Independence Day 2016

The Fourth of July is always one of my favorite festive days! We have so much to be thankful for, and it is good to remember and reflect on the blessings our nation has enjoyed since the first colonies were established 400 years ago.IMG_7749In 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed by 41 men, Separatists and Strangers,  declaring their resolution to work together in the New World.  The Strangers were adventurers and soldiers, but the Separatists were Protestant men and women and children who were seeking a greater degree of religious freedom, out from under the authority and tyranny of the state-run Anglican church. Their agreement read:

“Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia…”

For the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith! And we are still reaping the rewards of that charter today. Independence Day isn’t just about the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. Independence Day is about our heritage of freedom, particularly our heritage of religious freedom and freedom of conscience, our heritage of heroism and bravery and virtue. Independence Day is about the Pilgrims and their blood, sweat, and tears, shed for “for the Glory of God”. Independence Day is about the glories and tragedies of the American Revolution, which was successful following national submission and repentance and fasting before God.  Independence Day is about “In God We Trust,” and “one Nation under God.” Independence Day is about love for a nation that was founded by men who adhered to the principles that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Independence Day is about Samuel Adams’ words on the day the Declaration was signed: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.” Independence Day is about men like George Washington, who believed that “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.” Independence Day is about John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Independence Day is about the freedom to teach that to our children, to proclaim the truth of freedom in Christ to our families and friends and to total strangers.
Stockade LakeSo what better way to spend Independence Day than with family and friends, enjoying the freedom to assemble with our brothers and sisters of the faith?
Stockade LakeStockade Lake was bustling activity yesterday afternoon, tourists and locals camping and boating and enjoying the beauty of the Black Hills. The beaches were overrun with festive crowds, but our friends had managed to snag a pavilion earlier in the day, so we had a corner of the lake to ourselves.
Osprey over Stockade LakeWe enjoyed osprey and herons and ducks, and very few bothersome insects since it has been so dry. Trixie came with us, of course, and I think she met her match for energy in our friends’ youngest two. Calvin and Laurel couldn’t get enough of her, and I think she liked the attention. After all, they were just about her size!
Stockade LakeIMG_7578The kids swam in the lake, and Sarah brought her kayaks, much to the delight of the boys, so after dinner they hauled the kayaks down to the lake and were pretty much gone for a couple of hours. We all visited and shared good food and fellowship, and were showered on by a little thunderburst that came our way briefly. The storm didn’t last long, and the cool evening wound down to dusk.
IMG_7770Those of us who didn’t mind getting home late headed over to our pastor’s house to watch the Custer fireworks from his family’s backyard. They have a great view of the show, and it seemed like about half our church converged on their home for the evening! Our church is pretty geographically separated, many of us traveling 45 minutes or more to get to church. So those opportunities we have midweek to see one another, to see our brothers and sisters, are cherished dearly. We were treated not only to the fireworks, but also to beautiful lightning from another storm that slowly closed in. We were close enough to still feel the resonating explosions, the far enough away to be able to keep up our conversations. It was fun to hear the burst of applause from the whole town of Custer after the last flares of the finale. Custer’s fireworks are simple in comparison with what other larger towns can afford, but they are no less enjoyed.
IMG_7786We watched the traffic streaming out of town, and then it slowed to a trickle. The noises of the crowd down in Custer quieted. The lightning was flickering and flashing, closer now. Then the rain started gently. It was a good day. We have so much to be thankful for.

Laura Elizabeth





The Banner of the Free

Americans share a wonderful heritage. Not a spotless heritage – far from that, and no nation has a spotless heritage – but we have a heritage that is characterized (not flawlessly) by a love of freedom and equality and valor, a heritage that is characterized (not flawlessly) by righting wrongs and administering justice, a history that is marred by the effects of sin but a history that was at least at times exalted by goodness and rightness and fighting for right causes and being an international symbol of liberty and justice for all. IMG_8282.1Our flag is a symbol of those things that America stands for at her core.  Although the colors didn’t have significance at the time of our first flag, the colors became significant when the Great Seal was designed in 1782. White stands for purity and innocence. Red stands for hardiness and valor. Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

Reading the symbolism of our Red, White, and Blue makes my heart ache. What purity and innocence? We are a nation that has the blood of millions of unborn on our hands, where our children are no longer our sacred trust, where young people are not protected from the perversion of our culture. Our culture is waging an out-and-out war against purity and innocence. What hardiness and valor? Yes, we have our occasional heroes, but is our culture as a whole characterized by hardiness and valor? Would the average American today take up arms to protect their families, homes, and churches, to protect those who are weak and suffering, or give their lives for their children? Or have we given that job over to the military and our law enforcement? What vigilance? What perseverance? What justice? We are a nation that is divided by hatred, a nation that is split and fractured by competing interests, a litigious culture depending on a dysfunctional justice system, and a nation that is crushed under the burden of a dead conscience.

And yet, I know it isn’t hopeless. Firstly, because I know my eternal homeland isn’t in America. My security doesn’t depend on America’s rise or fall. My eternal security depends on the grace of a good and loving and just God, a God who could spark a spiritual revival in this nation if He so chose. I know that the church thrives in difficulty, and it is exciting to think that I may live to see a true revival of the church, the beginnings of which we are already seeing. God could work a miracle in this nation, or in the state of South Dakota, like He did with Charles Spurgeon in England in the 1800s. That is an exciting thought! Already we have rising patriots, men and women of the faith who are fighting the good fight.

America! America!

God shed His Grace on thee!

Till selfish gain no longer stain

The banner of the free!

I love the Fourth of July. I love the bustling activity and the fireworks, the family get-togethers, grilling burgers by the lake, spending time with friends. I love to celebrate those things that I know America was founded on. But I can’t help but feel torn. I want to mourn. But I also want to celebrate the greatness that America stood for in her not-so-distant past. I want to remember. It isn’t hopeless. America isn’t gone beyond help. And we still have heroes to celebrate. Hard times may be coming – But those are things that stories are made of.

In spite of my country’s flaws, I love her. In spite of the strife and anger, I love this nation. I love the heritage of greatness. I love the history that is still alive in the hearts of many. I still think the most beautiful flag in the world is our Banner of the Free.

Laura Elizabeth



A Little Bit of Crazy

IMG_7518There is nothing quite like the rip-roaring fun of a rodeo, and the Sutton Rodeo at the Black Hills Stock Show was well worth it. The sheer display of skill, strength, and grit makes for one adrenaline-filled afternoon. Roping, steer wrestling, bronc busting, bull riding, barrel racing, and don’t forget the bullfighters and pickup men…I’ve never enjoyed any other sport, but rodeo fascinates me.

And it goes deeper than just the fun or excitement.  Rodeo is unique from other sports in its real-life application. These aren’t skills that were perfected purely for the sake of their sport. These are skills that have been years in the making, skills that require more than just brawn or youth or speed. These are skills that are at the heart of ranch life. Go to any branding or round up and you’ll see these skills on display.

IMG_7858Our culture celebrates youth, sex, beauty, but rarely celebrates hard work or guts. Rodeo is a sport where youth isn’t necessary or demanded, sex-appeal isn’t requisite, and where feminists seem to have no sway. It is a sport where even the champions take tumbles. It is a sport where skill is rated higher than showmanship, and where teamwork, whether with one’s horse or one’s partner, is absolutely essential.  In the sport of rodeo, the ground is level – Bulls and broncs and roping steers don’t pick sides. It isn’t rigged. It is all very refreshing.

IMG_7455It is a sport where patriotism is upheld and veterans are honored. It is a sport where prayer isn’t foreign, and the name of God is mentioned humbly. It is a sport where political correctness takes a back exit. It is a sport where good sportsmanship is expected, from audience and participant alike. No one cheers when a cowboy is tumbled, unless it is to applaud him for his well-spent effort. It is uniquely American, embracing and preserving the rugged independence of the American spirit, the pride in one’s country, the satisfaction in one’s physical work, the willingness to get dirty, and to get thrown once in awhile.






And at the end of the day, all philosophical and social appreciation of the sport aside, what’s not to love about a little bit of crazy?

Laura Elizabeth