Getting ready for the 4th of July

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”    Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

4th of July Freedom

July 4th has been a major holiday in my life.

When I was growing up in Virginia my grandfather and grandmother held a family reunion every July 4th on their farm on the Mattaponi River for my grandmother’s Smith relatives. Watermelon, homemade ice cream cooling in the cellar, fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs, five kinds of pies, chocolate pound cake. I was in charge of name tags.

We arrived in Little Rock on July 4, 1976 to start our careers in pediatric radiology and pediatric ENT with three small children. We made the St. Margaret’s July 4th service a family tradition where a political speaker is always the preacher, the bishop often is the celebrant, and Episcopal choirs from the Little Rock churches join together to lead us in patriotic hymns followed by a picnic on the grounds.  We have learned to be cheerleaders for the July 4th Firecracker 5 K race and later watch our children and grandchildren enter watermelon eating contests and dive for money in a swimming pool and stay up late to watch fireworks.

The 4th of July is about freedom, freedom to do all the things I have just described without fear, freedom to worship, freedom from fear because all the branches of our government are strong with capable and talented leaders who proclaim the ideals of freedom for our citizens of our country and the rest of the world. If something is not right, I have the freedom to speak out about issues.  This is at the top of my gratitude list tonight, freedom to speak out.

People who come for spiritual direction can’t help from bringing in political issues at some point. I try to remind them and myself to keep these issues in our prayers, but we are also called to speak out as articulately as we can when fear becomes the norm and masquerades as taking away these freedoms to prevent the fear of loss of freedoms. Our job is to do our part to remind others that the kingdom of God is not a kingdom of fear but of love. Our freedom does not depend on harming others but on loving others.