By Bob Hulteen
When I was little, my (much) older brother blew up my “little army men” with firecrackers. Mercilessly, he would throw some of the plastic soldiers into an empty can of Folgers with an entire pack of Black Cats. Oh, the carnage.
I also watched older boys/men returning from Vietnam, with injuries that would determine the rest of their lives. I saw physical pain, but also emotional and spiritual devastation for these veterans.
I didn’t like war. And I didn’t like firecrackers (which, to me, seemed like the “gateway drug” for war preparation). So, I wasn’t a big fan of the Fourth of July.
In recent years, my experience has been a bit redeemed by the singing of a couple of patriotic anthems at my church. Most years we sing one or the other of two songs near the end of the service. As part of the holiday today, I offer the lyrics (and YouTube videos) of each.
“This is My Song”
–Lyrics by Lloyd Stone (1934); music by Jean Sibelius (1899)
This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine;
this is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine:
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine:
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing”
–Lyrics by James Weldon Johnson (1899); music by John Rosamund Johnson (1905)
Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won
Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chast’ning rod
Felt in the day that hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place on witch our fathers sighed
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our star is cast
With “harmonies of liberty” and “hopes and dreams