Monday, July 1, 2013


The tattered flag whipped in the wind as the cowgirl and her horse barreled across the rodeo arena. Surely they could have found a better flag for the pomp and circumstance of an all-American, small town rodeo than this old, threadbare flag ready for retirement, I thought to myself.

But then the rodeo announcer began reading the words to Johnny Cash's The Ragged Old Flag. Like the flag in that classic poem, the flag at the Stafford Rodeo ceremony had waved red, white and blue through years of service, beaten by the Kansas wind and baked in the summer sun. And still, it remained a symbol for those gathered with hands over hearts in small town U.S.A.
Then a new rider and a new flag entered the arena. The familiar melody of The Star-Spangled Banner played, and people joined together in singing the national anthem, most straining to reach the notes in the upper register. 

With our Independence Day celebrations this week, Americans will break out the barbecue, serve up the potato salad and light the fireworks to show our patriotism, our theme for Lovely Branches Ministry this month.
As I was thinking about patriotism, a friend posted a status update one morning as a response to Facebook's inquiry, "What's on your mind?" Lori Alvarado was a student intern at The Hutchinson News back when I was the Focus editor there. After seeing her status, I asked if I could share her thoughts, which she compiled during her personal devotional time. It made me think about "patriotism" in a new way:
What's on my mind? Well. . . . .I am an ambassador. I live in a foreign land. I represent a strong power. I carry a powerful message representing an absolute ruler. I am protected and valued. This world is not my home and the power I represent is the strongest power in the universe, Jesus Christ. The message I carry involves believing in Christ through faith. I am protected by Him, knowing I have eternal life, and I am valued enough that He gave His very life for me. Ambassadors plead with leaders of the countries in which they work to take a stand. That's what we do--we carry His message, pleading with others to take a stand for Christ.
U.S. Ambassadors are denoted by our country's flag that flies at their residence or on the car in which the ambassador rides. That prompts me to ask. . . . As Christ's ambassador, would people know who I represent? By my actions? By my words? He wants to speak and act through me so that others will see who He is. Do I make the choice daily to be sanctified--set apart--for my Master's use? Am I prepared to speak His important message with my words and my actions?
Lori Alvarado
How do I answer those questions? Can people see Christ through my words, actions and attitudes? If not, why not? The Bible commands us to be His representatives:
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:20
It's great to be a patriotic American, proud of the flag and ready to support and defend her. 
I am quick to claim my love of all things K-State and patriotically wave the purple and white.
But I should just as enthusiastically demonstrate my allegiance to Jesus Christ through my thoughts, words and actions. Jesus gave me the example. He was willing to fulfill a servant's task.
Stained glass window at Youthville Chapel, Newton, Kansas
I, too, can be God's ambassador. But, like that ragged old American flag, we're called to service. We aren't supposed to hang around and "look pretty." We are to get our hands dirty and serve. We are to wear our dirty old tennis shoes and get in the mud and the muck of serving Him, day in and day out.

Some people feel called to serve and travel to foreign countries to spread God's love. Some may foster or adopt children who need a home. But we can also be Christ's representatives in small, ordinary ways in our daily lives when we send a note to a shut-in ...take a covered dish to a grieving family ... attend a ballgame in support of youth at church ... contribute to a local fundraiser ... The ways to serve are as varied as our fingerprints.
We are to be God's hands and feet on this earth - whether in far-flung mission fields or on the streets of small-town U.S.A.
Father, give me the wisdom and boldness to be Your ambassador to this world. Let me not grow weary in doing well, but through Your strength represent You through my actions and my words. In Christ's name. Amen.
Lori Alvarado
Celebrate your patriotism with some All-American baking this 4th of July. Here are a few ideas:
Clipper Bars

All-American Brownies for a Crowd
(Caveat: I didn't wait until the brownies were completely cool to frost and cut. It didn't affect the taste; just the look!


This is my July post for Lovely Branches Ministries. Check out the website!  Read Suzanne's blog for ideas about how to celebrate America's birthday. And see how Keva is doing after 6 months of a fast from purchasing new clothing and accessories. 

I am also linked today to Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday on Michelle's blog. Check out what other bloggers of faith have to say today. 

The 2013 version of the Stafford Rodeo is at 8 PM July 12 and 13 at the Stafford Rodeo Arena. We'd love to have you experience the hospitality of our small town. Join us!


  1. I found you at Michelle's place. This is truly heart-warming this morning. Thank you for these lovely thoughts.

    1. Thanks so much for visiting today, Mary!

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