I positioned our lawn chair and laid out our beach blanket along Main St. USA. We took our annual obligatory parade photo that always includes plastic Meijer bags and the hope of countless tootsie rolls and other bounty to fill them. We mark time with these iconic photos. Our girls have grown up celebrating the birthday of this great land from the curb.
The parade begins with a sea of children dressed by Midwestern mommies in carefully selected holiday attire as they parade down the street on bicycles, in strollers and wagons all decorated red, white and blue. There are adorable rescue dogs on leashes, some miniature horses, political candidates attracting voters parents with popsicles for their children, a long string of floats from local businesses, sports cars and antiques. Sirens blare as the fire trucks, ambulances and police cruisers file past. We wave at these public servants who protect our health and safety day after day and year after year. Then everyone stands respectfully as a line of military personnel representing each of our armed forces and carrying their respective flags come into view. It feels like doing the wave with clapping as hands communicate appreciation. It’s one of my favorite patriotic moments of the year.
Few things incite my patriotism as much as that hometown parade and Cincinnati Reds baseball games.
Brian and I have sweated against many a nosebleed seat on hot summer nights. The stadium overlooks the Ohio River, sparkling like diamonds in the setting sun, the northern Kentucky skyline in the distance. There’s anticipation in the air for 9 innings of play with all of the atmosphere’s intoxicating sights, smells and sounds. The moment I love best is right at the beginning. Thousands of people stand, place their hands over their hearts and sing. The anthem builds excitement and apexes on the final phrase,
“O say does that star spangled banner yet wave. O’er the land of the free. And the home of the brave.”
Then thunderous applause communicates a wordless expression of gratitude.
There’s a trend in academia and pop culture these days to bash the USA, to disparage our proud history and to minimize our influence in the world. My girls are at risk of being stripped of their national pride and their gratitude squelched.
Are there legitimate concerns, frustrations and disappointments about the history, function, process and direction of this nation? Absolutely. But this is not the weekend to park there. There’s a time for everything and this is our weekend to celebrate good, old fashioned patriotism.
Dear daughters, Consider this.
We didn’t choose where we would be born or the place of our citizenship. It’s what God sovereignly chose for us.
We are the recipients of the privileges of living in its freedoms,
And we have been offered a share in its prosperity.
It’s a gift. Celebrate it.
Let’s choose to count our blessings this 240th birthday weekend.
I took those musings to the dinner table and invited dialogue from my people. Yesterday, lively banter amongst family and friends yielded this list of gifts intermingled with food and friendship on the occasion of our holiday picnic on the front lawn.
My Question: What are five things you are grateful for as an American citizen?
-We can worship.
-We can homeschool.
-Traditional slavery is over and prejudice is declining.
-There is a court system to oversee justice.
-Our country’s foundation and principles are influenced by Christian faith and values.
-We’re not socialists or communists.
-We have a nice flag.
-We have Chick-Fil-A.
-I am thankful for Thanksgiving holiday.
-We have enjoyed freedom of religion.
-Michigan is in the United States.
-Men and women can get an education, vote and drive.
-Our press isn’t controlled by the government.
-We can choose our religion.
-There’s equality for everyone.
-We’ve preserved many natural places, like parks, for the enjoyment of our citizens.
-We have freedom to obey our conscience according to the Bible.
-There are people who serve our country in the army and police officers who keep our laws.
-We’re not forced to be in the army. People volunteer.
-We can earn money and make our own decisions about what to buy.
-No ongoing wars are being fought on our land.
-We have hot dogs. (Starla interjected, “Actually, the French invented those.”)
-We have freedom of Speech.
-We have freedom of Press.
-We have freedom of Peaceful Assembly.
-We have libraries and unrestricted access to written material.
-We are a country of multicultural influences.
-We have relative ease of travel to diverse natural habitats.
-We get lots of options.
-There is generally a spirit of philanthropy and generosity amongst our citizens.
-We have choices about all sorts of things.
-We travel freely between states.
-Our tradition respects Christian faith.
-We benefit from quality medical care.
-Our country abounds in natural beauty—lakes, oceans, mountains, fields. One of my favorite places is Lake Michigan. (Guess who said that one?)
-I’m grateful for a heritage of people who left everything with a vision for something new.
-I’m grateful for brave, committed men who fought and struggled to draft a document that would create a framework for democracy to flourish.
-I’m grateful for liberty, order and a free society.
-I’m thankful for the men and women who have courageously sacrificed their life to keep it that way.
-I’m grateful that if I wanted to own or carry a weapon, after legally obtaining a permit, I could.
-I walk into church every Sunday and hear God’s words read and described without fear.
-I’m not in the middle of unrelenting chaos and war, fearing for my life.
-By in large, we can trust our law enforcement.
-We live in a democracy with the right to vote (though I admit that doesn’t feel like much to celebrate this year).
-We’ve provided a safe place to land and make a fresh start for countless immigrants and refugees.
-We work and our effort produces personal profit.
-We have rest and recreational opportunities.
-We live amongst great and generous people.
Counting the gifts fuels gratitude. Gratitude propels us toward greater ownership, responsibility and citizenship.
A commitment to love what we have and to preserve it.
Not to abandon it for some fantasy that somewhere else is better.
Not to fall prey to the illusion of the grass being greener in someone else’s yard.
Every nation is inhabited by people.
People are broken and sinful by birth, choice, practice and generational influence.
We’ve all got garbage in our personal lives.
Why would we expect that our country would not also reflect our own personal duplicity?
By the grace of God, in our fallen state, we cry out for mercy, grace and blessing.
And our Heavenly Father is so kind, slow to anger and abounding in love. His mercies are new and fresh every morning.
If that’s how He responds to us personally, can we not ask for the same gracious help on behalf of this land that we love?
And can we not commit to being agents of peace, love and change where our passport calls home?
It’s almost time for the grand finale. I’ll lie on my picnic blanket next to the ones I love best, gaze up into the night sky and watch it light up in amazing colors and designs. I’ll hear and speak involuntary “oohs” and “aahs” of awe and admiration.
Thanks America for another year of celebration.
Happy Birthday to you!