By Amy Lowell – 1874-1925
All night our room was outer-walled with rain.
Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof,
And rang like little disks of metal.
Ping!—Ping!—and there was not a pin-point of silence between
The rain rattled and clashed,
And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered.
But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-colored
With your brightness,
And the words you whispered to me
Sprang up and flamed—orange torches against the rain.
Torches against the wall of cool, silver rain!
Summer Morn in New Hampshire
By Claude McKay – 1889-1948
All yesterday it poured, and all night long
I could not sleep; the rain unceasing beat
Upon the shingled roof like a weird song,
Upon the grass like running children’s feet.
And down the mountains by the dark cloud kissed,
Like a strange shape in filmy veiling dressed,
Slid slowly, silently, the wraith-like mist,
And nestled soft against the earth’s wet breast.
But lo, there was a miracle at dawn!
The still air stirred at touch of the faint breeze,
The sun a sheet of gold bequeathed the lawn,
The songsters twittered in the rustling trees.
And all things were transfigured in the day,
But me whom radiant beauty could not move;
For you, more wonderful, were far away,
And I was blind with hunger for your love.
Born in 1874, Amy Lowell was deeply interested in and influenced by the Imagist movement and she received the Pulitzer Prize for her collection What’s O’Clock.
Claude McKay, who was born in Jamaica in 1889, wrote about social and political concerns from his perspective as a black man in the United States, as well as a variety of subjects ranging from his Jamaican homeland to romantic love.
Oh beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain
These are words from “America the Beautiful” written by Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the words as a poem originally entitled “Pikes Peak.” It was first published in the Fourth of July 1895 edition of the church periodical, The Congregationalist. It was at that time that the poem was first entitled “America.”
Two hundred forty-six years ago, the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, adopted the Declaration of Independence declaring the independence of the thirteen American colonies from Great Britain. With the Declaration, these new states took a collective first step in forming the United States of America. The declaration was signed by fifty-six of America’s Founding Fathers, congressional representatives from New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The Declaration began with these now-famous words:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…
Our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” have come under siege from a far-right, conservative minority led by former president Donald Trump, Senator Mitch McConnell, and Representative Kevin McCarthy along with governors in red states such as Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Brian Kemp of Georgia, among others. These men and many who follow them are doing their best to take away the rights of women, LGBTQ+ Americans, and voters around the nation. They are being supported by a conservative majority on the Supreme Court (Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Roberts). SCOTUS has been emboldened by their majority to begin curbing the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights themselves: freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly. They are eroding the rights of due process to push their own warped agenda. Many of these politicians claim to be doing the will of the Founding Fathers, yet they ignore our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
I asked a friend last week if she had any plans for the Fourth of July, and she said, “I don’t feel like celebrating this country right now.” She has a point. A small number of religious zealots don’t believe in religious freedom, but they believe they can cram their fanaticism down the throats of all Americans. Teachers in Florida aren’t allowed to say gay in the classroom (an oversimplification of the “Don’t Say Gay Law” but as the law came into effect a few days ago, that’s exactly what is happening). Furthermore, anytime conservatives don’t like a news story, they yell, “FAKE NEWS!” and try to suppress the truth, or they just spread their own lies distorting the truth to fit their political agenda. They claim that an insurrectionist attack on the US Capitol was a peaceful assembly while throwing tear gas on people peacefully protesting injustices around the country. The Marshal of the Supreme Court just called for a prohibition on protests in Maryland where many of the Supreme Court justices live. Yet, at the same time, they fight against even the most sensible gun laws in a misguided interpretation of the Second Amendment.
I will remember the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, but I won’t be celebrating this country today. We are moving far away from the ideals of the Founding Fathers and moving closer to a time of fear and hatred. I hope that over the next four years leading up to the semiquincentennial (also called Sestercentennial or Quarter Millennial, a.k.a. the 250th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence) that we can get this country back on the right track and secure our unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
—1 Thessalonians 5:11
American journalist, author, and photographer Jon Katz wrote, “I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff.”
Each one of us longs to be connected. We can achieve that through our friends. The theme of friendship weaves throughout the Bible, with Jesus promising to be our eternal friend because He is with us always. Jesus is there to be our friend and to listen to our needs. Some Christians may hesitate to call Jesus a friend, but Jesus has never been hesitant about considering us His friend. It matters to Him that we embrace this. He invites us to understand our relationship in terms of friendship. Jesus gives all who trust Him the privilege of being His friends. In John 15:14–15, Jesus says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Growing up, one of my favorite hymns was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The first verse says:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Similarly, I love the song “The Lily of the Valley.” Its first verse says:
I have found a friend in Jesus-
He’s ev’rything to me,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul;
The Lily of the Valley- in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole.
In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay,
He tells me ev’ry care on Him to roll;
He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the greatest of ten thousand to my soul.
How wonderful it is that we have a true friend in Jesus! I hope most of us are fortunate to also have true friends in our lives here on earth. I have had a few great friends in my life. Some I speak to almost every day. Others I speak to a few times a week. Then there are those I speak to less frequently, but I know that I can count on them when I need them the most. There are also those who are no longer with us, but I know that they are with my heavenly friend, Jesus.
Not only does the Bible describe how Jesus is our friend, but it also gives us the practical wisdom we need to cultivate friendships well. From the moment God created man, He knew man should not be alone. Throughout the creation of the universe, God said that everything was “good.” But then once he created Adam, he doesn’t say “it was good.” Instead, He says, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” God realized that Adam was not yet complete; he needed a community. Humanity’s first problem was social isolation. Even today, in a world filled with society, Proverbs 18:1 warns that “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.”
Proverbs gives us wisdom for navigating the complexities of our relationships. And it doesn’t just address relationships in general, but also friendships. For example, it teaches us what to look for in finding true friends. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Likewise, Proverbs 22:24-25 warns us, “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul.” God shows us why loyalty is so important for cultivating friendship. First Peter 4:8-10 says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Invariably, we meet people who we think are friends, but who are really there merely to use and manipulate us. They are not true friends, but sometimes, this is hard to spot before it’s too late. We have something that others want, so they offer their friendship until they get the whatever it is that they want, then, if we are lucky, they leave and we learn a lesson. Proverbs 19:6 tells us, “Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.” False and transactional friendships can make finding true friends difficult, but if we follow God’s advice, we can find those true friendships. But the Bible shows us that real friendship is more of an agreement than an obligation. Proverbs 18:24 teaches us that “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 27:10 commands us, “Do not forsake your friend.” Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Our greatest joy is found in our fellowship with God and one another. The theologian Jonathan Edwards said that friendship is “the highest happiness of moral agents.” According to the Bible, our chief happiness is in fellowship with God and all who trust Him. God’s guidance gives us everything we need to recover a greater vision of true friendship. It shows us even our feeblest efforts at forging friendships echo a more glorious reality—every friendship is a small and imperfect echo of God, who made us in His image to enjoy friendship forever. Friendship didn’t come from us; it came from God. And he gives us everything we need—through His word and his Spirit—to cultivate it well.
Be ever thankful for your true friends. A true friend will be there when you need them, and likewise, you will be there when they need you. Nothing on this earth is more important than our friendships. If you are lucky enough to have a romantic partner, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, in this life, I hope that they are your best friend. There is no greater love than that of friendship.
Sometimes, the sexiest thing is just a hint of skin. How many of us have swooned when a guy raised his arm or scratched his belly showing that little glimpse of skin? Most guys have that little trail that leads down to the hidden treasure below.
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” is one of the many sayings by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack. Last night was a night in which I went to bed early. I was not feeling well. I’d had a migraine all day and something I ate apparently didn’t agree with me and was giving me stomach cramps. So, I went to bed early, and I knew Isabella would have me up before the crack of dawn today. I am usually early-ish to bed (around 10 pm), and Isabella has me up around 5 am every morning. However, I am not sure it has made me “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” It has definitely not made me wealthy. I think it has made me somewhat healthier, but wiser, I am not sure about.
Anyway, I hope all of my American readers have a wonderful Independence Day Weekend. While I don’t have any plans for the weekend, I’d love to hear if you have plans. What are you up to this holiday weekend?