In his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.”
As I look at the genesis of the African American and note our heroic journey traveled as a people—through enslavement, oppression, rejection and segregation—the greatest constant, on the path to the freedoms enjoyed today, was the presence of God-loving, God-fearing, and God-worshiping men and women.
I had come to these villages with my husband Jorge and our friend Romeo expecting to hear stories of woe and oppression with which I would proudly empathise. This empathy formed part of my understanding of myself and the world: As a progressive, I saw what others denied or perpetuated. I grasped context, and the context I grasped was that of the poor Mexican abused by the voracious US economy. I recognised and stood with the wounded traditional beauty of this culture in opposition to the capitalist grind of the US.
Except the majority of the stories I heard were about eating shrimp for the first time, or hunting for arrowheads in the Virginia rain, or learning to snowboard, or those signs on the side of the road in Connecticut that showed a mother duck and a row of ducklings. Returned migrants talked about Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Spanish and the Unites States’ obsession with sweet breakfast foods. About how gringos reserve the gritty, exhausting work for Mexicans, and how not having papers means living in perpetual fear, and also how there is nothing comparable to walking along the Hudson River at night feeling free: free from the confines of the village, the past and circumscribed identity; free from boredom; free in the way only a traveller loosed from expectation can be free.
Authors include Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frederich Buechner, and Jane Austen, among others.
There’s a reason why spiritual exercises—personal practices meant to foster growth in Christ, including prayer, fasting, Bible study, confession, and meditation—are likened to physical exercises. So to speak, many of us are members at the Lord’s Gym, but we go twice a year. We have spent money on fancy equipment or workout clothing, only to stash them away in our basements and closets. We sign up for a 5K mainly for the donuts afterward. And then when we have the chance to go with friends on a weekend hike through the mountains, we are bummed to find that we are winded and miserable after a few miles of walking. We desire to be healthy, but we don’t have the life rhythms—the habits and disciplines—needed to realize that desire.
When we are desperate to be healthy and whole, yet know we don’t have the discipline to make it happen, sometimes we have to sign up for boot camp, for an intensive and structured routine that turns our good intentions into concrete action. Welcome to Lent.