America the Beautiful!

Blog – 6-29-16

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I’ve been ending my concerts lately with the song “America the Beautiful.” I love the song, and I believe our nation is more in need of its sentiment than ever. I think most of us feel uneasy about where our country is right now. Whether it’s politics, terrorist attacks, or the breakdown of families, the state of our nation and the values we were founded on seem at risk.

Every time I share the song, I’m amazed at people’s reaction to it, and I’m overwhelmed by the patriotism people still feel for our country, as broken as it is.

My curiosity led me to research the song, and I discovered it started out as a poem. Katharine Lee Bates was a professor from Colorado who traveled to Pike’s Peak in 1893. Katharine was very inspired by the view when she reached the peak and started writing the poem right then and there, finishing it in her hotel room that evening. The poem wasn’t put to music until 1904 when it was joined with a hymn called “Materna” written by Samuel Ward, a church organist. Unfortunately, Ward died in 1903, a year before his music was joined with Bates’ lyrics, so he never got to hear his melody become a patriotic classic.

While Bates was initially surprised by the poem’s success, she later reflected that its enduring “hold as it has upon our people, is clearly due to the fact that Americans are at heart idealists, with a fundamental faith in human brotherhood.”
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I believe that is still true today. Yes, the world feels crazy and yes, we have so many things to be fearful of; but faith in our humanity is still alive and well. And we still live in the best country on earth! I know I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Brotherhood is defined as feelings of friendship, support and understanding between people. Maybe in the midst of the uncertainty we feel we can take a minute to notice the acts of brotherhood that are still being displayed.

I think about the 35 youth from Sunnybrook Community Church who are giving up an entire week of their summer vacation to serve our community this week. Brotherhood in action.

I think of the millions of people who volunteer every day in nursing homes, hospitals, churches, humane societies, etc. Brotherhood in action.

I think of the thousands of recovery groups that meet across the country to support one another in the fight for freedom from addiction. Brotherhood in action.

When the world feels crazy, the truth that we need to cling to is that God is still good. We are still made in His image, so there is goodness and brotherhood in all of us. It might be harder to see sometimes, but if we could shift our focus to the positive instead of the negative our view could radically change.

It’s kind of like when you get a new car. You never notice how many cars of the same make as yours are around until you get one because then you start noticing them. Suddenly it seems like they are everywhere! The number of cars didn’t change…your focus did.

We might have to look a little harder to notice it, it might be more difficult to find at times, and we definitely won’t find it on the nightly news, but brotherhood is alive and well! Maybe if we start noticing it more it would inspire us to be a part of the movement for positive change.

I’ve recorded America the Beautiful for you to listen to in honor of the 4th of July. Please join me in praying for our nation, especially the brave men and women who protect our freedom. (Please click on the image below.)

And keep your eyes open for “brotherhood…from sea to shining sea!”

Hugs and love,

~Jill

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