by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.
Today I learned about the penning of the hymn “America,” as many of us call it. The song was first performed in public on July 4, 1831.
I don’t remember ever knowing anything about its origin before now. And I’m asking myself why that is. It seems there are many things that I learn, know, am told, accept and even take for granted, that I never question or wonder about. Perhaps freedom is one of those precious commodities.
It was a twenty-four-year-old theological student by the name of Samuel Frances Smith who wrote the lyrics we know so well — although I suspect most of us only know the first stanza of the four he wrote. Samuel seemed to have a clear view of freedom as an ideal to be lived, cherished and celebrated. No doubt it was his love, respect and awe of freedom that inspired his words.
I loved learning that his inspiration for these lyrics resulted in his writing all four verses within half an hour — and he wrote them on a scrap of waste paper!
I think inspiration of the heart often works that way — it’s immediate, powerful and complete, exactly what is needed. I’ve long believed that the inspirations that come to us are straight from God — His angel messages. I know when I get an inspiration, I grab anything I can to write it down. I don’t want to miss or forget what may be my most important news of the day. So, I really relate to Samuel’s use of scrap paper. For me, it’s been a napkin, sales receipt or gum wrapper — anything with some white space on it.
It does seem remarkable that he wrote this beloved hymn in a manner of minutes. I’ve frequently believed if only I could spend some time in a beach house or mountain cabin, I could think more clearly about some situation — I could feel the inspiration I needed. Samuel Frances Smith illustrated that inspiration isn’t dependent on time, location or even having all the appropriate tools within our reach.
So maybe all we need to do to be inspired is to be free of our own limited sense of what’s needed. Perhaps it’s our misgivings and uncertainties that cause us to not see the solution that may be right in front of us.
It may be kind of like when a cloud appears to hide the sun. The sun is still there shining. I know I still get sunburned on cloudy days when I naively believe there is no sunshine. In fact, the sun is always shining — somewhere!
And God is always sending us the inspiration we need, my friends — the ideas, guidance, direction. Believing this fact — knowing it, expecting it, trusting it — may be all we need to do in order to feel God’s angel messages right now — right where we are — regardless of our circumstances and surroundings.
After reading all four verses written by Samuel F. Smith, I realized that this song is a tribute to God as the “author of liberty” as well as a prayer for His continued guidance. And the Author of liberty created us in His image and gave us dominion (Genesis, Chapter 1), making freedom not only our divine right but part of our spiritual nature and heritage. And this is the truth for all of God’s creation — each man and woman around the globe. So it’s a natural instinct for us all to desire and love freedom.
Perhaps you’ll be inspired and find hope and a new sense of freedom by reading (as I did for the first time) all four stanzas to “America.” May “freedom’s holy light” give inspiration to all your endeavors!
“My country,’ tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims’ pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!
My native country, thee,
land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
and ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song;
let mortal tongues awake;
let all that breathe partake;
let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.
Our fathers’ God, to thee,
author of liberty, to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright
with freedom’s holy light;
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.”
To hear “America” sang in its entirety, try this link: http://schooltube.com/video/11706/My-Country-Tis-of-thee—Music-video-from-AmericaTheBeautifulcom