Marines.Together We Served

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's a Faith Thing

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
22 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

It’s a Faith Thing

There are times in life when you have the opportunity to look back and see how events came together in a way that you simply could not have seen looking forward at that time. I’m not referring to what might be called coincidences. The path I’m talking about has to do with faith.

When I say faith, I’m not talking about crossing my fingers in hopes that everything will work out. Instead, what is at work here is my having learned to trust Jesus with my life: every aspect of it. Let me explain.

At twenty-four years of age I had an encounter with Jesus while serving in the Marine Corps. There was no doubt in my heart and mind that this meeting, if you will, took place. The realization that God loved me, and Christ died for my sins was overwhelming. I knew then I needed to surrender my entire life to him completely. I remember distinctly saying to Jesus in my prayer of surrender to him that he could have my whole life to do with as he wished. It stands to reason that if he can save me from my sin, his taking care of the remainder of my earthly life should be a cake-walk.

Some might say that’s a bit risky. After all, you really don’t know what following Jesus in a walk of faith may get you. That’s true. But you have to remember that I was serving in the Marine Corps. And I was in Vietnam. People I couldn’t see were trying to kill me. When I took the oath to serve my country, I was, in effect, signing a blank check over to the government stating that my government, the leaders of the United States, and in particular the Commander in Chief, the President, could use me up to and including the sacrificing of my life.

The decision to trust Jesus was easy compared to trusting a gaggle of politicians. After all, the politicians did not create the universe, nor the sun, moon and stars. They did not bring about the forms of life that inhabit this amazing globe we call earth. I am useful to them, yes. But they do not know me, and they certainly do not love me.

God made the universe and rules over it and all that it contains. And he doesn’t even break a sweat. Politicians, on the other hand, can’t even run the postal system without screwing it up. I’ll take God, thank you.

When my enlistment in the Marines was up in 1973, I planned to return to college and pursue something altogether divested from the military. After graduating from San Jose State University in 1976, Isaura and I were married and moved to Portland, Oregon where I was to attend Western Evangelical Seminary. I wasn’t sure which of the three masters programs I should take. While standing in line to sign up with the registrar, I sensed the Lord prompting me to sign up for the Master’s in Divinity (M.Div) degree. But I could not shake the need to go with the M.Div.

Three years later I graduated with my M.Div. and returned to our home church in San Jose to be the youth minister, all the while seeking for an avenue to enter the field of Christian Radio & TV. The superintendent and pastor approached me the need for me to be ordained. I argued against it but they prevailed, so I went through the two-year study program to be officially ordained.

In my early thirties at this point, I felt I needed to move away from youth ministry and get into Christian Broadcasting. Nothing opened up for me, except the opportunity to pastor a church in Fresno.

While in Fresno I reenlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve as a side ministry to go along with pastoring the church. Eight years had passed since seminary and I was still wondering where I was heading in serving the Lord.

One day I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as a Navy chaplain. He had heard of me and wondered if I’d consider being a Navy chaplain. I asked him what the qualifications were. He listed three, in this order: Masters in Divinity, ordination, pastoring a church! I now saw how all three of those things came together so I would be prepared for ministry to sailors and Marines.

I had did not stayed in the Marine Corps because I did not want to keep doing for 20 years what I had been doing – fixing black boxes in jet aircraft.

I did not want to earn a Masters in Divinity because it was a three-year program, not two like the other degrees. Plus, I didn’t need that degree for broadcasting. And I wanted nothing to do with Greek and Hebrew, required for the M.Div.

I also did not want to go through ordination because I felt it was a waste of time since I was going into broadcasting.

Lastly, pastoring a church was not on my list of things to do. I could not see myself preaching to a congregation.

What hit me like a bolt when presented with the Navy chaplaincy was the realization that God had been working to get me to the point where I would be qualified to serve him in the Navy.

Had I chosen to be bull-headed and not have been obedient to his promptings, I would have missed out serving 25 years as a chaplain to the men and women of the sea services. I didn’t want to do it, but I’m so glad I did!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Sum of Character

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
15 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

The Sum of Character

Following up on my article from last week, Character Matters, I shared a number of Trump character stories from journalist Liz Crokin. In her article entitled, Trump Does the Unthinkable, the rest of her stories about Donald Trump are provided here. Her job as an entertainment reporter was to cover then Mr. Trump for more than a decade. As she stated, “Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump.”

Just as a reminder, I am not suggesting that President Trump is perfect, nor should we be making plans to place his carved visage on Mount Rushmore. However, I wrote in a previous article that in voting for Mr. Trump I was not voting for a Sunday School teacher. It has been said that the definition of character is what you do when no one is watching.

*In 2008, after Jennifer Hudson’s family members were tragically murdered in Chicago, Trump put the Oscar-winning actress and her family up at his Windy City hotel for free. In addition to that, Trump’s security took extra measures to ensure Hudson and her family members were safe during such a difficult time.

*In 2013, New York bus driver Darnell Barton spotted a woman close to the edge of a bridge staring at traffic below as he drove by. He stopped the bus, got out and put his arm around the woman and saved her life by convincing her to not jump. When Trump heard about this story, he sent the hero bus driver a check simply because he believed his good deed deserved to be rewarded.

*In 2014, Trump gave $25,000 to Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi after he spent seven months in a Mexican jail for accidentally crossing the US-Mexico border. President Barack Obama couldn’t even be bothered to make one phone call to assist with the United States Marine’s release; however, Trump opened his pocketbook to help this serviceman get back on his feet.

*In 2016, Melissa Consin Young attended a Trump rally and tearfully thanked Trump for changing her life. She said she proudly stood on stage with Trump as Miss Wisconsin USA in 2005. However, years later she found herself struggling with an incurable illness and during her darkest days she explained that she received a handwritten letter from Trump telling her she’s the “bravest woman, I know.” She said the opportunities that she got from Trump and his organizations ultimately provided her Mexican-American son with a full-ride to college.

*Lynne Patton, a black female executive for the Trump Organization, released a statement in 2016 defending her boss against accusations that he’s a racist and a bigot. She tearfully revealed how she’s struggled with substance abuse and addiction for years. Instead of kicking her to the curb, she said the Trump Organization and his entire family loyally stood by her through “immensely difficult times.”

Trump’s kindness knows no bounds and his generosity has and continues to touch the lives of people from every sex, race and religion. When Trump sees someone in need, he wants to help. Two decades ago, Oprah asked Trump in a TV interview if he’d run for president. He said: “If it got so bad, I would never want to rule it out totally, because I really am tired of seeing what’s happening with this country.” That day has come. Trump sees that America is in need and he wants to help – how unthinkable! (“Trump Does the Unthinkable”, by Liz Crokin, July 10, 2016,

          This past week I was speaking with a long-time acquaintance who has served three previous presidents. Here is a composite of some of his remarks and thoughts while serving in the Trump administration.

          During the primaries last year, a black Secret Service agent assigned to Mr. Trump at Trump Towers in New York City, asked one of the maintenance workers what it’s like working for Donald Trump. “I couldn’t ask for a better boss,” he said. Or as my acquaintance says, “He takes care of his people.”

          The salary for the president is $400,000 a year. President Trump has refused the salary. Instead, he asked that it be given to charity. Have you ever heard of any other president doing this?

          The President loves the American flag, bringing back a resurgence of patriotism. He has demonstrated a genuine love and appreciation for our military veterans and active duty personnel.

          During the White House staff Christmas Party last month President Trump made it a point to wish everyone a Merry Christmas several times, including Happy Hanukkah.

          On the evening of the Inaugural, President Trump asked the chef to prepare a dinner for the entire family in the residence of the White House. Afterward, the President and First Lady made it a point to go to the kitchen and thank the chef and his staff for an excellent meal.

          So, think about these reports when you hear the Mainstream Media, Hollywood elites, and the Trump Nay-Sayers attack the character of our president.

          Personally, I’ll take Donald Trump, flaws and all.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Character Matters

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
8 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Character Matters

You may recall the brouhaha surrounding then President Bill Clinton when his character was being called into question. Those on the political left came to his defense espousing this absurd blather, “Character doesn’t matter!” It was during the height of Bill Clinton’s dalliances that the American people were expected to swallow the preposterous lie that “Character doesn’t matter as long as the President’s policies are sound.”

Such a statement would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious, because whatever roads a person travels in life, is greatly affected by their character. Virtues are tantamount to being trusted by others. The Boy Scouts have a code or law consisting of twelve points. “A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.” It sure sounds like the sort of code a person with good character should have!

I find it interesting then that a story about the character of President Donald Trump receives virtually no attention from the mainstream media. The article is entitled, Trump Does The Unthinkable, written July 8, 2016 by journalist Liz Crokin for Townhall. Ms. Crokin sets the stage for this article in the next two paragraphs. The remainder of this article lists many of the examples of the President’s character. In next week’s article I will post the remainder of the stories from Ms. Crokin’s article.

“Donald Trump is a racist, bigot, sexist, xenophobe, anti-Semitic and Islamophobe -- did I miss anything? The left and the media launch these hideous kinds of attacks at Trump everyday (sic); yet, nothing could be further from the truth about the real estate mogul. As an entertainment journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to cover Trump for over a decade, and in all my years covering him I’ve never heard anything negative about the man until he announced he was running for president. Keep in mind, I got paid a lot of money to dig up dirt on celebrities like Trump for a living so a scandalous story on the famous billionaire could’ve potentially sold a lot of magazines and would’ve been a “yuge” (sic) feather in my cap. Instead, I found that he doesn’t drink alcohol or do drugs, he’s a hardworking businessman and totally devoted to his beloved wife and children. On top of that, he’s one of the most generous celebrities in the world with a heart filled with more gold than his $100 million New York penthouse.

Since the media has failed so miserably at reporting the truth about Trump, I decided to put together some of the acts of kindness he's committed over three decades which has gone virtually unnoticed or fallen on deaf ears.”

• In 1986, Trump prevented the foreclosure of Annabel Hill's family farm after her husband committed suicide. Trump personally called down to the auction to stop the sale of her home and offered the widow money. Trump decided to take action after he saw Hill's pleas for help in news reports.

• In 1988, a commercial airline refused to fly Andrew Ten, a sick Orthodox Jewish child with a rare illness, across the country to get medical care because he had to travel with an elaborate life-support system. His grief-stricken parents contacted Trump for help and he didn't hesitate to send his own plane to take the child from Los Angeles to New York so he could get his treatment.

• In 1991, 200 Marines who served in Operation Desert Storm spent time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina before they were scheduled to return home to their families. However, the Marines were told that a mistake had been made and an aircraft would not be able to take them home on their scheduled departure date. When Trump got wind of this, he sent his plane to make two trips from North Carolina to Miami to safely return the Gulf War Marines to their loved ones.

• In 1995, a motorist stopped to help Trump after the limo he was traveling in got a flat tire. Trump asked the Good Samaritan how he could repay him for his help. All the man asked for was a bouquet of flowers for his wife. A few weeks later Trump sent the flowers with a note that read: We've paid off your mortgage.

• In 1996, Trump filed a lawsuit against the city of Palm Beach, Florida, accusing the town of discriminating against his Mar-a-Lago resort club because it allowed Jews and blacks. Abraham Foxman, who was the Anti-Defamation League Director at the time, said Trump put the light on Palm Beach not on the beauty and the glitter, but on its seamier side of discrimination. Foxman also noted that Trump's charge had a trickle-down effect because other clubs followed his lead and began admitting Jews and blacks.

• In 2000, Maury Povich featured a little girl named Megan who struggled with Brittle Bone Disease on his show and Trump happened to be watching. Trump said, the little girl's story and positive attitude touched his heart. So, he contacted Maury and gifted the little girl and her family with a very generous check.

There are those who will never give this president any credit for anything. Regardless of your political leanings, you have to admit that Mr. Trump has demonstrated a generous spirit which belies the vicious assaults on his character launched daily by a media complicit with Hollywood to destroy this good man and his family.

Next week I’ll conclude this look into the character of President Trump.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Darkest Hour

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
1 January 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Darkest Hour

Movie reviews are not part of my usual literary trappings, but occasionally I watch a movie that really grabs my attention. As a rule, my wife and I rarely watch movies, either at home or in the theater.

Since we had made no particular plans for New Years Eve, we decided after church to enjoy a restful afternoon at home. I had already purchased tickets for the 6:20pm showing of the acclaimed Darkest Hour movie about Winston Churchill’s rise to power as England’s prime minister at a most critical juncture in what would become known as World War Two.

I hardly consider myself a connoisseur of the art of filmmaking, but I love history and Darkest Hour gives us a window into a one-month span in the embattled times of England as it stood on the brink of catastrophe. Their army of some 300,000 men was facing annihilation by the German Army of the Third Reich. Pinned down on the beaches of Dunkirk, France with their backs to the English Channel, their situation appeared hopeless. Germany ruled the sea and the air, as well as the ground. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1937-40) had previously met with Der F├╝hrer, Adolf Hitler, returning home to England to proclaim peace agreements had been reached with Hitler. It turned out to be a hollow promise on the part of Hitler, placing Chamberlain in a most unfortunate position, and an embarrassing one, to boot.

The British Parliament was divided over how to proceed with a robust and voracious German military power that was running rough-shod over all of continental Europe. Chamberlain lost the confidence of the ruling parties, and was forced to step down. The only person who was acceptable to both political parties was Sir Winston Churchill, a curmudgeonly character if ever there was one. He was ill-mannered most of the time, impatient to the extreme, rude and demanding. Of all the witticisms attributed to Churchill, the one best known was in 1946 when he was attending a dinner party where Bessie Braddock, the rather plump leader of the Labour Party of Britain at the time, said to Churchill, “Winston, you are drunk.” “Madam,” he said, “you are ugly, and I will be sober in the morning.”

But in May of 1940 the British were facing insurmountable odds. Parliament was preparing to enter into peace negotiations, effectually surrendering to the Germans. Winston Churchill would have none of that. The king of England at that time was King George the VI, who initially wanted nothing to do with Churchill and was opposed to him becoming the prime minister. But as he saw Churchill’s grit and determination, the King pledged his support, and as they say, the rest is history.

Throughout the movie there are numerous bits of delightful humor that had Isaura and me laughing out loud at times. It balanced the serious nature of the movie’s storyline perfectly.

One of the bits of history I had never known before was how Neville Chamberlain became instrumental in changing Parliaments decision to reject the terms of peace, and, instead to fight Germany at all costs. Unfortunately, Chamberlain will be forever stuck with the “peace in our time” assurance, but at crunch-time he did support the unpopular Churchill who was determined to fight Germany.

One of the great acts of history was the manner in which the British people saved their army. The military leaders were paralyzed in taking any action in rescuing their stranded army, only eighty miles across the English Channel. Churchill asked the English people to take their personal water craft and sail to Dunkirk (Dunkerque in French). Thousands of boats came across the water, rescuing nearly all 300,000 British troops. Some boats were so small that they could only carry a few troops per crossing.

Winston Churchill is the sort of person you need in a moment of crisis. He was a master in knowing how to invigorate and challenge the British people to courageously stand against the military might of Germany. This, at a time when every other European country was either remaining neutral or had already been conquered by the well-equipped and well-trained German army.

I know very little about actors these days, but I will say that Gary Oldman, who played Winston Churchill, was absolutely amazing. The rest of the supporting cast was equally well placed. Isaura turned to me at one point in the movie and said, “I think that’s an actual film of Churchill.” It wasn’t, but the filming was so well done that it made you feel as though it was.

Another poignant part in the film was the phone conversations Churchill had with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Churchill implored FDR to come to England’s rescue, to no avail. In fact, the United States did not enter the war until Sunday, December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. The next day, Monday, December 8, Germany declared war on the United States. Nearly two years had passed since Britain’s darkest hour.

Grit and determination are characteristic of the Brits. This movie portrays this in spades. And Winston Churchill was the King of Spades when it came to grit and just plain cussedness.

Go see the movie, Darkest Hour. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa as a Kid

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
25 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

Santa as a Kid

I trust you all had a blessed and Merry Christmas! Our family got together several times during the month of December, each time having lots of fun and laughter.

On Saturday afternoon we were sitting around the living room chatting merrily away when our ten-year-old granddaughter Alyssa, asked if she could read some of the short stories she has been writing. Apparently, her fourth-grade teacher at Colony Oak Elementary has been working with the kids on their writing skills. Not just composition, but the formation of thought, development of ideas, along with sentence structure and expanded vocabulary.

Intrigued, we six adults in the room encouraged her by all means to read her stories. The favorite story is one entitled, Santa as a Kid. We all laughed at this twist on the Christmas character so readily recognized. I asked Alyssa if I might share it with my friends who read my weekly Roots in Ripon column. She happily agreed. I made only a few punctuation changes. Otherwise, this is exactly how Alyssa wrote her story.

Santa as a Kid

Everyone has to be a kid once in their life. This is about Santa as a kid. You probably don’t think much about it because in all the stories he is a jolly old guy. He is actually Santa the 15th, so when he was little he liked to play games.

Video games were just coming out and Santa the 15th wanted to play some of the games that came out. So, Mrs. Claus took him to a store and bought some games. She told him he had to promise to not be on it all the time. When they got back home they put it together and Santa 15th started to play on it right away. Time passed so quickly it felt like morning a couple minutes ago. Now it is nighttime. Mrs. Claus called upstairs to Santa 15th for dinner. He said he would be a few minutes, but he took two hours! So, Mrs. Claus came storming up the stairs and burst into his room. “That is enough playing games for today!” she yelled. 

So, he went downstairs slowly and ate his dinner slowly, and went back upstairs to brush his teeth and go to bed. Mrs. Claus told him to go straight to bed, and he said he would. A few hours later when everyone went to bed, Santa 15th got up and started to play video games until morning and Mrs. Claus had a fit. She threatened Santa 15th to take away his video games, and she did as she said she would.

A few years later he was a teen and moved out, then got video games and sat on his couch all day eating cookies, pizza, and milk while playing video games. And that is how there became a fat Santa. Santa 15th has a kid now – and he plays video games! 

The End

The gist of the story is a swipe at the never-ending challenge parents (and grandparents) face daily these days with children who are consumed with playing games on their cell phones, iPads and iPods.

We’ve all seen it. A group of kids sitting around, each engrossed in their own electronic device, oblivious of their friends sitting right next to them. Teachers have difficulty with kids texting their classmates during school hours. And according to statistics, too many car accidents are being attributed to teens and adults tapping away on their cell phones while rolling down the highway at 65 mph or greater. I’ve seen a man and woman seated in a nice restaurant, each pecking away, connecting with someone unseen, while ignoring the one right in front of them.

I was both amused and proud of Alyssa for tackling a current social dilemma, while at the same time giving it a humorous story line.

Funny! I always wondered how Santa got so fat!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Best of Times

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
18 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

The Best of Times

Amidst all of life’s many twists and turns, the question is often in the forefront of my mind, “Is this a good time to be alive?”

As one who enjoys history, I find myself reflecting on earlier times, wondering if I might have enjoyed living in a different time, or a different era of history. Of course, I’ll never know, but I’ve heard people say with a certain whimsical lament, “I was born a century too late.”

So, while spending this past weekend in Monterey/Carmel celebrating my wife’s 65th birthday, I saw a variation on Charles Dickins’ quote from his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Surely Dickens must have wrestled with the same idea that there were better times to have lived, and there were certainly worst times to have lived. Sometimes, depending on your own perspective of events, you can see truth in both the opposing views: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Frequently I will hear Christians verbally wish for the return of Jesus right now because things seem to be so bad in the world today. I will often ask this person if they think the world’s condition has deteriorated to the point that it has never been this bad in the past. I’ve never had anyone say yes to this. A short review of the Bible and the awful situations that the Jews, and later the Christians, found themselves in can be quite enlightening. Even secular history has pointed out the horrors visited upon those of faith who have been targeted for persecution and annihilation.

You see, what may be the best time in the world to be alive for you, may, conversely be the worst time for someone else, whether a neighbor next door, or an unknown inhabitant of a land on the far side of the world.

One of the true ironies visited upon this world is the spectacular event that occurred two thousand years ago with the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. He came as promised, for so the ancient prophets recorded in the Old Testament, hundreds, yea, thousands of years before. This event took place in the little burg of Bethlehem, located a scant five miles from Jerusalem.

The irony I refer to is the spectacular joy expressed by a choir of angels announcing the birth of Jesus, while at the same time King Herod, the King of the Jews, was doing everything in his power to find this baby and have him killed. When a king or ruler feels threatened, they will naturally revert to violence in order to prop themselves up and to maintain control of their power.

As a Christian, I am aware of the paradox within my faith. On the one hand, I rejoice and celebrate in the birth of Jesus in all of his innocence. On the other hand, I also celebrate in the death of Jesus at Easter, despite the fact that he was gruesomely abused by his executioners and hung on a cross, a means of execution reserved for the worst of criminals. And what had he done to warrant this hideous treatment? He willingly came to demonstrate God’s love for this fallen race of man.

The absurdity of life challenges us to decide for ourselves: Is this the best of times? Or is it the worst of times?

Because of Jesus and his sacrificial death for me, life is always the best of times, despite the worst of times that come as a result of simply living.

Disappointment, heartache, rejection, death, all are part of life’s experience. But because of the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas day two thousand years ago, and his later death and resurrection, I have his promise that he will take me home one day to glory to be with him forever.

Perhaps heaven’s portal will boldly state, “Within these golden gates you can only experience the very best of times for all eternity.”

Merry Christmas! Hallelujah! Jesus has come!

Psalm for the Day