Monday, January 10, 2011

"I am a servant of the Lord. I am a servant of the Lord."

I have to confess that, while driving back to town after a nursing home visit today, I cringed as I heard newly-inaugurated Ohio governor John Kasich speak those words.

One reason for that is that, as a Christian, I've become wary of politicians who invoke the Name of God in their speeches. Their invocations often seem like bones thrown to their religious constituents, instead of genuine expressions of faith. And if they are "bones," then from a Biblical perspective, they violate the Second Commandment's prohibition against taking God's Name in vain. (Vain meaning for nothing.)

But I didn't click off the radio in disgust today. I kept listening to Kasich. What I heard next convinced me that he was sincere. Some may find what he said hokey or even offensive. But I found it encouraging and impressive.
I am a servant of the Lord. I am a servant of the Lord.

He has opened doors all of my life. The Lord has. He has pushed me over the mountain this time. I don't know why, but I have no doubt that he has. I've spent a large amount of my life trying to figure out how he works.

I got a message one day driving up—over by the Hoover Reservoir. It wasn't a telegram. It wasn't a phone call. It wasn't a voice. But it was clear. "Stop trying to figure it out, I'm not going to tell you."

But here's what I do know: He expects his servants to use their talents. He expects all of us, because all of us have been created with a special talent. The key to life is to use those talents, even when at times it seems daunting and it seems impossible. But boy, I'll tell you what, no pounding on the chest. No pointing in the sky. He wants us always to remember where these talents came from. He reminds us that no one person is superior to any other person because in his eyes, all are equal.

You know, sometimes I see the scrub lady, and I realize that in the next life, she's likely to have a bigger crown than I could ever dream of. Don't go past them quickly; you could be passing an angel. Quiet reflection is necessary every day so as not to get lost.

D. L. Moody wrote about a Civil War general who was facing a huge battle. He prayed for two hours. His subordinates said to him, "How could you spend two hours praying before this big battle?" He said, "How could I not." Prayer is necessary.
Truthfully, I've never been impressed with Kasich as a communicator. Part of that may be the way we all tend to underestimate our peers. I've never met Kasich, but we were on campus at Ohio State as undergraduates at the same time, both involved in student politics. He ran unsuccessfully for vice president of the Undergraduate Student Government on one slate when I, after a time as vice president of the Off Campus Students' Association, was on the ballot for student assembly, on a ticket led by Michael White. (White later became mayor of Cleveland. I wasn't elected to the assembly because I withdrew from the race just before the vote was taken; I had realized I needed to take on a new part-time job to generate the money I needed to pay my tuition. But, though it ended my time in student politics, that surrender to necessity turned out to be a very good thing for me because the job I took--on the loading dock of a department store--brought my wife-to-be, then working on the sales floor of that store, into my life!) Even after our college years, Kasich was never known for his rhetorical skills either as a state senator or as a nine-term member of Congress.

And I still don't think Kasich is a great orator. But today he seemed to speak from the heart and I liked what he said.

Of course, what we do speaks louder than what we say. And Kasich's professed faith will be sorely challenged as he prepares a new biennial budget in the face of a likely $8-billion state revenue shortfall. Everyone will be watching what he does.

Whether he means it or not, prayer will be the wisest way for him to suit up for all the tough actions he'll need to undertake in the next four years.

[You can find the whole text of Kasich's speech here.]

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