This past weekend, Beverly and I traveled to Tulsa and Oklahoma City where we were graciously hosted by Ed and RaeAnn Dowd. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know their three fine sons. Friday evening, many from the Tulsa congregation dropped by the Dowds' home.
On the Sabbath, we drove to Oklahoma City where we held our Sabbath services, followed afterwards by the Oklahoma City speech and Leadership Club Ladies Night Banquet. The theme for Sabbath and the Club was "Be a Living Epistle."
We thoroughly enjoyed our visiting with all. It was particularly wonderful to see our recently retired and much missed fellow home office workers Alec and Donna Surratt.
On the Sabbath, one of my highlights was playing special music at church services with Chandler, Zarek and Broen Dowd.
At the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States last Friday, January 19, there were a record-setting six prayers given by noted clerics as part of the ceremony. The day started at St. John's Church with a service at 8:30 a.m. At the breakfast and luncheon, more prayers were offered. Christian prayers ending in Jesus' name abounded.
As I watched the inauguration events I teared up with emotion as I heard words publicly beseeching God for his help for the new presidency of Donald Trump. Amid the protests and marches it was refreshing to hear robust, rich, resonant words quoting exact biblical passages inviting, welcoming and invoking God's presence in the secular affairs of the still-undisputed greatest nation on the face of the earth.
I am a naturalized citizen of the United States and am exceedingly grateful to live in this great land. I have traveled to all continents of the earth and found no place like this country. I have had family reunions with my cousins in Ukraine and have witnessed a life from which I'm grateful I have been spared. Seeing and hearing the words spoken at the inauguration were personally moving to me in the desert of secularism, atheism and general hostility to God. For the moment, it was relieving as negative voices were silent and God's voice abounded.
On Inauguration Day, prayers began with Solomon's entreaty to God for his own administration, taken from 1 Kings 3:6-9 1 Kings 3:6-9  And Solomon said, You have showed to your servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before you in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with you; and you have kept for him this great kindness, that you have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
 And your servant is in the middle of your people which you have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
 Give therefore your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this your so great a people?
American King James Version×(and 2 Chronicles 1:8-10 2 Chronicles 1:8-10  And Solomon said to God, You have showed great mercy to David my father, and have made me to reign in his stead.  Now, O LORD God, let your promise to David my father be established: for you have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.  Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this your people, that is so great?
American King James Version×):
"God of our ancestors and Lord of mercy, you have made all things. And in your providence have charged us to rule the creatures produced by you, to govern the world in holiness and righteousness, and to render judgment with integrity of heart. Give us wisdom, for we are your servants, weak and short-lived, lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws. Indeed, though one might be perfect among mortals, if wisdom which comes from you be lacking, we count for nothing. Now with you is wisdom, who knows your will and was there when you made the world, who understands what is pleasing in your eyes, what is conformable with your commands, send her forth from your holy heavens. From your glorious throne, dispatch her that she may be with us and work with us, that we may grasp what is pleasing to you. For she knows and understands all things and will guide us prudently in our affairs and safeguard us by her glory."
Other prayers followed with the following words:
From Matthew 5: "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs, and God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. For you are the light of the world--like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on its stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
"We come to you Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus with grateful hearts thanking you for this great country that you have decreed to your people. We acknowledge we are a blessed nation . . . every good and perfect gift comes from you."
From 1 Timothy 2: "'I urge then first of all that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people,' he said. "For kings, for all those in authority that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and it pleases God our Savior who wants all people to be saved."
"Guide us to remember the words of the Psalmist from Psalm 15: 'Who may dwell on your holy mountain? One who does what is right and speaks the truth.'"
"Bless all of our allies around the world who share our beliefs. From Psalm 137: 'By the rivers of Babylon we wept as we remembered Zion . . . If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.'"
President Trump also referenced God at the end of his speech, saying, "We will be protected by God."
The words spoken were indeed noble and most timely. The Bible and history were invoked.
But what makes a nation great?
Alexis de Tocqueville was a famous 19th century French statesman, historian and social philosopher. He traveled to America in the 1830s to discover the reasons for the incredible success of this new nation. He wrote about it in his book Democracy in America. He stated the following:
"I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.
"Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."
I felt the powerful words of the invocations still echoing the power behind the greatness of our nation. But our nation in the past 50 years has retreated from those values and will lose its special blessing from God. It will take more than just wonderful words. It will require the heart of this nation's people to turn to God in the manner prescribed by the prophet Joel:
"'Now, therefore,' says the Lord, 'Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.' So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him--a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, consecrate a fast, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes; let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, and the bride from her dressing room. Let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar; let them say, 'Spare Your people, O Lord, and do not give Your heritage to reproach, that the nations should rule over them. Why should they say among the peoples, "Where is their God?"'" (Joel 2:12-17 Joel 2:12-17  Therefore also now, said the LORD, turn you even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repents him of the evil.
 Who knows if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering to the LORD your God?
 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:
 Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare your people, O LORD, and give not your heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: why should they say among the people, Where is their God?
American King James Version×).
Perhaps these words from Joel, if heeded, will close the loop and bring our nation back to truly remaining great.