June 29, 2021
As we approach the Fourth of July, something written by Ty’Ann Brown really moved me. Ty’Ann is Vice President of Guideposts Ministries.
She grew up in New York City in a building overlooking the East River. When I went off to college, my mother sold our suburban home and lived in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We too had a wonderful view of the East River. I particularly liked watching the boats sail by and the bridges when they would be lit up at night.
Ty’Ann remembered that “every year my family and I would go to the rooftop so that we could get as close as possible to those famous Macy’s fireworks.” On the Fourth of July, “they seemed so beautiful, so magical – almost heaven-sent. I would gaze at the sky in awe,” she added.
Remember that old song Up On The Roof by the Drifters? It went like this:
When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right up into space
On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there the world below can’t bother me
I remember that feeling on top of the roof of my mother’s building. But as Ty’Ann explains, it was even more special on the fourth of July.
Ty’Ann says that as an adult, she wasn’t impressed by fireworks anymore. “But one year, I was visiting my Mom on July 4, and she called me to the window. Watching the sky light up and hearing the oohs and ahhs, I got caught up in the excitement too,” she admits. Similar to Ty’Ann, it has been such a joy watching fireworks through the eyes of my children. I, too, have been caught up once again in their magic.
After the experience with her Mom on July 4th, Ty’Ann started thinking about what fireworks could teach us about faith. “Sure, it would be great if we all maintain faith as big and as bold as those firework displays all the time. But that doesn’t always happen,” she notes.
However, Ty’Ann adds that “ fireworks can remind us to pause – and look upward. To look toward God … if only we pay attention.” I love the metaphor of fireworks being one way we can see the grandeur of Spirt. Another way that works for me is looking at the wonderful and fascinating pictures of the universe from the Hubble space telescope. Those pictures that look at galaxies and nebulas deep in space are as beautiful as the pictures one can see in a fine art museum.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and others in the 1800s were able to express this aspect of the Divine in their Transcendental movement. But it is not just a question of the fireworks “up there” in the sky or the “fireworks” in outer space. It is also a question of the fireworks within us. If we can’t feel and know – if we can’t experience the fireworks within us – then I think many of us will miss seeing the fireworks outside of ourselves. Even if we go up on the roof, we will fail to see the peace and beauty that the Drifters sang about.
These inner fireworks are the immanent side of the Divine. It is the Divine Spark that is inside all of us. This is our real essence and not our error thoughts of lack, scarcity, or “I am not good enough.” It is easy to get stuck in this negative cycle, and then we can fall into professional victim mode.
A person who has helped me reignite my inner fireworks is a young woman named Dr. Kate Bowler. She is a professor at Duke University’s Divinity School. I spoke about her during a recent Sunday message (watch here). Kate’s life was flowing along very smoothly and successfully. She was viewed as an up-and-coming academic superstar, and she was a New York Times best-selling author. She was – and still is – married to a good man, and they have a darling little boy. Then one day, Kate found out that she has stage four cancer and her chances of survival were not good.
However, she has been part of an experimental treatment and is still alive and kicking. Every two months, she must go through a serious treatment, and she is told the probability that she will live for another two months. It was under these conditions that Kate’s inner fireworks came alive. She has written several incredible books that deal with suffering and the human condition. She also hosts a great podcast. (To connect with Kate’s great work, go to katebowler.com)
In the Power of Now (currently being read by the Unity of Roanoke Valley Book Club) and in other books, Eckhart Tolle also talks about these inner fireworks. When they come alive, Eckhart believes that we see the outer world in an entirely different light.
I believe that both forms of fireworks are important since the Divine is both transcendent and immanent. The Divine is both inside and outside of us. Truly, to borrow a phrase, “there is no spot where God is not.”
This Fourth of July, my wish for you is that you enjoy both your outside and inside fireworks. May you also enjoy family and friends, the water, and a hot dog and/or a hamburger – or veggie burger. May we also remember that we were born blessed and remain blessed!
Happy Birthday, America,