Monday Morning Musings for 01.23.17

  1. As you think about your life, what is the story or narrative that you are living out of, the "context" that you use to explain what you see happening around you as well as your circumstances? As Alastair MacIntyre said, "You cannot answer the question 'What should I do?' Until I answer the question which precedes it: What story am I part of?" The problem is our culture is feeding us numerous false stories, and when you live out of a false story, you have an incorrect understanding of life which leads to an avalanche of poor choices and unnecessary fears. The disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 were in exactly that place. Their lives were crumbling because they had started living out of the wrong story. They thought the story of Jesus was over, yet Jesus handles it beautifully. Verse 27 tells us, "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." He patiently takes them aside and shows them once again how the Bible is God's story, the story of His plan to redeem and save it – and us – through Christ. Transformation happens when we reframe our stories into His story, one that explains who we are, why the world is a mess, the purpose of our lives, and what awaits us in the future.
  2. The fact that I live out of that story – the gospel story – is why I accepted the invitation to pray at the Inauguration Prayer Service held at the National Cathedral last Saturday. I felt honored to have been asked, and I accepted because I was being asked to take part in a service of prayer and worship, the 58th such occasion, as the newly sworn in President and Vice-President seek God's aid in the new responsibility that has just been placed upon them. Two thoughts dominated my thinking: A) when a Christian is asked by another person, regardless of who they are, to come and pray, if there is a way to do it, we are compelled to do so. We are admonished to pray for one another in Scripture, so to refuse to do so seems an affront to God. B) We are called to pray for "kings and authorities" (1 Timothy 2:2), all those who have been placed in positions of governmental leadership. Thus, my action was an act of obedience. God commands us to do it, thus, regardless of who sits in the chair, I do it. I would have done it 8 years ago, and I would do it 12 years from now. There is perhaps no one who needs prayer more in this country than the man or woman who sits in that seat.
  3. The "political" story is not the answer, but it is nonetheless something important to take part in. Governments and social systems do not possess the power to solve our ills or give us true life, thus we do not place our hope in the men or women who lead them. It pained me to see so many people in and around the parade route whose lives appeared shattered because they were living out of the political story. No matter what we think this person or that person may or may not do, our lives are held in the hands of the One who holds the future. I'm pretty sure our money says it best: "In God We Trust."
  4. THAT SAID, we need men and women willing to engage in public service. I talked to several of our Florida Representatives on the trip, and let me assure you it is NOT a glamorous job. You spend countless hours away from home, away from family, working on behalf of others. And for that privilege, you have to work an additional job (unless you are independently wealthy) in order to keep your family going. It also comes with the added perk of having to run for re-election every two years, so you are ALWAYS having to raise money. It's endless and often thankless, all so you can serve the greater public good. The Senate is easier with longer terms, but that is no cake walk either. To those who do it faithfully and honestly, I say thank you. 
  5. As disturbing as it was to see people literally acting crazy in every sense of the word, running, screaming at the top of their lungs, carrying signs with words not fit for any child to see, I am glad we live in a country where they were free to do it. These people weren't hurting anyone, and they were free to act that way if they so chose. Try that in Russia or China and see what happens.
  6. The Women's March got a lot of attention, and while there were plenty of hateful things said and done, I had a perfectly delightful conversation with two women on the Metro on the way in from the airport. They were coming to protest in DC for the first time since 1968 when, as college roommates, they had gone to protest the Viet Nam war. Now, they were coming back to stand up for things that concerned them, which is their right, which I affirmed. They asked what I was doing, and I responded that I was exercising my rights to take part in a prayer service for the new President and Vice-President. They could not have been more positive about it and about the need to pray. We didn't yell at each other or debate beliefs. We had an open, honest dialogue about the country, our concerns, our faith - all in an environment of mutual respect. Back to #1, start your conversations in situations like that with "So, tell me your story. Why are you here?" And then listen. Let's be the example of healthy dialogue instead of the instigators of hateful exchange - and yes, even on Facebook. 
  7.  SPECIAL MOMENT: With Leigh's Step-Dad being Greek, I moved during rehearsal to meet His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Amerca. (That's his official title, so wanted to get that right!). I posted a picture of him yesterday, but he was the sweetest man ever. He's like your grandfather. Kind, warm, smiling at you, asking you questions about your life - oozes love. I immediately wanted to find a place so he could hear my confession.
  8. INTERESTING CONNECTION: Carlyle Begay, the Navajo who opened the service, is a very strong Christian. He sang a Navajo song about "walking in beauty", the concept of "walking" being deeply connected in Old Testament theology as a description for one who is in "relationship with God." You would say, "Moses walked with God." It is why today, people might ask, "How is your walk with God?" It's simply another way of talking about relationship. 
  9. HEART-STRING MOMENT: 20-year-old Marlana VanHoose, blind and physically handicapped by cerebral palsy (in a wheelchair), singing How Great Thou Art. I met her beforehand and she was as delightful and joy-filled as you can imagine. She has gained some fame by singing The National Anthem at various sporting events, but this moment was a holy one. 
  10.  Finally, I am fascinated by the Secret Service, so I was having a blast watching them operate, from the four guys on top of the Treasury Building with sniper rifles ready as they scanned the crowd, to the guys who check me over at the National Cathedral, to the detail waiting for the President to arrive, standing by those seats. Naturally, I went up and engaged him in conversation, asked him how long he had been on the President's detail, what it was like, etc. Then I took out my phone and said, "Hey, can I get a selfie with you?" The look on his face changed dramatically. "No. We don't do that." And then he ignored me.