O Beautiful

O Beautiful 2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.


 Founded by eighteenth English colonial aristocrats who used seventeenth century British philosophers and classical figures and forms of government as their guide

 Whose signature foods (frankfurters and hamburgers) are named after German cities, even if they didn’t necessarily originate with German immigrants

 Whose educators educate (or attempt to educate) every child, regardless of origin, status, position, ability or income

 Whose national anthem originated as a poem written under fire by a detainee during the War of 1812 and then set to the tune of a popular British club song

 Where most people welcome diversity of race, culture and religion

 One of whose most beautiful patriotic songs was written by a poet after seeing the vista from atop Pike’s Peak.  She rode up on a mule.

 Whose citizens sacrifice their sons’ and daughters’ blood and lives for the cause of freedom and justice around the world

 Whose troops, once the war is over, do not permanently occupy a land but return home to resume their lives

 Whose people reach out and help rebuild countries they have defeated in war

 Whose political process most closely resembles a free-for-all but which results in progress for the common good

 Whose society has social, cultural and political problems but works to solve them

 Whose people give generously to those in need, no matter who or where they are

 Whose citizens do not live in a utopia, an Eden or even a city on a hill, but who are making progress toward that ideal

 Whose national music was created by those brought to these shores out of their suffering, pain and hope

 Whose music is diverse, energetic and ever fresh

 Whose music was taken in by a bunch of young British kids in the ‘60’s and brought back to these shores in the British Invasion, changing the face of popular music forever

 Whose military serves the people and the President and not the other way around

 Whose system of justice works to guarantee rights even to the dispossessed, the powerless and the unpopular

 Whose people enjoy unparalleled freedom of expression, association and mobility simply by virtue of living here

 Where people come from all over the world for opportunities that do not exist in other places

 Where the airplane, the light bulb, Velcro and Post-It notes were all invented

 Whose scientists and engineers sent men to the moon, not to claim it as territory, but in peace for all humankind

 A place where rags to riches stories do come true

 Whose writers have produced a literature that is profound and authentic, drawing on unique American experiences

 A place of deep faith, hard workers, incredible resources, incomparable natural beauty, and immeasurable blessings

 What a country! God shed his grace on thee!


Seven Score and Ten Years Ago

Gettysburg Address

John 15:13: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

This is the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and I am reminded not only of the tremendous sacrifice and courage of those who fought there, but also of one of the best-known prose pieces ever written, and that is, of course, Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Scholars have remarked on the ideals of sacrifice and loyalty articulated by the sixteenth President and have noted the influence of the King James Version of the Bible on Lincoln’s style there and elsewhere.

American composer Mark Hayes has set the speech to music, and the choral group I am a part of, the Manassas Chorale, sang it as a part of our spring concert in May. Here is a link to a performance earlier this year by another group which premiered the work, the Charlotte Chorale of Port Charlotte, Florida:


Gone Too Soon

Photo courtesy of the Blue Ridge School

Photo courtesy of the Blue Ridge School

Revelation 21:6: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

I don’t know if you have as much trouble as I do when a young person passes away suddenly, either from an accident or illness or, worse yet, senseless violence. Maybe it’s because I taught high school for long, or maybe it’s because we had children of our own or maybe it’s just a human reaction to the suffering causes by such losses. I have a hard time with it.

Such is the case with the brutal murder of 21-year-old Andrew Pochter, who was stabbed in Alexandria, Egypt, while he was witnessing the riots there and taking video of them on his cell phone. He was mistaken for a protester and died soon after in a military hospital.

Young Andrew was there teaching English to children and improving his Arabic. He was raised in a combination Christian/Jewish household and had come to embrace the Jewish aspect of his life recently. Here’s a link to a story about his faith journey: http://forward.com/articles/179578/slain-college-student-andrew-pochter-driven-by-jew/

And here’s one about his murder in general: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/30/us/egypt-pochter-profile

The death of a young person for any reason or by any cause is tragic: it is worse when the young person is young, idealistic, and trying to do some good and help others. I pray comfort for Andrew’s friends and family, and that the Great Comforter will embrace him and say, “Well done, you good and faithful servant.”