by Robin Swoboda        School was out less than 24 hours when I knew it was going to be a long summer. I always wish summer could be a real, live "Country Time Lemonade commercial." Relaxed, carefree days spent on the front porch sipping lemonade. However, reality is baseball games that never end, bee stings, tiny toads living in my Tupperware in the family room and an occasional camping trip with too many bugs. Add to that numerous fights among our three children over things such as which one gets the last purple popsicle, who gets the bigger jar for their lightning bugs and who left out the croquet set. (So much for my commercial fantasy. Come to think of it, we don't even have a front porch.)

       Now that I've painted such a pretty picture let me tell you that I really do love summer. I love summer mornings when birds wake me with a serenade and summer nights lying in the grass with my children staring at the starry sky. But what I love most about summer is the Fourth of July and not just because the fireworks are louder than my children! In every community in which we've ever lived, we make it a point to get to the nearest Fourth of July parade and proudly wave our American flags. I was raised with a great love and respect for my country and I want our children to love their country, too. For the patriotic soul, there is no finer day than the Fourth when we celebrate our Declaration of Independence. It is a celebration of true freedom.

       Have you ever wondered why you were born in this land of freedom and opportunity? If you're a Christian, does it ever baffle you that God placed you in a country where we are free to worship Him, free to read our Bibles? We Americans could have been born in a country that doesn't permit freedoms, that has a population police which hunts you down and forces you to have an abortion if you exceed their one child limit. A country that tells us what we will do, where we will work and how much we will get paid. A country that forces its women into prostitution, its children into slavery and doesn't produce enough food to feed its own. Born on another continent, we could be hiding in the jungles from a bloody civil war with nothing more than the clothes on our backs. I have often wondered why God chose to let me live here and now. I am so grateful that He did.

       It's been said that the poorest American is richer than every poor person living in third world countries. However, it's not our wealth that impresses me. It's our freedom. We can say the name of Jesus Christ without being put in prison. We can openly carry our Bibles, not hide them for fear "the authorities" might find them and brutally beat us. We can worship Him in our homes or in churches that are not run by the state.

       However, if you don't know Jesus Christ you can't know true freedom. You are a slave to sin. Romans 6:6 reads, "We know that our old self was crucified with [Jesus] so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin." Read further and Romans 8:8 tells us, "Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." Belief in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior sets us free. Knowing and confessing that Christ died in our place, to pay the price once and for all for every sin that you and I have or ever will commit, is our own personal Declaration of Independence. Our Declaration that we are freed from our sinful natures, freed from eternal punishment that we justly deserve. Jesus said, "He (God) has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners." We were prisoners before we knew of God's plan to free us.

       God chose us to be born for such a time as this in a country where we are free to love Him. Praise Him for the beauty He created just for you when you're awakened tomorrow morning to a songbird's serenade. Praise Him when you stretch out on the grass on a warm summer night with your children and look to the heavens He created. Praise Him for His greatest gift, His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

       Can you see how good God is? It is my prayer that everyone who reads this will celebrate their own Independence Day....Independence from sin and self to total dependence on God. God bless you and God bless America!