The Best Way to Celebrate this Fourth of July

My Country, Tis’ of Thee

America the Beautiful

God Bless America

The Star Spangled Banner

Patriotic songs are one thing our country does well.

This week while eating lunch, my girls and I watched a children’s DVD titled, Songs of America by Cedarmont Kids. Included in this collection of songs was the Battle Hymn of the Republic (Glory, Glory Hallelujah!)

I know I’ve heard this song a hundred times, but this time, as we watched, the fifth stanza of this classic American song caught my attention.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,

With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.

As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,

While God is marching on.

When I heard these lyrics my heart swelled with pride not just for my country but for my God, for the way He transfigures, for the way He makes us holy.

Our God is marching on. And while this is a perilous time in our nation’s history, our God is still Lord of all. He still transfigures. He still makes us holy. And there are men and women still fighting for this country, for us, and for freedom.

And I wonder, as an American and a follower of Christ what am I willing to lie down, to die to, so that my fellow man can be free? My pride? My fear? My sense of comfort?

Because we are at war. There are people all over our neighborhoods, our communities, our schools, our churches, our workplaces, our country, our world, who are living in bondage, who are desperate to be free.

Your neighbor. Your hairstylist. Your daughter’s teacher. Your son’s coach. Your boss. Your co-worker. Your sister. Your brother. Your best friend.

Everywhere; Young, old, rich, poor, our nation, our world is teeming with people who need to be rescued by soldiers of Christ and the truth of His saving grace.

Perhaps the best way to celebrate this Fourth of July isn’t in eating hot dogs or watching fireworks. Perhaps it’s in making a sacrifice, be it big or small, so that someone in your world can experience the love of Christ.

We all know that freedom isn’t free. It was bought for us with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and in terms of our nation, with the precious blood of countless American heroes. It is a gift from our past, a privilege for the present, and a responsibility for our future.

On this Fourth of July, what are you willing to die for? What are you willing to sacrifice so that others can know the love, the saving grace, of Jesus? So that the captives can be free?

~ A Message from the Archives

Dear Zach

My nephew Zach at 1lb. 9 oz.

My nephew Zach at 1lb. 9 oz. (Roughly the weight of a Coke can.)

A letter to my nephew on his second birthday…

Dear Zach,

As I get ready to celebrate your birthday, I can’t help but remember the day you were born. To be honest, Zach, I think of that day every time I see you.

Every time I see your handsome smile.

Every time I hear you laugh.

Every time I hold you in my arms, I remember that day and I shake my head in awesome wonder of what God has done.

I remember the prayers.

How I, for one, dropped to my knees and begged God to protect you, your mom, your dad. How I asked again and again that he would not allow the day, the night or your precious life to end in heartbreak.

Because to lose you, Zach, would break my heart. To lose you, Zach, would break a world of hearts.

In fact, there were so many hearts that we created a website to let all your “followers” know how you were doing. Whenever they visited the site they could enter their location on the “Praying for Zach,” map.

And Zach, that map was ablaze. People all over America, in South America, in Africa, in Europe, in Australia, in China were praying their hearts out for you!

We prayed that God would grow you from a baby born at 24 weeks to a little boy healthy and whole.

I remember the pictures.

The pictures of you so small, so fragile, with your tiny hand latched onto your daddy’s finger.

They told us, Zach, that your daddy’s wedding band could slip around your tiny arm. And your mama’s arms, they ached to hold you, for months they ached and waited to cradle you close to her heart. And we ached too.

We, your family, your world of friends we ached, and waited, and watched.

I remember how each day, for month after month, was a fight.

For you.

For your mommy and daddy.

For everyone who loved you.

Your tiny body needed time, and surgeries, and love. Each challenge led to another. Every upside came with a down side.

And there were days when all we could do was trust and wonder.

Zach, this is what I remember.

And this is what I know.

They say, Zach, that children teach us grown-ups far more than we ever teach you, and I know this is true. I see it in the faces, in the eyes that water whenever a conversation turns to you, and people you don’t even know shake their heads and say that God must have something really special in store for you.

Of course they’re right. God does have something truly special in store for you, Zach, and I can’t wait to see what it is, but I don’t have to wait to see how God has already used you.

God has used you to show all of us that life is precious, that life is worth fighting for.

God has used you to show all of us that there is power when God’s people pray.

God has used you to show all of us that he is a God of miracles.

You are a miracle Zach. But even more than that, your life, from day one, speaks to and demonstrates the miracle that God has placed inside each and every one of us: A beating heart. Lungs full of glorious air. A brilliant mind. A plan. A purpose. A soul.

So, Zach, on your second birthday, I want you to know, that I am blessed to be your Aunt.

You, Zach, are a fighter and champion.

You are wonderfully made and dearly loved.

You are a miracle, as all God’s children are miracles.

And your life, it tells the story, it tells the world, of God’s goodness, provision, and love.

It always has. I pray it always will.