Another fourth of July celebration concluded last night. I with my eldest brother enjoyed watching fireworks all over Branson, Hollister and Rockaway Beach from the backyard of my cousin Lucy Willett. She lives in a gated community on a hill above the Branson rec-plex. I enjoyed watching her 81-year-old face light up like a child reborn exclaiming over and over how beautiful the fireworks were as they lit up the clear and warm summer night.
Memories flood back of fourth of Julys past. My cousin Mark would bring a Kentucky Fried Chicken big bucket filled with firecrackers. Like clockwork, sometime during the day Mark would light a firecracker and throw it in the bucket, setting off a mass explosion that tore the bucket apart. It became tradition.
We used to take GI Joe Army men and prop them in our ditch with a firecracker strapped to him and light the fuse. We would smoke bomb old broken model cars and watch them burn. The more destruction the better!
My brother Dave and I were shooting bottle rockets from our yard across Bear Creek Road (just called HH highway back then). Not paying attention to the approaching car, we lit one that stuck out the end of our wiffle ball bat. The bottle rocket shot low and fast across our yard toward the road as, to our horror, the car approached. Fortunately, both windows were down because the rocket went in and out of both windows before exploding. Fortunately, the car kept going while we ran and hid.
My uncle Bill Larson, father of the KFC firecracker bandit Mark, would bring his big cigar and help light the big fireworks. It was always a treat having him over for the fourth. Whenever my Dad or Mom would tell a story, Bill would repeatedly interject, "Is that right?" or "Well...well!"
My uncle Johnny Gideon was another fixture on the fourth. He and I would sit together and offer commentary on my brothers and cousins as they shot off fireworks.
I miss Johnny and Bill, both graduated from this life.
As a young single adult, I participated in firework wars with friends. One time we were on either side of highway 65 on the big rock bluffs, shooting across the highway at each other. Suddenly two cop cars approached the scene with lights blazing. We scattered. Another time at the old Clay Pits down Acacia Club Road I got hit in the chest with a spinning, screaming buzz bee. Kids, never try this at home.
I remember watching a firework display one year from a boat. I can't remember if we were at Rockaway Beach or Kimberling City. I just remember it was magical.
We celebrate the fourth of July because the holiday signifies our Independence as a nation from its roots...FREEDOM. We celebrate and honor all the brave soldiers from Gettysburg to Afghanistan, especially those who gave their lives so that we may remain free.
FREEDOM. As I reflect on that word and what it means to me, fireworks signify a much deeper and long-lasting celebration in my heart. It's the FREEDOM I have because of Christ's ultimate sacrificial death in the largest battle of all -- the battle of good and evil. Jesus died on the cross over 2,000 years ago and rose again in history so we may be FREE...now and forevermore.
So, for me Independence Day has become Dependence Day...depending my life, my hopes, my purpose, on the One who created me, the One who died for me, the One who sustains me, and the One who prepares an eternal place for me.
For that, above all else, I celebrate...