Jackson Five Friday: Racism, Book Club and a BIG Prayer Request

Happy Friday, Friends!

It’s a full-out spring-like day today in Tennessee, and new life is always uplifting to behold.

This morning I went to a book club which was just launched at my sons’ school.  The book was Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult.  It is the story of a black nurse wrongfully charged with the murder of the child of a white supremacist.  The author’s treatment of race, and of the story itself, is through three lenses — the nurse, the white supremacist, and the nurse’s white female defense attorney.  If you’ve not read it, it is definitely worthwhile, but do not read the rest of this post because it will spoil the book.  If you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The nuances of being a successful black woman in a white neighborhood seem to be fleshed out beautifully (I can only say “seem to be” because obviously I’ve not lived it).  But the book will make you think about things you say and do in a new light.  I had never read anything by Picoult before and am very impressed by her depth of character development.  The prosecuting attorney stood out as unrealistic, but every other character is developed enough to at least establish some semblance of empathy in the reader — not for what they stood for, but at least an inkling into how the character ended up that way.

One thing that the book club discussion really fleshed out is how insensitive people can be, how utterly oblivious.  I can think of two examples in my own life that are illustrations of how perceptions and reactions can be way off.

When I was a summer associate during law school, we took a boondoggle of a trip to Seattle.  We were wined and dined like crazy — it was so fun (well, except for that part where I almost died in the desert, but that’s another story).   One night we had dinner in a restaurant on the water (not in Seattle itself, but nearby), and the deck of the restaurant faced west to the mountains.  The sun setting over that mountain on that water is still one of the most magical things I’ve ever witnessed.

It was at this restaurant that I came close, so terribly close, to revealing my true numbskull colors.

I was sitting at a table talking to the person sitting on my right, when an Asian gentleman approached the table on my left.  He was dressed in plain black pants and a plain white shirt.  He asked something about the chair, and for some reason in my “blink” assessment I thought he worked there.  I thought he was taking the chair to move to another table.  I almost asked him for a glass of water.  But my assessment was off in every way.  No, he did not work at the restaurant.  He was the managing partner of a division of the law firm and he was asking to sit next to me.  It is in those kind of horrifying moments that you realize how flawed your thinking can be.  I have thanked God many times that I did not get the request for water out of my mouth before I came to my senses.

A funnier example happens to me with fair frequency.   I am just a hair under six feet tall without shoes.  Sometimes when I’m in a restaurant and I go to use the bathroom, I’ll encounter some unsuspecting woman leaning into the mirror putting on lipstick, or just washing her hands.  In this scenario the approach from behind of a figure six-feet tall is, evidently, startling.  Many times I’ve had women do a double-take of me, as if I do not belong there.  The nervous smile revealing the erroneous snap judgment is obviously nothing compared to systemic racism.  That is not my point at all.  My point is that we all make thousands of snap judgments each day and we can always benefit from reminders to be more intentional, more sensitive, and more aware.  Yes, these are small things, but small things add up.

So one take-away from the book is that small things matter.  Another is that love is the great healing force in this world.  Turk is the name of the white supremacist and in the end there is a great redemptive work done in his life.  The author justifies Turk’s about-face by showing that Turk not only loves deeply but is the recipient of great forgiveness.  This part of the book falls a little flat for me.  Perhaps because the love and forgiveness portrayed in the book are purely human.  I’m not convinced that’s enough to transform someone so filled with hate.

Plus I happen to be friends with a real-life “Turk” named Tom Tarrants.  His escape from hate was through coming to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior. You can and should read about him here.  His story is amazing but points once again to the truth that Jesus is the answer.  Redemption apart from Christ himself is incomplete.  We are all called to die to self — it’s just easier for us to condemn the Turks and Toms of this world without seeing the darkness of our own hearts.  But the truth is we all need forgiveness. (Romans 3:23).  We all need our hearts of stone torn out and replaced by the heart of flesh.  Jesus won’t make you do anything. He lets you reject Him and His offer of grace. But why would you?  Why reject unconditional love, a heart of flesh, and guidance for your life?  There’s not a single good answer.

I hope you live each day with the peace that only Jesus gives.

But, changing gears, here is my BIG prayer request:  I am driving my mom this coming week from Detroit to Pittsburgh for stem cell treatment.  Could you please pray over all the details but especially that the treatment would work for my sweet mom?  It would mean so much to me to know you are praying.

With Love,


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