American man, was shot and killed by police on Thanksgiving night at Alabama’s largest shopping mall, the crowded Riverchase Galleria Mall, near Birmingham, AL. He was mistaken by police as the gunman who had just shot others in the mall.
E.J. Bradford, Jr and his mother, April Pipkins (Courtesy Benjamin Crump)
Instead of E.J.’s family celebrating Christmas together this month, they attended his funeral, their lives forever changed, forever pained.
We are forced to live with mystery. Why this person? Why not that person? Why this and not that?
God doesn’t answer all our questions.
And human explanations fall inadequate.
Notice the Absence
But when bad things don’t happen?
Let’s notice these, too.
Notice when the car accident doesn’t happen.
Notice when the layoff skips over you.
Notice when the doctor doesn’t call with bad news.
Also on Jenna’s path Thursday morning was a police officer, two cars in front of her. He seemed in no particular hurry, not heading to any particular crime.
But upon seeing the man with the gun, the policeman immediately turned around and headed back toward the mailbox.
Police closed the road to further traffic. They arrested the man for shooting at passing vehicles. He was taken to the hospital for a cut on his arm and for a mental health evaluation.
photo credit: WHNT News 19
Jenna drove on.
She arrived safely at school that day, shaken, but unharmed. She could go about her normal routine. Spend it as an ordinary day.
So I could, too.
More things go right than go wrong. And we don’t notice.
When bad things could happen, but this time they didn’t, appreciate it.
As an Asian American, she erred much of her early life on the quiet side. But as she aged, she learned that silence carries a risk.
She shares in this book that as God’s creation, we aren’t meant to be silent. All of creation communicates, and we need to speak up, too.
“We all need to understand that voice, identity, and agency are given by God but often are underdeveloped or ignored in people on the margins. We need to be seen and heard.“
That doesn’t mean we become abrasive.
Speaking up should not create more divisions or cause more pain. To the contrary, “speaking up can be an avenue of truth and healing,” bringing injustice and sin to the forefront where it can be corrected.
“I choose to speak up, over and over again, even when it’s awkward because awkwardness is easier to overcome than allowing injustice to continue.”
How to Speak Up
Kathy shares a list of things to consider before we speak up, as we speak up, and after we speak up. Here are a few items from these sections.
Before You Speak Up:
Do your research
Prepare your talking points
While You Speak Up:
After You Speak Up:
Start all over again
Speak Up Online
But speaking up isn’t just for IRL situations. We use our voice again and again in online venues as well.
In the video I give you some of Kathy’s tips for online communication. (I originally shared this video on Monday’s post on 5 Books I Recommend.)
I recently joined a new Facebook group mentioned in Raise Your Voice called Be the Bridge to Racial Unity. It’s the online arm of Be the Bridge, a website dedicated to equipping racial bridge building in the church.
I’m currently one month into the three-month quiet stage of the Facebook group. For the first three months, you’re asked to do active listening there—no posting or commenting.
“Read. Watch. Learn. Feel. Examine yourself. Wrestle with God.”
This is good advice both for online interactions and in-real-life conversations. First listen. But then speak.
Whichever way we choose to speak up, this is a truth worth remembering:
“Speaking up is never about creating conflict or being disruptive just to shake things up and leave a mess. Speaking up is always about the gospel—speaking and painting a picture of truth, wholeness, and hope.”
Regardless of your natural tendency to speak up quickly or slowly, speak up wisely. That’s the best way to make a difference.
This is a sweet, poignant, coming-of-age (any age!) novel about two best friends navigating the 1950s and forward. First published in 1989, it was a top 100 pick this summer from PBS’ The Great American Novel. And deservedly so.
The first sentence:
“I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”
2. The Last Ballad
by Cash Wiley
This novel is inspired by the true life of Ella May Wiggins, an ordinary woman who stumbled into working for human rights for textile workers in 1929 in North Carolina. It’s hard, tender, surprising, and important. My nephew-in-law, Colton, recommended it to me months ago. I’m glad I finally got to it.
3. Raise Your Voice Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up
by Kathy Khang
There’s so much in this book about using your voice to talk about important issues. Regardless of who you are. Regardless of your platform or lack of one. Everybody has a voice and everybody is entitled to speak up.
4. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century
by Yuval Noah Harari
What’s happening to our world? Harari writes about 21 issues we all experience in various genres of our lives: political, technological, social, and religious.
I’m not sure if I feel scared or comforted after reading this book. But I do feel more informed, on issues such as artificial intelligence, immigration, spirituality, and more.
“Fear of the unknown can paralyze us more than any tyrant. . . . Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.”
5.Art of Focus 3 Easy Steps to Build a Life You Love and Control Your Time
by Curtis McHale
This is a great book of practical steps on making things happen (not just on setting goals). About finding your purpose, not just following your passion.
I’ve been reading McHale’s blog for awhile now. I find his book as likable and informative as his blog. McHale is authentic in sharing what works and what doesn’t work in managing your business (whatever that happens to be) while keeping your relationships healthy.
“If you’ve built a great business but have a broken marriage and relationships YOU’VE FAILED.”
The Radium Girls The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
by Kate Moore
Resist and Persist Faith and the Fight for Equality
by Erin Wathen
Remember Death The Surprising Path to Living Hope
by Matthew McCullough
The Line Becomes a River Dispatches from the Border
by Francisco Cantú
The Ministry of Ordinary Places Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You
by Shannan Martin