Monday, July 4, 2011

Favorite Hymns/Hymnists: Holiday Edition

If you've never been to Indiana, then you've missed out on one of the best places on earth, Turkey Run State Park!
(If you read my post about when I met my husband, you'll have noticed this park mentioned before. You can read that here.)
To get to this park we drive around one and a half hours through farmland, mostly, but also through a little bit of Amish Country. If you're lucky you'll get stuck behind a buggy! Once you arrive there are ten trails for your hiking enjoyment, but if you've been there at all then you know trail three is by far the most superior of them all! It has lots of water to walk through. (I always wear my crocs so I can just walk in and out of the puddles and streams.) And lots of climbing, mostly on stairs.

Today, my family spent the day there with quite a few of my husband's extended family, and as we left I told him why I love that park more than almost anywhere else in the state. The reason is this: You forget about towns and streets. You forget about cell phones (you have to, no service) and dishes. You're just stuck in the middle of these trails enjoying nature. To me, hiking the trails at Turkey Run is as fun as spending a day at a water park, but cheaper! And, God made this beautiful place for us to enjoy.
With that said, I know that I'm in the minority of the population when I say that I find the state of Indiana to be beautiful, but just think of what a beautiful country we have! Mountains, plains, oceans, rivers, lakes, arctic, tropic, our country has such a vast and gorgeous topography! That's why, in honor of this special day, I am singling out the song, America the Beautiful.
Katherine Lee Bates wrote this song in 1893 the lyrics "came to her" while atop Pike's Peak.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
 From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country lov'd,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

I have two favorite stanzas. I feel the most moved by the lines speaking of heroes proving "in liberating strife." How often do we contemplate that heroes, real men, with wives, children and mothers died for our freedoms? When the heroes of our revolution left their farms and occupations to fight, they were fighting for the freedom of generations to come, they foresaw us, and fought for us! Let's strive to keep these liberties for those to come after us, let their deaths not be in vain. Thomas Jefferson said, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
My second favorite stanza is the one in which she mentions "God mend thy every flaw" and "confirm thy soul in self control." Our nation is short on that important character trait as of late. My greatest desire for our nation is that we would exercise self-control and turn toward the Lord, that we would cry out to Him and that He, in His infinite mercy, would, indeed, heal our every flaw!
I'll leave you with a picture from my trip to Turkey Run State Park today. They're difficult to see, but perched on this branch were some of the most beautiful dragon flies I ever beheld. They're wings were midnight black and their bodies were a luminescent teal. Gorgeous, while flying especially. If you look closely you can see that they're resting here!

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