I love where I live. Nestled among the Amish and Mennonite communities of Lancaster County, PA, I ‘m a world away from the pressures of the big city (Philadelphia) where I work, but can get there easily in about an hour. Baltimore, Washington and New York are only 3 hours away; the Jersey shore and our mountain retreat are even closer. So when my in-laws are in town on vacation from Texas, a wide variety of daytrips are within easy reach.  

This visit, we picked Philly: the City of Brotherly Cheesesteaks, and home of the Mark Daniels Show (OK…they were more interested in the cheesesteaks…“Wiz wid”).  With stops at Geno’s (you’re still the best, Joey!) and other fine dining establishments, our intrepid little tour group ventured on, first to Valley Forge, then to the beautiful and historic streets of Olde City Philadelphia.

Valley Forge—for the historically uninformed—was the strategic high ground outside Philadelphia where the weary, ill-equipped, and yet valiant soldiers of the Revolutionary Army camped for the bitter winter of December, 1777. Six months later, this once ragtag crew emerged a disciplined, trained fighting machine. It’s an amazing story, yet one can’t help but realize that the war—and all of American history, as we know it—could have been lost, if not for the willful suffering and perseverance of those men and women camped at Valley Forge, and the character of their commander-in-chief: George Washington. As I visited the general’s headquarters there, the tour guide reminded me that “the banister you’re touching was the very railing that Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Alexander Hamilton leaned on as they walked up the stairs to meet and strategize each day.” Definite chill bump material.

Later, we walked the cobblestone streets of Philadelphia near Independence Hall, marveling at the sheer timeless beauty of buildings—still standing—that were here long before anyone dared dream of an independent America. We were surprised to learn from our excellent Park Service guide that not everyone was interested in the break from Britain. Still others shared the vision of a more French-style democracy. We could only imagine the exciting debates and compelling conversations shared between citizens with minds undiminished by hours of reality TV.

We were reminded of a few things, as we played tourist in our hometown. Consider the incredible, indisputable force for good America has been in the world for the past 231 years. Imagine the fate of many other nations, had not America been on their side. Realize that our history hung by a tattered thread, that brutal December at Valley Forge. And remember that the sacred fire burning in the heart of George Washington—a devout, practicing Christian—was the flame that lit a torch of freedom, one that continues to inspire hope around the world. 

Take a moment thank God for America. And ponder just why He might have placed you here, for such a time as this.