Malcolm Tyree

A collection of thoughts on things that matter

Archive for the month “May, 2014”

12 years in 12 days (part 7)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

Coming into the summer of 2008, I really believed we were ready to soar!

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Things at Grace Point were coming along great. We were developing a great band. We had a good influx of visitors. We had found a rhythm for scheduling team members. We were beginning a ministry for teens. Everything seemed like it was coming together.

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Added to all the great things happening, I finally got an iPhone! Could things get any better?

Earlier in the year, one of our neighbors had roped Christy back into the classroom. For the final few months of the school year, Christy served as a tutor for Jr. High Students in the AVID program. We realized that if she was going to work, we should maximize her income potential. So in the fall of 08, Christy returned to the classroom full time as a 6th Grade Teacher.

Before Christy head off to work, we made a quick trip to the Smoky Mountains for a Robinson Family Reunion. This would be a special trip for all as it was the first time nearly the whole clan had been together in years, and the last time too as Aunt Linda’s health was declining quickly.

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As Christy entered back into teacher, Caitlyn started Kindergarten. So each morning, the girls would leave the house to just the boys!

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To give me a break, we enrolled Andrew in a local Mothers’ Day Out program. Caitlyn had attended the year before and had a fabulous experience. Andrew began going on Mondays and Wednesdays and soon he had won the hearts of his teachers, Ms. Lori and Ms. Kim, who would become a part of our family over the next few years.

Christy was hard at work helping 6th graders achieve more everyday. She was paired up with Janet Miller. The two rotated their students and shared life. Janet was Christy’s mentor in returning to the classroom.

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As we moved into 2009, we were getting ready to see Christy’s parents move to Odessa from Missouri. We also began exploring building a new home for us too. Meanwhile, Christy was working hard and Grace Point was doing good.

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As was my training. we ramped up for Easter! Through the help of a grant from Church of God Ministries, we rented the city’s outdoor stage and hosted a huge Easter Egg Hunt and Resurrection Celebration. This year, the weather was fabulous! The only thing that went wrong that day was me! I was running a fever and sick to my stomach Easter morning.easter 181

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By our best estimate there were nearly 200 people in attendance for the event. It was a big win for the team!

The school year was coming to a close and big changes were on the way. The beginning of our eighth year would be one  filled with sorrows and joys.

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12 years in 12 days (part 6)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

To kick off the summer of 2007, it only seemed appropriate to have a backyard party! This made a great excuse for me to destroy the old metal shed in the back yard and replace it with a nice new Lifetime plastic shed from Lowes. Henry and I enjoyed tearing down the old one, but assembling the new one tested our patience.

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This backyard upgrade made hosting a Luau party all the easier. Many of our friends from Grace Point joined in the fun and we celebrated the arrival of summer.

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In an attempt to reach new residents in Odessa, we subscribed to a “new movers” list and had a welcome to the neighborhood card sent out. We decided that it would be good to follow up with these “new residents” by providing them with a practical gift. So we put into action OPERATION GP TP DROP.

This was one of the best worst ideas we had. We took toilet paper roles and wrapped them individually in a decorative party bag and then dropped the tp roll with a note attached on the door step of the “new neighbors.” The notes were punny. We had sayings like:  “Sometimes Life is Messy!” and “Our Pastor’s on a Role” and more. It was a lot of fun in the preparation side and delivery, but no one responded and it turned out to be something we flushed out of our plans. After talking with a few of the people on the list, it turns out they weren’t “new neighbors” they had just changed utility or phone providers.

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In the fall, we continued to partner with other churches in the city to sponsor a ministry reaching out to emerging adults (18-28yrs). This weekly worship gathering met on the campus of the University of the Permian Basin. I would speak once a month and help facilitate the audio-visual needs using GP’s portable equipment.

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For Black Friday, we assembled the GP Team to stand outside of Walmart and provide Hot Chocolate for the early morning shoppers. Our team arrived before 5am to serve the crazy shoppers. DSC00373

As the year changed, many new faces rotated in and out of GP. Easter rolled around and we opted to go less extreme on the egg hunt.  That was a good thing because the weather forced us inside. The kids of GP hunted for eggs in the library of the school where we were meeting.

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Our sixth year closed out with two special celebrations. Kristian Gregg graduated from Boot Camp in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. My sister, Chasity, graduated from High School in Harvest, Alabama. We were able to attend both ceremonies.

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As we prepared for the summer of 2008, we were excited about the future.

12 years in 12 days (part 5)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

12 adults! That’s how many said yes to coming on board to help start a new church in Odessa, Texas.

In June of 2006, a group of us came together under the belief that the city of Odessa did need another church, but not like the other churches in town. We would be clear, this would be a place where no perfect people were allowed. It would be focused on making faith seem normal to our lives. The new church would reach out to those not already in a church. We would emphasis family, acceptance, and try to not take ourselves too seriously. We were committed to encouraging others to take the next step in their journey of faith in Jesus.

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Early in 2006, I had met Tim Halstead of New Life Church in Odessa. Tim and his wife Melinda, along with nearly 70 others had opened New Life in the summer of 2005. The Halsteads were a huge encouragement to us and were champions of our efforts to launch another new church in town. The New Life Team allowed our team to come and learn from them for three weeks. We participated in the set-up/tear-down routine. We observed how they did children’s ministry and refreshments. We learned how to be a portable church from the new life team.

As we were ramping up our efforts to open the new church, Christy was struggling. She did not know what was wrong, but she knew something was physically wrong with her and it was impacting her emotionally and spiritually as well. She wanted to see a specialist to have some blood work done to see if they could determine what was impacting her. This was very scary for me on a couple of levels. First, I was “busy” planting a new church. I couldn’t imagine being side-tracked! (Bad Husband, I know!) Second, I didn’t know how we would pay for this $500 test. We were barely making our monthly expenses between what little support we had raised and the part-time job I had. We sent out a request asking for some help to pay for the test for Christy. We had three friends from our college and high school days step up and pay for the test! Christy was diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid disorder. It still affects her life today, but at least now we know what the issue is. The response from our three friends was amazing and reminded us that we weren’t alone.

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The training with New Life Odessa and through the financial and prayerful help of partners across the country, including Church Multiplication Association and New Life Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, along with the commitments from the 12 adults who signed on board, we launched Grace Point Church in October.

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For our first service, our friends at Crossway Church in Midland came and joined us to cheer us on.

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The beginning of Grace Point was probably premature. Looking back on it, I know we did not have a large enough team. Even with our guests for the from Midland, we had less than 70 people in attendance. Some of the research on church planting says you will likely double the number of people of your launch team for the first service. We were within those stats.

Though our opening did not go as planned, we kept at it. After all, we were up and running now. To be honest, when we started Grace Point, I knew what to do on Sundays. What I didn’t know was what to do throughout the week. Even though I had spent some time as a senior pastor, I did not know what to do to develop disciples, lead teams, and invite guests to our services. I did know how to preach and organize a worship service. I did know we needed a great kids’ class and nursery. I did know how to produce marketing material. What I didn’t know was how to develop strangers into community. I had a lot to learn.

In December,we witnessed Josh and Jessica getting married.

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We also held our first baptism service. We met at the home of one of our newest attendees. They had a hot tub and we witnessed Fred’s baptism. Later in the spring we returned to that same house for Misty’s baptism. These were encouraging steps we were taking.

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In February of 2007, Church Multiplication Association gave us a grant for a mailer to be sent out to our city. We had not done this for our opening due to limited finances. For the first time, we started to see some traction in attendance. We bumped up from averring less than 30 to more than 50.

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For Spring Break, Christy, the kids, and I took a vacation. We drove to Alabama to drop the kids off with the grandparents, then Christy and I drove to Nashville, Tennessee, to fly to San Francisco, California. It was our first time away, without kids, it nearly five years.

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As Easter approached, we knew this would be a great time to reach out to our city. I came up with an idea to host what I believe to be the largest Easter Egg Hunt in the city on the Saturday of Easter Weekend. We partnered with Grace Baptist Church in town to stuff some 10,000 plastic Easter Eggs. We purchased door prizes like bicycles, kites, and fun toys for kids. We were going all out!

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On Friday, April 6, 2007, the weathermen began reporting a potential problem to our plans. Rain would have been easy to overcome. Instead, on Saturday, April 7, it snowed!

We had some 10,000 Easter Eggs loaded into my minivan. The fumes from the sugary candy and gum was nearly sickening. And as I looked outside around 7am, snow was falling. This was not good. When the snow falls in the desert, people stay inside. The temperature had dropped and the snow covered the roads. Everything that day was cancelled. Including our amazing Easter Egg Hunt!

Now you may wonder, what do you do with 10,000 Easter Eggs? We certainly did. I knew we weren’t going to have enough people present on Sunday, plus the grounds were still wet. So I decided to postpone the hunt to the following Saturday.

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As you might have guessed, there isn’t the same enthusiasm for an Easter Egg Hunt after Easter. We got the word out the best we could leading to Saturday. As 10am approached on April 14, six days after Easter, 69 kids showed up to collect the eggs. In case you are wondering, that works out to be 145 eggs per child! We were encouraging parents to let the kids hunt a second and third time!

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I’ll never forget that Easter.

As the spring came to a close, we prepared for our first summer as a new church start.

12 years in 12 days (part 4)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

The summer of 2005 was very significant in my leadership development. As the summer kicked in, the HVAC units that cooled the sanctuary of First Church of God stopped working. I was entering my fourth year as senior pastor and I was mixed in this opportunity. The congregation had enough money in reserves to replace the units, but they had been hesitant to use that money. Additionally, we were in a bit of a leadership struggle. Instead of quickly acting to replace the units, the Board of Trustees agreed to meet in the Fellowship Hall. The HVAC units in the Fellowship Hall were newer and more efficient. This move allowed us to control one of our major summer expenses as well as plenty of time to review bids and plans to replace the HVAC.

As we began meeting in the Fellowship Hall, the congregation began entering through this entrance, making it the new main entrance. In the lobby was a trophy display unit. After speaking with the custodial team, I was informed that the team was no longer cleaning the trophies due to their age and fragile state. With the exception of a trophy earned in the summer of 2002, the others were softball and volleyball trophies that were greater than 15 years old.  After talking with one of the ladies of the church who enjoyed painting, I decided we would place a mural in the place of the trophies.

I asked the custodial team to remove the name plates on the trophies to be placed on a new plaque. We would consolidate the trophies as they were aged and falling apart. I never imagined how this would be perceived. It was probably the biggest transgression I committed against the congregation.

First Church of God was a proud congregation. They had been a much larger church twenty years before. By removing the trophies, I indadvertedly created a sense that I did not appreciate the past of the congregation. This was exasperated by the significant age gap between me and most of the adult members of the church. I was just turning 30 in 2005. Most of the adults in the church were 30 years older than me. Without realizing it, my actions were viewed as disrespectful of their past.

I am sure some were ready to fire me that week. Instead of firing me, the Board of Trustees informed me that I was not to make any management decisions without consulting with them.

As we worked through the leadership struggle, one of the members confessed, “Pastor, our congregation has a problem. The problem isn’t you, it’s us.”

I wasn’t sure how to respond to this confession. In my prayer time, I wrestled with whether we should continue. I had a sense that God was telling me “stay as their pastor, as long as they will have you.”

In the midst of this leadership challenge, Andrew was born. Now I was not only the dad of a girl, but the dad of a boy too!05tgkids

As Christmas rolled around, the leadership challenge was settling down. In working with members of the church, we were preparing for a new season of ministry. Christy and I would be spending the holidays with my family in Alabama, so I prepared a series of video announcements setting the stage for our annual business meeting. I was hoping to transition us from a night of merely reviewing the past to a night of looking forward to the future. I themed the meeting around the idea of a space shuttle launch.

When the business meeting night came, it was apparent the leadership challenge was not finished. A former board member was not nominated to return to the board as was the custom of the congregation. This created a discomfort among some of his friends and so they worked to nominate him from the floor, as allowed by the congregation by laws.  As pastor, I was opposed to this person returning to the Board of Trustees because he had been antagonistic to my leadership over the past 18 months.

Since we were in the midst of the meeting, I turned over the presentation to another Board Member and met privately with the individual being nominated from the floor. In a heated conversation, it was clear to each of us that neither of us was supportive of the other. We returned to the meeting and I publicly expressed my lack of support for this person’s nomination to the Board based on the lack of civility that arose through our disagreements. You could’ve heard a pin drop. I had violated protocol in the mind of many of the senior members. Everyone knew that this was a touchy situation, but I had exposed it.

The former Board member was elected to the Board of Trustees over a newer members by one vote.

I knew at that point, that my leadership of the congregation had been rejected. It was January 18, 2006. Christy and I went home that night knowing I needed to resign.

On Friday, January 20, while hanging out with our dear friends, Henry and Kate Littich, the phone rang around 8:30pm. It was the new chairman of the Board of Trustees. He was requesting that I meet with the Board the following morning at 9:00am to discuss the future of the church. Christy, the Littichs, and I all knew what that had meant.

I went to the meeting and was asked to resign. I complied with their request rather than fight with them any longer.

On January 22, I preached my last sermon for the First Church of God in Odessa, Texas.

Within a couple of weeks, Bob Pearson, director for Horizon Children’s Homes International, suggested that I contact Robin Wood of Church Multiplication Association. Bob believed in me and believed that I had the raw skills necessary to lead a new church plant. Robin was leading CMA to plant new churches across the US. Within a month, I was in Florida at the Purpose Driven Church Planting Conference. I was hooked!

For the next six months, Christy and I would dream about what it would look like to plant a church. Where would we plant it? Who would help us?

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During this time, we traveled around, visiting family and friends to help us separate from our time at First Church. The kids were great. We were able to see family in Chicago and Michigan and then later friends in Phoenix.

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Around Memorial Day weekend, 2006, we invited some 20 friends to consider launching a new church in Odessa with us.

12 years in 12 days (part 3)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

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In the second half of 2004, we embarked on a few adventures. The picture above is our family’s first visit to Carlsbad Cavern.  Christy’s parents came down for their annual visit and we took in some of the sights around the area.

In the fall, we met my parents, brother, and sister at Disney World.fam2

Through out the late summer and fall, I was working to hire a new staff member at First Church of God. After the departure of Paul Jones to Bolivia, there was an opportunity to bring on a new associate pastor. After several phone conversations, we bought the couple to Odessa in early winter for a congregational visit. It was in this process that I learned about the formal and informal channels of leadership.

The formal channels of leadership are the public statements and meetings held on a particularly matter. The informal channels are the behind the scenes, private phone calls, etc. that are held. As the congregation prepared for a vote to approve the hiring of this associate pastor, I believed that things were headed in the right direction. All the meetings were positive and people seemed on board with the candidate. Yet, behind the scenes, there were efforts being taken to vote against the candidate that I was unaware of.

When the vote was taken, I was blindsided by the 30% who were opposed to the candidate. Under the circumstances, I felt like it was inappropriate to hire the candidate, though I believe it would have been a game changer for the congregation. I never imagined that people were working behind the scenes to oppose the process. I was naive and this was critical in my leadership formation.

The spring of 2005 was hard for me. I had planned to have a new team member on board. I limped through this season of ministry through Easter. I was probably dealing with depression because of the way the vote went. It was around this time that I began to really face power struggles within the congregation.

Throughout this year, I had begun meeting with two other pastors in the city. Bob Thayer and Bryan Saffle would become key influencers for me. We met weekly for lunch to shoot the bull and talk shop. Eventually, Ivy Shelton joined in as a new pastor in town. These men were life-givers to me. I could share my joys and sorrows with them.

It was around this time that things began to change further for my family. As we concluded our third year in Odessa, we were expecting a new arrival.

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At the time, we didn’t know if this new addition would be a boy or a girl, but the baby gave us all something to anticipate!

12 years in 12 days (part 2)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, TX

The summer of 2003 brought the first of real changes to my role as senior pastor. As I completed my first year, Paul Jones, who had been serving as the congregation’s associate pastor for around three years, announced he and his family would be returning to Bolivia to continue the work they had begun years before.
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I had come to lean on Paul and enjoyed having a friend on staff to help me navigate my responsibilities and efforts. I also knew that Paul’s desire was to serve the church in Bolivia. It was tough to see him go.

As Paul transitioned, the congregation responded to my leadership. For the first time in many years, we went all out for VBS! We transformed the building into an undersea adventure as we hosted the largest VBS the congregation had seen in many years. The best part of the VBS was not only in how many kids participated, but also in seeing so many adults jump on board to serve.

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As the year progressed, I continued to learn what it meant to be pastor and leader. We made some hard decisions about combing Sunday School classes, navigating youth ministries, and deciding what to do about a declining choir program.

As we entered 2004, the part time choir director/worship leader resigned. She was dearly loved within the congregation. Due to family issues and personal beliefs regarding doctrine, she decided it was best to step down. Many felt I had forced her out, but that was not the case.

In March, the Texas General Assembly of the Church of God issued my ordination at their annual meeting in Austin. Rev. Mark Lewis prayed over us at that meeting.

In 03, I attended the Billy Graham School of Evangelism associated with one of his last Crusades in Oklahoma City. I met a pastor from Kansas who shared with me about a couple from his church who had moved to Odessa. In the spring of 04, we were finally able to meet up. Henry and Kate Littich became dear friends. We were excited to share in their life as they welcomed Emma into the world. Caitlyn, our 18month old, and Emma would become like sisters.

12 Years in 12 Days (part 1)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, TX.

Memorial Day Weekend 2002, Christy and I left Oklahoma City for Odessa, TX. We were sub 30 and I was starting my job as the senior pastor for the First Church of God in Odessa.

After living in an apartment for the summer, we bought our first house that fall. We were in a hurry to make everything perfect because we were expecting our first baby in November. When moving day came, members of the church helped us move into our new home. I remember a couple if the ladies working to get our bedroom set up do that Christy would have a place to rest her right month pregnant self! (For a guy who thought he could do it all himself, this was humbling.)

On a dreary day, Caitlyn arrived after a long labor. She changed our world. The delivery wasn’t the easiest and Christy’s recovery took a little longer than we expected. We will never forget the way Bobbo showed up to wish us congratulations. It was less than an hour after Caitlyn’s arrival and Christy was in some pain as her medication had worn off. She was also barely aware of things. Bobby politely knocked on the door, and I was glad to see him. He poked his head gently in to offer his well wishes and then left. Christy knew he’d come by, but was concerned. She only had partial feeling in her lower body and simply asked, “was my butt covered?”

The next few months were good. Christy and I adjusted to being parents. I continued to learn how to preach week to week. Before we knew it our first year had come and gone.

We had begin developing friendships within the church that are still with is today.

Busy or Purposeful? 4 Questions to Clarify Your Activities

Too often we’ve measured success by how busy we are.

The challenge is we can be busy without purpose.

Clarifying what you want to achieve is the way to move from busyness to purposefulness.

So whether it’s in business, ministry, parenting, volunteering, or whatever, clarify your purpose and you’ll achieve more than just being busy. Additionally, you won’t feel busy as much as you’ll feel fulfilled.

Here are 4 questions to ask to clarify your activities so you can fulfill your purpose:

1. 5 years from now how do I want my life to look?

2. What are my 5 to 7 core values?

3. What am I doing that I need to stop doing in order to live within my values and my vision for my life?

4. What will I start doing to achieve purpose and not just be busy?

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It’s not just a black problem!

I was born in 1975.

An African American male born in 1975 and who didn’t finish high school has a nearly 70 percent chance of serving jail time by his mid-thirties. That’s 53 percentage points higher than a white male born in the same year who also lacks a high school diploma.

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What is it in our laws that created this?

What is it in our culture that makes this acceptable?

Consider this:

An African American child whose father didn’t complete high school has a 50 percent chance of seeing her father incarcerated by the time she’s 14.

This is an unfortunate reality in our society. It is a generation affecting issue.

I will be looking for ways to make a difference.

We Are All Prejudice

The headlines for the past year or so have reminded us that the issues of race, gender, orientation, and a myriad of other identity markers still exist. Whether the news headline is the stupid comments of someone, the poor choices of another, or even the offhanded neglect, we see prejudice has not disappeared.

As long as we see someone else as an “other” we will wrestle with prejudice. For many of us, we don’t like to think of ourselves as prejudice, but when we are stressed, pushed, or tired, our preference for those like us arises and our dislike for those not like us is evident.

I grew up an “Army Brat” and I am grateful for the perspectives it brought to my life. I met people from across the globe with mixed family heritages and viewpoints. I count this as foundational in my worldview. The fact that my two best friends in high school were from a different ethnic backgrounds and that many of my closest classmates were too, has helped shaped the way I see race, gender, and many of the labels we place on a one another.

I think the way we battle prejudice is with perspective.

If you’ve ever said, “you’re not like he rest of them,” then you’ve admitted your preference and prejudice, but you’ve also taken a step into perspective. When we are able to perceive others for who they are instead of the caricatures we have been taught, things change.

Let’s be real:
– not every gay person has an agenda
– not every black person is in a gang
– not every Hispanic is a drug dealer
– not every feminist is a bitch
– not every redneck is a racist
– not every rich person is greedy
– not every poor person is lazy
– not every Christian is…..

I hope you get the point.

Let’s stop accepting the prejudices out there. Let’s start gaining perspectives on how others see the world.

Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech resonates so strongly with our society because it points out our differences, but it also helps us dream of a different perspective, of valuing one another.

King was not the first nor the last to dream of seeing one another differently. Without a doubt King’s dream was influenced by the one who did not live within prejudice but rather brought a new perspective.

In the first century, a leader of a minority group of devoted followers of The Way, wrote these words:

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. (Romans 5:7-11 NLT)

Paul is writing this to remind the followers of The Way who lived in Rome that thought they were different than God, and had offended God, God did not allow that to make him prejudice against them. Rather God’s perspective of humanity caused him to act to bring friendship.

How would our world be different if we combated prejudice with the perspective of friendship?

I’m not perfect in this effort to gain the perspective of friendship. I hope you’ll help me, as a friend, when you see me act out of my preference or prejudice.

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