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Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord

The stained glass window, showing George Washington at prayer, located in the Capitol Prayer Room, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C (Credit: Office of the Chaplain for US House of Representatives)American flags were on display across the nation for Independence Day.  But the flags we so proudly displayed nearly didn't come to be.  The American flag originally got a new star and stripe every time a state entered the Union.  By 1794 we had 15 stars and stripes—it was a flag with 15 stripes that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner."  By 1817 the flag had 20 stars and strips; the Flag Act of 1818 finally decided that the flag would have only 13 stripes, to honor the original 13 colonies.

Other patriotic elements also have interesting stories.  The official vote declaring our independence from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence.  How would they notify King George?  Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence was revised and finally approved on July 4, after we had declared our independence two days earlier.

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One-third of Americans believe in UFOs

unidentified flying objects (UFO) flying over water against a pink and purple sunset (Credit: Greenie-Pace via recently saw the latest installment of Men in Black.  Like other films in the series, it features Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in roles only they could play.  And like the others, it casts extra-terrestrial beings in a rather unflattering light.

According to a survey that caught my eye today, 80 million Americans should be hoping aliens don't take offense.  Market research indicates that 36 percent of the population believes that UFOs are real.  Asked whether they believe aliens have visited our planet, 36 percent said they have, 48 percent aren't sure, and only 17 percent said they don't believe so.  In addition, 79 percent of us believe the government has kept information about UFOs a secret, and more than half think there are real-life "Men in Black"-style agents who threaten people who spot UFOs.

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Rodney King and your life mission

Rodney King smiles during a discussion for his memoir The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles in this April 21, 2012 file photo (Credit: Reuters/Danny Moloshok)The death of Rodney King has made national headlines. I remember watching the riots in Los Angeles 20 years ago, after the police officers who were videotaped beating him were acquitted. King pled for peace with the now-famous question, "Can we all get along?" He wrote a book for the 20th anniversary of the riots called "The Riot Within." According to The Los Angeles Times, he was still "deeply haunted by the past and the expectations of him. He said he suffered nightmares and flashbacks from the beating, that he smoked marijuana and drank."

His former attorney said King had yet to "realize his importance." Milton C. Grimes, the Los Angeles lawyer who represented him, explained: "I always was hoping he would be able to tap into the power of the circumstances that he had been thrown into. I always saw a potential in him that had not been actualized. It really is sad. In his heart, he's a good person, but he just hadn't found his way." Now he's dead at the age of 47.

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When to change and when to change the culture

A gay rights flag with the United States blue field of white stars on it at a 2008 protest in San Francisco (Credit: Martin Eno via Flickr) In 1996, 27 percent of Americans favored same-sex marriages.  Now, 42 percent favor them.  In 1968, 20 percent of Americans favored interracial marriage; by 2011, the number had risen to 86 percent.

Should churches change their moral positions as the culture changes?  In other words, should the church be a thermometer or a thermostat?  The first reflects its environment; the second changes it.

Paul quoted the Hebrew Bible to Hebrews and Greek philosophers to Greeks.  He said of his ministry, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).  Then he explained why: "I do all this for the sake of the gospel" (v. 23).  His methods changed, but his message did not.

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The death of Junior Seau

The mother of former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, Luisa, reaches after a coroners van as it departs with the body of her son who was found dead at his home in Oceanside, California, May 2, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Mike Blake)Junior Seau was one of the finest linebackers in football history.  Named 12 times to the Pro Bowl, he was NFL Defensive Player of the year in 1992 and AFL Player of the Year in 1994.  His death by apparent suicide follows a pattern of high-profile football players who suffered from repeated brain injury.  Andre Waters of the Philadelphia Eagles, Terry Long of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dave Duerson of the Chicago Bears are on the list.

"Chronic traumatic encephalopathy," also known as "boxer's dementia," can emerge over time after concussion-related injuries.  The damage may not be apparent for years, but can eventually cause erratic behavior, violence, and depression.

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