The Man In Room 306

From Montgomery, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee, he had checked into countless hotels rooms. In 1963, he checked into a hotel room in Washington, D.C. went to the Lincoln Memorial and gave the world his dream. In 1964, he checked into a hotel room in Oslo, Norway to accept a prize for his message of peace and equality. In 1965, he checked into a hotel room in Montgomery, Alabama after a long, exhausting march from Selma that finally moved the Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act.

On Wednesday April 3, 1968 at 11:20 AM he checked into one last hotel room. It was Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, a two-story downtown hotel catering to the black traveler. He was there to complete some unfinished business. In February of the same year, garbage workers in Memphis had gone on strike, demanding a raise and protection from dangerous working conditions. Moved by their plight and the death of two men, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were fatally injured in garbage compactor accident, he agreed to help.

This was his second visit to Memphis within a week. On his previous trip, a march that he led in support of the garbage workers had turned violent and was stopped. The man known for nonviolence had to retreat because of violence in his own ranks. Determined to right this wrong, he came back to Memphis to march again in peace for the marchers, in solidarity for the striking garbage workers and redemption for his reputation as a nonviolent leader advocating for justice.
Later in the day, he left Room 306 to attend strategy meetings for the upcoming march. Weary from meetings, press conferences, and the early morning flight from Atlanta, he returned to Room 306 to rest for the night. However, before he could rest, his associate and best friend the Reverend, Ralph David Abernathy persuaded him to leave Room 306 to speak at the local Mason Temple Church of God in Christ.

That night he exclaimed:

“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. So 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.”

After a this powerful address and greeting several supporters from the audience, he was relieved to finally return to Room 306 to rest before the next day creeped upon him.
On the early morning of April 4, 1968, he left Room 306 for more meetings only to return later in the afternoon to rest before attending a dinner at the home of the Revered Samuel Billy Kyles.

Meanwhile, at the boarding house across the street from the Lorraine Motel a man checks into Room B5. The man rifle in hand enters the boarding house common bathroom and opens a window with a clear sightline to room 306.
There the man from B5 waits with a rifle for the man in 306 to leave his room. And when he does, shoots him dead.

A half a century has now passed since that fatal shot was fired.
Much has changed.

Much more has remined the same.

Regardless of the triumphs and tragedies, the elections won and the elections lost, the three steps forward for equality coupled with the two steps backward, something stills ring true from that the man who spent his last night alive in Room 306:

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The Special Responsibility

Perhaps there is no more famous pulpit in the world than Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Since 2005, the special responsibility for filling the former pulpit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has belonged to the Reverend Dr. Raphael Gamaliel Warnock.

The annual celebration of the birth of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings special responsibility for the Ebenezer Pastor. Reverend Warnock fulfilled that responsibility this week with a sermon using the power of the Word to address the pressing issues of today.

In listening to several of Dr. King’s Sermons this week, I learned two powerful truths and one big revelation.

First, the Word of God never loses its power. Despite having been recorded over fifty years ago, Dr. King’s messages are still real, relevant, and revealing.

The second truth, which was reinforced this week is this: these extraordinary sermons were given often within the ordinary context of a church service – where choirs were singing, announcements were made, and collections were taken.

With these truths comes this revelation: there is no such thing as an ordinary church service. Matthew 18:20 tells us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Therefore, while it is true that the Ebenezer pulpit maybe famous, it is not singularly special – all pulpits are special, and all church services are extraordinary!

All pastors (from Ebenezer and Wheat Street in Atlanta, to Lakewood and the Potter’s House in Texas, to Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel in Sparta, Georgia) have the special responsibility of feeding God’s Sheep.

It was an honor this week to be feed by Reverend Warnock and Ebenezer.

I agree with Bill Gates – Let’s Cure Alzheimer’s

Recently, Bill Gates pledged fifty million dollars of his own money in a quest to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Mr. Gates cited the growing economic and emotional toll Alzheimer’s has on families worldwide for the reason for his contribution.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2017 Americans spent $259 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

The Alzheimer’s Association also estimates that you have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing the disease if you live into your mid-80s. Research indicates African Americans and Latinos are more likely than whites to develop Alzheimer’s.

I am certain many of you reading this post know of a friend or family member with Alzheimer’s.

In my family both of my grandmothers and an aunt have died of complications from Alzheimer’s. My mother is in the final stages of a decade long battle with the disease which has now also gripped two of her sisters.

As Mr. Gates noted despite the increase in disease scientists have yet to figure out what exactly causes Alzheimer’s or how to stop the disease from destroying the brain.

Finding A Cure – Three Things We Can We Do?

The 50 million given by Mr. Gates will go to the Dementia Discovery Fund a private fund working to diversify the clinical pipeline for Alzheimer’s treatment.

While you and I may not be able to drop 50 million we can become part of drive for a cure. Check out three things we can do.

One: Inform Yourself About Alzheimer’s

Our friends at Alzheimers.net have a wonderful infographic that you can share on your favorite social media site — simply use the one-click buttons at the top of the page. The infographic includes effective ways you can join the fight against the disease, from joining clinical trials to writing your congressperson. We hope you’ll find it a great tool for raising awareness. And, after learning and sharing, it’s just one more step to start doing.

Two: Participate in National Memory Screening

The National Memory Screening event aims to provide free memory tests with the goal of early detection and treatment for those showing signs of cognitive impairment. You can be a source of encouragement and strength for friends, family and loved ones simply by participating, but if you would like to do more to raise awareness, host or visit a site near you. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides the materials, and you locate a willing health care professional to administer the testing. Visit their website for more information.

Three: Make a Donation to an Alzheimer’s Organization

There are truly so many ways to donate, and there are numerous opportunities listed on the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America web pages, if you need a place to start. You can simply donate money online and it will go towards the fight to end Alzheimer’s, but there are other ways to donate, too — you can donate stock or an old car and receive some tax benefits to boot; you can donate to the cause of a participant in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s; you can plan a bequest in your will; and much more.

It’s Time For A Cure

Alzheimer’s is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States and it is the only one without any meaningful treatments that are reversing the trend.

Bill Gates knows that a person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia spends five times more every year out-of-pocket on healthcare than a senior without a neurodegenerative condition.

Bill Gates knows that unlike those with many chronic diseases, people with Alzheimer’s incur long-term care costs as well as direct medical expenses that will last for decades.

Bill Gates knows how difficult it is to watch a loved ones suffer from cognitive decline and slowly disappear.

I agree with Bill Gates, let’s cure Alzheimer’s

Marben Bland, is the pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sparta, Georgia and is the Chairperson for the Handcock Health Improvement Partnership. Read more of his posts at www.marbenbland.com

Sexual Harassment

Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly – the very names of these very accomplished men have become linked to sexual harassment, a heinous act that these men callously did over and over again.

For the very few famous men who have been caught, there are many more silent situations where women and some men have been, and continue to be subjected to, unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

The deployable habits of these men, clergy, coaches, teachers, supervisors, and even presidents, who use positions of power, positions of trust, and positions of superior physical strength to impose their demented form of pleasure on others, is in no way condoned by God.

Many may be surprised that the word of God is not silent about the wrongness of sexual harassment, the evilness of sexual assault, and the depravity of rape. God makes it abundantly clear that when these malicious acts are committed, ultimately, they will not go unpunished.

In Genesis 34, when Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, was violated by the son of a neighboring ruler, her brothers murdered the rapist, killed his father, and all the men of his city out of revenge.

Joshua 19-21 tells the story of the unnamed concubine was gang-raped, and left for dead by men of the tribe of Benjamin. In hearing of this injustice, the other tribes went to war against them destroying houses and taking land.

After Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon, 2 Samuel 13 tells us that Tamar’s Brother, Absalom killed Amnon, and incited a rebellion against his father, King David.

God is grieved by sexual harassment, and all forms of injustice. While many have suffered and many more will suffer from sexual harassment, we, the disciples of Christ must know that God sees what is going on.

As we have seen in Scripture, these acts of evil will be avenged one day. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but hopefully in the lifetime of my Granddaughters. As Martin Luther King, Jr. would often say paraphrasing Amos 5:24 “Justice will roll down like waters,”
and righteousness will come like an ever-flowing stream.

In the meantime, as disciples of Christ we should consider doing these four things:

  1. Go to the Lord in prayer, and ask for healing for the victims, deliverance for those who are bound, and forgiveness for those who are the harassers.

  2. Demand zero tolerance for any acts of sexual harassment in our churches, our workplaces, our schools, and our lives.

  3. Search ourselves to identify any tendencies of sexual harassment, hate and bigotry, and when we find them, ask the Lord to blot them out.

  4. Speak out whenever we witness, or are victims of sexual harassment. “Me too” must become more than a hashtag. It must become the mantra for all our actions.

Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly – these are the names we know, but there are many more who we do not know. The past, and even our present may seem dark as allegations of sexual harassment continue to mount. However, we can take comfort that God is in control, and one day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess the evil acts of sexual harassment and that Jesus Christ is Lord!

He knew what he signed up for

“He knew what he signed up for,” is allegedly what President Trump said in a condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sargent Le David Johnson, a U.S. Special Forces soldier, who was killed alongside three other Americans, and four Nigerien troops during a surprise attack earlier this month near Niger’s border with Mali.

Regardless of how you may feel about the alleged remarks of the president, Jesus is clear about what we are signing up for when we make the decision to become a disciple.

In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus lays out the cost of discipleship. This includes discarding our possessions, putting aside our relationships with parents, siblings, children, and finally, even putting life itself on the line so that we can carry the cross of Christ.

Just as a builder will figure out the cost before embarking on a project, and a general will figure out the strength of troops before committing to battle, Jesus asks us to way the cost of discipleship.

In figuring the cost, there are some real question to be answered:

Do we trust Christ with our possessions?
Do we trust Christ with our parents, siblings and children?
Do we trust Christ with our lives?

In knowing what we signed up for we can take conform that that scripture states repeatedly that the Lord will provide.

Matthew 21:22 
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

1 John 5:14
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”

Romans 10:13 
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

With less than 1% of the U.S. population in the military. Then less than 1% of the U.S. population are involved in the wars that we fight, and the battles that we wage.

We often forget that our fellow citizens are at war.
We often forget that our fellow citizens are fighting.
We often forget that our fellow citizens are dying.
We are doing all of this forgetting while we go about our daily lives with little to no knowledge of their sacrifices.

When we do think of our military, often we make them out as super hero’s to be honored at moments designed to make us, not them feel good. Like the arranged, surprised homecoming captured online designed to goes viral for all of us to see. Or when troops are shown standing tall at the playing of the Star Bangled Banner either at the stadium, or a live feed from some far away outpost. Or when soldiers are used as a convenient backdrop for the remarks of the Commander-in-Chief, who in recent years regardless of political party, has never served in uniform.

Our military the less than one 1% who are in harm’s way are people, with all the goodness and blemishes of life. They have good days and bad, excellent marriages and rocky ones. They love their parents, siblings, spouse, children, and significant others, just as we do. In other words, they are God’s loving creation just like us.

So today, as we go about our daily lives let us remember Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida and the other soldiers that died in that ambush.

Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio

and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia

As President Trump allegedly said, these men “knew what they signed up for.” And as cruel and as harsh as it may have sounded if the President said it he is right it is true.

The men and women of our armed forces know what they signed up for. What they signed up for was to serve their country, even it meant dying in that service.

Nevertheless, let us never take their service for granted, or make little of their tremendous sacrifice! To do so, demeans them, and shames all of us!

Jesus is asking us to know what we are signing up for in becoming a disciple, and what we are signing up for is to trust and serve the Lord.

So my fellow worshipers — Jesus in asking us today

Do you trust me to provide you with the possessions that you need and want?
Do you trust me to take care of your parents, siblings and children?
Do you trust me with everything — even your own life?

For when we do, Jesus will be with us always, even until the end of the age.

Marben Bland is a veteran and is the Pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Church is Sparta, Georgia. If you like this post you are encouraged to please share it with others as the Lord has given Marben the mandate to take God’s Word to the world. Find more posting at www.marbenbland.com

I am Going To Take A Knee

There has been a whole lot of talk lately about people taking a knee.

Some folks including a big important man who lives in a white house, who makes big speeches all over in places like the United Nations and Alabama, and then tweets about it.

This big important man is saying that folks should not take a knee especially if they are a football player, especially if they are exercising a first amendment right that service members including this writer served for, especially if they do it while national anthem is being played.

Psalm 95:6 tells us Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

So today before a speech or a tweet can catch up with me I am going to take a knee.

I am going to take a knee and pray for the people of Puerto Rico. United States Citizens who could be without power for months ahead, all while the commander in chief keeps tweeting that everything is going well.

I am going to take a knee and pray for the saints at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, near Nashville, where a man opened fire as church was letting out last week, killing one person and injuring seven others.

I am going to take a knee to ask God’s guidance and intercession regarding the opioid crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 90 Americans die day every day, after overdosing on opioids.  

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin along with prescription pain relievers as fentanyl, oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.

I am going to take a knee and pray to thank the Lord for his goodness, his grace and his love.

I am going to take a knee often today and every day:

To pray for people in need.
To pray for situations of despair
To pray for justice
To pray for peace
To pray for the man in the white house who likes to tweet

I am going to take a knee because the Word of the Lord says in Romans 14:11-12
 
For it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall give praise to God.”
12 So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

I am going to take a knee
I am going to take a knee.

Please like and more importantly share this post! Marben Bland is the pastor of Hall Chapel and Mitchell Chapel AME Church in Sparta, Georgia. He is also a second year seminarian at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Go to www.marbenbland.com for more of his commentary

9 -11 And Irma

Sixteen years ago today, 2,996 people were killed during the September 11 attacks.

Today, we are feeling the power of now, Tropical Storm Irma with strong winds and heavy rain damaging buildings, knocking down trees and wiping out power.

Philippians 4:4 tells us to Rejoice in the Lord always.

So, on a day when many may feel sad because of the loss of life on 9/11, on a day when many may feel scared as the winds blow and the lights flicker,
I will rejoice!

Despite attacks from abroad, and political slip-ups at home, we are still The United States of America.
Therefore, I will rejoice!

Through the wind and the rain, I know the rainbow of the Lord is on its way. Therefore, I will rejoice!

I serve a God that is bigger than a terrorist attack, bigger than a President, bigger than any storm, and bigger than my worry and my fear; Therefore, I will rejoice!

So, choose to rejoice in the Lord always, and know that everything will be all right.