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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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18

Monday 3rd July 2017

the best thing we can do for each other this 4th of July

sea to shining sea, fourth of july

There’s this moment I keep thinking about lately, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our nation.

It happened a couple years back, and it was this simple moment, nothing flashy, nothing that would make headlines.

But it was a moment I won’t forget.

Anna and I sat on a long bench at the end of a dock. The sun slid down the back side of the day. If I could have taken a sip of the sky, it would have tasted like an orange smoothie.

Anna swung her legs, and they brushed back and forth against mine. She smelled like sunscreen and grape soda. An older vacationing couple came down the dock, so Anna and I scooted to the left to make room. Another couple came, so we all scooted down some more.

That way, we could watch that blaze of color together. We all ooo-ed and aah-ed at the sunset, a bunch of strangers on a shared dock. Anna laced her fingers with mine, and she pulled our hands together onto her lap.

It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

All day long, I had seen kindness in people: opening doors for one another, friendly greetings in the grocery line, families gathered on lawns to throw Frisbee and grill burgers. It was the Fourth of July.

That blessed day ended with this moment: the simple sharing of a bench at the end of a dock on a little lake in Iowa. Together, we beheld beauty in the sky.

Someone might say it’s because we were all on vacation. That’s why everyone was so happy and kind. I don’t want to believe that. I want to believe that all of us were our truest selves. We were simply slowed down enough to remember that we belong to each other, after all.

Today, I think about that moment on the bench. I think about the people in the yards, and the people in the doorways, and the people on the bench.

We are still those same people. Even if we didn’t agree in the November election. Even if we stand on opposite sides of political issues, or watch different news networks.

I worry, sometimes, that we forget that we really are in this together. I’ll state the obvious: As we celebrate the birth of our nation, we are a country in tumult. You can see it on your TV, your social media feeds, and maybe even in your family. A few months ago, I shared over on Fox News how the fault lines of division run right through our own home.

Last November, Scott and I voted for different presidential candidates. It’s not the first time he and I haven’t seen eye to eye, and to keep us sane, we’ve always come back to this again and again:

We love “us,” more than we hate what is different. 

As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s all sit on one big bench. Let’s love “us” more than we hate what is different.


Scott and I have had years to practice this, and in some ways, it never gets easier. But we keep coming back to this: Practice kindness toward one another.

You might say, “In times like these, practicing kindness is not easy.”

Well, this is our chance as God’s people to show the world that it’s possible to do the thing that isn’t easy.

This is our chance, as the people of God, to show what it looks like to be civil in tone, humble in posture, and gracious in attitude.

I’m not saying we have to keep our mouths shut when we see wrong. Goodness, each of us can stand for whatever we stand for, and do what we believe is right!

But, let’s be kind. Let’s open doors. Let’s be gracious in our interactions. Let’s sit on benches together. Let’s think before we speak.

Lots of folks will say that our Christian faith is proven by our actions. I think it’s proven even more by our re-actions. How will we choose to respond when someone steps on our toes? Reacting with hate simply contributes to its power.

Let’s be kind.

Be kind to the person who marches differently from you.

Be kind to the person who posts about puppies instead of politics.

Be kind to the person on the other side of the political aisle.

Be kind to the person on the other side of the street.

Be kind to the person who chooses to be silent.

Be kind to the person who raises her voice daily.

Be kind to your friends, and as hard as it is, be kind to your enemies.

When we exit earth for heaven, we might not have a lot of money or pretty things to leave the people we love. But we can leave a rich inheritance of kindness — all of us, from sea to shining sea.

sea to shining sea, fourth of july

 

It is easy to hate. It takes strength to be kind.

And you, my friend, have the opportunity to show the world where your strength comes from. That strength comes from a place of freedom, bought for us on the world-wide Independence Day known as Good Friday. Jesus is our freedom.

***

Yep. I keep thinking of that moment on that Iowa lake, when strangers sat side by side on a shared bench, as the last bit of orange drained from the sky. We belonged to each other, right then. Nobody said it, but I think we all knew it.

We said goodbye, and all of us walked on.

And I think we all had a bit more hope than we had before.

 

#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!

Our featured writer this week is Maree Dee. Do you cover up your perfectionism with the mantra “striving for excellence”? Maree offers ten “clues” to help us realize when we’re reaching for the wrong thing, set on being or appearing perfect. Find Maree here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer


  • Perfect words to get the celebration started! Thanks for posting them early enough so that we can come into this holiday celebration with our strong kindness on — mindful of our rich inheritance that makes it possible.

    Happy Independence Day!

  • Lynn Morrissey

    Such a beautiful post Jennifer, and I love how your brought it round to where we live in America. Surely there is so much divisiveness and, sadly, when it comes to politics, among Christians right now. I’ve never encountered such a vitriolic atmosphere. It’s one thing for Americans to divide in such a hostile way (that’s really a tragic and uncalled-for thing), but for Christians to divide when we should be united in love, is unconscionable . . . so against the teachings of Christ. I’ve heard such explosive (and exploitive) name-calling among Christ followers that we are even questioning each others’ faith and labeling each other as being Satanically influenced heretics! It is sad and horrible. How will the world know we are Christians? The Bible says “by our love.” Oh my. Would that we would treat both Christian and unbeliever alike in Christian love. Christ died so we would be able to do this. This Independence Day may we depend upon His love in utter humility. Thank you to you and your family for the kindness you consistently extend in thought, word, and deed! Happy Fourth!
    Love
    Lynn

  • Kindness . . . it costs nothing to share with others, but is a treasure beyond value when given.
    May we show God’s love from sea to shining sea always!
    Happy Fourth, Jennifer!

  • Lisa Tindal

    I love the image of sitting with legs swaying over the dock…I can just sense the easiness of the togetherness.

  • Lynn Mosher

    Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen! My post today was in essence the same thing but from another angle. It takes little effort to be kind. A great post as always, Jennifer. Happy Fourth! 😀

  • Jennifer –
    Thank you for featuring me. I feel so honored. Wishing you a wonderful 4th of July.

    What a beautiful post about “us.” I am so glad I read you post this morning. Maybe kindness prevail in my day today. I love this line, “Let’s love “us” more than we hate what is different.”

    Blessings,

    Maree

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    “Let’s love US more than we hate what is different.” Now there’s the start of a powerful mission statement! Already I can see the ripple effect turning into great waves of positivity about US, and kind deeds expressing care to US, and attitudes changing among US too. And because “US” is the U.S.(A)., the ripples-turned-waves could impact the nation. I’m thinking, if one person could get prayer removed from our schools back in the 1960s, why couldn’t a bunch of us turn the tide of hate and vitriol? After all, with God on our side, all things are possible!

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    Heart tugging read, Jennifer. You always seem to say the hard things in gentle ways that stir the fires inside. I am glad for this. I shared and added my story to it – because this was the first year I was the unkind person (that I profoundly remember). My heart’s cry is for help and healing in our family situation, rather than being mad about it. Being angry doesn’t really help things, although I know God wants me to cry out to HIM in honesty. I hope you all had a great day with family. I LOVE your pictures! Love your wordsmithing….made me crave some sun and fruity soda haha!

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  • Sherry Thecharmofhome

    Happy 4th! Thanks for hosting!

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  • Beautiful reminder for all of us to remember who we are and how to treat one another. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jennifer, I am so grateful to read your words as they so confirmed some of my own thoughts this morning. And I so love when God works in this way in my life. Our love for one another – proof to the world that we are His. Blessings!

  • What a beautiful legacy to leave!

  • Words to remember this coming year. It takes strength to be kind, but so worth it. Don’t we all want kindness ourselves? Treating our neighbor as our self.

  • Amen, my friend! I needed this reminder today–some people have been rubbing me the wrong way and my knee-jerk raction needs to be kindness, not irritation!

  • Susan

    “If I could have sipped the sky it would’ve tasted like an orange smoothie.” Sheer magic! xo