What is all this freedom for?

Our country, our world, is full of anger. Groups rise up to strike those they believe have deprived them. Demand rights. Claim freedom from constraints that feel like shackles. Individuals flare up with road rage, domestic abuse, even mass murder. As I hung our American flag today I wondered, what is all this freedom for? American Flag
The people who worked and died to found our country had a vision for a freedom based on sacrifice. When they declared independence and battled to procure it, some lost their lives or the lives of their sons. Many lost homes and property.

How did we gravitate to the point that one man takes another’s life or dignity in the name of freedom? Where the rights of one person negate the lives of thousands? Where freedom is only allowed for “me, myself and I” and those who agree with me?

Today I salute the flag, and am grateful for a country where I can still worship, speak, and write in freedom. (And I pray these freedoms continue, no matter who disagrees with me.) I am indebted to those who fought to maintain freedom here and around the world, as well as those who stand guard today, not knowing where the next suicide bomber will appear.

But I can’t help wondering, with so much hatred, anger and animosity, what is all this freedom for?

Though burdened with the pain and suffering of those close and far, I circle back to the One who guides my life, who said,

“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look:

‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere?

Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it.
If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back,
giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.

And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
No more tit-for-tat stuff.

Live generously.

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’

I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies.

Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.

When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

This is what God does.

He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.

If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.

If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?
Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

In a word, what I’m saying is,

Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it.

Live out your God-created identity.

Live generously and graciously toward others,

the way God lives toward you.”

Matt 5 38-48 MSG
photo by Jack H Thompson, Jr, Ft Jefferson, Dry Tortuguas

Have you found that sweet space, even if for a moment, when you know you are working out of your true self, your God-created self?

It only takes one person

American FlagWhen I unfurl our American flag to hang out front, I often recall our first year in Honduras. We lived in Tela, on the north coast (on the Caribbean). The pervasive poverty had hit me hard and I felt impotent in the face of all the deprivation surrounding us. What was my offering among so many needs? When a U.S. Navy ship docked at the banana loading docks as part of a friendship effort by the Navy, I gained an insight.

The crew brought shoes and clothing personally collected in the States, and they shared freely throughout the community. They used their weekend liberty (time off) going around town to repair a roof for a widow, fix a door, or help in any way they could find. Several sailors painted the school where we taught. Our two teenage daughters drew the interest of a couple of junior officers and we ended up hosting all the officers for a delightful, encouraging dinner. Before the ship left the next day they gave us a tour, along with locals who had been impressed with the sailor’s generosity and behavior.

We stood on the beach as they shoved off. With a lump in my throat, I watched the American flag wave. I was proud of those boys. Proud of our Navy. Proud of my country. And I’d never been so proud of the red, white and blue. I covered my heart, and had to hold myself back from belting out the National Anthem.

A student during the height of the Vietnam years, jaded by watching the assassinations of our president, John F Kennedy, presidential candidate, Bobby Kennedy, and peaceful civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., along with the lies and deceptions of Watergate, it had been a long time since I’d been proud of my country.

Here I stood, on foreign soil, savoring the values that had made our country great.

That make the United States of America a place many still struggle to immigrate to.

Not speeches and politicians,
not railroad magnates
or corporate giants.
Not fat wallets
Or impressive churches.
Not grand houses
Or flashy cars
Or well-lined retirement accounts.
Not stardom
Or notoriety
Not tall buildings or big cities
or luxurious shopping centers.

Over two hundred years ago, it was simply people, of many nationalities, unnamed individuals who worked hard, but always had time, energy and “a little to spare” for someone in need.

I believe it remains the only way for the United States to be a great country, a nation with a future.

My husband and I were on a road trip a few days ago and listened to an awful audio book. (We kept thinking it would get better.) But one character’s viewpoint was worth the listening time.

Each one is valuable, or no one is valuable.

Wherever you are, whatever your country, as a citizen of this great Earth, tune in to opportunities before you, and around you, for lending a hand.

For caring.
For affirming each person as worthy, made in the image of God.
Even if you all you have to share is a touch or a smile.

It doesn’t really take a whole village. One person can make all the difference.
One teacher.
One neighbor.
One friend.
One stranger.

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’ . . .
‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Matthew 25: 35,36,40 MSG

Has one person made a big difference in your life?
Have you acted to bless someone who never expected it?