"Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD." – Psalm 33:12
In 1893, a professor, poet, and writer named Katharine Lee Bates traveled to Colorado Springs (where my family and I reside), and while Katharine was standing at the top of Pikes Peak, the words to a remarkable poem began to form in her mind. This poem we have all come to know and love is titled "America, the Beautiful," as majestic as that famed mountain which I am delighted to see every day out my home office windows.
I remember as a little girl in elementary school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania singing this amazing song with my classmates each morning, followed by standing for the "Pledge of Allegiance" and saying The Lord's Prayer, too. All the memorable moments of the start of our school day. . . .
How very different things were then. Some of you may remember bowing your head in this reverent prayer even before the teacher took attendance and collected milk money.
This month, when we commemorate Independence Day, what if we also thank our heavenly Father for the privilege of living in a land where a poet like Katharine Lee Bates could be so inspired as to write the following lyrics to that lovely song, (verse 3):
"O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine."
Take a moment with me to ponder that and all the verses. It touches my heart deeply and takes me back to my childhood classroom. I am so grateful to have had the freedom to blend my voice with my teacher and classmates and sing such a soul-stirring song! One that is embedded in my mind for life.
"America, America, God shed His grace on thee. . . ."
Blessings abundant, and Happy Fourth!
"For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." – James 1:3
My father often spoke of the importance of starting strong. . . and of finishing well.
Recently, I had the opportunity to remember those words while on vacation near Slade, Kentucky with Dave and our twins, Janie and Jonathan. We had embarked on a hike to the top of a so-called moderate trail leading to a massive natural sandstone arch poised like the ancient landmark it was, towering over the mountainous terrain below.
Complete with numerous steep steps—woody, rocky and root-laden (Janie dubbed the latter “ground veins”)—we slowly made our way, step over precarious step, toward the top. We stopped for frequent sips from bottled water and enjoyed snacks that Dave carried in his backpack, catching our breath, thankful this hike wasn’t happening in Colorado, a mile higher in altitude. Despite that, the climb was arduous in places, and I wondered aloud if our twins would ever want to take on my bucket list in the future.
But we kept going, though it crossed our minds how much easier it would be to simply turn around and head back down.
Then, at last, rounding an enormous boulder-strewn area, we caught the first breathtaking glimpse. There, the Natural Bridge loomed high over us. . . our reward for perseverance!
I wished in that moment that my dad could have seen the four of us inching upward to our final goal, perspiring and weary of the climb. And I tried to imagine, too, that glorious Day when our heavenly Father will welcome each of us across the finish line, life’s journey over. Home at last, following His lead all the way.
As we pause this month to honor our fathers, I'm thankful for a dad who wholly trusted God, and though the path toward the end was rocky at times, strewn with disappointment, sadness and pain, my father finished strong in faith on January 9, 2014.
Blessings abundant, dear reader-friends.
And happy Father's Day to all the dads!
"With all your heart, you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow." – Proverbs 3: 5-6
This month, many of our children and grandchildren will graduate from high school. I vividly remember my own high school graduation day, decades ago. And I'm grateful that I could not see too far into the future. Our heavenly Father knows each of us intimately, and He understands that we simply could not bear to know all that may befall us.
God is merciful to take us one moment, one step at a time. Otherwise, many of us might wander off the path, attempting to do things our own way, not depending on His wisdom each hour, each day...and each year.
Yes, we yearn to know the future. We plead with God to lead us, and we want to know immediately what's coming next...tomorrow, and next week, next month. We're in a rush for answers. We're not interested in waiting. Patience is not our virtue. And, sometimes, we think we know best.
But, truly, when we earnestly look to Him with all of our heart, it is remarkable to see how God works. He is at work in us all the time as we surrender our will. It's hard to release our grip and believe that He is going before us, paving the way, isn't it? Even so, there is that quiet serenity of wholly trusting. It is miraculously freeing and brings great peace.
I pray for God's many blessings on all the graduates in your life, dear friend!
And I ask Him to give you wisdom and direction for all your days.
"I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on Him, I have put my hope in His word." – Psalm 130:5
Recently, I found myself wandering through a deep and rather dark valley. I had taken my eyes off the Guide, letting worry, stress and, yes, despair take over me.
You see, our son, Jonathan, was being rushed by ambulance with a large and rare blood clot near his right kidney. The ER doctor told me solemnly that the kidney "is lost" due to lack of blood flow. Now, Jonathan is a young man, has his whole life ahead of him, a talented artist and a caring friend to all who know him. And best friend to his twin sister, Janie.
I knelt to pray, sobbing my prayer, my face pressed into a pillow. I pleaded with God to help dear Jon. It was then that I realized I could not see the mountaintop for the depth of the valley all around me.
But wait. I knew from childhood, and from all the years of my life, that Jesus, our King, Savior and Lord, could be counted on, right? He would lead me through this sadness, this testing and this thorny path.
Still, I was floundering in a valley of black despair, becoming more frightened by the moment.
Then, I began to pray differently. I gave thanks for the healing I believed God was going to give Jonathan. I thanked God for the way things would be, not the way things were. And I yielded to the comforting hand of my Lord, the Guide and Director of my life, and followed Him up, up...through the snarls and thorns, the loose rocks, the imposing boulders, all the way to the top of the looming mountain. There, I stood and turned to look down at all the stages of testing, the setbacks, the scares along the way. And I could see that the miracle had come, inch by inch, thanks to God.
Jonathan's right kidney is functioning normally now, the blood clot on the decline, after thousands of prayers on his behalf all over the world and a blood thinner medication. There were angels coming in and out of his hospital room...angels with earthly names and faces, with encouraging words and thoughtful deeds.
This Easter, I am most thankful for the victory of the Resurrection. Those long-ago angels pushing away that massive stone away from Christ's tomb. The truth, and the power, of the Kingship of Jesus Christ. King of kings and Lord of lords, who can always be counted on, no matter how deep, dark and terrifying our valleys may be.
To those of you in the Wisconsin and southern Minnesota, I look forward to seeing you soon on my spring book tour for The Tinderbox. (You can find the schedule here.)
And to all of you, a blessed Easter, dear friends!