This morning’s Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast was an Independence Day Special with crashing patriotic numbers – of the goose bump variety. But then Stephen Paulus’ Hymn for America came on with a quietly reverent, but powerful beginning:
We have loved you for your rivers,
We have loved you for your shores . . .
I immediately burst into tears as my feelings for our native land spilled over. I have always related deeply to nature around me, especially the huge City Park across the street from my house growing up in Iowa City. It had towering trees, scampering squirrels, even peacocks’ screams that punctuated our nights – all of which was surrounded by the wide, silent Iowa River that enfolded the lower part of the park with a tender embrace.
I crossed that river daily on my way to and from school. Its varying moods and silent power provided a stable setting for a childhood privileged in many, many ways. Here’s a wonderful photo. The green bridge in the middle is the Foot Bridge linking the Student Union and main campus with the west side of town, Art Building and Hancher Auditorium. I stood there and watched otters darting in and out of moonbeams after a night of study at the University library, and as a high school senior floated daringly past my PE class, practicing golf swings by hitting heads off dandelions!
And just as nature, embodied by the Iowa River, underpins all our physical existence, this nation with its gloriously inspired constitutional government and long heritage of freedom underpins our current quality of life. We are privileged to live in the most prosperous, most democratic country in the history of the world. And even though that heritage and those freedoms are under extreme attack, we have God’s solemn promise that those who live His commandments will be protected and ultimately return to Him. This country is a Land of Promise for those who live the laws of life.
But for now, I want to celebrate the greatness that God’s creation and our free country has spawned. All I have to do is watch PBS to see the many and often unsung heroes featured there, and whose creativity and ingenuity have created our wonderful way of life and capped Western Civilization with sparkling achievement. Here are just a few:
- Mark Twain and his biting wit
- All the Broadway musicals, like Oklahoma, that capture and even helped create our country’s personality and identity
- Cutting edge novels – where would we be without Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Poe?
- Riveting film like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Psycho. And anything with Jimmy Stewart – the original American “boy next door.”
- TV that set the bar high: I grew up with Gunsmoke and The Honeymooners. My kids grew up with the Donny and Marie Show , The Love Boat, and Hill Street Blues.
- Finally, a land dotted with churches and amazing spiritual leaders, like Norman Vincent Peale, Peter Marshall, and Joseph Smith.
Christian prophets have long foretold of a thousand years of peace and plenty, after the return of Jesus in glory. I believe, like Anne Frank, that most people are basically good and that life, like a river, is taking us to that distant shore of peace, fulfillment, and glory. We just need to stay in the boat, on the wide river of life.