Happy Fourth of July!

Hey there!  How’s everybody doing?  All ready for the Fourth?  Or are you rushing around, all frazzled, trying to put the picnic together, get the fireworks bought and keep the kids from blowing each other up?  Grab a glass of tea, and find a comfy spot to sit for a minute.  Let’s talk about Independence Day and Fireworks!

When I was growing up, we had Fourth of July at our place most years.  Mom and dad worked hard for a couple of days cleaning the house and yard, fixing up the grill, buying and preparing food like BBQ brisket and potato salad, ice, and of course, Vess soda.  My favorite flavors were Red Cream and Orange, and Daddy always bought plenty of both, along with a bunch of other flavors.  The entire clan gathered at our house and we ate and made home-made ice cream.  You know, the old fashioned way with raw eggs, cream, sugar and fruit.  Then it was put in a metal container that was surrounded by ice and rock salt, and a crank was turned by hand.  At first the youngest kids could turn that handle, life was easy.  But as the custard froze, it took bigger boys and then men to turn that handle. But it was so good!

After we ate and picked up all the trash, we started with the day works – firecrackers, black worms, colored smoke bombs, pinwheels, parachutes.  After dark came the night works – multi-shot roman candles, fountains and cones, shells.  We ooh-ed and aah-ed until they were gone.  My favorites were always the roman candles that shot different colors of fire balls into the dark night sky.  Sometimes, the fireworks seemed like duds.  My dad or one of the guys would say, “Well, that was $7.50”.

Our nation blows up things every year on the Fourth day of July to commemorate our battle for independence from England – over religious freedom.  We make noise and fireworks to remember the cannon fire and explosions that freed us from England’s tyranny; but we did not throw off reality.  We were a nation of hard-working, self-sacrificing, God-fearing people who were able to build the greatest society on earth from those foundations.

Today, it seems more like we want independence from religion.  We want independence from any rules or restraint whatsoever.  We have decided that instead of the good of society, or the good of each other, what really matters is the ‘good of me’.  If everyone around me isn’t making me happy, then I need to be around somebody else.  If my spouse isn’t making me happy, I need a new one.  If my church isn’t making me happy, I’ll find another.  If my job doesn’t give me enough money to do all the things I want, I look for something different.

Whatever happened to the spirit of the patriots?  They worked hard, they committed, they sacrificed things – comfort, leisure, money, time, whatever, to make things better for the family and society where they lived.  They put the good of the other ahead of their own good.  They were content, at peace with themselves and their neighbors.  They had peace in their families.  They worked together, they played together, they prayed together.  We could learn a lot from them!

In my own life, I’ve declared my own independence – from all of society’s craziness.  I’ve declared my allegiance – to God, whose ways don’t change with the winds, and who truly has my best interests in mind.  Sometimes, there are fireworks – people around me aren’t always happy; or I can get frustrated with others, too.  Some of those fireworks can be seen on the outside, but mostly they are internal – grouchy thoughts that may never make it out of my mouth, but are in my heart, nonetheless.

I dream of independence one day – independence from this world and it’s ever-changing mores and opinions of right and wrong.   Independence at last, from the selfishness that can make me so unhappy, even as I think I’m chasing ‘real happiness’.

What about you?  Are you really independent?  Are you really free?  Where is your allegiance?  Are you happy?  Maybe you are re-thinking your position right about now.  Maybe there are way too many fireworks or explosions in your life.  Do you need someone just to listen and help you sort it all out?  Find a pastor or a priest.  They would be more than happy to help you gain some good perspective.

Are you ready to declare a change of allegiance – from self to God?  A pastor or priest can help with that, for sure.  There is real cause for celebration in life, I promise it’s not all drudgery and painful sacrifice.  There is joy in serving God!

At any rate, have a Happy and Safe Fourth of July!

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