Happy Birthday, USA!

You are invited to a birthday party! It will be a big party. Over 327 million people are invited. July 4 is the birthday of the United States of America. Tomorrow we will be celebrating the birth of our nation. It will be our 243rd birthday!

The birth certificate of the USA is known at the Declaration of Independence. This formal statement was written by Thomas Jefferson. It was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The original 13 American colonies declared their independence from political ties to Great Britain.

Today, our nation has grown from 13 original colonies to 50 states. We have grown up to be the leading nation of the free world.

Over the years, we have undergone many growing pains. One of the biggest challenges for our nation was the Civil War from April 12, 1861 to April 9. 1865. It was a war within our own country caused by differing views of slavery. Our country was divided into the North and the South during that time. Finally, the war was over and our country was reunited.

As Americans, we recite a Pledge of Allegiance to our flag and country. Through this pledge, we acknowledge our unity as one nation and our dependence upon God and our commitment to liberty.

The pattern for this pledge was originally written by Francis Bellamy in August 1892. After a couple of additions, our pledge affirms the following. “I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Our country is unique in that we are composed of 50 individual states that have agreed to work together for the betterment of one country. We declare to be indivisible – not able to be separated. I believe this is only possible because we are a nation submitted to God. We are under His guidance and protection. God has blessed our nation and we must continue to rely upon Him for the survival of our nation.

Regardless of our political ideology, we must work together to stay together. We must pray together to stay together. Titus 3:1-2 outlines a positive way that we can work together as a nation. “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” In I Thessalonians 5:17, we are told to pray without ceasing. This directive can be applied to our prayer responsibility for our nation.

A birth certificate has been written for our nation. However, may there never be a death certificate issued for our nation!

We will probably not sing the traditional “Happy Birthday” melody at our birthday party. However, I believe there is an appropriate song for us to sing. The chorus of God Bless America by Irving Berlin (LINK) is a wonderful song and prayer for our nation.

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru 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.

Let’s celebrate our nation’s birthday! Happy Birthday, USA!

Wreaths across America for our Veterans

To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen.
To be lost is not the worst that can happen…
to be forgotten is the worst.
— Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)

May we never forget the men and women of our armed forces! In a few days we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. It is an official United States public holiday that honors US veterans and victims of all wars. It is observed on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. What an honor it is to recognize those who have served and are serving in our military.

I became aware of the highlighted statement when we visited the National Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine. We learned the history of Wreaths Across America.

Here is the story.

Morrill Worcester was 12 years old when he won a trip to Washington D.C. He never forgot the trip. Arlington National Cemetery made an indelible impression on him. He did not like seeing graves without wreaths. His goal became to someday place a wreath on every grave in Arlington. Over the years, he became a successful businessman. He felt his good fortune was due to this nation’s values and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Remembering his earlier experience at Arlington, Morrill realized he now had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the help of others, wreaths were placed on the graves of an older section of Arlington that seldom had visitors. This tribute quietly continued for several years.

In 2007, Wreaths Across America was formed as a non-profit organization. Fast forward to 2014. That year, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 wreaths at 1000 locations in the United States and beyond. The goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery with wreaths was met when 226,525 wreaths were placed on graves. Now, each year wreaths are placed at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and the sites of the September 11 tragedies as well as in cemeteries.

This wreath-laying event is held annually early December. This year it will be held on December 15, 2018. Not only are wreaths placed in Arlington National Cemetery, but also at more than 1400 additional locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to Remember, Honor and Teach. REMEMBER our fallen US veterans. HONOR those who serve. TEACH your children the value of freedom.

As we honor our military personal on November 11, may we help fulfill the mission of Wreaths Across America. May we never forget these men and women who sacrifice their time and safety every day to preserve our freedoms. Forgetting is the worst thing that could happen to them.


Hand Held

Our country and our world are experiencing tumultuous times that are resulting in devastation and brokenness. As I lied in bed praying this morning before getting up, I envisioned two pictures in my mind that had spiritual implications for me

Within my spiritual mind I saw a little boy holding a small fishbowl in his hands while riding in the backseat of a car that was traveling along a curvy road at a rather high rate of speed. The little lad was trying his hardest to keep his pet goldfish inside the bowl while the water was violently sloshing around and spilling. I wondered if this was a picture of God holding our world in His hands. In reality, was the turmoil of the water in the fish bowl symbolizing the teeming downpours of the wind and rain of hurricanes this season? We have experienced tumultuous times with hurricanes Harvey plummeting Texas and Irma invading Florida long with Puerto Rico and other islands. Torrential downpours tormenting and taking lives and land! Whatever is happening around us, we must remember to reach out to the hand of God. Isaiah 59:19 NKJV tells us, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.”

The other image I saw with my spiritual eyes was a little girl playing with play dough or modeling clay. In the beginning the clay appeared to be crumbling and breaking apart. However as her little hands continued to consistently roll the clay in the warmth of her hands, she was able to form it into a ball and then affectionately shape it into a heart. While God holds our world in His hands, isn’t He desiring to lovingly mold us and our country into His likeness? In recent months, there have been eruptions of volcanoes and earthquakes in Mexico,  just over a week ago gunfire erupted in Las Vegas, and now we hear of wildfires erupting in northern and southern California with the northern fires being some of the worst in history. Eruptions and disruptions! Through it all, our country has experienced brokenness. However, God still holds our country and the whole world in His hands. Psalm 147:3 promises that, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Now that I am awake and functioning for the day, I am singing Glen Campbell’s song, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands as a statement of faith and assurance. All of the negative and challenging things that have been happening around us, create in me a desire to remember that we and the world around us are held in the hands of God. When I think about God being able to hold our world in His hands, my perception of God and His size and power increases exponentially. I am reminded of Isaiah 40:12 that says, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Although things are not perfect within us or our world, I want to remember the words of Psalm 118:16 NLT, “The strong right arm of the LORD is raised in triumph. The strong right arm of the LORD has done glorious things!” I cling to the words of Psalm 95:4-6, “In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” I also like the assurance God gives in Isaiah 41:10, “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.

So, in conclusion, I declare to the Lord the words of David in Psalm 31:14, “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.” I believe this because Psalm 89:13 says of the Lord, “Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.” According to Psalm 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” My Reader, will you join me in keeping the perspective of our country and world being in the hands of God? Will you agree with me in prayer that “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Let us “Sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him.” Psalm 98:1

Freedom – National and Spiritual

fireworks (MF)Tomorrow is the Fourth of July  Independence Day America’s BirthdayAll of us will be celebrating, but do you, my Reader, and I really think about what the day actually means?  As we watch displays of fireworks, do we truly see these spectacular shows as being reminiscent of battles fought for our country to be free? After looking online at various entries for freedom descriptions, I have joined and condensed comments to refine my definition of freedom relating to what I want to say today.  Freedom is the state of being free rather than confined under physical restraint.  It is a release from external control or undue restriction.  It is liberty.  Freedom can be political or personal. 

america-flag For Americans politically and historically,  July 4, 1776, is the date that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence that claimed freedom for the thirteen original colonies from the rule of Great Britain. Democracy was born.  America became known as the land of the free and the home of the brave.  This is the primary reason for the holiday we are celebrating tomorrow.  Rightfully, it is a national and federal holiday.

flags For Americans personally, we each now have the gift of freedom that people of many nations have never experienced.  However, God also offers each of us a spiritual freedom that can be gained whether we live in a land of democracy or not.  In John 5, Jesus talks about the freedom from sin that He offers us.  He says in verses 31-32, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  He goes on to say in verses 34-36, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Our right to freedom in America did not just happen on the day the Declaration of Independence was signed.  The American Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence was fought between the years of 1775 and 1783. Our political freedom from Great Britain was something for which we needed to fight and it took a significant length of time for battles to be fought and victory won.  The same is true for our spiritual freedom.  Christ has set us free, but we continue to have spiritual battles to fight. However, these battles are not fought in the same way the military battles were fought for our freedom as a nation.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not  against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the spiritual forces powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  (You might like to dust off an old history book or check online for history information to refresh your memory with the details of this war.  You also might like to search some scriptures regarding spiritual warfare.  In Ephesians 6:12-18 Paul describes the pieces of armor to be worn for spiritual battles.  These include the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit . Also II Chronicles 20:14-30 is a good example of how God instructed Jehoshaphat to fight a specific battle through praise.)

 My Reader, do you and I realize the cost paid by our forefathers in order for us to have political freedom today?  Do we realize the cost paid by Jesus in order for us to have spiritual freedom today?  Let us not forget the price of freedom, but also let us celebrate and value what has been done for us.

Happy Fourth of July!    Happy Independence Day!

Joyfully,  golden apple #2(MF)

MEMORIAL DAY: i remember

oklahoma(Reader: I wrote today’s blog a week before I planned to post it and now I feel like I need to add a preface to what I want to share.  i remember has additional meaning for me since the tornado hit the Oklahoma area, especially the town of Moore,  this past Monday. Reader, you and I need to remember to pray for the people who have lost family members and homes and so much more.  The one thing they have not lost is their faith in God and their ability to help each other.  As Memorial Day arrives in Oklahoma, many people will be saying i remember with their own personal stories.  May “i remember” not only be a phrase but an action for each of us regarding those affected by this natural disaster.  May each of us say i remember with the people of Oklahoma today, Monday and many days to follow.  Now, the following is what I wrote for this week.)

MEMORIAL DAY:  i remember observing this day as a child much differently than we celebrate it today.  We were up early in the morning so we could get to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of loved ones before the special Memorial Day Service was held in the cemetery.  With flowers and wreaths on most gravesites and small flags waving in the breeze over the graves of military men and women, the cemetery was a beautiful sight.  When I was in the school band, we always marched from the high school auditorium, through the town, and up to the cemetery.  We would march to the beat of the drums until we entered the cemetery grounds and then the drummers would only keep beat by quietly tapping their sticks on the rim of their drums.  It was a solemn and sacred ceremony.   As a band, we played such songs as “Nearer My God to Thee.”  Names were read of all those who had served in the military and were now buried in this particular cemetery.  One of the pastors of a local church gave a message, the Gettysburg Address was spoken,  and taps were played by a trumpeter. During the rest of the day, other relatives who had come to place flowers on the graves of their family members might stop by our home to visit.  It was a day of remembering not only military heroes but also family members who had died.

Memorial Day (MF)MEMORIAL DAY:  i remember this day historically as being a day set aside to honor those who died serving in the United States Armed Forces.  According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day started as an event to honor Union soldiers who had died during the American Civil War.  It was inspired by the way people in the Southern states honored their dead.  After World War I, it was extended to include all men and women who died in any war or military action. This holiday was originally known as Decoration Day and the current name did not come into use until after World War II. This commemoration used to be held on May 30, regardless of the day of the week, until 1968.  Personally, I do not want to forget the true meaning of this day nor do I want to forget the lives that have been lost for the freedom of the United States of America!

communionMEMORIAL DAY:  i remember another life and sacrifice as I reflect upon the meaning of the holiday we will celebrate on Monday.  The life I am referring to is the life of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice I am referring to is Jesus dying upon the cross for the forgiveness of oursins making it possible for you and me to have everlasting life.  Luke 22 records the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before His crucifixion and the meaning he gave to the bread and the wine at this Passover meal.  Luke 22:19-20 says, “And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’”  This is the way Jesus wants me to remember His purpose of coming to earth, and He wants me to do this as a memorial. However, these words are not only for Memorial Day, but anytime that I celebrate communion with the body of Christ.

 MEMORIAL DAY:  i remember these solemn and sacred ways of remembering memories.  It saddens me to see how selfish I and our nation have become towards the observance of Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as it was formerly known.  Yes, it should be a federal holiday because it is a time for our nation to honor the living and the dead of our military forces.  However, Memorial Day has become less of an occasion of remembrance and more of a reason to have picnics and do outside projects. The fact that the date of observance has been changed to the last Monday of the month and not on the day of May 30 shows that we are more concerned about the convenience of a long weekend off from work or school than a day to give thanks for those who have put their lives in harms way to protect us and our nation.  It also saddens me as to how complacent our nation has become towards what Jesus has done for us personally and as a nation.  If we believe what we say in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag that we are “one nation, under God,” then we need to remember what God has done for us and allow Him to still lead our nation.

So, my Reader, how are you going to celebrate Memorial Day, May 27, 2013?  I hope you will take time to remember the true meaning of this day.  Remember the lives that were lost for you and our nation.  Remember the lives of loved ones who have gone before you and have set an example for how we are to live our lives today. Remember the best example set forth through the life of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He gave so that you and I can live not only today but eternally.

Happy Memorial Day!golden apple #2(MF)