Exodus 16:1-12 (NIV)
Freedom—love it. There is, however, a price for freedom. A price paid by those who serve our great country. Heroes in my book. Knowing I’d never have the courage.
Those I call father, daughter, son-in-law, father-in-law, cousin, uncle—those who served our country proudly.
Those who paid with their life to give us the gift of freedom.
This is the cemetery where my father-in-law now rests. It’s the site of the Georgia National Cemetery. It’s a magnificent place, not unlike Arlington National Cemetery which sits across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. Did you know there are soldiers buried there from the American Civil War? Some even further back who’ve been reinterred.
Arlington National Cemetery was established May 13, 1864. The land was acquired in 1802 by George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington. He then began construction of Arlington House. From there the estate passed on to Custis’ daughter, Mary Anna. She married Robert E. Lee. In Custis’ will, he gave a life inheritance to Mary. This allowed her to live and run Arlington Estate for the rest of her life. However, she was never allowed to sell any portion of it. When Mary died, the estate passed to her eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee.
Now, a whole lot went on before the government acquired Arlington for a whopping $26,800 ($410,000 in today’s world). Then more stuff happened that involved the U.S. Supreme Court (YIKES!). Finally, Congress returned the estate back to Custis Lee in 1883 and then Custis Lee sold it back to the government for $150,000 ($3,232,273 in today’s money). This took place at a signing ceremony with Secretary of
War Robert Todd Lincoln. That gives you a peek at the history behind the famous cemetery. If you want to know all the details you’ll need to look it up. It’s very interesting.
This is probably why I love the 4th of July. I bet you thought it was because of the burgers and dogs, right? Nope. I love the meaning behind the 4th of July. The history of it all. And when you look across the fields of the Arlington and Georgia National Cemeteries, you can’t help but wonder if the stones neatly aligned cry out. Do they cry, “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.” I don’t know about you, but that totally gives me the goosies.
Freedom is an aspiration of a goal. The reason it’s an aspiration is primarily because of our divisiveness today. We just aren’t there yet. Being divided is never a good place to be. And, yet, the law tells us we are all equal. We’re on our way, I believe. We’re on the journey toward betterment. But we’re only in the middle. What if, we simply met there—in the middle. Would we go then on the journey together to reach our aspirational goal?
The Israelites were on their way to freedom. The new Pharaoh didn’t know Joseph and he saw the growth and power of the Israelites. So he put them into slavery suppressing them. Then along came Moses—cue the hero music—the desire for something better.
When we’re oppressed, there’s a human desire to be free. We then make a decision to get free because we see a better life. Moses spoke of a land flowing with milk and honey and the Israelites made the decision to leave.
Question: Do we ask at moments like this, What does God want for us? Or, do we think we know God wants us to be free?
So they leave. Now they are on their way to freedom. But no sooner are they out of slavery before they start to grumble. Isn’t that so like us? They say things like, We would have been better off in Egypt than here. Better we died there than here. This happens in all our lives. That inner voice that tells us we’ll never have the future God wants for us. How do we stay focused on the goal and what God wants for us? God’s vision for us?
While we’re in the middle, we need to look for the glory of God on the journey. Look to the clouds and you will see the glory of the Lord there. God is always in our lives giving us what we need. He provides for us. So how does our world today focus on what God desires for us? How about through blessings and unexpected surprises. The Lord hears us. He even said it to Moses, I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.
I know when I grumble about my life and get off focus on my blessings, God has a way of bringing me back to the place where I remember how very fortunate I am to live in a free country where I can write my thoughts out and share them with you. A freedom that allows me to worship and to speak my mind. He reminds me that my freedoms didn’t come free and that many gave their lives so I might live freely.
We make sure Haylie understands freedom and the reason we celebrate July 4th. I think she gets a small part of it. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag; we listen to the patriotic music, and enjoy the fireworks. I can tell in her smile over the past few July 4ths of her life that she’s gonna love it as much as I do.
Remember on this 4th of July to sparkle with pride for your country.
And if you happen to be out for a walk and spot the American flag, take a cue from Haylie. Stop and give thanks for the freedoms you enjoy.
How about you? What’s your freedom story?
And that’s what I learned in Church……see ya next time!