The Work Ahead of Us

I love the natural beauty of this country.

My slice of the world, off the Chesapeake Bay, is a sanctuary of peace and serenity for me (and my dogs!).

Bush River, Maryland

There are so many beautiful natural wonders across this nation. Just visit a national park, one of our greatest treasures, and you’ll see!

Zion National Park, Utah

While we’ve been living through a very hard year, and having just commemorated Independence Day, I’ve been reflecting on America’s greatest treasure—our Constitution and the revolutionary foundation of the Declaration of Independence, that every person is created equal.

It is a profound tragedy that we have not always lived up to that founding ideal, most notably with slavery and the ensuing treatment of black Americans. Women have had to fight for the right to vote, as we marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment earlier this year. And the cause to which I have devoted many years, ending the dehumanization of the preborn child, and the mass slaughter by abortion that has snuffed out the lives of over 60 million American babies before they have even had a chance to take breath. These are only a few examples.

And yet, it’s important to see our current day through the eyes of both a historian, and a theologian. America, sins and all, has been the most revolutionary nation on earth. Prior to 1776, nation-states were comprised of subjects not citizens and most claimed a divine right to their sovereigns. And even today, in some of the most powerful nations, the freedom of individuals is sharply curtailed. This is obviously just a very broad brush stroke of history (a longer analysis HERE), as I attempt to simply point out that the ideal that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is truly astounding, especially when you view it in its historical context.

As Americans living in the 21st century, we should absolutely continue to work towards securing those founding ideals of the right to life and liberty, and the guarantees of our Constitution, for every man, woman, and child. And as Christians we have an even higher calling to live obediently to God first and foremost, and to love our neighbors. I like how author and philosopher James K.A. Smith puts it in his book, How We Love: “Our engagement with God’s world is not about running the show or winning a culture war. We are called to be witnesses, not necessarily winners.”

From a theological perspective, until Christ returns, there will always be trials and tribulations in this world as a result of sin. There will always be discord among men and women, within and among nations. We can’t achieve utopia; we must be prudent and realistic. However, God does teach us about seeking “the welfare of the city,” about pursuing justice, mercy, and righteousness, about caring for the poor, orphans, and widows. One day, in the new Kingdom, all will be made right.

Until then, we have our work ahead of us. And I, for one, will continue to criss-cross America the beautiful to find restoration and strength for this journey from the natural and healing power of creation!

Multnomah Falls, Oregon

Virginia's Presidential Trail

My historical/political-love tank got filled to last for a long time this weekend – I was able to visit homes of 4 of the first 5 U.S. Presidents and Founding Fathers.  It’s amazing that they’re all so close – Charlottesville is only about a 2 hour drive from D.C, and of course Mt. Vernon is about 20 miles south of the Nation’s Capital. What was in the water in Virginia back in the 1700’s? Whatever it was, thank God it was!
Each of these homes was uniquely incredible, and taking a tour not only takes you back to early 1800’s, but also into the mind of each of these Founding Fathers. At Montpelier the final room on the tour is James Madison’s library. It’s just a portion of the 5th President’s collection, but as our guide explained, that was where Mr. Madison, father of our Constitution, studied and prepared before traveling to the Constitutional Convention.

Monticello is incredible, not to mention the fact that Thomas Jefferson himself designed it. Among other things to admire about Jefferson is his humility. I found this really interesting – his epitaph at Monticello reads: “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”
James Monroe’s home, Ashlawn-Highland, is more modest, but equally interesting. The 4th President had a fascinating life and some amazing artifacts in his home from his time as Secretary of State.

And then there’s Mt. Vernon, nestled on the banks of the Potomac. George Washington was a skilled farmer, in addition to military genius, statesman, and our first President. He is the perfect example of a leader “for such a time as this.”

I’ve thought this at other times when I’ve toured Mt. Vernon, and the thought struck me again this weekend – these men were so smart. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison spoke 7 languages! And not to leave out the women – their wives too! For example, Dolley Madison wrote the book on conversation, hostessing, and the role of the First Lady. Their love of learning and making a better world for their countrymen, is inspiring. My desire to preserve and protect their ideas and ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice for all has been strengthened!

Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation

Surrounding Thanksgiving, there always seems to be a big discussion about what the “first Thanksgiving” actually looked like. While I find all of those stories and research interesting – and worthy of discussion – I also think it’s worthwhile for us to look back at the words penned by our Nation’s leaders over the years on prior to and after Thanksgiving became an “official holiday”.

Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington.jpgA few months after the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the first Congress was seated, and George Washington was inaugurated as the 1st President of the United States, Washington issued a proclamation declaring November 26, 1789 to be a day of thanksgiving and prayer. I highly recommend reading the entirety of this proclamation (it’s brief), available from the Heritage Foundation’s First Principles Series.

The third and final section is poignant. Note the elements of praise, gratitude, contrition, and supplication (emphasis mine).  I am continually amazed at the character and the humility of our First President – he was most certainly a man “for such a time as this.  As we approach Thanksgiving, let’s remember to be thankful for the blessing of our country, to pray for our leaders and future leaders, and to pray that we get back to these “first principles.” 

“…And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington”