Posted tagged ‘Independence day’

What’s Behind Old Glory?

June 29, 2017

by Dr.. Steven J. Callis

Last week I had the privilege of attending our church’s global quadrennial conference held in Indianapolis.  With organized churches in 162 world areas, nearly 20,000 representatives gathered from around the world for times of worship, fellowship, and administrative decisions that will guide the denomination for the next four years.

            One of the highlights was the opening session which featured the march of flags.  It was awe-inspiring to watch as 162 national flags paraded up and down the aisles to a rousing anthem.  Every person in the auditorium swelled with as much pride for their country’s flag as you and I do for ours.  I am blessed to be part of a global church.

            The oldest national flag still in use has represented Denmark since 1478.  Its cross design has been used on the flags of many other countries. 

            The flag of the Netherlands is the oldest tri-color flag.  Its three colors of red, white, and blue trace back to the days of Charlemagne in the 9th century.

            Our American flag, also bearing the red, white, and blue, has been modified 26 times throughout its existence.  The current design was introduced in 1960, and it is the longest-used version of the American flag in our history. 

            The flag is more than a mere piece of cloth.  It is a symbol, and a symbol never shines its own light – it always points to a greater object beyond itself.  When we see our American flag, what we really envision is a nation of unity, freedom, courage, and strength. 

            When that flag is abused, then, it strikes at the heart of our emotions because of what it represents.  Our outrage is not about the flag itself; it can be replaced.  We are offended because we take it personally.  The perpetrators are denouncing our liberties and national pride.  Their intent may have more to do with making a political statement, but to us they scorn our very lives.  Whether it is by burning, or stomping, or refusing to honor it, we who pledge our allegiance to the symbol of our nation take offense.

            As we celebrate our nation on July 4, we not only celebrate our declaration of independence, but we also declare our unity, tenacity, and strength.  We too often demonstrate our ability (and freedom!) to focus on divisiveness.  However, the greater exhibition of courage and strength is found in creating unity.  It often requires more work, resourcefulness, and concession to agree than it does to divide.

            I recently saw a placard which read simply (in the context of marriage), “Unity over Preference.” If we could adopt that idea as a nation, life for us all would truly change.  Unfortunately, we are too headstrong promoting and fighting for our own personal agendas to even consider such an ideal.

            Nevertheless, you and I can do our part everyday.  Let’s give thanks for our blessings and privileges.  Let’s show our colors on July 4.  Let’s strive as one for the sake of our country.  Let’s pray for God to bless the USA.    


happy Birthday USA

July 2, 2015

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

Are you a fan?  Sometimes called an aficionado, such a person is enthusiastically devoted to a person or a thing.  One could be a sports fan, or a fan of art, a music group, a specific author, and so on.  One’s enthusiasm may be displayed in a variety of ways, but the key word seems to be “devoted.”

Many of us in this community are “Braves” fans.  I consider myself a fan of a few sports teams, though I am not a fan-atic.  That is, I cheer for them, wear their colors, and perk up my ears when I hear their name mentioned.  However, my devotion is not necessarily expressed in extreme knowledge of the team’s history, statistics of the current playing roster; I do not have an insatiable hunger for every bit of news I can find about my teams on a given day.

On the other hand, neither am I a fair-weather fan.  Win or lose, good or bad, I still consider it to be “my” team.  Over the last couple of years we have watched in dismay as some of our favorite Braves players were traded to other organizations.  It just seems wrong, even now, to see McCann in pinstripes, Heyward with a bird on his cap, and Gattis as an Astro. But we are still the Braves.

I do not attend many of the games, but when I do, I am there until the final pitch for the final out in the final inning.  I have been in a college football stadium watching disgusted season ticket holders walk out at the end of the third quarter!  It may be my loyalty, and more likely my frugality, but I am staying put until the proverbial fat lady sings.

This weekend we are celebrating our nation’s birthday, and I am a fan.  Similar to the illustration above, I do not always agree with our government, or with high-ranking decisions, or with cultural trends, but that fact does not diminish my love for country.  Our nation is not a government, or a set of laws and codes; our nation is a people.  Even then, sometimes I wonder what we are thinking when “the people’ vote a certain way on issues or political leaders when it goes against the grain of my personal beliefs.  Yet, I love “my” country.

And so, I will choose to wear her colors, pray for her daily, and support her as much as my own convictions will allow.  Lyricist Don Raye declared, “This is my country, land of my birth.  This is my country, grandest on earth.  I pledge thee my allegiance, America the bold. This is my country to have and to hold.”  Let us all seek to look beyond the red, yellow, black, and white to a harmonious vision of Red-White-and-Blue.  This is our country.  Pray for her daily, and live as a model citizen should live.


Happy Birthday USA

July 3, 2012

Happy Birthday USA

Steven J. Callis

So, tomorrow we will celebrate our nation’s birthday.  Gift-buying is very difficult for this occasion.  First, is America male or female?  That is, we sing of our nation with such lyrics as, “stand beside her, and guide her” in a song that prays for God’s hand upon her.  Yet, Uncle Sam clearly is an elderly gentleman with gray hair, gray goatee, and a white top hat.  By the way, the evolution of Uncle Sam is quite interesting.

In the earlier days of existence, America was personalized as “Brother Jonathan,” a character used in editorial cartoons – a typical, middle class American.  Some believe that the name may have been derived from Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull.  It is said that George Washing once uttered the words, “We must consult Brother Jonathan” when faced with a difficult issue.  Apparently, Uncle Sam is derivative of Samuel Wilson, a meat packer who supplied rations for soldiers.  The food packages required the name of the sender and the origin of the package, which was E.A. – US.  E.A. was Wilson’s company, Elbert Anderson, and US was, of course, “United States.”  A coworker jokingly said that US was for “Uncle Sam,” and the rations were soon thereafter accredited to “Uncle Sam.”

As early as 1835 Brother Jonathan made a reference to Uncle Sam implying that they symbolized different things: Brother Jonathan was the country itself while Uncle Sam was the government and its power (  By the 1850’s the two were used almost synonymously, and eventually “Uncle Sam” became the favored term.  Uncle Sam’s current image was created by James Montgomery Flagg in a recruitment cartoon that appeared on the cover of the magazine, Leslie’s Weekly, in 1916.

OK, that is probably much more than you wanted to know about Uncle Sam!  But the aforementioned gender issue is not the real problem.  The second and foremost difficulty in gift-buying for the country’s birthday is simply this: what do you get for someone who already has more resource and blessing than most countries could ever imagine?  It would have to be something really big, something that I cannot afford on my own.  In fact, the whole nation would need to chip in to afford the appropriate gift. What does Uncle Sam need?  Peace. Unity. Revival.  Compassion.  Respect. Neighbor regard. Prayer.  As you grill your burgers and display your fireworks and such, remember to say a prayer for Uncle Sam and determine that you will continue to do your part in giving “her” what she needs.