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Freedom

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

It was just over a year ago.  Amid the COVID craziness, Judy and I made a discovery. It was a Thursday night and we had gone to one of our favorite eating places in Marion…a town not far from where we live. We did our Sam’s Club thing and then decided to call it a night. So, we headed for 217 back in Harrisburg.  As we were driving down the highway, on a whim, we made a right turn at a familiar intersection.  We had driven by it so many times but this time we turned.

The sign said it went to Creal Springs, but I found out it went somewhere else—to something else.  We were cruising along just enjoying the ride when I thought I saw one of those “brown signs.”  These signs usually indicate a place of special interest.  As I went by, I thought I saw the words cemetery and Revolutionary War. I went down the road just aways and  told Judy I saw a sign for a cemetery…perhaps an old one.  I turned around.

Back down the road, there was indeed a sign. We pulled off the road and it said, “Ellis Family Cemetery and Revolutionary War gravesite.  I really couldn’t believe that it was true.  I mean, out East you would find those kind of gravesites everywhere, but here in Southern Illinois?  We decided we had to investigate.  It turned out there was no road just a driveway.  Well, after trying to decide if we were going to get shot for trespassing, we decided to give it a try.  As it turned out, the driveway went between two houses which led to a pasture.  Way at the back of the pasture we could see a small cemetery.  There wasn’t a road, but I could see where a car had gone before, so off we went.

When we got there, we found the gravesite of John Ellis.  He was born in 1754 and died in 1850.  He lived for 96 years, which is incredible, but even more amazing…he fought in the American Revolutionary War.  He had two monuments.  One was much newer, one much older.  The older one simply said, “For Military Merit” and someone had painted his name on it.  I was overwhelmed.  Here in Southern Illinois was the grave of a man, a hero, who fought for the birth of our country.

This man was there, on the battlefield, when a group of men and women declared our freedom from England.  This.man.was.there.  He put it all on the line for a cause greater than himself.  And for the last 245 years that is what freedom loving American heroes have done.  Through conflicts great and small they have served, they have bled, and many have died.  I value the saying, “All gave some, some gave all.” I value the sacrifice of all of these freedom fighters through the centuries and decades.  I also love what they fought for.

I know these are difficult times for our nation, but we have seen difficult times before. At his first inauguration on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt said this. “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Don’t rush past those words.  They are powerful and they are worth believing.

I believe in this country.  I believe that even with all its warts and imperfections it is still the best country in the world.  Having visited well over twenty other countries, I’ve seen the competition and America wins hands down.  I spent an Independence Day in basic training for the Air Force in 1972. Lights-out was about 8:00 pm and I was lying in my bunk when the fireworks starting going off.  I crept out of bed and went to the window and watched as the fireworks exploded in the Texas sky.  Two emotions came over me.  One, I missed family.  Somewhere in Florida they were celebrating freedom. The other though was more personal.  I was becoming an American airman serving my country.  I was one of her defenders and I was proud…proud to serve and proud to be an American.

So, please, don’t blow past Independence Day this Sunday and certainly don’t give up on America.  We have weathered many storms and we can weather these stormy days…if we do what we have done in the past and that is trust God.  It is no accident that we have fought and won, it is no accident that we have survived and even thrived for the past 245 years.  It was more than sacrifice, more than guts, more than determination…it was and is the grace of God.

The Book says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”  That is so true.  As a nation when we choose God, when we choose to make Him ours, we do better.  When we don’t, we don’t.  It is just that simple.  The second part of that verse is equally important. God is still inviting, calling people to be His.  Skin color doesn’t matter, economic status doesn’t matter, creed doesn’t matter.  He simply invites every man, woman, and child to be His.  The invitation is open, and the decision is personal…individual.

So, God bless America.  If you are a God follower, a God believer, why not start this Independence Day with a whispered prayer of thanks for this great country.  And then, pause, be still and listen for surely the Whisperer will whisper.  He may speak through His Word, He may speak through another person, or a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Regardless, He will whisper, “You can rest in Me.  I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne