Why I Am Grateful to be an American

Source: gregorybfell.com

On one of the first few days of #shereadstruth, the devotional centered around the idea of gratitude as the starting point of contentment.  How do we, like Paul, learn to be content in every circumstance?  By being grateful in every circumstance.  By making gratitude a discipline, something we practice, whether we are sick or well, tired or refreshed, poor or rich.  When we practice gratitude, our focus shifts from the circumstances we are in to the beauty of the God who created us.

Since that day, I have been making an effort to practice gratitude.  I try to make a list of at least five things I am grateful for every day.  Sometimes I do more, sometimes I do less.  I also try to make each item in the list unique, and not just say that I am thankful for Lucy and coffee every single day (although I am).  My lists so far have included things like front porches, citronella candles, my green-striped coffee mug a friend gave me for high school graduation that is still my favorite, literacy, houses with lots of windows, and Ezekiel 36 (and I’ve been numbering them continually, so don’t get confused later).

Today, my list has a theme.  I am not normally one to be patriotic.  As a political science major, a history major, and a public school teacher, I have seen too much of the ugliness of our system to devote much of my time to singing its praises.  There is still so much hypocrisy and inequality and oppression; there is still so much work to be done.

But today is a day for celebration.  A day for looking around me at my unique place and time in history and being grateful for the opportunities that come from that.  So without further ado, the things I am grateful for this 4th of July:

56. Freedom of religion – the ability to pray and worship on my front porch, in my care, in my classroom, and with my church; the freedom to do those things openly, however I choose, without fear.

57. Freedom of speech – there are many things wrong with this country, but I can say that out loud and post it on the internet without fearing for my safety or my life.

58. Public education – it is a very broken system, but I am so grateful it exists.  We forget so often that for most of history, knowledge was used as a tool of oppression by the wealthy and the powerful.

59. A job, a roof over my head, and food on the table – I am a 25-year-old single woman and I am not destitute or a burden on my parents.  This is a unique thing in history and is not possible everywhere in the world today.

60. The sacrifices of others – throughout the history of this country, men and women have sacrificed in countless different ways in order to make the life I enjoy possible for me.  Today, I thank God for them.

For some other excellent thoughts on patriotism, check out the following links:

Place, Patriotism, and Sehnsucht by Brett McCracken

Patriotism is a good thing. It’s the natural emotional connection we have with place. We’re wired to ache for this notion of “home.” It’s what the Israelites longed for in the Sinai. It’s what the Hobbits longed for (the Shire) during their Middle Earth adventures. It’s what constitutes part of C.S. Lewis’s Sehnsucht: a nostalgic longing for the “Green Hills” of his Belfast childhood, “the low line of the Castlereagh Hills which we saw from the nursery windows.”

The Idea of America by Kevin DeYoung

So on this Independence Day I’m thankful most of all for the cross of Christ and the freedom we have from the world, the flesh, and the devil. But I’m also thankful for the United States and the freedoms we enjoy. I’m thankful for the big drops of biblical truth which seeped into the blood stream of Thomas Jefferson. I’m thankful for our imperfect ideals. I’m thankful for God-given rights and hard-fought liberty. I’m thankful for the idea of America.

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