Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Prayer for Baltimore

At dawn as she began to rise
To a brand new, hope-filled day
She knew she was wounded, yet full of pride,
Wanting a brand new way.

"It's only part of her that's hurt,
Only that street, that corner, that place."
Yet Baltimore knows that all of her
Feels the wounds, the cutting injury to her fine face.

The world is watching, this is true.
The world waits to see if Baltimore's own
A right spirit will pursue.

Angels of Baltimore, O God,
Are there your will to obey
As the city starts each and every new morning
Help all like Mary and Daniel to trust you, I pray.  

Lead us, Lord. Lead us in your righteousness. 
Make your way plain before our face.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Angels of Baltimore

I believe that angels are at work in Baltimore, where these events have been happening in recent days: 

In the Grays' neighborhood, the death of Freddie Gray in police custody sparked peaceful protests soon overtaken by riots, looting, arson, and attacks on police this week, from Saturday to Wednesday. The mayor of Baltimore misspoke by saying on camera, prior to a riotous night, that others would be given "space to destroy." 

It might have happened without those shocking words, that rioters would set fire to buildings, steal cars, and drive them through large fires set in the middle of public streets. Destruction ran rampant as police were told to hold back. Young men played a dangerous game of risk and disobedience against any good hidden in them.  

Yet, I believe that angels are at work in Baltimore, and there is reason to believe that and to believe that they have aided men and women of that city in recent days. I think of the many courageous men and women of Baltimore as I think of Daniel (Belteshazzar), Hananiah (Shadrach), Michael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego). Their homes were in Jerusalem, which Babylon's king, Nebuchadnezzar, attacked. He took them captive and commanded his chief official to give the men Babylonian names. It's all part of biblical history

Daniel and his friends' problem was not police, jobs, food, or a place to live. Their problem was being forcibly separated from everything familiar to them and their faith. Nebuchadnezzar did not respect their ways, but one of his men helped them. Otherwise, the men faced difficult choices every day, death threats, and temptations to give up.

Finally, their loyalty to God angered the king so much that he had them thrown into a fiery furnace. Through its open door, onlookers saw the figures of the four men and an angel with them. The king and his minions saw this and could hardly believe their eyes.

Daniel and his friends came out of the fiery furnace with no burns or any smell of smoke on them or their clothes.

I believe that everyday in Baltimore many men, women, and youth are like Daniel and his friends. Many of them are in churches where they and their ministers continually pray and reach out into their community and neighborhoods. They are like the light that Jesus spoke about and the salt that keeps things from rotting. Angels are with them, helping.   

Recently, some Baltimore gang members from the Crips or Bloods walked into a church where people had been praying and were meeting to discuss how to help quiet the city and make it safer again. The pastor reported that gang members said they wanted to help.

Jesus loves rioters and He loves gang members. He calls them to join Him. 

Maybe, like Ricky Cruz's New York City gang, Crips and Bloods members in Baltimore will realize that Jesus loves them. Maybe they will realize this as they try to help the churches bring calm.

Billy Graham said of the angels and the Mighty Savior: The Bible says that God “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). It also teaches that the angels–although they are largely unseen–watch over us and work for our good. ...God surrounds us with a host of angels to protect us and go before us. Even when hard times come, Satan can never snatch us away from their protection....While the angels are real, we are not to become preoccupied with them or to worship them, (for)... only Christ saves us....“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). [end of quote]

I believe that God has put His angels in and over Baltimore. They are helping people of Baltimore determined to help the city rise from its ashes of Monday night's destruction. God's Son, Jesus, the Mighty Warrior (Zephaniah 3:17) is helping His own. The city may have more troubles, yet we pray that it will pull together peacefully.

Today the Baltimore O's played the Chicago White Sox before an empty baseball stadium. Fans were barred, due to the previous night's violence. So today, the team's fans stood outside the gates and watched the game. Their manager, Buck Showalter, spoke well of the team in the post-game press conference. "I want us (the team) to be a rallying point for our city," he said.A reporter later commented: "No one was in the stadium but the world was watching."

I believe God is watching and has appointed angels to help the city of Baltimore. I believe that one day God will reveal the silent and unseen victories there in recent days, including spiritual ones. All of God's victories will one day be revealed...including, I hope, souls of more people set free.  

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baltimore Burns Tonight

Baltimore, called "Charm City" by its fans and promoters, has its charms. But tonight, Baltimore is in flames. Baltimore city councilman Nick Mosby said the furor in Baltimore is due to failed policies of decades. This is reminiscent of Daniel Patrick Moynihan's views that many dependency-creating policies that began in the 1960s would result, in the long-term, in deeper dependency for future generations.

Whether or not the problem in Baltimore tonight is due to failed policies of decades, it's too late for a policy change that could help Freddie Gray, who died over a week ago after an arrest in Baltimore.  

Some would say that Baltimore has a chance IF the truth is told about what happened in the events around the death of a young man, 25 years old, a week after a rough arrest. After his arrest and handcuff restraints, his ride in a police van was rough and without seat belt security, although he was crying out in pain. Who knows what happened after that? A week later he was dead. When the on-going investigation results are made public, perhaps some calm can begin to return to the city. 

Then, the arrests and prosecution of any police responsible for the injuries and death of Freddie Gray must begin. Meanwhile, the delays toward stopping the ensuing rioting and putting in a curfew (scheduled to begin tomorrow night) give an appearance of failure due to political concerns.
As I watch the reporting from Baltimore tonight, I see what appear to be members of the looted community picking up debris in the streets and sweeping glass and trash out of the way. This is an event that deserves media attention and respect. Those people doing that cleanup area are among what Baltimore calls "Baltimore's Best." They and others like them are, I believe, a big part of the hope of Baltimore.

A big part of Baltimore's hope, I believe, are the merchants in the area being covered on television now. What will happen in their communities without them is unknown. Their businesses are being destroyed as we watch, and police have, oddly, been told to hold back.

These thoughts come to mind: Is this about Freddie Gray? Are city merchants perceived by rioters to be "rich" and they see themselves as "poor" in comparison? "You have a job and I don't, so I'm gonna burn down where you work"? "You have a car, and I don't, so I'm gonna steal and burn your car." I have no idea if such thoughts are on the mark in Baltimore's chaos tonight. But I cannot help wondering why people would burn down stores in their own city.

I cannot understand why people feeling injured decide to injure others that have no connection to their situation. Meanwhile, the latest report is of a senior citizen retirement center on fire and a church's new community center under construction...has been set ablaze. Baltimore's skies tonight are fire-red over  many areas.

I live within 40 minutes of Baltimore, and that's a short drive for us. We go straight north on I-95 to Camden Yards, the Orioles' baseball team home stadium. My family has enjoyed for many years the Inner Harbor, Camden Yards, ESPN Zone, and other old and new landmarks. The restaurant choices suit any budget or taste. I've marveled at the array of fresh foods at Lexington Market, also looted last night.

Baltimore is a multicultural city that descendants of early immigrants from Africa and Europe are proud to claim. We share a sad bond tonight with Baltimore, an intense anguish that on this evening of the day of Freddie Gray's funeral...Baltimore is burning.