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Posted Friday, July 6, 2012, at 8:57 PM

Colors exploded in the sky, high over the valley in the small mountain community. The echo reverberated off the mountain walls surrounding the river basin. Brilliant red's, blue's, gold's, green's and silver flashed through the sky as the smoke danced like clouds across the valley. The colors were so bright and vivid that those watching felt they were part of the fireworks themselves. As the grand finale came, a special design filled the night sky with an American flag. Applause erupted from those watching--Anglo, Hispanic, Ute, Navajo, Hopi, Scandinavian, Germanic decent--and families began to return to their homes and regular routines.

Not far away a similar celebration was being held where four states came together. People from many places joined the celebration of freedom as fireworks screamed through the night sky. The awe and wonder was tangible. When their celebration was over they went their separate ways--making their way through the night to their homes.

A group of college students working for the summer at the Canyon de Chelly National Monument headed back to their cabin. The excited group stopped at a local diner before returning to camp for a bite to eat and wind down for the night. Their laughter and conversation filled the air. As they were leaving, a police officer approached their table and asked the girls for identification. Two of the girls had not brought their purses with them, simply putting what money they would need in their pockets.

They told the officer their names and where they worked. The officer asked one of the girls to stand, placed her in handcuffs, and told her she was to be held at the sheriff's office for questioning.

She was terrified. Until such time that she could prove her right to be in the country--she was to be held. She happened to be Hispanic. Her friends quickly went to their cabin, got her wallet with her identification and returned for her.

Upon receipt of her driver's license she was released, but warned to carry her ID at all times.

Irony on the day set aside to celebrate freedom. Our ancestors fought for freedom to live their lives with tolerance where they had experienced intolerance in their homelands. They wanted freedom to worship; freedom to work for themselves; freedom to prosper; freedom to become. However freedom did not come cheaply.

Too often we find ourselves enslaved again. However, now we are slaves to success, convenience; the dream--and too often we lose ourselves along the way.

We lose sight of our roots--what it was like before. We forget. We are not alone in this.

A message came to me from the Lord. King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all of the people in Jerusalem. He had told them to set their Hebrew slaves free. All of them had to do it. That applied to male and female slaves alike. No one was allowed to hold another Jew as a slave. So all of the officials and people entered into that covenant. They agreed to set their male and female slaves free. They agreed not to hold them as slaves anymore. Instead, they set them free. But later they changed their minds. They took back the people they had set free. They made them slaves again. (Jeremiah 34:8-11)

God, forgive us for forgetting your ways and enslaving ourselves and our people again. You created us in freedom--giving us the freedom of choice in all things. Help us, O God to choose love. Your perfect freedom is founded on love--Your Love. As we pause to celebrate freedom, create a heart of love within us. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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