2020-07-08 - Celebrating Together
As a young girl, I recall many occasions of gathering with family. As I think about those visits, they were very often holidays. These included my Grandpa coming over at Thanksgiving, my great ’Grandma up the long stairs’ at Christmas, the other great grandmother over at her place and then the Grandma I knew the best from seeing most often-but at either her place or ours. Perhaps we had more intentional visits with her due to her living further away, but for whatever the reason, there are grander memories in my mental flash drive of time with her. Last night, I had the Fourth of July visit recollection of her coming to our house in PA. It popped into my mind as I was trying to find my happy place during the loading and reloading of fireworks around our house from around eightish (pm) until I was falling asleep after midnight. During that flashback to the childhood encounter, I recalled preparing for company, fellowshipping, laughing, having our typical grilled burger and hot dog picnic foods, playing with the dog. Hannibal was an awesome mixed terrier around fifty pounds-white with black spotting, except his head was black with more white around his nose.I got to be part of the sparkler burning that year. I was finally old enough to hold one myself, and I am quite sure my mother was ’thrilled’ about it due to the fact that if something could go wrong with either of her kids, it was most often me. Just before lighting those sparklers out on the back concrete open porch area, we watched some fireworks (from the front yard) done by a neighbor in a subdivision about a mile or two away down the hill and around the bend, as we used to describe. We could not really hear them so much as see them and last night I was understanding the value of that aspect as our nervous girl, Melody, dealt with some anxiety as a side effect of such a method of celebrating freedom. While others may enjoy the sounds of it, there has never really been a positive connotation for our group in that regard. When our kids were little our son had ear infections from about three until he was about seven years old. A couple of times they caused his eardrum to burst. Fortunately they healed, but due to infections and other discomforts loud sounds were painful and no matter what we tried-even ear protection gear used at the shooting range- he would be inconsolable if the show was lengthy and we were too close. And before he was born, our daughter, as a baby, cried from a grocery parking lot more than two miles away from the fair site when we tried to watch them. Even if we stayed home, our family pets were frightened and barked, so I very often dread fireworks more than enjoying the colorful display. In the spirit of the tradition, I try to consider that my own experiences with them are not necessarily how others view them. Last night, I was finding it very hard to love my neighbor (Luke 10:25-37) And to the end of current circumstances of the COVID-19 virus keeping people home more as a factor I would interject-this happens pretty much every year where we live. Perhaps those around us-in their own ways- were enjoying the gathering of friends and loved ones with their own kind of spirit of togetherness that I recall from so long-ago waving sparklers with my family. We shared the spirit of togetherness through fellowship. More than what we were physically doing, it was the fact we were doing so together.
And in the same way, we celebrate in some sort of fellowship with those closest to us, Jesus asks us to reach out to those around us, sharing the joy we find in him and how our lives are changed thanks to his redeeming love and sacrifice to us. We cannot always know the motives of those around us, and we can even question our own motives at times, but the whole point of forgiveness is that we can celebrate in and with our heavenly Father. That feeling of warmth and acceptance and unconditional love spent with family that Fourth of July, many years ago, is what God wants for all his children in eternity with them. Are you ready to carefully manage the sparkler that can show the beautiful light of a love everlasting? I want to celebrate together with that reminder of what loving my neighbor truly means (Isaiah 52:7 & Romans 10:15).
Heavenly Father, thank you for your forgiveness for not seeing my neighbors as I should have, and I pray you use me each day-in some way- to bring light to the path leading to you. In Jesus name, Amen.
All verses are from the King James Version (KJV) unless otherwise noted.