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And I’m proud to be an American

On Sunday night Sweet William and I attended a concert at the mega church in our area with some friends. It was in honor of America’s birthday.

There was a full orchestra and a one-hundred voice men’s choir who performed over a dozen songs and medleys. As the instruments tuned up, I was enraptured from my seat in the balcony. I love to be where the music is, and this was an occasion to celebrate.

The concert was themed One Nation Under God, and I pray we still are.

The performers played and sang songs like “Let There Be Peace On Earth,” “Washington Post March,” “God Bless America,” and of course, “The Star Spangled Banner.” I couldn’t help myself. Sometimes I sang along.

One song brought tears to my eyes, “Bring Him Home.” I thought of a young man I knew who was killed in the line of duty a number of years ago. He did not come home. There are many others. Families are devastated by such heartbreak, and yet this is the cost of freedom.  The cost of my freedom.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our 200 plus years as a nation, but this is still the best country in the world, the place where others want to escape to, the nation that offers liberty and justice for all.

Though we are divided in many ways today, we still live free. And this freedom is the gift we treasure.

Freedom is never completely free. It costs someone. Freedom is my treasure, my pride in the US of A, my privilege in living my life here.

I am proud to be an American. At the concert, I tapped my food, clapped my hands, and sang along. At the end I felt so patriotic, honored to live in this great country.

I dare not forget how blessed I am. Truly God shed His grace on thee, my United States of America.

Let freedom ring long and loud. And let us live honoring the freedom we have been given.

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Life, death, and freedom

I grew up going to funeral visitations and funeral services.  It seemed normal to me.

My mother and my aunt sang together from their youth.  Being preacher’s kids, they often sang for the funerals where their father officiated.  When they married and had families of their own, they continued to minister through their music wherever they could.

My mother was not one to leave her only child in someone else’s care, so I attended a lot of funerals.  But that didn’t have a negative impact on me.  It was the process of life.  Babies were born.  People lived their lives.  And then they died.  It was natural.

This week, Sweet William and I will have visited two families whose loved ones have died.  Funny how sometimes we say “he passed” or “she lost her loved one.”  We try to soften the hard blow of finality. Yet, there is nothing easy or soft about death.

Though it is a common and natural part of living life, it still moves my heart when people grieve.  Sweet William and I have grieved our own losses.  We weep with those who weep.

We don’t get a free pass to skip over death, loss and grief.  It comes to us all sooner or later.  For some it is the ending of a life lived long and fruitful, the aged body finally wearing out and returning to it’s Maker.  For others it is a life cut too short, leaving unanswered questions, too many “whys.”

I believe life was given as a gift in the beginning of creation, that man and woman were presented with a perfectly beautiful world to explore and enjoy, and then they were invited to be part of the creative process.   I wonder what they could have accomplished without the sin factor entering in and making it all so very different, so very difficult.

Life is a gift to be lived as beautifully as we can.  For some there are immense limitations and adversities to overcome.  For all of us there are challenges.  As Christians, we endeavor to live our lives with impact, shining a light that points people to Jesus.  We live with the end in sight.  We live with hope of something more, the perfection that was lost in Eden.

And we grieve with hope as well.

So then death becomes the gateway, the vehicle whereby we move from corruption to incorruption, from mortality to immortality.  I should not dread it or fear it.  I should be ready for it, for it can come at any moment.

While I live my life here on earth as beautifully as I can, I do so with freedom because of Christ.  Freedom from fear of death.  Freedom purchased by grace.  For freedom is never free.  It is costly.  A high price is always paid for freedom.

This Fourth of July day, I celebrate my freedom as a citizen of the United States of America, purchased by the men and women who have fought for that freedom.  And I recognize with deep gravity that many of my Christian brothers and sisters around the world are not so free.  And yet, together we are free in spirit.  Free in Christ.  Free from the penalty of sin.  Free from guilt.  Free from the fear of tomorrow. Free to live as God gives us life.  For it is He and He alone who holds the keys to death.

And death will be a welcome relief, a door that opens into another world, a world as it was meant to be.

It is for freedom that we have been set free, brothers and sisters.  Live the life you have now as free children of grace.  Look forward to the freedom that will come to us when we have finished our course and kept the faith, when the Father calls our names and we will be set free.

For whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

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