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0608 PD: The price

Yevet Tenney Published on 14 April 2008

It’s been snowing lately, and I have been complaining about the cold. I am not as young as I used to be, and my bones hurt.My circulation isn’t the best; our big house doesn’t have central heating, and the last batch of wood we gathered was wet. If you know anything about wet wood, it doesn’t burn very well.

The entire family gathers around the fire to keep warm. At least we have some small propane heaters and electric heaters, and thank heavens for my electric mattress cover or I’d shiver all night long.

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My suffering has given me occasion to ponder the plight of the pioneers, who crossed the plains, and the pilgrims, who landed at Plymouth Rock. Their conditions in the bitter cold winters must have been ominous. I can see them shivering and huddled around a fire made with wet wood. Chattering teeth, tingling hands and aching feet; miserable under wet clothes. I can’t even imagine the suffering of the elderly, small children and pregnant women.

Last summer, I went on a pioneer trek. It was hot and dry. Sure, I got tired and my feet got blistered. I ached from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet, but I knew it would be over, and I knew that if I collapsed, they’d bring in the golf carts and load me in, and I’d find myself in luxurious comfort before nightfall. That gave me the strength to go on.

The first pioneers didn’t have a destination – “Just go west, my son!” The trail was largely uncharted. They’d walk along the valley floor for a few days, then they’d come to a mountain stream. Nice refreshing water, but very wet to cross, and freezing and fierce in the winter. I can’t imagine walking in knee-deep snow with wet clothes dragging the heavy ice that would form on coat tails and skirt hems. I can’t imagine the pain of thawing frozen fingers and toes, and sleeping in beds without ample blankets and protection against the icy winter wind.

Then I think of the suffering of the soldiers at Valley Forge, and I wonder why they didn’t go home to their wives and families to huddle around the fire. I’m sure there was strength in numbers, and the chill of the night was better faced with comrades than in the forest trudging alone through the snow, but there was something else driving them, and it was the same thing that drove the pioneers across the prairies to the mountains.... “Freedom!”

We don’t think too much about freedom, because it wraps around us like a fluffy quilt. We are snuggled in it so completely that we cannot comprehend a world without it.

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In classrooms, kids cry their right to speak profanity and their freedom of expression to post lewd pictures on their website! They stamp their foot and say, “I can do anything I want and say anything I want because I am free!” They don’t understand that freedom is not a right! It is the price of a ransom note thousands paid with their blood. Freedom comes with a price tag.

At Easter time, we commemorate the life and death of one who paid the price for our ultimate freedom. We buy our chocolate eggs, fluffy bunnies, Easter baskets, color our eggs and go on a picnic. We put on our proverbial “Easter bonnet with all the frills up on it,” and parade down the avenue, side glancing to see if our friends and neighbors see how much we have spent for our attire. We go to church and bow for a few minutes listening to the minister tell of the man who died on the cross to save us all; then we go back to our mortgaged houses to enjoy spring once again.

Then summer comes with the boat rides, the vacations, trips to the beach, the hikes and the family outings. We wave our flags and “ooh” and “ah” at the fireworks, with more thought of how the fireworks were not as good as last year, instead of the “bombs bursting in air” in that long- ago “dawn’s early light.”

Then autumn comes with golden leaves, brisk wind and thoughts of school, public education that comes because someone else paved the way. We complain about the teachers, the schedules and the price of books, while we complacently wait as the trees lose their leaves and Christmas comes again.

We spend more time worrying about the Christmas list than the birthday of whom we celebrate. Intermittent snow flurries and sunny days interrupt our lives in January and February, but not much because we are encased in our air-conditioned comfort. And so it goes year after year living on the borrowed freedom we didn’t have to sacrifice to obtain.

We take little thought of those who dug tunnels through the mountains, laid down the asphalt and painted the lines on the highways that crisscross our land. We notice the magnificent miracle of our automobile only when we have to walk because we forgot to fill up the gas tank or we didn’t check the spare tire. Then our praise amounts to cursing instead of heartfelt humble praise for a gift that the pioneer would have “licked up the dust of our feet” for one brief ride through the snow.

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I can only imagine what the pioneers would have given for an electric blanket and a bit of Tylenol to break the fever of the suffering child. What would they have given for one loaf of bread that we pull from the shelf and inspect with distaste because the price is too high; the date is near expiration or the fat content too much? What we toss into our garbage cans would have been a banquet for the pioneers. Yet we toss without a thought or a prayer of gratitude for the price they paid for our freedom.

I think of the price they paid for freedom, and wonder what I am doing to insure that the freedom I enjoy is a legacy for my children. If we don’t pay the price for them, they will have to pay it because freedom has a price tag that must be paid. What is the price?

Freedom comes from obeying eternal laws. Eternal laws are laws that don’t change over the centuries. They were established when the earth was created. They are hard, fast rules that are tied to natural laws. “If you touch a hot stove with your bare hand, you will get burned. If you give your rights to someone to make your decisions, you give up your freedom to be independent. If you depend on government to solve your problems, the government will solve your problems with or without your consent. If you stir contention, you will drive peace from your life. If you are dishonest, honest people will learn to distrust you. If you drop an apple from the tree, it will never fly naturally into outer space.” If you break the laws of God, there will be consequences, whather we believe in God or not. Eternal laws are like that.

As I think of the pioneers winding their way across the plains through the snow, fording frozen streams and climbing mountains, I cannot help marvel at my own complacency and ingratitude. I think perhaps I have not sacrificed enough. I have been too dependent on others for my freedom. I wonder what price I will have to pay for my blindness. I must get on my knees and thank the Lord for those who paid the price for me; then arise and work to find out what freedoms I have given away and try to get them back before I hand over my legacy to my children. I hope my gift will not be a chalice of sand, but a cup brimming with the sweet taste of liberty. And that my children will be able to sit by the fire on long winters’ nights and be grateful that someone remembered to pay the price for them. PD

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