This time of year, our thoughts turn to the founding of our nation. We enjoy the holiday and all that goes with it. We are awed by the spectacular fireworks displays, at least some of us are. Fireworks are not very popular at my place. I become grumpy and hypervigilant, the horses charge the fences in an effort to get away from the noise and the dogs bark incessantly. My wife just wants to get the day over with. We should have medals to award to combat vets’ spouses. They certainly have earned them.

Independence Day, the annual celebration of the founding of our country, is the greatest patriotic event on the American calendar. Our forefathers in the 18th century took quite a leap of faith in taking on the world’s superpower of the time in order to establish a nation in which the people governed themselves. It was an untried idea to initiate such a radical government model on a large scale. The result was not a perfect design. Our government is still not perfect.

We who have served under her banner understand the importance of that grand experiment in liberty. We understand the need to always strive to improve upon that which was bequeathed to us by our fathers and mothers. We also know the importance of protecting our nation from those who would destroy her, both from outside and within her borders.

We are traditionally a religious nation as well as a patriotic one. Sometimes, in fact, we lose sight of the difference between the two. We call upon God to protect our nation, and we prominently include God in our patriotic pronouncements. So far, so good. The problem arises when we actually merge the two concepts together as though they were a common issue. For example: How often have you sung patriotic songs during a church worship service? Which flag stands or hangs in the highest place of honor at your place of worship, religious or national? I don’t care which religion or denomination is represented in your place of worship, it seems to me that we might want to put God first in God’s house. It also seems to me that we may wish to worship God rather than a man-made political structure, even our own, in God’s house. My particular pet peeve is the mingling of patriotic and religious iconography, almost always Christian. Images of Bibles, crosses and the suffering Christ do not belong superimposed upon U.S. flags and patriotic lapel pins.

Independence Day, the celebration of the birth of our nation, is next Wednesday. I hope we all have plans for happy, hearty and healthy national birthday celebrations. I also hope we start celebrating on Monday.

Live life well. Love God well.

May God bless us all.