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REFLECTION FOR TODAY: America the Beautiful

August 2, 2016

This continues series of columns begun on August 1, 2016.

I have been invited, challenged, and encouraged to make some comment about the situation in our world, our country, and our national politics. I have thought and prayed about how best to respond.

I have decided to post through my blog some of the inspirational words that strike me as important. These will be wisdom, poems, prayers, scriptures, and hymns that I come to in my own life of devotion. Some will be clearly religious. Others will seem secular. Some are profound; others mundane. All I believe are worth our time. I suggest reading them, pausing to reflect upon them, and then pondering the meaning throughout the day.

These postings are not intended to prompt debate. They are offered to encourage thoughtful, prayerful reflection. Please keep in mind that I have been a Christian pastor for more than fifty years. You will find a distinct Christian influence in these offerings. That is not intended to exclude anyone. I believe that those of you from other faith groups will find wisdom here that can be translated into your own traditional framework.

This is a song that we all know. At least we know the first verse. Other verses Seem quite appropriate for here and now.

Be sure to listen to two renditions by Ray Charles at the end of this column.

I offer this song, not so much to stir patriotism, but to spur contemplation. Both responses may be appropriate.

“America the Beautiful” was written as a prayer poem by Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor at Wellesley College, during a visit to Colorado.  The music was composed by Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster.

  1. Oh, 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.


  1. Oh, beautiful for pilgrim feet,

Whose stern, impassioned stress

A thoroughfare of freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America!

God mend thine ev’ry flaw,

Confirm thy soul in self-control,

Thy liberty in law.


  1. Oh, beautiful for heroes proved

In liberating strife,

Who more than self their country loved,

And mercy more than life!

America! America!

May God thy gold refine,

Till all success be nobleness,

And ev’ry gain divine.


  1. Oh, beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam,

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea.

My favorite version of America the Beautiful is the rendition by Ray Charles. Here are two performances by him.

Here is one versions of America the Beautiful by Ray Charles from THE DICK CAVETT SHOW. September 18, 1972.

Nearly thirty years later, here is a version of America the Beautiful by Ray Charles at the World Series on October 28, 2001, about one month after 9/11.

May these words encourage us to reflect, ponder, and pray.

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