We launched The Hidden Message on Wednesday December 19… thank you to the many who attended the event. It was such a success… I am grateful for your interest in the topic, and I look forward to the conversations we will have with eagerness.
There were almost 100 people in attendance, including those who came to help. I want to make a special point to thank Brian and Bryan who stood out in the cold to park cars… you didn’t even get to eat the good food!
We opened the evening with a prayer from pastor Jon, who was his inimitable self. Jon, thank you for the beautiful prayer. Before Jon began to speak, I heard someone wonder aloud that we might not want to hear anyone else speak after Jon was finished! I took a pretty big risk!!
After that, Michael Brooks made a few remarks being the only person who has read the book. His words were kind and authentic and very moving for me. Michael I can’t thank you enough.
Christian and I introduced the book at that point, and told the story about the British strategy to demoralize the colonists by sacking their capital… Philadelphia. With their capital overrun with British troops, they reasoned, the Continental Army would lose the will to fight. Washington had gallantly fought to stem the British advance at Brandywine and Germantown, but was overrun and forced to fall back. With Philadelphia defenseless, the invasion of the British forces was inevitable. The last act of Congress was to vest the full authority of the United States government in one man, General Washington. Some patriots removed the Liberty Bell- not an easy feat for a bell weighing over a ton— and Philadelphia was evacuated. Washington and the continental army removed themselves some 25 miles to the northwest. There was a stream there called the Valley River, which flows through a valley between two low mountains - one named Mt. Misery, the other Mt. Joy, so named as mountains not because of their height which is around 400 or 500 feet, but because of their steep sides.
On the stream between the mountains, a iron forge had been build, using the flow of the stream to turn a great wheel creating power for the bellows of the forge. The British has already been there and spiked the forge to keep it from being used by the colonists, but the Mill-owner’s house, a beautiful stone structure, had been left in tact. It was there that Washington set up his command to winter at Valley Forge.
The winter was exceptionally brutal that year causing calamity to the Army, with many of the troops ill equipped, and not properly clothed for the elements. The losses were devastating. An estimated two-thousand men lost their lives. To commemorate the great sacrifice of the soldiers that winter of 1777, an arch was erected near Mt. Joy.
Christian and I visited that arch in 2014. We had been treated to a tour of Philadelphia by Dr. Peter Lillback, of Westminster Theological Seminary, which culminated at Valley Forge. It was there, standing beneath that arch, that I first directed serious attention to the seal—a large bronze relief of the two sides of the seal was embedded the opposing sides of the interior of the arch. As we stood gazing up at the seal, Dr. Lillback began to open the meaning to us. That glimpse into the seal offered a clue to great depth of meaning which created a powerful motivation in me to explore it. I simply had to know if the meaning was intended.
Now, well over four years later, as I was responding to interview questions from a local newspaper, the realization dawned on me that the day of the book launch must be close to the time when the army first came to Mt. Joy. Some quick research indicated that that date that Washington arrived was the very day that we had planned to hold our event - December 19 - the 241st anniversary! I had to know if this was accurate, so I called Dr. Lillback who confirmed the date. Unknowingly I had scheduled the culmination of the writing of the book and the beginning of its publication on the anniversary date of the event that was the reason for the placement of the arc and thus the seal there on Mt. Joy.
Dr. Lillback, ever gracious, suggested that he go to Mt. Joy on that night, and FaceTime with the group. This suggestion was held as a surprise so that there would not be disappointment in the event that some unforseen circumstance might prevent the call. When the moment came and it was revealed that Dr. Lillback would be joining us from Mt. Joy, there was an audible gasp from the crowd. His words were gracious and inspiring, as he turned the camera toward the arch and the seal. He concluded with a prayer which was a fitting monument at a memorial which marks the end of one season and the beginning of another. The great adventure of the writing of the book of the seal, had begun and ended with Mt. Joy. I could not have planned or even imagined a more excellent or fitting and elegant way to commemorate the event. To me it was another evidence of the hand of God orchestrating and directing the thing which I believe he had ordained.
As pleased as I was with this symmetry, it didn't even compare with how I felt when I saw a further symmetry that can only be described as miraculous. I was blown away! I will post that on December 27.