There’s No Such Thing as a Little Prayer

It was my turn tonight. You see, last year I was put on a list with several other pastors and clergymen. It’s a list of people who will offer a prayer of invocation at the beginning of one of the monthly meetings of the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Honestly, I was not looking for something else to do. I routinely have plenty of things on my plate from day to day. Many days, I’ve got enough things for several days. I agreed, however, when I was invited to be a part of the rotation. After all, it’s just a prayer, right? Ten minute drive to City Hall, ten minute wait while exchanging pleasantries with different folks, two minute prayer and then the option of staying for the meeting or heading to the next function. Surely a man can make time for a simple, little prayer.

I arrived tonight at about ten minutes before the hour, just making it inside before the skies opened up and the deluge began. Walking through the door, I took note of the larger-than-normal crowd gathered in the courtroom that had been staged in the official monthly BMA meeting design. Four beauty queens, representing several entities in upper East Tennessee, were on hand to lead the Pledge of Allegiance just before my prayer. There were several others on hand for one of the four acknowledgements and proclamations.

Most of the partnership of the law firm of Hunter, Smith and Davis were on hand. They were being honored as they celebrated their 100th year doing business in Kingsport. I learned that HS&D played an integral part in the establishment of Kingsport as an incorporated city. It was good to see many folks I had not seen in years, old friends of the family and former colleagues of my cousin/brother, Jeff.

“Five minutes!” cried the student assigned to run the audio/video internet stream for the meeting. As folks began to settle down and find a seat, my spirit began to be captured by the moment. The elected city officials of my fair city have invited me — an evangelical, Southern Baptist, Christ-following, Bible-believing, pastor, to open this meeting with a prayer. This is not a schedule busting imposition! This is an opportunity for me to take these people on a journey to take hold of the throne of the Most High God. To invite the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to inhabit our gathering and to bless our leaders and our city. I mean this is 2016. How many city governments still allow prayer to take place in such proceedings? What a true honor and blessing I have been afforded!

Here is the prayer I offered:

Heavenly Father, even as we have gathered together in this place, the seat of power in the city of Kingsport, we readily acknowledge your sovereignty over us, our city, our state, our nation and our world. We remember your admonitions to be submissive to the those who have authority over us and we pray that those in positions of authority would be submissive to You, as well.

Father, we are thankful for the ways in which You have blessed our fair city. Kingsport is a special place and we who have lived here our whole lives know this to be true. You have seen fit to give us unique gifts and grace us with quality people who use the talents you have given them to benefit our community. Father, help us to capitalize on those unique qualities and in the areas of disagreement, we pray for your continued grace to help us become “OneKingsport” just as we are one in You.

We are grateful, Father, for these men and women who sacrifice time from career,  family, and their own private interests, to run for and serve in the offices of mayor and aldermen. Grant them wisdom to make the decisions You would have them make. 

We are grateful for all those who make our city run from the city offices and departments, to the police, fire and emergency services personnel, every cog in the wheel vital to our well-being as a city.

Bless this meeting tonight, Father, and may you be glorified in all that is said and done.

For it is in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

Yes, tonight I was reminded of a very important truth — there’s no such thing as a little prayer. Prayer is the conduit of communication with the King! We must take advantage of EVERY opportunity to speak to Him.

Thank you to the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen for still recognizing the importance and the power of prayer. It simply serves as further evidence that Kingsport is and always will be a special place.

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In Praise of the Praiseworthy

Oh, what a night!

There we were, two and half seasons into our Downton Abbey binge watching marathon. Paige and I were seated in the living room after Midnight on a snow day, anticipating another snow day, when the phone rang. As a pastor, and the son of a widowed mother, a phone call at 12:45 a.m. is never going to be a good thing. It was mom. Her trembling voice barely able to squeak out the words, “Someone just tried to break into the house!” The next voice I heard was that of an officer with the Kingsport Police Department. Mom was so shaken she just handed over the phone to the officer. He explained two juvenile delinquents had been apprehended in the back yard of my old home place and that the situation was under control.KPD-logo-patch

In my truck on the way to my mother’s house, a wave of emotion came over me. I was angered that someone, anyone would frighten my mother so badly that she could not form words to speak. I was distraught at the thought my mother was, indeed, vulnerable to the whims of some punks with nothing better to do than to destroy private property and steal things. It was not a great state of mind to be in as I tried to navigate the frozen, snow-covered streets of Kingsport.

Upon arrival, I saw that three of the five police cruisers that initially responded to the distress call, had already left. An old friend and member of the force greeted me and apprised me of the situation. I could not see the two 14-year-old boys in the back of the car, but I could not help but wonder if they were kids that my church had reached out to through our ministry to the community where they resided. I’m not sure I need or truly want to know either.

Sometime around 12:30 a.m., my mother was awakened by voices and the sounds of footsteps on the other side of her bedroom wall. She got out of bed, grabbed her phone and went to the window and turned on the outside lights. Keep in mind, there’s five inches of snow on the ground and the light of the moon and stars reflecting off the pristine powder was more than enough to allow one to see everything in the backyard… especially footprints in the fresh, untouched snow. Seeing the outside lights come on, our two Einstein’s froze and looked at each other. Decision time: 1) Turn and run for it OR 2) Dismiss it as some sort of motion light and continue on with the nefarious plan. They chose the latter.

When mom saw them turning back for the house, she reported this to the 9-1-1 dispatcher already on the phone. Units were already on the way. The dispatcher advised mom to go to the opposite end of the house from where the boys were headed. As she moved out of her bedroom and down the hallway –  CRASH! –  the 4 foot X 6 foot picture window next to my mother’s bath tub exploded sending plate glass in every direction. The noise was so loud the dispatcher heard it over the phone. My mother ran to a half-bath off the kitchen and attempted to lock herself inside. Can you see it… my 80+… er um… seasoned senior mother cowering in a dark bathroom with who knows what getting ready to come in her house, clinging to the hope in the voice on the other end of a phone call? I see it too and it infuriates me, but I digress.

About that time, before the boys could make entry, the police arrived on the scene. Utilizing the aforementioned weather conditions to their advantage, the officers apprehended the suspects in the backyard. They found the softball size river rock they chucked through the window which, we discovered this morning, was thrown with such force as to break through a plate glass window AND create a gaping hole in the drywall on the opposite wall six feet away. The officers told us there had been three other home invasion-style break ins in my mother’s neighborhood over the previous few days. Perhaps these kids were responsible, perhaps not. All I know is in the final analysis, there needed to be praise offered forth.

First, I praise my Lord Jesus for keeping my mother safe and unharmed through it all. Secondly, I praise the calm, professionalism of the 9-1-1 dispatcher who talked my mother through the turmoil. Finally, I praise the the officers of the KPD who were willing and able to do what was necessary to serve and protect my mother and our community. In the current climate in which we live, too many voices are taking too many political stances and pointing their accusatory fingers at too broad a swath of police officers. Are there some attitudes that need changing? Of course. But we need not besmirch the good names of the 99% who do it right just because of a few bad ones.

Fifteen hours, one tarp and a sheet of plywood later, I am happy that I can still call Kingsport home. However, much like everywhere else in this world, our hometown is not the place it used to be. We must remain vigilant. We must stick together. We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If you see something, say something.

I saw some things that were praiseworthy and I had to say something.