Sunday, May 06, 2007


Whew! What a week I just capped off--make that an eight-day week! It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m on a Southwest plane at 35,000 feet above Wyoming, or somewhere between Salt Lake City and Chicago. I’m returning from a wonderful weekend with friends in the Layton, Utah area, and from preaching for Pastor Myke Crowder at the dynamic Christian Life Center. The service this morning was memorable if for one reason--it’s the first time I had a ranking U.S. senator in the front row! Senior Utah Senator Orrin Hatch was our honored guest for the 11:00 service. Pastor Crowder and I made a special presentation of a plaque of the Ten Commandments to the Senator, inscribed with his name. He gave a moving testimony of faith and appreciatively promised to display the plaque in his office in Washington. More on the Senator further down.

For now, let me tell you how the eight-days began:

Last Sunday evening, April 29, we launched the 18th annual U.S. Capitol Bible Reading Marathon on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. This is just in front of the steps where presidents swear their oath of office on Inauguration Day. The event involved more than 500 volunteer readers, including members of Congress and the U.S. Senate chaplain, who sequentially read the entire Bible aloud over a public address system, for 90 straight hours! That’s Genesis through Revelation, night and day, non-stop, without commentary! It was glorious. It’s hard to describe the feeling of hearing God’s word ricocheting off the alabaster buildings lining the Washington Mall. It could be heard from the Dome of the Capitol through the great expanse all the way to the Washington Monument. And, because of Faith and Action’s partner, National Pro-Life Radio, the Marathon could be heard over the Internet at any computer anywhere in the world! E-mails and calls came in from as far away as Spain and India!

The Marathon closed on Thursday, May 3, the National Day of Prayer. Our chief of staff, Peggy Birchfield, and our program director, Dane Rose, were with me in the morning for a breakfast at the famed Capitol Hill Club where a group I’m involved with hosted Commandant of the United States Marine Corps General James T. Conway. Following the opening Pledge of allegiance to the Flag, I read the President’s National Day of Prayer proclamation and gave the invocation.

Then we were off to the elaborate Caucus Room in the House of Representatives Cannon Building across Independence Avenue from the Capitol. Shirley Dobson, wife to Dr. James Dobson, presided over a three-hour prayer service there. I chatted with her briefly, but had to leave early to give the closing prayer at the Marathon. From there, we went immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court where each year we hold the only National Day of Prayer observance at the High Court. It’s always fraught with tension because the Court is extremely guarded about anything that might be construed as an “act of demonstration” on it’s property. The official National Day of Prayer committee found the situation so daunting, to my knowledge, they’ve never even approached the Justices. (Now that the culture of the court is changing under Chief Justice John Roberts, I think such a formal approach should be made.)

Only four years ago, our friend and colleague, Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, was arrested for kneeling to pray on the Court’s steps. He was charged, convicted and ordered to stay away from the property for two years. We teamed up with him and challenged the administrative officer's interpretation of the law that bans demonstrations. We argued that prayer is not the same as a political demonstration, especially on a day when the President urges such public observances. So far, we’ve prevailed. For the last thee years, we’ve been allowed to conduct a small, brief prayer service on the hallowed front plaza. Still, it’s never quite comfortable as Supreme Court uniformed police and plain clothed marshals are dispatched to watch our every move. This year, the Chief of Police made a rare trip outside the building to get our personal assurance that everything would be “legal today.” We gave it to him, then, with a smile, I wished him a “Happy National Day of Prayer.” It broke him up and he did an eye-roll worthy of an Oscar!

A special treat this year at our Court observance was the participation of Vonette Bright, the founder of the National Day of Prayer. Mrs. Bright is the widow of the late Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, the largest Evangelical missionary outreach in the world. She worked relentlessly for a congressional bill creating the National Day of Prayer. Against all odds, it passed and was eventually signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Also at the Court this year was my good friend Bill Murray. Bill is president of the Religious Freedom Coalition. As a teenager, Bill was used as the subject of a Supreme Court case that knocked voluntary prayer out of public schools by his mother, the infamous atheist activist Madelyn Murray O’Hare. Today, Bill is a Christian activist, author and speaker. He stood with us at nearly the exact spot where he and his mother celebrated their victory 45 years ago. I look forward to being at the spot with him again in the future when students win back the right to pray in classrooms, assemblies and sporting events!

After the prayer service at the Court I headed downtown for a meeting with our former U.S. ambassador to Morocco, Ed Gabriel, to discuss our ongoing Christian Friendship Mission to that country. The day ended late after I signed hundreds of letters to our inner circle of supporters seeking urgent help fending off yet another attack against our ministry facilities by atheist activists. I can’t say too much about it lest we give our opponents an advantage, but I will eventually everyone the whole story.

Friday morning I was at the Israeli Embassy to greet the newly installed ambassador, Sallai Meridor, and to pray for the Peace of Jerusalem with many Christian leaders from all over the U.S. I had just enough time to drive the 90-mile round trip home to pack for my Utah visit. I threw my clothes into my bags, kissed Cheryl goodbye and headed back to our ministry center where I signed another 250 letters, crashed on my sofa-bed and got up at 4:45 Saturday morning to drive to Baltimore Washington International Airport, the cheapest way to get out to Salt Lake City. All the while I used my cell phone to work out the details for Senator Hatch’s visit with me to Christian Life Center. I arrived in Salt Lake a little tired (!), so I caught a cat nap at my hotel before meeting some of our supporters for what we call a “Family Circle Dinner” at a nearby restaurant.

Sunday morning came soon with two services to preach. It was National Ten Commandments Day so I took that as my theme. Pastor Crowder has been a great friend for many years now and the church has stood behind us in everything we’ve done. It seems I just can’t wear out my welcome with these lovely people. The congregation has just completed a spectacular new sanctuary at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. In fact, the church is actually on four levels. With its many staircases, just moving around inside is a pretty good workout for a Sunday morning!

While I love preaching on the Commandments--and the message was well-received--the most interesting part of the morning was the Senator’s participation. He is an exceedingly gracious man and was very generous in his comments about me and Pastor Crowder. As you may know, I’ve been in an ongoing and profound conversation with him about spiritual things. We’ve spent an extraordinary number of hours together pouring over the Scriptures. He is a man who clearly loves God and punctuates everything he says with his devotion to Jesus Christ. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (colloquially--and often pejoratively--referred to as “Mormons”), there is a lot for us to talk about. But I must tell you, we have had nothing but honest, deeply meaningful and prayerful dialogue. We’ve also been our knees together, asking the Lord to show us the truth about important matters. Please pray for him and me as we undertake this critically important exercise.

I closed the service this morning in Layton with an invitation to repent and make Jesus Christ Lord. 21 souls raised their hands--Hallelujah!

Now I’m tired again and find myself dreaming of a pillow and a soft bed, but my connecting flight is late out of Chicago, so I'm now posting this to our site.

This week will be a bit intense as we petition the U.S. Postmaster General for a Ten Commandments Postage Stamp. It’s anything but dull around here!

Be back . . .

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