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We hope you are celebrating our country’s birth with friends and family, unhealthy food and fireworks.

In hopes of adding a little extra patriotic richness to your day, we are sharing some of our founders’ words from the minutes and hours following the ratification of the Declaration of Independence. Despite all of its faults and black marks over two hundred and thirty nine years, this is truly a great country. May we live in such a way that upholds the grand dream of the Pilgrims, the Puritans, our founders and our fathers.

 

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(iphone photo)

 

“Gentlemen, the price on my head has just been doubled.”
-John Hancock, just minutes after voting

 

“We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come.”
Samuel Adams, just minutes after voting

 

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not…

It may be the will of Heaven that America will suffer calamities still more wasting, and distress yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in States as well as individuals…But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”
John Adams, Letter to his wife Abigail  

 

If you are looking for a way to add meaning to this day, here’s what we will be doing :
(from Prager University)

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=Ml6LBcu0B7sframeborder=0allowfullscreen

All of us walk around with a need pulling at our insides. Some of us are more aware of the need than others. Some of us allow it to draw our minds ever more inward, as if self obsessed thoughts could fill the void. Some of us try to pave it over with the busy production of our lives. Some of us carry the need away; abandon homes and families to search meandering roads and far off corners hoping to find, we don’t know what.

I spent the 19th year of my life schooling with YWAM in Tyler Texas. That year was a pivot point for my life in more ways than I could list. I highly recommend any young person to take a year post high school and serve with an organization like Youth with a Mission.

For my first months, as I had done back home in Oregon, I occupied my mind by trying to purge away everything that carried the tang of regret. Like many young believers I became obsessed with every imperfection, every immoral impulse, every memory of a bad choice. I walked through steps of confession, true repentance, promises of future goodness, everything I could think of. Still, I could not shake feelings of unworthiness and shame. They stayed with me. I hid them away like unwanted contraband. I was terrified that someone would notice my struggle, and realize that I didn’t belong; that I wasn’t as strong as I should have been.

The broken cycle that seized those days was hard to take. But when the brokenness would finally overwhelm me and I became too exhausted to keep up my efforts, the Father’s kindness would edge in. It surprised me every time. Only in those surrendered hours was I able to lean on the Father like I should have done all along.

This fighting, stubborn-standing, breaking and finally surrendering was an ugly process that I knew I needed to leave behind. I just had no idea how. And admitting I wasn’t strong enough always felt like a defeat. Admitting felt like quitting on a responsibility.

One night I took a walk alone on the acreage of the rural campus. I was in the middle of yet again trying to think my way out of the place I’d been. Suddenly I clearly heard the Father say to my spirit, “I love you.” My heart’s fleeting response might as well have said, “Love you too, now let me get back to work.” Walking on, I heard the persistent, “I love you,” two more times. The third finally halted my mind and I allowed the thread to pull. I felt Him say, “I love you, I have always loved you. There was never a moment of your life when my love for you was diminished and there never will be.”

Now I had long owned the fact of this statement. The math of it was filed away in my head right next to that story about the floating ax head and an out of context James 2:20. But the tenderness of this truth was gaining new ground. As His thoughts unwound inside of me, they wove through all my toilsome shame and regret.

A newly close, living knowledge of His kindness worked its way backwards into my memory. Every monument of failure that stood up out of my brief history was toppled by this declaration of His constancy. I surrendered to it. I gave up the lie of my own strength. I felt Him there with me, in the Texan air, His hands on my shoulders, speaking new life to the heart of a son.

The weeks and months that followed brought a lightness of heart that I could hardly remember ever having before. Joy was no longer something that surprised me; I carried it with me. Working towards excellence was no longer about trying to deserve something, it was a gift to the One who loves me without fail. That year I learned that my need for Him could never be answered by my own striving. I learned something else too, something just as important:

Repentance: quitting on sin and walking in the opposite direction, is an absolute requirement. Throughout our lives there will be times when the Holy Spirit will bring a pressure to bear on our hearts, drawing us aside for a serious talk. But that interaction is not the whole of our lives as sons and daughters. Not even close. It’s so easy especially for young Christians to think that their early encounters with the Father are all there is. I believe that some of us get stuck in a rut where we only know how to interact with the Father on the grounds of brokenness and repentance.

I don’t think He wants us to just come to him out of desperation. He wants us to come to Him out of joy.

What if we stopped putting our need for God only in the context of our moral failings? Might we need Him for a much deeper and older reason?

Try this on: if mankind had never sinned, we would still need Him. Not because we are wretched but because He is our Father; we are His sons and daughters.

It’s not our brokenness or even our depravity that first causes us to need Him. Need has to do with our smallness in comparison to Him, it mightn’t have a thing to do with sin.

I want to lean into Him every day. Like Joshua, I want to be the man who never left the tent. I want to be strong because He is strong, not because I’ve held up under the lonely pressure. That stubborn part of me needs to hear, again and again, that it’s ok to just lean on God.

It’s ok to need Him.

We have permission to admit that we’re not strong enough. We were never meant to be strong all by ourselves. It’s ok to lean on Him. It’s ok to sit and be with Him, no agenda, no work to be done. Just be with Him. It’s ok.

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This photo was taken at Mount St. Helens and is our brother in law sitting near a 35 year old log mat left from the damage from the eruption of 1980. 

There is this place we can visit to remember. Two names are etched on a square stone and their short life is measured in hours. There is a promise written on the stone, a promise that we will be with  our sweet Joshua Paul and Kaleb Stephen one day. We don’t visit this place often; the first and most recent time we visited was 6 years ago to take our children to see where their brothers’ earthly bodies are buried. We choose to keep the memory alive in their minds with framed photos of our boys’ tiny faces and shared stories of the hours their brothers were held by us.

But sometimes it’s important to visit the place that reminds me of how broken my heart was (for what seemed like eternity) because when I remember the brokenness, I get to remember the way my Father put it back together.I also get to remember the conversations I had with my Father following the boys’ loss. Specifically one conversation we had for many years. I know He remembers it because he answered it.

I  asked him for miracles.

On this past July 4th, after many years of praying that familiar prayer, I saw this side of my Father. Our 7 year old daughter Gracelyn was riding on a flat bed trailer in in our local Independence Day Parade. She was sitting on top of the hay bales  on the float and was passing out candy with the other kids.  Then she impulsively decided to get off of the float and in one quick instant her foot caught under the tire and the tire drove on top of her leg and up  over her hip. Paul heard her scream and picked her up and ran a few blocks to the fire station where she was eventually life flighted to the hospital and underwent surgery for a broken upper femur.

The mere recounting of the story void of the miracles our Father performed doesn’t do it justice. I’ll tell it again.

As the float began to turn a corner, about a minute before the accident, two of our friends separately felt that they needed to pray for the safety of the float and those riding on it. And when our sweet girl decided to step off and her foot caught under the tire, the driver felt a  very small check to stop the vehicle even  before people began screaming for him to  to do so. If he would have driven any further up her small  leg, she could have suffered life long injuries – or worse. Once Gracelyn arrived at the ER and was admitted for surgery, we found out through a friend who works at the hospital that we had one of the best surgeons in the area performing this difficult surgery on a type of break uncommon for children.

You see, it’s important to add to our stories where we see our Father walking and touching and healing. Even if that story doesn’t end where we want it to end.

I see my Father walking in the hospital room as Paul and I said goodbye to our boys and weeping with us. I see my Father sitting with me in my garden as I talked with him all day long those  months after losing Joshua and Kaleb.

I see my Father walking  amongst the laughter and warm summer sun of that 4th of July Parade and once he sees my little girl want to step off the float, he tells our friends to pray. I see Him walking to the driver’s side of the car and telling the driver to stop.

There is another place, a place I can see. It’s a scar on my little girl’s leg where the surgeon cut her open and screwed a plate to her femur. It’s a scar that says “I see my Father here.” I see it often. I get to see it when my little girl runs and jumps. I see it when she is snuggled on my bed in her nightgown while I read a bedtime story. And when I see her rubbing it or looking at it I say, “What does that scar mean?” And she says, “Jesus saved me.”

Shouldn’t that be what we say at the end of all our stories?

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I took the kids to Joshua & Kaleb’s grave today where we made daisy chains (their little sister’s idea) and I told more of their big brother’s story to them.

I have been reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for the first time. If you aren’t familiar with this book, the story takes place in a realm between what we would call heaven and hell, a place where people choose if they want to go further up the mountain to heaven or back to hell. I came across a passage in the book where a mother was visiting this realm and was met by her brother who had come down the mountain to persuade her to return with him. The mother had come with hopes of seeing the son she had lost on earth years before. Her brother soon realized that she hadn’t grown past this loss that had enveloped her while she lived her final days on earth. She still wanted nothing to do with moving past this emptiness and believed the only healing would be to see her son again. The mountain was merely a place to climb to see her son, not to see The Father of all good things.

This resonated with me, but in a different aspect.

A couple of years ago, the Father asked me to stop thanking Him for healing my heart from grief each time I reflected on His goodness. He told me that He had even more for me, and after doing this I soon realized that what He had for me wasn’t a thing, it was Him.

He wanted me to only want Him, not the beautiful, mind boggling, miraculous thing He did by healing my heart.  I began to slowly see that He is much more than a Father who heals hearts.

More than a Father who provides.

More than a Father who heals our bodies.

More than a Father who parts the sea.

He is our Father. 

When I was young and my dad worked late nights, I would stay up until I heard the creaky front door open and close; the heavy, sweetly familiar footfalls thump through the house. Then I would come out of my room as my dad was rummaging through the kitchen for some late dinner and wrap my arms around him and feel his scratchy sweater as I buried my face to him.  He would wrap his arms around me and hold me for a long time and tell me how much he loved me. That is the only reason I stayed up late. I only wanted the familiarness of my dad.

And that is where I want to be with my Father. I want to walk this earth with Him, knowing that He is more than a giver of gifts, even of gifts that reveal who He is. He is our Father and that alone should be the place, the refuge, where we rest our souls. A refuge of knowing that if we received no other gifts, the gift of Him walking with us as our Father is the greatest gift of all.

And when I climb that mountain one day, it will not be a climb to thank the Giver of good gifts. I will climb – no, I will run up that mountain to wrap my arms around my Father and breathe in deeply His scent of familiarity and mystery.

The Grand Teton National Park

 

The photo above is of The Grand Tetons.