Tag Archives: Christians in Politics

A Brief Introduction to the Aerobic Benefits of Political Rallies

31 Jul

Read: Matthew 6:1-13

“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”

Matthew 6:7 NASB

 

I learned early on that political rallies are governed by certain unspoken rules of conduct which, if observed, serve as an adequate substitute for a gym membership.  Among these, are the following:

  1. Applause is to be rendered for every speaker.  This rule must be observed regardless of who he is, what he says (though it is considered good form to find something about which to applaud even if it is merely the grace with which he introduces the man who will be introducing the key-note speaker), or whether you have ever even heard his name.  A ten minute ovation at the end of his introduction is customary.
  2. Regardless of your personal feelings towards a given speaker, any effort on his part to “share the vision” must be greeted with a standing ovation.  The length of this sporadic applause varies based upon the rank or status of the speaker, however the conclusion of any speech is usually met with applause appropriate to the man who may be the next U.S. President (even if he is merely a City Councilman).
  3. It is vital to maintain a reasonable (but not excessive) interval between bouts of applause.  If five minutes pass without the speaker having said anything of note, it is incumbent upon all listeners to find something vaguely worthy of recognition and lead off an ovation.  (Everyone else in the room will usually follow, even if they have lost track of the speaker’s main point, since it is considered worse form to refrain from applause than to applaud for whatever irrelevant point has just been made.)

In practice, observance of these rules (and the accompanying aerobic program) looks something like this:

Climbing onto the stage, a relatively low ranking official (though higher ranking than most of the audience) calls the room to order.  Since he is introducing the speaker who will introduce the key-note speaker, he only speaks for five minutes and shares a few brief remarks concerning the quality of family life observed by the speaker who will follow.  After concluding his introduction, everyone in the room rises from their seats and offers the mandatory ten minutes of applause.

Next, the speaker introducing the key-note speaker ascends the podium and delivers a few “brief remarks”.  These last for at least half an hour (partly due to the applause taking place at five minute intervals) and are concluded with the thunder of another ten minute ovation.

The keynote speaker then rises and speaks for an hour or more, during which the aerobics reach their glorious peak and older and weaker members of the audience sporadically pass out due to overexertion.

As you can see, this makes for a fine workout.  Unfortunately, for most of the attendees these repeated standing ovations are meaningless.  They are repeated simply to make the person offering the applause appear to be more truly “American”, not because individuals actually feel any connection to the points being made.

Sadly, many Christians fall into a similar habit with their prayer lives.  While prayer is meant to connect us with God, all too often, we fall into the rut of simply repeating the same words over and over.  Like those at a political rally, we must take care to pay attention to what is being said because, unlike politicians, God wants more from our conversation than endless repetitions.  He is seeking a relationship… and that can only be developed when we take the time to truly connect with His message through our prayers.

Challenge:  Do your prayers sound like dialogue or are they merely endless chatter?  The next time you sit down to pray, do so intentionally – with plans to develop a relationship.  You’ll gain far more than can ever be acquired through inattentive repetition!

The Page Cage

24 Jul

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB

 

Our State House of Representatives had a special office set aside for the pages.  It was an unusually small room (perhaps eight feet by four feet) jam-packed with files and monitors and snacks and backpacks and, for one brief, glimmering moment: pages.  Seventeen of us, as a matter of fact.

It had been a rather slow day and, despite offers to let us leave the Capitol early, we had each elected to stay.  It wasn’t an odd decision given that we were making nearly double minimum wage just for being there, but it did leave us with an important dilemma: just what do with all that spare time.  The committee rooms had been prepared, our errands run, our Representatives prepped and now it was just a group of teenagers left to their own devices.

I don’t remember who suggested it, but someone came up with the idea that it would be fun to see if all of us really could fit into the cramped space affectionately known as “the page cage”.  One by one, we made our way inside, folding ourselves into fetal positions, craning arms, and elevating legs until all of us were cozily tucked away.  It was a poor fit, but it worked – just long enough for the Assistant Sergeant at Arms to wander by and discover the mass of grinning faces peering at her through the door.

While it was fun for a few minutes, I have to admit that I was glad to unfold myself and get out!  I needed space… and so do the activities in our lives.  While it can be tempting to pack our hours as full as possible, the Bible advises against it.  Scripture tells us that seasons in our lives come and go and that there is a time for every activity under the sun.  Instead of trying to jam everything into a few days, weeks, or years, we should allow ourselves the time to enjoy the journey… and to do everything well.

Challenge:  Sit down and take a good, honest look at your schedule.  Are you doing too much?  If so, commit to paring down your activities – giving time to the things that matter right now and letting everything else wait.  There will be time enough in the end!

Kodak Moment

17 Jul

Read: Luke 12:13-34

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Matthew 13:44-46 NASB

 

My first day working for the Senator was an eventful one, to say the least.  Our Regional Director had been having computer problems for a little over a week and had come into the office on that particular morning to find that her computer had crashed.  Completely.  The result was that, instead of spending the morning training me, she spent most of her time on the phone with the Senate IT tech trying to figure out how to restart the system. At one point, this required that she retrieve the computer’s serial number from her CPU.

This was rather a dilemma, since the CPU was neatly and irretrievable stashed behind her desk.  In order to reach it, she had to clear everything off her desk, moving it into the office’s other nooks and crannies.  Then, to get far enough behind her desk to read the number, she had to lean over the top and flip upside down behind it.  I remember smiling as I watched her standing on her head, talking to the tech (who was privy to the entire process via speaker-phone).

“I think this is a Kodak moment,” I said with a grin.

“It had better not be,” she threatened, “or your six month review won’t be pretty.”

As complex as computers are, my boss’ situation was really quite a simple one.  She had something she needed (a computer that worked) and she was willing to do whatever was necessary to get it (hanging upside down behind her desk)… even if it looked a little silly.

Unfortunately, many times, we as Christians are more concerned with what we look like, than with what we need.  Scripture tells us that we should take care when it comes to setting our priorities.  While it is pleasant to have the respect of others, if that becomes our primary focus, we will lose what really matters: the approval of God.

Challenge:  The next time you find yourself asking what others will think, take a moment to ask what God thinks.  Then, act upon the latter.  The rewards will be far beyond what you can imagine!

Lobbyists

10 Jul

Read: Luke 16:1-9

“Many try to win the kindness of a generous person, and everyone is a friend to a person who gives gifts.”

Proverbs 19:6 (NASB)

The poet once observed that, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” and in few places does this prove as true as in the halls of government.  It started with the early morning doughnuts and orange juice.  A muffin made it sweeter, as did chocolate milk or a banana.  From there, we moved on to fully catered lunches of roast beef, serve-yourself salad bars, and fresh baked bread.  Tables filled with cookies and cakes followed in the afternoon and our evening munchies were satisfied by the leftovers.  The entirety of this bounty was served up daily by an assortment of political lobbyists who seemed to spend more hours on the fourth floor of the capitol rotunda than they spent at home.

It wasn’t long before the fourth floor was the first place the House pages visited when we came in each morning.  We returned each time we had a break and we (and our more powerful employers) were even willing to lend these friendly lobbyists an ear if they’d kindly pass us one more doughnut or another piece of pie.  It was heaven… and not just for us.

The lobbyists had mastered a good bit of Biblical advice: winning friends with their kindness. Offer a Senator a doughnut and you might just find yourself with a captive audience for the next minute and a half… long enough to pitch an idea for fresh legislation or begin swaying an opinion about the bill presently on the floor.  Tricky?  Maybe.  Brilliant?  Yes!

Unfortunately, many Christians tend to shy away from similar forms of kindness.  Whether it’s because we associate generosity with “wanting something” or because we simply feel that we have nothing to give, it’s guaranteed that we’re missing out!  The Bible dedicates more than a few verses to the idea that our demonstration of friendship (whether by gift-giving or just good-natured friendliness) plays a huge role in both where we go in life and how we’ll experience those places once we get there.  So the next time you feel tempted to be generous, do!  You may be surprised by the results!

Challenge:  While going out of your way to be kind to others doesn’t always “pay off” in a material sense, it does in a spiritual one.  The next time you see an opportunity to do something generous for someone else, take it.  And don’t hesitate to accept generosity from others as well.  It’s likely that their motives for giving aren’t that far removed from yours!

Who Will Help?

3 Jul

Read: Proverbs 13:1-25

“Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, But the discipline of fools is folly.”

Proverbs 16:22 (NASB)

I had been working for the State House of Representatives for several weeks and had to admit that I was enjoying myself.  While I wasn’t a part of the action, I was right in the middle of it and the atmosphere was electric.

As one of several House Pages, I found my days filled with activity.  There were committee rooms to prep and errands to run as I kept my Representative appraised of all the current legislation.  On the occasion in which I found myself with a few spare moments, I’d retreat to the gallery and watch the debate on the floor, dreaming of the day when I’d address the Speaker, myself.

I was happy in my solitude until one afternoon when one of the other pages discovered that I had free time available to me.  Seizing the opportunity, she immediately began prevailing upon me to assist her with her own duties.  She explained that she was falling far behind and was going to be in a great deal of trouble if I did not help her.  Recognizing the truth of her statement, I agreed.

After a week of aiding her in what seemed to be a multitude of reasonably simple tasks, I began to ask myself why she was struggling so hard to finish each job.  The answer wasn’t a pretty one.  While I was busy assembling her committee minutes and gathering papers for bill books (volumes designed to help each Representative keep track of current legislation), she was in the break-room gabbing with the other pages!  As I watched, I realized that she could easily have completed her own work without any assistance if she were only willing to give up a part of her social life.  I was sacrificing my opportunities in order to rescue someone else from their own foolishness!

While there isn’t anything wrong with helping others, the Bible warns about the dangers of repeatedly assisting fools.  The next time my friend asked for assistance, I politely explained that I had something else to do and, after listening to her call me a few names, went on with my day; embracing the opportunities which had come my way.

The truth is that, as a Christian, it can be difficult to consider doing anything other than what appears to be genuinely gracious and merciful at the moment.  After all, what will others think of us if we proclaim goodness, but stand by while others are suffering?  Yet oft times, standing by is the best thing we can do.  In allowing those around us to suffer the consequences of their own mistakes without our interference, we may create exactly the circumstances necessary for their growth!

Challenge: The next time you feel tempted to step in, ask yourself whether you are doing so because there is a Biblical need or because you are caving to the pressure to “be nice”.  Then, let God handle the rest!

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