Below are selected writings, including my award-winning nationally syndicated column with the USA Today Network distributed to over 600 papers reaching more than 21 million people in 36 states.
This piece is an abbreviated version of my Palm Sunday sermon delivered at the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in NYC on April 10, 2022.
I don’t know about y’all, but I love to sleep.
And, at the risk of sounding a bit arrogant, I’m really good at it.
Maybe this resonates with some of you? Apparently, it resonates with a lot of people, as sleep has become a billion-dollar business. Leading the way in this billion-dollar business are all the fancy mattresses you can buy.
These include DreamCloud, Tempur-Pedic, and the one I find most interesting—the Sleep Number Bed. You may have seen their commercials. These are the mattresses that adjust with the click of a button or a tap on your phone. The settings run from 1-100; the higher the number, the firmer the mattress.
For example, if your mattress were set on 100, it would be like sleeping on a piece of granite, but if your mattress were set on 1, it would be like sleeping on a Krispy Kreme doughnut just taken off the conveyor belt when the Hot sign is on. Not that I know anything about that.
Because inquiring minds need to know, I did a little research, and I found that the most popular Sleep Number is 35, which, I’m sorry, sounds a bit on the soft, squishy side to me. I mean no judgment—everyone has their thing—but here’s my concern: our preference for soft, squishy mattresses parallels the way many of us approach life.
We can all agree, I believe, that people tend to like not only soft mattresses, but also the soft, squishy, safe side of life. It’s human nature. That’s why it’s so hard for people to get out of their soft beds in the morning and face the world. It’s also why we tend to avoid things like unpleasant conversations and why we so often turn away from other people’s misfortunes. Just like a 100-level mattress, those things are hard.
But friends, we’re not called to take the easy way out. Life is like a Sleep Number Bed because we have a choice: we can stay in our soft, squishy, comfortable spaces, or we can dial up our resolve, step out of our comfort zones, and take a firm stand in the hard places.
As Dumbledore says in the Harry Potter series, “We must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.” And yet so often, we choose easy over right.
How many times have we stood in solidarity with people during the warm, fuzzy, fun times, but refused to dial up our resolve when the going got tough?
Recently, I’ve been watching a friend sink into the clutches of dementia. This is a man who has been beloved by many and respected in the business world, a man who has always been surrounded by friends—until now, when the easy times are gone. Now that a firm stand in a hard place is required, his “friends” are few and far between.
Where do we stand when the going gets tough for those around us? When the divorce hits, when the addiction crisis spirals, when the cancer diagnosis is made, when the job is lost? Do we step up when the racist and/or judgmental comment is made? Do we publicly claim our faith in the face of wrongdoing? As our Madison Avenue Baptist Church sign says this week, “While we all may not be in the same boat, we are all in the same storm.”
What is your comfort level with standing firm in hard places?
This is no time to dial it down. The world is a terribly hard place these days. The most important thing we can do in this life is dial up our resolve and stand firm with each other in the hard places. Remember, in the end, we are who we protect.