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aflagOn this day when inhabitants of the United States of America celebrate Independence Day, I am very conscious of the words “united” and “independence.” In the first two texts I encountered this morning, the common word was “integrity” so I add that third to my alphabet soup as my thoughts swirl around the privilege of living in this country.

Psalm 26 sings out to God with a willingness and a plea: I will walk the path of deep integrity, if you but show the way and give your grace that I may stand, my feet at last on level ground, with all who gather there to praise your name. (vs. 11-12) Alan Cohen adds a similar affirmation of inner freedom, declaring: I pray to walk in peace and freedom, shining as a model of integrity to all.

Both of the above quotes speak of what we used to call “divine assistance” – however each person defines the need of a higher power. In addition it is clear that our integrity depends in some way on our relationships to other persons. We need to have interior freedom in order to act with integrity but we must also see our actions mirrored in the eyes of others in order to judge ourselves justly. It is a sticky, tricky business to maintain interior freedom and honest relationships with others. Even more demanding than this practice is that task in the collective of family, business, church or nation. The pull of our own desires and perspectives so often clouds our ability to see the wisdom of others that relationships devolve into taking sides and vilifying “the enemy” – whoever that may be.

I often say that America the Beautiful is my favorite patriotic hymn. I used to be taken by the vision of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties but now am more focused on the refrains that pray the following for America:

  1. God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.
  2. God mend thine every flaw. Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.
  3. May God thy gold refine, till all success be nobleness and every gain divine.

May we take some time today to reflect on the blessings we enjoy in this country and look into our hearts to assess our sense of responsibility for the furtherance of the ideals on which the country was founded.

Happy Fourth!