For about as long as I can remember, I have loved the Fourth of July. It has never been my favorite holiday, for reasons I will discuss, but it is certainly among my top three or four. Honestly, Christmas has always been my favorite, but not always for the right reason. As a kid, I loved Christmas because it came with presents. We didn’t get many presents like today’s children do, but we always got something and were glad to get it. As an adult and as a Christian, Christmas is still my favorite but for a different reason. It is because this is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Easter is my second favorite holiday because that is when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Thanksgiving is probably my third favorite, because I have so much for which to give thanks. The fact that I love turkey and dressing has nothing to do with it... well, it could color my thinking slightly.

I love Independence Day because it does not involve gifts. No, I’m not opposed to giving or getting gifts, but I do think they have become too much of the focus of certain holidays. The Fourth is one of the few holidays that have not been lost in the wrappings of materialism. Even Valentines, which is not even an official holiday, has gifts. Not long after the Fourth, stores will get out their Christmas items and the commercials will begin, but Independence Day can easily slip up on us without much announcement.

I have fond memories of the Fourth as a child. While my dad was still living, this was a day we spent together as a family. Dad closed his business and we cooked hamburgers and hot dogs on a charcoal grill, made ice-cream with a hand-cranked freezer, and cut a watermelon. One time we even had an entire tractor-trailer full of watermelons from which to pick. We had a huge rock in our front yard that was about six-feet long and three-feet wide. It stuck up out of the ground probably eight to ten inches high. Mama would cover that rock with a quilt or vinyl tablecloth and we used it like out outdoor picnic table. Sometimes I took a dip in the pond after lunch.

My family now still does some of those same things, but we don’t have a rock. I’m also thankful that ice-cream freezers these days have electric motors! We don’t have a pond but we do have a pool. These days, the Fourth is often my first time, and sometimes my only time all summer, to dive in.

I love the fourth because it is when we celebrate our nation’s birth and our freedom. I appreciate the men who declared our independence, the soldiers who fought to gain it, and those who have served to protect it since then. Even though we the people aren’t always united, I love these United States. This country is far from perfect but it is still “my” country. I have visited several other countries and haven’t found any of them to be perfect either. I love to see that star spangled banner flying high any time but especially on Independence Day. In a day when far too many Americans no longer respect our flag, I still do. I love that our rocket’s red glares are not weapons being fired but simply fireworks. I love our national anthem and other patriotic songs like “God Bless America,” “God Bless the USA,” America the Beautiful,” and “My Country Tis of Thee.” I thank God for our country and I pray for our country’s future. May God help our country and may you have a happy Fourth-of-July weekend!

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Thursdays edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.

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