Historical Monday, Monday Musings

Folding the Flag: How It Honors Our History

Today is President’s Day, and I’m forever grateful to our Founding Fathers who made it possible for us to live in America today. But I’m also forever grateful to our military men and women – and their families – and the sacrifices they all make to keep us free.

DSC03968I got a fresh reminder of that at a memorial service this weekend for a member of my husband’s extended family who was a Vietnam veteran. Even though I was only around him a few times since marrying into the family, I remember him being a warm, caring, and funny man. That was emphasized ten-fold during his service as people spoke again and again about his love for family, friends, and God; his willingness to offer help before it was even asked for; and how everyone always knew he was a friend who “had your back.”

He was also very active with local groups supporting Vietnam veterans and disabled veterans, which I hadn’t known. But, it didn’t surprise me because of the kind of man he was. Several veterans participated in the service, but a good number of others attended out of respect and love for him. That says a lot.

Maybe it was because I haven’t been to a military service in a few years, but the ceremonial parts were especially touching. Each of his military friends still carried themselves with pride and with ingrained habits, from their measured steps to curling their fingers as they stood with their arms by their sides. And there’s still something special about a military person in dress uniform, no matter how gray the hari might be.

All of it got me thinking about the history behind parts of the service, which of course meant I went Googling. And I learned some interesting things along the way …

  • Draping the casket (or table, at a memorial service) with the national flag began during the Napoleonic Wars in 1796-1815. The dead were covered with a flag when they were carried from the field of battle on a caisson.
  • The U.S. flag is placed so the union blue field is at the head and over the left shoulder of the person who served. It is not allowed to touch the ground.
  • The familiar Taps tune is a variation of an earlier bugle call. It was composed by General Daniel Butterfield of the Union Army during The Civil War. Originally used to signal “lights out,” the somber tune became a traditional way to honor service members, eventually becoming a staple at funeral services to honor the extinguishing of a life.
  • After Taps has been played during the servcie, the flag is carefully folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape. A properly proportioned flag will fold 13 times on the triangles, representing the 13 original colonies. The folded flag is emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, no red or white stripe is to be evident, leaving only the blue field with stars.
  • Each of the 13 folds of the flag symbolizes something in particular. To read about each one, visit this page on the American Legion’s website .
  • The folded flag is then presented as a keepsake to the next of kin or an appropriate family member. Each branch of the Armed Forces uses its own wording for the presentation. You can read them here on the Military Salute website.

folded flagAfter an American flag has been used for a military or veteran’s funeral, it should never be flown again or displayed in any other way than the tri-fold shape it’s folded into before being presented to the family.

I’m proud that we have the flag from my father-in-law’s service and am even more proud of what it stands for, now that I’ve had my history refresher. God bless America, and all the men and women who work so hard to keep us free.

Your turn: What is the most moving part of a military funeral or memorial service for you?

Historical research, Living in Faith, Monday Musings

10 snippets of wisdom from MLK, Jr.

MLK speech
Photo credit: Francis Miller/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Today is the third Monday of January, which means it’s the federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. We all know about Dr. King and his dreams of seeing equality for all people here in America and around the globe. But do you know much about what else he said?

I’m far from being an expert on Dr. King and the things he believed, but it doesn’t take long when looking at quotes from some of his speeches or writings to see that he was a well spoken, thoughtful man with a strong faith. Here are 10 of my favorite quotes that I’ve seen from him, just to give you an idea:

  • The time is always right to do what is right.
  • Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend.
  • Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.
  • I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.
  • Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.
  • Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

I’ve never seen some of these quotes before I did a bit of searching, but think they all carry important messages.

MLK doing for othersOf all these (and others) that I found, I think the last one I’ve listed is my favorite, maybe because it hits home every day. What am I doing for others? In other words … as much as I might tend to get wrapped up in my little corner of the world and forget about thing beyond, it’s really not all about me. Life is about helping others and trying to make the world a better place, whether that means becoming an international leader whose policies affect millions or simply smiling and holding the door for a mom balancing an infant carrier seat while keeping hold of her toddler’s hand. I can donate to a worthy cause, offer to volunteer when they need help at school, or put a note in my child’s lunch that she’ll find just before taking that test she’s worried about.

It can be big, or it can be small. The important thing is that it makes a difference to someone else. I think that’s a good thing to focus on, especially as we see so many things in memory of Dr. King this week.

Your turn: What’s your favorite quote from Dr. King, and why?

 

Christian fiction, Historical research, Monday Musings, Scripture verses

6 things you might not know about the Quakers

I love that reading fiction helps me escape to another time or place, into a world that entertains me and gives me a break from work/house stuff/playing family errand runner and chauffeur. I love it even more when reading a novel teaches me some new things.

Path of FreedomThe book I read this weekend is a perfect example. Path of Freedom by Jennifer Hudson Taylor is part of the “Quilts of Love” series that Abingdon Press began publishing a few years ago. Each book in the series centers somehow on a quilt. In Path of Freedom, the quilt serves as a map to help guide two slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad (the story takes place before the Civil War).

The main characters, Flora and Bruce, are Quakers. I’ve never known much about Quakers other than they’re pacifists and that many settled in and around Pennsylvania when first coming to the U.S. So, in case you don’t know much more about Quakers than I do, here are a few things I learned (some from Path of Freedom, some thanks to the internet):

  • The full name for the group is the Society of Friends (which I’m guessing is what leads to them addressing each other as “Friend Bruce” or “Friend Flora” on many occasions).
  • The name “Quakers” originates from the fact that early worshipers would “quake with the spirit of God.”
  • Quakers are strong believers in equality among gender, race, and society in general. One verse from the Bible they use to support this view is Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(NIV)
  • The Quakers became the first organization in history to ban slave holding, and in the 1800s Quakers populated the abolitionist movement in numbers far exceeding their proportion of all Americans.
  • Women Friends had a role and status more equal with men’s than in any other Christian church. They preached and ministered to mixed audiences, traveled extensively unaccompanied by men, and regulated the lives of fellow Quaker women without men’s assistance (such as in church discipline and marriage arrangements).
  • Both Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln had ancestors who were Quaker.

 

See? You never know what a little reading might teach you. 🙂

I have a soft spot in my heart for Jennifer’s books because we were in an online critique group together years ago and I love to see how well she’s done (plus, I’ve enjoyed all of her stories that I’ve read). If you’d like to learn more about Jennifer and her books, visit her website or Facebook page.

Your turn: Did you know any of these things about the Quakers? Or, what’s something interesting you’ve learned by reading a novel lately? Share with us in the comments!

 

God sightings, Living in Faith, Monday Musings

What Driftwood Taught Me About Myself

IMG_0740A couple of weeks ago my husband and I enjoyed a belated anniversary getaway while the kids were out of town with my parents. We went to Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island, Fla., and relaxed for two days by wandering through shops in the historic district, feasting on fabulous seafood, and sunning on what was practically a private beach at Little Talbot Island State Park.

One of my favorite things about the beach was our time spent walking along the shore. An infinite array of shells covered the sand, a rainbow of every color and in every size.

IMG_0745But as much as I love shells, the best beach treasure for me was the sections of driftwood scattered around. Stark and white from the weather’s bleaching, they reached in all sorts of directions as if they were trying to scrape the brilliant blue sky.
Some were simple – just a couple of straight branches like a slingshot. Others were a tangle of intricate knots.

They were all beautiful and they all fascinated me in their own way, even though they are long dead and no longer have flowers or leaves to rustle in the sea breeze.

It took a while for me to figure out why they fascinated me so. After all, they were leftover parts of dead trees.

Then I decided that was partly why I liked them. They used to be part of something else, something bigger and fully alive. Then something happened to break them away from the rest of the tree and leave them stranded on the beach.

IMG_0753How many times has the same sort of thing happened in my life? I make my lists and map out my plans and think I know exactly how things are going to happen. Then – just like with the driftwood – something happens and changes everything I was expecting.

I’ve been through that scenario more times than I can count, in both my personal and professional lives. The issue quickly becomes a question of how I handle the surprise and upheaval. Do I distance myself from others who might want to help me in a hard time and become hard and brittle? Or do I remold myself and let the twists and turns become part of a new me instead of something I fight?

I’d like to say I’ve learned to always adapt to the new version of things and become a beautiful reinvention like the driftwood. But if I said that, I’d be lying.

IMG_0754I probably will always be a list-maker and a plan-mapper. I just need to learn to not be quite so married to those lists and plans because they can change in half a heartbeat. I can’t be paralyzed like those branches, still reaching for things that are no longer in my grasp. Instead, I need to be open to God’s leading and be flexible enough to adapt and find joy in whatever He sends my way.

It’s not always easy. But if I ask for God’s help and keep working at it, I can be beautiful wherever God puts me. Just like the driftwood.

Your turn: When was the last time God changed your perfectly-laid plans and sent you in a new direction? How did you adapt and still show His beauty?