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Let Freedom Ring-Observations from the Life of Dr Martin Luther King

Posted by on January 19, 2014 at 8:55 PM

This is a re-post of a blog entry from January 2012. Today on my way to work and here inside the mall, I notice that things are a little busier. It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and many employees and school children are off the clock and out of their schools. It is a day to frolic in last weekends snowfall, to make last minute exchanges and returns and to sit home and watch The Price is Right or Judge Judy. Most people with the day off today have no idea why we celebrate the day or for what reasons all federal and state government offices, most schools, the Federal Reserve and most financial institutions are closed. For some, it is lack of education, they do not know who Martin Luther King Jr was and what his legacy continues to be. For others, it is a choice, an ignorant choice, proclaiming this a "black" holiday, a day reserved for African Americans to celebrate "their" hero. I address this latter group in my blog today. I also encourage that first group, young and old to take the time to learn a little about the message of MLK Jr and perhaps,with courage, to spread it. Martin Luther King Jr was a hero to anyone who wants a better world for their children. Martin Luther King Jr was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Most people consider King as coming from a poor home or from humble beginnings. How else could he reach out to the poor, the disillusioned, the man and woman from the ghettos of the big cities of America. In King's own words, however, he considered the first 25 years of his life as very comfortable. "Life was wrapped up for me in a big Christmas package." King was brilliant, he entered Morehouse College at age 15 and received his degree at 19, in 1948. Coming from a family of pastors, he was taught the Golden Rule- to treat others as you wish to be treated. He was taught to love the white race, even in the light of intolerable racial injustice that reigned in the south in the early and middle parts of the last century. One of his greatest influences growing up was the reading of Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau, a white writer of the 1800's. Another great influence was Mahatma Gandhi, of India who King learned about from a speech he heard after the great pacifists death in 1948. Gandhi espoused a philosophy of Satyagraha ( Satya meaning "truth" in love and graha meaning "force", therefore meaning the "truth of love or the force of love") , Through studying over 15 books on Gandhi's life, he discovered that this philosophy on the power of love was indeed an overwhelming force. So now, I pause for the first thing I want you to take from King's life: 1. Love can be the most powerful force in the can change destinies, it can move mountains, it can overcome everything. King sought God in developing his philosophies. Among his biblical heroes was the prophet Jeremiah who, like King, died a martyr. The 19th century preacher Henry Ward Beecher provided King with another of his philosophies,that God can be found in nature. "Nature is God's tongue." said Beecher. King's speeches are riddled with word pictures of the majestic plains, the red dirt of his native Georgia, the sea, the sky and the heavens. King met Coretta Scott and married her on June 18, 1953. She was a rarity of her time, a college educated black woman, who over the years provided much of the passion and content of King's speeches. Let me stop here to say , that like others, I have heard of the rumors that King had numerous affairs and was a philanderer. He had a thick FBI file and was generally mistrusted by the CIA,the FBI and many politicians. King was a dangerous man, and the world needed, and needs dangerous men. No milqtoast wimp could move the hearts of the mass of people as King did. This writing is not here to clarify, justify or deny any of this personal business. If anything, I think we would be wise to adhere to Jesus' teaching that "he without sin should cast the first stone'. King's own words about his wife, from The Autobiography of Martin Luther King , say this, "I am convinced if I did not have a wife with the fortitude, strength and calmness of Corrie, I could not have withstood the ordeals and tensions surrounding the movement." Lesson #2 from the life of Martin Luther King: 2. You cannot do it alone... any movement worthwhile needs a team. You need to surround yourself with a support system that believes in your message. One person is powerful, but a united team is unstoppable. King began preaching at the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery Alabama in 1954. In one of his first sermons, King talked about life as a great triangle. The three sides were The Length of Life, which is not measured in years, but accomplishments, The Breadth of Life which is measured in outward concern for the well-being of others, and The Height of Life, measured as your outreach towards God. Without the due development of all three, no life is complete. Lesson #3 is: 3. You need all three components of life- the outreach to God, the outreach to others, and the development of self to live a complete life. As Abraham Lincoln said " If I was given eight hours to cut down a tree, I would spend six sharpening the ax." King knew as Lincoln did, that without personal growth, your outreach to God and to others would be affected. In 1958, a deranged woman stabbed King with a letter opener. The wound reached just short of his aorta. After removing the weapon, the doctor revealed to King that had he even sneezed during the time before the instrument was removed, he would have bled to death, his aorta punctured. King received many well wishes during his recovery, but none that reached him like that of a 9th grade girl. Her letter read: " I am a ninth grade student at White Plains High School. While it should not matter,I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune and of your suffering. And I read that if you would have sneezed, you would have died. And I am simply writing you to say, I am so glad you didn't sneeze." Lesson #4 is about children: 4. Look to children for wisdom. Sometimes we are so wrapped in our prejudiced and set ways that we cannot change to save ourselves. Children are innocent of that if we approach life with that innocence, we can learn an amazing truth..that we are all equal. King and his wife had four children...He left Dexter Avenue Church and he began his movement towards Civil Rights. He always claimed that the segregation and prejudice that reigned particularly in the south during the 1950‘s was detrimental to the white man as well as the black man. He is arrested several times for his demonstrations and repeatedly serves out the terms instead of collecting political favors, as he declares “ A partial victory is not an end, but a beginning.” Lesson #5 is about partial victory: 5.The quote “ A partial victory is not an end, but a beginning.” reminds me not to settle for less than what God has intended for me. Sometimes when things start to go my way, I lighten up my efforts. King reminds me that this is where I charge. King gave probably his most famous speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Most people know it as the "I have a dream" speech. In it, King lists several points of "his dream". Amongst them are the grandchildren of slaves and the grandchildren of slaveholders sitting together at the table of brotherhood, that the American dream of man created equal will be seen in its reality and that even southern states dripping with hatred, would someday become an oasis of freedom. My favorite part of "the dream" though, was this statement: " I have a dream that my four little children will live in a country where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." So here is lesson #6. 6. Teach your children to develop a love for everyone, regardless of color and to celebrate their character, not their color. The lesson to teach ourselves, to teach our children is that color does not matter, only character matters. There is so much to read about King's life. So much that he accomplished in 39 short years. A Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, repeated threats on his life, the jailings, the relationships with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. And finally, the trip of his life takes us to Memphis Tennessee and to April 3, 1968. He gives what was to be his last speech. Ironically, or amazingly foretelling, he chroncled what he had seen, his near assassination by the woman in the 1950's, his jailing, his push for the movement he so dearly believed in. He talks about a walk with God through history and what he would want to witness, the European Renaissance, Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation, Franklin Roosevelt saving the nearly bankrupt country. Then, bringing his speech to the current day, he says: " Well I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life- longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you . But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." Twelve hours later, King was dead from an assassin's bullet. Thirty nine years old with a young wife and four young children. From his final speech, it would appear that he died a satisfied man, having seen the promised land. This is lesson #7 from Dr. King. It has to do with God's will and the gift of legacy. 7. In order to live a peaceful, fulfilling life that will leave its own legacy to those you love, you must live it in the center of God's will. This month on what would have been King's 83rd birthday, President Obama and his wife Michelle, worked on a Washington DC community project in King's name. King's legacy lives on 44 years after his death and his words affect millions. They need to affect millions more. Millions who had the day off, but didn't know the man that they were celebrating. As I said earlier, this is no personal biography of King or what he was or wasn't as a husband, father or even public figure. It is the recognition on this day of all days, that we are all human, we are all equal, and we are all loved by God who wants us all to see the promised land.

I wish you good journeys! SEVEN LESSONS from DR KING 1. Love is the most powerful force in the world. It can overcome anything. 2. You cannot do it alone. A support system is vital. 3. Life is a three sided equation- development of self, outreach to others, outreach to God. 4. Look to children for wisdom. Jesus said, "Come to me, like a child" (full of wonder) 5. When victory is in sight, fight harder, not less. A partial victory is only the beginning. 6. Judge people by their character, not their color. 7. To leave a legacy to others, live in the center of God's will for your life.

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