God Bless America

Before today’s article, allow me a personal note. Today would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. He was born in 1916 and died 35 years ago, in 1983. My 102 year old mother Elda still misses him. So do I and the rest of our family. Martin Kieschnick was a godly man and great father. He wasn’t perfect but he loved the Lord and he loved his family. To God be the glory!

Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July. Star-Spangled Banner was written in in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. God Bless America was written in 1918 by Irving Berlin. Both have become  nationally known and frequently sung songs of American patriotism. Some even suggest God Bless America would be a better national anthem than Star-Spangled Banner.

Here’s a bit of reported history I found regarding God Bless America. In the late 1930s America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

In this era just before TV, radio shows were quite popular. American families, including mine and very likely most of yours, sat around their radios in the evening, listening to their favorite entertainers. One popular entertainer was Kate Smith, a very patriotic person.

One source I read says Kate went to the famous American song writer, Irving Berlin, and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.

Another source says that in 1938 Berlin went to his files and found a song he had written 20 years earlier, but had decided not to publish. He redid the song and began searching for the right singer to introduce it. He thought about Kate Smith and gave it to her and her orchestra.

Regardless of these details, God Bless America become an overnight sensation. Smith and Berlin agreed not to take any revenue from God Bless America. All profits would go to the God Bless America Fund he established to support the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. It’s reported that Scouting programs have received millions in royalties from this song.

To this day, God Bless America stirs patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Kate Smith and Irving Berlin succeeded in encouraging and raising the spirits of their fellow Americans during years of hardship and worry. Their song continues to do so today for many Americans.

So on this Fourth of July and every day, God Bless America!

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Fourth of July

July 4

Next Tuesday is the Fourth of July, commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress. It’s a day to celebrate American freedom.

Not everyone is as patriotic as you and I would like them to be. During football season last fall, numerous NFL players protested the national anthem by either kneeling during the anthem or raising their fists. Perhaps you were as chagrined as I by these disrespectful actions.

One man did something more than keep his thoughts to himself. Ret. Marine Col. Jeffery Powers wrote to the NFL commissioners, originally sending his letter to former Florida congressman Allen West, who posted the letter to his news website. Here are excerpts from that letter:

Commissioners,

I’ve been a season pass holder at Yankee Stadium, Yale Bowl and Giants Stadium. I missed the ’90-’91 season because I was with a battalion of Marines in Desert Storm. Fourteen of my wonderful Marines returned home with the American Flag draped across their lifeless bodies. Many friends, Marines, and Special Forces Soldiers who worked with or for me through the years returned home with the American Flag draped over their coffins.

Now I watch multi-millionaire athletes who never did anything in their lives but play a game disrespect what brave Americans fought and died for. They are essentially spitting in the faces and on the graves of real men, men who have actually done something for this country beside playing with a ball and believing they’re something special! They’re not! My Marines and Soldiers were!

Legends and heroes do NOT wear shoulder pads. They wear body armor and carry rifles.

They make minimum wage and spend months and years away from their families. They don’t do it for an hour on Sunday. They do it 24/7 often with lead, not footballs, coming in their direction. They watch their brothers carted off in pieces not on a gurney to get their knee iced. They don’t have ice. Many don’t have legs or arms.

Some wear blue and risk their lives daily on the streets of America. They wear fire helmets and go upstairs into the fire rather than down to safety. On 9-11, hundreds vanished. They are the heroes.

So on this Fourth of July, join me in thanking God for the freedoms we enjoy and for those who dedicate their lives to defend those freedoms. Perhaps this video will help. Listen till the very end: https://www.youtube.com/embed/B2AEkfjc6-o?feature=player_detailpage

Happy Independence Day!

Independence Day and National Youth Gathering

Flag 1The second sentence of the July 4, 1776, Declaration of Independence says: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today, 237 years later, we see, hear, read about and sometimes even personally know or are related to members of the armed forces who have given life or limb in protecting the freedoms we so often take for granted. In addition to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Americans highly value the freedoms of religion, press, expression, choice and assembly.

How ironic it is that the expression of these freedoms often results in toleration and eventual acceptance of ideas, concepts or behaviors not in sync with traditional Judeo-Christian values.

For example, according to a story on the front page of Tuesday’s USA Today, we see a shift in approval of same-sex marriage from 25% of Americans in 1996 to 55% of Americans in 2013. (Source: June 2013 survey by Princeton Survey Research and previous polls by Gallup.)

Contributing to the continuation of that trend, the United States Supreme Court in recent weeks struck down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, with rulings that most likely will result in more widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage in more than the twelve states that, along with the District of Columbia, currently approve it.

Closer to our home in Texas, the State Legislature is embroiled in a controversy over approval of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and would require abortion clinics to meet rigid hospital standards. To say the least, supporters and opponents of abortion are quite animated in expressing their respective positions.

It’s obvious that the expression of freedom does not always produce a result that’s either pleasing or peaceful to all concerned, not to mention in accord with the will of God.

On a more positive note, nearly 25,000 young people and their adult counselors have assembled this week in San Antonio for the 12th LCMS National Youth Gathering (NYG). That includes 17,500 teens, 4,800 adults, 500 young adults and 2,500 volunteers! What a positive witness these young people have given in the nation’s seventh most populous city!

Here in San Antonio, the freedoms mentioned above have been demonstrated in remarkable fashion. These young people make me humbly proud to be a part of the LCMS!

In the past several years I’ve heard with my own ears from some who want to put an end to these gatherings. That includes, during my administration years ago, some members of the LCMS Board of Directors. Some critics continue to express their opposition today to the NYG.

On the other hand, my ears have also heard many positive testimonies from young people who have attended NYGs in the past. They speak of the life changing and faith building impact the gatherings have had on their lives. A few have testified that they came to a gathering with the intention of ending their life, but abandoned that plan as a result of what they heard and experienced at the NYG they attended. God be praised!

I thank God for LCMS Youth Ministry staff and volunteers who spend much time and energy planning and conducting these gatherings. I also thank God for the dedication and commitment of parents, pastors, DCEs, youth counselors, Concordia University students and the young attendees themselves for the commitments of time and money to plan for and attend the NYG! And I pray the positive influence of the LCMS National Youth Gathering will continue for many years to come!

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always!