Our family enjoyed a mini vacation the end of last week in our nation's capital. Along with our visit to Arlington National Cemetery (that I shared with you earlier), we were able to visit one of the Smithsonian museums, the White House (from the fence only), the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and George Washington's Mount Vernon home. This was my 3rd visit and my families 2nd. It was good. It was good for us.
Going to Washington DC means several things to me. It means getting lost (most likely several times). It means the endless search for parking. It also means lots and lots and lots of walking. This trip was no different other than the fact that our kids are older and know how to complain in louder and larger fashion. Just being honest.
There are several pieces of the trip that left a mark on me. The first was what I shared about the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery. The next was something that hit me as we stood outside the fence of the back of the White House. It was crowded. People from all over the world visit this site hoping not only to see the house of the most important current world leader but maybe to get a glimpse of the president. In fact my oldest daughter took a picture that when you zoom way in looks like the president going from a vehicle to the house (might be).
Yet standing at the White House I am reminded of the importance that my life plays in these United States. No, I am not an elected leader. But I can vote. No, I am not involved in high level government decisions. But I can pray. No, I don't always agree with our president and his decisions. But he is my president. I am under obligation as an American citizen and under responsibility as a Christian to do my part and encourage others to be same.
When Mr. Bill Clinton was president I found myself having some real issues with some of the things he said and did. One day I was watching a Christian TV show and President Clinton's pastor from Little Rock, Arkansas was being interviewed. What I remember from that interview which is now more than 15 years ago was the real sense that my obligation is to pray for our president twice as much as I complain about him. That might hit home for you as it did me. It also might make sense with people other than the president that you or I have issues with.
The office of President of the United States is important and to be highly honored. Mr. Obama needs and deserves my prayers and respect. Standing outside that fence with my family and thousands of others I was reminded of what I just shared. You could see a motorcade parked near the house. Maybe the Obama family was there. Maybe not. But I stopped and quietly prayed. I do that often for President Obama.
About an hour later we were walking from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. I looked toward the World War II Memorial and saw Georgia, Virginia and Oklahoma listed. I have ties to all 3 places. People gave their time and their lives for my freedom. I am grateful and reminded to pray for our military, those I know and those I don't know.
Upon leaving the Lincoln Memorial I realized that our parking time was going to expire, and that we needed to hurry to our car. We walked hurriedly in the right direction (hopefully not getting lost) which meant we were to pass by the Vietnam Memorial. I was caught off guard by a gentleman kneeling next to the wall and another man making an imprint of a name. Walking by the wall you see names. One after another of those names of people who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. My freedom and yours.
Earlier this week and again today I received an email from a friend who remembers a family friend who died in Vietnam. It left a mark on his life and on his family. Those names aren't simple nice ways of saying this meant something to our nation. Those names represent the lives and the sacrifice of Americans not much different from you or me.
July 4th is just a few days away. It is our nation's birthday. Martinsville Speedway hosts an event each year, and this year is on the 4th (www.martinsvillespeedway.com). I'll be there and be thinking. My celebration of this holiday began last week. It will be etched in my mind I hope forever.
Not unlike my faith and the price Jesus paid for my salvation is the price that men and women have paid through the years to secure our nation's freedom. It is time for us to take that seriously and allow that truth to sink into our thoughts and our hearts. It is also time for us to take seriously the fact that we are always one generation away from being a non-Christian nation (many would argue that is already truth). What it takes to keep America and the faith we know alive is you and I doing our part. Share your faith. Be proud and act like an American. Live your faith out loud.
My prayer for President Obama, for our military, for our church and for our nation is that we would turn to God at every possible point. That begins with you and with me. Spend your 4th of July making a difference that will last long past our nation and our lives. Let your faith be seen and heard by others!