OMG–They’re Burning the Flag

Why do people get so worked up at the idea of someone burning a U.S. flag? I mean, I think it’s really stupid for those pyros to claim shelter under the Constitution of the nation in order to burn a symbol of that same nation, but nobody ever said people were smart.

We don’t–I hope–have a similar response when somebody abuses one of the symbols of a favorite sports team or university. In a less mature age, I used to refer to a certain college basketball team that has had even more success than my favorite team as the “Puke Spew Devils.” Hey! I said it was a less mature age.

When people heard that, they might have rolled their eyes, but they didn’t threaten to beat me into the pavement. Burn the flag, however, and you might have to deal with some serious pushback. Why?

The reason, I think, is pretty simple. People think that the U.S. flag and “the republic for which it stands” are a pretty important, pretty serious thing. Dragging either the nation or its symbols through the mud or through the fire is more significant than calling a certain Rocky Mountain football team the “Donkeys.”

That’s also why the third of ten commandments tells us to treat the name of God with respect:

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.–Exodus 20:7

What does it mean to misuse God’s name? John Piper has a powerful three-minute ditty on this matter. You listen. I can wait.

God, Christ, the cross, the things he is and the things he did are great, and they’re weighty. And there’s a certain corresponding demeanor of worship that should be there.

That’s pretty powerful stuff.

Getting back to the country for a moment, I’d like to suggest that burning the flag isn’t the only possible misuse of it. Ever drive by one of those car lots that has American flags flying from every vertical post? I’m going to suggest that those displays are often motivated much less by patriotism than by a sense that they can use the flag to drum up customers.

Similarly, we can misuse God’s name, His image, His “brand” in many ways that do not fall under the traditional categories of taking the Lord’s name in vain. We can misuse a flag or God’s name in ways that show hatred for them or simple lack of respect. I’m not sure which one is worse.

 

 

A Briggs and Stratton Sabbath

A couple of weeks ago, I went outside during the evening to mow my grass. I really didn’t want to mow the grass–who ever does?–but I knew that it needed to be done. The temperature on that evening was mild for summer in Kansas City and the next several days promised the sort of blast-furnace peaks that June and July have delivered this year. Clearly, I needed to lace up my grimy shoes and drag the mower out.

But here’s the deal. That coolish evening was a Sunday. Sure, I’d done all of my Sunday obligations–gone to church, served in the children’s ministry, spent time with my family, all that–but I still couldn’t help remaining completely aware of doing non-essential work on the Lord’s Day. After all:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, your livestock, or the resident alien who is within your city gates. For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy. –Exodus 20:8-11

That’s the fourth commandment, the longest of the ten. Jesus never got accused of murder or idolatry, but he was hit with accusations of violating the Sabbath right and left. It’s true that this commandment was the only one of the ten not reaffirmed in the New Testament, but I couldn’t shake the thought that I was pushing my mower back and forth on Sunday when I could have done it easily enough–although with more sweat–on Monday or Tuesday.

Back in Exodus 16, we encounter God’s message regarding the Sabbath via the provision of manna. You get a single ration every day except Friday when you can take a double ration to last you through Saturday. The message was clear: Trust God.

Shouldn’t I have trusted God better with my lawn mowing? Couldn’t I have trusted him to see me through mowing in the beastly heat on Monday?

This isn’t really just a question about the lawn or even about the Lord’s Day. Instead, it’s a question about trusting God to give me enough of everything in the time (or money or skill or whatever) allowed. I don’t think it was strictly an ecological thing that led God to declare the sabbatical year every seven years in Leviticus 25:4:

But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.

Instead, he wanted the Israelites to do something harder than working, which was not working. He wanted them to realize that even though they hadn’t done the agricultural work that had served them (hopefully) so well in the preceding six years, the land would still produce sufficient crops to support them.

I’d like to spend some time developing this idea of trusting God in the time and resources allotted. I think it will lead into some surprising and sometimes uncomfortable ideas.

Dear Fitbit: Am I Sleeping?

Fitness GadgetsThe Fitbit is the Thermos of wearable fitness devices. Other companies have their versions with different feature sets and styling. As the market saturates, what will the manufacturers do to retain their market share and profits? They’ll undoubtedly add features until the devices will be doing instantaneous blood glucose screening and innoculation against tropical diseases.

Sanjay Gupta has an opinion on all that, feeling that all data is not created equal. In this article naming three data points to use and two to ignore, I found it interesting that he seemed to agree with the Bible on the most important piece of information your Fitbit can provide: rest, or rather sleep.

If you’re going to monitor only one thing, this is it: Without adequate rest, your whole body suffers. The best way to measure the quality and quantity of your sleep is with brain wave technology, but that’s not yet practical outside a laboratory. Some of today’s trackers offer only approximate results based on how restless you are during the night, so you’re not going to get perfect data.

Gupta is correct, of course, but his wisdom is nothing new. In Exodus 20:8-10 we are instructed to rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates…”

Granted, the Fitbit cannot tell you if you are keeping your Sabbath rest. Sleep and rest are not synonymous, but without rest, the human body will not function properly. It’s just another one of those ways that humans have been hardwired to demonstrate that there is a God and we’re not it.