Monday, January 21, 2013

A Few Thoughts Watching The Inauguration

I've been watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama, so I thought I'd write a few lines as I reflect on this historic event.

I'll state for the record that I did not vote for Mr. Obama. I chose to vote for another candidate for the simple reason that I don't believe that Mr. Obama's or the Democrats in general, offer our country the best political policies. In fact, I think most of what they stand for, promote, and enact legislatively, are dangerous and destructive for the country. But that's another discussion for another time.  I state that to give some perspective on the rest of what I have to say.

As I write this, I'm watching the President make his way back to the White House in a parade. The inauguration is over, the speeches are done, the lunch with his political friends and foes is finished, and only the parties lay ahead. It's been quite a day. Crowds filled the mall, and it was quite touching to see the President, upon leaving the swearing-in ceremony, pause, turn around for one more view of the people, and say something like, "I want one more look. I won't see this again." Even Presidents recognize that power and rule are limited.

Mr. Obama just got out of his limo and is walking with his wife, Michelle, both waving at the crowd and obviously enjoying the moment. So are the people cheering him on.

But, these rah-rah moments don't last long. Tomorrow everyone gets back to work, partisan divide will once again reign, arguments and recriminations will abound, divisiveness will irritate people on both sides, and the hard work of governing a nation will once again put more gray hair on Mr. Obama's head.

As I watch all this, I can't help but reflect on a few things.  First, anybody who doesn't think the United States of America is one unique nation among all the nations of the world, you're not paying attention. Voters get to vote, and we get to elect our leaders. Lots of nations do that, but this is special. Even when we elect leaders from a party other than the one that's been in power, we have order and peace, and the transition is a marvel. Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea-Party folks - you name it, may not like the person who was elected, but we all celebrate this event. It's more than news. It's history. It's our history. That's something to recognize.

Even though I did not vote for Mr. Obama, I wish him well. I pray for his health and safety, I pray that he will be wise and knowledgeable, I pray that he will have the nation's best interest in his heart and mind, not just an agenda. I pray for his ability to lead in healthy, productive ways. I hope he will focus on things that affect the daily lives of our people, that he gets the unemployed back to work, and that the economy in general will improve. I pray that his professed faith in Jesus Christ becomes a greater part of his life, his thinking, and his politics. Unlike some of his political opponents, I do not hope he fails. I hope he's successful, not in any particular political policy or legislative act, but as the leader of our country. If he fails, I think we all fail.

Whether people like it or not, Mr. Obama is an historic figure. He has some opportunities and responsibilities that no President has ever had. His impact on this country will likely be greater than we know for ages to come. That's powerful! May he capitalize on those things in the most positive, productive ways.

I hope that the rancor and ill-will that seems to permeate politics and that seeps into our society will abate. I recently watched the newly released movies on Lincoln, and if the politics shown in that movie are accurate, it may be that all this is nothing new. Still, it needs to change. Politicians and political operatives thrive on discord, stirring people up, and creating disagreement and hatred. If I could hope that any President would change something, it's all this hate-filled rhetoric. Rhetoric too often leads to hate-filled actions. So, Mr. President, be that uniter that you portrayed yourself to be.

To my friends who are mired down in the doldrums because your candidate lost the election, let me say to all, you need to get up, dust yourself off, quit your fatalistic attitudes, and let's move on. The election is over. If you're not happy, fine, go to work and do your best to get your guy elected next time. You're free to do that. But you're not free to be a stick-in-the-mud impediment. Yes, you can argue for what you think is right, and oppose things that you think will hurt, but at the same time, you need to pray for our President, our Vice President, all those in congress of all parties. You need to remember that it is unity that will make us strong, and division that will weaken us. By the way, those of you who feel like you "won" should think about these same things.

Mr. President, I salute you. I pray for you and your family. I respect the office you have been elected to. I celebrate with you the place in history you hold. You are my President. Be humble and seek God's will as you lead our country. Help us as a people be a good, kind, peaceful, generous nation. God bless you.

Four years from now, unless something drastic changes, I will likely vote for a candidate from a different party. I doubt if you'll convince me that the Democrats have my, or my country's best interest at heart. But right now, you're my guy. Let's go!

Sing Praises To The Lord

17 I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. — Psalm 7:17 (NASB95)
. . . the hymns or choruses we sing—which combine Scriptural truths with moving melodies—teach us things that won't easily be forgotten. That should probably give us pause—pause to reflect on the value of what we have in the hymnals tucked away in our pews; pause to revisit what is being projected on the screens that line the front of our worship auditoriums; pause to remember that God has given us a powerful tool in music and its potent relationship to human memory. – Natalie Angier, "In One Ear and Out the Other," (3-17-09)
Let’s think about singing for a minute, but not like it happens so often nowadays. Too often the only discussion about singing is the old argument about “a cappella” versus mechanical instruments. This is different.

It appears that even science understands the value of singing. The quote above is from an article about memory. One of the points is that we remember things longer depending on how strongly the memory is engraved in the brain. Turns out, singing is a great way to engrave those memories.

Remember learning the alphabet as a child? You probably learned to sing the song. Remember learning the books of the New Testament? Learned those books singing that little song. Singing songs imprints things on the mind.

When you sing praises to the Lord, you are honoring Him, acknowledging Him, worshiping Him, thinking Him, asking things of Him, and thanking Him for things He’s already done. It might appear that it’s all for the Lord’s benefit. Not so. Of course He loves to hear us sing His praises. Surely, God is pleased that we would do that for Him. But there’s more going on.

When you sing, something is happening in your brain. There are things being engraved on your mind. When you sing songs that speak of and to the God we worship, you’re literally training your mind. You’ll remember biblical truths better when they’re sung. You’ll remember God’s blessings when you sing about them.

Next time you take a breath, getting ready to sing, be aware that something marvelous is about to happen in your brain. Just might last a long time, too!


3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. — Romans 12:3–5 (NASB95)
According to new research, over the past 50 years Americans have increasingly emphasized "me" over "we"—or individualism over community. That's based on a heavy-duty analysis of words and phrases that have appeared in American books published in the past 50 years. Researchers used Google Books to scan 750,000 books, comparing the frequency of "me" words and phrases (such as "all about me," "I am the greatest," "I love me," "my needs," etc.) with "we" words (such as "community goals," "we are one," "work as a team," "common good," etc.). Researchers concluded that the results showed an increasing focus on the solitary self. Psychologist Jean Twenge added, "These trends reflect a sea change in American culture toward more individualism." –
We’ve suspected it was true for a long time, and now research validates the suspicion. People are getting more and more self-focused. The idea of community, team, and other group oriented terms mean less and are therefore practiced less. We’re a nation of self-possessed, self-concerned people.

If you don’t think that impacts the church, you’re not paying attention. “What can I get out of church?” is one of the top questions that shapes a person’s involvement. “What’s in it for me?” “Is this something I like?” “Does this meet my needs?” A thousand such questions must be answered. Otherwise, people just don’t want to go through the bother of participation.

Of course we hear rumors that loneliness and feelings of detachment, even abandonment are also on the rise, and that’s not surprising. After all, if nobody wants to go out of their way to connect with others, somebody is probably going to feel left out.

It’s sad that we must continually address this issue. It’s actually not very new. The apostle Paul understood the problem. That’s why he said we shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Church is a community. It can’t operate if it’s made up of loners. Commit now to rejecting selfishness and self-centeredness. Connect with others. Find your place in the community called “church.” Serve others, and you’ll be served.