Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Family Adventure

Following is an account of the 2005 National Prayer Breakfast preserved in a screen save by Chris Rodda of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. I'm reproducing it in near entirety, without commentary -- it's a fascinating document on its own. I will bold some passages, though, and some names, that give a sense of the author's experience of this ostensibly "ecumenical" event

February 1-4, 2005
We never even knew to put this on our wish list of things to do in our life of adventure…till Ike and Trisha Thomas asked us to go to the 53rd National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.  The experience is beyond what we could hope or think or ask.  Thank you Lord and thank you Ike and Trisha....
Sister picked us up at 8:50 on Tuesday for our American Airlines 11:24 flight to Baltimore where our chauffeur awaited, sign in hand… “Ike Thomas”…that would be us.  Baggage collected, we stepped into a gorgeous DC day and into a realllly long black stretch limo.  Trisha had gotten their number from a friend and decided to upgrade at the last minute.  Now that girl knows how to travel!  Tom didn’t want me photograph the limo…might be too big-shotty, but I did get a couple of interior pics.  We traveled the hour and fifteen minute trip through snow covered landscapes and time as Ike told us stories of his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Bill and Karyn Frist; how they met; of the Frist's family's medical heritage; Bill's double major in medicine and political science; Bill's establishment of a heart transplant unit at Vanderbilt University;  Bill's performing volunteer medical services in third world countries each summer; and Bill's venture into politics where he won his first Tennessee Senate race against a strong incumbent.  We would be having dinner with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and his wife Karyn later that night.
We arrived at the Washington Hilton Hotel around 4:00, freshened up and met downstairs to pick up our Prayer Breakfast packets.  Wow…the first thing we noticed inside our folders was the “Jesus Transcends All” card. “Jesus Christ transcends all religions! Judaism – Islam – Buddhism – Hinduism…He is greater than all these – including Christianity.  Religions are the inventions of men.  They may begin with a great leader in mind – Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha… But human traditions soon reduces the original to a mere set of ethical standards and a dead letter of the law which no one can follow.  The original sin was not murder, adultery or any other action we call sin.  The original sin was, and still is, the human choice to be one’s own god – to control one’s own life – to be in charge – to be religious.  Rising out of this choice evolved religion: mankind’s attempt to please God.   Jesus transcends religion because he is the incarnation of all that is true, good, loving, gently, tender, thoughtful, caring, courteous and selfless.  Jesus does not want you to become a Christian.  He wants you to become a new creation!  There is a great difference between the two.”  Dr. Richard C. Halverson.
Wow…so this is how they approach the multi-faiths attending the Prayer Breakfast.  There would be Muslims, Hindu, Jews, Christians…people from entirely different backgrounds and beliefs.  Some come for the experience and adventure of meeting people from around the world, praying the Holy Spirit will touch lives. Others come for the honor of being included in this event where heads of states and those of political and spiritual position will be attending…even knowing Jesus’ name will be lifted up, they come.  Wow.
Looking further in our packet… “The Strategy of Jesus”, “Remarks of President Ronald Reagan” and the Vision, Message, Purpose and Power of Agreement of “The National Prayer Breakfast Seminar”.  This pamphlet includes eight New Testament scriptures and one Old Testament.  We admired the subtle boldness and wondered if the foreign packets were the same as ours.
Time to depart for dinner at 6:00.  We caught a cab to the restaurant and were given a table upstairs overlooking the park.  We hadn’t eaten since our Friday’s carry-on box lunches on the plane and were ready for a quality meal.  Shortly after our arrival, two secret service men arrived and remained stationed at the top of the stairs facing our table.  Then Trisha’s sister, Karyn Frist, and her husband Senate Majority Leader, Bill Frist, arrived.  As we dined and conversed, Bill was staying in touch with the Senate via his Blackberry wireless.  “Sorry…just shutting down the Senate for the day.” What interesting folks.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and conversation.  They had just been to a wrestling match….wrestling match?  Both Tom and I pictured WWF or perhaps Suma.  But they had just come from one of their son’s wrestling matches.  In the midst of political life, the Frists take time for family.  Balance…one of the things we continue to pursue. Bill was kind enough to autograph a business card for our good friend Joe Mullens who is a big fan.  Joe will just die.  Following dessert we took a group picture and headed back to the hotel.  Tomorrow we’d meet up with Ike and Trisha at 10:00 A.M.
Our tour of the Capitol began and ended in the Senate Majority Leader's (Frist) suite.  When we first arrived, Speaker of the House Dennis Hasertt and Congressional Majority Leader Tom DeLay and several others came through  the office for a meeting in the Frist conference room. Brook Whitfield, Senator Frist’s assistant, gave us a VIP tour...
Returning to the Senator’s office to retrieve our purses and Tom’s hat, we took pictures in Senator Frist's private office which Karyn had decorated beautifully.  A treasure of art and furniture is available in the federal warehouses for use in the offices; Karyn had done a spectacular job of selecting pieces and arranging a perfect office environment for Bill and his guests.  Personal things made it his…a Covelle, a Granbury artist, sculpture of Travis …family photos in the book shelf… one of Ike and Trisha with Karyn and Bill and of course pictures of their three sons…and in the another book shelf, the books Bill had written.  The man is amazing.  In the course of conversation at the dinner Tuesday night, it was evident the Senator had no clue as to who Sharon Stone and other Hollywood personas are...because there is little time for T.V. and movies when time is so filled with other things.  We salute you, Bill…that says a lot about the man...
Ike and Trisha went back to the hotel to rest-up for their exciting evening (attending the State of the Union address) while Tom and I took advantage of our time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.  I love that man.  And the Vietnam Memorial, which brought me to tears.  I thought of the fun I was having while they paid with their lives serving our country. 
A quarter to four we took a taxi to Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office where we met up with Ike. (Trisha went to the Ladies venue that included her sister, Karyn, as one of the speakers…we wanted to do both, but they were scheduled at the same time.)  Her office had extended invitations to the Texas guests of the Prayer Breakfast.  We found Kay to be diminutive and delightful.  As some asked politically based questions, I asked how much the cleaning bill was on the suit she wore in the christening picture above her fireplace.  She laughed and related she had tried three times to break the bottle whose contents burst into activity with every swing and upon the successful contact, filled the air and the Senator’s hair and suit with its bounty.  The papers the next day said she had christened herself.  Cal Thomas, America’s leading political columnist also spoke.  Both told of their belief in Christ and their participation in spiritual things in DC….the Senators have a weekly prayer breakfast and Cal has prayer lunches and invites both Christians and heathens of the media.  We had our picture made with the Senator in front of the United States and Texas flags by a professional photographer.  The pictures are being mailed. 
Back to the Hilton where small dinners were being held.  We joined about a hundred and fifty new friends from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas in the Jefferson East Room.  Eighty percent of the room were Texans.  Great Racer Denny Pearce gave us a great big welcome hug.  He emceed the dinner and also hosted Texas Suite.  We sat by new friends on our left Debbie and George Lee, a banker from Houston, and on our right Mark and Debbie Littlestar from Boerne, friends of our good friends Mike and Tracy Kinchin of Fredricksburg.  Next to them were new friends Tom and Linda Wilson of Ft. Worth.  They’ve been with Young Life for thirty years.  Across from us sat Boone and Peggy Powell.  I knew Peggy from Bible Study at Anne Miller’s some fifteen years ago.  Then Kurt, the youth minister from our Dallas church, Northwest Bible, came in.  What a small world we live in. 
There was a table of guests from Argentina, one spoke….and the keynote speaker was Jock, a handsome young dynamic man from Australia, whose father had attended the National Prayer Breakfast years ago and returned a new Christian.  Since that time the son and speaker became a Christian and has traveled throughout the world encouraging other countries to take up the torch of Prayer Breakfasts in their countries.  Jock's home in Australia is always full of guests he’s met on his journeys.
After a delicious dinner of chicken on rice and a yummy ice cream cake dessert, the Texans retired to the Texas Suite on the seventh floor to watch the State of the Union Address.  We kept watching for Ike’s big smile and shiny head.  Later we learned he and Trisha had sat about 10 seats behind the First Lady.  We were all so proud of our President.
Thursday morning we dressed for the National Prayer Breakfast.  No purse, no cameras… long lines to go through security.  We arrived at 6:45 for a 7:30 breakfast.  Even-numbered tickets sat in the International Ballroom, the largest in DC, and odd numbers sat in the overflow ballroom downstairs and watched via multi-media.
 We were table number two-sixty-eight…Ike and Trisha, number one-thirty-nine.  The tables were set beautifully with perfectly ripened fruits, granola, bagels and sweet rolls, and beverages.  I had two large strawberries.  We sat by new (and really cool) friends Richard and Susan Davis who have a church in Zurich Switzerland.  He sold his Harley just before they moved there seven years ago.  It would be fun to rent a motorcycle in Europe and visit them.  They are central to so many day trips into the Alps and other countries.
The Prayer Breakfast began with black singer Wintley Phipps (amazing).  The pre-breakfast prayer was given by  Emanuel Cleaver, House of Representatives, Missouri; opening remarks by Jo Ann Emerson, House of Representatives, Missouri; the opening prayer was given by Tom Osborne, House of Representatives, Nebraska; opening remarks – Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota; Senator Dianne Feinstein gave a reading from  Jewish spiritual literature; Wintley Phipps sang again; Army Sergeant Douglas Norman read from the Bible; Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, a Christian, prayed for our national leaders; Tony Hall, Ambassador, United States Mission to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies gave the main message.  He was awesome.  Tom told me while Tony was serving in the House of Representatives he had gone on a hunger strike until  legislation was passed to help starving children in Ethopia who were literally dying by the thousands daily.  He didn't eat for thirty days; then our President, George W. Bush spoke to our hearts.  His message is included in another section of this book; Wintley Phipps then sang the most amazing Amazing Grace.  Wintley pointed out it was written by the Captain of a slave ship and many think the melody is an African chant.  He began the song with a chant of sorts in his deep rich baritone…sang the hymn as a Negro Spiritual….it was awesome.  Lincoln Davis, House of Representatives, Tennessee closed in prayer.  Most Impressive...Each prayer lifted Jesus name and was given in His name.  No "side-steps" were made in deference to our guests from other nations and faiths.  To You be the glory, Lord.
I whispered in Tom’s ear I was going to make a quick trip to the Ladies Room before we were served, to which is response was, “We’ve eaten.”  I later learned those in the downstairs ballroom viewing by screens were served a full breakfast to my two strawberries.  Ike and Trisha said they should have warned us.  We met them up near the stage and as we exited I got to speak to Chuck Colson, telling him we still use his taped talk comparing the Watergate 12 to the disciples.  We had seen him at the Interstate Batteries Convention in Orlando.  What an incredible ministry he has.
The Texas Suite was next on our personal agenda.  We met fascinating folks from Houston, Louise, daughter Vicki and her aunt Carolyn, who kept us entertained for the next hour and a half.  Ike and Trisha joined us briefly, then took off for a meeting with retiring Attorney General John Ashcroft, who spoke to an intimate group of about thirty.  Between meals various small groups of spiritual leaders met in the mini-meeting rooms.
Lunch was back in the International Ballroom.  It was by far our best meal of the trip…main course – salmon…my favorite.  Amazing that a wait staff of two hundred served three thousand a hot meal so efficiently.  Rick Warren, who wrote Purpose Driven Live and Purpose Driven Church, spoke followed by the keynote speaker, the President of Honduras, Ricardo Maduro Joest of the National Party  – a Christian. 

We anticipated a late night so we all took long naps after lunch, and met up for dinner back in the International Ballroom.  Tom and I met the most interesting lady, Pauletta from DC, who teaches defense in the Department of Defense and who travels to many foreign nations in upheaval.  I asked if she was a Black Belt, to which she answered, “Surrounding yourself with men with guns is the best protection.”  To my left was new friend Lynda Keese who lives in DC …and next to her was her new friend Carol from Oklahoma.  We had steak, mashed potatoes and green beans and the best dessert – my favorite – chocolate mousse cake.  Ike and Trisha were at the table next to us and when they rose at 7:30, so did we.  A seven-time dove winner was performing and we missed the speaker, now Chaplain of the Senate, Barry Black, but we had a dessert date at the Frists.
Ike and Trisha’s friends Warren and Lenore Carter, who provided our four invitations this year, picked us up at the front door.  We drove past the National Cathedral, where Ronald Reagan’s funeral had been held, and arrived at the Frist’s right on time – 8:00.... 
Bill gathered us all in the dessert room to welcome us and thank us for coming to a no-agenda gathering of Christians (most of whom were spiritual leaders) from various parts of the United States.  After his talk, Franklin Graham led us in prayer for the future of Bill and Karyn…and for each guest present and for their ministries.  Tom and I made note to add Bill and Karyn to our daily prayer list right behind the President.  It would be so awesome if the office of the President continued to be filled with God fearing committed Christians who consult our Father for direction and wisdom and who will run the country on Christian principles.  At dinner on Tuesday night we had repeated the words of one of Bill’s fans who had said… “You go for it!”
Among the guests were Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son); Luis Palau (Evangelistic Association); Chuck Colson (Prison Fellowship Ministry); David Barton (Wall-Builders); Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life); Lloyd John Ogilvie (Author and past Chaplain of the Senate); Ted Haggard (President of the National Association) and Richard Land (President of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention).  All of these men would be among the list of twenty-five most influential evangelicals in the February seventh issue of Time Magazine currently on stands…five of them are on the cover.  May the Lord continue to empower them for reaching the world for Christ through their various ministries.   We also met other pastors we just fell in love with…especially the black ministers.  Their hearts and love for Christ literally beamed on their faces.  What an open book and joy filled soul they each had. 
One of our favorites was Wellington Boone, a pastor from Norcross, Georgia.  He has written a book published by Doubleday called “Your Wife Ain’t Your Mama” and promised to send us a copy.  His new book on shelves soon is titled “Woman – The King Maker”.
We missed David Barton…Ike saw him leaving before we got into the other room to even know he was there.  What a shame as he lives just down the road from us in Aledo, and we’ve used his video transcripts on America’s Godly Heritage in our Bible Study at the UpTop.  Now there’s a man everyone needs to listen to.  Our government has gotten our heritage so mixed up, and he reminds us of the documents, actions and beliefs of our founders and fore-fathers.
I visited with Franklin Graham.  “Franklin, I had the honor of hearing your Daddy at the Lobo Stadium in Longview, Texas, circa 1958, and they were coming forward by the hundreds even back then.”  He responded with enthusiasm… “You’re from Longview?  I went to Le Tourneau Tech for two years and still fly back in and get some Bodacious BBQ to go.”  I told him I had lived in the Le Tourneau barracks when my daddy was going to school there.  And how was his Daddy?  He had missed his first Prayer Breakfast this year.  He said he was doing OK.  I thanked him for all he does in the name of Christ.
We talked to Chuck Colson.  Tom asked Chuck for advice on how to begin a ministry in the Granbury jail as our new Christian sheriff, Gene Mayo is wide open for Jesus. Chuck referred us to the Prison Fellowship office in Dallas for assistance.
Our visit with Rick Warren was one of our favorites.  Rick is an "old rocker", and he is a hoot.  Turns out he plays the guitar and when we told him about Granbury Live, Rick  said he would come to Granbury if he could play onstage.  Tom told him, "Consider it done, you'll be perfect with Mo and Bro, the Blue Suede Brothers."
We finished our evening with a few pictures with new friends and a thank you to our hosts for an incredible evening in their beautiful home Karyn had decorated perfectly.  To the hotel and in bed by midnight.
Friday as Ike and Trisha were in route to Cancun to receive a Turf Grass award for Ike and as Karyn was on her way to New York to a red dress fashion show with the First Lady, and as the Senate Majority Leader attended to the business of the day, Tom and I ate breakfast at Union Station and boarded first class Amtrak for our twenty-seven minute trip to Baltimore.  Tom carried the luggage on and stepped back off the train to proclaim… “The first face you’ll see is ‘My Kinda Woman’”…a line from Granbury Live’s “God Bless Texas”:  “One thing you’ll never hear in Texas… The tires on that truck are too big, That song needs a little more French horn, That Hillary is my kinda woman.”  Sure nuff….there sat Hillary with her perhaps secretary and the secret service.  We had the option of sitting facing her or going on back to a private table.  We chose privacy, were served cranapple juice, diet Pepsi and the New York Times before we disembarked at BWI Baltimore where a too chatty lady cabby took us to the airport for a full flight home.
Sister picked us up, and we stopped for the much missed Mexican food of Abuelo’s and then home to the more than missed Granbury Live Family…where we played “God Bless Texas” and the lines “what you’ll never hear in Texas.”
Thank you Lord for a blessed adventure with Ike and Trisha, and thank you Ike and Trisha for choosing us to share your adventure, making it ours.  It was a blast!
                                              Tom and Sandi