Tempering Election Attitudes

Have you heard? There’s a Presidential election this fall. I jest. This election is in our faces, dominates news and is an obstinate discussion topic. I’ve heard it many times, “I’m sick of it!” A friend told me recently, “I never thought I’d see the day when I had to vote for the lesser of two evils for President.” Putting it mildly, I’m not captured by any candidate running for President, one of whom will be our next President. God, deliver us from despair!

What are we to do? Here are some things I hope you’ll remember as we approach November 8.

This is America. Our privilege to choose leaders without violently overpowering someone is better than any leader selection process worldwide. Democracy is messy, but it’s the best system there is. Those who decide to stay home and not vote, lose. So does our country. Our son-in-law, Darren, born and raised in Canada, became a United States citizen since our last Presidential election. Though bewildered by options, he’s excited to vote for the first time. Remember that privilege.

Mary and I traveled to the Middle East 37 years ago. When we returned home, we wanted to kiss the ground when we landed in New York. We had the time of our lives seeing the land and places that now make the Bible come alive, as any place does when you have visited there. We were in awe walking where Moses, Jesus, Paul and other biblical characters walked. But to return to America, where we can currently gather to worship freely, choose where to live, decide if and where to pursue higher education, drive freely – nothing tops it. Remember that.

Is our country in trouble? In many ways, we are. Only a spiritual awakening can turn us in the direction that will guard and preserve these freedoms. Dare not take for granted the freedoms that have been defended and given to us. It’s now up to us to safeguard those freedoms. Don’t bail on being part of the answer. Get involved. Make a difference. Consider running for office. Pray for discernment as you vote. Do not succumb to discouragement. Be inflated with hope.

Recently, Mary and I attended Constitution Day at Judson University. Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, was the speaker. He is bullish on America, no matter how the election turns out. His greatest concern is who will be appointed to the Supreme Court because those appointments often last a generation. Sekulow contended, it is not a President’s signature legislation that is his/her legacy, it is Supreme Court appointments. Ponder that.

My primary hope is not in the Republican, Democratic or any third party. My hope is in Jesus Christ, Chief Sovereign over this world. Whoever we elect will be a flawed leader, just as we are flawed voters. When it seems the world is going to spin off its axis, with violence, hatred, racism, terrorism, wars, rumors of wars, and the family knocked back on its heals, my hope is in knowing Jesus Christ is ultimately in charge. Otherwise, I would be in despair. I am not because Jesus IS the supreme leader. Follow him, and remember that.

We forget that the Church, making known the good news in Christ, hope of the world, was given birth in political and religious chaos. The crucifixion of Jesus was followed by the resurrection. God is not unnerved by our present distress.

Ryan Pemberton, writing in Bible Study Magazine (current issue, page 52), wrote an article titled, “Does God Care Who Is President?” It is sobering to realize that God has allowed good and bad leaders to be put in place. Sometimes people, to their peril, got the leaders they wanted or deserved. Ryan reminded me that the Bible calls us, First of all (italics mine), to pray “for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.” The first category of people we are to pray for is “kings and all in high positions.” Why? “. . . so we may live peaceful, quiet lives . . . .” (1 Timothy 2:2) is the Bible’s pragmatic answer. Pray for them also because high positions are enamored with power, and power is intoxicating. Temptations lurk in every decision. Every leader has clay feet. Do you see why our praying for them is a high priority to God?

There is an even larger reason why we must pray. Pemberton shared a quote from Swiss theologian Karl Barth that sent me thinking about it often the day I read it. Barth said, “To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.” What a way to respond to the present turmoil, the disorder, in our nation and world. What a way to respond to a troubling Presidential campaign. Rise up against the disorder. Talk with God about it, and pray with Jesus, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Running from the Help We Need

On a summer day, our dog stepped up to teach us a valuable lesson. Actually he didn’t step up, he ran.

A noise sounded we had never heard before. The linked smoke alarms in our home sounded off. All four of them. There was no mistaking their shrill. We had a problem. Smoke poured from our oven and filled the room. A dish had spilled over in the oven, and we had turned on the oven cleaner for the first time. We should have cleaned some of the spill first, we learned later, then turned on the oven cleaner. But hindsight was no help now.

I turned the microwave exhaust fan on above the stove, forgetting it was not vented to the outside in this house. It was little help. Meanwhile the smoke alarms continued their piercing warning.

Now that the cause had been identified, I tried to disable one alarm thinking it would disable all alarms. But the alarms screeched on.

In the midst of trying to mute the alarms we suddenly realized our dachshund, Mo, was missing. We searched the house, the basement, the garage. We could not find him. On a hunch, I walked behind a wall into our shower, and there he was. He had jumped up on a bench seat in the shower and was shaking uncontrollably. The noise was unbearable for him.

Trying to console him, I picked up Mo and took him to a room at the front of our garage where he often played with a ball. Nothing detracted him from going in that room. There had been too many fun times there. When we went into the garage, he always ran straight to that door. Inside he would be shielded from the noise, at least in part, I reasoned. I set him down in front of the door to reach for his ball, knowing he’d soon be scratching on the door to get in.

Instead, he ran. The garage door was open and he bounded from the garage. My attempts to call him back were woefully unsuccessful. Across the drive, across our lawn and down the sidewalk he ran. He turned the corner and kept running at full speed. And I ran after him. To watching neighbors, my pursuit was surely a mix of grave concern and comic entertainment.

Never have I seen Mo run like he did that day. He whisked along the ground like a champion runner, his little legs moving like blades on a fan. He never looked back. I never took my eyes off of him until he ran out of sight. I feared he would get to the busy road at the entrance of our subdivision; the outcome could be tragic. My wife, Mary, feared he would get into the tall corn on three sides of our neighborhood, where he could get lost. He rounded the corner at the far end of our neighborhood and ran into a construction area. Workers tried to corral him, to no avail. He ran out of the construction area around other homes. As I turned to follow him I fell down, but quickly got up to continue the chase. I only wanted to pick him up, comfort him, try to use our tight connection to assure him it would be ok. But the memory of the shrill sound drove him on.

When he turned another corner around another house, Mary was there. She had driven our car to the driveway near that home. Together we were able to corner him, pick him up and put him in our car. We tried to calm him but he shook frantically, consumed with panic. When we got him home with the alarms now silenced, he continued to shake for the next 90 minutes, even as we held him.

Once our concerns had been relieved, Mary offered a lesson from this exasperating adventure. She said, “Mo was running from the one who wanted to help him.” How like Mo, on that day, we often are. We run from the one who wants to and could help us. Talking with a friend, seeing a doctor, visiting a counselor or pastor who, if they knew our story, may understand and help us. We run from God, who loves us beyond our wildest imagination and is able to save us, forgive us, release us, direct us – things we never thought possible. Instead, thinking there is nothing to do but run or hide, we live with fear and uncertainty.

The image of Mo’s panic-driven run is etched in my mind. I pray that the powerful lesson we experienced that day – that we sometimes run from the one who wants to help – will last a lifetime.