Monthly Archives: June 2010

America’s Motto

Here is a little pop quiz for the Fourth of July: What is the motto of the United States of America? What did the founders propose? And what did Congress decide?

Everyone knows Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner” during the War of 1812 on September 14, 1814, the morning after the unsuccessful British attack on Ft. McHenry in Baltimore. Most of us do not remember that he called his poem “The Defense of Ft. McHenry.” It became our national anthem after a congressional resolution was signed by President Hoover on March 3, 1931.

We can all say The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, but most do not remember that it was President Franklin Roosevelt who signed the resolution in 1942 making it official. The original version was written by a minister for the observance of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus discovering the new world.  It was amended in 1954 in response to the threat of communism, to read “…One nation under God…”

The Great Seal was authorized by the signers of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It was formally adopted by Congress on June 20, 1782. You can see both sides of the Great Seal on the $1 bill. The original motto read: “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” It was quickly changed to “E Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, One.” On the reverse side of the seal is an unfinished pyramid under an all-seeing eye with the motto over all that reads, “Annuit Coeptis,” or “He has favored our undertakings.” The motto underneath it reads, “Novos Ordo Seclorum,” or “A new order of the Ages.”

So what is our national motto? “In God we trust,” was first used on a 2 cent coin in 1864. It was added to all coins by congressional decree in 1908, but did not become our official national motto until signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956. But then in 1963, it was determined that “E Pluribus Unum” was also our national motto, and that is what appears on all presidential documents and ratified treaties that have the Great Seal of America affixed to them.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate Liberty. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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“Summertime and the livin’ is hot, humid and salt free.” At least that is what I heard the teen-aged waitress say. So I tried to cover up my confusion with the one weather joke I can use when people complain it’s too hot in the summertime: “Who would have thought it would be hot near the end of June in Oklahoma?” But she was trying to cover up her embarrassment. “I can’t believe I said ‘salt free’ when I was trying to say ‘sultry.’” So it’s not just my hearing. She then went on to tell me that she could not wait to get off work because she had “a million things to do tonight” and she was stressing out about it.

I do not know which is worse: thinking one thing but saying another, or saying something you did not know you were thinking. Or is it saying the wrong thing when you thought you said the right thing, but it was the exact opposite of what you thought you were saying when you thought it. Maybe we are all under too much stress, and the heat of the summer just frazzles us quicker. And whatever happened to “summertime and the livin’ is easy?”

I guess I have to go back to the days of my childhood and youth, before my first summer job, to find when the livin’ was easy.  Those were the days of swimming in the neighbor’s pool or in the neighborhood lake behind my uncle’s house. Those were the days of Scout camping trips and Vacation Bible School. Those were the days for reading National Geographic magazines and adventure books like Treasure Island. Those were the days we played kickball in the street and came home for supper when we heard our names yelled down the block. (If you heard your middle name, it was too late.) It’s been a while since those stress-free summers. So how stress-free are the summers of our children and grandchildren today? Are they stressed because we are stressed and hot? Maybe we all need to read an adventure book, play with our friends, and go to Bible School together.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Faith of our Fathers

Of all the books in my bookcases, one has a treasured place in my heart. It is called Bible Biography, edited by Robert Sears and published in 1848.* It belonged to Rev. Abraham V. Leonardson, my grandmother’s grandfather on my mother’s side. He received it as a gift of appreciation in 1880. Abram Leonardson, as he called himself, was a Methodist circuit-riding pastor between the Civil War and World War I. I have a couple of his Bibles, a small number of scrapbooks and this volume on the lives of the people of the Bible that is illustrated with hundreds of engravings. He and I are living about 100 years apart. He was licensed to the Gospel ministry in 1867, and I was licensed in 1966.

Abram V Leonardson

My great-great grandfather served churches in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. He would pastor as many as four churches at a time, preaching one Sunday a month at each, taking his wagon (later his buggy) to the next church. He is remembered fondly in some of the local church histories. He was also a writer and turned many of his thoughts into newspaper articles, which he kept in his scrapbooks. Many of the scrapbooks were lost to time but of the few that I possess, I can say he focused his articles on holy living, temperance and prayer. His Bibles are filled with sermon notes and outlines, and even the occasional illustration.

A V Leonardson in Ohio

Tucked in the back of this one special book is a fragile, two-page typewritten account of his final days. His death was one filled with pain and much suffering, yet also of great faith and hope. At some point he apparently dreamt that he had attended a wonderful prayer meeting and that the focus was on “vital prayer.” He was comforted by that and the coming joys of heaven. All of this has gotten me thinking again about the spiritual legacy of godly men. Father’s Day is upon us. Let’s stop and remember the men who have shaped us, even those we may never have met.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Honor your Father. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

*The complete title of the book is:

Bible Biography; or, The Lives and Characters of the Principle Personalities Recorded in the Sacred Writings; practically adapted To the Instruction of Youth and Private Families, together with an Appendix, containing Thirty Dissertations on the Evidences of Divine Revelation, from Timpson’s Key to the Bible; being A Complete Summary of Biblical Knowledge, carefully condensed and compiled from Scott, Doddridge, Gill, Adam Clarke, Pool, Lowth, Horn, Wall, Stowe, Robinson, and other eminent writers on the Scripture.

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When I was growing up, one of the nursery rhyme stories our teachers told was about the troll who lived under the bridge. The ugly troll would jump out and try to bully anyone trying to cross the bridge. This story has gone the way of the schoolyard game/song, “What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor?” But trolls are having a resurgence, along with the crankiosity of our day.

Crankiosity is my description of people who demonstrate a grandiose sense of entitled crankiness. Maybe it’s the summer heat, but there certainly is a lot of crankiosity going on. The “letters to the editor” page used to be the place where civil disagreement could take place. So were places like civic clubs, churches and schools. Now, though, it seems like crankiose trolls are everywhere. When newspapers, magazines and TV stations started posting their stories online with a way for people to comment, the problem amplified. At first, it was believed people would “self-regulate” their comments and abusers would be reported. That was like believing multinational companies would not need to be regulated because they would seek first the good of their customers.

A “flamer” is a term used to describe a person who anonymously and crudely comments on an internet article. It comes from the root word flamethrower. A flamer seeks to destroy everything about the subject, and the author, of an article. An internet “troll,” on the other hand, just wants to bully and be ugly. They like to jump out and get a rise out of their victims. I guess I’m old fashioned because I believe there is no place for crankiosity among Christ-honoring believers at home, at work, at church, or anywhere else. The “one another” phrases in the Bible just keep coming to my mind. You know the ones: love one another, be kind to one another, serve…, comfort…, rejoice with…, and bear one another’s burdens. It’s harder to be kind than be a troll. I’d better be careful now; I’m starting to sound cranky.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Don’t live under the bridge. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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At the Beach

Near the end of our last church luncheon, our oldest grandson announced that he had a prayer request. Any five-year-old with a prayer request claims our attention. His request was about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the danger to the fish, and besides that, he would like to go to the beach this summer and have fun. We all stopped and prayed. A couple of days ago, he commented to me again about the oil spill and the fish in the sea not having enough food to eat because of it. This is on his mind as the summertime begins.

It was always a special event for my family to get a day at the beach, even though the beach was just a few miles from my boyhood home in Florida. Some were family outings and others were with our church youth group. I always got sunburned. Even then, one of the hazards of time on the beach was stepping on tar balls. The big ships were constantly leaking oil and diesel fuel, causing the goop to ball up and float in with the high tide. Once deposited on the sand it did not take long for the wind to cover the oil with sand, hiding it until someone stepped on it or sat on it.

Some of my best memories are about beaches. My very first kiss took place on a moonlit night, sitting on a beach wall with my high school sweetheart watching the waves crash on the shore. Dorothy and I have taken romantic walks on many beaches, and one time I helped baptize eleven new converts off the coast in the Philippines. With this tragedy in the Gulf, I believe the environmental debate has been fundamentally changed. Every party involved seems to be blaming someone else, and now I am being blamed. They are blaming me because of my constant need to drive my car(s), have a green and weed-free lawn, eat ripe tomatoes and fresh fruit year round, and have cheap electronics and other glittering stuff. I’m to blame because I want the temperature wherever I go to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. I’m to blame because I want all of this at as little cost as possible. Cheap oil equals cheap stuff equals expensive cost. So what am I going to do about the beaches? I think I might start by asking a certain five-year-old to pray for me.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Assume responsibility. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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