Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

As Americans, we value, celebrate our independence. I know I certainly do. I am proud to be an American. We are an exceptional country – in all of history. I know it’s not very PC to say these days…

I’m not using the term “exceptional” because of our accomplishments -that would be pride and arrogance. No. We have been blessed by God in remarkable ways. I know there has been the political debate of, “You didn’t get there by yourself.” – people have jumped on that and ridden it in every direction. But the truth is we didn’t get here by ourselves.

Although it isn’t popular to say, America is dependent on God. I think, in the spirit of independence,  we have forgotten that. Our national motto is: “In God We Trust”. We didn’t get to be an independent, free, wealthy, fruitful country by ourselves – God has poured His blessing on this country. Even our independence is given to us by God.

But are we grateful? Are we thankful for His many blessings? Do we praise Him for His goodness to us? Praise and gratitude foster a sense of dependence. We acknowledge that all we are and have has its source in God. We are not our own. We didn’t get here by ourselves.

 

 

This past weekend I attended my great-nephew’s wedding in North Carolina. He is the grandson of my oldest sister, Gigi.

I also had the opportunity to see my father and spend time with my son. A good weekend all around.

But the wedding was so very special. The forecast was for storms and heavy rain – it was to be an outside wedding. On the way we were moaning about the weather and wondered why anyone would want a late afternoon outdoor wedding in August in the mountains of North Carolina. It always rains in the late afternoon in summer months. Well, not “always” but close!

We drove through heavy a downpour with thunder and lightning and knew we all were going to get soaked. When we arrived at the farm where the ceremony was to take place, all was dry! But black clouds loomed. When the ceremony began there were black clouds in a circular bank around a blue sky right overhead. We could hear thunder in the distance.

The ceremony was a little over an hour. Anglican. But no one minded because it was so honoring to God and the sacrament of marriage. In today’s culture neither are done very often or well. There were beautiful hymns and scripture readings and homily. There were flowers the bride had arranged herself. There were children crying, cows mooing and much laughter.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more joyful bride. She giggled through the whole service – not a silly giggle but pure joy bubbling up from her soul. Once they were declared man and wife the priest said, “And their first act as man and wife is to take communion together.” They did. Then they turned to serve the rest of us communion. To see the groom  serve his parents communion and the bride serve her parents brought tears to all eyes.

The ceremony elevated the marriage ceremony from the quick, sentimental  ceremonies we often see, to the sacred and holy. This young couple entered marriage in all seriousness and delight. I truly could imagine Jesus’ presence and His pleasure in what took place. It was a worship service.

The reception was inside the barn – round tables set around – and pot luck. We wondered how that would work! Beautifully. They had more than enough food and more than enough drink. And wonderful variety. What a great idea! I think it’s an idea whose time has come.

We enjoyed the celebration. I saw and visited  with family and friends I rarely see these days. It’s sad that it comes down to weddings and funerals. Wish there were a better way to stay connected – other than Facebook.

It never rained a drop! As we left the venue we noticed the streets were wet – it rained everywhere but at that farm! Surely a blessing from God.

The young couple will live in Switzerland after their honeymoon. The groom has a job there and the bride hopes to teach. They met and graduated from UNC – Chapel Hill.

I know God is going to bless in a marvelous way.

 

There has been so much going on that I lose track of the time! We have watched the two political parties nominate their candidates…that could have been all-consuming if you let it and if the networks had their way. Mercy! They’d get one story in the cycle and it went round and round even if there wasn’t anything new!

Then we have had police shootings…such a tragedies. For both sides. The men who lost their lives serving their community, the loved ones who lost their family member, the perpetrator(s) and their family lost their loved one.

We don’t like to think of them with sympathy. We feel they got what they deserved. No, as much as we’d like to write them off, we cannot. And I know I am looking in from the outside and don’t have a personal connection…

Or maybe I do. Each one was created by God for a purpose. He loved(s) them. I share that with them. I share this planet with them. I am a human being with my own struggles and faults. I have a faith that asks for total surrender but instead of anger and hatred as motivation, my religion is motivated by love – sacrificial love.

It asks that I love my enemies.  I am  even to pray for my enemies. And forgive them. Does that ask too much? Yes, it does. We, I, cannot do that on my own, in my own strength. I am not that strong. I can only do it by the power of the Holy Spirit, given to me by God when I accepted Christ into my life. As the Apostle Paul said in Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Paul gave us the key, “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” And he adds, “I can do all things (not just the easy stuff, the stuff that I want to do) through Him who strengthens me.”

So perhaps my role, is to pray for those who lost loved ones, those who protect my community, their families and the families of the perpetrator.  And I think each of us needs to take to heart the slogan: If You See Something, Say Something.

I watched the television coverage of the carnage in Nice after that man plunged his big rig down a street crowded with people – men, women and children, of multiple ethnicities and nationalities – all celebrating the French independence day, Bastille Day. A horrific scene.

It is hard to understand how one could even  conceive such a thing much less carry it out. It is evil meant to terrify.

Then all the shootings of police officers – assassinations really. Gunned down in cold blood while they were on duty protecting not only their community but the ones who gunned them down. When they left home that morning and said goodbye to their family, they had no idea this would be their last time. It’s heart breaking.

And our political leaders and pundits show little compassion as they immediately press their own agenda. Horrible. They are even worse than Job’s 3 friends. At least they sat with Job and  waited 7 days before hey spoke. Maybe we should make that a policy…do not try to speak into someone’s grief for 7 days – just sit with them.

What would Jesus do? Mourn with those that mourn and weep with those who weep. God’s own job description for Jesus was, “To bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, To grant to those who mourn in Zion, giving them instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Did our leaders even try to follow Jesus’ example? The whole point of comfort and gladness is that God will be glorified. To point the mourning and grief-stricken to God and His mighty character. Not some political agenda. How tawdry!

As Christian’s let’s pick up the mantle they dropped before it is too late and point to God and His unchanging character for a culture that is dying.

 

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