It’s sitting perched on the shelf behind the Lego constructions of the Capitol and the White House in my office. It’s not very big, as flags go, and I’m not sure of its purpose, except that we found it in Mom’s cedar chest as we were going through things in the house after her death. Like I said, it’s kind of small, but it’s 48 stars so that sets it back in history a bit. I have it there to remind me of so many different things – I am an American, first and foremost, and this is my flag. I am also the son of a Air Force family, and part of a long line of soldiers and other protectors of our nation for far more than a couple hundred years.
Today is Flag Day. They call it the quietest of the patriotic trilogy of holidays – Memorial Day, Independence Day – and Flag Day. Nobody gets the day off, the post office is still open, and it all seems like business as usual. Except in 1916, Woodrow Wilson officially established today as the day in which we celebrate and honor the symbol of our country – more than the bald eagle, or the seats of political power – our flag carries in many ways the emotional strength of our national history and heritage.
As the War for Independence from Great Britain was progressing, George Washington and others believed the troops needed a banner of some sort to untie and rally them for the battles ahead. Prior to that point, the flags that flew in front of the troops were regional flags or pennants, so they took some time to design a new distinct flag that all could use. Unfortunately, the first flag looked a great deal like the British Union Jack, and we needed to strongly distinguish ourselves from our enemy, so in 1777, the 2nd Continental Congress passed a resolution that the flag of the United states would have 13 stripes alternating red and white, and 13 white stars on a blue background.
So began “Old Glory.” Over the years, as we moved from 13 states to many more, at first they added not only a star but also a stripe for each state. After 15 stripes were on the flag with the admission of Kentucky to the union, the powers that be realized it could become a terribly unwieldly flag, so they returned to the permanent 13 stripes for the original colonies, and simply added the stars. Arizona was the 48th state, and so my little flag probably dates back to 1912.
I was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and so with my dad and my big brothers I learned early how to properly fold the flag. When I was 13, my brother Tim and I folded the flag from my great-grandfather’s casket, who had served in the Spanish-American War. With the dozens of funerals I led during my ministry, I have seen the flag folded near perfectly at times, and others when I almost just wanted to step in and take over the horrible mess from a flag being folded all wrong. You see, the two keys to folding a flag are that you have to hold the flag tight, and then you have to fold it in a triangle pattern, but not just any triangle – it’s a continual right triangle, and some folders end up just folding it wrong – it’s just hard to watch. At the end of a proper folding, as you tuck the white edge that holds the grommets to attach it to the pole, you will be left with a tight, totally blue star triangle. My recommendation is always that if you don’t know how to fold the flag – don’t do it.
I’m not going to get into the Supreme Court ruling that said that flag burning is an accepted facet of freedom of expression or speech. I would just say that there are many parts of our heritage that can be challenged or “messed with,” but I would just hope that within each American, even if you don’t particularly like the politics in play currently, we would go above that all to offer respect to the symbol that has carried us for coming up close to 250 years.
So, enjoy the day, and when you see a flag, whether it’s a little one on a stick in a flower pot, or one of those huge monsters that fly over the car dealership, enjoy the sight. It belongs to you, and your parents, and your children. Be intentional about thinking what it means to you.
Saying for the day (by Morgan Harper Nichols): One day, you will see God had a purpose for all the waiting, and not only for the future, but also for the present, where you would gather all the strength and courage you needed to prepare for the days to come.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.