‘Grace Notes’: The quiet unshakable faith of Hillary Clinton (COMMENTARY)


Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly 2014

WASHINGTON (RNS) Late on a Saturday night in 2012, I received word from my sister in Mississippi that my mamma had passed away. My home was silent as my wife and two boys slept upstairs. I was reading when the sad call came.

I woke my wife to tell her; we sat on the edge of the bed and hugged. In my sadness, around midnight, I started cleaning the kitchen, likely because my mamma was always cleaning something. I also reached out to two friends.

It was within minutes that I heard back from Hillary.

Secretary Clinton joined me in my heartbreak, reminding me that she could share the pain because of the fairly recent loss of her own mother. She also told me to get to Mississippi, be with my family and take all the time I needed — because my work in Washington paled in comparison to remembering and mourning my mom and being with family.

My family and I drove home, deeper and deeper into my Southern motherland, to bury my mom. My siblings had asked me to speak for the family at the funeral, so I rode shotgun and wrote while my wife, Karen, drove.

Along the way, drafting what I consider the most important talk of my life, I again reached out to Secretary Clinton, who was engaged in one of the most grueling and intense schedules that any secretary of state had undertaken. Even so, she found the time to offer suggestions and talk me through this most personal task.

She was there for me. I often tell people that working in politics brings me into contact with the best and most challenging folks God has placed on our earth. I consider it a blessing working with and knowing Hillary Clinton.

I’ve loved every second of getting to know this woman with such strong Midwest, Methodist sensibilities, whether it’s her beginning a comment with the “discipline of prayer dictates … ” or answering a question of mine with “Well, the method of Methodism teaches … ” or reminding me of the value of aSunday worshipping with my wife and children.

She taught me about what she calls “grace notes,” recently reminding me, “You know it’s a gift that is undeserved but bestowed by the everyday joys, beauties, kindnesses, pleasures of life that can strike a deep chord of connection between us and the divine and between us and the mundane. All one has to do is be open to receiving it the moment it arrives and looking for ways to pass it on.”

That’s pretty powerful. As one who has been on the receiving end of Hillary’s grace notes, I now find joy in places I once never even bothered to look. I hold a deeper compassion and understanding for those around me, thanks to Hillary.

Ultimately, Secretary Clinton is a builder, creating community, a very American community. She finds value in each person and believes in the greatness of our American community. If we are truly exceptional — and we are — it is because we don’t rest on our laurels, but we strive and work and endeavor to always be better than when we started. When knocked down, we get right back up, always building a better community.

The value of community is manifested, encouraged and sustained in many ways. Puritan John Winthrop envisioned the new America as a “city upon a hill,” deemed worthy and good through its citizens, through community. Martin Luther King Jr. preached and believed in what he called the Beloved Community.

“Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. … However, community is first of all a quality of the heart,” the late Catholic spiritual writer Henri Nouwen once wrote. “It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another.”

Hillary Clinton reminds us that community is essential, and holds in esteem even the widow and her mite. Secretary Clinton shows us, through example, that community takes effort. She doesn’t just do this between the covers of a book, but also in her actions and determination to build an American community that works for everyone.

Or, as I said at mama’s eulogy: “A life lived for others is a life worthwhile. And a life lived for others creates community.”

Hillary once shared with me that she attended a wonderful Sunday school class during her years in Arkansas. She loved the people, found community, but yearned for a deeper period of study. She didn’t lament, she didn’t complain, she simply volunteered to teach the class herself, writing lessons from Scripture, largely around the golden rule.

We need someone in Washington to fix problems, to get us working together and to get us looking to the future from our shared common ground. This type of leadership needs vision and confidence — not a blustery self-confidence but a confidence in all of us, in the America we know we can be.

The Scriptures speak of leaders who arise “for such a time as this.” In such a time as this, we need the leadership, resolve, love of country and, yes, grace notes of Hillary Clinton in the White House.

(Burns Strider is a senior adviser to the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC Correct The Record, and he directed faith outreach for Clinton’s 2008 campaign. A Southern Baptist from Mississippi, Strider is founder and principal of the Eleison Group, a faith-based political, governmental and nonprofit consulting firm.)

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110 Comments on "‘Grace Notes’: The quiet unshakable faith of Hillary Clinton (COMMENTARY)"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Elaine T.
Guest

Brother George, I thought I explained my praying on 4/14.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

No, you did not.

Elaine T.
Guest

Then what did I explain?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

If you don’t know, I can’t help you. Perhaps you should pray for clarity, but, you will not find it in right-wing activism.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Psalm 23:5

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

No,it’s no problem. I’m a graduate of the Episcopal Church’s Education for Ministry course a four year study accredited by University of the South in Knoxville. Two of our classmates, a former accountatnt on her third marriage, entered discernment for the Episcopal priesthood. Some of our guest instructors included Phyllis Tickle, bishop John J. Bruno, and Los Angeles Cathedral Dean, the late Malcolm Boyd, ertr among our faculty.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Edit to add: the other class mate who entered the Episcopal Priesthood was a disabled, widowed gay man in his late 50s.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I’ve been to Trinity Church and heard Jeremiah Wright preach, too. I realize Faux wants you skerered of him, but they’re yanking your chain.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I also took electives at Claremont
school of Theology.

Elaine T.
Guest

Still praying.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Are you honest enough to specifically state what it is you are praying for?

DW
Guest

Why would you question her honesty?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Honesty involves openness. You demand openness of me, but refuse to provide it yourself. Another poster here who claims to be a social worker educated in a graduate school refuses to say whether it is acccedited by the Council on Social Work Education, which if so, means he graduated fraudulently since here he expresses views at odds with social work values. This individual has tag teamed with you as you have bullied me throughout my posting. You yourself have exhibited poor character with your cruel bullying, your questioning of my military service, my sexual orientation, and so forth with your… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Russ, not you. The problem is the reply function here. the best we can do is hope to show context. I will try to in the future note “reply to _____” when applicable. I can’t say your posts don’t contain personal attacks because I haven’t read all of them, but most of his do. sorry for the confusion.

DW
Guest

I don’t know who you are referring to with these statements about character and questioning of your military service, etc, but it isn’t me. You won’t find any post of mine that does that.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Tim Murphy in Mother Jones Today, discussing an interview with a former Clinton critic: “But something strange has come over him. After six years of watching Barack Hussein Obama cower in the face of Islamists, Nichols believes the family he spent two decades tarring as cold-blooded crooks might just be the only people who can save the country. “I’m not saying I like Hillary, you hear me?” he said, defensively. “I am not saying I like Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m not saying anything I’ve said I take back. But God help me, I’m going to have to stand up and… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

That’s his view and the standard Faux Viewer’s spoonfed opinion. It doesn’t bother me. No, I never said Bamz could do no wrong. He’s a pretty good President for a conservative Democrat.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

It is an affectionate nickname for the President. IOW, no one on Faux says it. As for the rest of your ridiculous speculation, well bless your heart

james
Guest

thank you umr for removing this article/commentary from the top of the heap. can only say that this ONCE great country is in a bunch of trouble. one day our children/grandkids/great grandkids will stumble upon the truth and wonder what in the world happened when those folks who espouse the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond dropped the proverbial ball. KEEP LOOKING UP………………………………………..

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
I respectfully disagree that our country is worse than it was in 1970-2000 in most ways – indeed, it is better in most ways. Crime dropped precipitously, people value diversity, (most) people treat others respectfully. OTOH Ronald Reagan made selfishness respectable. Workers’ rights have diminished. Income inequality increased. Divisions have stifled us – loudmouthed people are louder. But as one who lived in Texas when JFK was gunned down there, the wave of assassinations of celebrated individuals dropped but now new light is coming out about abuses of police power. Casual Fridays have diminished. Sports teams have blackmailed cities for… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Russ: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=ymmv

YMMV = “Literally means “Your mileage may vary” but is often used in forum talk meaning that your results will vary: “There is a great sale going on at the store, most under $10, but YMMV”

DW
Guest

Give it a rest, George. It seems like any time an interesting discussion gets started, you come in and make yourself the center of attention, and the whole thing deteriorates. It’s getting tiresome.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

My friend, I have no desire to be the “center of attention.” I will speak up as long as I can. If a personal attack like this is all you can say, perhaps it is you who is better off remaining silent.

Paul W.
Guest

You guys do realize that half the responses to this article are just George getting his kicks by trolling, right? Feeding trolls is rarely a good idea…

And I’m pretty sure at this point that he is just funning everybody anyway since the angry vein-bulging persona he is portraying is so far out there in cartoon character territory. With Google at your fingertips, it’s really easy for anyone to look up obscure references and adopt the persona of a left-wing (or right-wing) kook with almost no effort. 🙂

John
Guest

I wonder if there’s more than just a difference in worldviews represented in these exchanges. In the face of an utter lack of common definition with even the simplest of vocabulary, I keep coming back to this dialogue in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

John, there is a difference in worldview, and of how people perceive reality. In the Faux bubble, the poor schlubs imprisoned therein believe things which are contrary to facts.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Did you just out yourself, Girl?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Said the man who accused me of having never served in the military, being LGBT, not having theology training, and other accusations while threatening me with violence.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

Trolling as used here = stating things with which he disagrees.

Elaine T.
Guest

I disagree with you Russ, George is worth our time but not in the verbal sparring he feeds on; but definitely in praying for him, Yes, brother George I am still praying for you.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

That’s an elaborate way to show how you feel you are better than me because I am not politically correct like you are.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Elaine, you are using your own self-righteousness to judge me here. I am no bully. I am the victim of a gaggle of bullies and anyone not mired in extremism can see that. As to the “When did you stop beating your wife?” comment I made that was irony. I do not literally believe he beats his wife (in fact I doubt he has one, and if he does she’s the one needing prayers, for you have to know those who bully here are going to bring some of that home. I compared his impossible question to me to that… Read more »
Elaine T.
Guest
Praying for you is a directive I have received from the Holy Spirit. In praying for you I am also praying for myself. Learning to love you doesn’t come easy for me . I don’t pray that you see the light..it is usually Lord, I am remembering George to You and You Know what he needs, so do it. I’ve always struggled with the verbal playground bully. There is always one that is always right! If anyone challenges them they resort to a comment like “Your mother is ugly!” much like the comment I read about accusing someone of having… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

I don’t think so. It’s an absurd line of inquiry just like Benghazi.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

What “lefty press”?

Richard Hicks
Guest

Where was grace when Secretary of State Clinton left her diplomat to die in the Benghazi attack?

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

That’s not an accurate interpretation of events. Benghazi’s been investigated to death and nothing has come of it. but you won’t hear that on Faux.

John
Guest

And I suppose the 18 minutes of silence on Nixon’s tape is because there was never anything there in the first place. George, you can’t very well investigate to death something that’s either been withheld or destroyed.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

When did you stop beating your wife?

John
Guest

You do realize that the “cadre of far right extremists” peddling “this urban legend” includes the Washington Post, the NY Times, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and a slew of other mainstream and left-of-center news outlets–it’s not just conservative voices who recognize that these are serious matters.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

All that’s missing from this urban legend peddling by our local cadre of far right extremists is, “My neighbor’s hairdresser’s cousin is a Secret Service Agent, and he said [insert ‘friend of a friend’ meme here]…”

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

So says Faux – as usual creating a fake scandal where no real scandal exists. and still pulling in the suckers.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest

James, here’s a hint about metaphors: using those that date from the 19th Century and use terms not relevant to the real world of today are not clever. Why not just say what you mean?

james
Guest

all of the liberals and progressives must be excited to get the “bit” in their teeth in order to forge ahead with their campaigning. going to be a very long season isn’t it.

George Nixon Shuler
Guest
Faux is like the old joke about Izvestia and Pravda – former Soviet media whose titles mean “news” and truth” in Russian which led to the old Russian chuckle that there is no izvestia in Izvestia and no Pravda in Pravda. The tragedy of Faux is it is accepted by supposedly “free” people as legitimate because of its unique successful marketing plan – play to the biases of their target audience to confirm their accepted memes, using neat tricks like reporting on former Congressman Mark Foley’s scandals by featuring his picture in the corner of the screen with “D-Florida” as… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest
The corporate media have it in for anyone who advocates not genuflecting before them. None of those you mentioned by any rational measure would be considered “left of center.” “Outsider” Presidents – if they are Democrats, like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who had the audacity to run against the Washingtonian village by promising reform of it from (to the (villagers) from unworthy locations of Atlanta and Little Rock. In contrast, those “Outsider” Republican Presidents like Ronald Reagan (the only one, actually) get a free ride. A wise observer whose name is lost in the annals of time noted “the… Read more »
John
Guest
I’m not sure if he falls into this group or not, but there are some who derisively refer to “Fox News” as “Faux News” in the same fashion some others refer to CBS News as “See-BS.” I don’t know whether it’s intended to be cute, funny, or what. Or perhaps it’s simply a persistent misspelling. No matter what, after the second time someone makes the reference I find it difficult to take what’s said afterwards with much credibility. When even simple name references turn polemical, one loses all capacity to persuade others to embrace his or her argument. By the… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler
Guest

And here we go down tinfoil hat lane. To poor TD, the absence of evidence is evidence. Think about that. This is what the manipulators do to trick people – make you believe things contrary to the facts like that Benghazi is a real scandal so they can trick you into voting against yourself.

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