Our Nation’s Capital

Steve, Kevin and Scott await the festivities on the National Mall, October 1997.

I’ve been to Washington a total of four times in my life:  Once for the “Stand In the Gap” event on October 4, 1997 and three other times for business.  With each visit, I am amazed by the grandeur of the place, the scale of the Capital and the beauty of the art and monuments.

My time in DC is always short so I’ve never been in a museum or gone on a tour.  I’ve never entered a building other than to buy a coffee and use the restroom.

The Capital DomeMy business trips take me to Bethesda but each year I make sure I jump on the Metro and travel to the Mall.  I see the sights, take some pictures, and marvel once again at our Nation’s Capital and the beauty of this city.

The Lincoln MemorialBut this past week, as I walked the length of the Mall, something new struck me:  Many places around the world construct obelisks and statues to honor their great leaders; those who rose to fame and power and shaped the world with their words and actions, both good and bad.  And we have our fair share of those great granite tributes. But we also have something more.

Korean War Veterans MemorialIn Washington, DC, flanking the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are two fantastic structures that honor men and women, named and yet to be named, who came from little towns and villages across this country to give their lives to protect the freedom we so enjoy.  These beautiful memorials tell a story of a country who is led by great men and who is made by every man.

Vietnam War Veterans Memorial WallThe Vietnam War Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial both stand as tributes to the brave men and women who honored their country by serving, fighting and dying.  Some volunteered.  Many were drafted.  But all should be honored.  All should be thanked.

Three young men stop to allow pictures in front of the Lincoln Memorial, December 23, 2013.
Three young men stop to allow pictures in front of the Lincoln Memorial, January  23, 2013.

At the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, several service men were hiking the mall, 60-pound packs loaded on their backs.  Their boots pounded out a rhythm on the marble steps, all the way to the top of the monument.  As they stood, hunched over, catching their breath, many people looked at them in wonder.  I approached them and spoke to them a bit about where they were from, their training and those loaded packs.  I asked for a picture and they were happy to oblige.  As we parted, I shook their hands and thanked them for their service and asked God to bless them in their duties.

I am thankful for young men and women who volunteer, knowing that they are likely to face battle.  I am grateful that they are willing to serve, knowing the risks.  But I pray that they will never need a monument of their own.

Where has the week gone?

Dear Lord,

What did I do with my time this week?  Where did my days go?

I started my Monday with hopes serenity and meditation.

I planned a time of reading and devotion for Tuesday.

I desired a spirit of charity on Wednesday.

I expected to live a life of graciousness and forgiveness on Thursday.

But here it is, Friday and I have yet to live my life in a way that honors your good works, your loving kindness or your compassion for others.  Instead, I filled my week with activities, television, blind ambition and selfish gain.  I’ve put myself above others.  I’ve met my needs without giving one thought to the needs of those around me.

Forgive me for my failure and renew my heart for the challenge of the weekend and the week ahead.

Amen and Amen.

A Prayer for More (satire)

Dear God,

Thank you for your abundance and love.  You have always taken care of me and met my every need and I know, because I’m an American, that you will continue to do so.  You are such a good God:  One of the best.  You are the creator of all things and I know you want me to have as many of those created things as possible, pressed down and shaken together (as it says in your word).

I don’t want to be negative but I want to share the pain in my heart.  I know you can see it from where you sit and it is certainly obvious to anyone who passes by that our home needs new siding.  Of course, with the restrictions of our home-owner’s association, it cannot be a  vinyl, not that I would chose this but I’m simply reminding you.  So, I’m praying for a high quality fiber board or real cedar with a dark stain, if at all possible.  We can talk colors later.

And Dear Lord, I noticed the other day that my shoes were scuffed on the toes.  I am embarrassed to wear them in public…I now know what it must have felt like to have all those people looking down on you while you were on the cross; mortifying, isn’t it?  I’ve been through my closet and ALL of my shoes are in this shape.  Of the 12 pair I own, not one is truly in step with today’s fashion.  A new set of black dress shoes would be lovely.  Thank you, God, in advance of your generosity!

Thank you, Jesus for knowing the condition of our shoes.  You even know the condition of our water and while we are on the subject,  please remind the delivery service that the salt should be placed BESIDE the furnace and not in front of the water softener where everyone can see it.

It says in your Word that we are to lift up all our cares and burdens because you will take them from us.  I know you hear my prayer and will meet my needs.  And so, I thank you for the abundance with which you have blessed us.  But honestly, God, it has caused quite a dilemma.  With so much food on our pantry shelves, we have to remodel that space.  And so I ask that you will give me wisdom as I pick out the correct carpenter to remodel the pantry.  And PLEASE help me find someone who will not suggest that horrible wire shelving!  As a child of God, I know you want the best for me and my family.

Thank you.  Thank you.  You know these burdens of my heart and I’m so thankful that you will hear me and answer.  I always feel so much better when I can just give these concerns up to you.

I can’t wait to talk to you again tomorrow.

AMEN.

Weekend of Service: Making a Difference in Hamilton County

For the past four years we have closed the doors of our church and sent thousands of our regular attenders into the streets of Noblesville, Fishers, Indianapolis, Cicero and so many other towns in the surrounding area.

Participants hammer nails, rake leaves, paint walls, clean gutters, care for children, write letters, collect food and so much more.  Hundreds of thousands of work-hours are invested.  Lives are changed all over the central Indiana and literally around the world.

But even before we left the parking lot we saw the possible impact of our actions.  Eight semi-truck trailers were waiting at the back of the church parking lot.  Their doors were open, the skid loaders waiting, tables for sorting set up and ready.  The expectation is that this weekend we will collect enough food from all the neighborhoods around the county to fill each and every truck.  Imagine that!  Hundreds of thousands of pounds of food gathered together in one place to help feed the needy of Hamilton County.

Last year’s collection was enough to get the pantries in our area through into the middle spring.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we can make it possible to feed hungry people throughout the entire year? I think we can.  I’m going to do my part by filling a bag of my own and helping pick up food tomorrow.

I’ll keep you posted!

A Prayer for All Saints Day

Dear Lord,

On this day, All Saints Day, we lift up those who have gone before.  In truth, we know that they weren’t all Saints.  We know that some were rough, some were gruff and all were in need of your grace and mercy.

Even the great men and women of the faith stand as giants because of your love and power.

And so, on this day, we thank you for those who were examples, those who led the way, those who taught us how to live lives that reflect your gentle, loving spirit.

AMEN

Jesus Hates?

Sunday School teachers let me down.

Sermons have failed to inform.

All my seminary training disappointed.

Despite hundreds of hours of Biblical training, I’ve never known the truth.

I’ve been attending church for decades, Bible Studies for years, youth groups overnights, summer camps and  service projects…No one has ever informed me that Jesus hated my pumpkin.  And given the prominence of this sign, attached to a pickup truck roaming the streets of Noblesville, this is something I should have known.  SOMEONE should have filled me in about God’s Son and his thing against orange gourds.

In my defense I always thought, in the hierarchy of things that Jesus hated, a pumpkin might be pretty low on the list.  For instance, I was pretty sure that Jesus hated murder.  I was under the impression that genocide pretty high up there as a thing hated by Jesus.  War is considered bad and I thought it might get some of the the Messiah’s attention.

I am also pretty sure Jesus hates racism, child abuse, cruelty to animals, stealing, rape, poverty and social injustice.  I think Jesus even hates hate itself.

So, on this Halloween Weekend, I think I’d better re-think my understanding of Jesus and certainly review the evils of pumpkins.

But a more troubling question is still unanswered:  If Jesus hates the Jack-O-Lantern, does he also hate the pumpkin grower?

These are questions that are going to fester.

A Prayer for Our Teens

Dear and Mighty God,

You are bigger than the mountains, more powerful than the rolling tide, greater than any army.  But there are times when a parent has to wonder if you are capable of moving the hearts and minds of the teenagers.  These young people are a force of nature equal to a planet’s gravity, greater than solar winds, as powerful as black holes.

So many parents have given up any hope that their child will graduate high school, complete college, move out of the house, get a job, become a productive member of society.

So many teens struggle to find purpose in their lives.  They desire so much more from the world and themselves.  But rather than being proactive and look for work, volunteer where needed or develop a plan to stop world hunger and water shortages, they sit for hours playing video games, texting and watching YouTube.

We believe you can move the mountains.  We trust you will move the children.

You gave Solomon wisdom to rule his kingdom.  We pray that you will give parents a small portion of that insight.

Save us from this generation and their lack of direction and purpose.

Move them to greatness, we pray with all our hearts.

AMEN.