Wednesday, July 4th, the American flag my father gave me will be hung outside my home. He gave it to me many years ago when he noticed we didn’t have one. My father was a quiet man who served our nation during the Second World War, building airfields in Sicily and Italy. He celebrated every 4th with a family picnic and local fireworks. He was patriotic American in steady calm way that resonates well with me even today.
I am proud to be an American, yet I recognize our flaws as a nation and culture. I have had the opportunities to travel to other nations, but I do not see myself living long-term in any of them. I think American can be too materialistic and proud (including myself). Our nation’s history has some very dark chapters with racism and jingoism, but also some marvelous chapters of humanitarian care and sacrifice. We are sinners; we are saints.
In few weeks, I will be cheering for many American athletes in the London Olympics, but I will also be cheering for athletes from other nations. I will be a bit embarrassed if the television networks make some ostentatious show of how many medals Americans have or have not won. I will rejoice in moments when athletes from any nation congratulate others who have done their best. The shared competition will hopefully bring forth the best effort from all the athletes, whatever flag they carry.
There are a couple of songs that I plan to sing this Wednesday as part of my devotions. One will be “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin. The other is a less familiar hymn, “This Is My Song.” The hymn’s text was written by Lloyd Stone (1912-1993). The first stanza states,
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
May the dreams of all nations work for peace, joy and prosperity of all people.
Lord Jesus, be Lord of the nations, beginning with my heart.