Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Trip to DC for the National Prayer Breakfast

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There’s nothing more dull than hearing about someone else’s trip.  That’s why I put this on my blog instead of somewhere else.  But if you’re at my blog, then you’re okay with being bored by the personal details of my life, so here ya go!

Although I’ve been to DC several times, I’d never been invited to an “official” DC event.  So when Congressman Jeb Hensarling’s office called and invited me to join him for the National Prayer Breakfast, I was pleased to say yes.  I had no responsiblities for this event – it was a party I wasn’t going to throw.  I could just go along for the ride. 

When I got to DC on Tuesday, it didn’t take long to remember why I brought my “big” coat!  I stepped out into the jetway and went WHOA!  That’s cold!  As soon as my bag came through the carousel, I pulled that coat out!  I had to hurry, however, as I had (foolishly) made a 6 PM appointment with Congressman Jeb Hensarling.  I didn’t make it at 6.  Kindly, Jeb waited for me until 6:20 when I finally arrived.  If you know anything about members of Congress, you know their time is tightly structured.  A slip like that can throw a wrench into the next several hours.  I knew there was another event Jeb was supposed to be at – I walked past it on my way to his office.  But he graciously entertained me til 7 PM when he finally relented to his staff’s insistence it was time to go.  What did we talk about?  Our families more than anything.  A few minutes of politics, but mostly about his son and daughter and our beloved Joshua – and, of course, our lovely brides.  I told him about how Joshua came to our lives and about the wonderful church I serve.  I told him I’d show him a good time next time he had a few hours in Jacksonville.  He told me he’d show me a good time Thursday morning at the Washington Hilton (that’s where the National Prayer Breakfast is!).  We had a few laughs and then it was time to go.  I had another meeting as well.  But first, some back ground on that. 

In 1990, I was a brand-new Dallas Baptist Univ graduate.  I thought I was so grown!  Two weeks after graduation, I met a congenial stately gentleman with flaming red hair - Mr. James Lankford.  He had just graduated from college, too, albeit from the Univ of Texas .  Officially, he was my boss for the summer, but he never treated me that way.  Little did either of us know that summer just how much our meeting would influence each other.  At the end of the summer, James and I started seminary together and thus began a friendship that has endured through the years. 

In 2008, when James called me to discuss running for the US House seat from Oklahoma City, I should’ve thought he was crazy.  The bizarre thing was I didn’t.  If I remember, I just said “okay, let’s see what God does with this.”  When James won in 2010, Julie and I spent Jan 1-3 , 2011 with James and Cindy in DC helping him settle into his new office.  In the years since then, I’ve watched as he has led his state and his co-horts with integrity, passion and vision – just like I knew he would. 

James represents the 5th District of OK.  When I worked out the details for my coming, he and I were to meet for a late coffee on Tuesday since Wednesdays are crazy.  When I got to DC, his office called and asked if I could meet him for supper instead.  Sure I said.  Just tell me where.  Go to Hill Country BBQ, they said, your name will be “on the list.”  I thought it was odd to be on any list, but this is DC where things are almost always weird, so I told them I would be there at the appointed time.  When I got there, I couldn’t find James or his staff so I waited for a few minutes.  As I waited, I happened to notice that everyone there was a DC staffer or congressman.  Hmmmmm.  I also noticed this was listed on the outside of the restaurant as a “closed event.”  Hmmmm.  What has James brought me to?  Another staffer came to me and said “grab a plate.”  So I did.  Some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had outside of Texas!  James met me shortly thereafter.  There was no bill and there was no ticket so I asked who was our benefactor.  He told me it was ERIC CANTOR and his group was putting this on as a social for the Republican House members and staff.  Wow.  As we sat there eating, Congressman Keith Rothfus from Pittsburg, PA dropped by as did Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis from Wyoming.  I felt like the smallest person in the world realizing how influential these other three seated at the table with me were and how NOT I was.  We had a great talk, mostly about our families, what God is speaking into our lives and James’ run for the US Senate.  James was kind enough to drive me back to my hotel after a late conversation. 

I chose my hotel based on it’s proximity to the Washington Hilton where the National Prayer Breakfast was held.  It definitely wasn’t up to my standards for staying with my wife, but as a single, it wasn’t so bad.  We’ll call it “Spartan.”  It’s close to the subway and close to the Hilton, so all in all not bad. 

I had some time on my hands Wednesday so I went to the Udvar-Hazy Smithsonian Museum at Dulles Airport.  If you’ve never been and you appreciate aviation, military air transportation, space exploration or missles, you HAVE TO GO!  It was amazing, even if it was incredibly difficult to access via public transportation. 
The museum is HUGE!  I wasn’t prepared for it’s size or scope.  There’s the SR-71 Blackbird just as you enter the door.  Behind it, you can see the Space Shuttle “Discovery” standing with it’s regal bearing.  The “Enola Gay” famous for dropping the atomic bomb is there as is are many, many other aircraft of all sizes, shapes and sorts.  I’d heard for a long time just how good this place was and how well worth the trouble it is to get there.  No doubt about it. 

Wednesday evening, I met up with a church planter late in the day.  Matthew Watson and I served together in the mid 1990’s.  He’s planting a church in the DC area.  We got to spend an hour or so discussing church leadership, church planting and evangelism and our families.  I’m not sure but that conversation may have been why God brought me to this whole silly thing. 

Supper was on my own tonight – Pizzeria Paradiso.  A DC classic!  It was quite good!  And they seated me near the pizza ovens, so it was warm too, a real plus given how cold it had been! 

Finally, Thursday came and it was time for the National Prayer Breakfast – the reason I’d make this long trip in the first place.  Representing my family, our church and our fair city, I dressed to the nines – and I wore my best boots!  I don’t wear them much for fear I’ll mess ‘em up.  And they add two inches to my height.  I defintely don’t need that, esp given that I’m supposed to sit with my “date”, Jeb.  He told someone that when we sat down at the table and I laughed at how ridiculous we must look.  We sat with a pastor from Minneapolis, a lady from Chicago, a couple from South Carolina, a college student from North Carolina, an Australian national and some sort of Russian diplomat named “Vlad.”  Without a doubt, Vlad was the most excited of any of us to be there!  He was talking so fast, it was like listening to a Russian auctioneer!  He was great fun! 
     Security was TIGHT!  They warned me when I registered that I should be ready for a long wait to get in.  Breakfast was to begin at 7:30.  I should plan to arrive by 6:00 AM.  Thus, arising at 5 AM (4 AM at home), I prepared myself and went. 
    Wow.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Rep Janet Hahn (D-CA) and Rep Louie Gohmert (R-TX) were the coordinators for this year’s breakfast and had taken extraordinary care to make it an exceptional event.  Singer Steve Green sang a personal favorite of mine “He Holds the Keys”.  Surfer Bethany Hamilton gave a powerful testimony about how God can use adversity to accomplish His purposes.  Singer Yolanda Adams sang a beautiful concluding piece.  Dr Rajh Shivah, an overachiever if ever there was one, spoke as did President Barack Obama.  As I sat there listening to our President speak, I prayed for him in a way I don’t think I ever have before.  I can’t imagine the burden of leadership his office must carry.  And yet, I prayed that he would embrace the role of shepherd, not just leader.  Some leaders are like cowboys – they drive those under their care through pressure and intimidation.  Shepherds, however, lead with gentleness, grace, compassion because they know their livelihood depends on the welfare of those sheep. 

     Shortly after the breakfast, I headed home, richer for having come, but richer still for going home to my family and my church.  CBC, thanks for allowing the privilege of going to represent you.  Thanks Congressman Hensarling for the gracious invitation.  And thanks to the National Prayer Breakfast Committee who put the program together.  Until we meet again, I’m praying.