Friday, November 25, 2016

Making America Good Again: Thanks-Giving

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.  Psalm 107:1

Now that Thanksgiving Day is over, make some quiet time this weekend to thank God for the people and things in your life.  Go broad and go deep.  Here are some thoughts to help you get started.

Thank God for the variety and abundance of food we have.  Imagine saying grace by naming each animal, plant, mineral and person that went into making your meal:

"Thank you God for turkeys.  Thank you for mashed potatoes and the cows that provided the butter and milk. Thank you for green beans and the pig that provided the bacon to flavor them. Thank you for the pumpkins, spices, sugar, eggs and milk in the pumpkin pie. Thank you for the grapes that made the wine and the beans that made the coffee.  Thank you for every hand that went into bringing this food to us from the farmers, to the truck drivers, to the people at the grocery store and the ones who cooked it.  Thank you God for everything and everyone who brought this meal to us."

Imagine how long that prayer would have been at your Thanksgiving feast!  And that's just being thankful for the food.

Thank God for the people in your life - family, friends and coworkers.  Thank God for those who have impacted you in some way, like teachers, pastors and doctors. Thank God for those who help us live together like police officers, soldiers and, yes, elected officials.  Thank God for folks who touch your life perhaps for only a moment like the Salvation Army bell-ringer and the people in need your generosity helps.  Thank God that each person is unique.  How boring the world would be if we were all the same!

Thank God for the stuff you do have.  Sometimes I get a little nuts and thank God for things like electricity, toilets that flush, cell phones, vaccines and the internal combustion engine!  I also thank God for the people with the ingenuity to be inventors and builders.

Thank God for intangible things that make life, life:  love, joy, truth, beauty, freedom and justice.  God created these too.

Thank God for the things that have happened in your life, the good and the bad.  It takes both laughter and tears to shape us into good people.

And, perhaps most of all, thank God for being God.  I thank God who gives me life, now and forever, who loves me and saves me from my sins.  I thank God who is with me everyday, who comforts me when I am sad, guides me when I am confused, heals me when I am sick and who fills me with joy.

What else would you like to thank God for today? Let's make America good again by being grateful to God for all that we have and all that we are.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Making America Good Again: An Attitude of Gratitude

It is good to give thanks to the Lord. (Psalm 92:1)

Modern American Thanksgivings focus on food, family and football with a slight nod to being thankful for stuff.  Sadly, this is about all we can expect from a culture pervaded with ingratitude.

Look around and look into your own life.  Are you among those who refuse to be grateful for what you do have?  If you have a place to live, even if it's not the home you want, be grateful you have a home.  I could say this about your car, your bank account, your old iPhone or perhaps some members of your family. You get the point.  Be grateful for what you have!

Another way we show our ingratitude is by taking things and people for granted. Did you just assume that there would be a turkey at the store for you to buy?   We take for granted the abundance that America's prosperity provides.  Are you like the cashier I met at the grocery store who said she was just going to "show up" and eat like she always has? I warned her that her Mom (like mine did) would one day probably want to turn the responsibility over to her.  I got an eye roll and no comment. Who and what are you taking for granted this Thanksgiving - and the rest of the year? Show a little appreciation!

A third form of ingratitude that pervades our culture is perhaps the most harmful.  Listen to folks talk about what they are going to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  The trend seems to be that even when we are grateful FOR things, we fail to be grateful TO God who gave us those very things.  God is the Creator of everything and of every person.  Be grateful to God who blesses you every day.  Thank God for everything!

This is a long weekend.  Find the time to think long and hard about what it truly means to be thankful.   Be grateful for what you have.  Stop taking things for granted.  Thank God everyday for everything.

To make America good again, let's be a nation that truly celebrates Thanks-giving, not just on one day, but as a way of life.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Making America Good Again: Veterans and Voting

Did you vote?  This Veteran's Day, thank our veterans for protecting that right and all our freedoms. Thank them for their willingness to serve and for their love of our country.  Beyond that think about what they had to do to keep us free.  Most don't talk too much about it, but I'm sure you've picked up a few hints.

The veterans I have known left home and family for some basic training and more training after that.  Some were drafted - most volunteered.  They learned to handle weapons and survive in hostile places.

Veterans I have known fought Nazism by marching across Germany and guarding the docks of New York City. They slugged their way across Africa and Italy.  They baked in the sun on islands in the Pacific to stop Japan's imperialism.  They were captured by the enemy.  They became chaplains. They guarded against the encroachment of Communism in Korea and Vietnam.  They slugged through leech-infested swamps, flew over enemy territory and watched their buddies get blown up by children with grenades.  They were spit on when they came home.

Veterans I have known and their families moved again and again all over the world.  Some flew in airplanes with bombs, cargo and troops into dangerous places. Some taught others how to fly.  They served on aircraft carriers and had to ditch into the sea. They watched over our nuclear arsenal during the Cold War.  They maintained military equipment and kept it ready to be deployed at a moment's notice. They were shot down in helicopters. They guarded our embassies and gathered intelligence. They survived IED explosions, while their friends laid dead and injured in the wreckage in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism. They deployed for months on end in the desert, on ships and in submarines.  They lived lives of utter boredom interjected with moments of sheer terror.

They came back to civilian life with nightmares we can't imagine and stories they will never tell.  They are the survivors.

They did what they did, so that in safety and peace we can cast our votes.  So that we can practice our faith.  So that we can speak our minds.  So that we can live as free men and women.

Let's stop taking them for granted. Spend some time today thinking about the veterans who have touched your life and the sacrifices they made.  And then do something for them.

Thank them and pray for them.

Contact your Congressman demanding our veterans receive the best health care and all the benefits to which they are entitled.

Send a donation to one of the many charities that help veterans and their families.

Make a commitment to live all 365 days of the year as a proud American who loves liberty and shows gratitude to those who protect it.

To make America good, it is time for us all to be patriots once again.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Making America Good Again: Humility and Hope

Donald Trump's election as president has rocked the nation and the world.  His detractors are dismayed and fearful; his supporters surprised and relieved.  As the reality of the election results sink in - what do we do now?  

Humility and hope should guide us in the days ahead.

Get humble.  None of us should think we are better than anybody else.  Let's change our conversations to emphasize what we have in common rather than what we don't.  I'm praying that Americans will take a deep breath, take a step back and look past our differences to find the good in each other.  As I said before, don't seek revenge or hold grudges, but love each other.

I'm grateful a tone of healing and reconciliation filled my Facebook newsfeed.  Most of my friends offered prayers and messages of congratulations to the winners and condolences to the losers.  There were a few snarky posts but I know that grief must have an outlet.  Let's forgive each other for angry words in this emotionally-charged atmosphere.

The riots we see, however, should bother everyone.  I want to believe that an honest uprising of frustrated voters is being violently manipulated by those who do not love America. Let's pray that the protesting will cease and the fears many have will be quickly put to rest.

Get hopeful.  Americans need to to reach deep and find that optimism which is a hallmark of the American character.  We can choose to expect a positive outcome from this election and not assume this change in our leadership will have negative consequences.   As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, "We owe him [Trump] an open mind and a chance to lead."

Donald Trump's acceptance speech was humble, gracious and conciliatory.  I'll take him at his word that he loves America and wants the best for all Americans.

Hillary Clinton's concession was also humble, gracious and compassionate, especially towards those who worked so hard for her election.  I'll take her at her word that she will work with Trump on behalf of America.

Barack Obama's statements acknowledged the strength of America lies in our ability to have a peaceful transition of power between political adversaries.   I'll take him at his word that he will do all in his power to make that happen.

Paul Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others on both sides of the aisle have all promised to work with our new president while being true to their convictions.

The words and demeanor of our leadership should give hope to Americans and the world.  This is not to say the road ahead is easy; we still have deep and important disagreements.  But if we all humble ourselves, seek common ground and the good in each other, there is hope that the blessings of liberty will be secured for future generations.

In your life, adopt an attitude of humility and hope.  It will go along way to Making America Good Again.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Making America Good Again: Anger Management

Election Day is less than one week away.  I hope you have voted or are planning to vote by November 8th.

Polling suggests that Clinton and Trump are tied. One of them will be president.  Will they and their supporters be sore losers?  Or gracious winners?  Which will you be?

Americans started this campaign season angry.  Many feel our country is headed in the wrong direction, but beyond that our nation is divided. The platforms and policies of the two major candidates are almost polar opposites.  Which path will prevail?

Our anger has grown over the past year, and now we're tired too. The daily barrage of lies, accusations, scandals and the endless commercials have left us exhausted and anxious.

What should we do on November 9th - or whenever the results are recounted, court challenged, and eventually verified?

We need to take a deep breath and do the equivalent of counting to 10 before we respond.

Take some time before the results are announced to prepare yourself emotionally and spiritually for what lies ahead should your candidates win....or lose.


Pray for calm. Anger and exhaustion are a dangerous mix.  Don't react based on your emotions without thinking about the consequences.

The key to Making America Good Again is loving each other, especially those we disagree with. We often hear, "love your neighbor as yourself."  But the whole verse is:  “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)

In this emotionally charged time in our nation's history, remember that loving means not seeking revenge nor bearing a grudge.  Don't try to get even.  Don't let political positions end friendships or break family ties.  Don't watch grudge matches on media outlets; turn them off.  Don't tolerate revenge-seeking politicians; hold them accountable to seek the truth and create a peaceful path forward.

One of the strengths of our constitutional republic is our history of peaceful transitions of power.  Losing an election does not mean that the fight for our beliefs ends.  It does mean that we will continue to bring forward issues important to us in statehouses and courthouses, but peacefully and without violence.  If we are poor losers or gloating winners we will only exacerbate the hatred and division that plagues our country.

In the days ahead, pray for our nation and all the candidates, the winners and the losers.

Pray that the new president will be a leader who will strive to unite America.  May he or she have the heart of President Abraham Lincoln who on the battlefield of Gettysburg spoke about healing a nation divided by Civil War. He hoped then, as I do today:
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Don't let events overwhelm you.  We are a nation under God, and it is in God we trust and put our hope.  Seek His guidance and wisdom.  Pray for yourself, the American people and our leaders.

Pray for God to reveal to you what you can do to help heal your family, your community and our country in the days ahead.