Author Archives: Michael Smith

Michael Smith ~ Sister Winter

It’s cold.

The countdown is on. The pitchers and catchers have already reported for spring training, but that’s in Florida and Arizona. We are still very much in the season of winter here in New Jersey. So we wait for spring. Next time you are in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, make sure to give that groundhog the evil eye from me. Winter is tough, but the seasons of the year remind us that hope is always just around the corner. Spring and summer seem like a long way off on these cold winter days, but in reality, we all know that it is coming. Can you make it?

The season of Lent is appropriate to be shared and lived into during the wintertime. Lent is a season of prayer, sacrifice, and fasting. This is a time in the church where we try to get out into the wilderness, spiritually speaking. Easter comes with the new birth of spring and we see life being renewed, but we still need that wilderness experience of winter.

Unfortunately, for some reason God seems to do the best character development work when we are in the wilderness. Throughout the biblical text we see people out in the wilderness or in the “wintertime” of their spiritual lives. It is often here that God decides to do something new. Jesus himself went out into the wilderness and experienced such as this. If I were God, then we would learn the most in the summertime of our faith, but I am not God. God’s ways are different than our ways, and often – we need to be out in the wilderness: “Now my heart is returned to sister winter,” as singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens describes it.

Don’t be afraid of the winter. If we are honest with ourselves, we find ourselves there more often that we like. The circumstances and situations of our lives have placed us in periods of restlessness, frustration, anxiety, and depression. As difficult as those places are, God shapes us there. Embrace the winter; we know that spring is coming.

In this season of Lent, embrace the journey to the cross. Walk through the pages of the Gospels as you see Christ focus on his mission and purpose. This road sometimes will turn cold as we see Jesus’ friends deny and betray him. We will see the religious elite of their day turn their back of the God of love who walked in their midst. It will grow dark and cold and we will long for warmth and light.

The shadow that is cast in this season has nothing to do with Punxsutawney Phil and the prediction of the weather. Again, Stevens puts it into words: “There is no shade in the shadow of the cross.” The dark and cold leads us to a longing for warmth and light. Live in it and wait for it. Ultimately, our world will participate in the joy of cold turning into warmth and darkness into light.

The cross to the empty grave. Easter is coming…

Michael Smith ~ The Scent of a New Year

New smells good.

If you watch me open my Christmas presents you might be shocked at what I do with them: I smell them. My family thinks it’s weird, but I just love the smell of new things. Don’t you love that new car smell? I don’t normally get a new car, so I have to purchase a car air freshener that is titled “New Car Smell.”

I think we all have a fondness for that which is new.

New can be scary though. We don’t know what to do with some of this new technology and how it changes our social interaction and our world. New is unknown, and often we are afraid of the “what if” questions in our lives. We like the known and the familiar, so new often brings an uncomfortable unfamiliarity with it.

Regardless of which side of the “new” equation you find yourself on, new is happening every day. In this particular season of the year we hear a lot about wrapping up 2014 and getting ready for the new 2015. Our holiday greetings now include “Happy New Year!” With the new year comes the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions. (If I resolve not to make New Year’s resolutions, did I just make one?)

We can become easily frustrated with this tradition, especially if our hopes and desires at the beginning of the New Year fall flat due to our lack of discipline. It’s not even February and you begin to regret your desires to be a better person, lose a few pounds, read more, or…fill in the blank.

Don’t give up on being a “new you” though. So embrace these steps to new living:

• Begin where you are and be comfortable with that.

• Think daily. Want to write more? Write every day. Want to live healthier? Don’t worry about tomorrow but focus on what you are doing today.

• If you fail, stop with the guilt. Just start over.

• Whatever you want to do, don’t do it alone. Find a friend to join you in the journey.

• Realize that a lot of what you will begin to do in 2015 will be planting seeds for the future. When is the best time to plant an apple orchard? Answer: 20 years ago. When is the next best time? Answer: Today.

Don’t be afraid of the New Year. We all need a fresh newness from time to time. This January just might be that time for you. Einstein said, “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking that we were at when we created them.” New is needed.

So take a deep breath of the new. It smells good.

Michael Smith ~ The Table



In this famous and classical piece of art each disciple has a different gesture and pose. It is thought that Leonardo DaVinci wanted to capture how each disciple would react after the statement Jesus made about the betrayer being in their midst. How would you respond?

Each of the disciples had unique abilities and personalities. As they gathered around the table that night, like most nights, they brought who they were to the table. They would have common jokes, shared stories, and maybe even favorite places to sit. So being truly unique yet called to serve together, we see moments throughout the gospels where they get it both right and wrong. At times they coordinate and accomplish great things with Christ, and at other times they are left incapable of handling situations or even becoming indignant with one another. This is life and this is what it means to be the church. We are disciples together and like them we get it wrong, but hopefully we get it right most of the time. Our varied responses to some of life’s questions or statements leave us looking like this scene.

The Table

This piece of art reminds me to reflect on what it is like for us to gather around the table. This month we gather around a table of Thanksgiving. It is a time to give praise and thanks to God for even the subtlest and simplest of life’s blessings. For some, gathering around this table is difficult.

Did your family have a kid’s table? Mine did. This was actually a fun experience, but as you age, you wonder when you might be given a chance to sit at the real table. Though we can joke about memories such as this, in reality there are people in our world who are wanting and waiting for their chance to gather around the table. This Thanksgiving let’s remember to invite all to the feast and to the table of grace. My hope is that after celebrating All Saints’ Day, it would encourage those who gather around the Thanksgiving table to remember that they are not alone in their celebration. It is tough though. There are loved ones departed this year that were with us last year. The broken bread exchanged at the table is not the only broken thing at it. Relationships may be strained and forgiveness and grace may need to be shared.

A Family Meal

With all of the uniqueness that we bring as individuals we are still part of a family. This family is not defined by last name though. It is not even defined with how much or how little is on the table. We are the family of God, and when we gather around the table this Thanksgiving, I want to encourage us to remember one another. Pray for one another and thank God for them.

Pray for one another and seek reconciliation and healing for broken relationships. Pray for one another and remember those who have no bread to break on that day or throughout the year. Be thankful for one another, for it is in your uniqueness combined with mine that we are able to be part of the same family. The One who gathers us around a common table desires for us to receive something so much more than just turkey and stuffing this Thanksgiving.

Michael Smith ~ The Fairest of the Seasons

“Do I stay or do I go, and it is finally I decide, that I’ll be leaving in the fairest of the seasons.” – Jackson Browne

Living in the northeast, I get to witness the changing of the seasons. Each season has its ebb and flow, its ups and downs. When it’s cold we long for summer, until it is too hot outside. We love the beauty of the change of foliage, yet find it a significant nuisance when we have to rake all of the fallen leaves. Spring comes with a birth of new life and another dose of allergy medication. We grow accustomed to change in the weather and expect it.

Why is it, then, that we are still wrapping our minds around change management and leading change within local congregations? We see change every day in our lives; however, change remains so difficult in the congregations we lead. Here is a simple idea – not groundbreaking by any means – but hopefully helpful to you.

Think about seasonal change, or think of change like you think of the seasons.


Seasons give us a beginning and an end.

Everyone can manage the winter because they know that spring is coming. Sure, it’s uncomfortable for a while, but at least you know it won’t be like this forever – unless you live in Alaska.

So when introducing something new, use the concept of the “trial period.” In churches, we talk so much about eternity that we think that any change we make will be forever. This new program or idea will not be forever, and you know it. You know it because you will probably have to change the new thing you do faster than you would want to. After all, what version of smartphone are you on now? Give it about 20 seconds and a new one will be out. The marketplace is constantly improving and growing.

Are we?

Clergy often fear our evaluation because it’s personal and we realize that what we have offered for years is no longer what people are asking for today. We have gone through seasons in the life of our church, and these seasons change.

So use it to your missional advantage.

Try something – for a season. Have a start date and an end or evaluation date. Give it some time; don’t pull something off the shelf after a week.

Seasons give us permission to try something new.

Go ahead and have that extra Christmas cookie. Why? Because the holiday season gives us permission. If I do that in the middle of the summer I feel bad about myself, but from November 27th to December 25th all is good! We also know that we will be bombarded with infomercials about how to lose all of that holiday weight on January 1st. New Year’s resolutions, right?

In the church, we know that our seasonal life gives us permission to do things differently. The expectations of the seasons also shape our permission-giving. For instance, in the season of Advent you are expected to talk about Incarnation, the birth narrative, or themes around expectation and hope. But with the four weeks of Advent you are given time and space to take a familiar story and be creative and different in your story telling. You can change things while also remaining consistent with the thematic elements: you may have an Advent wreath, but who does the readings each year changes, right? Think of it in that way. How can I take what we normally do and create something new? Yes, that will mean changing things, but don’t worry – it’s only four weeks. At least, that is how you should communicate with those who are fearful.

And here is how  a lot of people will respond:

Week 1: “Well, that was different – not sure if I like that.”

Week 2: “Hey, wait a second, didn’t we do that last week? Is this going to happen again?”

Week 3: “They did it again! I’m not sure I want our church to become a church that does this…oh well, only one more week anyway.”

Week 4: “Last week – it was different, but now it is done. Not too bad after all.”

So take advantage of the permission the season will give you. Think of the natural rhythms of your church. People are more willing to live through Lent because they know that Easter is coming. Let the natural world around us help shape how we create consistent change in our church. Then maybe change won’t be a scary thing after all.

I believe that developing consistent change within the culture of your church will transition a culture from fear of what’s next to the hope of what will be.

One final and helpful part of this is to make sure that it increases in value to the congregation right away. When it snows, it snows. It’s beautiful and we see it. Often in our churches we don’t get to see the effects of a change. Establish early wins and let the “fruit” of the new ministry or change in programming be clearly seen and communicated.

Be encouraged – seasons change.

Michael Smith ~ Birthing A Church

I am my father, and my son is me.

There will be times in my son’s life when he doesn’t want to admit that we are alike. This will ebb and flow until he reaches the point in his life (much like me and my father) when he accepts that we are related. This is a scary thing to think about as a young father, particularly as one who is about to have another child.

My wife is a superhero, especially on the days when our children are born. I just can’t get over the strength of love it takes to go through such a thing. I sit in the room and just listening to the doctors I start to get queasy. That’s what I am doing now: taking a break from the reality of childbirth to type my thoughts about childbirth. Don’t worry – my wife is fine and I am being a supportive husband! At least for the past 14 hours I have been.

Just before my daughter is born I have the familiar feelings of fear and worry sweep over me. I don’t worry as much about the procedure or her health, but more about how this person is going to be like me. I fear whether or not she will take on the negative aspects of who I am.

We are normally self-deprecating about things like this. I want her to look like her pretty mother and not have my big nose. I want her to have her mother’s joyful spirit and not have my impatience. But this is part of the birthing process – the giving of life. Life is always exchanged and shared. She will be like me. Though she will be fully her own self, there will be parts of her that lead her to acknowledge one day she that, yes, we are related. We are part of the same family.

Leading a church is a lot like childbirth: painful and life-giving all at the same time.

It will look like you.

As pastors we have to understand that as we serve our church, it will begin to look like us. Our shared life will rub off on each other. We will take on the DNA of that local church body and always carry it with us. And part of who we are will always stay with them. We are related after all, and we will start to look like each other.

So many times we fear that the church will only take on the negative aspects of our own identity. This is what we are often consumed with in our meetings or evaluations. Though we may be excelling in several areas, we fear the area where we lack. This fear is warranted because it is true. The church will take on our weak characteristics and it’s important for us to understand this. If we are self-aware and self-differentiated, it does not have to tear us down or hurt the church. In fact, in being aware of what we lack, we can see our inefficiencies and seek to correct them together.

Let me encourage you. The church will also take on your good traits. What makes you who you are, with all of your gifts and graces, will be revealed in the small nuances of ministry, much like how my son’s eyes always remind my wife of me. It is in these moments where we celebrate our togetherness and what it means to be part of the family of God. I may need the DNA of my congregation to rub off on me. I may need to look like them.

It may take some time.

This baby is taking forever! As much as I want my daughter to arrive on my schedule, she has a mind of her own. Even though it didn’t work with my first two kids, I still held out hope that she would come in the way and time that I wanted.

On our journeys we grow and change. We look different as we age. It takes time for us to grow into the full picture of our relatedness. We are often so quick to have our churches mirror us that we don’t allow the time that’s needed to give birth to the church. What if we tried to look like our church instead of wanting the church to look like us all the time? The beauty of the Incarnation is that salvation took some time. It took years, in fact. Give time for your relationships to grow and see what is birthed.

Remember – it might be a painful process. But I believe that through the pain we will find life.


Michael Smith ~ Generosity

Generosity is the ability to anticipate a need and the courage to meet it.

Like many pastors in the United Methodist Church I am in a season of transition. I have said goodbye to a wonderful and generous congregation and I am looking forward to saying hello to the next. Any anxiety about the transition was eased as I experienced another great outpouring of love and generosity from the new congregation. Each day as boxes surround us there is a knock on the door with a friendly face bringing us a meal. It is a simple yet powerful act of generosity. We look around our world and so often see and focus on the harm we cause to one another. What if we found the good and focused on the healing and help that we can also bring to one another? How can we be more generous?

First, it is important to remember that this is a gift from God and that certain people excel in it more than others. In the movie Good Will Hunting, the main character uses a great metaphor to explain his uncanny natural ability to understand organic chemistry. He is able to “just play.” When Mozart or Beethoven saw a piano they were able to just play while others might have seen a box with a bunch of keys. I think that when it comes to generosity, some are able to just play more than others.

Generosity is the ability to anticipate the need. To be more generous

  1. You have to see the need.

It never fails that when I am trying to find something, it’s been under my nose the whole time. Sometimes we just don’t see very clearly. We see as dimly in a mirror (1 Cor 13:12), things are foggy and we just can’t see them. However, our ability to see has been tampered with because we have closed our eyes to the need. I admit that I change the channel whenever I see the Feed the Children or ASPCA commercials. Images of others hurting changes us and affects us in ways that we don’t always enjoy. Open your eyes to the needs of those around you.

  1. You have to anticipate the need.

If you are willing to see then you can live an anticipatory life of generosity. This is different than just hearing about a need and helping. This is a type of generosity that anticipates the need. You are always looking and ready to move when needed. It’s like a great baseball outfielder who anticipates where the ball is going to be based upon pitch count or even the sound of the bat. This type of generosity can also be described in the ‘radical’ part of hospitality that we United Methodists like to talk about so much. Hospitality or generosity is one level, anticipatory generosity or radical hospitality is another. Don’t wait for the need, anticipate it and move.

Generosity is the courage to meet the need. To be more generous

  1. You need courage to act.

There are those who are able to see and even anticipate, yet fail to be generous. Good intentions are not enough in this world. Courage is needed in a world that craves generosity. People actually want to be caring and kind, they are just afraid. We are afraid of exposing too much of ourselves, or enabling one’s behavior and creating dependency. We have come up with all sorts of phrases to keep us kind, yet not very generous. True generosity means extending yourself to a place of the unknown or even fearful. To do something that is so beyond your capacity and frame of reference puts you into the Realm of the King. This is Kingdom work, here folks. We get to see moments of God’s Kingdom here and now when this happens. All it takes is a few seconds of courage. Muster it up and be truly generous. Then, enjoy the ride.

  1. Spend time with people who are generous.

I used to think I was generous until I spent time with actual generous people. You know what happened – my stinginess didn’t change them, but, in fact, they rubbed off on me. Their warmth, love, and natural care inspired me to be a person who looks and tries to see now. I start to think with their mind rather than my first reaction. If there is something that I am afraid to do, I think about how they would react in this situation. Sure, it makes me uncomfortable at times, but I also get to experience moments of courage and generosity.

In the end – what is the real cost of generosity? John Maxwell said, ‘Be a river, not a reservoir.’

See it.

Anticipate it.

Have the courage to act.

Be generous today.


Michael Smith ~ The Donut/Bread of Life


I wish Jesus described himself as the “donut of life” instead the “bread of life.” It just makes a little more sense that way. It would make my preaching easier too. That is what I want – I want a donut. We know that one does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God, so why not throw in some pastry goodness once in a while, God?

I live in a donut culture. It seems that we are no longer satisfied with that which daily satisfies unless it is sugared up. The majority of us are serving them right on up each and every Sunday.

Public confession time – I like donuts. I have traveled throughout the United States and Europe in search of the perfect donut. In each culture I tasted (along with a nice cup of coffee) simple and basic ingredients made up into the glorious thing we call the morning donut. By the way – the donut is like eating a piece of cake for breakfast, which is another one of my favorite things to do.  It was not on a snowy winter morning in Stockholm, or in a spring filled Paris coffee shop, or in Berlin’s smorgasbord of pastry shops that the best donut was found – oddly it is in the small bakery down the street from my childhood home. They don’t even have a place to sit down, let alone any sense of atmosphere – what they do have is phenomenal donuts. That is what they do and they do it well. They don’t want you hanging out all day getting in the way. Their whole vibe is get in, get your stuff, and get out because you are holding up the line.

A donut is quick and it is accessible. You eat it while you drive to work and hope not to spill the crème or junk in the middle down your shirt. Everyone at your office will judge you for being the person who couldn’t take two minutes to have a sensible breakfast and decided to be the dude who slurps donuts each morning. Welcome to Lazytown, we’ve been expecting you. But I just love donuts, don’t you? Once you taste it you know. It’s fresh, it’s good, and you want more of it.

Here is the problem: I can’t thrive on donuts. Sure, I might be able to survive but what kind of life is that? Donut in – donut energy out. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but a donut a day – wait I just forgot what I was going to say because I fell asleep after my donut sugar crash. Jesus as the donut of life is appealing for us to sink our teeth into, to experience, and to believe in. The problem is that this Jesus leaves us with a similar sugar crash afterwards. The hard teachings or call of discipleship could leave a bad taste in our mouths.

Jesus does not give us the option for the donut of life. He talked about bread. Poor Jesus. I feel bad for him for not being able to experience the joy of donuts, but I guess that’s why he is so skinny and handsome in all of the paintings in my church. He is the bread, so we have to speak about the bread. Bread actually engages the body to produce the sugar that the body needs.

My father is going through a period in his life where he has to monitor his sugar and other stuff like that. For a period of time he gave up drinking beer and eating bread. I was shocked and amazed when he said the thing he missed the most was the bread. Who is this man and what have you done with my father? Sometimes we can take for granted the daily part of bread life. We understand how much we need it and miss it when it’s gone. Bread is actually more important than what we give it credit for. Just go to a restaurant with your pregnant spouse and watch their reaction if bread isn’t on the table in a jiffy. Bread is important.

God is in the midst of the normal – not just the fantastic, chocolate and sprinkled covered parts of life. God’s presence is made real when we take simple elements, like bread, and share it. This is why we should stick to what he invites us to do – offer the bread.



Michael Smith ~ Jesus Leaves

Jesus leaves.

Jesus left his disciples. Jesus said, “I am with you always even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20). It wasn’t much long after that he was taken up into the air. He leaves. What is the most common question or statement made by a person in crisis?

Where is God in this? Some days I look around and it is easy to fall into the idea that Jesus isn’t involved in some of these situations. Sometimes it is tough to see Jesus. Is he here? Is he truly with us?

A day I have been fearing has arrived. I knew it was inevitable, but part of me wished it would have taken longer. My young son now realizes that I am gone. When I leave for work in the morning he asks me not to go. When he realizes that it is impossible for me to stay he tries to find things for me to do to keep me home longer. If anything it buys him a few more minutes. With the end in sight he begins to negotiate a chance for him to come with me. Each day when I leave the house a dance begins. This dance is a heart-wrenching, gut-checking reality of having to leave my children. Back and forth I enter the dance knowing what the outcome will be. I will leave. My only hope is that I will return to see them, and to pick up where we left off.  Some days my son continues to go back and play with his toys. Other times he extends the mourning process (which always makes things fun for my wife). He is confused. He doesn’t want me to leave.

This confusion is also found in the disciples in John 14. They are like children playing on the floor, only to look up and see Mom and Dad putting on their coats to leave. The children/disciples have three questions: “Where are you going? Can we go? Who will stay with us?” Jesus responds, “I am going to my Father and your Father. You cannot come now; you can come later. I will not leave you as orphans. I will send another friend, another helper who will never leave, but who will stay with you forever.”

The question we have to wrestle with is whether or not this promise is enough. Is this a suitable answer to you? I have to go to work. This is part of life. So it is with the disciples. Part of the life of a disciple is working, growing, learning, living, while Jesus is gone, but doing it all in hopeful anticipation for when he will be back and our world will be safe again. The new heaven and new earth may look different, but it will be home to us. And it will be as if he never left at all.

Michael Smith ~ The Sterling Shine of Racism

Over the weekend we saw sports reveal, again, a picture of the best and worst of who we are. I am a sports fan. I am passionate about my teams and sometimes even ‘fanatical’, but sports are in their proper place and priority for me. They are fun. This is the point.

Sports, at their heart, encourage fair play, teamwork, and discipline. The goal of the team is much higher than any individual player and the sacrifice of one may lead to the team achieving their collective goal. Sports in general have moments where they also speak to who we are as a society. With the speed of social media, we can see who we are faster than ever.

Recently, the L.A. Clippers wore their warm-up jerseys inside out as a protest against owner Donald Sterling's racist comments.
Recently, the L.A. Clippers wore their warm-up jerseys inside out as a protest against owner Donald Sterling’s racist comments.

This weekend, the owner of the LA Clippers, Donald Sterling, was recorded making racist comments. Many have commented that this is not the first time this has happened. Players, journalists, and Hall of Fame legends have responded, sharing how they feel about Sterling and their role in supporting the LA Clippers. The team showed their sign of non-violent solidarity through a simple act of wearing their warm-up jerseys inside out during their shoot around. Simple, yes. Powerful, yes.

When I think of racism, most of the time it’s about all the things in the past. As a 30-something I feel that my generation is enlightened enough to learn from the mistakes of the generations before us. Then I look at Twitter and shake my head at our absurdity, too. The racism of my generation is channeled through a different means and model, but it’s still the same monster. We should know better and even if we do – we don’t live it. We have come along way, but we have much journeying still to go.

We live in a society that is trying to live out the equality of all people. As a United Methodist I turn not only to Scripture, but also to our Social Creed for guidance in how to feel and react in moments such as this.

Full Text – Rights of Racial and Ethnic Groups

Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. Personal racism is manifested through the individual expressions, attitudes, and/or behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and that maintain the benefits of this system. Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racist value system. Racism plagues and cripples our growth in Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. Unfortunately, historical and institutional racism provide support for white privilege, and white people, as a result of the color of their skin, are granted privileges and benefits that are unfairly denied persons of color. We define racial discrimination as the disparate treatment and lack of full access to resources and opportunities in the church and in society based on race or ethnicity. Therefore, we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commend and encourage the self-awareness of all racial and ethnic groups and oppressed people that leads them to demand their just and equal rights as members of society. We assert the obligation of society and groups within the society to implement compensatory programs that redress long-standing, systemic social deprivation of certain racial and ethnic groups. We further assert the right of members of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to equal opportunities in employment and promotion; to education and training of the highest quality; to nondiscrimination in voting, in access to public accommodations, and in housing purchase or rental; to credit, financial loans, venture capital, and insurance policies; and to positions of leadership and power in all elements of our life together. We support affirmative action as one method of addressing the inequalities and discriminatory practices within our Church and society.

Personal and Institutional – When we were kids most of the education received around racism was personal. This is how we are supposed to act towards one another, that sort of stuff. We were taught to love everyone and to look beyond skin color. It was always a personal challenge of how each one of us was living in our world. It wasn’t until I became an ‘adult’ that I was exposed to the concept of institutional racism. So, while much conversation happening is focused on Donald Sterling and his personal racism, let’s also speak about the institutional racism at play here.

Hip Hop Artist, Notorious BIG hit the nail on the head when he said, “Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot” (from ‘Things Done Changed’). The culture and systems in our world have left many African Americans feeling as if their choices are limited. They feel this way because their choices are limited. Not limited by their ability or drive, but by institutions that still function to keep some in and others out. This is our challenge.

Because I am a pastor I am often challenged to speak to the institution that I am a part of – the church. We have much to learn from this situation. Beyond basketball lies the reality of race that we must face within our own institution. It is still a very real problem in the church.

Systems create behavior. If we want to change someone’s behavior we need to look at the system that created that behavior. I believe we have made great strides in this area, but we need to continue moving towards reconciliation, forgiveness, and creating a system that affirms the worth of all of God’s children.

Many could look at this story and say – oh, well, that’s not me. He’s a racist but I love everybody. That would be denial and that is what darkness wants us to do – stay in the dark, deny there is a problem. But failing to look at institutional racism leaves us unable to see past our own hands. We need to step into the light even if it means going beyond our personal role. We are all part of a world where racism still exists, and there must come a time in our lives when we realize that moments like this are not just the exception. Exceptions are easy to shrug off, but these ‘exceptions’ are more common and are more the rule than we would like to think. The sooner we realize this the better our world will be.

What are we called to do and say in our world? Sometimes we need to turn our jerseys inside out. Play the game but don’t play it unaware. Be the voice of change today in your system, company, church, and world.