All Nations Under God

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Matthew 35:32

On October 11, 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote the original Pledge of Allegiance. Bellamy was a Christian Socialist who spoke in favor of political, social, and economic equality for all. His pledge was published in a popular family magazine at the time called "The Youth’s Companion." To commemorate Columbus Day that year, Bellamy, who was a member of the National Education Association, planned a program for public school children that included a flag raising ceremony and his salute to the flag. It went like this:

At a signal from the Principal the pupils, in ordered ranks, hands to the side, face the Flag. Another signal is given; every pupil gives the flag the military salute -- right hand lifted, palm downward, to a line with the forehead and close to it. Standing thus, all repeat together, slowly, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands; one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” At the words, “to my Flag,” the right hand is extended gracefully, palm upward, toward the Flag, and remains in this gesture till the end of the affirmation; whereupon all hands immediately drop to the side.
– From The Youth’s Companion, 65 (1892): 446–447.

The words and the Bellamy salute remained untouched until June 14 (Flag Day), 1923 and 1924. At the National Flag Conference in those years, the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution were instrumental in amending the pledge so it reflected allegiance to only the flag of the Untied States of America.

June 14, 1923

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

June 14, 1924

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Bellamy disliked these changes (he intended for his pledge to apply to any nation’s flag), but his protests went ignored. By this time, he had been pressured to leave the Baptist ministry because of the congregation's resistance to his socialist sermons.

More than a decade after Bellamy’s death, President Franklin Roosevelt replaced the Bellamy salute, hand outstretched toward the flag, with the gesture of putting the right hand over the heart. This was to avoid confusion since the Bellamy salute was similar to the Nazi salute. On June 22, 1942, Congress declared the Pledge of Allegiance as the official national pledge and established rules for honoring the flag.

Six years later, Louis Bowman, a chaplain for the Illinois Sons of the American Revolution, began adding the words “under God” to the pledge, borrowing them from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. This change was strongly supported by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Knights of Columbus, along with other prominent individuals and organizations. The Knights of Columbus tried repeatedly to get Congress to officially adopt the words, but it was unsuccessful until 1954 when President Dwight Eisenhower listened to a sermon offered by George MacPherson Docherty, a Scottish Presbyterian minister. Docherty’s sermon centered on the merits of adding the words “under God” to the pledge. As President Eisenhower and his family sat in a pew once occupied by Abraham Lincoln, Docherty’s words touched the President’s heart. The very next day, he had Congress working to amend the words, and on June 14, 1954, the final change was made:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag
of the United States of America
and to the Republic for which it stands:
one Nation under God, indivisible,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Afterward, Eisenhower wrote: These words [“under God”] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded.

It was no accident that God found His way into our national pledge. John 3:16 says: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” For God so loved the WORLD, not just our country, but every nation on Earth. God is in America, Iran, North Korea, Israel, and everywhere. It may not be obvious to us, but one day He will free the oppressed and gather all nations unto Him.

As we celebrate Independence Day this week, let’s pray for those all around the world who are hoping and fighting for their freedom.

Heavenly Father, we know that You are in all things. We pray for our brothers and sisters around the world who are not free to live life as they choose. Make yourself known to them, Lord, and in your time, free all nations and bring us together in Peace and Love.

On Wings Toward God

"When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze because I am the Lord, your God."—Isaiah 43, 2:3

This is a difficult story to write, yet one that needs to be told.

There is one night sound I will always remember, and I pray that God will spare me from ever hearing it again. Unlike the soothing sound of the night trains, it was the most horrifying sound I have ever heard, but just as God is in all things, He was in that sound, and He wanted me to hear it.

It was a warm, July night, almost eleven o'clock, and I had just gone to bed. The bedroom window was open, and I noticed that the night was unusually quiet. There was only the occasional sound of a small plane flying overhead. Our local airport is nearby and a hub for small aircraft, so hearing the sound of planes at night was not unusual.

Every July, the Experimental Aircraft Association hosts an air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The EAA Fly-In attracts aircraft and aviation hobbyists from around the world. It features everything from sophisticated military aircraft to tiny home-built planes. Although our local airport is more than two hundred miles from Oshkosh, it experiences increased activity during this event as planes land to refuel, or pilots stop to rest and have a bite to eat.

The sound came on a Sunday night during the first weekend of the Fly-in. As I lay in bed, I heard a prop plane taxiing on the runway. The gravelly roar of the engine helped me to decide that it was an old military aircraft. These are popular planes for hobbyists. Many fly in and out of our airport, and I had learned to identify their sounds. Soon, I would learn that I was right The plane was a restored World War II Texan on its way back from Oshkosh. The occupants, a father and his adult son had stopped to refuel and to eat a late dinner at a restaurant near the airport. As I heard the plane, they were beginning the last leg of their journey home to Indiana. As it happened, God had another plan; they never made it home.

I heard the plane accelerate on the runway. The engine growled as it took off, but then something went terribly wrong. I was acutely aware that the sounds were not right. The engine sputtered like a lawnmower running out of gas. Then there was silence. For a few endless seconds nothing, then the blunt smack of metal against concrete. As I lay in my bed frozen with disbelief God spoke to my heart. His voice was calm, but urgent. "Pray for their souls.” I prayed then that the souls of those on board would be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. It was not my prayer, but a prayer that the Holy Spirit prayed through me.

The night was still. I heard nothing for what seemed like forever, and I wondered if I had really heard a plane crash. I'd almost convinced myself that I'd imagined it. But then sirens wailed in the darkness. Soon they were everywhere rushing toward the scene: police cars, ambulances, fire trucks. I got out of bed and turned on the local television station where the news desk was reporting that a plane had crashed into a two-story apartment building near the southeast runway. The plane and the building were on fire, and it wasn't clear how many lives were in danger, or lost.
It was strange, but in the middle of hearing about the disaster I felt that the need for prayer was gone. I was shaken by what happened, but I sensed that nothing more could be done. As night turned to day and the story unfolded, I discovered why.

Within seconds after the plane crashed into the building, it was fully engulfed in flames. Two lives were lost, those of the father and his son. At the instant I prayed, just after I'd heard that terrible sound, their souls were making the journey from life here on Earth into eternal life with God. The plane crashed into the upper landing of the north stairwell of the building, completely destroying it. Miraculously, nobody was in or near the stairwell when it happened. Two upper apartments were destroyed. Again, miraculously no one was at home. The other occupants of the building got out safely. Although there was fire, the threat to life was no longer there as I'd watched the event unfold on television.

The local newspaper ran a poignant story about the father and son and the family they left behind. As I read it, I felt connected with them. I have no idea what their religious beliefs were, or if the men even knew the Lord, but in the last seconds of their lives I know that God was with them as He told me to pray for their souls.

I learned a lot that night about God being in all things. When bad things happen, we find ourselves questioning whether God is with us at all. We often ask why He allows such suffering. When we ask, we might come away disappointed that we haven't received from Him some sort of logical explanation. I don't know why bad things happen, but I do know that on that hot July night God was with the men on that plane; and I know that it was His will that they be prayed for. That alone is enough to convince me that God is with us now, always, and especially when we leave this earth and enter into His loving presence.

Kind Heavenly Father: Help us through the bad times, always lift us toward you on wings of eagles so that we might be closer to your love.

True Love

I often think of the heavens your hands have made
and of the moon and stars you put in place
—Psalm 8:3

I remember the first time I really noticed the moon. It was a cool, September evening, and I was eleven. Mom was cooking supper, and Dad was in his basement workshop, puttering. Time had gotten away from us, and except for the kitchen, the house was dark. “Go, put on some lights,” Mom said as she stirred a can of Campbell’s tomato soup into a frying pan filled with sizzling hamburger.

The front of our house faced the western shore of Lake Michigan, and as I walked through the dark rooms, I caught a glimpse of the harvest moon rising over the lake. It created a sparkling path across the water unlike anything I had ever seen. I gasped. “Mom! Dad! You gotta come see this!” The urgency in my voice made my parents rush to the room. I’m sure they thought that something was terribly wrong. “What?” Mom asked in a where’s-the-fire sort of way. What? How could she possibly not see? “The moon!” I answered in an exasperated tone. “What about it?” Dad wondered. “It’s beautiful!” I replied, pointing out the window. How could he not know? Mom and Dad exchanged a she’s-heading-for-puberty look and went back to their work. I felt hurt, and even a bit angry, that they couldn’t feel what was in my heart. There was something about that harvest moon that found a place deep in my soul. At the risk of sounding corny, it was almost like being in love.
For my twelfth birthday, I asked for and got a telescope. My birthday fell on the last night in February, a typical cold winter night in Wisconsin, but I bundled up and took my newly assembled telescope outside to look at the sky. For as long as I could stand the cold, I squinted through the telescope’s eyepiece marveling at the moon’s brightness, wondering what treasures lay on its surface. (These were the pre-moonwalk days when people liked to say, “The moon is made from green cheese.” If you’re curious about why, click here.) For the next several months, I spent many clear nights outside looking at the moon, studying its shadows and craters. Often, I got that loving feeling in my heart. I didn’t understand it, but I liked the sense of peace and wellbeing that came over me when I gazed through the telescope at the heavens. Then, just after sixth grade, I put my telescope away and headed into my teen years. I chose to follow the “in crowd” instead of the nerdy kids who joined the Astronomy Club. (My apologies to any Astronomy Club members out there, but that’s how I felt at the time.)

I rediscovered the night sky when I was sixteen. By then, I played the piccolo in my high school marching band. It was July, and we were on a summer band trip to Cheyenne, Wyoming for Frontier Days. Home was a school gymnasium on the edge of town. It was sweltering hot in the gym on our first night there, so some of us hauled our sleeping bags outside. We walked away from the brightly lit gymnasium entrance and alongside the building to the back of the school where there was a wide-open stretch of grass. I remember walking into the darkness and seeing the vast Wyoming sky overflowing with glimmering stars. There was no moon that night, just a sea of stars that had no beginning and no end. I got that feeling in my soul again, that same rush I had the first time I noticed the harvest moon. Then, about twenty-feet away, I saw, silhouetted, of one of our chaperones. He stood silently, unmoving, hands on his hips, looking upward. It was my dad. He finally got it. The stars that night caused that loving feeling to pour into his heart the way the moonlight filled mine when I was eleven. If he heard us coming, Dad didn’t turn around. We all stood there, without saying a word, in awe of the big, starlit sky.

Now, many years later, I have a better understanding of the feeling I get when I look at the night sky. It’s all about God. The psalmist David said it best in Psalm 8:3-4. “I often think of the heavens your hands have made, and of the moon and stars you put in place. Then I ask, ‘Why do you care about us humans?’” That feeling – the one I got when I was eleven and sixteen, the one I still get whenever I look at moon and the stars – is a deep sense of God’s love for me. It’s like when someone makes you a present. A handmade gift is more special than one you buy from a store; it touches a place deep in your heart. God made the moon and stars as a gift for us humans. How special is that? Like David, I wonder why God cares so much for us that He would give us such an awesome gift.

In Job 25:5-6, Bildad the Shuhite says, “Even the moon isn’t bright and the stars aren’t pure in God’s eyes. So, how about human beings? They are like maggots. How about mere people? They are like worms.” Okay, so maybe Bildad was being a tad dramatic, but he was pointing out that God is greater than His gift of the starry night sky. God is more perfect than anything else, and yet He loves us. Compared to Him, we are nothing. Still, He loves us and gives us wonderful handmade gifts like a harvest moon and a star-filled sky.

Tonight, go outside and look upward toward heaven. Put aside everything else, and study the stars. What lies beyond them is an even greater gift that we can’t begin to imagine. The moon and the stars are only the beginning. God’s love for us extends beyond them and all the way to forever. If that isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is.

Dear God, Who am I that you care so much for me? Sometimes, I feel like nothing. Then I look at the moon and the stars, and I remember that you love me, now and forever. Thank you, God, for your eternal, true love.

Happy Second First Birthday!

He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by the power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning.
– Titus 3:5 (CEV)

I was a guest yesterday at the first birthday party for my cousin’s little boy, Andrew. In May, Madelyn, another cousin’s daughter, turned one. In fact, there have been eight first-birthday parties in my extended family in almost as many years. My cousin Tom and his wife had their first child a few weeks ago, and we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of two more babies. This means three more first birthdays to celebrate next year. Our family has been richly blessed with healthy, happy children.

There’s something special about a first-birthday party. The guest of honor is always clueless on what’s going on, yet curious about it all. Mixed in, there’s a little bit of experience gleaned from twelve months here on earth.

Yesterday, Andrew was set in his highchair and everyone gathered around to sing “Happy Birthday.” He looked at all the people looking at him, and I thought he might cry, but the sight of Mommy walking toward him with a colorful birthday cake stopped the impending tears. Andrew was interested. So was Madelyn. She rested in her mother’s arms with a déjà vu look on her face. She’s a veteran first-birthday survivor, after all. Andrew grinned and giggled as his big sister, two-year-old Marissa, helped him blow out the candle. Of course, the high point for him was eating his cake. Food is something Andrew understands. Experience has taught him to grab whatever is set before him with his chubby, little hands and put it into his mouth; and that’s exactly what he did. It was all good.

When I think of birthdays, I think of God’s wonderful gift of eternal life. In John 10:10, Jesus says that He came so that we might live life more abundantly. What exactly does that mean? It means that everyone gets a chance at second first birthday. Through Jesus Christ, God gives all of us the opportunity to be born again.

A person who is not a Christian might approach the born again idea as clueless as Andrew was about his first birthday party. Often, there is the element of curiosity. What is this born again thing all about? There may very well be apprehension. A bit of experience might even be mixed in if the person has friends or family members who are born again. It isn’t until the person realizes that something great is about to happen (think of the cake!) that he or she has a light-bulb moment. There is an instant understanding that a second first birthday is a wonderful thing.

So, where does the light-bulb moment come from? The answer lies in Matthew 18:30. That’s where Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Life for little children, like Andrew, is all about faith and trust, not experience. Andrew feels unsure about most things until Mommy shows up. She is at the center of his life. He knows that he can trust her completely to always give him her best. When Andrew puts his faith in her, he believes that life will be good forever.

If we ponder Matthew 18:30, the concept of being born again – having a second first birthday – is simple. It’s all about perspective. God wants us to look at life the way Andrew does. He wants us to put all of our faith and trust in the One who always gives us His best. Instead of believing by logic, God wants us to believe by faith.

Jesus Christ is the best gift God has ever given His children. Through simple child-like faith and trust, by believing in Jesus we can put our old lives behind us and be born into a new life. Jesus died for our sins so that we can be forgiven. We can start over and live an abundant Christian life that is pleasing to God, and better yet an eternal life!

If you haven’t already prayed this prayer, pray it now. If you have, then share it with a friend who hasn’t yet celebrated a second first birthday.

"God, I know that I have sinned against you and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness—the gift of eternal life. Amen."

Happy birthday to all who prayed. Welcome to a new life filled with forgiveness, abundance, and love. Bring on the cake! It’s all good.


I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
Click on the picture.
I am the author of these books, but I have not been compensated for mentioning them on this blog or linking them to the seller's website. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

©text on this blog copyrighted 2012 by Jean Fischer unless otherwise credited. You may link to the blog, but please don't reprint the text without my permission.

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