New Artist Advice

Advice often sounds like clichés and I am sure mine will, too: be true to God, be true to your calling, be true to yourself. Remember whose you are. God has not called everyone to the big arenas. If we all go seek fame and fortune, who is left to minister to the local church and community? We need more creative types that are community focused. Our goals should be about utilizing the talents God has given each of us, in the place God has called us to be.

That is why I usually suggest people plug in locally, wherever they live. Find a good church. Minister there. If you have talent and a heart for ministry, it will be noticed. Volunteer to sing to the young kids, the youth, the college age, the picnics, local festivals, wherever.

What has allowed the message of Christ to endure for 2,000 years? It is a message of hope; it is a message of truth. I think that shines through the Christian arts. Also, you have often heard "Music is the universal language." It is. When you combine a powerful message with a well-turned tune, what’s not to love? This is why a song like "Friends" from Michael W. Smith is still one of the most requested and beloved songs of our day. If you ask a music high brow, they will tell you the tune is simple, the lyrics are lame, but the simple tune penned by Michael and his wife touches us profoundly with its truth and its simplicity. It surpasses the musical formulas with its message of the love shared among friends. God has a way of doing that. Christian music can get too contrived with books, formulas and gimmicks. Bob Carlisle wrote "Butterfly Kisses" for his daughter, not to be the next #1 hit. He went past the formulas with his message of a father’s love for his daughter. The simple things from the heart are often the best.

I have seen the pitfalls of the Christian music industry as people that are called "ministers" in the industry have stumbled and fallen, sometimes again and again. Yes we are all human and all stumble, but the Bible makes it clear more is expected of those in positions of teacher, leader, minister. Character is more important than talent in ministry, but talent is often esteemed more highly than character in the "industry." There is a tightrope artists walk between "ministry" and "industry." I would offer this advice to anyone seeking a career as an artist that would put them up in front of people as a leader, role model and minister: clean the skeletons out of your closet and deal with any issues you have BEFORE you climb up on that tightrope. No matter how fabulous your talent is, it is your fruits that will leave the lasting impression of what your ministry was all about.

— Scott

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Barack Obama: A Leader for the ‘We’ Generation

Interesting read… (HT Michael Hyatt @MichaelHyatt )

Barack Obama: A Leader for the ‘We’ Generation
Leaders can learn a lot from Obama about power that comes from the bottom up, not just from the top down

By Bill George

The sweeping victory of Barack Obama ushers in a new era of leadership that will affect every aspect of American institutions and that sounds a death knell for the top-down, power-oriented leadership prevalent in the 20th century.

A new style of "bottom-up, empowering" leadership focusing on collaboration will sweep the country. A new wave of 21st century authentic leaders will take oversee U.S. institutions of every type: business, education, health care, religion, and nonprofits. These new leaders recognize that an organization of empowered leaders at every level will outperform "command-and-control" organizations every time.

The 20th century leaders focused on money, fame, and power, earning the title of the "me" generation. Their leadership destroyed many great institutions, as evidenced by the failures of Enron, WorldCom, and dozens of companies like them. The recent fiascos on Wall Street can be traced to the failure of "me" leaders who put themselves ahead of their institutions.
Failed Policies

Unfortunately, the top-down style didn’t stop with business. It bled into K-12 education, which focused more on administrators than on teachers and students, and into health care, with health plans and hospitals so caught up in billing procedures and regulations that they denigrated the vital patient-physician relationship.

In the nonprofit world, even the venerable American Red Cross had such dysfunctional governance that it couldn’t deliver the massive contributions the poured in after September 11 and Hurricane Katrina to people desperately in need. Mainline places of worship have steadily lost membership to newer ones, largely because their priests, rabbis, and preachers did not engage their congregants.

The worst example of top-down leadership is the Administration of President Bush, whose "I am the decider" attitude and centralized White House decision-making turned knowledgeable government leaders into mere implementers of failed policies.

The leadership style of President-elect Barack Obama promises to usher in the "we" generation. The best evidence is not in his campaign promises, but in the remarkable way he ran his campaign. In sharp contrast to the "Washington-centric, top-down" organizations of Senators McCain and Clinton, Obama’s organization was derived from his formative experiences as a community organizer. Lessons learned in Chicago’s streets translated into history’s most successful campaign organization.

Let’s examine his organization to see what leadership lessons can be learned:

• Obama created a grassroots movement by building an ever-expanding organization of empowered leaders, who in turn engaged people from their social networks like Facebook.

• The entire organization was aligned around a single goal—electing Obama as President—and operated with common values ("Offer messages of hope, don’t denigrate our opponents, refuse to make deals").

• Campaign leaders subordinated their egos and personal ambitions to the greater goal. Those who deviated quickly exited.

• Obama set a clear, consistent tone from the top ("No Drama Obama"), and never wavered, even when things weren’t going well.

• Obama’s greater mission transcended internal goals, such as fund-raising, endorsements, and campaign events, but each of these areas had goals tied to the greater mission.

• The campaign team used the most modern Internet tools to communicate, motivate, and inspire people and to guide their actions. Each day, 5 million people received personal messages from campaign headquarters or even Obama himself. This organization collaborated across a wide range of geographies and campaign functions, all tightly integrated nationally and executed locally.

In the corporate world, progressive business leaders are adopting this new style and achieving great success. Look at the remarkable results of Google (GOOG) in harnessing the Internet for vital information and of Genentech (DNA) in creating life-saving drugs.

Well-established American icons like IBM (IBM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Avon, and Procter & Gamble (PG) have shifted steadily to the collaborative, empowered organization style and have results that prove it works. IBM’s Sam Palmisano has converted his 344,000-employee organization from a silo mentality to an integrated global network, focused on leading by values. J&J’s Bill Weldon uses the J&J Credo (BusinessWeek.com, 9/5/08) and a decentralized organization to keep J&J growing as competitors stagnated.
Spreading the Gospel

Avon’s (AVP) Andrea Jung has quadrupled her organization of 6 million "empowered women" to sustain Avon’s growth for a decade. A. G. Lafley has transformed P&G into a global powerhouse by empowering people throughout the world.

These examples aren’t limited to business. In religion, the most rapidly growing churches are Rick Warren’s Saddleback and Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek. Both organizations build around small groups of empowered people who are dedicated to serving people as far away as Rwanda and Zimbabwe. In education, Wendy Kopp’s Teach For America created a corps of committed teachers achieving great success in inner city classrooms.

In health care, the Mayo Clinic’s well-established collaborative model is being adopted by major systems like Allina Health System to fulfill its healing mission. Among nonprofits, the Gates Foundation is working with local, "on the ground" organizations such as Carolina for Kibera that recently received a major grant to help people in the Kenyan slum.

These trends portend massive changes in the 21st century leadership of American institutions, led by the Obama government itself. The most successful leaders will be those who can align people around common goals of serving people and empower them with a collaborative style. Their organizations will be the winners in restoring the U.S. to global greatness.

George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, is the author of two best-selling books, True North and Authentic Leadership. The former chairman and chief executive of Medtronic, he serves on the boards of ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, and Novartis.

— Scott

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Soldiers Waging A Battle Against Cancer

This weekend will be 2 years since my diagnosis with Stage IV Colon Cancer. I have been following this blog for the past 2 years. Always a source of reflection for me.

From Laurie Singer  My Cancer ( http://www.npr.org/blogs/mycancer/2008/11/soldiers_waging_a_battle_again.html )

It’s Veterans Day. One of the rare holidays in this country we actually observe on the day it was intended. That’s because, even though World War I ended on June 28, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, fighting had stopped seven months earlier. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Look around — there’s our flag, dancing on a breeze at a veteran’s headstone, or on porches across America, in a soft salute to those brave men and women.

This blog brings together different veterans. Still fighters. Soldiers of sorts. Waging a battle in a very personal war against cancer.

This may not be your day on the calendar, but I salute you, too. Today and every other day, because I know your battlefield, and how destructive your enemy can be.

All veterans of wars have something in common.

— Scott

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Mr. President-elect, strengthen fight against cancer

By Lance Armstrong
Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor and advocate, professional cycling champion and father of three. This is one in a series of "letters to the new president" that will appear as commentaries on CNN.com in coming weeks.

(CNN) — Here’s something that should outrage you: Every day, more than 1,500 Americans die of cancer. Our federal government knows how to prevent many of these losses. Tragically, its attention has simply been elsewhere.

The American cancer community and the Lance Armstrong Foundation are hoping that will change with the election of President-elect Barack Obama, a man who has lost two of the most important women in his life to this disease.

Throughout my conversations with him, I’ve been impressed with his commitment to fighting cancer and have gained a sense of optimism about the future. And looking back on recent years, that optimism is a big improvement.

The American people are doing their part, especially against tobacco, the No. 1 cause of cancer. Twenty-four states as well as the District of Columbia have strong smoke-free workplace measures in place. Cities all over America are banning smoking. And Americans are far more aware and motivated to lead healthy lifestyles than they were even twenty years ago.

Our federal government’s scatter-shot approach to the war on cancer is what galvanized those touched by cancer this election season to create our own campaign — not to support certain candidates, but to get all of them to commit to our cause: the fight against a disease that will claim more than 560,000 lives in this nation in 2008.

And we used all the tools in the campaign toolbox: we met with candidates to plead our case, stood outside campaign events holding signs, ran ads, sent opinion pieces to our hometown papers, and suggested questions to the presidential debate moderators. We even hosted forums designed to let voters talk to presidential candidates directly about their plans to fight cancer.

Let me put all this in perspective: during two terms on the President’s Cancer Panel, my fellow members and I heard directly from thousands of survivors, healthcare professionals, government officials, policy makers and scientists about the effects of cancer on this nation. And what struck all of us was the fractured approach to this disease taken by our federal government in a time when cancer touches 12 million American lives.

Luckily, our campaigning paid off. Like most Americans, both Sen. John McCain and Obama have strong personal connections to cancer. McCain is himself a survivor while our next president has lost both a parent and now a grandparent. Both answered our call with plans of action.

So here’s what we will be looking for come 2009, stacked up with the commitments made by our next president:

1. Creating National Coordination: No great struggle was ever won without leadership and a plan. Currently, thousands of diligent people in our federal government work hard but without coordination against cancer. A unified strategy for cancer research, treatment and awareness programs is therefore the first step and our next president has committed to this in principle.

2. Increasing Our Investment in the Fight: Today, our federal investment in this fight is roughly $6 billion, a vastly inadequate amount considering the millions of Americans lost in the last decade alone. And for the past few budget cycles, funding has remained static or fallen off. Cancer patients and caregivers persistently lobbied for more dollars for the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. During his campaign, Obama said he’d double federal funding for cancer research within five years, focusing on the NIH and the NCI, and increase funding for the FDA during his administration.

3. Investing in Prevention and Screening: If you could fix the dam for a dollar now, why wait for the flood that will cost you $10 million? Even modest investments in cancer prevention and screening save millions of dollars — not to mention lives – down the line. Obama made a campaign promise to require federally supported health plans to cover all essential preventive services and to expand investment in proven smoking cessation programs. We support that pledge and look forward to seeing him honor it.

4. Supporting Survivors and Their Families: When you beat cancer, it doesn’t simply disappear from your life. Its effects stay with you, physically and emotionally, and it influences your outlook, your future and your family. To date, we’ve done a poor job in supporting the millions of Americans who have to face these realities. The Obama campaign promise: new support to survivors and their families and new funding for the CDC to study how best to help people affected by cancer navigate a thoroughly confusing health care system.

We expect Obama to work with Congress on these measures as well as on comprehensive legislation that will modernize our efforts. Sens. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, are already hard at work on this.

Big picture: We love what we’re hearing so far, Mr. President-elect. We support your commitments and will do everything in our power to further their achievement.

— Scott

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Religious Right R.I.P.

From Cal Thomas  http://townhall.com/columnists/CalThomas/2008/11/06/religious_right_rip?page=full

When Barack Obama takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, he will do so in the 30th anniversary year of the founding of the so-called Religious Right. Born in 1979 and midwifed by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the Religious Right was a reincarnation of previous religious-social movements that sought moral improvement through legislation and court rulings. Those earlier movements — from abolition (successful) to Prohibition (unsuccessful) — had mixed results.

Social movements that relied mainly on political power to enforce a conservative moral code weren’t anywhere near as successful as those that focused on changing hearts. The four religious revivals, from the First Great Awakening in the 1730s and 1740s to the Fourth Great Awakening in the late 1960s and early ’70s, which touched America and instantly transformed millions of Americans (and American culture as a result), are testimony to that.

Thirty years of trying to use government to stop abortion, preserve opposite-sex marriage, improve television and movie content and transform culture into the conservative Evangelical image has failed. The question now becomes: should conservative Christians redouble their efforts, contributing more millions to radio and TV preachers and activists, or would they be wise to try something else?

I opt for trying something else.

Too many conservative Evangelicals have put too much faith in the power of government to transform culture. The futility inherent in such misplaced faith can be demonstrated by asking these activists a simple question: Does the secular left, when it holds power, persuade conservatives to live by their standards? Of course they do not. Why, then, would conservative Evangelicals expect people who do not share their worldview and view of God to accept their beliefs when they control government?

Too many conservative Evangelicals mistake political power for influence. Politicians who struggle with imposing a moral code on themselves are unlikely to succeed in their attempts to impose it on others. What is the answer, then, for conservative Evangelicals who are rightly concerned about the corrosion of culture, the indifference to the value of human life and the living arrangements of same- and opposite-sex couples?

The answer depends on the response to another question: do conservative Evangelicals want to feel good, or do they want to adopt a strategy that actually produces results? Clearly partisan politics have not achieved their objectives. Do they think they can succeed by committing themselves to 30 more years of the same?

If results are what conservative Evangelicals want, they already have a model. It is contained in the life and commands of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose millions of conservative Evangelicals engaged in an old and proven type of radical behavior. Suppose they followed the admonition of Jesus to "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for widows and orphans," not as ends, as so many liberals do by using government, but as a means of demonstrating God’s love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him?

Such a strategy could be more "transformational" than electing a new president, even the first president of color. But in order to succeed, such a strategy would not be led by charismatic figures, who would raise lots of money, be interviewed on Sunday talk shows, author books and make gobs of money.

God teaches in His Word that His power (if that is what conservative Evangelicals want and not their puny attempts at grabbing earthly power) is made perfect in weakness. He speaks of the tiny mustard seed, the seemingly worthless widow’s mite, of taking the last place at the table and the humbling of one’s self, the washing of feet and similar acts and attitudes; the still, small voice. How did conservative Evangelicals miss this and instead settle for a lesser power, which in reality is no power at all? When did they settle for an inferior "kingdom"?

Evangelicals are at a junction. They can take the path that will lead them to more futility and ineffective attempts to reform culture through government, or they can embrace the far more powerful methods outlined by the One they claim to follow. By following His example, they will decrease, but He will increase. They will get no credit, but they will see results. If conservative Evangelicals choose obscurity and seek to glorify God, they will get much of what they hope for, but can never achieve, in and through politics.

— Scott

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America Has Chosen A New President

From Albert Mohler  http://www.albertmohler.com/       

The election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States came as a bang, not a whimper.  The tremors had been perceptible for days, maybe even weeks.  On Tuesday, America experienced nothing less than a political and cultural earthquake.

The margin of victory for the Democratic ticket was clear.  Americans voted in record numbers and with tangible enthusiasm.  By the end of the day, it was clear that Barack Obama would be elected with a majority of the popular vote and a near landslide in the Electoral College.  When President-Elect Obama greeted the throngs of his supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park, he basked in the glory of electoral energy.

For many of us, the end of the night brought disappointment.  In this case, the disappointment is compounded by the sense that the issues that did not allow us to support Sen. Obama are matters of life and death — not just political issues of heated debate.  Furthermore, the margin of victory and sense of a shift in the political landscape point to greater disappointments ahead.  We all knew that so much was at stake.

For others, the night was magical and momentous.  Young and old cried tears of amazement and victory as America elected its first African-American President — and elected him overwhelmingly.  Just forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, an African-American stood to claim victory as President-Elect of the nation.  As Sen. Obama assured the crowd in Chicago and the watching nation, "We will get there.  We will get there."  No one hearing those words could fail to hear the refrain of plaintive words spoken in Memphis four decades ago.  President-Elect Obama would stand upon the mountaintop that Dr. King had foreseen.

That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans — not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama.  As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again.  Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States.  The President.  The only President.  The elected President.  Our President.

Every American should be moved by the sight of young African-Americans who — for the first time — now believe that they have a purchase in American democracy.  Old men and old women, grandsons and granddaughters of slaves and slaveholders, will look to an African-American as President.

Regardless of politics, could anyone remain unmoved by the sight of Jesse Jackson crying alone amidst the crowd in Chicago?  This dimension of Election Day transcends politics and touches the heart of the American people.

Yet, the issues and the politics remain.  Given the scale of the Democratic victory, the political landscape will be completely reshaped.  The fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn human beings has been set back by a great loss, and by the election of a President who has announced his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law.  The struggle to protect marriage against its destruction by redefinition is now complicated by the election of a President who has declared his aim to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  On issue after issue, we face a longer, harder, and more protracted struggle than ever before.

Still, we must press on as advocates for the unborn, for the elderly, for the infirm, and for the vulnerable.  We must redouble our efforts to defend marriage and the integrity of the family.  We must be vigilant to protect religious liberty and the freedom of the pulpit.  We face awesome battles ahead.

At the same time, we must be honest and recognize that the political maps are being redrawn before our eyes.  Will the Republican Party decide that conservative Christians are just too troublesome for the party and see the pro-life movement as a liability?  There is the real danger that the Republicans, stung by this defeat, will adopt a libertarian approach to divisive moral issues and show conservative Christians the door.

Others will declare these struggles over, arguing that the election of Sen. Obama means that Americans in general — and many younger Evangelicals in particular — are ready to "move on" to other issues.  This is no time for surrender or the abandonment of our core principles.  We face a much harder struggle ahead, but we have no right to abandon the struggle.

We should look for opportunities to work with the new President and his administration where we can.  We must hope that he will lead and govern as the bridge-builder he claimed to be in his campaign.  We must confront and oppose the Obama administration where conscience demands, but work together where conscience allows.

Evangelical Christians face another challenge with the election of Sen. Obama, and a failure to rise to this challenge will bring disrepute upon the Gospel, as well as upon ourselves.  There must be absolutely no denial of the legitimacy of President-Elect Obama’s election and no failure to accord this new President the respect and honor due to anyone elected to that high office.  Failure in this responsibility is disobedience to a clear biblical command.

Beyond this, we must commit ourselves to pray for this new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation.  We are commanded to pray for rulers, and this new President faces challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous.  May God grant him wisdom.  He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office.  May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.

We must pray that God will protect this nation even as the new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.

We must pray that God would change President-Elect Obama’s mind and heart on issues of our crucial concern.  May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light.  We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office.  God is sovereign, after all.

Without doubt, we face hard days ahead.  Realistically, we must expect to be frustrated and disappointed.  We may find ourselves to be defeated and discouraged.  We must keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up nations and pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers.  We must not act or think as unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.

America has chosen a President.  President-Elect Barack Obama is that choice, and he faces a breathtaking array of challenges and choices in days ahead.  This is the time for Christians to begin praying in earnest for our new President.  There is no time to lose.

— Scott

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A Prayer For America On Election Day

From Albert Mohler ( http://www.albertmohler.com/)

Americans head for the voting precincts today as the 2008 election is now at hand.  Already, some 20 million citizens have voted through early voting options.  Some expect a record turn-out for today’s election.  In any event, millions of citizens will participate in the first duty of freedom — the freedom to vote.

There is so much at stake.  We hear every election cycle that the stakes have never been higher. In one sense, this is usually also true.  There is always the sense that there is more at stake this year than last, and, given the way issues unfold, that perception often seems validated by the times.

Christians face the responsibility to vote, not only as citizens, but as Christians who seek to honor and follow Christ in all things.  But, beyond the vote, we also bear responsibility to pray for our nation.

First, we should pray that God will bless America with leaders better than we deserve.  Democratic systems inevitably reflect the electorate’s decisions, and these decisions reveal underlying worldviews.  And, truth be told, all we can expect from democracy is the government we deserve.  We must pray for a government and for leaders better than we deserve.  May God grant us mercy as he reigns and rules over all things, including this election.

Second, we should pray that Americans will be motivated to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship, yet also that we will be stripped of an unhealthy and idolatrous confidence in the power of government to save us.  God has given us the gift of rulers and governments in order to restrain evil, uphold righteousness, and provide for civil order.  No human ruler can save.  No government official or office holder can heal the human heart, solve the sin problem, or accomplish final justice.  These powers belong to God and God alone.

Third, we must pray that Americans will vote by conscience, not merely on the basis of celebrity or emotion.  Christian citizens must vote to uphold righteousness and contend for righteous and just laws.  But, at the same time, we must repent of moralism and the tacit assumption that better laws would produce better people.

Fourth, we must pray that Americans will vote to defend the least among us — and especially those who have no vote.  This starts, but does not end, with concern for the unborn and for the recovery of respect for the dignity and sanctity of every single human life at every stage of development, from conception until natural death.

Fifth, we should pray that God will prick the conscience of the nation on issues of morality, righteousness, and respect for marriage as the central institution of human civilization.  So much ground appears to have been lost on these issues.  We need to pray that much ground can be regained.

Sixth, we should pray that God will protect these candidates and their families.  They have been through an arduous ordeal and now face the deadline of the vote.  They are physically exhausted and now face the judgment of the people.  They are public figures, but they are also flesh and blood human beings, who are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters.  Their families have withstood much.  We should pray for their marriages and their children.  May God protect them.

Seventh, we should pray that the election is conducted with honor, civility, respect, and justice.  We must pray that we do not face another round of litigation after an election.  This brings democracy into disrepute.  May there be a clear winner, not a contested result.

Eighth, we must pray that Americans will be prepared to accept the results of the election with respect and kindness.  This will be no time for rancor, condemnations, and conspiracy theories.  Instead, we must pray that God will settle the hearts of the people.  May Christians be ready to respond with prayer, respect for office, and a gentle spirit.  Others will be watching.

Ninth, we should pray that this election would lead to even greater opportunities to preach the Gospel, and that the freedom of the church will be respected, honored, and protected.

Tenth, we must pray for the church, praying that the church of the Lord Jesus Christ would be strengthened in the truth, grounded in the faith, and empowered for witness and ministry.  May the church, the sign of the coming kingdom, be faithful to declare the Gospel — knowing that this is the only message that will save.

May God grant us mercy and grace as we seek to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens — and our responsibilities as Christians.  This world is not our home, but we do bear responsibilities as followers of Christ as we are living here.

May God bless America, not because this nation deserves to be blessed, but because He is a God of grace and mercy.  Oh God . . . save us from ourselves.

— Scott

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