It was Sunday. It was also Veteran’s Day. I had no desire to attend church, but my son encouraged me to get dressed and head out the door. Church is fun for him, especially at his age. It consists of crafts, games, and a Bible story read from pages with vibrant illustrations.
Church had become monotonous for me. It wasn’t the pastor’s fault. The people were great too – friendly and authentic. It was a small church and they stuffed you with desserts as you socialized in the lobby. The sermons were good. The music was great.
But monotony had crept in taking the joy of church from me.
I wasn’t looking for more flashy lights and rock concert worship experiences. I didn’t care about how comfortable the chairs were or how well the heat worked. I didn’t care how well the pastor dressed. And I certainly wasn’t looking for catchy catch-phrases or advanced theological credentials.
I wasn’t looking to be entertained.
This wasn’t a falling away from the faith thing. I talk to God anywhere and at any time. As my uncle once said, “I don’t need four walls to talk to God.” He’s pretty smart.
It just seemed at this point, I had heard all of the Bible stories many times over. I’m not negating the importance of the Gospel. I usually discover something new with every sermon and I know there is much to be learned from the word of truth.
I just craved different.
Grabbing my coffee, the caffeinated manna from heaven, I took my seat. We sang, we prayed and then our attention diverted to four men at the back of the church.
They looked forty years younger as they straightened up as tall as they could. Dressed in their uniforms, they sounded the trumpet. Then they carried Old Glory down the aisle.
Each one from a different branch of the military. With only four men, they were one branch short of the five. The five that make one despite who thinks they do it better. And trust me they all think they do it better – a lesson learned from spending time in a room of veterans.
But together as one they all serve Americans by defending our country.
They were good men who served the church. They held the doors open on Sundays. They stayed after services to clean-up. They always showed up willing to repair the old building, usually with their own resources.
Their faith was undeniable.
They were good men who loved their wives. They were always by their sides. They also loved others with an ease I envied. They treated everyone as a brother or sister.
They had the teacher of time on their side – living lives of serving others from a young age. They spent their free time with the youth, teaching them the things a father and grandfather should. They brought stability and discipline to many teens needing gentle guidance through this chaotic world.
They were respectful, but held tight to their convictions. They were humble and loyal. And they could crack a joke at the drop of a hat.
They changed the dynamic of a room – in the best kind of way.
This Sunday all eyes were on them standing on the little stage. I sat up a little straighter, eager to hear their story. With white gloves holding the flag, they presented the meaning of the thirteen folds.
At this time, the American flag was in the news quite a bit. But not in a good way as people publicly burned it, threw it on the ground and stomped on it. I think the whole room looked forward to seeing the good news in front of us.
Fast forward a couple of years, and our news isn’t any different as people are taking to the streets destroying neighborhoods built by American hands. They hold our flag upside down, burn it and throw it on the ground.
In this church service, the small room of people looked at the American flag with respect, because we saw the faces of the men that would die for this flag. They would die for our country. They would die for us. They would die for each other.
“Those who would disrespect our flag have never been handed a folded one.”
The Coast Guard Veteran started the ceremony with this quote. The words tugged at my heart and put things in perspective.
The room was quiet as we watched in silent awe. The men slowly created perfect creases as they gently folded the flag. They described the meaning behind each of the thirteen folds.
“In God We Trust,” were the last words spoken as the thirteenth and final fold is completed. The stars are now uppermost just like the heavens.
It doesn’t matter how fast or how far the world is going in the wrong direction, as long as our Trust is placed in the hands of The Father.
I got the different I craved that Sunday.
And it was one of the best sermons I’ve heard.
This is what the 13 folds mean:
The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
The fifth fold is an acknowledgement to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealign with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”