The Fourth of July!
When I was 14, our church gathered to celebrate the 4th on the patch of lawn very near the parsonage where my family and I lived (my dad being the pastor). On that early evening we girls dished up our potluck plates inside the church kitchen then carried them outside where we sat upon caramel wood-slatted fold-up chairs, laughing and chatting about the church boys in attendance and those who were not.
When the skies darkened, the ladies served homemade strawberry ice cream and I still remember that sweetness and all the love which surrounded me, those good people upon those chairs around me, accepting and loving me just as I was. Until we attended that church, I'd never felt that kind of love, and on that night, it was magnified.
Then the fireworks in the park across the street began. Booms! And sparkles and colors and the emotion I felt choked me, but nicely, and I knew I'd never forget that night--and I never have. Each 4th of July I polish that memory, and other similar ones, and keep them shining.
I know some people today who feel that, ok, it's all right to spend Independence Day with friends and family, but you'd better also spend some time thanking God for our freedoms as a Nation (or else!). And you'd sure better fly a flag or you're positively un-American. And on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day you'd better fly that flag, too, and thank a veteran and spend the whole day feeling somber, though grateful, for all those who have gone on before us.
And if you don't pass their thoroughly Thankful, Somber Patriotic American Test? Oh my. You are in trouble, Sister. Instant silent, seething displeasure (or not so silent.)
I feel bad for those stressed-out mama's trying to make this huge, huge world obey them. All those Holy Ghost Wannabes racing around telling us how to feel, how to think right thoughts. Their thoughts. The only proper thoughts (according to them).
But oh, the peace of personal obedience, of policing our own selves, our own thoughts and daily asking God, "What would you like to change in me today?" For the only person we can change, can make obey, is ourselves (God making those changes. And good luck getting it right 100% of the time.)
We can live lives which inspire others to change and we can share our own stories and think our own thoughts. But to use hammers of "you shoulds" and "you oughts" to beat people over the head? Well, we can try, but hammers create opposite effects when we force good behavior, when we rip away peoples' freedoms to think and do for themselves. Not even God does that, you know. Nor should we wonder why our own heads ache when we do use that hammer on others' heads.
So celebrate the 4th as you will today, or don't celebrate. Have a picnic or recline inside, watch fireworks or slip into bed early. Think or don't think grateful thoughts. But as for me, I'll recall that summer night of my 14th year and I'll think gratefully of the freedoms I still have and for the God who has given me this wonderful Life and His amazing, freedom-inventing self.
Happy 4th of July to all my faithful readers!