In our previous post Chris wrote about the "freedom of summer" and used an analogy based off Galatians 5:1, which was pretty awesome, but also what I was planning on writing about for the 4th of July post. So, instead I'm going to write about family, hospitality and blowing stuff up (thanks to Chris).
Growing up, with a pretty extensive family in a small, farming town, there were several holidays we hosted during the warmer seasons and July 4th was the ultimate. The long July days, the warmth and blowing stuff up, made for a much anticipated, annual event.
Now, my dad was not a cook growing up, he didn't cook any other time that I can remember, EXCEPT for these gatherings. A native Texan who was raised on barbecue (the real stuff- not the facsimiles we pay extraordinary prices for here in the PNW) and loved to show off the best of the Lone Star's culinary offerings.
My dad is a bit of an eccentric guy- he likes to do things his way and doesn't take to conventionality. He found an old Franklin stove that he welded together to make his own iron pit and it is a thing of wonder that can easily cook enough food for 30 hungry uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and neighbors and is still in use 37 years later. Chicken and pork is his specialty and perfection is his standard.
For those of you who don't know what Texas barbecue is- it is cooking with wood and wood only (it's also typically served without sauces, but that is argued and debated). The process begins by starting fire an hour before cooking to get a base of charcoal and then add wood as you go for smoke flavoring. We had a lot of apple trees and apple wood was in abundance, though post oak is the preferred wood in the homeland. Meat is then slowly cooked over a fire at lower temperatures and the result can be described as a glimpse of heaven. Back in the day, dad would start the fire early in the morning and by late afternoon, the family would be clamoring for pork ribs and chicken legs and thighs. Sides would be potato salad...and actually would be optional and somewhat forgettable compared to the main attraction. Mom would make killer strawberry cream and blueberry pies, which would be painfully shoved in the last place possible in our stomachs.
Though it was oftentimes stressful- due to the logistics of cooking for a large group, weather conditions, and rowdy cousins, dad took it in stride and actually loved the hospitality aspect. I don't think he would articulate it that way, but that is what I gathered from an early age- inviting folks into your home and feeding them some of the best barbecue they've ever eaten or will eat until the next Ryan gathering, says something about the gospel. A gospel that always invites, always includes, always feeds, always satisfies...this was imparted on me. Now I pass it on.
I absolutely love barbecuing for my friends, co-workers and family. I do it every year on Memorial Day, my June birthday, Labor Day and yes, on July 4th (except for this year, due to poor planning on my part). This is how the Gospel should infect us- to desire to pass it on. Not as a burden of something we are obligated to share, but is a joy to share, just like tasty, smokey, meat morsels (but even better).
So this year on the 4th, when you gather for the fireworks, for the food; with friends and family- be reminded that we gather to celebrate religious freedoms, inherited rights and to blow stuff up; but we also gather as representatives and reflections of God himself- the good host, the good cook and the good king.
Do you have memories of gathering for the 4th or any other day? Share in our comments below- we love to hear from you and anything you share might just be an encouragement to our readers.
Nathan A. Ryan