Barcelona, Spain

When I arrived at my hotel in Spain a few weeks back, I immediately was blasted with a wall of cigarette smell. So, I looked at my paperwork to find the phrase 'non-smoking' room (which I did) and then I paused and wondered whether or not I would switch rooms. 

I asked the nice lady at the desk if there's anything that could be done about the giant ashtray I was assigned to sleep in and she said that they'd work on it. I thanked her and then went to my scheduled business meetings. When I returned, my room smelled like a perfume bottle exploded and the windows were all open. I had to smile.

And then I promptly went downstairs to the desk to thank the nice lady and her staff. And therein lies the cultural moment that if you're someone who travels, feel free to take note. Saying 'thanks' in a sincere way truly does translate in to other cultures and languages.

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Eric Garner and the Call for Justice

The following transcript is from a conversation with Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. You can also listen to the audio interview conducted by Phillip Bethancourt. The issue at hand is how to help churches navigate the types of controversy that’s going on in the wake of the decision of the Grand Jury in New York City to not indict an officer in the choking death of Eric Garner. Dr. Moore was asked  and what it means for racial reconciliation in our culture and in particular, the church. 

Russell Moore: Well, I've said quite a few times that when it comes to the Ferguson decision you have a lot of white people, particularly, who look at it only in terms of Ferguson itself. And they're saying, and they're right, that we don't know exactly what happened between Michael Brown and this police officer. We don't know exactly what happened between Michael Brown and this police officer. We don't know exactly what this altercation was about. 

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Rantoul, Illinois

Ok, it's been a while and you can track my progress at www.bomwhite.com

With that said, here's the new focus on this site and let's call it 'Stories can Walk'....I am asking you to journey with me to simply pay attention and find one thing in each of your own travels to hang on to. One thing. Don't try to remember everything, recount every detail of your travels, but just one thing to remember each new city, each new neighborhood. So, here goes:

Rantoul, Illinois, is less than an hour from where I live. It's a declining city in some respects, a victim of higher than normal unemployment and the closing of some factories. It's also home to the Chanute Air Force Base or the Chanute Air Museum, which is on the campus that was formerly an active air force base. Having helped with my daughter's recent field trip there my goal was to pay attention. I have recently been to Spain, Wales, England, and Ireland on work related trips and also returned from Chicago and Boston within the last few weeks, but none of the aforementioned sites moved me to tears. But, something at Chanute did.

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Did God Curse Africans Into Slavery?

The sons of Noah who came out of the boat with their father were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham is the father of Canaan.) From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth…Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father [Noah] was naked and went outside and told his brothers…When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham. “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest servants to his relatives” (Genesis 9:18,22,24-25).

Since the descendants of Ham settled in Africa, haven’t some people claimed that this Scripture shows that God cursed the African people into slavery?

It is true that for many years there were those who claimed God cursed the descendants of Ham, Noah’s son, for telling his older brothers he found his father naked after a night of drinking wine. The curse was that “he be the lowest of servants to his relatives” (Genesis 9:25). And since the descendants of Ham were thought to be Africans, it was logical to conclude that God had condemned all generations of Africans into slavery. In fact, many people during the 1700s and 1800s and beyond used those verses to justify the enslavement of Africans in America.

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The Haunt of History

History is a tricky thing. We’re supposed to recall and remember what happened in the past so we can learn from it. In our individual lives, history is a valued tutor, teaching us in a rear view mirror how to do better in the future.

Learning from history can take many forms. My father used to tell me, “Learn from the mistakes of others because you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself.” That’s good advice, although there are also good things in our past we can learn from. For example, I learned long ago that I like chocolate chip cookies, and I’ve done my best to repeat that habit as often as possible.

Of course, we tend to forget what happened before, whether it was minutes ago—how often have you touched a hot plate in a restaurant right after the server warned you of its searing heat—or years ago. I don’t know why we forget important information, except that we believe we’re smarter than people who made mistakes in the past. 

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What is God's Plan for Justice?

At 6,000 feet high, seated in a single engine Cessna next to my husband at the controls, my mind ran a marathon of thoughts about what it means to be concerned with what concerns the ones I love. As we flew along the beautiful coast line of California, making our way from the sandy beaches of Orange County to the coastal cliffs, rolling hills and mountains of Big Sur, I realized that I would have never agreed to sit in a teeny-tiny airplane for those 3 hours if it wasn’t my husband doing the flying.

Before I met my husband, I couldn’t tell you the difference between planes other than some are big and some are small; some are painted cool colors and designs and some not so much.

Malawi, Hippo's and What Ought to Be

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Philippians 4:11-12

Let’s be honest. There are parts of the Bible that are frustrating. Like where Paul talks about how he’s “learned to be content.” I mark up every book I own and the Bible is no exception. I took the liberty to jot down my own thoughts in the margin next to Paul’s words. I wrote, “How do I do that?” Profound I know!

How do you learn to be content? It sounds a lot harder than riding a bike. In fact, if your life looked anything like mine did at the time I wrote my own commentary on the passage, you’d down right think to learn to be content is well, impossible.

I scribbled that question in the margin of my NIV sometime during 2007. That year was a blur so don’t ask me to remember exactly when it was during 2007. What I do remember of that year is wiping toilets and cleaning up putrid smelling vomit at the Tragic Kingdom, which you may know as the Magic Kingdom. I was a seminary graduate with a newly achieved Masters of World Missions and Evangelism degree and I worked as a self-proclaimed “Mistress of Custodial Arts.” It was better than restroom cleaner, janitor, custodian and all things to do with trash and vomit. In less than a year I went from Master to Mistress.

Needless to say, I was a bitter beast during that time and I was anything but content.

Wouldn’t you know Jesus went to work with me every day as I cleaned toilets, sprayed enough air freshener to put a hole the size of Texas in the o-zone layer and go down on bended knee to clean up the aftermath of someone who ate too much junk food before hitting the rides. I didn’t recognize him at first, not because he looked any different than he does any other day but because I wasn’t looking for him. I was so consumed with Me, I didn’t see Him.

Until a precious, tiny woman with a broken heart invaded mine. Less than 5’ tall, Sam was also a “Mistress of Custodial Arts.” Her husband was abusive, her kids bad behavior a simple and understandable reflection of their chaotic home life; she felt like her world was crumbling right before her eyes. In a custodial closet filled with toilet paper and air fresheners, Sam poured her heart out to me. Her desperation for hope rang loudly through her every word. She was tired, lost and hopeless.

Something fantastic happened. I stopped dwelling on my own toilet scrubbing state and I saw Jesus. Not physically, wearing the stereotypical long white robe with a baby blue sash and long flowing hair. No, I didn’t see him, but I knew he was there and I knew, in that moment, that Jesus had some things to say to sweet Sam. I knew he had put me in that depressing restroom stock closet to share with Sam what Jesus thought of her. So I sighed, put my hand on Sam’s tiny shoulder and began to talk to Jesus. She cried, I cried, and together we asked him for wisdom and hope and peace to swell over her and her family.

Later that day I decided to try listening to Jesus, who I was now sure was with me as sure I was I cleaned toilets for a living. Up to this point, I’d been doing a lot of talking at him, asking him questions like, “Why did you take me 3,000 miles from home to go to seminary and learn about evangelism only to bring me back home and the only job you provide is cleaning toilets at an amusement park?”

Jesus, being the man of mystery that he is, didn’t exactly speak as quickly as I wanted him to during that season, but slowly, I noticed a much needed change taking place in my heart and in my attitude. I was humbled that even in a season when I was bitter and frustrated with God because I blamed him for not fulfilling my expectations for my life, he still extended such love and grace towards me in that he’d perfectly orchestrated Sam and me to be in the custodial closet at just the moment we both needed to meet with Jesus. I slowly, very slowly, began to realize that what I do for work, regardless of my title, regardless of where I live or any other circumstance around me, has absolutely nothing to do with his fierce love and purpose for me. He can and will use all of it for his good work and purpose.

Sam wasn’t the only person I had a Jesus conversation with after that day. In fact, there were many more that heard and sought out Jesus. It saddens me to think I may have missed opportunities to share his love with others because I was fixated on my own problems.

Paul’s statement doesn’t seem all that difficult to understand now. I too learned to be content when I set my pursuit in life on Jesus; not on myself and certainly not on my circumstances.

Regardless of where I work and where I live, what my Creator requires of me is simple. He asks me to love him before all else in this life and to consider and love those around me. Contentment ensues here on out and it’s beautiful. I am a Master of Evangelism. All those who follow Jesus are. By our love others will know his great love. I didn’t expect to be an evangelist in a restroom, but in that moment, it didn’t matter where we were. All that mattered was Jesus was there and he intimately and radically showered Sam and me with his unfailing love.

So whether you’re a Mistress or a Master I encourage you today to look not unto your own works, hopes and dreams for yourself, but into the One who created you with hopes and dreams. For in Him and Him alone you will find contentment. Wipe toilets or build skyscrapers. Whatever you do, do in love for Him and love others.

Do you also find Paul’s statement to be frustrating? Are you feeling discontent? Spend some time in stillness and quiet and listen for Jesus. He will meet with you where you are when you’re ready.

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Tags | Global

Why did God allow the tornadoes?

This blog originally appeared as an op-ed piece in WashingtonPost.com.

In moments of severe disasters like the tornado in Oklahoma, people of faith will often speak of “praying for the city” or “praying for the victims.” As the massive tornado outside of Oklahoma City annihilated buildings including a school with students and teachers, some people of faith used social media to speak messages of prayer and hope in God. However, some atheists also posted in social media, referred to this natural disaster as a “gratuitous evil” or evidence against God’s existence. One atheist tweeted:

“NEWSFLASH—If god cared about Oklahoma he wouldn’t have allowed the tornado in the first place. #PrayForOklahoma #Atheism

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