July is the month for vacations, beaches, lakes, heat and flags. Old Glory, whipping in the wind, "Oh, say can you see, by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hail, at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars. . ."
And here on vacation, the Flag whipping in the wind reminds me of one of the most special Fourth of July celebrations I've ever been a part of, annually for almost twenty years now.
This year, the key word was Freedom, and we sang it so many times that all I could hear was Mel Gibson as William Wallace screaming: "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!" to his last breath.
Freedom from what? For what? It's a personal question, so you decide.
Paris's First United Methodist Church has chosen to annually decide in favor of religious expression, yes God and country, in church. What, no separation of state and religion?
I'm thinking about that a lot these days, while reading about Henry the VIII, for the millionth time but with a fresh spin, in "Bring Up the Bodies," by Hilary Mantel. I can't imagine the turmoil those people went through in those years, during Henry's break with the church and his disastrous determination to have a male heir at all costs. I love hearing this story through Cromwell, whose name isn't producing the dread shudder anymore, now I can see him as a . . . Lawyer, albeit one with no power to avoid the chopping block, but at least he was in good company.
I'm not just glad for freedom, I revere it. And I love the freedom to pray for freedom, and sing over soldiers, God and country, with music, words, and prayers that tie those things and us all together, while recognizing deep truths. I love the reunions of old friends, God and country.
I love the red, white and blue that we all wear.
I love getting to see Opera Goddess, Alaina Logee, return from New York or Italy or wherever, with her incredible voice that grows stronger and better each year. (Tell us when and where, Alaina, don't be shy, it's time for all of us to get to experience you on the big stage). And there is her beautiful, talented cousin Adriane Anderson, who is all grown up and who is also taking her talented self to New York soon, best wishes to you.
I love that this service transcends the fractious power of church and unites us as one.
I love that new faces, true musicians, join us.
And finally, one highlight is always the Armed Forces songs, which I now know by heart. Active military and veterans are invited to stand while we sing over them, thanking them for their service.
This year, a soldier wore his old dress uniform, and it still fits. We may forget it, with all of our chatter (freedom of speech), but freedom still fits. May we never experience Tyranny. I've traveled, I've seen it and I'll take America and our chatter any day. And so I thank you, the military and those who serve us.
Freedom still fits.
Thank you, Sir, for reminding us of that.