Before July fades into August, followed by frost and freeze warnings from the weather man (excuse me, weather person), followed by jingle bells and ho-ho-ho, here are a few thoughts, questions and wonderings about our most recent Independence Day Celebration. Do you ever wonder if those folks who put their ‘John Hancock’ on our country’s Declaration of Independence back there almost 240 years ago had a few firecrackers that they could shoot to celebrate this freedom that those 13 colonies had declared? 

Did they have any barbecue and homemade ice cream? And maybe some flag-waving patriotic music? And a little gospel preaching by a pastor wearing a straw hat and standing on a trailer? And did they have the presentation of the colors by the Color Guard with the Pledge of Allegiance to our nation’s flag, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag, and the Pledge of Allegiance to God’s holy, inspired, infallible, inerrant Word? Followed by the most awesome display of fireworks lighting up the night sky that could be seen from two counties away? The short hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention for three days!

Just the mention of fireworks takes me back down that dirt road to the farm at Route 4. The closest thing to an ‘explosive’ that we ever had were the caps that came with the cap pistol that we boys got one Christmas as a ‘joint’ present. Something about Mother and Daddy’s headaches stemming from the ‘explosion’ of five thousand caps in one afternoon from that single cap pistol is still lodged in the ol’ memory bank.

Another time when Brother Oliver was a teenager, he brought home something that we only knew as “devil-chasers.” You lit the fuse and watched it squirt around all over the barn yard about two feet off the ground. Don’t know if they still make those things or not. But the rest of us brothers said they were appropriately named. Especially after the second or third one that Brother Oliver lit with one of Mother’s kitchen matches caught him in the back of his leg as he was running toward the barn for cover.  Suffice it to say that was the first and last time for devil-chasers down on the farm.

The only other time in our entire childhood that I remember something that lit up the night was when somebody, I think it was Brother George this time, snuck and spent a quarter on a box of sparklers. Well, when he lit one of those sticks and pointed it at Brother Wade, it scared ol’ Wade so bad that he set an Olympic speed record as he ran to the barn, climbed the ladder, and hid in the back of the barn loft. Until I picked up the spent sparkler by the wrong end. Then Wade had a good time laughin’ at me as I stuck three fingers to the bottom of the water bucket at the well.      

Time for one more just-thinkin’-out loud question…Does independence give us the freedom to do as we please, say what we please, go where we please, any time we please? Somebody selling fireworks was asked by a customer the other day, ‘how long is the fuse in that 6-foot firecracker?” And that got me thinkin’. How long is our mental fuse? Or what does it take to make us explode and shoot off at the mouth, potentially hurting anybody close like a cherry bomb going off in your hand?

The lady in the  long line at the big box store was giving the young clerk a piece of her mind, and in fact, she had given away so many pieces that she didn’t have much of a mind left. The customer behind her remarked, ‘she must brush her teeth with gun powder.’ She was completely free to do that, of course, because this is American, land of the free and home of the brave. But as the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:13, “don’t use your freedom to indulge in your sinful nature.”

And aren’t you glad that God has a ‘long fuse’? Slow to anger and rich in love is how David described Him in Psalm 145:8. And one more word of advice from the wisest man who ever lived, “Above all else, guard your heart because it is the wellspring of life,” (Proverbs 4:23). I thank God that I was born in America, free to do as I please, but maybe Solomon was saying that we should post an armed guard at the door of our heart, which is our mouth. If we bite somebody’s head off, and they turn around and bite our head off, all we’ve got is two head-less monsters. Yes, in America, we can usually do as we please. But when Jesus comes on our scene, he changes our ‘pleaser’ so that we want to do what pleases Him.

Anyway, back to the fireworks show. My MHB (mill hill bride) and I, plus a few thousand of our closest friends, spread out on the green grass of the hillside below the church, and witnessed our church’s Annual Fourth of July Celebration Spectacular. Excuse me, but I just gotta chase a rabbit down a side road. You remember a story from Vacation Bible School about another hillside where five thousand hungry folks, plus women and children, sat down to eat. Now, granted, they didn’t have barbecue, slaw and baked beans, plus every flavor of homemade ice cream know to mankind for dessert, like we did at church the other day.

Another side road, please… my friend Buddy Jack Seaborn, BJ for short, told me he and his guys spent all day and night before the 4th cooking up about a thousand and six hundred Boston Butt pork roasts! That just short circuits this ol’ DRCB’s (dirt road country boy) hard drive and fries my software when I try to imagine the Miracle of that all-you-can-eat fish sandwich supper that Jesus fed those hungry folks with…and all from a little boy’s lunch bucket that held five little loaves of bread and two little fish. And, get this, there were 12 basketfuls of leftovers, even after all those thousands of people were full as a tick. Those hungry folks on that hillside that day were anything but independent. Actually, they were completely dependent upon the only Person in the whole world who could satisfy their hunger.

Totally dependent on the One who willingly died to give us freedom leads me to wish you ‘Happy Dependence Day.’

Today and every day of the year.