The Missing Link in Council Prayers

I am absolutely in favor of prayers delivered by local clergy to start off Council meetings. Many if not most are written, and that is okay with me. They are carefully prepared and delivered from the heart of the person speaking. They invoke a spirit of civility and, aways, wisdom and discernment on behalf of the governing bodies.

Many of these prayers create an inspiring moment and a reminder of why councilmembers said they wanted to represent the people with an emphasis on ALL of the citizens. Most council meetings are launched with the framework for pledging not to forget why everyone in the chambers is there. Many of these prayers are confirmed as the purpose of proper governance with an appreciative Amen!

Not just from the elected body but from the citizens in the audience. Translated: We are in agreement with your words and with your spirit of love and the contract embedded in the response to work for the common good.

And that’s it.

Thank you, dear clergy, and don’t let the exit door hit you in the butt! Let the slugfest begin!

Why is there such a disconnect from that moment to the plunge into the political fracas that often follows? How can one feel blessed and re-committed to be civil and constructive one moment and then jump into personal agendas a few minutes later, turning a collective back to the clergical guidance and plea?

A few years ago I decided to compile all of the prayer for one year and to publish them with a concluding statement: All you have to do is to adhere to these words, perhaps the only words in the meeting that are needed to replace any toothless Code of Ethics or Rules of Decorum, to be the best council in the history of your city!

But then I thought about the level of work versus the potential to make a difference. A cop-out, I’m sure. Here’s all I need as a source: https://chaplain.house.gov/archive/index.html. I will close with the first prayer.

My own prayer is that elected bodies, staffs and audiences listen to the prayers – and incorporate the words into every action and exchange of thoughts and opinions. Most local governments will have a few new members as of the elections yesterday. The first meetings are typically the best for the entire term. Warm congratulatory well-wishers in front of families. Genuine words, usually, with a spirit of renewed commitments as sitting members reflect back on that same night for them.

Freeze that moment and scene. Savor it. Study and replay.

But it means nothing, really, if personal agendas and a lack of respect dominate every hour after that first one.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Fortunately, I have seen a few councils that seem to run against the grain. It wows me to see how it can be done and should be done. Disagreement, sure, but without a drop of bitterness. Genuine supportive statements exchanged with ease. It is common for some councils to praise the staff. It would be awesome for councilmembers to praise their peers.

Things like that would happen if only the words of the clergy prayers permeated the chambers and the hearts of everyone there or watching online. How profound! I’m certain that there would be a covenant of decorum that would change the council and every committee and, in fact, the entire community would be changed forever. LFM

First Prayer of the Continental Congress, 1774

The Prayer in the First Congress, A.D. 1774<br />Courtesy of the Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen of Christ Church, Philadelphia
The Prayer in the First Congress, A.D. 1774

O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle!

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior.

Amen.

Reverend Jacob Duché
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
September 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m.

The Looks On Their Faces; The Thoughts in Their Heads; The Jubilation in Their Hearts!

Some would have been certain it might happen. Most probably had no clue. But I imagine the looks on the faces when it was learned that Christ had risen. I imagine my face had I been there.

The doubters, upon learning the news, must have quickly begun making up an explanation that would confirm they were still safe being doubters. Thieves in the night did it. But even the believers must have gone off in their private places to be quiet, to consider in their minds just how massive this event was then and would be in the future. I can see myself being stunned even if I had no doubts. The silence would be both warm and thrilling as I, and they, replayed the scene over and over of this physical rise. After all, He was in that tomb. He was a real person. That was a body.

But the private pause, as special as it would have been, doesn’t compare to the jubilations in their hearts. I imagine it being intoxicating fueled by joy risen to its highest level, higher than anything ever felt before. That revelation would change the look on their faces forever. Often smiling, but most often with a different kind of glow. The kindness that shines in the eyes. That look reflective of looking into the eyes of Christ; The Person of God that was seen and touched. Can you imagine you looking at Him and, most importantly, Him looking into your eyes?

Can you place yourself there? Watching it as much as you could soak in? Feeling the joy coursing through your body with a new energy? Perhaps the part only vaguely realized in that moment is that His joy can be invoked over and over again for all the days of our lives. One might never have an absence of His joy, but we are fortunate to have times of prayer and worship to allow that joy to rise to the highest level to match that special day. It happened! Place yourself there on this Easter morning. LFM

Go All In … Dwell … Just For One Hour

I invite you to a reflective experience. This is a church service. It is an hour of prayer and praise for you, no matter who you are. If you are part of this busy world, you need this experience. If you are having a difficult time in your life, personal or career-wise, this is for you. If you need to find some hope on which to cling today, right now, and in the future, this is worth your time.

But I suggest some prep work. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it will make a difference. First, tell the world to leave you alone for an hour. That may be impossible, you say, but make it happen. If you have a set of headphones, then use them.

I’m asking you to go All-In. By that I mean, risk taking the opportunity to simply let a worship service unfold without worrying about the clock or anything to distract you. Don’t judge anything you see or hear until the end. It is important that you listen and watch until the very end. If you are nudged out of your comfort zone, then be patient. This service is about opening up communication channels at all levels of your life. It asks nothing of you except to receive in faith that you are loved.

Dwell. Yes, dwell on every word of the praise hymns. Think about the writers of the words and the tunes as they crafted a message for you. There are many visuals. Soak them up. Let your heart be open. Think about the many musicians and singers you can hear but not see. Think about their motivation to share their gifts with us.

The sanctuary is mostly darkened, but watch for slight movements. It is a holy place with a holy message, but let your private dwelling place be as holy for just an hour.

There are a few other things you can’t see. You can’t see the small section in front and to the side where a leader is signing for the deaf. It is a beautiful sight to watch the rhythm of the hands conveying the message that others are hearing. There’s are always a few people sitting among the deaf who can hear but are practicing their skills at sign language. I wish you could see the signing in the context of the music.

Why am I so insistent that you not only spend an hour listening and watching but also assuring your environment is such that you won’t be disturbed? Because I am guessing you have not spent an hour alone like this in a very long time. And I know that you need these moments. We all do.

We need to think and to pray. We need to make decisions of all types. We are spread too thin, and we’ve made the decision to let that happen in many cases. We feel pulled in all directions, in control one moment, and enmeshed in chaos the next. There is an image we try to project and protect, but this hour is about surrendering all that stuff to just dwell in the moment so we can be refueled and rejuvenated. And most of all to be at peace knowing we bear nothing alone.

If you are a community leader, by far the majority of my readers, then be sure you watch until it’s all over. And then just envision what your community can be if we only … well … communed and prayed together. Imagine a community that knew the events of the world won’t define them but rather that they are influenced by a Higher Power they draw upon with fervor and sincerity.

So, please take me up on my invitation. I communicate with a lot of people I’ve never met face to face. However, I feel a kinship and really care about your well-being. And I trust that you care about mine.

Many Thanks!

Lewis

How Do I Feel About Growing Old With You?

Today is Linda’s birthday. The Big 70. I follow next month. It has been a long but fast journey since we turned 18 when we met. At that age we did not think about reaching this stage in life. It was all about a wonderful courtship progressing with excitement and daily signals of affirmation at just the right pace and punctuated with “pinch me, is this for real?” moments.

However, about 11 years later and 8 years into a marriage, we were afforded an opportunity to ponder many questions to make a good marriage a great marriage: a safe environment to delve into deep personal questions that challenged a relationship. Self-image. Money. Sex. God. Children. In-laws. Death.

But the one question that caught us off guard was “How do I feel about growing old with you?” It was the prelude to confronting death in a safe, constructive way. We encountered some discomfort but conquered the subject with trust and openness, like the friends we were before we were lovers. Our lifelong relationship salvation has been to stay in that friend-zone and to sound the alarm if we veer so that we can return.

Even though we had been married for 8 years at that point, and our wedding vows just as sacred, I was floored as I came to the realization that we were married for a lifetime. Until the end. I was in awe that the pinnacle of marriage was the ascension from the altar, ever-growing and a little bit ahead of every step.

And a spiritual thing. As we approach 50 years of marriage and into our 7th decade on earth, the cumulative effect washes over me. Not just one year of marriage 50 times over. Strong spiritual arms have been wrapped around us since the day we met and have never let go. And will never let go as we asked for the firm Hug each day.

But wow! We confronted and embraced the idea of growing old together at what now seems a very young age, but dang if we haven’t ended up turning 70 together!

I find myself pausing to simply bask in the moment.

So, Happy Birthday, Linda. We celebrate your milestone still hand in hand. Sometimes I got ahead and pulled you along, and more often it was you grasping my hand without having to say, “let’s go.” It has been a lovely stroll.

I Love You!

Lewis

Dear Class Bully … I Need To Tell You Something

It’s summer, and another miserable year has passed watching you bully people in and out of school. It’s not so much me any longer since I ignored you in elementary school and finally faced up to you in middle school. You mostly left me alone except for laughing at me occasionally and letting me know I am not in your circle of friends. But I watch you bully others. That bothers me just as much. Maybe even more. I need to tell you something.

You need to know how it feels to be bullied. Every single day is dreaded. I can’t say I’m ever happy knowing that you will eventually come along to say or do something cruel. The bullied feel lonely and many times unsafe. We see how your cruelty continues to be more severe, uglier each year. Sometimes at night in bed, I can’t sleep, replaying in my mind something you said or did that day. I often feel ill.

I consider you to be dangerous.

I would never harm you, but I must tell you that at times I wish you harm. If only you could feel for one moment how you make other people feel. Threatened. Singled out. Distracted. Lousy. Worthless. Angry that another person can have that kind of influence.

I would never harm myself. But I must tell you that I think about it. Sometimes I want to do something drastic to show you how much you have hurt me. But then I realize how many people love me deeply and how I would hurt them. That won’t ever happen. Yet there are days you have put me in that zone of despair. And I resent it.

Most of all, I wonder what made you this way? Deep down I question whether you are a happy person? Do you act this way to cover up something? Do your parents ever ask you if you are being bullied or if you are a bully to others? My parents do. They read the news. They worry about me when I am sad or simply just quiet. They know when something is wrong. If I were a bully like you, they would be right in the middle of finding out what is going on with me.

They also speak up quickly if I say anything offensive about another person. They have taught me to respect others. They encourage me to look for the person in the room who needs a friend and to be that friend. They have taught me to look for the good in others. And yes, I even see the good in you. You are good looking, you are funny and you are smart. But there is much more involved in building healthy relationships, my parents say.

I want you to know that I don’t need you as a friend or to be in your circle of friends. I have my own. It seems strange to me that your friends are much like you, although you are clearly the leader. What part of you enjoys that growing spiteful teasing of others in front of your friends? That seems sick to me. I wish you would seek some counseling. I wish your friends would stop supporting your behavior.

While I don’t need you as a friend, I wish we could be friendly. I have only a few deep friendships, and I am perfectly fine with those few, but I want to be friends with everyone. It’s not a popular thing. It’s a human thing. I don’t want to have any regrets in life, especially on the simple things like how to treat another person.

I want you to be thinking about something over the summer. The day school starts, and every day after that, I am going to call you out for bullying. I will be reporting you to the School Resource Officer or the Principal. I would normally try talking to you personally, but my attempts in the past have only led to more harassment from you. I will stand up to you, because I think you need a mirror held up to you.

I don’t want anybody you bully to seek revenge. I will risk outing your behavior and report you to the authorities before something happens, and then I regret not doing something. And before you, your friends and your family are overwhelmed with a deeper regret for being responsible.

Yet, I will make an equal effort just to be friendly to you and to persuade you to do the same with me and with everyone you see.

It will be your choice.

Your Classmate.

The Next Improvement Step in McKinney Governance

I have high expectations for McKinney with the new City Council members now seated. However, the improvement steps won’t be nearly complete until there are a few new faces on some of the Boards & Commissions. And a few recommitments. I trust that some changes are about to be made.

This is not a new gripe for me. I have blogged about some members of the McKinney Economic Development Board and the Board of Adjustment in the past. What we don’t need is anybody on McKinney Boards & Commissions that melt into sheep-boards like they have at McKinney ISD. We don’t need people looking after their friends or are self-serving.

My suggestions to consider before appointing/re-appointing the current slate of Boards & Commissions:

  • Are you truly independent and willing to serve the entirety of McKinney with considerations for the citizens today and in the future?
  • Can you commit to doing your homework before meetings AND faithfully attending meetings?
  • Are you wanting to serve on this board solely as a stepping stone to run for City Council in the future?
  • Is there anybody in McKinney for whom you fear consequences if they don’t like your comments, recommendations or vote?
  • Do you have the ability to say NO when your conscious tells you the deal in front of you is not wise or in the best interest for McKinney?
  • Do you understand the Council-Manager form of government?
  • Do you understand the Open Meetings & Open Records Laws and are willing to abide AND to call out your colleagues when you know a violation is taking place?
  • Do you have a strong personal code of conduct irrespective of any written Code that might include many or all of the items many Codes as in this example?
  • Related, is your nature to raise the bar or let others around you to set your standards?
  • Do you have the ability to ask good questions that are necessary to evaluate an issue and be equipped to make an informed decision?

A list of the current Boards & Commissions can be found here.

If you are teachable and diligent as a student of government, and are of good character and can give an affirmative response to the questions above, please apply. You are greatly needed, and you can be an integral part of improving McKinney to be the most balanced community that can be found. I’m just a citizen blogger with 44 years of experience in municipal government. But I will do anything within my power to make you successful. LFM

La’Shandion Shemwell: A Story of Redemption

How could a person with a questionable history end up being elected to the McKinney City Council? His opponents were relentless in pointing out his undeniable flaws, all in the past, both in the initial election and the run-off election. He is in District 1, mostly the older part of McKinney. I understand he lives in public housing. I could not vote since I don’t live in that district. The first time I saw a picture of him, I wondered if he had many supporters. I heard nothing bad about Mr. Shemwell. In fact, what I did hear was encouraging. He is a barber by trade and a man on a mission to lift up the standards for youths in his passionate side-ministry. So I just watched. And he won.

My 14-year-old granddaughter was with me at the standing-room-only Council meeting Monday night when three new members were sworn in. The new mayor had been sworn in at a previous meeting since he did not have a run-off situation. It was a lively night, full of celebration and gushing with compliments for those going off the Council and those being seated. Lindsey got to see first-hand how hope and goodness and vision starts out with every expectation that things will improve in the future.

There were many highlights, but La’Shadion Shemwell
Shemwellstole the show. Gratitude to God and family came from the lips of most of the newbies. But you simply must watch this clip of the meeting at the 40 minute 48-second mark. I’m expecting that it will make your day as it did those of us serving as witnesses. I think it is a sign of things to come for McKinney governance and leadership.

There’s a new sheriff and posse in town, and the changes will be noticed near and far. LFM

You need Internet Explorer to view the clip:

http://mckinney.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=3930

I am a

00:40:49 mountain, I am an eagle, I am a lion,

00:40:56 down in the jungle. I am a marching

00:40:57 band, I am the peo

00:40:57 band, I am the people, I am a helping

00:41:03 hand, I am a hero. If anybody asks you

00:41:09 who I am, stand up tall, look me in the

00:41:15 face and say, I’m that

00:41:15 face and say, I’m that start up in the

00:41:17 sky, I’m that mountain peak up high, I

00:41:32 made it. I’m the world’s greatest. I’m a

00:41:33 little bit of hope. When my back is

00:41:34 against the ropes, I made it, I’m the

00:41:35 world’s greatest. I am district 1, thank

00:41:38 you