America! America! God shed His grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!-Katherine Lee Bates (1904)
A couple of years ago, my family and I went on a cross-country trip. Now, when I say “my family and I” I mean my extended family, too…my parents, my sister and her family, and then us. Yep, I wasn’t kidding when I said we were co-dependent in the healthiest of ways. My dad had been dreaming of this trip for years, and with the kids getting older, we knew it was the time to do it before they got too busy. So, we rented a tour bus and drove. That’s right, all of us on a tour bus for 18 days…talk about the memories.
And, yes, it was unforgettable. But, for me, it really was eye opening. I have travelled some over the years, but I had never seen very much of my own country. And I have to say, there is nothing like it. I was able to experience riding the train to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado, and see exactly why Katherine Lee Bates wrote, “America the Beautiful.” It was like looking at a painting, but it was so real.
My favorite moment of those 18 days was on July 4th. Just by coincidence, we happened to be at the Grand Canyon. On the agenda, we were going to fly over the canyon in a helicopter. Well, needless to say, I’m not the best at heights. You know, the falling thousands of feet from the sky into a fire death ball below kind of deters me, but I knew it was a once in a lifetime kind of thing, so I on got in. We had to wear these headphones so we could listen to the pilot and the pre-recorded information. We looked very official.
The helicopter propellers started and up we went. It was really loud, and a bit bumpy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. As we are flying, I look down and I see all of these green trees. We really aren’t that high. I can even see the floor of the forest below me until…..we flew over the edge of the cliff of the canyon. It was like the bottom dropped out …literally. The colors that were all around us were breathtaking. The royal blue of the sky against the reds, yellows and oranges of the canyon were like God’s sketchpad. For me, I could almost imagine the hand of our Creator carving and creating this majestic gift for us to enjoy. I was looking at a miracle, a real miracle. And, to add to this memory was the fact that Ray Charles’ cover of “America the Beautiful” was playing in our headphones. I started crying like a baby. The kids were rolling their eyes looking at me like here we go again. But, I felt such a deep gratefulness and appreciation for our God and country. When I die, if my life flashes before my eyes, I know this will be one of the pictures I’ll see before I see Heaven.
That day, the 4th of July, brought a whole new meaning to me. Yes, I still love the fireworks and the cookouts. But, it really made me sit and reflect on those who came before me. It allowed me to think about God’s great plan, and how we all fit into it. It made me think of those who had the foresight to see what this country could become. Those who hacked out an existence for their families out of the wilderness and fought for their primal right to live and breath freedom. The people who risked their lives from far off lands to settle on America’s shores, and the people who were here before them, all have given us a legacy of grit and stick-to-it-ness.
Now, I know that this could become all political, but it’s not about that…not today. I don’t want to focus on policies and laws that cause so much tension. We live in the argument daily. There is a time for that, and there will always be division. But, for just today…for just this moment lets make it about our similarities, not our differences. It’s about that every person that is living and breathing on this great and beautiful land is reaping the benefits of the choices and sacrifices of the souls that came before us. It’s about inhaling the very essence of independence and not distorting it into something it’s not. We are people, with beating hearts, strong minds, meaningful purpose, and God ordained our very existence here.
If you are on American ground, you are blessed…we all are.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. Psalm 33:12-16