For years President Obama would receive daily devotional messages on his Blackberry. They were scriptures, quotes and short stories…all words of encouragement and inspiration which the president himself said “meant the world." Now you can read some of the daily devotionals in a new book called The President’s Devotional. The book’s author Joshua DuBois, joins us to share some of the President’s favorite scriptures, and the words of reinforcement that got the President through tough times.
Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements, lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
—C. S. Lewis, “To Love Is to Be Vulnerable”
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
—Matthew 26:36–38 (NIV)
The flip side of a child’s laughter is the hollow ache we feel when they’re gone. The sweet comfort we derive from a spouse’s closeness is in direct proportion to the cold, stinging distance that hits us when things aren’t right.
When we pay full price for love, we do receive that love in full, but we also receive pain as change. It’s built into the equation; no less than our Savior has shown us that, as he agonized in these verses over his coming death. But he also shows us love is worth the pain.
Lord, keep watch with me when love seems distant; stay near when it returns. Amen.
Our Best Strength
Success is . . . knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
—Coach John Wooden, Coach Wooden One-on-One
When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel’s best and put them in battle array against the Syrians. . . . Then he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”
—2 Samuel 10:9–12 (NKJV)
Let’s put our best effort on the field today, and let God take care of the rest.
Joab did as much. The Syrians, his mortal enemies, were on one side, and the Ammonites were on another. Joab was in a tough spot, but he controlled what was in his power to control: his courage, his team, his strength. “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”
Let that be our prayer today. And like Joab, we will overcome. Amen.
Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze drifting on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn!
It’s a new day!
It’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good.
—Nina Simone, “Feeling Good”
The great America jazz singer Nina Simone has a funny song called “Feeling Good.” It has a driving, ominous beat—think: the feverishly dark rhythm of “Hit the Road, Jack.” One could imagine the bass line playing in a movie—a mafia flick right before the hit job or when the main character, in a moment of despair, is contemplating a leap from the Golden Gate Bridge. And that rhythmic context is exactly why the upbeat lyrics are so jarring. With dark music surrounding her words . . . why is Nina feeling good?
The contrast reminds me of David in Psalm 59. David first writes fearfully, of stalkers and invaders camped around him.
See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, Lord. . . .
They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.
But, counterintuitively, he concludes,
I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress.
—Psalm 59:3, 14–15, 16–17, (NIV)
Nina Simone and David remind us of one unimpeachable fact: whatever situations we face, the lyrics we sing today are completely up to us. We can choose to shout above the din outside our window and sing louder than the ominous noise approaching our lives. We can worship God today. We can love today, even when it’s tough. We can take control of our song, our Psalm.
Dear God, let me be a composer. Even though dark rhythms may emerge around me, help me write my own song. Amen.
Excerpted from THE PRESIDENT’S DEVOTIONAL: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama, by Joshua DuBois by arrangement with HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins. Copyright © Joshua DuBois 2013..