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[callout]This article was first published in The Gardner News on January 21, 2017[/callout]

Yesterday, we watched as Don­ald Trump became the 45th president of the United States of Amer­ica. We listened and wat­ched as President Barack Obama served his final day in the White House. I started thinking about the great things President Obama did in office and how it has impacted my faith.

“This is your victory,” Pre­sident Obama said in his 2008 victory speech. “The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep,” he said. “We may not get there in one year or even two terms. But, America, I have ne­v­er been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.”

Many of those who voted for President Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, were seeking change. Pre­sident Obama’s message of hope, his intelligence, his thoughtfulness, his decency, his integrity, his fine character, his grace under pressure and his good temperament are traits that he lived by every day.

No president has been perfect. Every president makes mistakes, some more than others. History will ultimately be the judge of Obama’s presidency. But, despite the challenges, he leaves office with many accomplishments. He was a tr­u­ly and amazing president.

One of the lessons I learned the last four years was to never give up. President Obama saved the country from disaster. He saved the auto industry. Unemp­loyment fell almost seven percent, and the stock market has nearly tripled.

He extended health insurance to 20 million Americans and made it possible for those with pre-existing health conditions to get insurance. President Obama supported marriage equality, repealed the military’s “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy and signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The president improved school nutrition programs, inv­ested more in Veterans Affairs, and reduced the homeless rate among veterans by 50 percent. He appointed the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice and so much more. When things seem­ed impossible he pushed through and managed to accomplish great things.

When we are faced with imp­ossible tasks, we too can face them head on and accomplish great things. It is easy to give up when things are tough, but instead we can push through and put our faith in God in order to make it to the other side.

The prophet Isaiah tells us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. God is with us and God will give us strength in our time of need.

I have gained strength from watching President Obama in office. I watched as his detractors fought to keep him from moving things forward, like affordable health care for all Americans. But he never gave up and he fought for what was right for the American people.

I watched with tears in my eyes as President Obama sang “Amazing Grace” during the funeral service for the Rev. Cle­menta Pinckney, one of the nine people killed by Dylan Roof in the Charleston massacre.

I listened as he preached about what it means to be graceful. “Grace is not earned. Grace is not merited. It’s not something we deserve,” he said. “Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.”

God’s grace is amazing! I know how hard it is to forgive, and to watch something so terrible as taking someone’s life.

I talked with many people the weeks that followed the Char­leston massacre. Many people questioned how God could let something like this happen. My answer is that God did not let this happen, we have free will in our lives and we make choices, sometimes those choices are good while others are evil. There are many things wrong with Dylan and he made terrible ch­o­ices.

But the thing that keeps me going is knowing that I have the grace and love of God in my life. God’s grace helps me during the most difficult times of my life. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Titus 2:11

Finally, Obama has taught me how to have fun. Th­e­re are so many pictures of Obama having fun with children in the White House. I remember one picture of a little boy dressed as Spider-Man and Obama pretending to be captured.

Another great image is of Ob­a­ma and Prince George, the president joking with him. Also, the relationship between Obama and Vice Pres­ident Joe Biden is so much fun to watch.

It is important to take our faith seriously, but it is just as important to have fun. I love hanging out with the children of my church. I love to have fun in worship and in meetings.

One children’s sermon, I was talking with the kids about Jesus and how he is like our best friend. I said, “Jesus is very special and he is like … ” I was hoping one of the kids would say, “Our friend,” but instead one of the children said, “A monster truck!”

I had no idea what to say. After a few chuckles I said, “OK, Jesus could be like a monster truck, but what else?” We eventually got to the point I wanted to make.
As we reflect upon the eight years we had with President Obama, we are thankful for all the wonderful faith-filled mom­ents we have had with him and his administration. We can also learn from him and treasure in our hearts the inspiration we have gleaned from a faithful and faith-filled president.