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.
“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)
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.
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.
I owe much to my mother but one of the most lasting lessons she taught me is how to appreciate hushed and subtle things. From time to time in my early childhood, my mother would pack us three kids into our yellow 1970-something Honda hatchback and drive us in the direction of tranquility. When we reached some well-wooded spot, she would turn off the engine, roll down the windows and say, “Let’s just listen to the quiet.” As we listened we became aware of the small, uncomplicated wonders that surrounded us. The wind in the leaves. The creaking of elderly branches. The chittering of a hidden bird. “I wonder what it’s saying,” my mother would whisper. And as our minds spun off to consider the language of wild things, the world grew bigger and more wonderful.
Now that I’m grown up, I find that it’s far too easy for me to forget about “listening to the quiet.” I get disoriented within my own crowded mental space. We literally have at our fingertips the most enthralling things our world can offer. All day long I carry a device in my pocket that can feed me an unending stream of breathtaking images from all over the world. I can call up and enjoy the best music ever recorded anytime I want. Literature, philosophy, theology, natural history, it’s all ready to be read, watched, listened to and commented on at my whim. There are so many competing things for me to feed my attention to that sometimes it becomes difficult for me to value any one part of the clamor. My sense of wonder gets stifled in the noise of endless options.
Over the last couple of years The Father has been reminding me to seek out the quiet. Particularly when I’m overwhelmed with life I hear Him calling me, compelling me, to get away to some lonely place. For me that means getting outdoors and into simple, pure nature. I have often found myself interrupting my commute home to park next to the river for five or ten minutes of peace. I have carved out occasional mornings or afternoons to hike a few solitary miles and not for the exercise. I never fully appreciate how much I need a respite until I’m alone with my Father in some hidden place. It’s there that the world regains its context and my heart gains enough space for wonder to dwell.
Wonder is that sense of awe that draws us not just toward beauty but into beauty. It’s one thing to drive past a forest, it’s another to enter the forest and discover its secrets. This is why I so love those sacred set-aside places we have called national parks, national monuments and wildernesses. They are sacred not just because they are pristine; it’s our experiences of wonder that imbue them with value and significance.
They are places, belonging to all of us, where we can go and listen to nature testify about God. They are places where our wonder can grow and compel us to press further up and further into the reality of God.
“What brings meaning is when you can combine a sense of wonder, undergirded by truth, experiencing the richness of love with the knowledge of security. Those four components bring genuine meaning to life. And the older you get the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder.”
The heart of the explorer is in all of us. I sometimes pine after those days when there was still a true frontier and a great unexplored expanse beyond it. I would like to think I could have been one of those companions of Lewis and Clark, pointing my canoe westward through the vast mysterious wild, hopeful to reach the certain shores of the Pacific Ocean. How easily they could have been swallowed up never to be heard from again. Wonder will eventually ask you to risk all.
But our world has been mapped. Every corner has been touched for good or ill by a human foot. Still as we explore these already tread-upon places for ourselves, we can discover windows that look into the untouched lands. The boundless secret countries of our Father, are open to the brave.
Just like those explorers of old who had to conquer their fears of unknown lands, we must conquer our fears of the mysteries of our Father’s lands. The questions we have asked that have not been answered can keep us from venturing beyond our own frontiers.
Wonder is the energy that pushes us forward. Wonder says now is the time, you won’t be disappointed. The answers aren’t on your frontier, the answers are out there in the mystery.
I have come to love those unanswered questions, and I have quite a few of them. Some people talk as if they love mystery just because it is mysterious. But that isn’t enough for the heart filled with wonder.
I love mysteries the way Lewis and Clark loved uncharted rivers. I love mysteries because they are promises of future discovery. It’s true that some things unknown will not be graspable within my 80 or 90 years. But that glory will have to lie in the promise of our good Father.
True wonder, the kind cultivated and breathed to life by God, pushes us past the quiet listening moments we make for it, past the days of discovery here on earth and past the quiet graves we leave behind. Our Father is preparing for us not just houses or estates but, if you will, entire mountain ranges and forests. They are already planted for you. They are growing now, watered with peace, colored in joy. Shading over and clefting in the mysteries that were placed for your discovering.
Quiet now and listen. The wonders of God will point you westward.
So, you’ve reached the age when time starts speeding up. Days are slow but weeks and months fly by and just forget about years. Life has been galloping circles all around you, and you’re not as good as you used to be at ignoring certain nagging questions. “Am I too old now?” “Did I miss something along the way?” “Are cargo shorts still cool if you live in the Northwest?”
You’ve got all these dreams knocking around inside your head. When you were younger you thought everything would just happen. Your life’s course would unroll before you like a red carpet. Destiny was unstoppable, God had a plan. But wasn’t God supposed to drop that plan into your inbox about ten years ago? You feel like you’re still waiting to get started.
This is not a post about giving up on your dreams. Well, maybe it is just a little bit.
Charlie Peacock has long been one of my favorite artists. He’s an eclectic, imaginative musician whose lyrics are vivid and meaningful. I have fond memories of my teenage self puttering around in my room with his album, Love Life, streaming out of my bulky CD player. You know, the ones with detachable speakers, so great. He is better known today as the producer of bands like Switchfoot, The Civil Wars, and The Lone Bellow.
As I plunge ever deeper into my thirties, one of his songs in particular often plays on my internal soundtrack.
The chorus of William and Maggie goes like this:
“…I’ve been thinking about you and me, and everybody in between,
It seems we’ve suffered one too many dreams of things that weren’t so bad,
It’s just they were never things that we could trust,
Are we still pretending they’re enough?”
We human beings are natural dreamers. We can’t help it. They start at the earliest age.
“When I grow up…”
Often our youngest dreams are wild, wonderful and unlikely. It’s a hard truth but the fact is, no matter how much we pined away and proclaimed our intentions to the world, Dinosaur Wrangler is just a dead profession.
As we got older, the world came into better focus and our dreams became more realistic, although “beautiful” and “unlikely” were still closely connected elements. Dreams, as they grow, tend to take on an increasingly noble attitude. We discovered that the world needed saving. Our dreams took on more definite shapes. We began to love our dreams, so much so that we infused them with the substance of our identities.
Artist, entrepreneur, athlete, missionary.
The more we dreamed, the more we saw ourselves not just doing these things, but being these things and that’s where the trouble lies. That’s why it can be so terrifying to think about giving up on a dream.
Listen, this is something I have to remind myself of often; we are much more than our occupations. It’s only natural for us to allow our personalities and idiosyncrasies to inform our vocational aspirations but we must not allow our vocations to define who we are. We are relational beings. Relationship is the most fundamental, most valuable thing we are capable of. I am not a minister, a photographer, a worship leader or a tile setter. I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father and a friend.
These roles are infinitely more valuable than the most noble vocation. It’s time we stopped pretending our dreams are enough to define us or justify our lives.
The only thing in life significant enough to give us that definitional gravity is relationship. Ultimately the only titles that can satisfy the questions of our identity are the titles, son of God and daughter of God.
So, time to give it up?
“Maggie, by whom all hearts were measured, kissed William softly on the cheek and said,
‘Sometimes William… William sometimes you’ve got to open up the windows
And let the wind blow through.'”
Dreams change over time. Sometimes it’s not the dream itself that changes but the version of the dream that we had been chasing.
For some of us letting the wind blow through means realizing that we have some more subtle dreams, just below the surface. They are so constant that we don’t always realize they are there. It’s time we rediscover the everyday passions that we take for granted. For some of us it may mean an adjustment of scale. Maybe you won’t ever be a rockstar but you may be a wonderful local worship leader. You might not become the nation shaking evangelist but you could become the only christian voice your neighbors are willing to listen to.
“The famous are rarely significant and the significant are rarely famous”
Maybe, we need to allow the Father to shed some light on the true motives behind our dreams. If we are willing I believe He will remind us why we love a given dream, or He will reveal what deep internal hole we’ve been trying to fill up with our aspirations.
Perhaps we’ll find we need to dream bigger. God may blow the dust off a dream and say its time to step it up. He might ask us to change a casual pursuit into a set of goals and calculated risks.
Never stop dreaming. Don’t neglect the callings of your life. But from time to time, can we be brave enough to let God’s wind blow through so that those dreams can be dusted off, cleared away, or maybe born again?
“When your fondest dreams die… Jesus opens up doors to greater glory”
-George Washington Carver
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