Something Ventured: Don Kirkland

Don Kirkland. Something Ventured: Selected Writings from My Career in Journalism. Greenville. Baptist Courier Press. ©2014

I have been feasting for the past several days. I discovered by accident former Baptist Courier editor, Don Kirkland’s book, Something Ventured. It is a spiritual feast.

Don’s writing skills are well known by South Carolina Baptists. His knowledge of Scripture is apparent in every entry. He makes me wish I knew about Walter Rauschenbusch, the father of the social gospel movement; however, this is not his greatest contribution. His real contribution is in helping us understand our roles as ordinary Christians.

Don tells us that the Bible sheds light on all the times in Jesus’ ministry that are not specifically accounted for, “He went about doing good.” He makes its clear that going about doing good is exactly what we are to do. He quotes renowned poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “All service ranks the same with God.” Jesus puts it this way, “You are the light of the world.”

According to Don, “Christianity must be visible to others or it is not Christianity at all.” Later he says, “I encourage those who will hear me to never throw in the towel. Never stop doing what Jesus expects of us.”

We hear you, Don. Thank you.

Twelve Days of Christmas – Fifth Follow Through

My fifth of the extended Twelve Days of Christmas came before May 17th which is the date I have chosen for each month. I am happy to report that I did follow through and it does feel good.

I have marked my 2015 calendar for each of the twelve months as a way of extending the wonderful spirit of Christmas throughout the entire year. My hope is that others will join in the spirit and make it a wonderful time for all of us. It does not need to be a grand gesture. Just make it something simple. Something you will do. You will be amazed about how even the simplest acknowledgement of another person can make a tremendous difference in a person’s life. It might only be a smile, a touch, a note, a telephone call or an email.

Of course, we are free to do more than one act of kindness. Several a day would be nice. Just do at least one or more on or before the date you have selected.

I am writing this as a part of my accountability to myself to remind me to follow through. Follow through on our good intentions is always the test.

Twelve Days of Christmas – Fourth Follow Through

My fourth of the extended Twelve Days of Christmas came on April 17th which is the date I have chosen for each month because that is my wife’s birthday. I am happy to report that I did follow through and it does feel good.

I have marked my 2015 calendar for each of the twelve months as a way of extending the wonderful spirit of Christmas throughout the entire year. My hope is that others will join in the spirit and make it a wonderful time for all of us. It does not need to be a grand gesture. Just make it something simple. Something you will do. You will be amazed about how even the simplest acknowledgement of another person can make a tremendous difference in a person’s life. It might only be a smile, a touch, a note, a telephone call or an email.

I am writing this as a part of my accountability to myself to remind me to follow through.

The Silence of Friends

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” This is a haunting quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that tears at our very nature. How often have I stood silent while a friend was being bullied or made the scapegoat? How often have I remained aloof as a group or an individual was being slandered? How often have I allowed inflammatory remarks to go by because I did not want to cause a scene or have someone think badly of me? Dr. King nailed an all too familiar human failing.

How often have I allowed my passion to be heard, drown out the voices of those with weaker voices or with no voice at all? My friend Bennett Murray once said to me, “Those of us who speak so easily intimidate those who do not.” Our ability to speak is a gift. With it we can contribute to the well being of others or we can use it to diminish others.

In public speaking a properly placed pause often is the most powerful statement. The same thing is true in conversation. Sometimes a well placed pause screams loudest. The silence of our friends can cause us to feel betrayed or abandoned. Great injustices are often permitted when good people remain silent. Our folk language puts it best, silence gives consent.

I have more than a little remorse for words that I have spoken in anger, frustration, jealously or fear, but I have more remorse for the words that I have not spoken. We often sooth ourselves by saying, he knows how I feel or she knows how much I care. How are they to know unless we tell them? Most of us are not very skilled at mind reading.

Last Sunday I sat silently as gays were maligned. I told myself that if I spoke up it would only make the situation worse. Twice this past week well educated friends called the president of these United States either a Muslin or a Muslin sympathizer. On one of those times I spoke up and said that there might be many things to criticize the president about, but to question his religion was out of bounds; however on the second occurrence I remained silent. In both cases of my silence, I was put on trial by the words of Dr. King. I tried to convince myself that I had done the right thing and that nothing I said would change any minds and might possibly cost me some friendships. Deep down I know that I failed my responsibility.

Denise George’s has written a disturbing book, While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age during the Civil Rights Movement (Tyndale House, 2011). Her book describes in horrifying detail the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. It recalls a time of great silence by white churches some black churches and the Christian community at large. Many prestigious church leaders encouraged Dr. King to soft peddle his rhetoric and call off or delay the demonstrations. Dr. King courageously decided not to heed their advice.

Speaking up is often very costly, but not speaking up may be even more costly. I recently sat quietly while Christian leaders involved in a laudable mission project talked about the very people they were helping in the most derogatory terms. They are doing the right things, but their attitude contradicts their actions. Why did I remain silent?

Too often I am content to stay on the sidelines and not become involved in the great and small issues of the day. Where is the boldness I demand from others?

Archbishop Oscar Romero Prayer: A Step Along The Way

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.


Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw
*This prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Card. John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled “The mystery of the Romero Prayer.” The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.

 


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