Marines.Together We Served

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jordan Spieth: A Class Act

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
24 July 2017

Jordan Spieth: A Class Act

Admittedly, I am an inveterate golfer. And this past weekend was the holy grail of golf which is the British Open (also known as the Open Championship, or simply as, The Open), held this year at Royal Birkdale in England. This tournament is held each year at one of several golf courses within the British Isles. The most recognized, Saint Andrews in Scotland, is known as the “Home of Golf.”

This four-day event is the desire of all professional golfers. But only those who have earned enough points, or have won certain tournaments are then invited to play at the Open. The very best golfers fly in from all over the world, dreaming of winning this coveted prize. To be the last man standing at the end of the tournament establishes the winner into golf immortality. Your name will be engraved on the claret jug alongside of past champions, such as, Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, and now Jordan Spieth, the 2017 winner.

Spieth made a huge splash in the world of professional golf two years ago when he won two of the four major championships (The Masters, and the U.S. Open) at age twenty-one. His victory on Sunday at Royal Birkdale makes him the youngest American golfer to hoist the silver claret jug. And he’s only twenty-three!

For a professional golfer to win even one of the annual four major tournaments (The Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA) during their career puts them into a class of golfers that is practically deified. For a player to win multiple major tournaments means this player has gained a status unlike most any other in sport. For instance, the aforementioned Jack Nicklaus, arguably the greatest golfer of all time (the acronym G.O.A.T. is frequently bestowed on such an individual) won 18 major championships during his career. Only Tiger Woods has come anywhere near Jack’s achievement, having won 14 majors.

The skills necessary to play at the professional level apparently deteriorate during a player’s 30s, because only a handful of players have managed to win a major after turning 40. Jack won his last major at age 46. But then again, Jack is a god in the world of golf. Tiger is 41.

Back to Jordan Spieth. I have enjoyed watching this young man play for several reasons. He is much more like the average guy. He doesn’t crush his drives, launching his tee shots ridiculous distances down the fairway. He has a phenomenal “short game,” meaning his use of his wedges, and particularly his putter, have grown almost to legendary status. But it’s his humble attitude that I appreciate the most about him.  

Jordan took the lead at the Open on the first day, and played great golf for three days, holding the lead into Sunday. Well, because the tournament is in England, there’s a bit of a time difference. So, the first players out on the final day were teeing off at 4:30 Sunday morning here on the west coast. I crawled out of bed about 4:45, made myself a cup of coffee and settled in for a few hours of enjoyment. Since it was Sunday, and I help lead singing in our worship services at church, I still had to shower and shave in time to make our 8:30 service. Jordan was in the final pairing with Matt Kuchar. When I left for church, these two were battling it out. They were almost at the turn (meaning they had finished the first nine holes and were about to play the second nine) when I walked out the door. Now, normally I will help lead in singing, and then sit in the pew with my wife to listen to the pastor deliver his sermon. Then it’s off for coffee and donuts in the fellowship hall, followed by our adult Sunday school class. Then I help with the singing again in the 11:00 service.

Well, the way things were going with the tournament, I knew I’d miss the conclusion (yes, I was recording it!) if I attended things the way I normally did. So instead, I helped in singing in the first service, then left for home to watch the remainder of the tournament, which ended at 10:45. I then drove back to church to lead in singing for the second service and stayed to hear the sermon. Boy, am I glad I changed things up for this!

As it turned out, Jordan was having all sorts of difficulties with his game on the final day. Jordan hit the most horrific tee shot on the 13th hole. When they found his ball, it was not even playable, which meant he’d have to take a penalty stroke. He managed to minimize the damage, dropping only one stroke to Matt, putting Jordan one shot out of the lead for the first time after 67 holes. Only five holes remained, and Jordan’s game was going south!

As the announcers rightly stated, Jordan seemed to “throw a switch”. On the 14th tee, a par 3 hole, he hit his tee shot, nearly getting a hole-in-one. He settled for a birdie, bringing him even with Matt. On the 15th hole, a par 5, Jordan landed his second shot on the green and made the 48-foot putt for an eagle. On the 16th hole, a par 4, he birdied this as well, and also a birdie on the 17th, par 4. Going into the 18th and final hole, Jordan had a two-shot lead over Matt. He parred the hole and was declared the “Golf Champion of the Year”.

For years to come, the golf world will be talking about the incredible finish Jordan had to win the Open. But, what makes this young man so enjoyable, is that Jordan is a class act. His comments after receiving the claret jug were not about himself at all. Instead, he thanked his caddie, Matt Kuchar, the fans, the groundskeepers, the more than fifteen hundred volunteers, and the officials. That’s class!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Get Down to Business

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
17 July 2017

Get Down to Business

The news is full of reports about how the Health Care Bill, a.k.a., the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a.k.a., Obamacare needs to be scrapped, rescinded, done away with, repealed or any other term describing elimination you wish to choose.

Republican Congressmen have been caterwauling about the disaster Obamacare would visit on the American people. And they were right. It is and has been a disaster. I even read the original draft (all 1100 pages) of the ACA back in 2009. It was brought before the House of Representatives October 29, and was known then as the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR 3962 – House Resolution). President Obama and the Democrats had just assumed control of the presidency and the Congress after eight years of President George W. Bush and the Republicans. Within the first year in office, the Democrats crafted and enacted a health care bill. On December 24, the Senate passed an alternative health care bill known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In early 2010, the House abandoned its reform bill in favor of amending the Senate bill, known as the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. Opponents of this bill began referring to it as “Obamacare,” fully intending that the term would be used as a pejorative.

My point is this: The Democrats managed to bring a health care bill up for vote in Congress, and succeeded! And all this occurred within the first year of Obama’s presidency. Republicans have vowed since 2010 to repeal Obamacare, and present to Congress a much better bill to be implemented once Obamacare is no more.

I say, Hooray for the Republicans! So, where’s this bill you’ve had eight years to work on? Excuse me if I’m a bit flummoxed by the excuses coming from the leaders of the House and Senate (Ryan and McConnell) as to why the bill is not ready. And you’re telling me and the American people that you can’t rally enough Republican support as a party on the hill to pass what is currently being proposed?

May I remind the Republican gentlemen and gentleladies of Congress that we the people of these United States voted you folks into office to do the work you’re supposed to do on our behalf so we who vote and pay taxes shouldn’t have to be troubled with such matters as health care. You all promised to bring a new health care bill up for vote once you gained the House in 2010. You reaffirmed that promise once you gained the Senate in 2014. Now, in 2016, you have an admittedly unconventional president, who, nevertheless, is a Republican. So, what’s the problem here? Whining, hand-wringing, and the making of excuses will not be tolerated. We voted you in to do the hard work. Now, get to work!

This all brings me to my final point: There is a dearth of leadership within our government. The Republicans are embarrassing themselves through Congressional ineptitude, functioning as though they are the minority party. The leadership within the Democrat party is no better. The difference is, the Democrats always act as though they are in charge, especially when they are the minority party, as they are right now. In fact, I would point out that it has sunk to a new low. There’s not a one of these leaders from either party that is demonstrating true leadership at a time when it is desperately needed. Statesmanship is completely absent within the Halls of Congress. You may wish to respond with a comment such as, “But Chuck, not all the members of Congress are poor leaders!” And I would, on the surface, agree with you. But those who are attempting to lead well are being silenced by those who are in the Washington DC “Beltway Club.” Some of these congressmen have spent decades inside DC. It’s the, “Good ole boy club.” They have learned to play the game. They scratch each other’s back to the degree that if you don’t play the game the way they have it set up, you simply will be ignored. You may be pure in your desires to bring change, but if you don’t go along, you’ll be a one-term Congressman. And the electorate, the voting public, is left wondering where their champions have gone.

All leaders, particularly government elected officials, should memorize Solomon’s prayer to God from I Kings 3. Beginning in verse 7, it says, “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart.”

Lord, please give us such leaders today! Leaders who will put the governance of the people first, not seeking vainglory for themselves. And dare we lift our heads to ask you once again, please, God, bless America?

Monday, July 10, 2017

No Place Like Home

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
10 July 2017

No Place Like Home

Home Sweet Home! That is such a true statement. About an hour ago Isaura and I walked in our front door after ten days of romping and playing across California, Nevada and Utah. We even clipped the edge of Arizona on our drive from Delta, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada. What a beautiful drive! Nevada and Utah have one thing in particular in common. Both states have specific high population areas. The rest of the state is open and fairly barren. For awesome scenic beauty, there are parts of eastern Utah that are simply breathtaking. Then there’s the drive through the southern part of Utah that brings you through some fantastic mountains (a spill-over of the Rocky Mountains).

Our time spent with family was priceless. But the biggest treat for me was watching Alyssa, our nine-year-old granddaughter, rise up early three mornings in a row to help hold the super-sized milk bottles for the one and two-day-old heifers to nurse from.

So, on Tuesday we pulled out of Delta for the roughly five-hour drive to Las Vegas. We had booked tickets for Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater for the 2:30 show. We arrived in Vegas about 1:20, quickly settling into our hotel room at Bally’s. We then walked to the V Theater for the show. It was a delightful performance with Popovich using most of the 30 dogs, cats, birds and mice he has rescued from animal shelters. It was non-stop activity on stage with several assistants helping keep things moving along. Alyssa loved the show! Popovich was in the lobby afterward to sell his books and CDs. We bought one of the CDs for Alyssa, and I took a nice picture of her with him in his clown costume.

It has been some time since I was last in Vegas, so either my memory is failing me, or the raunchiness of sex for sale has gone to new levels of depravity. There are no areas in the Vegas Strip that are safe from the sexual perversion that oozes from every casino, and ditto for the fleet of stores and entertainment facilities that feed off the lust we humans seem to have for money and sex. If it had not been for the International Barbershop Annual Competition held in the Axis Theater, located in Planet Hollywood next door to Bally’s, you simply could not have gotten me to go there.

I had to call into question my being there at all in the midst of the raw nakedness evidenced on the sidewalks, not to mention the performers in the casinos. But then to have my wife and our nine-year-old Alyssa there, too, made me stop and rethink the wisdom of bringing her along. I suspect I’ll be mulling this over for some time to come. There were, however, several street preachers positioned on the curbside using loudspeaker systems to proclaim God’s Word from the Bible. I had to admire their tenacity. That’s a rough place for ministry, but they were persistent in proclaiming God’s righteousness, and calling sinners to repent from their immoral behavior. It was an amazing contrast to witness.

My time in Vegas was spent either resting in my hotel room, finding a decent place to eat that was close by, or rehearsing with the VoCal chorus in preparation for our performance on Friday afternoon. We seventy stout-hearted souls put all of our effort into giving our best performance. As I mentioned in my last column, we were going up against 29 other choruses. Well, as it turned out, we fell well short of our hoped-for score. When all the choruses were done on Friday, we placed 26th of the 30. We can take some consolation in the fact that very few choruses even make it to this level of competition, and furthermore, a chorus from our district, the Far Western District, took first place, receiving the coveted gold medal. We are very proud of the Santa Fe Springs, California chapter, Masters of Harmony, for winning first place.

As for the quartet competition, it was tight because the top ten quartets are just that good. These ten were left standing from the original 55 which started the competition on Thursday. The gold medal winning quartet, Main Street, is from Florida. Listening to these ten quartets competing down to the wire on Saturday night was such a treat. The musical quality and presentation on stage is worth the price of admission – literally! Afterward, Alyssa and I joined several of the VoCal chorus members down in the hotel’s food court for some chocolate ice cream! Yum!

On Sunday morning, we attended a church service with other barbershop singers along with friends and family in the inner sanctums of Bally’s Hotel and Casino. Then it was time to drag our suitcases down to the car and drive home.

It was a hectic ten days, but we sure had fun, especially with Alyssa. Next year our International Barbershop Competition will be in Orlando, Florida. Now won’t that be fun!

But, when it’s all said and done, there’s no place like home!

Monday, July 03, 2017

A Little Traveling Music, Please

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
3 July 2017

A Little Traveling Music, Please

“A Little Traveling Music, Please,” is the signature expression uttered by The Great One, Jackie Gleason on his television show from 1952-1966.

I have taken the liberty of borrowing this phrase to start my column this week. You see, Isaura and I, along with nine-year-old granddaughter Alyssa are currently in Delta, Utah, visiting her brother Tony and numerous other relatives.

What prompted this trip was my involvement in my hobby of singing barbershop. The Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), the parent organization for all things barbershop, officiates an annual International Competition for barbershop quartets and choruses which is held in a major city somewhere around the country. This year we are gathering in Las Vegas.

Since I am a member of Voices of California (VoCal) out of Sacramento, I will be joining 71 other members of the chorus on stage competing against 29 other choruses. This is my first time to sing on the International stage. What an exciting opportunity!

Isaura’s brother, Tony, has developed a very prosperous dairy farm here in Delta over the last eighteen years, and Isaura loves visiting whenever possible. So, we decided to head for Delta last Friday making this part of the overall trip to Vegas. We were thrilled when Alyssa asked to come with us. This would give her an opportunity to meet and get to know better some of her extended family. Plus, she was really excited to see (Great) Uncle Tony’s cows!

The nearly 700-mile drive to Delta would likely be a challenge since we had not taken any of our grandkids on such a long trip before. But we planned it well, leaving Ripon at ten o’clock in the morning. About 12:30 we stopped at a Subway shop in Truckee for lunch. Then it was back on the road following Highway 80 east. Somewhere around Fallon, Nevada we cut over to pick up Highway 50 east. We basically stayed on this road for the remainder of the trip. We stopped a few more times. We grabbed a smoothie in Austin at an old bar and grill after traveling over small mountain ranges, and dipping into more valleys than I could count. When we arrived in Ely we stopped for dinner at a Denny’s restaurant on the downtown drag. Casinos are everywhere! I’ve never been a big fan of this restaurant chain, mostly because the service has been terrible most everywhere I’ve stopped, but we were hungry and we didn’t know any of the local eateries. Much to my delight, the service at this Denny’s was superb, and the food was excellent.

We finally rolled into Tony and Edna’s about 11:30 that night. I did all the driving so I was pretty much done in. I was up early, made some strong coffee and did some reading. Isaura and Alyssa didn’t show themselves till about mid-morning. We relaxed most of the day which we sorely needed. But Alyssa was anxious to have a tour of the dairy, so off we went. Crossroads Dairy runs more than two thousand cows which requires three eight-hour shifts for milking. It is quite a process with cows shuffling in and out of the milking barn. In one hour, a four-person crew is expected to milk 260 cows. If they move more than that through then they get a bonus. Tony has forty employees working somewhere on their spread every day.

Seeing the enormous undertaking required to bring milk and other dairy products to a store near you always leaves me deeply impressed by the efficiency of the entire system. However, I really enjoyed watching Alyssa marvel at the production required so she could have milk on her cereal. Computers control everything, including the amount of milk each cow produces in a day, along with the quantity of grain they eat and what kind, and very soon each cow will have a necklace of sorts that is computerized and will be able to record everything going on in the cow. If the cow starts to get sick, the device will signal the computer, and then that cow is pulled out of production and sent to their animal hospital for treatment. And the hospital is right here on the dairy.

Alyssa’s favorite part is feeding the calves. At any one time, they have 500 or more calves (heifers) in individual shelters where they receive personalized attention until they’re old enough to be released into the herd. I’ve been around these dairy farms and all that goes on since I was first introduced to Isaura’s family in 1975. But as I mentioned earlier, I am always in awe of the strenuous and diligent work that is necessary in the care and feeding of the cows. Alyssa was thrilled to hold big milk bottles for the two-day-old calves to drink from.

Usually when Isaura and I are here in Delta, I’m invited to preach to the small independent evangelical congregation known as The Way, which meet in a store front. And so it was this weekend. What a wonderful time of fellowship we had!

Tomorrow morning I’m meeting Dan, one of the dairymen, at the Sunset View Golf Course for a round before it gets too warm.

On Tuesday, we leave for Las Vegas where I’ll meet up with the others from VoCal so we can get a few more rehearsal sessions in before our Friday competition. Then it’s back home to Ripon.

This evening Alyssa was asked if she’d like to live here in Delta, Utah. Her immediate answer was, YES! She loves animals and has expressed an interest for some time in being a veterinarian. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Happy 241st Birthday, America!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Girls of Summer

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
26 June 2017

The Girls of Summer

There was my granddaughter, Brooklyne, proudly wearing her red team jersey with the name in black emblazoned across the chest, Lady Warriors, one of the many softball teams for 9-11-year-old girls in Turlock.

I had to smile at that, remembering my Little League days when I played for a team in our town of Mount Kisco, New York, called Briccetti’s. This appliance store in the downtown area was responsible for sponsoring our team. Those days of playing endless hours of baseball are as alive in me today as they were nearly sixty years ago.

Over the years I played some baseball in high school, and later softball, both fast-pitch and slow pitch, while serving in the Navy. I spent countless hours teaching both Laura and Jenny how to play softball. I even coached Jenny’s 7th grade team which is an article for another time. Yet, those early memories of playing with my friends is a cherished part of my childhood. I never wanted those games to end.

After arriving at Pedretti Sports Complex in Turlock for the 10:30 game, I set up the folding lounge chairs for Isaura and me in a shaded area since we’ve had a string of very hot days. Once the game started, however, I moved to the bleachers which offered a much better view of the field. This worked well as Brook was playing 3rd base, and the bleachers were on the 3rd base side. There she was, anticipating each pitch, dropping into a crouch, expecting the batter to hit the ball to her. As a nine-year-old, she has a lot to learn. But she’s game, and even got a hit!

Since I’ve been away from the game a very long time, I would ask questions about the finer points of today’s version of softball of the folks seated around me, hopefully without being annoying. At one point, I turned to a number of the adults sitting behind me, and asked a question about the diminutive pitcher for the Lady Warriors. I quarried, “Is this girl really nine-years-old?” A young woman smiled and said, “She is ten!” This little player, named Haven, is her daughter, and her husband is one of the coaches. I just had to ask another question. “How much does she weigh?” Mom smiled and said, “43 pounds.” She then told me that at the beginning of the school year, Haven weighed 42 pounds, and had managed to grow an inch. I was floored! She might be really tiny, which she literally comes by naturally (her dad the coach is 5’2”), but this little dynamo can play! I watched her in the batter’s circle practicing her swing motion, and let me tell you, she is all business. She proceeded to smack a hit, eventually scoring her team’s second run of the game.

It was such fun sitting there watching these girls playing their hearts out. I was transported again and again back to my days of playing. There were the smells of the dirt and leather mitts, the sounds of players chattering, and coaches encouraging, along with the “ping” sound of aluminum bats, all within the confines of a neatly manicured grass ballfield with chalk lines marking the base paths, and the fair and foul territories. The sky was a bright blue with an ever-rising temperature, but so what! After all! This was a ball game!

Brook and her five-year-old brother, Colson, had spent the previous night at our home. In the early evening at the request of both Brook and Colson, I piled them into the car and headed for Spring Creek Golf and Country Club. Their very favorite thing to do is have me drive them around in a golf cart through the almond and walnut orchards that surround the golf course. It is especially exciting if they find a few lost golf balls. Back home, Brook made Russian Tea Cakes, which were delicious, and Colson helped me make a big bowl of popcorn the old-fashioned way – over fire on the stove – which we ate while watching the movie, Black Beauty.

To cap off our time with these two terrific grandkids, following the game, which the Lady Warriors won, 4-2, Isaura and I took them to the McDonalds in Turlock that has an indoor playground. We ordered lunch and an ice cream cone before finally returning them to their home.

For years I had heard grandparent-aged folks go on and on about how much fun their grandkids were, and how much they looked forward to the time they spent with them. Isaura and I never quite understood this effusiveness over grandkids until we had our own. What a blessing these little ones are!

Did I mention there’s another game on Monday?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Religious Liberty Rescued

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 June 2017

Religious Liberty Rescued

Amidst all the hullabaloo over collusions with the Russians, a disgraced former FBI director, illegal immigration wars, ad nausea, there are some really great things taking place in the first five months of the Trump Administration.

This is especially true for people of all faiths, but specifically Christians. Ever since the Johnson Amendment of 1954 (during the Eisenhower Administration) pastors, preachers and ministers have effectively had their hands tied, so to speak, when it came to discussing or preaching a particular viewpoint from the pulpit that may be construed as political influence. Then Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) of Texas introduced a bill into Congress that would make a provision in the U.S. Tax Code prohibiting “all 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.” These organizations “range from charitable foundations to universities and churches.”

Republicans and Conservatives for the past two decades have been working to overturn the Johnson Amendment. The good news is that President Trump has taken the first steps to reverse this law.

It has been disheartening for the last sixty-three years to see those who have been entrusted with proclaiming Jesus as the Savior in our churches silenced when it comes to speaking on what could be considered political issues and political candidates. Far too many ministers knuckled under to this law. Others ignored the law, realizing the IRS could remove their tax-exempt status if found guilty of violating the Johnson Amendment.

One of President Trump’s campaign promises was to reverse the Johnson Amendment. “We will not allow people of faith to be targeted, bullied or silenced anymore,” the president declared. In an article in Decision Magazine, June 2017, Reverend Franklin Graham, director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, (BGEA) wrote about the president signing an executive order to help protect our religious freedoms in a Rose Garden ceremony. Hallelujah!

Graham elaborates, “The executive order counters the chilling effect on the speech of churches and charities. The president wants to protect the freedom of pastors and church leaders to address political issues and candidates.” Graham added this important caveat, “The order is also designed to help protect organizations from being forced to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health-care plans.” You may recall the brouhaha over the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of religious women who care for the elderly poor, being forced by the United States government to provide abortion services in their health-care plan. This all began in 2013, finding its way to the United States Supreme Court. The Little Sisters’ case was eventually won three years later. President Trump signed his executive order just last May. In the order, he directed HHS (Health & Human Services) Secretary Tom Price “to protect the Little Sisters of the Poor and other religious ministries from the HHS Mandate.” Price said that the HHS “will be taking action in short order.” The executive order nullifies the HHS Mandate, stating that  other federal agencies “must end their unnecessary legal fights against the Little Sisters and other ministries in courts around the country.”

There is still much to do in reversing so much anti-religious laws and policies that have been allowed to become part of our national condition. One group that has been having its way against people of faith is the LBGTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer) folks who intentionally target businesses owned and operated by people of faith, specifically Christians.

Another business owned and operated by a Christian came under attack from the LGBTQ. This was Chick-fil-A, the very popular fast-food fried chicken chain. In comments opposing same-sex marriage made by the COO (Chief Operating Officer) for Chick-fil-A, protests were staged attempting to force Chick-fil-A to change their tune or close their business. There was a huge reaction in support of Chick-fil-A, which effectively ended the protests.

It’s this sort of bullying that has evoked the need for political action on the part of the president. As a nation, our core beliefs as Americans came directly from the Bible. Those beliefs were then modified into our system of laws, not the least of which is the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Constitution of the United States (1787), and the Bill of Rights (1791). If we choose to stray from these beliefs, we do so at our own personal and national peril.

For now, we have a president who is in strong support of protecting our religious freedoms by passing legislation to secure, once again, those freedoms which for a time had been lost to us.

May there ever be American patriots who burn with such moral rectitude and courage as to forever stand for the right. This I believe will always bring about God’s willingness to bless America.

Psalm for the Day