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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Uncle Tom's Cabin: A Lesson in Forgiveness

Many of you may have read this epic novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a nineteenth century abolitionist and author. This novel, believed to be the precursor of the Civil War, became such a sensation that President Abraham Lincoln is purported to have said when he met Stowe,  "So here is the little lady who made this big war."

The novel tells the story of  Uncle Tom, a middle-aged black slave who was sold by his master, Arthur Shelby, in order to pay off his debts. Uncle Tom ends up on a riverboat down the Mississippi River where he befriends a young, white girl named Eva. She falls into the river one night and he rescues her. Augustine St. Clare, Eva's father, buys Tom in order to show his gratitude. The friendship between Tom and Eva deepens as they share their Christian faith. Eva becomes ill and dies, not before asking her father to free Tom. Her father agrees, but before he can do that, he is stabbed to death and his wife reneges on the promise, selling Tom to a vicious plantation owner, Simon Legree.

Legree hates Tom and beats him when he refuses to beat a fellow slave. Tom's faith is sorely tested but he continues to read his Bible and comfort the other slaves. When Cassy, a female slave, decides to run away, Tom encourages her. He refuses to tell Legree where Cassy has gone, so Legree orders his overseers to kill Tom. As Tom lies dying, he forgives the men. Humbled by Tom's forgiveness, both men become Christians. Just before Tom breathes his last, George Shelby, son of Tom's first slave master, arrives to purchase Tom's freedom, but is too late.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin Uncle Tom's Cabin (Thrift Edition)to highlight the cruelties of slavery. She succeeded in doing so, but Stowe, who was a Christian, also showcased the love of Christ who taught us the value of forgiveness. As He was dying on the cross He also prayed,  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23: 34). When Peter asked Jesus if he should forgive his brother seven times, Jesus replied, " I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18: 22).

Do you, or I, have that capacity to forgive your enemies?  Or do we hate them as they hate us? If we are Christians we are told, "Do not take revenge ... but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge, I will repay', says the Lord" (Romans 12: 19).  As we reflect on slavery and the injustices meted out to our ancestors, let us also focus on Jesus Christ who exemplified love and forgiveness in His life and death.
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Sunday, February 06, 2011

Dr. Ben Carson

Ben CarsonImage via WikipediaIn honor of Black History month, I am proud to feature Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, given to him by President George W Bush in 2008.

Ben Carson's life story reads like a fairytale, a black male Cinderella, whisked from the ashes of poverty in Detroit, Michigan, to the hallowed halls of Yale University, where he earned a degree in Psychology, then on to the University of Michigan Medical School where he studied Neurosurgery. However, he did not have a fairy godmother but his own dogged determination to become not just a doctor but an "authority".
Dr. Ben Carson is regarded in medical circles as a miracle worker/living legend/surgeon extraordinaire, but he attributes his amazing successes to hard work and God. Dr. Carson always makes it a habit to pray before every surgery and to give thanks to God for the successful outcome.

In 1987 Dr. Carson made medical history when he became the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate twins (the Binder twins) who were joined at the back of the head. For this feat he spearheaded a surgical team of 70 members in an operation that lasted 22 hours. Other notable achievements include performing the first intrauterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherical, in which he removed half of the brain of a young girl suffering from severe seizures.

Despite his busy career, Ben Carson took time off to marry Candy Rustin, a Yale graduate and accomplished musician. The couple has three sons. They have also founded the Carson Scholars Fund for students in grades 4-11 who maintain a 3.75 GPA.  Dr. Carson has achieved many prestigious honors and awards and sits on the boards of many companies, including Kelloggs.

In looking at the life of this great African American, one might wonder what set him apart. He was born to a mother who couldn't even read and grew up in poverty in a broken home. In his early years he was considered one of the dumbest kids in school, but according to Dr. Carson, he held on to his dream of becoming a doctor. "There is no such thing as an average human being. If you have a normal brain, you are superior." As a doctor in his early years, he experienced racism, but that didn't deter him. He maintained his humility because he believes "you can never get too big for God."

Do you have a dream? The Bible says, For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak , and not lie : though it tarry , wait for it; because it will surely come , it will not tarry" (Habakkuk 2:3) . So, hold on to your dream and don't give up, " for with God nothing shall be impossible " (Luke 1: 37).

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