Independence

I think often we forget the name of this holiday is Independence Day. A great thing to celebrate. So much more than the 4th of July. Different than simply a day to celebrate freedom (which isn’t so simple at all and definitely worthy of its own celebration). I forget the distinction myself often and in doing so I think I have missed an important lesson that it is worthy to re-visit more than once a year.

So many things bind us, both actual and imagined. We make the decision every day as to whether we will continue to answer to these things. They’re not all bad. In fact, I would say that often the toughest things to break away from are those things which are inherently good. Some of the ties that bind us are made of pure love. They make us feel secure. They give us support to get through the day. They have given us strength in the past and made us what we are today.
But sometimes they also keep us from growth. They keep us from being brave. They keep us from being all we can be.
I remember when I graduated from college and it was time for me to truly support myself for the first time.  I have to give some credit to my parents here….as supportive as they were, they raised me to become independent. That’s healthy parenting. I am sure there were many nights they worried. Though they did bail me out of a few financial issues, like a broken-down car from time to time, mostly they let me work it out myself. Yep, I resented it sometimes. I like being dependent. At least for some things. But having to face the fears of growing up is what gave me confidence….and pride….in my ability to handle an awful lot on my own. It gave me the ability to do more and be more.
When I was in my 20s I had a boss who still supported his children who were in their 40s. He paid their rent (or let them live in properties he owned), he paid their car payments, he paid for numerous college experiences that they either flunked out of or quit. He knew my paltry salary, and after a conversation in which I was telling him about some of my dollar stretching strategies he said “So your parents don’t help you with your bills at all?”  I laughed and said “No!” He said “How did they do that?” I said  “They don’t give us an option. They taught us that we’re not owed anything. We work for what we get and if we don’t have the money for it, we don’t buy it.” (To tell you the truth I don’t think I had consciously known that myself until I told him!) I could tell the whole idea of this was foreign to him.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about some of the things that bind us. Opinions. Expectations. Relationships. Jobs. Family. Money. Stuff. Past mistakes. History. Adequacy. Fear. Religious traditions that are not religious truth. 
What is keeping you from becoming better, from living your purpose? From what do you need to declare your dependence and move on independently? You were created as a unique individual, with your own worth. Your own purpose. What trail do you need to blaze? Take a lesson from our forefathers and consider, is it time to declare your own Independence Day, and live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”?
Take a read of what our forefathers were thinking at the time of our country’s independence, which we celebrate today. Does any of it ring true in your life? Here’s to your own personal Independence Day….and life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! Let the fireworks begin…and if necessary, let’s blow something up!

The Unanimous Declaration Of The Thirteen United States of America

In Congress, July 4, 1776
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing, with manly firmness, his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining, in the mean time, exposed to all the dangers of invasions from without and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;
For protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
For imposing taxes on us without our consent;
For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury;
For transporting us beyond seas, to be tried for pretended offenses;
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these colonies;
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow-citizens, taken captive on the high seas, to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in our attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them, from time to time, of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity; and we have conjured them, by the ties of our common kindred, to disavow these usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too, have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our separation, and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
WE, THEREFORE, the REPRESENTATIVES of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that, as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
[Signed by] JOHN HANCOCK [President]
New Hampshire 
JOSIAH BARTLETT, 
WM. WHIPPLE, 
MATTHEW THORNTON.

Massachusetts Bay
SAML. ADAMS,
JOHN ADAMS,
ROBT. TREAT PAINE,
ELBRIDGE GERRY

Rhode Island
STEP. HOPKINS,
WILLIAM ELLERY.

Connecticut
ROGER SHERMAN, 
SAM’EL HUNTINGTON, 
WM. WILLIAMS, 
OLIVER WOLCOTT.

New York
WM. FLOYD, 
PHIL. LIVINGSTON, 
FRANS. LEWIS, 
LEWIS MORRIS.

New Jersey
RICHD. STOCKTON, 
JNO. WITHERSPOON, 
FRAS. HOPKINSON, 
JOHN HART, 
ABRA. CLARK.

Pennsylvania
ROBT. MORRIS
BENJAMIN RUSH,
BENJA. FRANKLIN,
JOHN MORTON,
GEO. CLYMER,
JAS. SMITH,
GEO. TAYLOR,
JAMES WILSON,
GEO. ROSS.

Delaware 
CAESAR RODNEY, 
GEO. READ, 
THO. M’KEAN.

Maryland
SAMUEL CHASE,
WM. PACA,
THOS. STONE,
CHARLES CARROLL 
of Carrollton.

Virginia
GEORGE WYTHE,
RICHARD HENRY LEE,
TH. JEFFERSON,
BENJA. HARRISON,
THS. NELSON, JR.,
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE,
CARTER BRAXTON.

North Carolina
WM. HOOPER,
JOSEPH HEWES,
JOHN PENN.

South Carolina
EDWARD RUTLEDGE,
THOS. HAYWARD, JUNR.,
THOMAS LYNCH, JUNR.,
ARTHUR MIDDLETON.

Georgia
BUTTON GWINNETT,
LYMAN HALL,
GEO. WALTON.

On Independence….or Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

I’m someone who has a rather strong streak of independence by nature.  From the earliest times I resented someone telling me what to do.   But I always have liked that side of myself, and also always known that I was able to be free in many things because I had a great safety net…..family and friends who love me and would be there when needed.

For my life, freedom has been my greatest gift.  Give me rules, and I spend all my time trying to decide how to push them to the limit.  Funnily enough, I also hate cheaters who break rules outright…..they make me angry.  Especially when these rules are laws.  Yeah….those who know my respect of speed limits can probably point out my hypocrisy here.  But I do accept my punishment when caught…. and I have gotten better over the years!  Overall, though, I try to respect even the stupid laws.  And I try to get them changed through the system we have set up.  Which is often cumbersome, difficult and seemingly unmovable.  But yet also good in concept.

If I consider them “stupid rules” I often simply ignore them.  I only allow this in myself when the rule maker is misusing their position or is not really in authority over me.  Like at church when I am supposed to stand or put my hands in the air, even when I don’t want to at the moment  or feel that the Spirit  of God moving me to do so.  I call that Christian aerobics and I have not signed up for that class.  I often feel it is more about the person leading worship than the Spirit of God…so it frustrates me.  Yet in another way I do understand it.

I often have difficulty at church anyway. There often gets to be a lot of negative messaging that seems based on the sin areas other people need to work on…..and not so much about our own sinfulness.  I think we have that reversed.  But really….I’d so much rather talk about the ways you are falling short, so often I don’t argue with or question that approach.  Yep, the sinner in me.  So yeah…I understand that, too.

I love the verse that says that it is for freedom that Christ set us free.  We often forget that.  I think it is because God knows our authentic relationship with Him is found in our heart…..and not by the dumb things we say or do.  Often they are the result of external forces… our world…or the inner turmoil as we fight our natural inclination to live selfishly.  Churches should be places where we are reminded that we have a tendency to sin, that our hearts can be deceptive, and that a close relationship with God (the Father, Son and Spirit) is our goal.  When we know God more, and know His care for us, we naturally do the things that please Him.  I remember a quote I heard when I was a teenager “if we spend our time doing the ‘do’s we don’t have time for the ‘don’t’s.” That gave me a spiritual freedom that made my faith more freedom-based and has become a philosophy I return to when my life is out of balance.  So, what should I be doing?  Watching where God is going and following, growing the fruits of the spirit, aiding a Samaritan.  There are enough “do”s to last our whole lives.

Today is Independence Day…..so much more than the 4th of the month.  I love that our country was built by the desire for independence.  I think perhaps our founding fathers probably had some limits in mind based on their own desires and proclivities…..and I think my limits may be different than theirs.  But still….what beautiful words, what a beautiful concept.  I believe that freedom is a right with the only boundary being behaviors that interfere with the freedom of others.  And yes, I recognize that to be a difficult concept to administer. I see the choice that God gives us daily to follow Him or not, and I see that as the perfect freedom we should try to imitate.

For myself, I know freedom has saved my life time and time again.  Being given the choice, I am able to think before I choose, to not act like just a sheep or a rebel…learn and find truth and identify lies.  I don’t always make the right choice, but when I look to God I see the safety net he throws out to me.  He knows ultimately I will want to return to the one that I love.  I will return to equilibrium and truth where I will find peace and contentment. And God is neither supportive or surprised at my mistakes….but always forgiving when I recognize them and find myself ashamed at who I can be.

As much as I travel the world, and though I feel that there are other amazing countries out there whose people I love and respect, I still love returning home.  Though not perfect, my country is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.  Not that I really feel all are free and brave here.  But many are.  This country is another safety net for me.  Established for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in spite of whether the path of our neighbor is the same as ours.  Easy to say, hard to administer.

Oh….and if you haven’t read the Declaration of Independence lately, maybe you should.   Because you have the freedom to do so.  It is not required.  And you can either agree or disagree, but really…..it is the heart of who we are.  If you don’t love our country, shouldn’t you find one you do respect and live there…or work to change this one in a peaceable and respectful way?  There’s some harsh criticism in the Constitution about government and authority.  Some that I think we may have out of balance today.  But we are united together and I like to hope we will ultimately put our own self interest ahead of that of others.  That is what will continue to make us a great nation.  We just may need to get back our equilibrium.

As our flag flies, I think of the blood that has been shed for our freedom, the conceptual purity of those beliefs that our country was built upon, and our stars….not just the states, but the people whose character stands out (or has stood out) and make this such a great nation.  It has endured much, it has taken much abuse, but it still stands.  It stands for freedom.  Even the freedom we find distasteful.  Most choose to exercise that freedom for amazing purposes – to give people the choice to find God, to exchange ideas that can make us think differently and make better choices, to learn, to grow, to laugh, to cry, to protest, to respect, to work, to endure and to build our faith.  That is an amazing thing.  But I will also support the right for those to be free whose ways I don’t understand.  Because even though it does not always lead to people making the right choices, ultimately I believe in independence. It means you may not agree with your neighbor…..but you will give your all for their right to be free.  You are my safety net and I am yours.  I wish you freedom for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.   I hope you wish me the same.

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html

Independence Day

Day 4 in Proverbs

Proverbs 4: 20-26 “My child, listen carefully to everything I say.  Don’t forget a single word, but think about it all.  Knowing these teachings will mean true life and good health for you.  Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.  Never tell lies or be deceitful in what you say.  Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside.  Know where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground.”

“Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” – Author Unknown

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You catch on pretty quickly in Proverbs that Solomon is writing to his son as he gets ready to celebrate a special kind of independence day….adulthood.  A difficult time for most parents….and a time where there is a certain amount of urgency to make sure that the lessons they have been teaching all of their child’s life have stuck.   My guess is that most people who have children who have left the nest, or will soon be leaving the nest, can relate to the need that Solomon has to know that his son is listening to him.  There are a lot of pleas of  “Listen carefully to what I am saying to you.  This is a matter of life or death.”   

You probably can also imagine the look on his son’s face as he rolls his eyes at Dad’s lectures.  But my guess is that whether he did everything suggested or not (and my guess is that he probably did not), he heard every word.  And when he didn’t do what Dad suggested, the phrase “Oh…..Dad was right again” came to mind.

I’m a believer that thinking something is not wrong….it’s something for which we have only a limited amount of control.  Thoughts just happen, and if we believe we are by nature sinners (as I do), then some of those thoughts are not good.  We don’t need to give birth to them and let them develop.  What makes thoughts wrong is when we give life to those that should die on the vine.  Giving them life….nurturing them, feeding them, growing them….is what gives them power.  That is something that we can control.

When my nieces and nephews graduate from high school, they get a choice of two gifts.  One is money, the other is they get to take a trip with me.  They can go anywhere in the continental US or on a Caribbean cruise for that trip.  The value of the trip will always be greater than the money.  I like spending time with them….so the trips are going to be fun and hopefully create good memories for both of us.  Because one of my passions is travel, I hope I can share it with them and teach them to love it as much as I do. 

I also hope they gain a few life lessons from me in the process. There are things I have learned in life that I hope they learn at an early age.  I think it will make for a more abundant life for them.  I want these life lessons to be the gifts they really value as they grow older.  Though they may not be my children, I love them so much that I want them to have the best lives they can.  I want their lives to make a positive difference in the world.  But I also am not convinced they are wise as of yet and aware of the price of their freedom.  Or aware of the power of their choices.

I want them to be able to travel the world without fear, and to celebrate the differences in people instead of just seeing the similarities.  I want them to open themselves up to different ideas and thoughts and experiences and not just float scared through life.  I want them to learn to live life with enthusiasm and passion and not just exist.  But like Solomon I want to encourage them to develop and exercise wisdom even now.  I want them to realize that they have a lot of freedom to make choices and that freedom is a wonderful thing.  But there is a price to all freedom and a consequence to every action.  I want them to see it isn’t all about them….but consider that everything they do impacts other people.  And even the smallest action can change their life, or someone else’s life, forever.  These smallest actions begin with a thought….and their choice to either grow it or kill it.

One of the greatest freedoms is the freedom to tell the truth.  Telling lies always puts us in bondage.  We have to remember what we say and who we say it  to, and then who may know the truth, and then develop excuses in the event it all comes back to bite us.  We become not who we really are, but a fantasy, and so no one really knows the real us.  That’s a lonely existence….to never know if someone loves and accepts you just because you are you, or because they love the fantasy you have created.   And once again, it stifles your life.  As does maintaining the base of lies you have created.

Being found out in even a small lie may make someone look at us differently forever.   I know I put it in my memory bank when I see it….and I continue to watch and listen.  There are some great liars in the world and they are a sight to behold.  I have learned not to totally judge someone on the basis of one part of their character….but you also have to keep it all in context.  If someone will lie about a little thing, they are more prone to lie about anything.  To not have someone trust what you say?  It really limits your credibility and your ability to live a life of purpose. 

Those of us born in this country, who have adopted this country as our own, or who live in another free society, have been given great independence.  But still the choices we make matter.  Making wise choices brings us good life and good health.  Doing a little mind control on ourselves…..to grow the good thoughts and kill the weeds….. can lead us to a full, healthy and satisfying life.  As Solomon wanted it for his son, that is what I want for all of us.  Happy Independence Day!  Live free.  And well.  And purposefully.  And thoughtfully.