Friday, July 16, 2010

Patriotism and Promise

My prelude to America’s birthday was a thrilling experience. Before the commemorative season fades into seasonable oblivion, I share a day to remember.

Steve and Elaine Anderson run a unique bed and breakfast perched on a high elevation overlooking Sidney, NY. From that lofty ridge, one can see for miles as “purple mountains majesty” seemingly stand guard over Sidney in the valley below.

Their upscale establishment is called the Keepers of the Flag Bed & Breakfast, and it is descriptive of their high patriotic calling in life. They tend an enormous 30’ x 60’ American flag that majestically flutters on a 130-foot steel flagpole near their lodge. Travelers on I-88 winding through the valley at the base of the ridge view an inescapable vision of the gigantic flag far above. I first saw it many years ago traveling home from meetings.

Steve planned a huge patriotic rally for July 3rd with a number of speakers. It was called a Rally for America with four hours of music, speeches and support for America. There would be extensive area advertising along with specially imprinted t-shirts, hats and delicious food service.

Why would anyone be so deeply involved in flag flying and organizing such a patriotic rally? In an article for the local paper, the Tri-Town News for June 24th, Steve wrote, “As the war in Viet Nam was raging in the sixties it would eventually claim the lives of seven young men I knew who went to school here in Sidney. I volunteered for service in the United States Army and again volunteered to serve in the war that took their lives. I was one of the lucky ones to come home standing on my own two feet.”

Steve has a growing concern over the direction America was taking away from our Constitutional anchorage and so he asked me, with my prophetic and scriptural insight, to be the principle speaker. I gave the invocation and spoke twice, first outlining the overreaching issues of our national peril and then closing with a spiritual impact including the Gospel of Christ. Speaking under the enormous flag and gazing our over gorgeous landscape, I was moved nearly to tears as I contemplated the blessing of God in our American exceptionalism.

As I gave my concluding message around 2:00 PM in blazing sun under a cloudless sky, a little yellow Piper J-3 circled the flag only a couple hundred feet above.

“Look at that,” I alerted the audience. “It’s the same kind of plane flown by brave men behind enemy lines for military intelligence in World War II! It’s the same little plane that made hundreds of Army Air Corps practice landings and take offs from our farm fields near Baldwinsville, NY in the ’40s!”

Steve, who had sat for four straight hours in full military uniform, said behind me, “He’s taking pictures.” I would like to have one. I hope they turn out well.

It was an astounding finale of a special day. The little Piper was the same model I soloed in from Budd Lake Airport in New Jersey in 1952. It brought a flashback of that memorable day when my instructor, Mr. Bartholomew, crawled out of the front seat and turned the controls over to me for my first solo flight.

As I flew off, made the four turns and throttled back for that crucial landing, it seemed I could hear him shouting instructions, the indelible recall of those hours when he trained me. As I glanced earthward on the downwind leg, I saw what I thought was a strange sight considering my instructor was a secular and sometimes foul-mouthed man—a sight I asked him about later. Finally, with the stick all the way back and flying speed spent, the little craft settled into a fine three-point landing.

After the handshakes and the official signing of my logbook, I asked the instructor what he was doing while I became a solo pilot. “Praying!” was his simple answer.

Since that 1952 highlight and moments such as speaking under the flag with the plane flying overhead, I am reminded that Christ sends his people out on solo ventures with nothing but their spiritual training and a Lordly promise. “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and “Lo, I am with you even to the end of the age” (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20).

The promise of His unseen presence and the guidelines of His living Word will see us through perilous times of moral decline and political uncertainty. Faithful missionary David Livingston, when asked how he endured loneliness, hunger, sickness and dangerous savages, referred to Matt. 28:20 and Christ’s irrevocable promise reaching until the end of the age. “It is the word of a gentleman of the most strict and sacred honor…”

Dave Virkler

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