Last week was the 4th of July, which here in the US is Independence Day. We spent the day with family, a little bit of a food, and a few fireworks. No big celebrations here, but it was fun. However, there were more than a few events of the day that really got me to thinking about freedom, the US, and Jesus. So it seems appropriate to share those here.
The way we celebrate our independence has always seemed strange to me. It seems detached from the event we are celebrating. Fireworks and grilling out just don't seem connected to the Declaration of Independence. Maybe at your church service you have a patriotic message. Maybe something about the founding of this country and how to be a good American and a good Christian. That's cool and it helps you remember why we are celebrating. Maybe you put a thank you status up on Facebook or Google+. Maybe you tweet thank you. You might even say thank you to a veteran. We watch some fireworks and eat a hamburger or a hot dog. We sigh and go home satisfied that we have celebrated our independence. Somehow that seems hollow or shallow. Is that really the only way we can celebrate our country and our history. I don't know what I would do differently, but that just doesn't seem to be enough. I have felt that way for a while, but this year a few things happened to deepen my independence day.
The first one was with my mother in law's pool. It's one of the bigger blow up pools. We can sit in and Ben can play in it. The tarp that is on it to keep bugs and what not out had blown off, so we had to empty it and refill it. In the process we found multiple holes and decided to retire it. It was like 4 or 5 years old after all. We went to get a new one so Ben could play in it and started filling it up. In this process, I started thinking about how much water we were wasting. There are places in the world where people can't get a tenth of the clean water we were just throwing away. Then I started to feel guilty. My response was to say a little prayer. "Lord, just help me enjoy this time with family and not feel guilty." He did help me enjoy my day without a lot of guilt.
When it got dark, we went out to shoot off fireworks and take some photos. I was playing with sparklers while my brother in law, Alex, was playing with the time elapsed setting on his camera. We got some decent photos of me spelling out USA.
(It actually looked more like CRA, but you get the idea.)
After we shot off all the other fireworks, we had about 5 or 6 morning glories left. So I lit them all and Alex set the camera for 30 seconds. This time I didn't try to spell anything. I just made circles, random lines, the cross, curvy lines, etc. In the end, I was pretty amazed by the shape that showed up.
Do you see it? It's the shape of the cross! There are many times I feel like I'm just making random shapes. The random mission trip I took, the random students I teach, the random activities with my youth kids, the random blog posts, etc., etc., etc. just seem like random lines and shapes in my life. However when I do all of these things with God's leading, the cross covers me. The cross which is a symbol of love, grace, and mercy covers me. The light of Christ shines from my actions illuminating the glory of God.
This is where I find my freedom. I enjoy benefits in this world because I am in this country, but my greater benefits are elsewhere. AND so are the benefits for all of those less fortunate than me. I don't need to walk around feeling inadequate and guilty all the time. God placed me here for a reason. I need to enjoy what he has given me. I need to truly give him thanks for it. He didn't make a mistake. He isn't making random lines in the universe and just watching what happens. God has a plan and we are called to follow it. When we do, the cross covers us and light shines from us and people don't see us. They see light, love, grace, mercy, and the glory of God.