Posted tagged ‘USA’

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.    

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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.

 

Some Things Should Never Change

June 8, 2015

Dr. Steven J. Callis

There is a well-known story of two construction workers, each of whom built a house.  Unlike the Three Little Pigs, this story gives no detail as to the design and construction of the house itself.  Whether it was made of wood or brick or straw, we do not know.  The focus of the story is on the location of the houses.

One man built his house on a firm, rock foundation.  When it rained so much that flood waters rose, the house built on rock stood firm.  The second man built his house on sand.  When the flood waters came up, the man’s house fell flat because the unsure foundation washed away.  In both instances, the key was not the house, but the foundation on which it was built.

Change is inevitable.  I do not believe there ever will be a time when there is nothing left to be invented or “improved.”  Therefore, we live somewhat in a fluid society where change happens daily.  What many have said about the weather may also be said for the outworking of our daily lives:  if you do not like a thing, be patient; it will soon be an obsolete that is buried in our memories.

A few months ago I was at a conference where the keynote speaker somberly reminded the listeners that things not only change, but they rarely, if ever, go back to the way they were.  If you think your favorite soda tasted better before they “improved” it, you simply will have to learn to love the new taste because the old one is not coming back.

Often the danger of change comes when it disturbs the essence of a thing, or its “foundation.”  Over recent years much has changed in our nation not only in the way things are done; our methods – and in the way we think; our philosophies.  These are changes that, for the most part, are shaped by leaders who hold the power to enact such changes.  That is something which interest groups have had to endure over the centuries.

However, when those changes affect the essence, the very foundation of who we are as a nation, then we have a problem. Our founding fathers were adamant, clear, and unanimous in their understanding of who we are and should always be.  The Bible, the ways of the Christian God, living as a nation under God’s rule, united and indivisible; this is our foundation.

I am not opposed to the freedoms of other religions or other interest groups, but I am opposed to destroying our original foundation in order to accommodate those freedoms.  The story of the builders declares that the rock foundation is Jesus Christ and His Word, and that everything else is sand.  Messing with the foundation endangers our freedoms.

I went into a toy store that sold only toys that were popular when I was a kid, like the Wheel-O-Magic magnetic wheel, a Tiddly Winks game, and a stick horse.  I wondered if one day we might see pencils and paper in a nostalgic store.  Yes, things change.  Many times the change is productive and beneficial.  But I pray every day that the heart of who we are as a nation will always endure.  That is our only true hope.

She’s a Grand Ol’ Flag!

September 19, 2014

Does your heart beat true for the red, white, and blue?

Dr. Steven J. Callis

It was not a Broadway hit, but I was on stage at the age of 6.  The first grade classes at Fairview Elementary School were combined to present a special patriotic play for all the parents.  There were cowboys and cowgirls, flags and music, lots of fanfare – it was a rodeo scene, and I was a clown.

Three of us were chosen to be clowns for the play.  I hesitate to admit it, but I was the saddest of clowns!  I did not mind the face painting, though it did not thrill me to be wearing makeup.  The funny hat was okay, I suppose, and the baggy clothes and mismatched socks were tolerable.  My mom worked hard to help me look like a clown.

But for whatever reason, I decided to draw a line when it came to the shoes. After only 5 years of life, my experience with clowns was minimal.  I did not realize shoes were such a big deal for a rodeo clown, but apparently…well, my mom’s designer clown outfit included my oldest brother’s tennis shoes.  He was a seventh grader, and as it turns out, clowns are supposed to wear shoes that are too big for their feet.

I remember the fuss, but I do not recall why I decided to “put my foot down” at that point. Maybe it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  The entire clown suit was too large for me, I felt conspicuous, and I did not want to fall down walking in these clown shoes.  And the craziest part of it – I was afraid people would laugh at me (yes, I know, that was the point, but I was 6)!

Well, mom won out, and of course, I was cute as a button. Proudly, I still have the 8×10 black and white photo of Tim, Alan, and me.

The grand finale of the play brought the house down. Most of the rodeo players were stretched across the stage in 3 lines with space between each line.  The remaining players marched back and forth across the stage carrying American flags between the lines of students as the music blared, “You’re a grand ol’ flag, you’re a high flying flag, and forever in peace may you wave.  You’re the emblem of the land I love; the home of the free and the brave.”

While there are significant concerns across our nation politically, socially, economically, spiritually, and environmentally, the key has always been our ability to put the good of the nation above personal self-interests. We must be able to sing with deep conviction, “every heart beats true for the red, white, and blue.”  I’ll never forget how that song brought a room full of parents to their feet with pride for their children and for their nation.