Category Archives: July 4th

Mary Pickersgill, The Star Spangled Banner and Why Your Life Matters

The Story of Mary Pickersgill, The Star Spangled Banner and Why Your Life Matters. This week is a celebration of the Independence of the United States of America. Once again, I find myself in a foreign country for these festivities. It is both interesting and a little melancholy. The Fourth of July, Independence Day, is a significant holiday for Americans. We take it seriously! Sure, we have picnics and gatherings and lots and lots of food but we don’t forget the sacrifice and the history that goes along with this important day. I thought you might enjoy the story of Mary Pickersgill, and others before her, that made this Day of Independence so important and why their lives, and yours, simply matter.

Many people know that the 30 x 42 ft. flag that flew at the Battle of Baltimore is the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner. But, even though the battle was fought on September 13, 1814, the story began at least a year earlier.

Major George Armistead was the commander of Ft. McHenry and he knew that it was a target of the British army. In July, 1813, he told the commander of Baltimore defenses: “We, sir, are ready at Fort McHenry to defend Baltimore against invading by the enemy…except that we have no suitable ensign to display over the Star Fort, and it is my desire to have a flag so large that the British will have no difficulty in seeing it from a distance.”

Enter Mary Pickersgill, age 29, of Baltimore. Mary was a widow at a very young age and had to support her family. Her mother was a flag maker during the Revolutionary War who sewed flags, uniforms and blankets for the Continental Army under George Washington. Mary followed suit constructing ships’ colors and signal flags for the military and other private vessels.

Armistead hired Pickersgill to construct a flag measuring 30 by 42 feet with 15 stars and 15 stripes, each representing a state. It took Mary, her daughter, three of her nieces and a 13 year old servant girl working ten hour days to finish the flag. This massive undertaking used 300 yards of English wool bunting. Each star, made of cotton, measured two feet in diameter.

The flag, also known as The Great Garrison Flag, was finished and delivered to Fort McHenry on August 19, 1813. Mary Pickersgill was paid $574 for the extremely large flag and a smaller storm flag. This was a hefty sum at the time, likely more than most people in the area earned in an entire year.

One week before the Battle of Baltimore, Francis Scott Key, went aboard the flagship of the British fleet to secure the release of a friend who had been arrested. Agreement was made to turn the prisoner over to Key but he and those accompanying him were not allowed to leave the ship at that time since the attack on Baltimore was imminent and the British did not want them to leak information about the attack. Some accounts say that they were allowed to return to their own ship but were guarded until the next morning when it was all over. It was from there, in the Chesapeake Bay, eight miles away, that Francis Scott Key watched the bombardment against Fort McHenry.

The flag that Mary made was so huge that it took eleven men to raise it when dry. If it was waterlogged, remember it was made of wool, it could have weighed as much as 500 pounds and likely the pole could not have supported the weight. During the attack the night before, the rain poured to make things even worse. The garrison flag was taken down and the smaller, storm flag that Mary had made, 17 x 25 feet, was the one that flew over the fort during the battle. But come morning, Major Armistead had the soaked storm flag taken down and put his beloved, immense flag in its place.

When the morning broke, (by the dawn’s early light!) Key was sure he would see the British flag flying over the fort in a sign of victory. But much to his surprise, instead, he saw the enormous flag, made by Mary Picksersgill a year before, waving proudly in the wind. He was immediately inspired to pen the words to The Star Spangled Banner.

Have you read the book by Andy Andrews entitled, The Butterfly Effect? The subtitle is How Your Life Matters.  The book relates, “In 1963, Edward Lorenz made a presentation to the New York Academy of Sciences and was literally laughed out of the room. His theory, called the butterfly effect, stated that a butterfly could flap its wings and set air molecules in motion that, in turn, would move other air molecules–which would then move additional air molecules–eventually becoming able to influence weather patterns on the other side of the planet. For years this theory remained an interesting myth. In the mid 1990s, however, physics professors from several universities, working in tandem, proved that the butterfly effect was accurate, viable, and worked every time.” 

In this short, but impacting book, Andrews goes on to tell the story of a decision that one man made over 100 years ago and the ripple effect it has had on each one of us.

In other words, every single thing you do in your life has a ripple effect and it matters. Just as Major Armistead had a desire to let the enemy be made aware that they were occupying Fort McHenry, they weren’t going to run away, and his dream impacted Mary Pickersgill, whose mother had passed on a skill to her daughter who used that skill to create a colossal flag for our great country. Seeing that flag flying after battle then inspired Francis Scott Key to write a song that eventually was adopted as our national anthem. That flag still exists today for us all to see and admire at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.  It is a great symbol of freedom, stability, and strength for the United States of America.

  • So, what is God directing you to do today that may seem insignificant?
  • Maybe your day to day is mundane to you but you haven’t been released by God or given clear direction to another ministry?
  • Perhaps you wonder if your education is that important, or if the honor of being a stay-at-home mother is your life’s calling.
  • Possibly you are a church planter, and it is just plain difficult, and you wonder if you will ever get the work off the ground.
  • And it could be that you are a worker in your local church that just continues to do what needs to be done but you feel that it surely isn’t as important as the missionary in the jungles of Africa.

Here is where we need to remember Major Armistead’s desire to stand with courage and pride with a flag big enough that the enemy couldn’t miss it. And his dream included Rebecca, the mother of Mary Pickersgill, who taught her daughter to sew and then Mary herself, and even the young girls that worked alongside her, maybe making as many stitches or more than Mary. Insignificant? Hardly. Their labor that they thought was just for that particular time in history, the War of 1812, still lives on today and continues to stand as a symbol of freedom for us all.

So, whatever God has called you to do, or even if you haven’t had a particular calling but are fulfilling a need, do it with all of your heart! Give it all that you have and realize that just as the wings of the butterfly can influence weather patterns on the other side of the world, you, too, can be a world changer, just by doing what needs to be done.

Until God moves you elsewhere, toil on!

Here is the full version, with all four verses:

The Star-Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
’Tis the star-spangled banner – O long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Happy Independence Day, America!


Happy 240th, America. Ten reasons why you’re still Beautiful.

Happy 240th America

Happy 240th, America. Ten reasons why you’re still Beautiful.

Independence Day has been relegated to July 4th or Fourth of July for quite some time. Unfortunately, I am sure a roving reporter could go out on the street and ask what we specifically celebrate on July 4 and most would not know that we are celebrating our INDEPENDENCE from the rule of Great Britain.

Ironically, just this past week, Great Britain pulled out from the European Union, declaring they wanted their independence as well. Alas, it is much more complicated than just bringing back the pound and it has created more potential EXIT’s than a football stadium, (GREXIT, CHEXIT, SWEXIT, and the list will grow…) but the concept is the same: Freedom to do as they please.

When we lived in the country of Latvia for a year, this tiny country, along with the other Baltic States of Estonia and Lithuania, had only know their independence from the Soviet Union for twenty years! If I remember correctly, for their thousands of years of existence, they have only been an independent people for approximately forty years. 40 years!

For all of my soon-to-be 55 years on this earth, I have experienced Freedom. I have been free to say what I think, live where I want to live, go where I want to go, marry who I want to marry (whew!), choose a career path or be a SAHM, and gather to worship without fear of authorities busting down the door. I do not take any of those things for granted, especially today as I see my children, and now grandchildren, introduced to a seemingly different America. I am sad, in many respects, that they will never know the America I grew up in….not a perfect place, just a different place.

As I watch so many freedoms slip away, I will never forget one of the Russians in our Home Group asking me why the United States was so willing to give up their freedoms? “You have everything there, why go backwards?”

It’s a good question to ponder; yet we know God is in control and He has a plan. HIS freedoms are forever, HIS promises never fail! Everything He told us in His letter, the Bible, is true and WILL come to pass. This is where we place our forever hope, our forever confidence and our forever dreams. No matter where you live in this world, no matter what your future holds, whether there be darkness or light, joy or turmoil, freedom or captivity, Jesus is still God and everything centers around HIM.

So, on this Independence Day, what we now call The 4th of July, I can still find things about this great country to love and I hope you will add YOUR sentiments as well. We could make a massive list of the things wrong with this place we call home, let’s see what we can find is right…and pray it stays that way.

  1. Beauty. It’s simply everywhere. From sea to shining sea, as the appropriate song sings out, we have it all. Mountains and gorgeous valleys, rivers, lakes, oceans, hills and hollows, America really is The Beautiful.
  2. Seasons. I have always been a lover of seasons and most places in our great country experience at least some of them. Coming from Indiana, we had them all and when in the middle of one, we were longing for the next! The anticipation of the first flower of spring, the fun activities that accompany summer and all of its heat, the breathtaking splendor of fall as the leaves change their colors, and winter. True, not many look forward to winter but most everyone is still in wonder, no matter their age, when that first snow begins.
  3. People. We are a country of diversity, it is our foundation, what we are made of! “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Emma Lazarus
  4. Abundance. True, it is not always a good thing but we should be thankful that we can walk into any store and buy just about anything we want to eat or drink. There are plenty of things to find wrong with our economy, to be sure, but when you have visited other countries, you truly appreciate being able to get clean water and decent food.
  5. Air conditioning. Okay, we are halfway through so I have to throw in a little humor. But seriously, do you know who invented air conditioning? Willis Carrier invented the first modern air conditioner and forever changed the world. Again, when you have lived without it, we did for a year in Latvia, you appreciate these little things. Thank you Mr. Carrier!
  6. Education. Almost anyone can receive an education in this great country if they work hard enough. It is expensive, exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time. We have some of the finest universities in the world right here out our back doors.
  7. Free speech. I want to keep this a positive post and I know mentioning this one brings up a firestorm of “We won’t have that for much longer!” “We are losing it every, single day…” When something is precious, you appreciate it and freedom of speech is what makes America what it is. If we lose that, we have lost it all. May we fight with everything that is in us to keep that basic right that our country was founded upon 240 years ago.
  8. Online shopping. Did you know you can now get some things delivered to your door in TWO HOURS instead of two days or two weeks? Say what?! This boggles the mind but saves the consumer time, gas and mental anguish fighting for that front parking space. Genius.
  9. Clothes dryers. Again, until you have gone without…the neat thing about America is that even the Average Joe, making an average wage can live a good life with all the modern conveniences the majority of the world will never experience! Friends, we pay $4 for a cup of coffee here and don’t bat an eye. We have much to be thankful for.
  10. Worship. Sure, this one could be filed under Free Speech but I think it deserves a category all its own. Today, and any day of the week I would choose, I walked into a church building with hundreds of others and we worshiped the Lord Jesus Christ without fear. And today, we, as a body of believers, gave thanks and praise to God for that privilege and right. Thank you, God, that we are still able to do this and may our children and grandchildren be able to worship You whenever and wherever they so choose.

Naturally, there are hundreds more reasons to appreciate this great country. What are some of YOUR reasons for loving America? Please share! 

Here is another reason I am thankful today, I am able to see Norah Jayne’s sweet face whenever I want. Every day is celebration of this miracle God has given.

Praying you all have a safe and happy Independence Day with your friends and family. Let us remember what we are celebrating…240 years of FREEDOM! May we be able to celebrate many, many more that those who died for the freedoms we enjoy will not have given their lives in vain.

God Bless America.




Hurrah for the Red, White & Blue: Fun Flag Facts!

Hurrah for the Red, White & Blue! The flag of the United States of America holds so much history and folklore it intrigues me. I thought I would share a few Fun Flag Facts on this 4th of July.

The red, white and blue have significant meaning for the flag. The white symbolizes purity and innocence. Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance and justice. The red represents hardiness and valor.

Seventeen year old Robert G. Heft designed the flag we recognize today. Hawaii and Alaska were due to become the last two states and Heft created the 50-star flag as part of a history project. He received a B- for his effort. He then submitted it to Congress for consideration and President Eisenhower chose his design over 1,500 other entries! Eisenhower called Heft on the telephone to tell him the good news. His teacher also changed his grade to an appropriate “A”.

The name, Old Glory, was the nickname of a U.S. flag owned by William Driver, a sea captain. Women in his hometown of Salem, Massachusetts had given him the flag for his ship but he didn’t give it the name Old Glory until he saw it flying on his ship’s mast in 1831. The term is still popular today.

An interesting TV fact about the flag: If you are a Gilligan’s Island fan you can see the U.S. Flag flying at half-staff off in the distance in the opening sequence of the first season episodes (about 22 seconds in). The pilot episode finished filming on November 22, 1963, the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated.

Bernard J. Cigrand, 19 and a teacher from Waubeka, Wisconsin, proposed the idea for a Flag Day. His reasoning: “…to inspire not only the students but also all Americans in the real meaning and majesty of our flag.” Cigrand wrote hundreds of articles for his convincing argument to celebrate June 14 as national Flag Day.

amercian independence day vector flagFrancis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, was an editor at the Youth’s Companion magazine. He created it in 1892 to help students commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the New World. He wanted to help immigrant children, and the children of immigrants, build loyalty to the United States. In its original form it read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time it read:

“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.”

In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Today it reads:

“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.”

Originally, students were taught to salute the flag with their right hand, palm downward and extended forward! But on June 22, 1942, Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance by including it in the U.S. Flag Code. They changed the salute to the hand over the heart because the original too closely resembled the Nazi Germany “Heil Hitler” salute.

On September 13, 1988, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited for the first time on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. On June 24, 1999, the U.S. Senate then adopted the daily recital of the Pledge.

On Memorial Day, the American flag is flown at half-staff until noon. The same takes place on Patriot Day, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and for 30 days after the death of a President or ten days following the death of a Vice President, former Vice President, member of the Cabinet, or Chief Justice.

There are specific requirements for display of the U.S. flag:

  • The flag should be displayed from sunrise to sunset and if on display at night it should be illuminated.
  • The flag is never to touch the ground or the floor.
  • It should be raised quickly and lowered ceremoniously.
  • If displayed on a wall or window the blue field must be in the upper left corner.

Here are the lyrics to Stars & Stripes Forever:

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
~John Phillips Sousa

Enjoy your holiday with your friends and family. Be sure and take a moment to be thankful for the freedoms we are blessed to have. Praying we remain the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

Happy Independence Day!

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