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RANDY HUFF: “America, America . . . “

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain;

for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain!

America! America! God mend thine every flaw….

I feel overwhelmed today.

First, by the simple words of this hymn that reveal the soul. A country is a soul, birthed and shaped by all who live and die there. People of the country share that soul, participate in it, comprise it. When it is healthy, it sings, and it sings for love. This is really what it means to be a patriot: to love your fatherland.

And so as a child of the midwest prairie I not only see the waves of grain, I feel them. And I know the mountains of Colorado from the first time I saw them as a 5 year-old boy. “Are we in Colorado yet?” Eventually, misty purple images emerged in the distance. We stayed that night in a creek-side cabin together, up in the mountains, free and safe. It went deep in my soul. I loved my family. And without knowing it, I loved my country. Why wouldn’t I?

The beauty of it all overwhelms me, and I am thankful.

The second thing is not so clear and clean and happy. I find myself overwhelmed by the negative, those who let faults eclipse good, those who claim to love country but never speak well of it, those who clamp down every time one expresses genuine love. Who knew we err when we love our country? You can’t really love something that is imperfect, can you?

This hurts. As I’ve tried to say before, I want to love my country. Am I aware of its faults? I think so. But I don’t camp out there, just as we hope no one “camps out” with our own personal faults. That is an ugly way to live. One of my boyhood friends recently told me that, after learning of some of our national woes, he could no longer be a patriot.

This almost undoes me. Is there nothing to love? If we are so very bad why are countless people trying to come here? You can see the difference between good and bad when you look at the borders. Some countries won’t let people leave, others can’t let enough in.

It is ludicrous to speak of how bad we are and at the same time insist we welcome the millions who are desperate to join us. If we’re so bad, urge them to go elsewhere. Maybe those who threaten to leave if the election is not to their liking will take them along to all those better places.

The response seems to be something like: “Of course we love our country. We just want it to be better.” How about lay aside the critique, then, and tell me something you love about this great land? How about sing the hymn and and ask God to refine the gold of our land – the gold of opportunity, freedom, beauty, sacrifice, character, dreams, and wonder. It’s gold, and the world knows it.

Why don’t we?

I love my country, and I am thankful to live here. I think we  truly are a shining city on a hill, a great beacon of hope for this world. I don’t feel I am half the man I should be in tribute to those who gave their lives in service and ultimate sacrifice to make it so. But remembering them makes me want to be better.

And so I sing the hymn. And I pray for wisdom and courage to be the kind of person that makes a more perfect union for my fellow-Americans today, and in all the tomorrows.

“America, America, God shed His grace on thee.”

Randy Huff

Randy Huff and his wife lived for 5 years in Roanoke (Hollins) where they raised 2 sons. Randy served as Dean of Students at a Christian school and then worked in construction. For the last 9 years he has served as pastor of a church in North Pole, Alaska.

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