My favorite day of the year!
I love everything about this day:
the weather - so hot and thick
the smells - cut grass, sunscreen, mosquito spray, cookouts and gun powder
the fireworks - sparkles, showers of colors streaming across the sky, pops and booms
the flags flying - Old Glory, our beautiful reminder of the price paid and the freedoms we enjoy
the people - everyone seems to be just fine with hanging out all day long with no agenda besides hanging out and enjoying games, conversations, food and fireworks
the memories - oh the memories are my favorite and I will camp here for a little while.
Of all the days that are distinct in my mind, I can remember so many fourth of July's from my life.
As a little girl, snaps, tanks, sparklers and the growing black snakes were my favorites. Dad would help me light them and then he would set off the ones I was too little to do yet and I would watch with delight. Then we'd head to Plainview to watch the explosions of colors in the night sky....so beautiful. Cars lined the highway and truckers honked as they passed by. We'd drive home tired and talking about our favorites.
As we grew older, we started saving money in June so that we could go to the fireworks stand and pick out some of our favorites. We had lemonade stands, pulled weeds, made friendship bracelets and anything else we could think of. It was usually Tommy, Wade, Cale and me. We would go get colored smoke bombs, lots of black cats and M-60s, bottle rockets, roman candles and a few other things that shot up, spun around, popped and had colors. We weren't really into fountains, lol...they were a little too tame for us. Then the fun began. We blew up ant beds and yes, sorry to say, the occasional frog. One of our folks would cook hotdogs and hamburgers for us and there was usually a watermelon to be had under the shade tree at Cale's. So, so fun.
One of the last times we saw a good friend of ours on this earth, Lauren Caraway, was on Fourth of July at Mama Gayle's house. She was sitting in the front yard visiting with everyone, with that beautiful smile and a ball cap. Then the boys got a little carried away and somehow started a whole bag of fireworks on fire!...people scattered as things shot out like small missiles. Lauren's Independence Day was not far away. Which leads into what I really want to talk about next. I could go on and on with memories but I want to talk about FREEDOM, true freedom.
I started thinking about independence and freedom and how we view those two words most of the time in America. I would dare say we usually think freedom means being able to do whatever we want whenever we want. I know that's part of it...but is that really it?
These verses came to mind as I lay still:
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (Jesus speaking) John 8:32
"I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (Jesus speaking) John 8:34-36
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil, live as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16
You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature, rather serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13
The freedom we have in America is truly a blessing and like no other place in the whole world. I am so thankful for the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country. However, there is a freedom that no government can give or take away from us.
True freedom is only found in knowing the Son, Jesus. Jesus is the truth and when we know Him, He sets us free by making us right with God through his sacrifice, giving us forgiveness, taking our shame and bringing us into eternal life. He gives us the ability to please Him. That's what freedom is.
We buy into the lie that freedom is doing whatever we want but then something happens...we become slaves instead...slaves to - money, pride, drugs, careers, doing good things, sports, fear, anger...the list could go on and on. The very thing we thought would make us free or make us feel good has taken us captive. Instead of fulfillment there is emptiness, anxiety, fear, bitterness, addiction...
The two last verses I listed say that our freedom is to be used to SERVE in love not to just do whatever we want.
I challenge you to take a look at your life and see if what you are actually now serving what you thought was serving you...and if you find that you are in fact a slave...I invite you to call out to Jesus to set you free, set you free to serve him, please him and find fulfillment in your life. Maybe you've never called out to Him, that's okay, He's lovingly waiting for you. Maybe you know the Lord already but find you've started serving other things, just come back to Jesus. He's there lovingly waiting for you too.
I'll wrap up with this: Lauren Caraway knew true freedom, she knew Jesus Christ. She loved others and served others. Even though her life was not long on this earth, she had the ability to please God because she knew Jesus. She now lives in complete freedom and wholeness with Jesus - forever. She is completely free from sickness and the things we still battle here. Her Independence Day is every day and ours can be as well.