I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Every morning when I was growing up in rural America in the State of Virginia, our elementary classes began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. It’s just how we started our day. It was probably a recitation exercise to my little mind because I never gave it a lot of thought. As I have aged those words and what the pledge stands for means a great deal to me and it should for every American.
We have laws and documents that have governed our land for years, successfully I might add. A lot of thought and debate went into the writing of these laws and documents while hearing and addressing various opinions. That’s democracy at work for all the people. The ones chosen to pen these laws and documents were elected by the people and worked for the best interest of the people in order that everyone’s voice might be heard. Seems fair, right? Not all people can speak at the same time or have their individual opinions taken into account, so they choose the best elected official to be their collective voice. Overall, those voices are to be supported by their elected officials.
In this country, we have been able to write, hear, listen to and verbally voice our opinions due to the First Amendment on free speech, but recently I have come to notice that particular freedom is being limited. For the past four years I have decided not to mention how I feel politically about certain political issues. It was simply not worth having various individuals “take me to the mat” trying to correct, challenge or demean my ideas and beliefs. Whatever was said was not going to change my outlook and the argument would be to no avail.
But I now realize that combative mode of thinking is permeating our entire society. If you speak an opinion that isn’t what others want heard, get ready for your voice to be erased. In fact, many of you might not get to read what I am writing due to a possible algorithm devised to squelch this writing because I do not advocate these actions or behaviors. My censorship will read my writing isn’t in line with what “they” want printed. Exactly when did “they” become in charge of free speech?
One day as I was contemplating all that is currently swirling in the world today, God brought to mind Billy Graham. Do you realize when that man began his ministry and crusades, they were attended in record numbers while having no social media access? I don’t know if many television stations carried him at first, but slowly he became known on the radio and the word of his preaching spread like wildfire. His ministry continues today although he has gone to his eternal home.
I guess my culminating thought is this; it doesn’t matter if news outlets, book publishers, social media or even popular spokespersons try to shut those opinions that don’t coincide with their own. This country was founded on freedom; freedom to debate opposing views, freedom to start a business, freedom to worship, freedom to elect those who best represent our opinions and desires and freedom to speak our hearts and minds without the possibility of being punished. Every decent human being should know where to draw the line when implementing freedom with speech. We belong to a great country. It’s never been about one person or one political party. We are still under the authority, grace and mercy of Almighty God. May He forgive us for all the chaos running rampant, teach us to love more deeply our fellowman/woman, and heal our land physically and spiritually. God bless!
What is systemic racism and why have I been lumped into this category?
I have struggled with these new buzz words and the frequency with which I continually hear it used to describe a segment of Americans in today’s society. Evidently, this narrative applies to me since I happen to be Caucasian. Although I think it’s unfair to throw this portrayal around as if it has to be the main cause of countless problems in society today, I decided to find out exactly what it means and why I’m thrown into the category.
Always as a first step I go to Webster’s and see what another human has decided is the appropriate definition. Since systemic racism is not given in Webster’s on Google, I had to look at the words separately. Actually, I had to read what the NAACP quoted and various other organizations to know what they believed to be systemic racism. But what I uncovered dividing the words by definition follows:
Racism: “A belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” The two words underlined were emphasized in the definition, thus I decided to further my search.
Race: “Any one of the groups that humans are often divided based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry.” Okay, so that is any race, agreed?
Determinant: “An element that identifies or determines the nature of something or that fixes or conditions an outcome.” Wouldn’t your question now be, what particular element is the determinant that fixes or conditions an outcome? Once again I researched what an element’s definition would yield and the one that seemed to be appropriate was, “One of the factors determining the outcome of a process.” Again, I bumped into the question, who determines the element and what might that element be that sets this whole matter into motion?
Then I went back to the dictionary to get systemic defined and one of the definitions that jumped off the page to me was this, “affecting the body generally” because most of the explanations have to do with the body. Hang in there with me, if you will.
This is probably where I might lose some of you, but it is a belief deep within my soul. The body needs to work together. Before I further explain those statements, I want to be very truthful. I was raised in the south and I’m proud of where I come from….my parents were hard working blue collar employees. We attended church every Sunday. Dad and mom helped run a bus ministry in order to bring children to church that otherwise would not be able to attend. As a result, their parents sometimes would begin attending. We were taught to love people. I was never sat down and told people of color were to be treated differently. There weren’t a lot of girls I that I grew up with who attained four year college degrees. In fact, it was a big deal when people my parent’s age had a high school diploma.
After working with an engineering firm for a few years following two years in a community college, I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in teaching. It took ten years, full time and part time with a husband and children to see that degree in my hands. I wasn’t given any monetary assistance. My husband and I bore the burden of paying for that degree and we have done the same with our two children. Our children were never asked “if” you go to college, we always used the word “when” you go to college. That desire came from within. I didn’t blame anyone for not helping with my education, I wanted it so badly I kept at it and paid for it monthly for years.
Yes, I know it’s been more difficult for those of color in this nation in times gone by, but now in this present age, there’s no reason why anyone can’t get an education. There are loans at low interest rates and why should anyone expect the government to pay for higher education? In today’s society there are countless people of color making millions of dollars due to being an actor/actress; politics; sports figures; on talk shows and news outlets. They are writers, teachers, lecturers and on we can go because they wanted to succeed and kept working towards that goal.
Schools are no longer segregated and the teachers who stand in front of the classroom are of various skin colors. I’m proud to be an American and to have the heritage I possess. It’s made me who I am today, a woman of integrity that loves my family, runs a ministry and loves the Lord Jesus.
One last point…let’s go back to the definition that systemic “affects the body”. This time I will explain its effect on the Body of Christ. Delving into scripture, my source for living, the Bible states:
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
New International Reader's Version
One Body but Many Parts
12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. 13 We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so, we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. 14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts.
15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So, I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So, I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor. The private parts aren’t shown. But they are treated with special care. 24 The parts that can be shown don’t need special care. But God has put together all the parts of the body. And he has given more honor to the parts that didn’t have any. 25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.
We are equally a part of the body of Christ. We can’t all be eyes, hands, or feet. We can’t all be seen, in fact, while of us will never speak in public it doesn’t mean we are not as important as those that do. A house divided against itself cannot stand. We need unity. We need to work together. We need to go forward and not continue to look over our shoulders at what should have been, could have been or might have been. We are America. It’s time we start praying for our Maker, the Creator God, to shed His Light, His Truth, and His Way on our journey of life.
I have been desiring to ask this question for quite some time regardless of your personal upbringing or religious beliefs.
So, let me know by messaging me on Facebook or as a comment to this blog your answer as to who do you say God is....I am very interested to hear from you. It can be one word, a scripture verse, a personal experience that led you to think the way you do about God or something that occurred in your youth that has shaped your thinking regarding God.
Jesus asked this question to his disciples regarding their definition of the Son of Man....if you would like to share your thoughts on the Son of Man please feel free.
Matthew 16:13-20 NIV.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
As the New Year is only a few hours away, I sit with my computer wondering what I could possibly share that might be of encouragement to my faithful readers and supporters. Suggesting you make a list of resolutions would be useless because we all know a viable list doesn't survive 30 days. So, how might we begin this year? Instead of clicking glasses full of wine at midnight, how about going before the Lord in prayer and asking that He might direct our decisions?
Or what about reading a verse of scripture each morning or share a quick prayer with your children before they head off to school and/or your hubby before he goes to work? If you are retired, maybe pray each morning over a cup of coffee; call a shut-in once a week, or perhaps have a friend over for coffee (once the vaccines are distributed). There is always a few moments to think outside the box and reach out and touch someone (remember that song)....which might mean more than you can imagine to the recipient.
If you have other suggestions I would love to hear them. Please share if you have a few moments and maybe there would be a great idea for me as I, also, head on a new year journey right beside you!
If there are prayer requests, please don't hesitate to send them. Gary and I pray each morning together with our cups of coffee! We would love to pray for you.
God bless and Happy New Year!
Gary & Cookie White
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying,
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I often comment in the fall of the year how much I don't like living in the dark. Until the 21st of December when we experience the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year in hours of daylight) the days turn dark much too early for me. Gradually after December 21st, we start seeing signs of each day lengthening and the prove my point, I asked Alexa (our wifi device) the time sunset occurs for several days beginning after the 21st. And yes, sunset occurs a little later each day.
Now there is a point I am making and I hope you stick with me. Here it is....I don't think it's any coincidence we celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom scripture has referred to many, many times as the Light of the World, after the 21st when light enters our world a little more each day. Yes, I do know that we don't know the exact time of his birth nor the exact date, but Christians have celebrated the 25th of December for a very long time. There could be other explanations and reasonings that concur or disagree with this particular date, but to me it makes perfect sense to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, at the time when the light begins to dispel the darkness.
Jesus has brought the light of his presence into a dark world.
Genesis, Chapter 1:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Psalm 18:28 “For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.”
Micah 7:8 “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.”
Father, bring the Light of Your Son, Jesus, into our hearts and homes as we enter into another year. May we bring honor and glory to Your Name, Amen!
Luke 2: 4-7, NIV
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Looks a little different when you see animals feeding from a trough like the one pictured above and you remember the Son of God being laid in a similar place, doesn't it? There is not one among us that would envision giving birth in a barn and having our newborn swaddled and placed in a feeding trough. We find it impossible not to have access to a sterile environment with doctors and nurses coming in and out the delivery room wearing fresh gowns, masks, gloves and handing sterilized equipment.
But our Lord left his home in glory and came to earth wearing human skin and taking on the form of a servant from the onset of his ministry. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords didn't have a castle, nor did he have an entire staff of medical personnel waiting to deliver him. Oh, but the significance of every piece of the Christmas story told countless times since its inception.
The most important piece of this story is the fact that the Bread of Heaven, Jesus Christ, was born in the town of Bethlehem called the House of Bread and was laid in a feeding trough, a manger, where animals came to feed. The Bread of Heaven illustrated moments after his physical birth that he came so that we might be fed spiritually. All we need to do is come to the table, the trough (if you will), and partake in the only One who has the power to save our souls from eternal damnation. His whole purpose in coming was to teach us about His Father and to become the sinless, perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
But there's more....the emphasis of bread. We know that bread has properties that our bodies need for nourishment and growth. In fact, I would dare say every family has at least some type of bread within their homes; bread for sandwiches, rolls for dinner, biscuits for breakfast, cinnamon buns, and on the list could go.
When we go into a restaurant, what is usually one of the first things that is placed on our table as we await the waitress or waiter with the menus? Bread. Bread represents generosity and is a sign of welcome. And who can resist that warm bread with butter when it comes to the table? Don't we sometimes ask for it when it isn't brought out immediately? And that aroma...no wonder we're told when we want to sell our homes and potential buyers and coming to place a loaf of bread to bake in the oven! It is welcoming and fills people with visions of a warm inviting home.
Why is that? Because Bread of Heaven relates many examples in scripture of the emphasis of its importance. Abraham, told Sarah when three visitors came to share the news Sarah would give birth to the promised heir, to get the finest flour and bake bread for their visitors. It was an extension of generosity and a spirit of welcome. Remember the manna (bread) God provided daily through the forty years of wandering by the Israelites? Or the lunch of fish and bread the young boy offered when the crowd of 5,000 men, not including women and children, needed to eat? Jesus not only fed their spiritual bodies through his teachings that day, but he met their physical need.
And we must not forget the words of the The Lord's Prayer, "give us this day our daily bread" or the words spoken during the Last Supper by Jesus, "this (bread) is my body broken for you" before he was crucified.
Bread, such a wonderful reminder today....found within our homes on a daily basis, spoken of in our prayers and a blessing over our meals, points us to the Savior of the World, the Bread of Life....the One who was laid in a manger...a feeding trough to foreshadow the feast he continues to prepare for all those who will come to the table free of charge....and the benefit? Eternal life.
So this week, as you gather with your family, or perhaps for the first time without a family gathering due to the COVID situation, take bread you have in your home and lift it high and give thanks to the Bread of Heaven, the Bread of Life for sustaining our physical bodies and nourishing our spiritual souls.
Regardless of what is happening around us...God hasn't lost sight of us. His Son is alive and well and is waiting to inhabit our hearts, our minds, our thoughts and every facet of our being. Let's make 2021 a year to remember. May God break out a revival of such great proportions the rocks cry out! May no one go hungry for the Bread of Life multiples and never runs dry!
Hallelujah, Christ has come!
Gary & Cookie White
Moving forward from the setting of Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, scripture reports when Mary and Joseph arrived in this little town no room was available at the local inn. Due to a major census initiated by Herod all those of the line of David (blood relatives) were to be registered in Bethlehem in the flesh. Without an iPhone, GPS, or a computer, hotel registrations were only made once you arrived at the inn. Unfortunately, the only place offered to Mary and Joseph upon their arrival was the stable out back where the animals were housed.
Being at the point of delivering her baby, Mary and Joseph welcomed the chance to have a place to rest and it was during that time the birth of Jesus Christ took place. Now imagine, if you can, this is basically a barn with animals and hay. No doctor or midwife is present. While I know babies have been born at the entrance of tunnels in Pittsburgh, the side of the road and various other peculiar places, I sometimes can't wrap my head around a barn, a bed of straw, incredible labor pains and my hubby delivering our child after traveling on the back of a donkey for days! But from the very beginning, God had a plan that included Jesus being born of humble birth. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords wasn't born in a castle with an entire floor set up as a hospital with numerous medical personnel in attendance. He wasn't ushered into this world surrounded by the elite or wealthy. He came quietly and without fanfare in order to relate to all people everywhere. If I could predict a skin color I would think a combination of all the skin colors in the world...red and yellow, black and white, just like the song, "Jesus Loves the Little Children" expresses would be the color worn by the Savior of the World. And here is the Bread of Heaven, born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, and laid the only place available, but not without meaning....in a feeding trough.
Next....a feeding trough that held the Bread of Heaven....
Bethlehem…the setting of the Christmas Story
Let's begin with the setting for our Christmas story. We read yesterday of the account from Isaiah concerning the predicted birth of Christ. In fact, the actual date of recorded messages concerning the birth of Christ ranges from 1450 B.C. to 430 B.C. That's 400-1000 years before Christ's birth. Inspired by God to write not only the blessed message that the Messiah was coming but also the location of his birth, Isaiah and other prophets were integral messengers of this precious Word! Seems impossible, doesn't it? The span of time from the initial prediction to the actual birth of the Messiah? And not one fact written in multiple accounts contradicts another!
Back to the setting....Bethlehem. As Chapter 2 of Luke states, Caesar Augustus, a Roman emperor, desired a census to be taken. Although Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, they needed to make this pilgrimage to Joseph's hometown, because "he was of the house and lineage of David"...in other words, Joseph was a descendant of King David and he needed to return to David's ancient home in Bethlehem of Judea to be counted in the census. Now comes the interesting part that maybe we have overlooked. We all know that Mary was about to give birth. If you are a female and have given birth, or if you are a father and have dealt with a nine month pregnant woman, let's think about this.
Bethlehem is 5 miles south of Jerusalem. That's approximately a 68.9 mile trip. Now before you think it's only a 90 minute drive, let's remember they are traveling by foot with a donkey and a very, very pregnant woman. There were two routes they could take to get to their destination. The first route, the shortest one, would have them traveling through Samaria. This is a terrain full of hills and hostile Samaritans who didn't particularly care for Jews. Plus the added fact that having Mary walk up and down hills or Joseph pulling that donkey up hills...well, they decided for the second route.
This particular route would have been safer and more comfortable, but more distance. Probably this one was southeast through Jezreel Valley and east to the Jordan Valley. Although you'd need a map to follow this frame of reference, they would go south to Jericho, through the Judean Desert to Jerusalem and then arrive in Bethlehem. Total distance at this point, 90 miles. Scholars have predicted this to be a 4-7 day trip....not an hour by air conditioned car with comfortable leather seats. And Mary was at the point of delivery! When I was ready to deliver child number one, I could not stand the car going over small bumps. I can't imagine riding on a donkey and enduring that hardship! But God provided Mary with the ability to sustain that trip so scripture would be fulfilled.
Bethlehem....a little Judean town....sort of like a suburb of Jerusalem. Micah 5:2 says, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." Bethlehem...whose Hebrew name means "house of bread" was the town in which the Bread of Life was born to man.
Isn't that just like our Father in Heaven? He takes the lowly and lifts them up, He sent Jesus to serve and not to be served, He taught us how to wash one another's feet by giving to others and providing for one another, but most of all....He gave us His gift of Love....His Son, Jesus Christ!
Bethlehem....even the place of Christ's birth teaches us about the nature of God!
Blessings, my friends!
O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth
It's amazing what you re-discover as you clean out your bookshelf! Among the books I found (again) was one entitled, Devotions for Christmas. These are short devotionals centering around our pivotal Christian event, the birth of Jesus Christ. I had to share with you something that resonated with me and I hope you can use this little "nugget" throughout your day.
"We do not need to create something extraordinary for God to show up. He sent angels to shepherds in a field. Zechariah, a priest, was performing his duties in the temple when the angel Gabriel appeared to him. Jesus' first disciples were fishing when they were called to follow Him. Do you see a pattern? God shows Himself to ordinary people who are doing ordinary things. He knows where to find us, and when He does, beautiful things happen."
Here's to beautiful things happening in our lives this day!
Judith "Cookie" White is the founder of The Sounding Board Ministry. She is the author of two devotional books which are available on this site.