providing our rights as humans. The final sentence before they appended all their signatures reads, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” With those rights, come responsibilities to God and to our fellow man.
My sister-in-law, Ioana, was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, under a Communist system; she has shared snippets of everyday life there. As an example, her engineer father was told where he could live and how many rooms they could have in their apartment based on the size of his family. Her dad could have lost his job, his family’s apartment, and any income potential if Ioana had not been able to run from the secret police when they jumped from behind a bush upon discovering her kissing a young man from East Germany. Life there was highly restricted. For example, Ioana kept her Bible wrapped in yellowed and weathered newspaper to protect its identity from the casual observer. Romanian Orthodox services were often held in secret, as the church leaders suffered persecution from the state under Communist rule. Other books that were not government-approved reading were also wrapped in nondescript newspaper covers. The results of her high school exams determined whether she could attend college and in what fields she could study. Ioana’s father insisted she learn English at home so that she would have opportunities to one day escape from their government’s tyranny.
Life in Romania has improved since the 1989 people’s revolution, but is still beset with lack of trust that a piece of mail will make it to its destination (and, if so, unopened), with doctors who must be bribed so patients can receive chemo treatments, or with a government that will act only after bribery is offered. Ioana became my brother-in-law’s Romanian-English translator when he went to aid their country’s transition to a free-market system following collapse of the Communist government. She has since become a U.S. citizen, and has a clear sense of the opportunities and advantages she did not have growing up in Romania. Many legal immigrants will tell you similar stories of the blessings we have here that they could only dream about in their home countries.
Without a doubt, the United States has its own struggles, but our country still holds to the conviction that Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are unalienable rights. We can choose where to live, what schools to attend, what career we wish to pursue, or what of a hundred brands of cereal we want to purchase. We certainly do not always agree with one another on specific issues, but we have a right to express our differing viewpoints. We must continue to value those rights so they will not be lost to the loudest voice in the crowd.
Chris Gray and I both love the rodeo, so we try to be at the Alaska Fairgrounds when the rodeo is in town. I love that the shows always begin with prayer, a procession of U.S. flags carried by mounted honor guard, and the singing of the National Anthem. People of all ages stand silently, hats removed, hand over heart to show their love and respect. The flag protocol and opening prayer are linked, demonstrating love of God and of country.
A friend remarked to me recently that it was important that those of us who carry this linked love of God and country in our hearts continue to hold steadfast in our beliefs and share them with the generations to come. They are important traditions to uphold, especially when under such ardent attack from a small--but loud and outspoken--group of people.
2 Timothy 1:7 says that “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” When we are lifted on eagle’s wings to right a wrong, we must know that God has given us the power—through His love—to work to correct the error, employing self-discipline and love in the process, not acting through fear and intimidation. In our country, we are given the power to try to keep us on a good path, but we must remember to do so using His love as a guiding force.
America, America, God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law! America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
Your friend in Christ,
Our staff is voluntold each week and with grace they share their thoughts.