When is July 4th not “The Fourth”? Is it when all festivities have been cancelled, as they have been here in our hometown of Wheaton tomorrow?

Our mayor has declared a state of emergency following Sunday’s   derecho – purportedly a type of land-based hurricane that roared through our region violently and without warning, taking countless trees and power lines with it.

No one around here is seeking pity, however – not with similar conditions on the east coast along with flooding in Florida and wildfires in Colorado. It won’t be a typical Fourth of July celebration for millions of people.

I have always loved the community feeling of the July 4 holiday: taking our kids to hear the cannons boom on the Boston Esplanade during the 1812 overture, watching fireworks with our church family on Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, and in recent years inviting thousands of people from Wheaton onto our church lawn for Fabulous Fourth @the First. It’s a day for honoring those who served, flying the flag our USAF son-in-law Ben gave us from Operation Enduring Freedom, and watching parades.

There will be no picnics or parties, pyrotechnics and patriotic displays this year.

But July 4th was never really about that anyway. Our country isn’t even 250 years old – by historical standards, the United States is just entering its adolescence. As Americans, will we make it through the turbulent teen years and mature into the better society we are capable of becoming, or will we implode socially, spiritually and economically?

In Joel Rosenberg’s new book Implosion he tackles the question of whether America is an empire in decline or a nation poised for a historic Renaissance.

“I dearly love my country,” writes Rosenberg. “I was born here and grew up here, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to America. I don’t want to imagine worst-case scenarios, much less write about them. I don’t want to suffer through such times if they come. Nor do I want family and friends spread out all over this beautiful land to go through them either. Maybe none of us will. Maybe the worst-case scenarios will be avoided. I certainly hope so.

“Yet I live and work in the nation’s capital. I regularly and extensively travel this country. I see what’s happening all around me, and it is deeply disturbing. Marriages and families are imploding. Our federal debt is exploding. The tide of cultural pollution is rising. Our educational system is collapsing. Friends and neighbors are abandoning God and the church. The list of horrifying trends seems to grow longer each and every year. At this point, even a blind man can see the handwriting on the wall. The question is: what does it portend for the future of America?”

As I read those words this week, I felt helpless. What can one person do to stem the tide?

1)      Hold our elected officials accountable. It’s not enough to cast a ballot and walk away from the problem. If you’re considering supporting an incumbent, examine his or her record. Have they kept the campaign promises they made or are they offering a raft of excuses why they couldn’t do what they said they would? If so, why in the world would we elect them again?

2)      Make your voice heard.  In his farewell address in 1796, our first president said this:  “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vane would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.” ~ George Washington

3)      Intercede for our country. As you pray daily for your loved ones, don’t neglect to remember the place we call home. The Apostle Paul was adamant about this: Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” 1 Timothy 2:2 NLT

However you spend “The Fourth,” don’t neglect to take a few moments to take any concerns you have for America to God.

When it comes to the Father of our country, He’s the real deal.