Recently there have been debates about the use of our nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.” It is found on the dollar bill, on the wall of the Supreme Court, and on many of our car tags. There are those that voices object to its use. They base their objection on the separation of Church and State.
I, for one, have no objections. I think we are all under God in the sense the ultimate authority is God. But I also think it is important for us to realize our need to trust in God so that our actions both individually, as a community and as a nation, are pleasing to God.
Now this is easier said than done. There are many people who claim to speak for God. But they are far from it. That is the issue with the radicals of a faith that want to force others to agree with them. There are issues that good people disagree on and I am sure the good Lord gets a good laugh at those that claim to always speak for Him.
On the Friday before the State Legislature went into session for 2016, the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs of Covington came together to sponsor a Community Prayer Breakfast at the Turner Lake Complex. One-hundred-six of our community leaders and citizens gathered.
It was not your usual Prayer Breakfast. Those gathered did not sing hymns nor were there a lot of prayers, in fact there was only one. No one tried to witness to their faith. Rather the focus was on the type of characteristics that those leading our community and nation need to have.
The featured speaker for the gathering was Covington native John Addison, a retired CEO of Primercia and head of Addison Leadership Group. He was introduced to those gathered by Judge Horace Johnson, who was a classmate in the Class of 75 at Newton County High School as well as a classmate at Emory at Oxford College.
Those attending included elected officials, community leaders, the press and interested citizens. Addison shared with the group his love for Covington and Newton County. He identified his mother Ruth as having the greatest influence on his life. He spoke of his transition from a very successful business career to helping motivate people to be better leaders. He said he was “rewired not retired.”
He challenged all those present to help make this community and area even greater than it is. He said those who lead must not be weathervanes but rather lighthouses. I would add if we truly want to live “Under God” and place our trust in God we must not merely reflect what the latest idea is. But be like a lighthouse that brings light to the darkness and warns of the dangers. He said the real test of leadership is not on days that are sunny but during the storms.
Addison said a good leader is not one who divides but is one who unites. I would add that too many voices in our society are pushing those away they disagree with. They are labeling people in such a way that the fabric of our culture is torn. If we are going to build bridges instead of barriers, we must be open to the dreams and ideas of others. If we are going to bring our community together each of us see the value of the other person. Addison challenged the 106 in attendance to look for the best in the other person. And while at times we might disagree, we should not be disagreeable.
He challenged his listeners to be flexible not rigid in their approach. One way to accomplish this, he said, was not to take oneself too seriously. He called for us to get better every day. He said, “Instead of calling oneself a human being, be a human becoming.” I guess this is what he meant he said he was rewired. He said start each way with a “weeding” of our thoughts. In this way we can leave behind what we need to and move where we need to go.
To help lead our community one needs to have integrity. In all of our lives, much of what happens turns on small things. Most of us will never be a place of great power, but we can all seek trust in God and live under God’s control.
There will be those who will point to others for being the reason we struggle to be a nation under God. And struggle to lives by our national motto to trust in God. Those who gathered for prayer that Friday morning heard a challenge to help lead our community in such a way that God can work in and through us every day. How much brighter our community will be as the light of truth and brotherhood shines though us.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.