Fireworks, Freedom, and Faith

Fireworks, Freedom, and Faith

Tiffany Tolman

underdog

Every year, about this time, I look forward to parades, corn on the cob, matching flag T-shirts (because, yeah, I’m that girl), and fireworks displays. They’re everything that’s great about the Fourth of July.

But lately, my thoughts have turned to deeper questions about freedom and what it means to be a person of faith in America today.

America has a rich faith tradition. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were men “with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” Those early patriots felt so strongly about the right to choose a faith that it became the first item addressed in the Bill of Rights. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” They wanted to make sure all Americans were free to choose their faith.

But that tradition started long before those important documents were signed. My own family’s faith tradition in America dates back to the Mayflower. My thirteenth great grandfather Francis Cooke, along with his young son John, sailed to America in 1620 to practice their chosen faith, free from government force. His wife Hester, my grandmother, brought the rest of the family over from Holland in 1623 to begin a new legacy of faith.

Fast forward a few generations. In the mid-1830s, my fourth great grandfather Anson Call embraced a new faith, one unpopular with the masses. The test was on. Would Americans, those who had so recently fought for the freedoms we now enjoy, really live up to the promise? Some, unfortunately, did not, persecuting him and many others for their faith. Thankfully, the struggle didn’t last forever, and he built a life in a new part of America where his faith flourished.

In my own lifetime, I have seen, at least through a window, what it looks like to be denied the freedom of faith. When I was seventeen I visited Germany a few short months after the Berlin Wall came down. Even with my limited teenage American perspective, I still recognized the contrast between my world and the crumbling rubble, stark, gray buildings, and devastation of East Berlin. Ironically, I was in Germany on the Fourth of July that year, experiencing a deep desire to celebrate my homeland and freedom. Maybe the Wall reinforced that longing.

Today we live in a country with varied faith traditions. We don’t always agree on what faith should look like or if it’s even necessary, but we should rejoice in the fact that we are free to choose that for ourselves. And we should continue to fight for that freedom, even when—perhaps especially when—we don’t agree. Your right to faith guarantees mine.

So, this year, enjoy your corn on the cob, sweat it out at the parade, and stand in awe of the fireworks. But remember to keep the faith—whatever that looks like to you.

It’s what our Founding Fathers envisioned. It’s what people of faith value. It’s what makes America great!

Tiffany Tolman lives, loves, writes, reads, and plays through the window of faith. And that makes all the difference. Find her at th.tolman@gmail.com.

4 Tips to Let Go of Grudges for Good

4 Tips to Let Go of Grudges for Good

By Rachel Coleman, FaithCounts.com Contributor

grudge hero

Those of us that have to interact with other human beings (so, pretty much all of us) know that people aren’t perfect. They can be rude, insensitive, or downright mean. Sometimes, people hurt us in unimaginable ways. But carrying around resentment and bitterness towards others can weigh us down. Holding grudges keeps us stuck and keeps light and happiness from entering our hearts. Here are four tips to let go of grudges so we can enjoy the present.

Tip One: Let go of your identity as the “victim.”

Sometimes we have trouble letting go of the past because we continue to think of ourselves as the person who has been wronged and the other person as the offender — long after the offense has occurred. The problem with this way of thinking is it puts the responsibility of our situation in someone else’s hands. We are powerless. When we stop thinking of ourselves as victims, we can focus on controlling our reactions to our circumstances. That’s empowering.

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tip Two: Recognize that forgiveness is not the same as trust.

Often, we resist letting go of a grudge because we don’t truly understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness doesn’t mean being friendly with the person who hurt us, or reconciling an unhealthy relationship. It doesn’t mean we ignore repeated offenses or put ourselves in situations where we will be abused or disrespected again and again. Forgiveness does mean putting aside the need to seek revenge and the wish that the past had been different. Forgiveness is having faith that a higher power will make things right. Forgiveness is shifting the burden of vengeance from ourselves to the same higher power who understands — and loves — all of our hearts. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” —Paul Boese

Tip Three: Give yourself some love.

Another reason we have a hard time letting go of grudges is we focus our attention on the offender rather than on the actual pain of our experience. The moment we were offended was probably terrible. We may have felt embarrassed, terrified, unheard, unwanted, or unimportant. We hold on to the grudge and focus our anger on the wrongdoer to protect ourselves from negative emotions. But the grudge acts like a plug in our hearts, keeping pain in and keeping peace out. The key to pulling the plug on grudges is to give ourselves the love and comfort we didn’t get earlier. If that love is hard to come by, we can rely on our faith. Our faith allows us to tell our higher power about the exact nature of our suffering and then trust that soothing peace and comfort will follow. Our faith invites the love and compassion into our hearts that we need to heal our pain and truly let go.

“At the heart of all anger, all grudges, and all resentment, you’ll always find a fear that hopes to stay anonymous.” – Donald L. Hicks

Tip Four: Remember we don’t have to do it alone.

Corrie ten Boom was a Holocaust survivor who wrote and spoke often about the healing power of forgiveness. After speaking once in Munich, a former Nazi guard approached her, hoping for her forgiveness. She was paralyzed, unable to extend her hand — until she realized she didn’t have to create a feeling of good will for this man all on her own. “In that moment,” she later wrote, “something miraculous happened. A current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me…. I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”

With faith, we can tap into a universal source of love, healing, and forgiveness that already exists, instead of trying to create those feelings on our own.

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Faith in Freedom

Faith in Freedom

With the Fourth of July this weekend, we wanted to share some of our favorite quotes from past U.S. presidents and leaders on freedom, faith, and believing we can become better than we are now.

Which quote is your favorite? Tell us in the comments.

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benjamin-franklin
“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” – Benjamin Franklin

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abraham-lincoln
“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.” – Abraham Lincoln

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lyndon-b-johnson
“This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith.” – Lyndon B. Johnson

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john-quincy-adams
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

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theodore-roosevelt
“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” – Theodore Roosevelt

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harry-s-truman
“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman

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john-f-kennedy
“Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met — obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty.” – John F. Kennedy

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herbert-hoover

“Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the human spirit and human dignity.” – Herbert Hoover

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dwight-d-eisenhower-1

Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

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franklin-d-roosevelt-1

“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

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thomas-jefferson

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation and freedom in all just pursuits.” – Thomas Jefferson

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