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Today is the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech which was delivered on the National Mall before a crowd of 200,000 people.  What follows below is a slighted edited version of a blog post that I wrote three and half years ago.

I was less than a year old when Martin Luther King Jr. stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his powerful and inspiring “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.  It would be a decade later before I first read the speech and began to understand why it is considered to be among the most notable and influential in American history.  King dreamed of a day when America would “rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  He dreamed of a day when his four children would live in a nation “where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  Over the last 50 years, much of King’s dream has been realized, but much still remains to be fulfilled.

I consider it a blessing that, even though I grew up mainly in the Deep South, I was shielded in my early years from the pervasive poison of racism by parents whose behavior and language treated all people with dignity and respect, regardless of the color of their skin.  As a young boy, I accompanied my father to black churches where he had appointments to preach.  When my parents served as missionaries in Liberia, West Africa, in the early 1970s, I attended the American Cooperative School (ACS) which had an international student body.  There were a dozen or more nationalities represented in my class.  In the fourth and fifth grade, I had a huge crush on a young lady named Zinnah Holmes, the prettiest girl in the class and also the best athlete, male or female.  Upon returning to central Kentucky in 1974, I showed a friend my yearbook and acknowledged my affection for Zinnah.  His response was, “Tim, she’s black.”  Either I had never noticed, or it never mattered.

As I grew older, my naiveté gave way to the sad realities of racism and the tragic role that slavery had played in American history.  Even the brilliant Thomas Jefferson, the chief architect of the Declaration of Independence which celebrated the equality and unalienable rights of all men, found a way to morally justify the holding of a multitude of slaves.  I heard racial epithets and the propagation of senseless stereotypes.  In the basement of a building at the Christian university I attended, there was a door which still bore the imprint of a sign which had read “Colored Men.”  It was the door to a separate restroom.  The sign was gone, but the evidence of past inequities remained.  Early in our marriage, Kim worked for a family, providing childcare and doing some light house cleaning.  In straightening the master bedroom one day, she found Klan pamphlets and propaganda under the edge of the bed.  She quit that day, out of both fear and disgust.

I am very grateful that I have lived to see African Americans serve at the highest levels of our national government, including the Supreme Court and the Presidency.  I believe that Martin Luther King  Jr. would be proud of such progress.  But, there is still much to be accomplished in erasing the vestiges of prejudice and racism.  King once lamented that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning was the nation’s most racially segregated hour, the worship hour in America’s churches.  The truth of that observation hasn’t changed much over the last five decades.

I pray that the dream is still alive.  And I pray that my heart, language, and actions will help it become more fully realized.

Did you see the story about the man who was found living in a grocery store?  Store managers had no idea how long he may have been using the business as a residence.  He very likely would have continued to escape discovery if he had not been found passed out from dehydration and malnourishment.  That’s right!  His body was emaciated from an extended period of having no solid food or liquids.  His deteriorated physical condition remains an inexplicable mystery, especially since he was surrounded by a vast array of fresh produce, hundreds of ready-to-eat food products, and an entire aisle of juices and soft drinks.  The man was transported to a local hospital and put on an aggressive regimen of IV fluids.  Doctors are cautiously optimistic that he will make a full recovery.

Isn’t that incredible?  Do you find it hard to fathom how something like this could occur?  Well, there’s a reason for that.  I made the whole thing up; it never happened.  Who knows?  Maybe this story will soon appear on!  I completely fabricated the previous paragraph, not for the purpose of deceiving anyone, but in an effort to make a point.  While I’ve never heard of anything like this happening in a physical way, it regularly happens in epidemic proportions in a spiritual sense.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I inadvertently baptized my old cell phone in the Gulf of Mexico last week.  Alas, it didn’t survive the experience, so I upgraded to my very first iPhone.  Being a complete smartphone novice, I asked my FB friends to suggest mobile apps that they found to be especially useful and helpful.  Among the many wonderful recommendations that I received were those for numerous Bible apps.

This reminded me just how ubiquitously available the Word of God is to those of us who are blessed to live in the Western world.  Go to any Christian bookstore and you will find a massive wall of Bibles in every conceivable format and the full gamut of contemporary English translations.  The digital age has far surpassed Gutenberg’s dream by making the Spirit’s sword electronically accessible with the click of a mouse on our laptops or the touch of a finger on our tablets and phones.  We are literally (and cyberly) surrounded by a veritable and virtual mega-mart of food for our souls.

In such a marvelous age as this, what a tragedy if we suffer from “a famine throughout the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord,” (Amos 8:11).

Fabricated story or not, don’t be that guy!

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August 2013