As we get ready to gather with friends and family today, let's remember to give thanks for all of those radicals who dared to stand up against a government that forced a certain form of religion on them. As they made their way over to this land and established their own communities and had the freedom to worship as they chose, they discovered true freedom. Down through the centuries, even when we made the wrong decisions in treatment of our fellow man, we have somehow managed to still be the beneficiaries of God's blessings on us.
Growing up in Virginia, The Home of The Presidents, I didn't have to look very far to see the signs of Divine Providence. I had the privilege of walking where Thomas Jefferson and George Washington had been surveyors. One of my favorite radicals was Patrick Henry, who some may not even know about. I had the honor to be able to visit his plantation on many occasions. His most famous words are ones that should still cling to our lips today. “Give me Liberty, or Give me Death”. He went on to be the governor of Virginia and may very well have been the catalyst for starting the Revolution. As I visited Monticello, Thomas Jefferson came alive (and his inventions are still around in more modern forms). This remarkable man who, along with his peers, had the wisdom to see all that this land could become.
I have walked many of Virginia's Civil War Battlefields and with mixed emotions thought of the freedoms that we still have due to the preservation of this Great Union. Men of Faith and Valor who willingly laid down their lives, for their home state and for their own property, but willingly sought for God's Will to ultimately be done. I think of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, who did not enjoy the institution of slavery, but fought for the land that they loved anyway. I was greatly encouraged when visiting Lexington and the home of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and found that he taught the Scriptures to slaves not only in his home but also at the local Presbyterian church. I had always been handed the view that everyone who fought for the South did so because they loved Slavery. This was not the case for every soldier in the South. Again, His Hand was in the war and even at a great price, this country was preserved and has persevered. Through it all, He has been there and we have been favored.
Now residing in Tennessee, I have had the privilege of visiting historical sites here and learning about those who pushed their way West. I think of the Cumberland Gap and the many who passed through that land in a dangerous time. Looking for land and freedom for themselves and others. I have passed through and been on the battlefields of Fort Donelson and Parker's Crossroads and learned about the Western Theater of the Civil War. I have learned that a man that was a brilliant general, but also a hate-filled racist could find forgiveness in the arms of the Almighty. After the Civil War, Nathan Bedford Forrest helped to found the KKK, but in his later years claimed the gift of redemption and fought for Civil Rights of those he once fought to destroy. My, how our country could use an even greater dose of this Healing and Forgiveness today. With a Benevolent God who offers forgiveness to all, this Good News is worth sharing and as a result more racial reconciliation could take place.
As we think of all of the wonderful benefits of living in this great country, I recall the days gone by and with wonder and appreciation, I thank God that He has allowed us the right to Worship Him or not. To seek His will or not. It is up to each one of us to believe in Him and His Unconditional Love for us or not. We throw a phrase around, especially around the Patriotic Holidays, that Freedom Is Never Free and that is rightly and well said. For it did cost Him, The Creator of the Universe, The One with the Right to want us to Love Him back. It cost Him EVERYTHING. As He sent His One and Only Son to die in our place with His death on the Cross so that we could live in Freedom. Freedom from the chains of sin, what we were all born into bondage to. I do not believe that anyone could argue rightly that He has not Shed His Grace on Us.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”