“As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free…”

Julia Ward Howe, The Battle Hymn of the Republic

July 3, 2007.

80,000 people were lining the street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and here I stood with a hula hoop about to dance for them. With a hula hoop. Don’t ever laugh and tell God you won’t do something.

Crowd Control

Every year, Gatlinburg holds the first Fourth of July Parade in the Nation at exactly midnight. If you have ever been to Gatlinburg, you know the street can get crowded, but unless you’ve been for the Parade, I promise you have never seen it THIS crowded.

SMRM Staff 2007 ready for the 4th of July Parade — Photo courtesy of Lainey Monroe

The sidewalk is packed 5 and 6 layers deep. The first to arrive set up their chairs hours ago. Even in the dark night, it is hot and balmy. The closely packed bodies don’t help this either.

So what do 80,000 people do while they are bored, waiting for a parade? They improvise entertainment. Years ago, the local tradition started. Everyone brings bags of coins to shower into the empty, blockaded street for children to scavenge.

Sleep-deprived children tussling for loose change on a street where large trucks are about to pull huge floats. Great idea, right?

So the city allowed Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries (SMRM) to present entertainment to clear the streets ahead of the parade. And in 2007, I spent the 10 weeks of summer working for SMRM.

The Question

At the end of each “set,” we’d look for someone in the crowd. We only had seconds to make the connection.

He was a tough biker dude with his tough biker friends. He may not have actually been that tough, but he’d dressed to give that impression. I ran up, hula hoop still in hand.

Photo courtesy of Kayla Corona

“What does freedom mean to you?”

“It’s something I didn’t earn. Something someone else died so I could have.”

“May I tell you what it means to me?”


“Freedom is more than just physical freedom from tyranny or bondage. True freedom is spiritual freedom from sin. It IS something I didn’t earn and something Jesus Christ died so that I could have.”


For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free from the law of sin and death.

RoMans 8:2

Are you free?

Or are you serving a cruel master? Are you trying to earn what His death has already paid?

As you consider the freedom from tyranny, look at the tyranny of sin. When you remember the death of the American soldier, who you can never repay, do you remember the Savior who died to pay your sin debt?

Are you free?

Truthfully Yours,