Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thursday's Reflection: Freedom

How do you plan to spend the 4th of July this year? Since this year the 4th is on a Friday, I imagine many will be celebrating the entire weekend with picnics, and attendance at fireworks and parades and maybe outdoor concerts featuring patriotic music. Along with participating in the fun and family times, enjoying good food and drink, and playing under both the sun and the stars, I hope you will lift a prayer for the gift of living in this country and for the ongoing efforts to fulfill the hopes and dreams of our founders. 

We are a nation still evolving, still discovering who we are and who we are meant to be, and because of the freedoms we have declared for ourselves, our differences sometimes seem more visible and stronger than our similarities. Sometimes that is painful,  and sometimes we forget we are a country that holds freedom as its utmost value. 

I like what the historian Barbara Tuchman said in an essay "On Our Birthday--America as Idea," 
       The United States is a nation consciously conceived, 
       not one that evolved slowly out of an ancient past. It
       was a planned idea of democracy, of liberty, of conscience,
       and pursuit of happiness. It was the promise of equality
       of opportunity and individual freedom within a just social
       order, as opposed to the restrictions and repressions of 
       the Old World.

No, we haven't lived up to our ideals, but our ongoing assumption is that we will continue to try. We will continue to bump against each other's version of the truth, and we will continue to have major growing pains, but that is almost the point. We know we are allowed to do that. We must do that. 

I just started reading a little book by Kent Nerburn called Calm Surrender, Walking the Path of Forgiveness. I didn't expect this book to make me think about life as an American, but I think as a nation we are not so good at forgiving ourselves for not living up to our own expectations. This is a huge simplification, I know, but we seem quite good at forgiving others. Think about the rebuilding of Germany, for example, after WWII. 

The first chapter in this book is called "More than I Had Hoped, Less Than I Had Dreamed," and while he is talking about our individual strengths and weaknesses, I think there is relevance for our lives as citizens, as these United States. 
       We will never be as good or worthy as we wish to be.
       We will be human --- too human --- and we will fall short
       of our hopes for ourselves over and over again. If we can
       forgive ourselves for our failures --- not seven times, but 
       seventy times seven --- we can forgive others for their
       failures. We know that we are all humans, struggling
       by the lights we have toward our vision of good…Though 
       I am not what I thought I should be, I am more than I
       might ever had hoped. As I survey the landscape of my 
       life, I am overcome with a sense of wonder.
                                                  pp 36-37  

Yes, I am overcome with a sense of wonder--and gratitude that we even have an Independence Day. On this precious holiday, I pray we each rejoice in not only what we have and who we are, but more in what we have yet to become. 

A Bonus
What would the 4th of July be without good food. Here's my version of strawberry shortcake, based on my Grandma Hansen's recipe. (I added the herbs or "green things," as my kids call them. 

Shortcake, with emphasis on CAKE
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 butter
1/2 cup sugar
About 3/4 cup milk
Minced fresh herbs such as mint or lemon balm or lavender
1 well-beaten egg

Heat milk to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in minced herbs. Cover and steep about 10 minutes. Uncover and let cool. When cool, add well-beaten egg. Add more milk to make 1 cup if needed.
Mix together dry ingredients and add liquid ingredients to the dry. 
Grease a 9x9 or 9x13 pan and bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.
Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.

An Invitation
What relevance does the phrase "More Than I Had Hoped, Less Than I Had Dreamed" have for you personally and as a citizen? I would love to know. 

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