…this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.
In the summer of 2004, America lost two landmark personalities, one in politics and the other in show business. One of our greatest presidents, Ronald Reagan, passed away after an epic battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The nation mourned for many days. On a somewhat lesser note (and this is not a play on words) we also lost Ray Charles. I was a fan!
After I first heard Charles sing America the Beautiful many years ago, I thought perhaps no other person could sing the song with such poignancy. Same for Georgia on My Mind. I attended a heavyweight title boxing match one night where I first heard Charles sing America the Beautiful. I must tell you I wept as the King of the Blues sang, “…for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain….God shed His grace on thee….and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.” Ray Charles had not seen this land since he was a little boy. He had his sight until he was 5 or 6, then his blindness overcame him. So when he sang about this nation, he was seeing long-past images. His treatment of the great song moved me so deeply, I suppose, because I have had the privilege of ministering in every one of our 50 states. I’ve been on Mount McKinley in Alaska to the Florida Keys and from San Diego to the farthest reaches of Maine. What a magnificently beautiful land this is! And it’s not just the geography to which I refer. The people are beautiful, every color, every conceivable kind of background, enjoying the precious and blessed liberties with which we are divinely blessed, paid for in patriots’ blood.
I have ministered now in sixty countries, but the United States stands alone in my heart. I wish I could watch and listen to Ray Charles again sing, “O beautiful for patriot’s dreams….thine alabaster cities gleam undimmed by human tears.” Yes, I would probably weep once again.
Prayer: O God, we take this incredible nation of the United States for granted, I fear, until we see through our own eyes other lands and people far less blessed. Thank You for every inch of our country and for every law-abiding, America-loving person in it. And thank You for blessing us, from sea to shining sea. Amen.