Last Friday, November 16, my bride, Ruth celebrated her birthday and ironically it was the day Steven Spielberg’s movie “LINCOLN” was released. It was wonderful! I wrote two posts on FB earlier last week and blessed with over 100 comments. Some of you may know that in my family five consecutive generations of Washington DC policemen have served our nation protecting 26 U.S. Presidents.
Dad retired as Deputy Chief of U.S. Capitol Police. My Uncle Charlie was LT in charge of entire K-9 of USCP. My grandfather was a Captain with Metropolitan DC Police. My great grandfather rode horseback with US Park Police but my great-great-great grandfather was on duty at Ford’s Theater and carried President Abraham Lincoln across the street the night he died in 1865. Politically, President Lincoln is my favorite of all-time. Today, he’s still the most quoted American in history. He put “IN GOD WE TRUST” on our currency. He made Thanksgiving a national holiday, initiated National Day of Prayer and granted freedom to the shackled slaves. Another presidential note – to this day he used more Biblical references in his addresses than any president from George Washington to Obama, respectively.
Ironically, I & was born President’s Day Weekend (Feb 20) and Ruth and I got engaged on steps of Lincoln Memorial (near exact spot Dr King gave I HAVE A DREAM speech). Lightening struck twice because our baby, Andrew LINCOLN was born inauguration day when President Obama was sworn in office (Jan 20, 2009). We were going to name him Andrew Graham. Every time Andrew is mentioned in Scripture he was always bringing someone to JESUS. We planned to name his middle name after Billy Graham but being born on inauguration day and the historical tie to Lincoln when went the alternate route.
Many remember Lincoln’s leadership I recall his loneliness. Scholars celebrate his professional position to the top but I’m reminded daily of his personal pain, dark depression and overwhelming obstacles along the way. If Walt Disney is the model for ‘vision’ than Lincoln is the benchmark for perseverance. He was loving, loyal and never forgot where he came from. In our book “BLESSEDNESS OF BROKENNESS” I’m convinced that his initial setbacks propelled him to later success. The greatest leaders reach greatness not because they were perfect but endured testing both personally and professionally. Over the years, I often wondered what it was like to carry our Commander in Chief that night in the midst of chaos and confusion in our Capital City? It was recorded that Lincoln invited 14 people to attend the theater that night of the assassination with he and his wife. Sadly, just like his first couple proposals to a potential wife and the dozen plus that turned him down he faced rejection repeatedly. Many forget that his first fiance died. To think the President was told by others they were ‘too busy’ for him is mind boggling. Then again Jesus came to His own & they received Him not.
The Bible admonishes us to pray for those in authority. After working nearly 20 years in Washington, for two U.S. Presidents, speechwriter to House Majority Leader of Congress, floor staff of US Senate, aide to Governor of Maryland and a few assignments in between it is a fact leadership is lovely but lonely. When my ancestor died in 1877 it was noted in two DC newspapers that he became close friends with President Lincoln while working at The White House. One actually says that he was one of Lincoln’s favorites. Ironically, President Lincoln died on Good Friday, 1865. As he signed the Emancipation Proclamation granting freedom to slaves, Jesus died on Good Friday redeeming us by His blood liberating all by faith who trust in Him to set us free whom were once enslaved by sin. While working in the U.S. Capitol and appointed floor staff of the Senate, I have actually touched the exact table that President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery. Doing the right thing is rarely easy. Looking back, those we celebrate in death unfortunately we often tolerate in life. Great individuals recognize greatness in others without being threatened or intimidated. #ThatWillPreach
Now it is evident to others, but since my childhood I desired to enter politics, protect the President or Preach the Gospel. A young Bill Clinton met JFK at age 18 in that picture of them meeting helped catapult him to the presidency. If our Baby Andrew elects to enter politics he could note near the 200 year Anniv of my ancestor carrying Lincoln to remind America that although he cannot carry the individual again but certainly his ideals. Not the man but message carrying it to the masses. Perhaps, if the Lord tarries Baby Andrew “may be one to watch.” 🙂 I also learned that being in law enforcement is as much a calling as entering the ministry.
While speaking across America, I’m mindful that when my ancestor carried President Lincoln he carried the closest to the King of a Nation we will ever have because the presidency is an institution not an individual. When my dad’s friend was a pallbearer for Elvis Presley in 1977, he carried the king of rock & roll but as Christians we don’t simply carry ‘The King of a nation’, or “The King of Rock & Roll” but we carry “The King of all kings” by our life and lips. The beauty is it really is Christ carrying us. My ancestor could attest its one thing to carry greatness but it’s entirely and ETERNALLY different when Greatness (God) carries you! I thank God for Lincoln and despite him touching the world it’s humbling to think my ancestor touched him. Even greater, by grace we can touch Almighty God. What’s wild, He calls us friend too. I love that song ‘I am a friend of God – HE CALLS ME FRIEND.”
LESSONS on LINCOLN: The best leaders are usually those whom suffered great loss. Regardless, if Christ on the cross or Lincoln’s losses the best were blessed with burdens that most shoulders were too small to carry. Never make fun of those who have been through some storms 1) It doesn’t honor Christ 2) You could be next 3) They probably brought more to the table in talent and their assignment and anointing was more visible 4) Therefore, became a larger target of both enemy and friendly fire 5) It could have been God’s Divine Plan to bend them in the process of making them. Even the Bible notes “it pleased God to bruise His Son” 6) Sometimes storms, setback and sin come on folks not for doing wrong but they could have been living right. 7) God delights in deadbeats and relishes in resurrection 8) Charles Spurgeon noted “There is a special battalion in the Almighty’s Army were only wounded soldiers can serve.”
The folks I admire the most have endured much and whom you discard God often elevates to touch the world. Who you see as trash God elevates as treasure. The next time you encounter loss you may have been privately promoted in God’s service and didn’t even know it. Had Christ never endured Hell He couldn’t give away Heaven. Had Lincoln not faced rejection, pain and bondage early on he wouldn’t have been compassionate to do right at the end by granting freedom to slaves. I’m certain those facing the darkest depression in private make the lasting impressions in public. Had Michael Jordan not been cut on the varsity basketball from his high school coach he wouldn’t have dominated in the pros with six championships, billion dollar sales with Nike and gold medals from Olympics. Adversity causes most to break – the rest BREAK records. Which one are you? Stress is not your enemy but a friend you haven’t appreciated yet.
Today, thank God for your setbacks because they’re setups for success. Appreciate your adversities and find a blessedness in brokenness. The boy who gave his lunch to the Lord graduated from mediocrity to ministry. His lunch in his hands fed a few but given to God and BROKEN in His hands fed five thousand plus. Those that have been stretched and scarred often have the privilege to touch the world. Crumbs in your hand is a mess. Crumbs in God’s Hands become your MESSage. Plus, the Lord Loves Leftovers!
Thank God for the blessings but praise Him for the burdens because the beauty is a valley is actually just an upside down mountain. Thankfully, Jesus walks with us in both problems and promotion. Truly, His loss on Calvary was our gain Easter Sunday. Our disappointments today could be Divine Appointments tomorrow. Thank God for losses because we learn more about our Lord through the ugly than going undefeated. If you ever feel like a reject than you are in Good Company. Because the best are blessed because they were by passed before but found grace in God before the end. Count it ALL joy!
In closing, God wanted a family and He sowed a Son. President Abraham Lincoln paid his life in full so as Americans we could become family. At 23, I was blessed to walk on the floor everyday of the United States Senate with President Pro Tempore Strom Thurmond (R-SC) holding on to me because he was so feeble to escort him to his chair as he opened the Senate in session. He was the icon but I was just an individual. Ironically, he was the first southern U.S. Senator to hire an African American on his staff. Daily, I knew I was carrying greatness but both he and God were carrying me. I recall my good friend, Dr Lloyd Ogilvie, Chaplain of US Senate inviting me to “carry him” or in today’s terms drive him to the National Prayer Breakfast to be his guest as Mother Teresa spoke before our President and national leaders. For a full year, it was my privilege to drive a Member of Congress in the House Leadership daily from his home to office and every stop in between or chaperoning Governors to Chiefs of Police. When I picked up my wife and carried her across the threshold into our honeymoon suite and home later, I knew without a shadow of doubt that I was “carrying greatness.” The two times I caught both Hannah Grace & Andrew Lincoln Shelton in the Emergency Room wearing surgical gloves as they were born and beheld a miracle from Heaven while in a hospital on earth I knew what was in my hands (and care).
At the moment and every moment since, I have been entrusted to “carry greatness.” In 1994, I drove to NC “by faith” with hardly a dime to my name to attend a preacher’s conference in Walkertown, NC. While there, I saw a senior citizen dressed in a navy blue double breasted suit. My heart had compassion on this man and I felt the Holy Spirit inviting this senior and stranger to be my guest to a revival not even in my home state. I reached out to him but the moment I had him in my car I didn’t know his name, occupation but certain that something was special about him. My prayer was if he were lost he would be saved. I drove this man in my car and we get to the church and over 2,000 people are present. The service already started and when they saw me with the man I chaperoned they whisked on to the FRONT ROW! Then the unthinkable happens. The moderator of the pastor’s conference says: “Our guest speaker tonight has baptized over 63,000 souls in 70 years of ministry. He is pastor emeritus of Tennessee Temple Univ in Chattanooga, TN and an international evangelist. Join me and welcoming the podium DR LEE ROBERSON!!” Are you kidding me? The man I thought may be lost and was obedient to invite to a revival was the KEYNOTE speaker and I didn’t even know who or what I had in my car. All I know is looking back and by God’s grace I CARRIED GREATNESS and GREATNESS CARRIED ME and had a front row seat to prove it. PRAISE GOD!
Over the years, I have been blessed to minister over a dozen times with my childhood hero, Basketball icon and Hall of Fame, Meadowlark Lemon. We have been in over five states together and we have had breakfast, lunch and dinner together en route to preaching at events. The last time, I had him in my hometown of Waldorf, MD he asked me to drive him to the airport to Ronald Reagan Airport in DC to catch a flight to NY to be a guest that night on Sean Hannity. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed but the entire time I knew I was CARRYING GREATNESS! While in Guatemala, I was blessed to fly over with officials of Compassion International and interact and hug the destitute, become friends with the father-less and love those with the least. The highlight for me was being one of the one percent to ever meet in person the child we sponsor. The day I picked up Margaurita in person and held her above my head with my own hands without question – I knew I was CARRYING GREATNESS. When former World Wrestling Champ Nikita Koloff and I were ministering in Jamaica with five time World Wrestling Champ Lex Luger we had dinner that night on the cruise. Lex had a stroke several years back and was struggling that night without his walker. Lex had a hard time doing down steps and Nikita grabbed his left arm and I took the right and had the privilege to have “The Total Package” hang on us carrying him down a flight of steps. Every single time I get up to preach the Gospel and see both Dr E.V. Hill & Dr Junior Hill’s signature inside the cover I know I’m carrying greatness. Not just because they signed it but Jesus sealed it and people still need the Lord and its been an honor to have a front row seat to watch God saves souls before my very eyes. God’s Word is our only Hope.
ALL of us carry greatness. It may not be a President or an earthly king but God has deposited dreams, calling and an assignment in all of us. Like the “Footprints” poem its actually GREATNESS carrying us. What makes individuals great is not the gift but the love of God for them. Inside every heart ever born is a God shaped vacuum that only He can fill. If you have a restlessness in your life it is the absence of a personal, vibrant saving relationship with Christ. You can have money in your bank but if you don’t have God in your tank than you are running on fumes. Pull over before it’s too late. For those who have already trusted Christ you have amazing greatness within you because as Kids of the King, the Lord is IN you.
I have shared this story around the globe for over half my life and its one of my favorites. Enjoy! “In 1863, a young lad played the solitare game “hopskotch” in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. His game ceased when he saw the cries of a stranger. He approached the senior and asked: “Mister, why do you cry?” The man barked: “You are just a kid! You can do nothing for me. Get away!” The boy perplexed said: “Mister, I don’t mean any harm. However, I must ask what’s bothering you because I cannot proceed with my game with you alone and upset.” The man rolled his eyes and said while pointing to towards The White House. “Young boy, I have tried for three days to get through those gates to see the President.” The boy confused said: “Why do you need to see him?” The man replied: “My son has a warrant for his arrest for treason. He’s accused of fleeing in the midst of the ongoing Civil War. I raised him better than that and he would not flee much less neglect his duties.” The little lad said: “Sir, that’s all you need?” The man said: “That’s all I need. But you are just a kid, you cannot do anything for me.” The boy said music to his ears: “FOLLOW ME.” When the guard saw the boy immediately the gates of The White House opened. They walked across the North Lawn of the most powerful address in the world and inside the Executive Mansion. The boy said: “Wait here” and within four minutes come back down the spiral staircase steps with the most powerful person in the planet. He introdces President Lincoln, standing 6’4 adorning a stove top hat to his new friend he met on the street moments before. The Commander in Chief stands before a common man. The President hears the person’s plea and the Statesman grants the stranger a Presidential Pardon. HOW IN THE WORLD DID THE OLD MAN GET IN? The little lad was Tad Lincoln, the President’s son and the Bible is clear “NO MAN CAN GET TO THE FATHER – unless you come in with SON.” (Jesus).
Lincoln had his share of loss, everyone knows his leadership, take comfort in his lonliness and be grateful for his legacy but make no mistake Lincoln was great but Jesus is God. However, every single day of my life I thank God for them both. One granted freedom temporaily the Other for all eternity. JESUS SAVES!
* This article was printed in “CAROLINA VOICES” in 1996. My dear friend, Rev Ray Hardee graciously wrote it when Frank Shelton Jr was 24 years old.