The Greatest Nation. Period.

Reprinted without permission – but because the author is my own father and I doubt he’ll sue me  🙂  But seriously, I had grand plans to write a tribute to all my honored Vets, and to give my thanks yesterday, but I chose to spend the family time I was given (via these Vets) doing family things because they afforded me the chance to do them.  Some paid with their lives, some forever will bare the scars, but all I am eternally grateful to.

I am proud to say my father gave this speech yesterday in honor of our soldiers and vets.  He was called upon to give the main speech (only speech) at the Community Memorial Day Service in Pleasant Lake.  It was outdoors, on the lawn of the school near a monument honoring the veterans of the wars.  The High School Band played, minister prayed, there was a singer in Civil War uniform who played the banjo and sang “When Johnny comes Marching Home.”  The American Legion Honor Guard fired a 21 gun salute and taps were played to end the service.  It was nice. Dad gave this following speech instead of the State Rep who was to come, but couldn’t.  I personally think he was the first choice all along  🙂  YOU decide!


Just over a week ago I visited the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Eastern Illinois where my Dad, a WW2 Veteran, and my Brother-in-Law, a Korea Veteran are buried.  It is a beautiful place, a place where it is hard not to let the emotions well up as you drive slowly through the fields of crosses and view the many monuments honoring our veterans.  It is a place for remembering.  Memorial day is a day for remembering.  It is right for us to remember our veterans; it is also right for us to remember all those in our community who have gone before us – this is a time to remember.

Not everyone faces their memories willingly.  A teenage girl was overheard saying, “Sometimes I wish that I had no memories, so I could forget what mistakes I have made forget the things I never wanted to see or hear. I wish I could just forget the past and move on to the future. But the memories keep flooding back.”  I confess to you that as I stood by my Dad’s grave I had memories of him; some were wonderful and great – and others were painful recollections of mistakes I made and mistakes he made.  While some memories may be painful; there is no way to honor the dead if we turn our backs on remembering.  Looking around that National Cemetery I caught myself whispering through my pride, “We are STILL the greatest nation!”

That silent whisper stuck with me, as I left the cemetery, and continued to stick with me in the days that followed.  You see, I’m a pastor, and pastor’s tend to play with words.  We listen to words carefully.  We use words with equal care.  Something about my statement bothered me.  Finally, I decided that the word STILL was bothering me, So I looked it up.

Still,  as a noun is a device for making illegal alcohol; that wasn’t bothering me.  It can also mean, not moving,   subdued,   or free of sound.  And that’s not what bothered me either.  Still can also mean,    “At the present time”,  or  “Up until now”.  That’s what bothered me!  When we say we are STILL the Greatest nation in the World we’re not talking about motion or the lack of it; we’re not talking about the lack of sound.  What we are trying to do is affirm once again our greatness as a nation.  But to use STILL also suggests that there is some question about that fact.  Use the word STILL and you are quantifying your statement; maybe even hedging your bets a little bit.  Maybe, in a way, to say this is STILL the greatest nation is to say there is some doubt in peoples minds about it.  Maybe even our own minds.

A Fox News poll taken just before the President announced the death of Osama bin Laden found that 84% of Americans think the United States is still the greatest nation in the world.  Those are good numbers.  But the poll also found that 64% of Americans think our country is weaker than it was 5 years ago; maybe those numbers changed somewhat after the announcement that bin Laden was found, but it’s still troubling.  The good news though is that a large majority, 79% would never leave this nation for any reason, even if leaving bettered their lives in some way, or made them richer.

And then I found an interesting, and at first glance unrelated article written by the former Heavy Weight Champion Muhammad Ali in 2009. In it he recalls when he was a kid and believed that one day he would become the champion.  He said, “I never thought of the possibility of failing!”  He continued, “When I proclaimed that I was the Greatest, I believed in myself.”  He then went on to deliver the point of his article – stating that what it takes to be great, what it takes to be the greatest, is belief; to believe it to be true.

Somehow I think that when we say, “The United States of America is STILL the Greatest nation in the world” we are in some subtle way expressing our doubt that we have the fortitude to face a challenging and difficult future.  A Nation with doubt in it’s heart will settle for second best every time.  If we say we are STILL the greatest enough times — at some point we won’t be the Greatest.

Am I splitting hairs? Am I fussing over words unnecessarily?  Is it just a matter of semantics?  Am I going too far with this?   Well, you have to remember – words define who we are, words define what we do, where we are going, and words define what we are committed to.  Like these words for example:

“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”  That is the Oath of Enlistment that my Dad took in the 1940’s, my brother-in-law took in the 1950’s, and I took in the 1960’s.

Nearly 5 million men and women took that oath of enlistment during WW1, more than one hundred thousand died for those words.  In WW2 just over 16 million men and women took that oath and almost a half a million died for those words.  In Korea it was almost 6 million enlisted and 35 thousand deaths.  For my war, Viet Nam, nearly 9 million enlisted and 50 thousand died.  In the Gulf War and the current War on Terror nearly five thousand have given their lives to that oath.  I can’t possibly imagine that those heros died with any doubt in their mind about the greatness of this Nation!  I am positive that the honored veterans who stand among us today use no words to qualify or quantify their belief in their country, or it’s strength and ability to overcome all difficulties.

And I think of all those who have gone before us – the ones who built this school; founded this community, established it’s churches, opened it’s businesses, farmed it’s lands and worked long and hard hours to make this community and this nation better than when they found it; I think of them and I’m more than sure that they too would not find it necessary to qualify or quantify their belief in their country.

So, humor me, bear with me, and please, please understand me.  We need no words but these.  The United States of America IS the GREATEST Nation on the face of this earth. [There was a long break for applause here!]  Those we honor and remember today made it so – and now it is our task to work and struggle and strive to continue what they have started.

It is entirely right and certainly our Spiritual work to remember those who have served and sacrificed for our freedom, and our prosperity.  Doing so honors their service and sacrifice. More times than we ever would have wished; our nation has been called upon to take up the cause of the Least, the Last, and the Lost.  And because of that we have on the one hand desired above all else to see the day when all wars cease – and on the other hand we have vowed to never abandon the cause of those who would be crushed by the oppressors of human dignity and freedom.  

As President John F Kennedy said, Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Until the day our Lord returns to claim this poor old embattled earth, we will honor, we will remember our Loved ones, our Neighbors, and our Veterans!  God has blessed them.  May God Bless You, and God Bless America!  

Rev. Richard L Pettys – (Vet of the Navy)


Treasure in the treasure box

One day Derek and I were wandering.  We ended up in a book store and they had a sale on very small pocket bibles.  I picked up one for each of us.  They were $5 each and a version we didn’t have at home.  I thought they’d be a nice purse/pocket version.  I did’nt stop to think about how SMALL the print would be and my eyes are WAY not cut out for that size print!

But I digress…

Drake was impressed with Derek’s bible.  It has a black leather cover and fine engravings covering it, the pages are edged in silver, and a detailed cross is etched in the center.  It’s a very nice bible.  Drake decided he wanted to have it for his own.  When Derek wanted to know what he wanted with it, and why he wanted it so much, Drake’s answer?  He wanted it for his super special wooden treasure box in his room he keeps all “treasures” in.

Ah yes.  Sweet boy – the word of God IS a special treasure.  You are so right!

Sometimes it takes a child to remind you of what’s right under your nose.  I may have to go pick up the one I can actually read the print of, and doesn’t have a beautiful cross on the front, but the words are just as beautiful inside.  Thanks buddy, for reminding your Momma what a beautiful gift and treasure we are given with the living and breathing words of God right here at our finger tips!

My best friend… BUT 70X7

I have a friend, but I call her my sister.  When I was 16, Unn came to America to stay with my family.  Over the course of the year she became as much my sister as any blood could make, maybe more.  I say more because I chose her, and sometimes you are born with family you’d choose not to be.  I claim to be one of three kids – because I am – and my Brother and I remain close to her to this day.  She was my maid of honor in my wedding, keeping her promise made as girlhood friends, traveling back here 3 times till this past summer our families met again post babies and all played together.  When she arrived, she opened the car door, sucked in a breath and we both ran, crying and sobbing.  It was a long, deep, hard hug.  Grudgingly we released only because there were more family to greet and introductions of our children to be made.  But time never erased our hearts knitting…

I have a friend.  Her name is Babs.  After Unn left I rarely let my heart stray far from me.  I had learned not to love deeply because we moved often as a child, and the eventual leaving would create a deep wound.  It hurt too much when Unn left. So I guarded my heart more conciously after.  But with Babs I made and exception. God led a wonderful smiley gal into my life and I am so much the better for it.  She is by far one of the only people in the world that can know me so completely that I only look at her and she seems to already know.  While words aren’t needed, we are too talkative to let that get in the way.  It was a God given friendship from day one, and I know that’s why it was so perfect.  But then she too left.

She left to become a missionary overseas.  One day, when she was supposed to be half a world away, one of the kids asked why Babs was coming over… I said she can’t just come over, but there she was coming up my walk.  She’d kept her homecoming a secret just so she could do THIS to me.  I ran out side and we both started screaming and crying and never let go. My poor husband rushed dripping from the shower wondering who was hurting his poor wife in the front yard!  Yes – we were that intense.

Why do I tell you these two stories?  Because I had an amazing dream.  I woke feeling alive as if I’d been asleep my whole life.  I had known all that was in the dream, but never FELT them as completely.  He gave me these two images and then said 70X7.  I sat up and my heart cried out.

God wants a relationship with us.  He wants the “best friend” experience with us each day – to be the first one we tell the news about whatever to, the one we run to with our tears, our complaints, our joys and our excitement.  He even sent his son to die – TO DIE in OUR PLACE – so we’d be made clean – so that Heaven was an option.  Jesus is our advocate.  He’s the one who will stand before the throne on Judgement day and put his arm around us and say, “Hey dad, it’s okay.  She’s with me”.  We all will stand before that throne, but the question is, will Jesus say, I got this one covered, I already paid her debt?

Jesus is the best friend every waking moment I chatter to.  My inner voice?  It often is just me talking to Jesus.  I rarely talk to myself.  What’s the point in that?  If I answer, then it’s just me spinning my wheels.  But talk to Him?  He can answer and guide me, even without my saying a word.  He can do that because when I have no words, I can just offer up my heart and the groanings when nothing else to utter.  He is the ultimate best friend – always there – always has time – always willing to go along for the ride – always up for the challenge.  He is like a best friend, only 70X7 – there is no describing the difference …and my mind can not even wrap itself around it.

So on the day I enter heaven, I pray long after my work here is done and I am old and VERY wrinkled, I will look into his eyes and start to run and cry.  It will be a sorta sob that takes up your whole being because you’ve missed your best friend’s hug so perfectly surrounding you as only can be done in person.  Just like I have emails and the occasional phone call to my girlfriends, it’s the live version that seals my heart’s longings.  I can not imagine how perfect that embrace will be.

I am excited to know that while my girlfriends are close and far away at different times of my earthly life, Jesus is with me continually… but one day we will all be together – perfectly, and in person.

On waves of rolling thunder

Today was perfect.  It was perfect not in a storybook fashion, but in the kind of way where your heart replays it over and over and little things that seemed so almost forgettable begin to stand out in ways you’d never think they would.

For instance, we came home from church and ate a small lunch, changed, and headed off to the zoo.  It was a “free” day because we were still working off of our last year’s pass purchased in July.  (Note – if you buy it mid summer, you can stretch and get 2 years of zoo time out of ONE membership purchase – for those thrifty friends out there)  Anyway, I digress.

On the way to the zoo, Lindsey wanted to know who’s idea it was, Dad’s or mine, to go to the zoo.  She then thanked me for the idea personally.  Drake chimed in his thanks for a family day and Alli said she thought we had been needing one.  I cant tell you how blessed I am to not only have kids who are almost 8, 11, and 12 who not only WANT family outings, they THANK us unprompted for them.

As we walked into the zoo, Lindsey – my 12 year old, slipped her hand into mine and silently pulled me close.  At the time I didn’t think too much of it, but as we walked, and she didnt pull away or run ahead for anything, it began to warm my heart.  I looked down at the top of her golden red head and knew this moment was a keeper.

Drake was a keeper of another sort – the one who held the map …and had us nearly running to catch up.  Alli was increasingly frustrated.  She wanted to take time to see things and not rush.  So i lagged behind and let her look and not feel alone.  Those moments were precious.

There were awesome chances to see things we never see – and the kids took note.  They decided it was because it was a Sunday and we really were gifted with good animal time.  They were active, it wasn’t hot, and they got to see majestic things like the lions walking around and holding their heads up high.  Alli fed a giraffe for the first time, and we saw the orangoutangs actually looking happy and active!

But the zoo day was just the tip of the iceberg in family time.  I was bushed.  I couldnt move a muscle once i got home.  Every part of my being was in pain, so i lay on the swing outside and tried to chill out.  Derek, after walking the entire zoo – took drake not once, not twice, but three times over to the school – across the subdivision, to practice his bike riding.  Derek taught him the confidence TODAY that he needed to fly!  So we took the last walk over of the night about 8pm so he could show it off to mom.

At one point he lay his bike down in the middle of the parking lot and came running into my arms.  I asked what was up – and he said he was so happy to be showing me his new biking skills.  I gave him a spinning around hug and told him I was so very proud of him.  How much longer will he want to run into my arms and amaze me?  It did my heart so much good, my soul was alive!

Beating the storm home we buttoned down the hatches, got bikes put away, and got ready for bed, storm style.  Curtains are open, and windows cracked.  We are teaching the kids to love the beauty of the power of God vs be scared of the storms.  They love watching the lightning and hearing the thunder.  They are learning…

So as our children drift off to sleep, on the waves of rolling thunder, the song in my heart is “How Great Thou Art”.

So much of me – and the upcoming month feels like a brewing storm – I can hear the rolling thunder, but I also see how Great and Mighty God is.  It is amazing and wonderful to be in the front row for such a personal show of just how strong and capable God is, in all things.

May you be blessed…


Here is one of my personal favorite versions of the song – with Vince Gill and Carrie Underwood…

The Embrace

Lindsey, my 12 year old, for as long as she’s been in this world she’s been a child who loved to be loved ON.  She gains strength from having someone’s arms wrapped around her so she can just melt.  There have been times she will come to Derek or I and literally take our arms, open them wide, back herself into them, and wrap them back around her like a blanket.  She will audibly sigh and then melt.  You can feel the stress slide off and her shoulders become loose and her back relax from it’s rigid stance.

I got to thinking about this the other day, as I lay stressed out and sleepless.  I knew God had all this stuff swirling around me under control.  I knew it with every ounce of my heart.  I actually wasn’t even worried about it.  But knowing God is in control and has it covered, and actually getting your heart to let go of it are two entirely different birds.  I felt tense so I tossed and turned.  I lay still and prayed.  I asked God to surround me.  I asked for His arms to envelope me because I just had nuthin to give anymore.  Nuthin at all.

Slowly, like a figure coming forward in the fog, an image of Lindsey in the embrace of her father, his warm grin softly playing on his face, and the beauty of her contentment began to become clear as a photograph.   I craved that embrace.  I wanted that.  I wanted that with my Heavenly father.

Jesus would call out to his Father with the word “Abba” – which translates to mean something like our word “Daddy”.  And that’s what I wanted right then.  I wanted my Abba Daddy to wrap me in his arms and tell me it was all going to be okay.  That He had it covered.  That all I had to do was be at rest in His arms and He’d walk through it all with me, or carry me if need be.  But I was so not going to face it alone.

I let my tears flow and my worries leak out.  As I did so a song played across my heart and I heard them anew.  It rang out in my heart, soul, and mind.  I knew not only was God speaking to me, I was being held up by others praying for me.  It truly IS well with my soul…

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Horatio Spafford

“So Fast You’ll Freak”

I believe it’s the sub shop “Jimmie Johns” that has a jingle of “So fast you’ll freak”.  I always loved that.  It was brought to mind yesterday as I sat with my head spinning like a top and overwhelmed (this time in a good way) with the changes taking place.

I put out a hedging note on the Caring Bridge site I set up at the request of a couple friends ( ) and actually listed the huge concern Derek and I had about securing a new Queen bed in time for my recovery.  There was no way to recover in the 12 year old water bed we had.  While it is the waveless and baffled version – and quite firm – it was still a water bed and it was NEVER gonna work.  Once in, it woulda been for life!

So I (very uncomfortably) admitted we had a need.  I had been bombarded with requests of how people could help – but I still had no clue what to say.  I have no idea how this will all pan out for a couple more weeks, then it is still going to be a wait and see game.  Who knows what will really go down.  Everyone heals different.

This was friday late afternoon when it was posted.

Skip ahead to Monday early afternoon.  I got a message, then a call from a friend.  She said, ” The bed thing — done. Now what? Kids? Dinner? Shoulder to cry on? Chai latte? Whatever you need… we’re here for ya”  I sat there in shock.  What?  WHAT??  Had to be a misunderstanding.  Nothing moves that fast…

Nothing but GOD that is…

Networks were used, friends called, and strings got pulled.  Before I knew it, I was talking to a woman who not only was guaranteeing me a bed, she was making calls to make sure it was a new one due to my back issues.  A NEW ONE!  Then she went on to say she was setting me up with other things we needed, that we DIDNT ask for, nor even thought to need.  She knew we’d need them.  She’s been doing this sort of thing for a while, and knows what people tend to need at a time like this.

So as I sit here – I’ve decided that God needs his own theme or jingle for this walk of mine. Why should Jimmie Johns get the best lines?   No should a sub shop have all the fun.  I have decided it’s gonna be, “Blessings so BIG you’ll be blown away!”

God is moving… He’s doing what he does best – make good on His promises.

“You do not have because you do not ask God. “James 4:2b (NIV)

As I begin to wrap my mind around all that is to come, I need to remember this scripture, the promises he gives to us, and that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Sometimes when you look at the whole thing – the enormous picture of prep – surgery – and long recovery, it seems impossible. But NOTHING is impossible with God.  He’s got great plans – plans for hope – a future – and ways to bless us beyond our wildest dreams.  (Jer.29:11)

But God says He will finish what he starts.  Phil 1:6 says – “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,”
well that just gives me the boost I need to make it through not only another day, but another week and month and on and on.  He wont stop growing me and using me and doing works in and through me until it is finished.  I am positive I have much left to go – and I am FAR from completed!

So for now?  I will go clean another closet – and let him use my busy hands to clear away the clutter that is bogging down my physical sanity, and while doing that, let him clear away the cutter in my heart.  I am anxious to see what my uncluttered heart looks like in the end.  My closets are refreshing and so much easier to function with.  I can only imagine how using a de-cluttered heart must feel like  🙂

Blessings !


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