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Brush with BushBrush with Bush
by Danny Sims

    As the possibility of war with Iraq hangs heavy, so does our concern.

    I’m not the only American with a cousin already deployed with the Marines. His destination in late January was a sandy airbase somewhere in a desert alarmingly close to Saddam Hussein. We’re confident he’s safe today, but what about tomorrow?

    A co-worker’s son is an Army Reservist and has just received his inevitable call to duty. Another friend, a father of two young daughters, has already served six months of a year’s commitment in the reserves. Six months away from his wife and home, six more long months to come. And what then?

    Especially in times of separation and conflict we take comfort in prayer. E-mails are circulating their way around the Internet, reminding us to pray. One comes my way almost daily. Some plea for peace, others appeal for victory in war.

    I’m currently engaged in an ongoing conversation with some pastors and professors, all concerned about the clear and principled case President Bush must make for this probable war. As we listen and watch, waiting for another U.N. resolution or for CNN to break into normal programming with shadowy images of dark Baghdad being blitzed by our bombs, what should we do?

    In this season of doubt, we wonder about the faith of our leaders. Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet President Bush for the second time. And in my conversation with him, I was struck by his humility and, above all, his faith. My brief brush with President Bush has been a great encouragement to me. He asked me to remind the church to pray. He told me that prayer is “The greatest gift an American can give his president.”

    My first encounter in the summer of 2001 was more of a wave from a crowd than a true meeting. Our family vacation took us to Washington D.C. We saw the museums and toured the Capital. July Fourth brought a cold rain to a sticky night, yet the fireworks lost none of their spangled bursts in air over the Washington Monument. But the highlight of that week was standing the next day on the south lawn of the White House with many other fortunate tourists who, like us, had a friend with connections. Kasey Pipes is a talented young Christian who works in the office of Karl Rove, Senior Advisor to the President. He arranged an inside look at the White House for us.

    We saw the President and First Lady before they departed for a Camp David holiday weekend. Mrs. Bush even obliged our request for a picture. Then just moments after we stood so close, Marine One, a massive Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King Helicopter safely carried the Presidential party away. Its rotors created a terrific gust, consistent with my sense of having been blown away by the experience.

    I concurred with what others have said, that President Bush seems like a regular guy, a decent man, a good man. But who knows, really? A friendly crowd of handshakes is no way to assess a man’s character.

    Just two months later unthinkable terror attacks reshaped our world view. His leadership afterwards has reshaped the world’s view of our President and his spiritual complexion.

    When George W. Bush went to Ground Zero three days after 9-11 he put his arm around a fireman and his heart around the nation. With a bullhorn he spoke to the crowd of rescue workers. Most everyone remembers that one of them shouted, “We can’t hear you!” His now well known response was, “I hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”

    But few recall what he was saying when he could not be heard. He had just said, “I want you all to know that America today is on bended knee in prayer for the lives that were lost here, for the workers who work here, and for the families who mourn...”

    America today is on bended knee in prayer...

    Whatever you believe about the possibility of war with Iraq, we all can agree that America will best be served on her knees in prayer. And I believe our President is not just talking about it. I believe he prays.

    I was in Washington for a conference this past summer. Kasey Pipes made the arrangements for a second White House visit and, along with two friends who had also made the trip, urged me to be early. Perhaps we could actually meet the President who was returning from Little Rock where he had made a pitch for his faith-based initiative program.

    On the Metro, headed to the White House, we talked of our prayerful concern for the nation and for the President. Unlike the excitement the year before, with my wife and children, this trip was much more a time for thoughtful prayers.

    Arriving at the White House we worked our way through the West Wing and then outside again. We were surprised only media and a few others were there. Kasey explained that we had beaten the crowd and more would surely follow. But even as he spoke four of those huge Sea Kings appeared in the distance, coming toward us. Three broke away from Marine One which landed with the same force of wind I recalled from the year before. Within moments the President walked down the steps, saluted a uniformed Marine, and made his way toward us.

    Later we talked about how we had each stood there saying silent prayers for this man, to bear up under the burden he carries, to lead the nation in a Godly manner, to realize that he had been placed in this position by God Himself. Consider the staggering issues confronting Mr. Bush last June. We were not a year removed from the attacks of 9-11. The economy was slow, the jobless rate was on the rise, the November elections loomed... Just two days after our visit the Associated Press released a story of possible military action in Iraq, saying that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would not discuss any action to topple the Saddam Hussein government, insisting that was a matter for President Bush to decide.

    How naively proper to have been in prayer for this man, at that very moment! One by one he shook hands with us. I was standing last in line as he drew near. I extended my hand and said, “I’m a minister from Texas, sir. We’re all praying for you.”

    I expected him to pause and pass on by, but he stopped. Though aides and a photographer pressed in, though he must have had many other important things to be doing, The President stopped and spoke as he took my hand. What follows is my recollection of what he said.

    “Thanks for your prayers. You’re a minister? Well I just came from a church in Little Rock, Arkansas where we had a meeting about the faith-based initiative plan. And you know, for the first time I felt the people, even the politicians who were there, understood what I’m talking about. This is not about politics, it is about what the Lord can do in people’s hearts, across America and around the world. You believe that don’t you?”

    Of course I said I did as he began to move on, toward the doors into the White House. But he stopped and stepped back to me and continued. “You know I really do believe that, that the Lord will have to change people’s hearts. That’s why I call it “faith-based.” And I think the Lord is changing people, and I hope He continues to do so, here and all over the world. I told the President how glad I was to hear him say these things, that I believe real change must be from the heart and from the Lord.

    He had already warmed to our conversation but was genuinely focused as we spoke of our common commitment to prayer, to faith, and to the Lord. I suppose cynics will say he was staging this, or that he was greasing some political skids. Frankly they would way over estimate this man’s need to leave an impression on me! Plus, no one else was within ear shot. Besides, if a President were to have a true faith and was eager to talk about it, how would it look? What would we want him to say? He concluded by saying, “Thanks for your prayers. Tell all your people to pray. It’s the greatest gift an American can give his president. Thank you for coming today. It gives me a lift.”

    It’s one and the same. The greatest gift an American can give the President is the greatest gift the President can give America. As important today as it’s ever been, may we be on our knees, asking God Almighty to bring peace to a broken world, for real love for our enemies to abound. We ask for the weightier matters of the Kingdom, justice, mercy, and faithfulness, to be what matters most for ourselves and for George W. Bush.

    The President’s words remind me of a certain scripture that asks us to, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests... Keep on praying for all the saints.” While many question the cause for war, from my point of view there should be no question of the cause of prayer and the President’s authentic commitment to it.

    Let us pray for peace first. And then we will pray for our cousins and friends who stand in harms way to make it so. Let’s do what the President has asked us to do, for him and for the nation.

    I’m told that author Max Lucado was recently with the President. When Max asked why he looked so calm and rested Mr. Bush said that he knew people were on their knees praying for him and he had felt the prayers. He told Max and the others he met with to tell their churches to pray for his clarity of mind as he makes decisions of war and also for the safety of his wife and girls.

    Mr. President we are doing just that. Like you said, America today is on bended knee... And we believe God hears us.

We ask Almighty God for wisdom for President Bush and his advisors as he considers war. Let Him consider it in light of the safety of all people and the peace of the world. Give him a vision of justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Keep his wife and daughters safe from harm.
May the soldiers who are being deployed be acutely aware of the value of their training, their honor and the appreciation of the American people. Keep our husbands and wives, sons and daughters safe from harm.
We also pray for the people who analyze information about all kinds of threats to America. Guide them in the process of making our nation safe from terrorist threats.
We also ask for Your Hand to bless the Iraqi people. Let us see them as your beloved children, not as our enemies. Open this country to the love of Jesus.
And for our own nation, may America realize that she is mightiest when on her knees. Stand beside us and guide us through this night with Your light from above.
      Title: "Brush with Bush"
      Author: Danny Sims
      Publication Date: February 20, 2003

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