In the course of any given year, most of us hear our national anthem sung dozens of times. But what we hear is not really our national anthem, but only a small part of it. Every time I hear it sung, I am frustrated at having to stop singing at the end of the first stanza. We never seem to go on to the end of the song and find out why it is that we can trust that our star-spangled banner will continue to wave, and why we can be sure our land will continue to be brave and free.
Several years ago, as a high school teacher, I was given the responsibility of creating a large production in honor of our nation and our constitution, and my instructions included making sure that the whole community was involved. I immediately decided that this was my opportunity to include the last stanza of our national anthem as part of the program. I realized that most people did not know the words to that stanza at all, and, in fact, some people did not even know the song had four stanzas total.
I’m asking my blog readers to stop right now and take just a few minutes to think about the final verse of our national anthem. It has a whole lot more to say beyond the fact that we are proud of our flag and the nation for which it stands. In fact, the last stanza makes the most important statements of the whole song.
“So thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blessed with victory and peace, may this Heaven-rescued land
Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
We need to sing this last stanza every time we sing the first one, because it is only the fact that God Himself made us a nation and preserved us as such — and that He is the one who has rescued us each and every time from destruction — that allows our star-spangled banner to wave anywhere at all.
I hear a lot of people today talking about how this country is doomed. I also hear a number of religious leaders preaching that God will judge the United States for all of its evils and allow foreign powers to come in and overthrow it. Now, I am a strong Christian, and I am deeply troubled by the abortion, drugs, crime, child abuse, pornography, and sexual laxness of our nation. But I also spend an enormous amount of time with God — in His Word and in prayer. And I believe that the Lord has made clear to me that He created this nation for His own purposes. Except for Israel, this nation is the only one on earth that can point to the fact that God literally called His own people to travel to these shores and found a new beginning.
He did so because he intended this nation to be so established in freedom and justice for all that it would be free to put forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an extent unknown in any other part of the world. And we have done that. True, we have not always done other things right. But the fact remains that thousands of God’s faithful people are citizens of this nation, and as such, they live Godly lives, influence others to do the same, and continue to put forth the Gospel. As long as those people are praying and keeping the door open for God to intervene in this nation — and to fight on its behalf — we will not be destroyed.
So, even though we need to work at getting our act cleaned up in a lot of ways, we can, nevertheless, take a deep breath, put a smile on our face, and continue to lift our voices in song, singing: “Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.”
No matter how many atheists try to get the words changed — no matter how many elected officials misquote the words of our Constitution in order to try to keep faith out of our government — no matter what —- the words of Francis Scott Key still reverberate through the hearts of millions of Americans, and indeed this is still our motto: “In God Is Our Trust!”
If you’d like to learn the words to the the remaining two stanzas of the song, you can find them here.
The following is a quote of my dad’s own words as he explained his personal response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941:
“The dramatic part of my life began, as that of so many members of the armed forces did, on one of the most infamous days in U. S. history — at Pearl Harbor. Even though I was only 17, I talked my dad and step-mom into signing their permission for me to enter the Marine Corps and do as much as I could to help win that war and make it as short as possible.
“Actually, I had always wanted to be a Marine. All through high school, it was my dream. At the age of 15, I’d felt the call of God on my heart to become a preacher of the Gospel, but as far as I could tell, that wouldn’t preclude my serving my country as well. And if I were going to serve, I was going to be a Marine!”
Thank You, God! Thank You, God! Thank You, God! It’s about all I can say right now. I’ll have other things to say about yesterday’s election in my nation, but for right now, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that we finally put a president and scores of congressmen into office who will work AGAINST murdering millions of innocent children every day that I am almost speechless. That stand for the unborn was THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE AT HAND, because nothing else will ever be right in our country until we stop deliberately murdering God’s children. I can add one more thing: God has given us one more chance to turn things around and get back to being the nation that He originally intended us to be, and we’d better all buckle down and work hard at doing just that.
Discovering a terrorist plot and risking your life to stop it before three U.S. cities are destroyed, receiving a visitation from an angel with important information from the Lord, falling in love with someone halfway around the world — through the help of a rusty old computer — and learning that it’s never too late to give your life to Jesus Christ. What more could any reader want from one book?
QUENTON’S HONOR (by me) has it all, and it’s just waiting at the Amazon Kindle Store to be snatched up by readers for their Kindles, Nooks, iPads, tablets, iPhones, and Androids. The novel has been out in paperback edition for several years, but this month saw its debut in digital format, and it’s available only on Amazon.
If you’re looking for a fresh, inspiring reading experience, check it out.
It’s worth $3.99 — even if I do say so myself.
You can also visit the “Quenton’s Honor” Facebook page to meet the characters and learn more about the book.
(Paperback version is currently available from St. Ellen Press, but will also be available on Amazon in June.)
In the midst of the enormous political upheaval of the past months and the growing evidence that we are face to face with a governmental machine that can no longer be trusted to keep freedom secure, I have been giving myself to re-reading and absorbing the great guiding thoughts and principles of some of the most memorable leaders with which the United States has been blessed.
Some of these individuals may have been proponents of political views that I don’t share completely, but they seem to have been in agreement on one particular view that our nation’s citizens need to make the focus of their attention: the concept that in God alone rests the historic success — and the successful future — of the United States of America. I share a few of these statements here in the hope that we can continue to learn from these leaders whose experiences taught them the priceless value of governing according to the precepts of God.
Abraham Lincoln: “Being a humble instrument in the hands of our heavenly Father, I desire that all my words and acts may be according to His will; and that it may be so, I give thanks to the Almighty and seek His aid.”
Benjamin Franklin: “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of Christ will change the face of the world.”
Thomas Jefferson: “I always have said, and always will say, that the studious perusal of the Sacred Volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.”
Ulysses S. Grant: “Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts on your hearts and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for the progress made, and to this we must look as our guide in the future.”
Patrick Henry: “I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them one shilling, they would have been rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor indeed.”
Abraham Lincoln: “I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right, because I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.”
Thomas Jefferson: “I hold the precepts of Jesus as delivered by Himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age.”
Dag Hammarskjold: “God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal diety, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a Wonder, the Source of which is beyond all reason.”
Albert Schweitzer: “All work that is worth anything is done in faith.”
William Penn: “Men will either be governed by God or ruled by tyrants.”
Abraham Lincoln: “My great concern is not whether God is on our side; my great concern is to be on God’s side.”
Woodrow Wilson: “The sum of the whole matter is this: If our civilization is to survive materially, it must be redeemed spiritually.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Without some moral and spiritual awakening, we will awaken some morning to find ourselves disappearing in the dust of an atomic explosion.”
Lyndon B. Johnson: “If we who serve free men today are to differ from the tyrants of this age, we must balance the powers in our hands with God in our hearts.”
Calvin Coolidge: “In this little Book [the Bible] will be found the solution to all the problems of the world.”
Abraham Lincoln: “We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in number, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God! Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God who made us.”
Each year, during the month of September – although very few actually celebrate the fact anymore – citizens of this nation are at least reminded that they are living in a land of freedom that owes its security and continuation of government to one incomparable document: the “Constitution of the United States of America.” While it is true that without another incomparable document, the “Declaration of Independence,” there would be no need for the “Constitution,” it is even more true that without the “U. S. Constitution,” all of the ideals inherent in the “Declaration” and realized by the Revolutionary War would have died within one generation.
I often find myself wondering, when I think about both of those documents – and especially each time I peruse them – if all of those courageously radical men who created and signed the same were simply ordinary men who just wanted to be free themselves and to insure that their own wives, children, grandchildren, and property would be free from the control of some tyrannical monarch who lived across the ocean. Was that their mindset, or DID THEY KNOW?
Did they, somehow, by God’s grace, realize that they were forging, not only a new nation, but an entirely new paradigm? Did they have any concept that they were literally creating, not just documents for their own protection, but the very foundation of a radically unique government – a government of the people, by the people, and for the people to a degree that no one on the planet had previously experienced? Did they have any inkling, when they ratified that constitution, that they were literally birthing onto the earth a form of government that would not only live, but would continually regenerate itself, growing stronger from generation to generation, until it became, not only the under-girding of the lives of the millions who would call themselves Americans, but also the beacon of hope for the rest of the world: the hope that men and women of consecration could truly govern themselves successfully throughout all their succeeding generations?
We are privileged to have words penned by a very few of those men that would indicate that they knew these measures would reach far beyond their lifetimes. But I believe that the vast majority of the rest of them knew as well. And I believe that for many, it was that knowing that made them feel the pressing need to take such a radical and heroic stand. I believe those men firmly believed that the sons and daughters of scores of succeeding generations would receive the conception of that seed of freedom, that they would comprehend its price, and that they would also comprehend the exceedingly heavy weight of responsibility that accompanies it. And as I meditate on those men, and their faithful wives and families who stood with them, I am filled with such gratitude that every time, without fail, it spills forth in tears and prayers of thanksgiving.
Oh, I know there are those in our own nation who say our Constitution does not work – that it is not, in reality, a plausible foundation for government of a nation. They believe our constitution should be replaced with “more enlightened” socialistic and communistic regimes. They sit at computer terminals writing long, “politically correct” treatises from which they hope to amass financial gain; they stand in front of cameras at liberal campaign rallies; and perhaps most frightening of all, they stand behind podiums in our institutions of higher learning, posing as “thinking” men and women. Fools, all of them! Because it is that very constitution upon which they cast aspersions that gives them the privilege, nay, the legal right, to make those statements. If that constitution were not indeed a practical, workable, and successful foundation for government, they would have no such rights.
It is the very words of that blessed document that provided the vehicle through which the ideals of liberty and justice for all could be conveyed to the mind, and then on into the actions of the human race. It is those very words, once written and embraced, that gave birth to those concepts in a tangible, workable, and self-preserving formula which can be understood and followed from generation to generation to generation. Indeed, it is the very document that they malign – “The Constitution of the United States” – that protects and preserves each one of those fools in their irresponsible, subversive, and often even malicious endeavors to destroy the credibility of that sacred document, or to bury it alive if possible.
For without the words of the “U. S. Constitution,” and the multitude of laws that issue from it, each and every one of those radical fools would be rotting away in a prison cell for speaking out against the government of the nation in which they live and enjoy prosperity. Were they in any nation without that document – or one extraordinarily similar – they would fear to speak out as they do in this nation. And if this constitution and those who live by it had not repeatedly confronted and defeated the multiple forces of totalitarianism — if monsters like Hitler and Saddam Hussein had not felt the death-dealing blows of the sword of the “Constitution of the United States” — all those poor, politically correct “thinking” men and women would be living out their lives in the same misery as all the other citizens of those so-called “enlightened” governments —- all those miserable millions of people who are crowding our shores and pressing to get into the safe borders of the nation that has established the treatment of its people on nothing less that the foundation of its “Constitution.”
So let them continue to pose: these intellectual beggars. Let them continue in their childish efforts to defame and tear down our “Constitution” and its prescription for government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Because, to borrow the apt description provided by St. Paul the Apostle, their words are nothing more than “sounding brass or tinkling cymbal.” And those words will continue to fall to the ground to be trampled underfoot by the simple, ordinary, every-day citizens of this nation who are still being governed successfully and securely by the powerful, creative, God-ordained words of the “Constitution of the United States of America.”
My tears of gratitude are spilling over, and I hope, Dear Reader, that yours are too.
© Sandra Conner 2011
The “Song of Songs,” by King Solomon, says, “Set me as a seal upon thine heart … for love is strong as death. … Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.” (Songs of Songs 8:6-7). Those words were penned many centuries ago by an Israelite king, but during the American Civil War, a Union soldier penned words that echoed those of Solomon, almost exactly, in a letter to his wife about one week before he died.
Major Sullivan Ballou poured out his heart to the one woman he knew would understand it, his wife Sarah. He told her, “Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence can break. Yet my love of country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me … to the battlefield.” In another statement he describes the level of his commitment to his love of country as well as his wife: “I know … how great a debt we owe to those who went before us, through the blood and suffering of the Revolution, and I am … perfectly willing to lay down all my joys in this life to maintain this government and to pay that debt.”
In those words, Sullivan Ballou spoke for every American soldier who has left loved ones safe at home to go into hate-filled, death-filled foreign lands and willingly give everything he had — including his own life — to make sure those loved ones were kept safe — and that the nation whose constitution undergirded that safety was defended and secured from all that would try to destroy it.
In every war that America has fought, thousands of her soldiers have gone courageously into harm’s way because they believed in the truth that “love is strong as death.” They believed that all the hatred and all the wars this world will ever know cannot quench love. And they have been right: ALL THE HATRED AND ALL THE WARS THIS WORLD WILL EVER KNOW CANNOT QUENCH LOVE — because real love comes from only one source: the eternal, unfathomable, unquenchable Creator of the universe. It is He who gives soldiers like Sullivan Ballou the unquenchable love that he writes about in his letter — love for his wife — and love for his country and all it offers a world full of people who long with all their hearts for freedom and security.
(Copyright: Sandra Conner 2011)