Chuck Terrill: A not-so-patriotic dog

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

You know that you are in trouble when (multiple choice): 

A. The family dog is having conniption fits underneath your father's bed 

B. You kid brother has instantaneously vanished into thin air 

C. Your father is screaming at you from the front porch, in broad daylight, dressed only in his underwear 

D. All of the above. 

It was Independence Day. My younger brother, Mike, and I were celebrating the Fourth of July by pouting on the front step. 

The neighborhood kids were lighting firecrackers up and down the street. But not us. We were forbidden. It wasn't fair, because we looked forward to the Fourth of July with nearly the same enthusiasm as Christmas. We had a big, brown grocery bag filled with Black Cat firecrackers. We weren't allowed to shoot them, though. 

"You boys know that your Dad worked the late shift last night. There will be no firecrackers until he gets up. Now go outside and be quiet." 

"But Momma, we've waited soooo long!" We knew there would be no further discussion with Mom. 

So we sat out front and waited. Wendy, our nervous Cocker Spaniel, moped with us on the front steps. Mike looked her over and decided we could slip a firecracker through the metal ring on her collar. He figured that when we lit it, she would run down the block and it would pop so far away that no one would know that we did it. 

"She might enjoy it so much she'll want to do it again," mused Mike. 

I hesitated. 

"The fire-cracker will wiggle out and fall on the ground down by the Palmer's house," Mike reasoned. "I'm sure she'll like it." 

Well, I'll do just about anything to make my dog happy.   

I think the mutt sensed our plan, and plotted revenge in advance. At any rate, the second that the fuse was lit, the dog raced through the torn place in the screen door and scrambled beneath our sleeping father's bed. A mere half second later I heard the explosion, the dog was howling, Mike was gone, and our maniacal father was standing on the front porch. 

Needless to say, our celebrating was over before it got started. All firecrackers were confiscated. Mike eventually came out of hiding. There was a dog to calm and a Dad to appease (maybe it was the other way around?). Mom said, "I hope you boys have learned a lesson!" 

Eventually, we came to realize that real freedom is not to be found in bending and breaking the rules. Real freedom is the result of keeping the rules. We are really free only when we keep our parent's rules, our country's rules, our God's rules.

True freedom is the result of respecting those who have earned the right to make the rules.  

I'd say that's a pretty good lesson for the Fourth of July. 

P.S. No dogs were injured in the creation of this episode.

Chuck Terrill, who has doctorates from Master Theological Seminary and Trinity Seminary, is the senior minister at First Christian Church in Cassville. He may be reached at 417-847-2460.