America the Beautiful


Yesterday, I went for a hike in the Rocky Mountains. What better way to spend Independence Day Weekend than in a national park? Long before the afternoon storm clouds rolled in and before tourists streamed into the park and clogged the road with real or imagined moose sightings (those were totally just elk), the Vogel family hit the trail. Our boots were laced, our lunches were packed, and our hopes of meeting a moose were not yet crushed.

The mountane meadows are dancing with wildflowers at this time of year. I thought about sticking one behind my ear, but decided it would be rude to end their little lives in the process. Below the tree line, tall, skinny pines swayed in a sudden breeze. Air whispered through their furry tops and the trunks groaned, like doors with neglected hinges opening all around us. Creeeeeaaaaak. Was that a bear stepping over the threshold into our corner of the woods? The scent of sun-warmed pines, as unique to the elevation as the electrical smell is to a gathering storm, drifted through the air. I scraped my knee climbing up a rock, but felt appreciative of the reminder of the stalwart immobility of these mountains and the littleness of creation’s fans and foes.

Every once in a while, I find myself in desperate need of some trees and trails and wilderness. (Once, I hopped on my bike and rode ten miles in an effort to escape civilization, but was thwarted by a falling walnut.) When surrounded by creation and a whiff of pine floats through the air, the same shape of thought floats to my mind: this is just what I needed.

Here at the Revolution we talk a lot about freedom. In the spirit of the Fourth of July, I challenge you to find out where you feel most free. For me, that is in the land unpaved and undeveloped, where geological features claim the horizon, wild creatures roam, and God says to me, “I made you in the context of this beauty, not the fleeting attraction of collectables, accolades, or affluence.” Maybe you feel freest when you’re with family, or when you’re painting or singing, or when you’re eating dessert before dinner (try it sometime).

Maybe this is a trick question, because the truest freedom is found in prayer; the conversation that can happen anywhere and can move even those big ole mountains. Let’s marry the two, and bring the ways we celebrate our freedom on Earth into conversation with God.

And while you’re at it, a prayer of thanksgiving is due on this day for the sacrifices that make this Nation: may we always honor those who serve, and respect the true freedom that belongs to every person.