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Barbecues, swimming, tennis, and a long weekend--sounds great. A time to watch fireworks, enjoy a relaxing summer beverage is also in order! This is July 4th, and it’s a reason to have a party—but what does it really mean if we toss the activities aside?

When we were young the summer was an exciting time for many of us. It was amazing time to be a kid and go enjoy holiday festivities.  It is easy to get caught up in life and have tunnel vision that holds us in a self-absorbed prison. With all this motion, has the holiday lost its meaning? Perhaps it has for many of us. The good news that we can use this time and be giver of our love, and resources. We can volunteer, donate, spend time with people who have nobody, and share the blessing of liberty with others. We have the freedom to laugh, pray, debate, or to dance in the street if we want to. Not that liberty is not serious, it is.

Let’s keep the success of liberty alive today.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty,” said JFK.

Happy Birthday to America is more than picnics, and being a relatively young nation—we can reflect on a few points. We overcame England and its powerful military and fought for liberty for all. Our military continues to do this for us, so we can be free, although many of us feel our liberties are at stake such as freedom of religion.

Religious intolerance is a gradual progress, but it needs to be addressed before it becomes severe. Compared to Iran and other countries who burn churches, imprison Christians, Buddhists, or any other religion that goes against the government beliefs, America is still blessed. The Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776 that declared that the colonies were officially a nation. There was a sense of duty and patriotism—something as a people we’re missing. 

“Patriotism is easy to understand in America; it means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country,” Calvin Coolidge said.

Here is what we can do to remind ourselves--not that picnics and parties are not awesome! But spend time perhaps in prayer and reflection on what the nation means to you. It’s sometimes difficult to pause during a long busy weekend to reflect on our blessings—but this is our inheritance. Former GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told Beliefnet that the people have a strong spirit, and America has a bright future.

“I believe America is different. I think we are unique in human history and that we still have the ability and capability to bring it back and to have another Great Awakening. Yes, things don’t look good, we’re on the wrong path in many respects, but there is still a great wellspring of faith in America.”

Think about the freedoms we do have compared to other countries like Iran. We can pray, worship, or not in America. We can say what we want and not be jailed—we can vote. Theodore Roosevelt  said: “I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” 

Get involved and volunteer to help military families who are serving our country. Ask local organizations if they’re involved in setting up care packages. On the 4th, invite families to spend time with you and give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and dreams. 

Do some studying on American history, not just go by what you learned from childhood. Reflect on some inspiring quotes from George Washington and read about other historical figures. Compare notes and references. Here are three quotes from Washington: 

“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”

“There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.” 

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”

“It is impossible to account for the creation of the universe without the agency of a Supreme Being.”

Make a book of what the 4th means to you. Have family add images and notes. List reasons you are grateful to be in this country and have freedoms. Host a party and have people sign the book and ask them to share what freedom means to them. 

There is more! This is a time were communities have fundraising events. Pick a charitable event or even host a bake-off, or get involved in an event to raise money to help others. It can be fun. Have a dinner at the house and ask people to bring canned goods for the homeless. Maybe host a bake sale that can go help the military, or an organization that helps cancer patients.

You can be yourself, and don't be afraid of what you believe in this politically correct world!

“In a world of such political correctness a lot of people are intimidated not to speak,” Santorum explained. “One of the reasons they accomplish this intimidation is because people are not informed and they [are not] comfortable with these issues.”

Said Thomas Jefferson: “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.” 

Those who served in the military make this happen today.

Visit a VA hospital and see how you can serve and help those who need it. The Huffington Post shared that we need to raise the American flag and celebrate our military. "Another way to honor our servicemen and women is to visit the cemetery and read the headstones of those military service men and women who died. Take some time to quietly thank them for the ultimate sacrifice they made. To be sure, some will say our government should take care of these things listed in this blog, but I would say let’s follow the example of those who came before us and take care of each other."

Like Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln discussed what liberty meant to him. When we were the political slaves of King George, and wanted to be free, we called the maxim that "all men are created equal" a self evident truth; but now when we have grown fat, and have lost all dread of being slaves ourselves, we have become so greedy to be masters that we call the same maxim "a self evident lie."

Again, we can have fun, but let us look at what we can do for others this holiday and all during the year. This takes time, creativity, and reflection on how great this nation really is. No matter where you stand on any issue, we live in a nation that allows us to be free. Cherish it. 

What does the 4th mean to you?

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