Sunday, July 4, 2010

God and Freedom and Pepto Bismol

Happy Belated Independence Day!
And yes, apparently pigs celebrate it too, though I bet that one wouldn't mind a little independence of his own, a chance to stroll his piggy toes freely through the amber waves of grain, untethered by pig leashes of any kind.
(Full disclosure: Watch out pigs. I love bacon.)

Did you have a fun 4th?
I love the holiday, the small town parades with fire engines and dogs wearing hats, the red, white, and blue bunting and the hot dogs and hamburgers, the pigs on parade.
There's just an eensy weensy part that makes me nervous. Okay, two parts, if you count the trepidation I feel as my husband and young pyromaniac set off Crazy Bob firecrackers on the driveway and then dance around with their arms in the air, laughing like mad scientists.

I guess my tummy just starts to percolate whenever people start tumbling God words and GO USA words all together.
Does this ever make you nervous too?

I love my country madly. Our four years in France gave me a new gratitude for the American can do spirit, our beautiful optimism, our willingness to reach out our hands to help those in need.

I'm thankful for people like my grandfather, who died ensuring the freedoms we hold dear, for people like my husband and my brother in law, who've given years of their lives in service to our country. We have such a rich heritage and live with privileges and rights unavailable to so many others in the world. We've been richly blessed.

But as a Christian, I pledge my foremost allegiance to God, a God who loves all of his children as much as any others.
So when I look at the freedoms and the blessings that I enjoy and then survey the world and see the need around me, what do I do with that?

As always, God can help me work this out. Gathering to pray and think with other believers usually makes things clearer.
Take a look at the scripture we read in worship.

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Galatians 5: 1, 13-14

Although Paul wrote these words to remind the Galatians that Christ frees them from legalism in their faith, from the overwhelming list of rules on diet and circumcision, the message speaks to us as well, warning us against self indulgence, self focus, perhaps against isolationism and nationalism.

It was a beautiful morning of worship. We heard an awesome sermon, sang O Beautiful for Spacious Skies and My Country, 'Tis of Thee. But when the choir stood to sing This is My Song, voila, my need for Pepto Bismol vanished.

Do you know the song? It's a Finnish anthem, Methodist hymn, and a new favorite of mine.
Joan Baez sings a version of the first two verses here, if you're interested.

This is my song, oh God of all the nations,

a song of peace for lands afar and mine.

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,

and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

This is my song, oh God of all the nations;

a song of peace for their land and for mine.

is is my prayer, o Lord of all earth's kingdoms
Thy kingdom come on earth thy will be done.

Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him.

And hearts united learn to live as one.

Oh hear my prayer, o God of all the nations.

Myself I give thee; let thy will be done.

So today as I look at our flag hanging from my porch, I'll thank God for his many blessings, and sing a Tiny Tim prayer for all the nations. God bless us, every one.

Tell me, as you splash around in the morning-after patriotism, how does this strike you? Have you had the same questions? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Have a great Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky


Alise said...

I have never heard that hymn before -- absolutely stunning!

I love patriotism that builds up rather than tears down. I love my country. It's beautiful and it's idealistic and it's generous. But I don't need to believe that other countries are NOT those things -- I simply celebrate it in my own land.

Have a wonderful day!

lotusgirl said...

I'm grateful for my country, and I can understand why others may be grateful for theirs. There are many wonderful things about different places in the world. I feel especially blessed to have the freedom to worship God in peace. I am grateful for a constitution that protects my individual rights. As a woman, I'm grateful for the freedom to achieve whatever my heart desires.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

God has blessed us, but he loves EVERYBODY. AMEN. I recall a few places in the Bible where it mentions God puts people and kingdoms and authority in place, so we really ought not have ANY pride in our position, but rather appreciation for his blessings

hillsideslide said...

hi. Alise tweeted your post, and I'm so happy to have popped over to read it.

That Galations verse sums it up, doesn't it?

Also, it's been incredibly uplifting and encouraging to see so many people posting Finlandia this July 4th.

Thanks for highlighting these words and music, and for adding your own. Good stuff....

Doug said...

Thank you for the great post. I love patriotic songs that honor our Christian heritage and remember drinking them in when flying back from the 1st Gulf War. But have always been a bit nervous when churches go overboard and seem to be celebrating country over God. What a great song to end a service on the 4th.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Alise, I love your line about patriotism that builds up. I so agree. We have a lot to celebrate.

Hey Lois, amen. I know people who have to hide their worship where they live. I'm so thankful my rights are protected and honored, as well as the rights of those who worship differently than I do.

GG, that's a very interesting point. I'm going to think about that.

Hillsideslide, isn't that funny? I'd never heard of the hymn until yesterday morning, but I keep seeing it everywhere today. For good reason, I think!

Doug, I agree. Flag waving at church does make me a bit nervous too. I want my worship to honor God, and not create idols out of other things. But I do want to thank God for the blessings of our country. That hymn helps me do both. :)

Rebecca Ramsey said...

And PS to Doug, thank you for your service in the military! I'm so glad you made it home safe and sound!

Rebecca Ramsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kari said...

I get a bit squeamish about things like saying the pledge, so I know what you mean. But I also agree that there are a lot of really wonderful things to celebrate about America, and I try to focus on that on the 4th. Last night we listened to "Land of My Sojourn" by Rich Mullins after the fireworks, and it, to my mind, strikes a good balance: "Nobody tells you, when you get born here, how much you'll come to love it and how you'll never belong here."

Sarah@EmergingMummy said...

I quite like this post. I'm not American but I spent 8 years in the States (my husband was a heartland kid). The first few 4th of July celebrations at church devestated me - I couldn't figure out who we were worshipping. God? Because it sure seemed like we were worshipping America. A pro-military, pro-Republican agenda America.

It made me a bit queasy (good word!) as well.

I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for posting this!

Anonymous said...

i wonder
how well do we use this
freedom of which we speak?

ToddR said...

Thanks for your post. Here's the difference between you and I: I remember a parade with a guy pulling a pig behind a farm tractor. You remember the pig but think about Church and State!

roundballrev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
roundballrev said...

Great post on pigs and patriotism! Only on wonders never cease. Thanks for the traffic and thanks for the Joan Baez video! Baez does Sibelius. Didn't see that coming.

Laura said...

What a beautiful post, Becky. You have it all just right. My pastor said something similar yesterday...she and her husband served in another country and she talked about how they now appreciate the US much more now.

I'm going to go listen to that song now!

Amy Sullivan said...

Your description of the "mad scientists" dancing around your driveway certainly sums up what was happening at my house last night...ugh.

As I repeated, "Move back, move back" my husband was jumping over flaming tanks.

As for the freedoms and blessings that we freely enjoy and many do not...I don't know what to do with that. It haunts me.

Barb said...

Hi Becky,

Not sure if this comment will go through. blogger has become possessed.

Your post was very thought provoking.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. As a Christian, there can be no other way.

hugs to you,

Beki - TheRustedChain said...

Becky, what a GREAT post!

Kelly H-Y said...

I'm a little scared of all the firework-wielding folks in the neigborhood as well! :-)

Heidi Mann said...

I'm a bit late in reading this post, but I agree wholeheartedly. It's great to love our country, but if we love it (or give the appearance of loving it) more than God, that's a problem.

I once pointed out to the congregation I was serving that the words of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" point out that we sing "of" our country, but we sing to -- in other words, we praise "our fathers' God, Author of liberty." Those little words make a big difference!

I learned of "This Is My Song" a couple of years ago and fell in love with it! I get goosebumps even just reading the words, let alone hearing them sung!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Heidi, that's cool. I'd never thought about those words of My Country Tis of Thee being sung to God. Thank you for showing me that!