COLUMBIA, THE GEM OF THE OCEAN O, Columbia! The gem of the ocean, The home of the brave and the free, The shrine of each patriot's devotion,A world offers homage to thee. Thy mandates make heroes assemble, When Liberty's form stands in view; Thy banners make tyranny tremble, When born by the red, white and blue! When war winged its wide desolation, And threatened the land to deform, The ark then of freedom's foundation, Columbia, rode safe through the storm. With her garlands of victory around her,When so proudly she bore her brave crew; With her flag proudly floating before her. The boast of the red, white and blue! The star-spangled banner bring hither, O'er Columbia's true sons let it wave;May the wreaths they have won never wither, Nor its stars cease to shine on the brave. May the service united ne'er sever, But hold to her colors so true; The army and navy forever, Three cheers for the red, white and blue! Written by Thomas A. Becket, Sr.Columbia was a common poetic nickname for America. This song was popular during the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, especially during the Civil War era. It was popular at Hagar Grade School, when I was a student from 1941 to 1948. We sang these patriotic songs from the green-backed "The Music Hour" book until I still remember most of the words today.Mrs. Imogene (Carper) Stalnaker, my first-grade teacher, gave me a tattered copy of the old music book shortly before she went home to sing in a better land. Memories came flooding back as I leafed through the songs we used to sing. We didn't wait until the Fourth of July to sing these patriotic songs, but they were part of usual routine. We sang lustily, and with feeling "My Country 'Tis of Thee " and "The Star-Spangled Banner," along with "America, the Beautiful."We loved our country, and were happy in the freedom we enjoyed. A spirit of patriotism was born and nurtured there in that little two-room schoolhouse. We recited the flag pledge every morning when we lined up to march into the schoolroom, and once inside, we said "The Lord's Prayer" in unison. Reverence for our Lord and for our country was taught there and remains with me still.How things have changed since I was a little girl there in that old school room. It is sad, but I'm afraid it's not a change for the better. When God is taken out of the schoolroom, then patriotism is next to go. Our country was founded upon Bible precepts and reliance upon God. When the foundation crumbles, what will become of our nation?The Bible has an answer in Isaiah 60:12, "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." Our only hope is to turn back to the Lord and His guidance. We have His promise in Second Chronicles 7:14, which says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."There is nothing wrong in celebrating our independence with family gatherings, picnics, parades and fireworks. In fact, John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, "The second day of July, 1776 (he was off two days) will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more."It was a cause for great rejoicing at that time, and we still need to celebrate our freedom and hold it fast. I like what Erma Bombeck wrote at one time, "You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscles, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets 'iffy' and the flies die of happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but that is patriotism."So go ahead and enjoy the day (or the long weekend) with your family. Don't forget the fried chicken and lemonade, and especially the watermelon. In all your fun and festivities, remember the sacrifices that have been made that we might enjoy this freedom. Pray for our Armed Forces who are overseas, that God would keep them in His care. And pray for America. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL O beautiful for spacious skies/ For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties/ Above the fruited plain. America! America! God shed His grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood/ From sea to shining sea. O beautiful for pilgrim feet/Whose stern, impassioned stress, A thoroughfare for freedom beat/Across the wilderness. America! America! God mend thine every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self control/ Thy liberty in law. O beautiful for heroes prov'd/ In liberating strife, Who more than self/ Their country loved, And mercy more than life. America! America! May God they gold refine, Till all success be nobleness/ And every gain divine. O beautiful for patriot dream/ That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam/ Undimm'd by human tears. America! America! God shed His grace on thee. And crown they good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea. My daughter Patty has free kittens; free to any kind of a home! Seems as if a stray momma cat ended up under Adrian's trailer, and produced four pretty little gray kittens. My sister Jeannie's 5-year-old grandson, Zane, asked his Aunt Kara if she knew how to tell a girl kitten. I think Kara held her breath, thinking she was about to get an anatomy lesson. Zane replied, "They have three colors!"Have a safe and happy Independence Day weekend! Contact Alyce Faye Bragg at email@example.com or write to 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164.