Column by the Rev. Clay Smith: Fourth of July ....


This Fourth of July will be a quiet one for me.  I will catch up on some chores, take a nap, feed my cows and grill some hamburgers.  It is my right as an American to spend the day as I choose.

If I lived in North Korea, I might be forced to attend a parade in honor of the great leader.  If I lived in Russia, I might be hiding from a military draft.  If I lived in Ukraine, I might wearily be shouldering my weapon for another day of battle.

I might watch some TV or read a book.  I’m sure I will check my social media accounts, just to see what’s going on in the world.

If I lived in China, I could only watch a few channels on state-approved media.  My internet options would be limited.

I am certain on the Fourth I will pray to my God in the name of my Savior Jesus.  I will read my Bible, as I do every day. 

If I lived in Iran, I would have to pray in secret and worship in secret.  To follow any other God other than Allah might be risking death.

While I am driving out to feed the cows, I might get stopped by a deputy sheriff for speeding (it has happened before). I would expect to give him my license and registration, receive my ticket and pay my fine.

If I lived in Mexico, I might have to pay a bribe to the police officer so I would not go to jail.  Or the officer who stopped me might not be a policeman at all; he might be a member of a drug gang.  I might be robbed or shot.

I will probably read the news on a couple of websites on the Fourth.  That’s my daily habit.  I might be depressed about the politics and division in our country and be frustrated about the candidates presented to me for office.

If I lived in Venezuela, I would be living under the brutal regime of Nicholas Madura, who oppresses dissenters and has lowered the standard of living of his country by 42 spots in his 10 years of rule. 

When I lay down for my nap, I will not be afraid of a surprise attack on my home.  I know first responders are out there to protect me.  A strong U.S. military will keep watch while I snore. 

If I lived in Israel or Gaza, I would be afraid of a rocket attack or a tank bulldozing its way through my neighborhood.  I would live with the anxiety of not having a secure place.

I can go to the store to buy hamburgers on the Fourth and be reasonably sure there will be food there.  If the store is out of hamburgers, I can find chicken to grill.  If worst comes to worst, I can get a frozen pizza.  The grocery store always has something for me to eat.

If I lived in South Sudan, I would wonder where my next meal is coming from.  I would worry if there is enough to feed my children.  I would move slowly, not because I am lazy, but because I would be too weak from lack of proper nutrition.

I will do my chores around my yard and my house.  Sometimes I wonder why we have such a big house; there is just the two of us and the dog.  But there is room for all the kids when they come home and lots of room for the grandson to play. 

If I lived in Hong Kong, I might make a lot of money, but my home would be about a fourth of the size of my home.  I would have no yard but would live in a high-rise.  I would live in an exciting city, but I would also live in a noisy place where you cannot see the stars.

I realize there are places in the United States where there is violence and corruption, hunger and oppression, restrictions and constraints.  But overall, I am blessed to live in a country that provides more freedom and more privileges than any other country in history.  When the Fathers of our country declared our independence from Great Britain, they opened the door to freedom.  That freedom had to be fought for and defended.  It must still be protected by our military but also by our own votes and voices. Being an American citizen is a blessing.

Like all blessings, I must ask: Why has God blessed me in such a way?  Why was I not born in North Korea, or Russia, or China, or Venezuela?  Why am I so privileged?  I did nothing to deserve citizenship; I did not earn it.  My citizenship in this country is a gift.
This Fourth of July, I need to thank God for the gift of my country.  And I must ask, how do I use this gift to honor Him?