Don’t throw away your mug shot

Prayer, social justice

If you’re gonna have a mug shot, make sure it’s worth it.

I recently toured the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. A small group at church had completed a study on racial reconciliation and it seemed a fitting field trip to end their time together.


The main level of the museum is dedicated to the Civil Rights movement in the United States. It highlights historic locations in Atlanta. It walks you though the Jim Crow laws in each state. You can read about Ruby Bridges and discover the strategies of sit ins and freedom riders. If you are daring, you can sit at a simulated lunch counter sit-in and discover what that would feel and sound like. 


The top floor is dedicated to international human rights efforts and the bottom floor hosts a collection of Martin Luther King Jr’s memorabilia. 


I’ve been several times to the museum and each time I learn something new. On this past trip I looked carefully at the wall of mug shots of the freedom riders who were arrested for protesting. White and black men and women of every age looked back at me. Each one telling a story with their eyes. I’m sure they had a range of emotions. People died while fighting for this cause. Who knew their fate after they were arrested?


But one photo caught my eye: prisoner number 21243 in Jackson, Mississippi. He’s smiling in his mug shot. Not the typical “I’m smiling because you’re taking my picture” photo but more of a “I’m smiling because I know something you don’t know” smile.


His smile tells a story. It takes courage to stand up for your cause. It takes courage to be willing to be arrested for your cause. It takes courage to smile in your mug shot.


Courage isn’t something that is innate. It is something that is gifted to us by the Holy Spirit. The root of the word courage is “cor” in Latin. Another translation for the word is to speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart. Courage requires heart and action: a powerful combo made strong by the Holy Spirit. 


I don’t know what kind of courage you need today but do know that if you ask for it, you’ll receive it. It won't take the fear away but you’ll be able to do what God is calling you to do. 


So ask. And have courage. It’s what God wants for you.


““Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:7-8‬ ‭NRSV‬‬

Until Everyone Hears,

Dr. K




What are your thoughts?