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Thank God for blessings we enjoy in 'America, the Beautiful'

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Emmett Murphy

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By Emmett Murphy
Columnist

Saturday, November 17, 2018

“In everything give thanks: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (The Bible, New International Version)

On this Thanksgiving Day perhaps the following will cause us to stop and think for a moment. No Americans have ever been more underprivileged than those who started the custom of setting aside a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God for their many blessings. They had no homes, no housing administration or government self-help programs. They had only the little clothing they had been able to bring with them on the Mayflower, and no means of acquiring more. Their only food came from the sea and the forest, and they had to get it for themselves, or they didn't eat. They had no money, and no place to spend it if they had had money. There were no amusements except what they made for themselves, no neighbors but the unfamiliar indigenous people, no means of communication with their relatives in England, no social security or minimum wage law. But anyone who called them underprivileged would probably have ended up in the stocks, for they did have four of the greatest of all human assets: initiative, courage, a willingness to work, and a boundless faith in God.

Of the original 104 settlers to leave England in 1620, scarcely 50 remained after the first year in this country. Their crops of New World (maize or corn) and Old World (wheat, barley and peas) were harvested. Even though the maize was the only crop to do well, the settlers decided to give thanks. They stopped their work for a three-day celebration of thanksgiving. It was a time of recognition that God had been good.

Two hundred seventy-five years pass, and this rugged country became a great nation. In 1893 an invitation to lecture on English religious drama at Colorado Springs, Colorado, was an irresistible opportunity for Katherine Lee Bates to go west. Bates was a professor of English at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. On her way westward, she stopped off at the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago. The magnificent "White City" of the exposition celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus inspired the phrase "alabaster cities" in the last verse of “America, the Beautiful.”

After her lecture she visited Pike's Peak with friends, a trip that provided inspiration for the expressions "spacious skies," "amber waves of grain," "purple mountain majesties," and "fruited plains." By the time she left Colorado, Katherine Bates had penciled in her notebook four stanzas of a poem.

In the summer of 1960, the United States launched Echo I. This communications satellite, orbiting a thousand miles above the earth, received and relayed back to the United States the hymn “America, the Beautiful,” the first music used in the new space-age communications system.

Perhaps this Thanksgiving would be a good time for us who are older to acquaint our younger family members and friends with this beautiful hymn and the history behind it.

“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!

And then we can all give thanks for the bounty and the blessings that we enjoy as Americans.

Emmett Murphy is minister of Journey Christian Church.

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