Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Choosing Love and Light...

I've watched a lot of presidential inauguration ceremonies in my lifetime...twelve or so that I remember watching...and interestingly enough the first one I remember reminded me the most of this one today. In 1960, we elected a young, charismatic statesman who also was a first...in that case, our first Roman Catholic president. He had a strikingly, beautiful, mysterious wife and two adorable children and the country sensed that a page had turned in American politics. What happened today, was, of course, unprecedented as well, as two million people jammed into the tiny District of Columbia to be in the general vicinity of our first African-American President, Barack H. Obama being (sort of) sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts. In all of those past inaugurations, I had never gathered with a group of people specifically to watch all of the inauguration festivities...until today. A number of us were invited to our friends, the Manroe's home, where we had food, whooped and hollered, oohed and aahed, cried and laughed, and eventually toasted with champagne when the oath was repeated as well as noting the individual and collective turns as this epic, landmark moment unfolded.

The brightest and best political and social commentators have chronicled every second of this historic event, so I don't imagine I have much of value to add except that my favorite moment of the day was when Barack entered the landing adjacent to the speakers platform to thunderous applause, he passed by his family and his daughter Malia stuck out her arm and gave him a huge dramatic thumbs up gesture. Obama who had been stoically, expressionless as he walked the ramp to the platform burst out in an irrepressible grin...That's the response not of a commander-in- chief, or leader of the free world...that's the response of a daddy who loves his little girl. The good thing to me is that I have my highest hopes of my lifetime that the daddy of those two girls also is a commander-in-chief and a leader of the free world that leads with love...not wimpy doormat love, but compassion that sees all of the world as God's creation... a leader of the free world that knows that he is called to lead with light that casts out darkness and exposes injustice and suffering. In his speech I heard a man who will take the high road of integrity and strong compassion that will not be compromised or diluted. He called on each of us to be a part of that mission...Sorta sounds like the words of that first inauguration call I remember from 48 years ago, "Ask not what your country can do for you...".

One of my favorite newly discovered music groups is a band called The Submarines, and their song made famous because of its use in the iPhone commercials is called "You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie" which frankly, is a tad ironic because the message of the song is about curbing materialism and waste, and disdaining hate and apathy. The chorus begins with these words that reminded me so much of the message of hope soaring in today's events.

"Every day I wake up, I choose love, I choose light..."

Let it be.



Friday, January 16, 2009

John Denver ...Poems Prayers and Promises..

A week of beginnings and endings

Life and death, new and old, fresh and stale, and the world keeps on turning. It has been one of those weeks when reminders of that fact are all around. Ah yes, I am listening to vinyl right now...John Denver's "Poems and Prayers and Promises" and that may be part of it...I saw him perform live in 1972 at Baylor University in Waco Hall, and have always been prone to sappy sentimentalism when I listen to John, but occasionally that's the guy I am.

I've been a single parent for the last 14 years. 14 years ago this week I received divorce papers in the mail. I wasn't expecting them. We were in our 14th year of marriage. The girl's mom had moved out a couple of weeks earlier. The previous six months had been spent in counseling, discussions...some of them more civil than others...and agonizing prayer, but as the new year of 1995 rolled in I became a single dad raising 3 girls, 11, 8, and 7 years old. I thought I knew what the challenges of being a single parent were...after all, I had been a youth minister for almost 25 years and had been a parent for over 12, what was there not to know? You can guess that a single guy with 3 young daughters would have his hands full and his eyes opened and that certainly was the case, but I wouldn't trade my life and my relationship with my girls since then for anything.

So a week ago, I get a call from Hannah who is driving from Nashville to Asheville, NC and who gets her first speeding ticket. She's been driving since she was 16 and has never gotten a ticket of any kind. She's lived in inner-city Oakland for a year working with the poor at 18 years old. She has excelled at Belmont University, winning the Outstanding Freshman Service Award early on, and since establishing herself as a leader on campus in community development...she can handle her first speeding ticket.

Earlier this week Calla and I were scheduled to drive all of her stuff back up to Arlington for the new semester of classes in nursing and into her new apartment. I have done that for all three girls throughout their college careers Baylor, Belmont, UNC Greensboro and UTA. So, last weekend she sheepishly approached and asked if it would be OK if Alex, her boyfriend, borrowed his dad's truck and moved her back to Arlington. My first reaction was, "NO, it isn't... that's my job...I'm the dad...I've moved all of your sisters and you up until now and no boyfriend (Alex is a good guy) is going to take that privilege away from me." I sat with it for a while, and saw that he REALLY wanted to do this and she REALLY wanted him to do this, (they have been dating for over a year) and this was not about me it was about them, I relented and said yes.

Last night Ariele, my eldest, sat in a cushioned chair next to her co-author Bob Carlton, in front of a crowd of folks at Book People for a book-signing to support her and Bob's book, "Barack Obama: An American Story". I watched as she responded to questions and then sat and chatted with the many folks who stood in line to have their book personally endorsed. I flashed back to some of the thoughts I had 14 years ago about how these beautiful, talented young ladies would survive the experience of their parents divorcing, their mother starting a new family and moving across the country, having to put up with a well-intentioned, but clueless single dad, who was also attempting to be a minister 50-60 hours a week to other people kids as well as be the primary nurturer, protector and provider for his own. They endured a great deal, but I look back on that ending and beginning 14 years ago and I with great pride believe that those three young women are among the finest women on the planet. I am genuinely proud of each one of them.

So, I'm admitedley a little nostalgic and perhaps a bit maudlin, (as the John Denver listening would suggest) but as we approach another ending and new beginning next Tuesday (with the inauguration of a good man into the highest, amd most unenviable responsibility in the land) I am filled with gratitude, and with hope that I can see miracles happen again, as God and his creation take difficult times and forge new beginnings.