Diary

God Bless America!

While the storm clouds gather, far across the sea,
Let us pledge allegiance, to a land that’s free!
Let us all be thankful, for a land so fair,
As we lift our voices in a solemn prayer.

God bless America, land that I love!
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Through the night, with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam!
God bless America! My home sweet home!

Irving Berlin

 

What does Independence Day mean to you? For me, it’s a time to gather with friends and family. It’s a time to eat hotdogs and play baseball. And it’s a day to break out the songbooks and sing as many patriotic songs as I can find.

There’s almost no such thing as a patriotic song I don’t like. I love hymns and songs, both old and new, that were written to honor and celebrate our country. But God Bless America has always been one of my personal favorites. And as I reflected on what Independence Day means to me, I realized that the first verse of this song perfectly reflects my feelings.

First, Independence Day is a time to remember our history.

Someone once said that “those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it.” Americans as a whole seem oblivious to history, and that’s not a good thing. As I reflect on the hundreds of years of American history, my mind is always drawn to 1776-1777. I think of the debate that raged through the colonies over whether to separate from Great Britain. I remember the fiery Virginian Patrick Henry, who boldly declared, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” I think of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote what some have called the world’s greatest break-up letter. I still get chills down my spine just hearing those immortal words: “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them to another…..We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I think of the Founding Fathers, who were faced with the challenge of creating a new nation. I think of the ragtag American army that fought and won a war against the greatest fighting force in the world. The same army that endured a brutal winter at Valley Forge, that lost countless battles but kept fighting until America won her Independence. And I think of the Constitutional Convention, where our Founders crafted a document that is still regarded as the best in the world. We have such a rich history, and I get overwhelmed every time I think about it.

Independence Day is a time to be grateful.

We have so much to be grateful for. We are still the freest nation in the world. We’re still the best nation on earth. I’m thankful for every single man and woman who has given their lives to give us the freedom we have. I’m grateful for God’s blessing on America. And make no mistake, God has blessed this country. The grace of God that has been poured out upon this blessed land and its’ people is what keeps America alive and thriving. The biblical principles that America was founded upon are what have awarded us abundance, grace and prosperity. I’m thankful to live in a place that, as Ronald Reagan said, is “still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.”

Most importantly, Independence Day is a time to resolve to bring America back to greatness.

Let’s not kid ourselves. America is nowhere near the mountaintops of greatness she has seen in the past. We’re going through a rough patch. But America isn’t defined by the state of our economy. It’s not defined by politics. America has always been defined by her people. And granted, our people are not as virtuous as they have been in times past. I know we all would like to see this nation return to greatness. But we cannot control others. Nations are made up of states, and states are made up of towns and cities. Towns and cities are made up of families, and families are made up of individual people. So each one of us must purpose in our hearts to be an upright, God-fearing citizen. We must resolve to do what we can to lift America up out of the valley and restore her to that mountaintop.

 

God Bless America was written just before the start of World War I. The “storm clouds” gathering across the sea that Irving Berlin wrote about referred to the social unrest and political upheaval that was building across Europe. However, that upheaval, leading to WWI, wasn’t the first time of trouble our nation has experienced. From the very beginning of our history, America has been hit hard with troubles, but we’ve always made it through. Why? For one, we’ve always asked for God’s help. We’ve called on Him to bless our nation, and He has blessed us richly. As Psalm 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people he has chosen for His own inheritance.”

But America has strayed from our founding. For the most part, we’ve forgotten God. And I’m afraid that God cannot bless us again until we acknowledge Him. But there is hope. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) I pray that we will take this verse to heart. Because I love America, and I want to see her prosper.

So this Independence Day, enjoy celebrating. As you watch the fireworks, be thankful to be living in the greatest nation on earth. And take to heart the words of Ronald Reagan, and resolve that “Young Americans will always see those Potomac lights, that they will always find here a city of hope in a country that’s free so that when other generations look back at this conservative era in American politics and our time in power, they’ll say of us that we did hold true to that dream, that we did keep faith with our God, that we did act worthy of ourselves, that we did protect and pass on lovingly that shining city on a hill.”

And may God bless America, my home sweet home.