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2020-07-04 America the Beautiful

Today we celebrate Independence Day - the Fourth of July - with many parades, celebrations and firework displays.  I am always touched when I hear America The Beautiful, a patriotic song which probably is no longer politically correct to sing.  I wonder if it is ever sung in our schools anymore.  

The lyrics were written by Katherine Lee Bates and music was composed by a church organist and choirmaster, Samuel A. Ward.   Bates originally wrote the words as a poem, Pikes Peak, first published in the Fourth of July edition of the church periodical The Congregationalist in 1895. At that time, the poem was titled America for publication. In 1893, at the age of thirty-six, Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, took a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to teach a short summer school session at Colorado College. Many of the sights on her trip inspired her, and they found their way into her poem. These included the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the "White City" with its promise of the future contained within its alabaster buildings.  Likewise the wheat fields of America's heartland Kansas, through which her train was riding as well as the majestic view of the Great Plains from high atop Zebulon's Pikes Peak.  It was on the pinnacle of that mountain that the words of the poem started to come to her, and she wrote them down upon returning to her hotel room. 

Just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Ward too was inspired to compose his tune. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City, in 1882, and he immediately wrote it down. He was so anxious to capture the tune in his head, he asked fellow passenger friend Harry Martin for his shirt cuff to write the tune on. He composed the tune for the old hymn "O Mother Dear, Jerusalem", retitling the work "Materna". Ward's music combined with Bates' poem were first published together in 1910 and titled, America the Beautiful.  

This song is such a great reminder of how God has blessed this nation over the decades, something that sadly is no longer remembered today by many of our citizens.  It reminds us of the many "heroes" who gave their lives to gain and preserve our freedoms and independence.  It reminds us of the dreams that these patriots had for our future.  But in verse two it also pleads that God would mend our every flaw.  I can't help but wonder if we have passed the point that God would continue to shed His grace on us as a nation if we would return to Him. Would He forgive us for turning our backs on Him in so many ways?  May it be our prayer that we would return to Him and that He would bring a revival to this nation which appears to be in rapid decline.  Thank the Lord for what this country has stood for in the past as God blessed and preserved us as a great nation.  Truly I have been blessed to have been born here and to have lived here. "America! America! God shed his grace on thee, and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!"


 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

II Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

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 heroes proved 
in liberating strife, 
who more than self their country loved, 
and mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine, 
till all success be nobleness, 
and every gain divine. 

O beautiful for patriot dream 
that sees beyond the years 
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! God mend thine every flaw, 
confirm thy soul in self-control, 
thy liberty in law.



Although we all knew the day was coming, it still saddens me to announce that today will be the last Hymn of the Day.  I want to thank all of you for allowing me to share my love of God, music, and beautiful hymns with you these past few months.  I believe that God uses a multitude of ways to speak to us, bring us comfort and peace, and give us hope for a brighter tomorrow.  I am blessed that He has chosen me as a vessel to that end, and I hope that you have felt His presence in your life and received some measure of blessing as you have read the words and listened to the music of some of the great songs of our faith.


I am so grateful for the poets who were moved to write their thoughts in verse, the composers who were inspired with tunes that brought those words to life, and to the talented musicians who have brought depth of feeling and meaning to those tunes through their piano arrangements.  As for me – I have a plaque in my piano room, a quote from J.S. Bach, which reads “I play the notes as they are written but it is God who makes the music.” Thank you, God.


I have been asked about recording some Christmas hymns during the month of December.  If you would like to be on that mailing list, just let me know.  


Until next time - 


24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV)


Jane Cockrell

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