Insight and Inspiration Processing the Death of President George H.W. Bush

The true test of a person’s impact is what mark they leave on history when they die.  The 41st President George H.W. Bush knew that and even answered accordingly in an interview I saw replayed.  The interviewer asked if he thought he was a good president.  He humbly replied that the historians will determine.  Jon Meachan, author of Bush Senior’s biography,  spoke at the State Funeral as if he ranked with the founding fathers like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.  But the truth is, each can believe what they want.  Was he a great leader or not?

I grew up fed on typical media spin with a dad who played too much golf after work and mother who felt she was a golf widow.  The arguing usurped family dinners over meaningful discussion of the news, politics, and what was being learned at school.  So I held the belief that Bush Sr. was a failure because he promised, “Read my lips.  No new taxes” and then proceeded to do to the very opposite.  But, I didn’t know the full story.   Thankfully Alan Simpson set the record straight in his eulogy yesterday. Click here for the full transcript.

Little did I know that George H.W. Bush knew very well what was going to happen to his popularity and political career by this tax increase.  I was fed a lie that I believed for way too many years.  I cried so hard during Bush Senior’s State Funeral because of it.  Another great leader who impacted the world through a humble life and meaningful death, Jesus Christ, is recorded in John 8:32 for pointing out truth is what empowers freedom.

The self-help literature and advocacy groups like NAMI are replete with how “stink’n think’n” fuels depression and anxiety.  It’s not a wonder I cried so hard while I watched the funeral.  My wrong thoughts about President Bush dominated my thinking for over 20 years during which I’ve struggled with many dips into depression fueled by anxiety.  There are many other lies I’ve ignorantly subscribed to that have contributed as well, but the power of uncovering this lie with the truth was encouraging and the tears that flowed healed.

Children are very literal and get hung up with rules.  This is sometimes referred to black and white thinking of which I refer to in Rojo, The Baby Red Panda at the Zoo.  The immature don’t understand why someone changes their commitment.  They just take offense.  My daughter helped me to see this last night through an episode of The Andy Griffith Show.   She asked why Andy  Griffith had  changed what he had initially taught and was asking of his son.  Thankfully, the story continued as Andy lovingly lived out his explanation to the kids.

This vignette turned out to be very timely with the Bush Senior’s legacy issue. My 11 year old got the idea faster than Andy’s 8 year old.  It’s a gentle process of maturation which presents with other challenges.   In similar manner too many had been led astray by sound bites and political jabs to the defamation of Bush Senior’s reputation by this “but you said” mentality.

Another obstacle to growth is  how pain, suffering, problems, illness, and death are perceived.  These are inevitable experiences of life.  They aren’t something to completely fear and avoid.  Rather, they are powerful means to invite us to grow and to love.   George H.W. modeled this well.  When he asked, “Why me? Why was I spared?” He heard a very high calling to move on living for others and not just for self.  We need to grow up.  Whether George Herbert Walker Bush was one the the great presidents of the United States of America might be debated.  But doubting his maturity as a leader has very little evidence.

Now I move on to the message delivered by Rector Hollerith at the State Funeral.  His message made me recall a particular discussion that took place when I was visiting at a nearby church for a Wednesday night Bible Study. The passage covered was Romans 3:1-9. Two moving comments worthy of quoting were made. One man pointed out that the enemies of Jesus called him a “friend of sinners.” And then Brother Doug replied, “That’s right. We can be friends of sinners without being friendly with sin.”

Then conversation turned to why discussion of sin is so unacceptable in society. In many settings this conversation often turns to focusing on the sins of others and those condemn by us or a theological discourse on why non-believers can’t come to terms with their debased nature and need of a Savior.

Could it be the later shares a similarity with the inherent flaw in the first? Being that we ALL love to remain in our sin and blinded to its glaring reality?

The ruler of the world does have power and the culture in which he leads with is Humanism which denies the sinful debased nature of humans and focuses only on the good that we are capable of. (The philosophical system that inspires how American public and many private schools are run.)

So for those unbelievers out there, you know those open minded people when it comes to condoning other ideas, have you considered why it is so hard to be thoughtful of others when you are sick, tired, sleep deprived, cold, and/or stressed? Is it possible you are not as good as you think?

For you believers do you pray daily to your dear Lord asking him to be the light in your own dark heart and listen to him reveal to you where you are in error? Or do you just focus on the speck in your brother’s eye while continuing to hurt yourself and others with the log in your own? (Matthew 7:3-5) And then focus on how they have hurt you and caused you trouble? And then list of your “shopping list” or “honey do” of what you want God to do for you? Please be mindful that you may be praying out of unbelief or rather belief that its up to YOUR prayers and efforts to get God to hear you. You might be in more trouble than the unbelievers. At least they are up front and don’t claim to have faith in Christ.

Then I believe another factor plays in. Inherently, society whether it regards God or not, does call persons like Hitler evil and want justice served, not the “forgiving grace” that some espouse that Jesus offers through his life, death, and resurrection. It also praises those who contribute self-less heroic work towards the common good. So now what?

I believe it is the WHOLE of the Bible that is the answer here, And the greatest problem is while there are Bibles everywhere and talked about, the bulk of the book isn’t read much less interpreted properly. Instead of being used to unite believers it is masterfully used by the wolves in sheep clothing who use it to divide us and to take our time, money, and to influence how we think and behave.

Ask yourself this, how do you react when someone points out that you fell short of something? If you deny it, minimize it, change the subject, excuse it (“If you only knew what I went through xyz…”), or worse yet flip it around to blame the other consider Proverbs chapter 9. Those behaviors describe fools, those who do not bow the knee to the lordship of the LORD.  The wise take to heart any correction. Their response is one of contrition, remorse, and changed behavior. These reactions describe the wise and they are synonymous with true believers throughout scripture.

The best and wisest instruction is usually called the greatest commandment: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength. It is also refer to as the Shema and consists of three paragraphs in Deuteronomy 6:4–9, Deuteronomy 11:13–21 and Numbers 15:37–41. Jesus quoted it as the masterful answer to enemies trap question on which was the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:34-39.

This is was the core message deliver yesterday at the The state funeral of President George H.W. Bush at the National Cathedral.  If you want to review or hear the message for yourself go to click here for my Facebook Page.