Amidst the banging, booming and explosions, smoke filters through yards and down streets while one after another firework is set off in another explosion of noise, awes and wows.
The fireworks tonight are quite popular considering this is a July Fourth city. The banging and popping is spread from north to south in our city and hardly a street is spared from this obnoxious and explosive celebration.
I always wonder why we celebrate with exploding rockets the freedom we have from the Revolutionary war when it was the exploding rockets that made the war. It's like fighting fire with fire, in my opinion.
Nonetheless, July fourth has always been my favorite holiday and I love the sparks, noise, smells and people that gather to celebrate. The bigger, louder and more shocking a firework, the better. And the more people there to see it go off, now that's the best.
But even louder to me than exploding rockets and pretend grenades, is the laughter and chatter spilling down the streets and across yards. Families gathered from all over to celebrate the holiday and just be together. The noise of conversation is louder to me than the most impressive firework our neighbors set off tonight.
Children scampering about, dancing around the dying embers of the ruined fireworks. Dogs barking. Responsible fathers carefully lighting rockets while sons dare to get closer to the flying sparks. Mothers chatting and laughing around a circle of camp chairs and babies squealing and crying.
Families together. That's what family is: together. When you're sad, family is there. That's why at funerals they reserve the front half of the church for family. When you're happy, family is there. That's why entire sections of chairs at weddings are strictly for family. When something big happens in your life, family is what surrounds you.
It's not your friends. It's not your job. It's not your doctor. It's your family.
And when your family isn't there, you feel a void. Each firework you watch go off just isn't the same if it's only you to watch it. The bang isn't as loud. The sparks aren't as bright. And the mess to clean up the next morning is a lot bigger.
On nights like tonight when everyone and their brother are together, I think of Jesus.
While he (Jesus) yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him,
"Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with thee."
But he answered and said unto him that told him,
"Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?"
And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said,
"Behold my mother and my brethren! For whoseoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
I'm reminded again that nothing on earth is where we find our joy, our fulfillment, our happiness. Lasting peace doesn't come from people or things. Even family will fail us. But when each one lives for God and not for himself, we will find true blessing in fellowship.
I've been challenged lately to remind myself that the only reason I reach out and bless others is because I'm doing it for the Saviour. I don't do it for myself and I don't even do it for them. I do it for God. That takes out all striving, all "me" and all fear of disappointment. Because to do something without being influenced by having respect of persons, makes me shine as the person God made me.
As the bangs and pops die down outside, I think of the families heading indoors. Little ones to clean up and tuck in. Food to put away. Itineraries and schedules needing to be made for tomorrow. Goodnights will be spoken instead of goodbyes since times of parting between family members is so brief considering the celebration will only continue tomorrow.
I'm a smidgen jealous, that I'll admit. But how glad I am to know that when I do the will of God, Jesus calls me His family.