Monday, May 28

Red Rockets and Bursting Bombs

Happy Memorial Day!!

I am an unabashed patriot - I have been since I was a child. I love my country, and am SO grateful that God chose America to be my birthplace. I'm also grateful for the men and women - some barely adults - who choose to serve in the military to protect freedom where it exists, and to bring freedom to those in bondage - who choose others over self. May we never forget about them or take their sacrifices for granted.

I wrote the following essay after a Fourth of July celebration, but I wanted to share it on this Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country - they laid down their lives.



Red Rockets and Bursting Bombs

Blankets and chairs line the grass, and my fanny is firmly perched on my chosen roost. I anticipate the first phsssstttt…..BAAAANNNGG, knowing it will be followed by an explosion of blinding white, red and green lighting up the night sky.

For the next 30 minutes, I’m glued to the show of dancing, falling, and fading showers of glory accompanied by booms that can stop my heart and make it pound at the same time.

Ah, fireworks!

Here on the safe soil of the the Land of the Free, the glare of red rockets and the bursting of bombs in air are cause for joy and cheers, not to mention the requisite oooh’s and aahhh’s. But amidst the excitement, I sometimes take my freedom for granted, forgetting that, while we have a party, a war rages on the other side of the ocean. Explosions and light shows carry an entirely different meaning for my brothers and sisters in uniform “over there”.

This week, my hometown commemorated its 146th annual Fourth of July extravaganza. A parade, cookouts and carnival rides were topped off with the yearly fireworks display. I traversed many miles and many years to spend a week with family and friends and to celebrate the holiday the old fashioned, small town way.

I watched the closing fireworks show this year with my best friend Cheryl and our growing families. We missed our children who couldn’t make it, and we loved on our children present. We doted on grandchildren and nieces and nephews, remembering what it was like to be a kid on the Fourth and feeling like kids again ourselves. The celebration took a sobering turn for me when Cheryl asked her son if he was doing okay with the explosions.

The following is an actual (edited) transcript of a conversation during the fireworks this Fourth of July, courtesy of my smart phone (which not only recorded stunning video, but also captured the audio in stupendous detail):

Child: “I know what these are. They’re artillery shells! There’s these, um, big ones you can buy? They’re really cool.”

Cheryl: “Artillery shells….”

Child: “Yeah. They’re great!”

Cheryl: “Blake, how ya doin over there? Does it make you a little jumpy, or are you over that now? Since you’ve been back?”

Blake: “You never hear the boom. If you hear the boom you know you’re okay.”

Child: “What did he mean by that?”

Cheryl: “He was in Iraq. He was blown up 11 times by the time he was 25.

Child: “Blown up?! What does that mean?

Cheryl: “He was in a car…or a vehicle… and was blown up by … a bomb. When he was at war .. at war in Iraq.”

Child: “Wouldn’t he have died?”

Cheryl: “No, cuz you’re in armored cars. But it doesn’t tickle. There’s no doubt he’s got some BRAIN issues. Heh heh heh.”

Blake: “They only put me on a bird for one of them anyway, and that was the concussion.”

Cheryl: “Blake, just because you wouldn’t tell them your brain hurts and it rattles doesn’t.. that means nothing. I know you can talk your way out of anything. You always have; you always will”

Blake: “Mom, I’m fine. There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Cheryl: “Yeah, nothing you’d fess up to.”

In America, when we celebrate the Fourth of July we are celebrating our freedom.

When the Color Guard leads the parade, marching proudly down the paved streets of hometown America, and the citizens lining the lawns and sidewalks rise to their feet, the men remove their farmer caps, and tears form in the eyes of veterans, widows, and waiting mothers, we are praying for a loyal band of soldiers across a wide ocean marching in sand to defend the downtrodden and defenseless.

O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,
for man’s avail
Men lavished precious life!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

From “America the Beautiful”, Words by Katharine Lee Bates, Melody by Samuel Ward

God, bless the USA. Amen.

Thursday, May 10

All that Pertains to Life

Today, I'll be digging my toes into the sand and listening to the surf, But I hope you'll join me in welcoming Cynthia Simmons as my guest seed-scatterer while I refresh and refill at the beach. 

One of the best parts of planting is watching in fascination as God causes those seeds to grow into something fragrant and graceful. My own yard is in full bloom right now - I don't have any orchids, but the gardenias are HEAVENLY!


I love the springtime. Outdoor shrubs splash color everywhere, but best of all, my orchids bloom. Many people roll their eyes when I mention my orchids, but I chose the easy kinds. I started growing them when I launched into homeschooling. My curriculum suggested sprouting seeds or growing various plants for teaching. So, I researched what would survive indoors. Several varieties could live in the sunlight in my home, and I fell in love with them.

My favorite is the Cattleya, the classical orchid with a huge lip. The plant itself doesn’t excite me. It has a slender bulb with several leaves. The blooms, however, make me euphoric.

As I work around the house, I get to watch them unfurl. I’m always amazed how God packages all those frills into a bud. Several types fill the room with a delicate fragrance once they open. Other strains have a shimmery texture. Fascinating!

When I gaze at a flowering orchid, I ponder my creator. How lovely he must be. It reminds me of John 1:16 “From his (Jesus’s) fullness we have received grace upon grace.”

Fullness means profusion or riches. He came to earth to die for us so he could pour out that abundance and lavish his grace on us.

Grace means granting favor, or giving something that delights us.

And he didn’t parcel out a tiny bit. Instead, that verse said he piled delight on top of delight. He offers us forgiveness and calls us his children. Here on earth he “…has given us all that pertains to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1: 4) Believers have an inheritance that won’t ever fade. Wow!

When I look at an orchid, I know heaven’s going to be incredible. I love God who created orchids. He is truly beautiful to give so much.

Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over twenty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. Active in Christian Authors Guild (CAG), she conducts writing workshops and has served as president, vice president, and conference director. In December 2009 the membership granted her Life Time Membership for her numerous contributions to writers. “Cindy” is fond of history and writes both historical fiction and nonfiction. Her writing appeared in CAG publications, NATHHAN NEWS, Chattanooga Regional Historical Magazine, Georgia Right to Life Newsletter, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Catholic Exchange, and Christian Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, came out in 2008. While promoting her book, she had interviews on radio and TV across the nation and was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the year. She also conducts monthly podcasts called CAG Spotlight in which she interviews authors and VIPs in the writing industry. At present she is completing a twelve week Bible study using the stories in Struggles and Triumphs.

Thank you Cynthia!!!!
 Friends and followers, you can purchase Struggles and Triumphs