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Thursday, February 9, 2012

“The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn”

A couple of weeks ago, the Dismembered Tennesseans performed the song, “The Darkest Hour is Just before Dawn” during our church service. It struck me how appropriate this song was for the times we are living in. As one who worked the 5pm to 5am shift in my days in the Army, the hour just before dawn is the darkest and also the coldest.

The meaning of the phrase according to an internet search is there is hope, even in the worst of circumstances. Just as those who experienced the Great Depression, WWII, Vietnam, or the Civil Rights Movement - today we are living in very difficult times. Someone recently described the current economic crisis as the longest and deepest in their lifetime.

But even in the worst of times, Americans have traditionally remained hopeful. We are a resilient people. Thomas Jefferson said it this way, “We shall never give up our Union, the last anchor of our hope… I had rather be deceived than live without hope. It is so sweet! It makes us ride so smoothly over the roughness of life. My theory has always been, that if we are to dream, the flatteries of hope are cheap, and pleasanter than the gloom of despair.”

America and our sister nations are encountering a global economic reset that is much different than those in our past. Unfortunately our history of wars and injustice has not taught us much. Or is it that our progress made possible by our history teaches us so slow, it is hard to measure over long periods of time. Maybe we cannot fully comprehend our progress through the time dimension we understand.

The world is forever changing. Some will argue for the worse and others will argue for the better. Each of us sees our world through our own paradigms. And at least in America, we can freely argue for what will bring about the best possible outcomes. Our freedom is unlike any known in the world. But with it comes the right and obligation to argue for what each desires. And over time, our republic evolves because of the individual and collective desires of Americans.

This week the Dalton Rotary Club had the pleasure of our local football coaches discussing the upcoming football season. This program is always a highlight of the Rotary Year. And as one who is counting down the days to the first snap of Friday night and Saturday football, the program heightened my anticipation.

Although the discussion of Xs and Os was enjoyed and the perspective each coach presented about their season was very entertaining, something totally unexpected got my attention. Each coach discussed much more than football as they discussed their programs. Each coach emphasized the love of helping their players grow into responsible young men. They discussed the importance of academics and service and faith. These amazing coaches were more concerned about their players developing into good people than superstar athletes. Imagine that …

This past weekend, my wife and I, and my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, threw a party for my in-laws in honor of and in celebration of their 50 years of marriage. What an accomplishment. And the Saturday before, we attended the wedding of the daughter of friends of ours. Both events spoke to the promise of and hope for all that is good. Hope is alive.

On a sign-up sheet for the guestbook at my in-laws celebration, my daughter chose the verse, Corinthians 13:13, “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” Regardless of the circumstances facing us, we have at our disposal these three amazing gifts.

Even in these challenging times, we can be faithful that He who created us is with us. Although we may not fully understand all that is happening to us, we can be faithful He has a plan and that ultimately good will triumph. Nothing will happen to us that we are not empowered to handle. I am so grateful that while football fundamentals and strategy are being taught by our football coaches, they are also instilling the power of faith in the young men of our community. And that they, the coaches, exemplify their faith.

Hope is eternal. Hope is free. Hope is powerful. Hope can be productive and useless depending upon the energy and passion behind it. Christopher Reeve said, “Once you choose hope, anything's possible.” And Vincent McNabb said, “Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.” And my favorite quote on hope comes from Anne Lamott, “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”

And finally the greatest of these is love. On any given day, the news is full of violence. It can range from the Syrian or Libyan government against its citizens to individuals hurting others for various reasons. We even hear of stories of Mothers and Fathers hurting their children for reasons known and unknown.

We are challenged to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself. Jefferson called this commandment the sum of all religion. What would our world be like if love were universally expressed? What would be possible if we truly loved our neighbor as we love ourselves?

I hope that as we all grapple with a myriad of very challenging headwinds, we will reach for all that is possible. That we will work as hard at uplifting our neighbor as some have worked to tear down their neighbor. There is nothing wrong with holding those in elected position accountable – but we must be respectful and honorable in our discourse. Let’s stop the name calling and personal attacks and vigo

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