Independence Across Cultures

It hit me yesterday afternoon. Today is the U.S. Independence Day. No matter that my daughter, born on July 2nd, blew out candles the day before yesterday. No matter that my Facebook feed has been lit up with pictures of, comments on, and complaints about fireworks. It still snuck up on me. I’m gifted with linear time obliviance that way.

With Costa Rica’s bid for the World Cup over, the streets around me are quiet. Fruit stands dot the roadsides, rather than firework tents. Our schedule is packed, hosting a mission team of 21 at the children’s home where we serve. I share my testimony tonight and have two more dinners to feed them.

Happy 4th of July. I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it.

I’ve never been great at “special days.” In the states, native rhythms did the heavy lifting for us: days off work, neighborhood displays, family gatherings. Colorful flyers shouted discounts for snaps and ground flowers. We stuffed ourselves at picnics and laughed at the smoke bombs that puffed a little less each year.

Here, Independence Day is September 15th and celebrates liberty from Spain, won without a fight. A nighttime parade of festive lanterns, carried by school children, ushers in the holiday as a reminder of the freedom cry spread by word of mouth through the country in 1821.

It may be a regular workday in Costa Rica, but everything about our home country affects the life our family lives here: all of our financial support, the spiritual covering of our sending church, the freedom granted by the eagle on our passports. Now, more than ever, we appreciate the privilege of our birthplace.

blake-guidry-722181-unsplashJust across the northern border, Nicaragua’s streets are choked with blockades. The citizens of that nation marched peacefully in mid-April to protest corruption and injustice. The presidential leadership unleashed months of harsh violence in response. What doesn’t rate high on the news feed has sent missionaries we know fleeing to safety, crippled business and services in Nicaragua, and flooded the borders with people seeking refuge.

We of the land of the free and the home of the brave, we don’t have utopia, but we can’t even fathom living that.

The red, white, and blue twirls my daughter hung up this morning speak something deeper to me than national identity and the faces I miss in my homeland. I did nothing to earn the benefits my country gives me; but everything about there, makes it possible for me to serve the Lord here.

Today is business as usual in Central America, yet I can feel the picnics and starbursts in the stateside air. They shine in memories of the ones we love, deep gratitude for the liberty geography gave us, and reverent honor for the long fight of many to keep us free.

May we all use it well.

I think it will be a Happy 4th of July.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.  1Timothy 2:1-2 NLT


What’s your culture for Independence Day?

Passport Photo by Blake Guidry on Unsplash

Walking Through Fireworks: A Father’s Day Blessing

We pushed the garage door opener on our life as a family of three, just released from the hospital with our baby girl bundle. The house felt huge after our cubby in the postpartum ward. Ladybugs and clouds danced the walls in her nursery.

The sunshine and celebration outside beckoned us. A short stroll before nap time? Why not?

For a first time father, there was nothing newbie about you. A physical therapist, babies were the brightest spots on your clinic schedule. You cooed and chuckled through our miracle’s first-bath-fussing, then confidently laid her back in my arms. I searched your eyes for reassurance. You smiled that everything was alright.

Finally home, the whole neighborhood was in party mode. The 4th of July was sparkling out there. Fresh air and freedom called. Shunning the infant carrier, you scooped our girl up freehand, and through the door we went.

Slowly we climbed the hill, my momma-legs wobbly. Rounding the corner, we saw the street lined with open garages and lawn chair gatherings. We qualified, too, now, a full-fledged family.

Ambling closer, the landscape shifted. The smoke and sparks, crackles and pops hit a crescendo, considerably less festive at close range. Fireworks exploding everywhere, no one paused to welcome the newest neighbor. We decided to run for it—or at least waddle.

close up photography of fireworks on the street

Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net on Pexels.com

Baby toes tucked in your elbow, we plodded through a gauntlet of ground flower whirls and fuming fountains. It felt like a battle zone. I fought panic that some spark or tipped-over rocket would sting our sweet girl. You spoke peace and curved like a shelter around her. Toddling along as quickly as possible, we made it back safely inside our walls.  It had been the longest block of our lives.

First parenting fail on the books: testing out that verse on walking through the fire without being burned. Check. God must have a special ops unit for new parents.

All three of us exhausted now, you introduced her to the crib with a few pats for comfort. She fussed for a minute, then dozed off, trusting you. It was only when you came out of her quiet room that I saw you rub your shoulders. You had worried, too, along the sidewalk craziness. Afraid of dropping her, tense in the midst of sparks and noise, you had held her so close, your muscles cramped.

Somehow, that strain spoke your love more clearly than anything else. We weren’t business as usual,

We were yours.

We were heart-deep underneath your calm wisdom, and you would do anything to keep us safe.

We could trust you.

2004_1221AA crop cdocAlmost sixteen years later, our controller opens a gate part way around the world for our family of five.

You are still the adventurous one, speaking peace over my mothering flutters. You are the forward thinker, encouraging me to open the kitchen to our daughter’s exploration, placing the lawn in the care of our son’s hands on the trimmer. You carry us through the shifting landscape of new culture, language, and how-to-do-everything.

Sometimes it puts you into knots, but you are wise and strong. With the Lord’s help, you keep us safe.  We love you with everything we are, everything you help us to be.

Happy Father’s Day.


To all the ones we trust, to the pillars of our families, whether by blood or by spirit:

We would not be the same without you. Thank you for launching our babies into the sky and making moms everywhere catch their breath. You teach us all how to fly.

May the Lord be your strength as you walk us through the fireworks.



When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:2-3a NIV

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