in state or in honor

Henry Clay was the first.

Jacob Joseph Chestnut and John Michael Gibson were a first.

Later it would be Rosa Parks.

Yesterday it was Billy Graham.

Yesterday afternoon, the body of America’s most famous evangelist lied in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. According to the Architect of the Capitol, “The Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol has been considered the most suitable place for the nation to pay final tribute to its most eminent citizens by having their remains lay in state or in honor.”

“Lying in state” ceremonies are typically reserved for deceased presidents and other elected officials. “Lying in honor” has become the utilized phrase for those who served us in a non-elected capacity.

Allow me to highlight a few additional, key words…

Most “eminent”… meaning illustrious, distinguished, renowned, esteemed, noteworthy, great, prestigious, important, influential, affluential, outstanding…

“Honor”… meaning integrity, honesty, uprightness, ethics, morals, morality, principles, high principles, righteousness, high-mindedness, virtue, goodness, decency, probity, character, scrupulousness, worth, fairness, justness, trustworthiness, reliability, dependability…

And yet I’m struck by how many intentionally dishonor… thinking Chestnut, Gibson, Parks or Graham — the only private citizens given such an honor — were somehow undeserving…

(… oh, how we let our differences get in the way of what’s right sometimes…)

Chestnut and Gibson were U.S. Capitol Police officers killed at the Capitol in the line of duty on July 24, 1998. They stopped a gunman in the Capitol, and were the first private citizens ever given the distinction of “lying in honor” in the Rotunda.

Parks was deemed “the first lady of civil rights,” after she first bravely refused to give up her bus seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. Her act of defiance and continued advocacy infamously inspired many. When she passed away in 2005 at the age of 92, Parks became the first woman and the second black person to lie in honor in the Capitol.

And Graham was one of the most influential preachers of the 20th century. He was a friend to each President — regardless of party — and he helped millions from varied backgrounds, ethnicities, and demographics. Through his teaching and exhortation, those millions learned what it meant to love God and one another. He rested in honor yesterday.

Perhaps my favorite picture from yesterday’s memorial was the one of gathered senators, spouses, and other congressmen, cabinet members, family members, etc. — each still, with eyes closed, heads bowed, and mouths shut.

At that moment, partisanship didn’t matter.

Self-focus didn’t matter.

Difference didn’t matter.

All that mattered was honoring another.

Oh, we have much to learn…


good & faithful servant

To transcend generation, ethnicity, and division, is beautiful; it’s something most of us struggle with daily. For Billy Graham, the practice was not a struggle. He crossed cultural, social, religious and political lines. He befriended every President back to Harry Truman; Lyndon Johnson was, in fact, considered one of his closest friends. Graham looked at no man/woman better than self; he looked at absolutely no one as morally inferior.

Such wisdom… for both the believer and the skeptic… as said by Graham…

“Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God.”

“The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.”

“God is more interested in your future and your relationships than you are.”

“A real Christian is a person who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

“Sincere Christians can disagree about the details of Scripture and theology — absolutely.”

“God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”

“Self-centered indulgence, pride and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle.”

“Auschwitz stands as a tragic reminder of the terrible potential man has for violence and inhumanity.”

“Throughout my ministry, I have sought to build bridges between Jews and Christians.”

“A child who is allowed to be disrespectful to his parents will not have true respect for anyone.”

“Read the Bible. Work hard and honestly. And don’t complain.”

“Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”

“We have an idea that we Americans are God’s chosen people, that God loves us more than any other people, and that we are God’s blessed. I tell you that God doesn’t love us any more than He does the Russians.”

“The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘Help me.'”

“Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.”

“The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance.”

“I can’t explain 9/11, except the evil of man.”

“The Oklahoma City bombing was simple technology, horribly used. The problem is not technology. The problem is the person or persons using it.”

“God’s mercy and grace give me hope — for myself, and for our world.”

“The framers of our Constitution meant we were to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”

“There are a lot of groups that feel a little bit strange around me, because I am inclusive.”

“I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right.”

“God knows what we are going through when we grieve, and He wants to assure us of His love and concern. He also wants us to turn to Him and bring our heartaches and burdens to Him.”

“It is not the body’s posture, but the heart’s attitude that counts when we pray.”


“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

“Just traveling,” he said.

To a man who admittedly had very few “sad days,” thank you, Billy Graham… thank you for representing Christianity well by pointing to God, speaking compassion, and by always offering both grace and truth in full and generous measure.

Well done.