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Dear Lord, every time my enemy fires a curse, help me to fire a blessing. Let me respond always in grace, and thereby overcome. Amen.
When Joshua DuBois first sat in the White House after America elected its first black Commander-in-Chief, he noticed that President Barack Obama was surrounded by a team of advisors. “The president has political advisors, domestic policy advisors; lots of advisors,” DuBois told me this week. “But I wondered who was thinking about his soul.”
DuBois, 31,Obama’s longtime spiritual advisor, has channeled this powerful reflection into an insightful and poignant book called “The President’s Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama.”
The book consists of 365 selected devotionals that DuBois sent to Obama every day, dating back to 2008. DuBois also includes essays about his personal experiences at the White House and also provides a rare glimpse of how the president’s faith shapes his life and his vision for leading the nation.
“President Obama is a committed to Christianity and his faith is a very important part of his life,” said DuBois, a soft-spoken man who is known for his wisdom and thoughtfulness. “He spends time in prayer and his faith has sustained him in tough times and given him joy in good times.”
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. — 1 Peter 2:21 (ESV) After saying personal prayers for Obama during the 2008 campaign, DuBois sent Obama a reflection on Psalm 23 from the Old Testament– a scripture that DuBois hoped would offer Obama encouragement during his race for the White House. Obama was inspired.
“He asked me to send them every morning,” DuBois recalled. I asked DuBois – who TIME Magazine called the president’s “Pastor-in-Chief” – what he’s learned about the president’s walk with faith.
“The president is compassionate,” he said without hesitation. “And he can be very personal. The president also walked me through a difficult time when my father passed away.” DuBois said President Obama also “gave me sound advice about my marriage and encouraged me in my marriage,” reminding him that during long hours on the job, that DuBois should always put his personal life before work.
“There was the day we gathered in the Oval Office with more than a dozen faith leaders. I was director of the White House faith-based initiative at that time, when President Obama interrupted the meeting to ask, ‘You engaged yet?,’ ” DuBois wrote in his book. “And the president interrupted me again. “Listen, Joshua. Do you love her? Do you think you all are supposed to be together?” “Well, yes. Yes sir, I do.”
“Then you can’t let that other stuff stop you,” the president told DuBois. “Marriage is the best decision you can make; it sounds trite, but it really does complete a person, rounds you out. If you’ve made up your mind that you want her to be your wife and the mother of your children, then that’s all you need to know. You really should think about popping the question—you need to get married.”
Even though DuBois has left the White House where he served as lead for the White House faith-based initiative during Obama’s first term, he still sends the president daily devotionals. Dear God, let me know my fellow man through your eyes, and through the lens of love. Remove the plank of judgment from my eyes that I might see. Amen.
DuBois said the president often prays in the Oval Office and each year on the president’s birthday, DuBois helps facilitate a conference call with faith leaders across the country to pray with Obama. The insights that Dubois shares about President Obama in his book are compelling, spiritually-moving – and sometimes heart-wrenching.
In one chapter, DuBois writes about traveling with the president shortly after learning that 20 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School were murdered in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012.
“I went downstairs to greet President Obama when he arrived, and I provided an overview of the situation. “Two families per classroom . . . The first is . . . and their child was . . . The second is . . . and their child was . . . We’ll tell you the rest as you go,”DuBois wrote. “The president took a deep breath and steeled himself, and went into the first classroom. And what happened next I’ll never forget.”
“Person after person received an engulfing hug from our Commander -in-Chief. He’d say, “Tell me about your son. . . . Tell me about your daughter,” and then hold pictures of the lost beloved as their parents described favorite foods, television shows, and the sound of their laughter,” DuBois wrote.
“For the younger siblings of those who had passed away—many of them two, three, or four years old, too young to understand it all—the president would grab them and toss them, laughing, up into the air, and then hand them a box of White House M&M’s, which were always kept close at hand. In each room, I saw his eyes water, but he did not break,” DuBois wrote.
DuBois, a graduate of Boston University and Princeton University, now writes a column for The Daily Beast and runs a consulting company that creates partnerships around national challenges. And he still works for President Obama, in a profound spiritual sense. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. — Ephesians 3:16 (NIV)
What a blessing.