Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remembering the Fourth

The Fourth of July has special significance for me. Of course, I love the fireworks and the parades and the veterans in uniform, but the Fourth has a personal passion for me because my only son was nearly born on our nation's Bicentennial. Missed it just a few days, but right up until the end we thought he might be a Bicentennial baby.

I remember that Fourth like it was yesterday. It fell on Sunday that year, and being the Bicentennial of our nation's birth, the church I was pastoring at the time decided to move our services outdoors to a farm owned by one of our members, Albert Thormyer. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It was to be a great day of celebration with an old fashioned dinner on the grounds (literally!) and gospel singing and great preaching (mine, of course), and an afternoon of games and fun and food. The problem was, my wife was, in the biblical idiom, "great with child." The baby was already a month late, and Cheryl was uncomfortable to put it mildly. So, when I came home to tell her of the big Fourth of July celebration in the middle of a farm, in the middle of the summer, in the middle of the day, with no air conditioning, she just looked at me and said: "You are so dead!"

Well, when the Fourth came, I took Cheryl to the farm and parked her under THE shade tree with Margaret Harrell to look after her while I prepared to lead worship. They had placed a wagon near the front of the old farmhouse to serve as the "chancel" for our worship service. They put a piano and pulpit on it, and from there I led the service. When I got up to preach, I looked down at Cheryl and Margaret sitting under the tree. Margaret was fanning her trying to keep her from passing out in the heat. Margaret just looked up at me and mouthed the words, "You are so dead."

That was thirty-three years ago Saturday. We both survived, physically and matrimonially, and a few days later our only son was born – a Bicentennial baby…almost.

Years later, when I was teaching at Midwestern Seminary, Cheryl and I took a group of seminarians to the Windward Islands for a mission immersion course I was teaching. It was July; it was near the equator; the temperature and humidity were the same number (usually three of them!), most days. I convinced her to go with me by telling her it was going to be a Caribbean vacation. Sitting on the porch of the house where we were staying (a house with no air conditioning, of course), trying to capture what little breeze there was, Cheryl looked at me and said: "You know what today is?" I said, "Sure. It's the Fourth of July." She said: "You just never learn, do you."

God help me, I love the Fourth of July!

The church where I'm serving as Intentional Interim Pastor is having a picnic on the Fourth. Starts at 6:00 PM. Forecast calls for oppressive heat. (What genius figured that out?) If you can make it, we'd love to see you. Won't be hard to spot. Cheryl will be the one sitting under THE shade tree, fanning and muttering to herself: "He is so dead."

Me? I'll be sweating it out yet again on the Fourth of July...grateful just to be alive.

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