Larkin Spivey Finding Faith In War

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Miracle That Led to Independence

On the Fourth of July we celebrate Independence Day, the day our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and committed themselves irreversibly to a cause for which they truly risked their lives and fortunes. As with all of history, this great event now has a certain sense of inevitability about it. We know now what happened, and it seems that it was ‘meant to be.’ Only when we go back and look at the details, however, do we see how uncertain this seminal event was and how God’s hand was involved in it.

The Continental Congress in 1776
During the early months of 1776 representatives from the American colonies continued a protracted and frustrating dispute with King George and the British Parliament. After armed conflict at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill the year before, a tense stalemate had developed around Boston. The king had rejected the so-called Olive Branch Petition, approved by Congress in 1775, and had declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion. British reinforcements continued to arrive in Boston. The situation seemed to be growing worse as the tenuous military stalemate went on in Massachusetts and problems mounted keeping a colonial army in the field.
There was also a stalemate within the Continental Congress between radical and conservative factions. The radicals talked of independence from England and formation of a new nation. The conservatives favored efforts to redress grievances and return to ‘normal’ times. There was a great fear of war and probable ruin, and continued expectation of reconciliation. The conservative approach had prevailed so far during the Congress’ deliberations, even to the point where delegates from six colonies were under specific instructions to vote against independence.

Washington Takes the Initiative
On March 4, 1776, General Washington took a bold and dangerous move to break the stalemate in Boston. During that night he moved a large force onto a hill known as Dorchester Heights, overlooking the waterfront and main shipping channel into Boston harbor. A similar move the year before on Bunker Hill, on the other side of Boston, had caused a violent and devastating retaliation from the British. This move was no different. The British commander, General William Howe, had to respond to the challenge. Both generals knew that a decisive defeat of these colonial forces would quickly end the so-called ‘rebellion.’

The Miracle
On March 5th the British mounted an all out attack on Dorchester Heights, moving troops by ship and boat across Boston harbor. At this crucial moment the weather took control of events. An unseasonal and violent storm came up that a local observer called a ‘hurrycane.’ The storm increased in violence during that day and into the night. Even though the harbor offered protected waters, torrential winds and rain scattered the British invasion force. Three ships were grounded on Governors Island and numerous boats were lost. It became impossible to carry out the attack.
On the morning of March 6, Howe assembled his subordinates. He feared that the rebels had so strengthened their positions over the previous day that an attack had become too dangerous. Since the opportunity had passed for offensive action, he ordered his forces back into garrison. There would be no British effort to take Dorchester Heights. Instead of an attack, Howe ordered an evacuation. On March 17 the British army and navy sailed out of Boston harbor. The eleven-month standoff was over.

In Philadelphia the mood took a new turn on March 23 when word arrived from Massachusetts that Washington’s troops had forced the British to abandon Boston. Celebrations broke out in the streets. The tone of the debate in Congress changed. In April the delegates from South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina received instructions permitting a vote for independence.
The momentum of events gathered from this point. In early May Congress passed a resolution that individual colonies assume all powers of government. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee from Virginia rose before Congress to move “That these United Colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states.” Lee’s motion was taken up on July 1, and the issue addressed that Adams called “the greatest question ever debated in America and as great as ever was debated among men.” On July 4 Congress formally ratified the Declaration of Independence, and each of the fifty-six delegates individually signed the document.

A New Authority
Thanks to a miracle in Boston, a new nation was created on July 4, 1776. On that day, the founding fathers took one of the greatest steps of faith in history. Cutting the ties of royal authority, representing centuries of law and tradition, they turned intentionally to God. They declared that all men are, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Samuel Adams rose in the assembly to state that, “We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient.” The United States of America would be under the authority and protection of God and based on God given rights.
In Boston, George Washington did not have a victory celebration. Instead, he called for a church service and thanksgiving. He heard a sermon concluding with the passage: “The Lord is our King; it is he who will save us.” Washington himself firmly believed those words. He knew that God had saved his army at Boston and brought a great victory. He would later state as President that, “Every step, by which (the people of the United States) have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” He knew better than any other human being the role of God’s hand in winning a war and creating a new nation.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Fathers' Day Message

Jerry’s father joined the Army in 1944, a few months after she was born. After basic training he was sent to the war zone in Italy where he served for two years. Jerry had memories of getting together with other service families and playing with the other children. She also remembered her mother’s letters that she always sealed with a freshly applied lipstick kiss. On one occasion Jerry was allowed to wet her own mouth with orange juice and apply an ‘orange juice kiss.’ She had generally pleasant memories of her wartime experience because her mother was so good at sheltering her from the tension and anxiety that she experienced. She did clearly remember the day her father came home.
At last the day arrived when my father was due to come home. Yes, he had survived combat and the attendant challenges of being away from home and family for so long. I was staying with my grandparents while Mom went to the train station to pick him up. When they arrived, I was upstairs in my grandparents’ bath tub. I remember hearing large footsteps bounding up the stairs two at a time, followed by this tall, young man entering the bathroom. To this day I can vividly hear my grandmother saying “This is your daddy.” He grabbed me out of the tub, and we began our bonding process that had been delayed for more than two years.
We know that there were many unhappy endings to family separations during this and every other war. That fact is what makes this heartwarming story of reunion so uplifting. We have a little reminder from history, if we need it, of how precious our families are. We should look at them every day with the eyes of a returning soldier and a long-separated daughter.
(This story is a devotional for August 23rd from Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Prayer for D-Day

During the evening of 6 June 1944, as American, British, and Canadian troops were fighting to establish a beachhead on the coast of Normandy, President Franklin Roosevelt went on the radio to address the nation, saying, “In this poignant hour, I ask you to join me in prayer.” His appeal to God at this pivotal moment in history addressed the concerns of families across the nation for their troops in danger on the beaches of France:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest—until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

These words of a great President from the past are very relevant today for the countless mothers, fathers, wives, and husbands with loved ones serving abroad in harm’s way. Men and women in service today also fight to bring liberty to oppressed people, and yearn constantly for one thing: to return safely to loved ones at home. May God bless and keep safe these worthy descendents of the great heroes of D-Day.
(the complete prayer can be seen on p. 280-281, Battlefields & Blessings, Stories of Faith and Courage from World War II.)