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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Feeling Good About My Country

Yesterday I celebrated the "Fourth of July" which isn't necessarily a one-day thing here in the USA. So, even though I was a day early for an authentic July 4th experience, I've had enough BBQ ribs, baseball, and fireworks to think I've appreciated the event. Go me!

My day started at a Promotion ceremony of a friend to the rank of Colonel in the United States Army. Never having been inside a building on a military base before, I was the ultimate stranger to this event. I met some truly good people, and by the time I had left, I felt good about my tax dollars going to support these folk. I have to figure that everything I saw, touched, tasted, and listened to was pretty much paid for by tax dollars. I've never heard of an Army base holding a bake sale for new chairs in the foyer. Sometimes, when I encounter the poverty of people on a face-to-face basis, I get frustrated that so much of our taxes pay for leather chairs and mahogany walls for the military...but not yesterday. It all seemed worth it.

I learned a lot, of course, from these military folk, just as I have from all the other military folk I know. But what I learned from this crew is that there is a lot of education going on in our military. Besides graduating from West Point, the new Colonel has three Master's degrees and a Doctorate. (I though I was going to die by degree!) Oh, and he's in his mid forties with two pre-teens. The guy's incredible, and if any deserves to be recognized by our military for excellence and dedication, Colonel Lindenmeyer would be tops on my list.

 So as I sat in the ballroom of the USSC during this ceremony, I was very impressed with the Brigadier General who delivered an address, and pinned the bars onto the new Colonel's dress uniform. I learned, for example, that only 6% of officers on the United States Military reach the rank of Colonel. How many get to be Brigadier General? (I checked Wikipedia, we've only had 209 FOUR-Star Generals since George Washington, or less than one a year on average.) I was in some rare company yesterday. As the new Colonel was one of the General's top staff at USSC, the General did a marvelous job of making everyone, from his staff, to the family members, to visitors like me feel right at home. I felt remarkably secure in a place I am sure most of our "enemies" have on a list somewhere...

The day ended with fireworks.  I was thinking I was going to be bored with another year of fireworks (they all seem the same to me these days), but as Ray Charles' America the Beautiful  rang throughout the ballpark (I was at an Omaha StormChasers AAA baseball game) I was surprisingly moved to some vestige of patriotism or something.

You know, sometimes people like me get accused of "hating America" because we hold our country and its ideals of freedom, independence, and opportunity to a high standard. I don't want to see people lose their freedom or their independence just so others can exercise a freedom to abuse the land or rake in extreme profits (think of our country's treatment of Native Americans, if you want an example.) Without a doubt, FREEDOM is my most important value, as I not only believe it is the heart and soul of the United States of America, but also of my Christian tradition. On the importance of freedom, in my mind at least, neither Jesus nor Jefferson disagreed. They both wanted it for everyone.

What I experienced yesterday, both at the USSC and the ballpark was people trying celebrate that freedom.  And, of course, historically speaking, we mostly failed. The land we were on, the clothes we were wearing, the fossil fuels we were burning through did not come without our oppression. And I think most of us knew that, even if we couldn't articulate it at the time. (Thank you Budweiser.) We all know we don't deserve the promotions, the fireworks, the buffet-tables of BBQ that make this day so festive. Deep down in our souls we wrestle with our worthiness not only today, but everyday.

And unlike the patriotism of military accolades and exploding fireworks, the suffering of the Christian faith speaks to this feeling of unworthiness in another way. Our faith holds that God whispers our name. As Christians we believe that the God who made it all, the God who keeps it all going, knows each and every one of our names. And that promise, that God will never forget us, is what gets us through after all the fireworks fade away and the food is swept up into the dustbin of history. It's not as splashy as what I saw yesterday, but it not only makes me feel good about my country, but the promise makes me feel good about myself and my God. Happy Fourth of July!

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