The cacophony of fireworks has already begun. The requisite photograph of youngsters buying fireworks has already been taken, with Page One publication due any day now, perhaps even today.
The sale ads for the discount stores all feature the latest and greatest in outdoor grills and grilling supplies (but the single raffle ticket I bought to win a new one is no doubt in the bottom of the trash heap by now, since no one has called to congratulate me on my good fortune).
And patriotic bunting is in evidence everywhere you look, the brilliant red, white and blue adorning so much more than Old Glory.
It's time to celebrate the founding of our nation with too much good food; too much snap, crackle, pop; and too much sun. I've practiced making Mom's potato salad twice this year, so if called upon to prepare it for a family picnic, I'll come through like a trooper. Same with Danny and his mom's recipe for baked beans. (Admittedly, over the years we've both made enough changes to each recipe to rightfully claim them as our own, but we like the generational connection.)
Given the tenuous state of the economy, the floods to the north and east of us and the wildfires to the south of us, this may be the last year we celebrate our nation's founding with our usual enthusiastic consumerism. Certainly the celebrations in Minot, Joplin and Los Alamos will be somewhat abbreviated as the people there do all they can to keep body, soul and family together.
They may have little time to ponder the gift of freedom as they seek to salvage what little may be left after the winds abate, the waters recede and the fires subside. We may leave ourselves little time to ponder the gift of freedom as we race from one summer activity to the next, putting in an appearance here, there and everywhere.
Maybe we should make the time.
The fate of this nation, and whether or not we will remain the "land of the free and the home of the brave" much longer, no longer rests on our leaders or our military. It rests on each one of us.
Founded on the audacity of hope -- hope that men allowed to self-rule would first be self-disciplined, this nation has endured many struggles in her relatively short lifetime. Reading the history books, it's easy to miss the day-to-day struggles that perhaps mirror our own today. Looking back, it is hard to recognize that these people of noble character, who dared to dream, faced with each new day the temptation we endure today -- to give up the dream, because nothing had changed, nothing was changing and nothing indicated any change was forthcoming.
Our marvelous modern technologies have at least one unintended consequence in that with instant messaging, instant access to cash at the ATM, instant movies downloaded onto our Ipads, and so on, our hunger for instant gratification is never satisfied, only intensified. Our forebears learned patience as they waited months for a response from the king to their latest entreaty; as they waited out the winter months when travel was ill-advised; and as they endured months-long separations from home and hearth to hammer out the details of our emerging Republic.
And it may all be forfeit, because we have no patience, no self-discipline and little regard for our fellow-man. Abandoning the absolutes that guided our forebears, we are awash in a churning maelstrom of public opinion, the loudest voice -- right or wrong -- getting the go-ahead, tradition, values and morals be damned.
Our forebears were unabashed in their embrace of Judeo-Christian mores, whether or not they personally embraced God as Creator and Father, Jesus as Savior Son and allowed their hearts to be guided by his Holy Spirit. They embraced the absolutes and at the very least, acknowledged Nature's God.
If (and some would say "when") this nation falls, either into an abyss of economic collapse or through some other dreadful event such as another successful terrorist attack or more violent storms, earthquakes or worse, we truly will have only ourselves to blame. Because without the absolutes set before us by God himself, we cannot exercise self-discipline. And without self-discipline, there can be no self-rule. And every drop of blood shed to establish and to sustain this nation through the challenges of the years will have been shed in vain.
Can we roll back the clock, regain all that we have sacrificed on the altar called "tolerance" whose true name is "appeasement?" We cannot. What we can do is look at ourselves, individually and independent of anyone else, and apply the absolutes to our own lives and then live them out. That is this nation's only hope.
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.