Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Life Principles and Practices

As an inveterate reader, I am also very eclectic in what I read. In other words, I like to read everything!

The other day I pulled down one of my tomes which I occasionally browse simply because of the delightful sayings I find within the pages. Putnam’s Dictionary of Thoughts was published in 1930 and provides a vast array of quotations from British and American authors, including proverbs and familiar phrases and sayings from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, Dutch and other languages. And, NO, I do not know all of those languages. I do okay in French and Greek, but that’s about it.

Anyway, I saw a quote from Reverend Thomas Arnold, D.D., 1795-1842 (For the uninitiated, D.D. after the name is an earned degree which stands for Doctor of Divinity). Arnold was an Anglican priest as well as a noted historian and educator who held to a very strict moral code, often finding himself at odds with the established church leaders in England. He served as headmaster of Rugby School from 1828-41. He was then appointed to be Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford University. Unfortunately, due to unexpected heart difficulties leading to a heart attack, he passed away after only one year in this position.

He was establishing quite a reputation for himself at the time of his death. He was in the process of writing two historical works, both unfinished: History of Rome (three volumes), and Lectures on Modern History.

The quote I ran across would be an excellent yet simple pattern for modern education to implement. It was just such a philosophical principle that Arnold introduced to his students at Rugby and Oxford.

“First, religious and moral principles; secondly, gentlemanly conduct; thirdly, intellectual ability.”

Note the order of these characteristics. First, religious and moral principles. How much we are in need of this sort of training today! Religious training presents us with the opportunity to wrestle with the “why” of life – and our mortality. It introduces a person to the divine in such a way that it teaches us not to think too highly of ourselves which also humbles us before an all knowing, all powerful, and ever-present God. The Scriptures instruct us to seek after God. When we do, we who are temporal, connect with the One who is eternal. Those who wish to lead others are fools if they do so without the guidance of God. A Latin proverb states, “It is absurd that he who does not know how to govern himself should govern others.” Even a cursory review of World History reveals the folly of men who rise in power and either ignore God, or forget God. Among the various kings of Israel, only a couple could barely qualify as being “good” leaders. Our ever advancing secular society today is doing everything it can to remove God from the fabric of our culture. We do so at our own peril.

Secondly, gentlemanly conduct. What once was considered to be behavior and speech that even the most illiterate in our society adhered to would appear to be all but lost. Not only is a civil tongue no longer the norm in everyday conversation, but to speak without using profanity and gutter language is thought to be funny. Those who have potty mouths routinely ridicule polite speech and gentlemanly manners. Holding the door open for a woman is a sign of respect, as is seating a woman at the table. Saying “Yes sir” or “No Ma’am” will often bring surprised looks and snickers from onlookers. My grandmother was born in 1888 in Concord, Massachusetts. When I was ten she moved in with us. She had been widowed for about seven years at that time. We were real pals and had lots of fun together. But you had better not forget your manners with her around! She would stand at her place at the dinner table until one of her grandsons became aware of their negligence in making sure she was properly seated. She would often look at me with an air of expectancy and say in her Bostonian way, “Chahls?” That’s the way she said my name – Charles. Instead, today we have experienced in the last two vice presidents, Cheney and Biden, men who have arbitrarily and routinely dropped what is euphemistically referred to as the F-Bomb. I’m embarrassed for our nation and the awful example it sets for our young people. It is my firm contention that the women in our society could change the vile and vulgar talk and behavior of men by simply demonstrating that they will not tolerate it. You would see an amazing transformation in male behavior virtually overnight!

Thirdly, intellectual ability. I appreciate the order Rev Arnold has given these three characteristics. First, the religious and moral base upon which the individual and society must properly function. Second, the gentlemanly conduct that allows for pleasant social interaction within families and communities. And now, sharpening the intellect through study, research and a continuing pursuit of knowledge. This part builds upon the framework of the other two. It is a firm belief in God that brings about proper behavior which then opens our minds to investigate and study everything around us. This is an amazing world which God has prepared for us and it will be a very long time, if ever, that we exhaust our knowledge of this planet we call home.

Is there someone like Reverend Thomas Arnold in our society today? If so, I would recommend that he/she be placed in charge of the U.S. Department of Education. For as the Roman poet, Virgil, said, “Of so much importance is training in our tender years.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pikes Peak

In the summer of 1893 Katharine Lee Bates was a visiting guest lecturer at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Quite a trip for a woman who was born in Massachusetts in 1859, and was now head of the English Literature Department of Wellesley College, also located in Massachusetts.

Miss Bates was the only daughter in a home with several brothers. Her father, a Congregational minister, died a month after Katharine was born. And yes, her name is spelled Katharine. Her brothers decided to enter into business so as to provide for their widowed mother and to make sure that little “Katie” had the opportunity to receive the best education. Katie was also a very bright and gifted child, excelling in her studies. She was in the second graduation class of Wellesley College in 1880.

The state of Colorado is known as the “Centennial State” because it was established as a state in the year 1876, the 100th anniversary of our nation. So Miss Bates has come to visit this new state in 1893. She had never seen such spectacular scenery as she found in Colorado. Being adventurous, she and several friends decided to go up Pikes Peak, all 14,115 feet of the mountain, located a mere ten miles from Colorado Springs.

The vista she took in was so stunningly beautiful that the poet in her cried out for expression. She sat down and penned, “Pikes Peak.” This mountain is named for explorer Zebulon Pike who took an expedition into southern Colorado in 1806. In her own words she described her reaction to Pikes Peak: “One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.” She later jotted down the poem on the back of an envelope in her hotel room.

You may be thinking that you have never read or even heard of this poem. But I guarantee that you are very familiar with the words, and may well be able to recite at least the first verse. How can I be so sure? Because the poem was revised two more times by Miss Bates: once in 1904 and the final version in 1913. It was first published for a church paper on Independence Day, July 4th 1895. It was so popular that it was soon published under the title, “America.” Shortly after the turn of the century, Miss Bates’ poem was joined to the music of Samuel A. Ward, church organist and choirmaster. It was released as a patriotic song in 1910, with a new title, “America the Beautiful.”

Until the National Anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” was officially established in 1931 by an act of Congress, other songs were frequently used as the national anthem. One such song was “America the Beautiful.” Two other favorites were, “God Bless America,” and “My Country Tis of Thee.” There are still many Americans today who strongly believe that “America the Beautiful” is the preferred choice as the national anthem.

The final version of the poem written by Miss Bates has four verses. Everyone knows the first verse: “O Beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain. For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.” In this verse you can easily detect the impact her trip to Colorado had made on her. She left from the New England seacoast traveling through the Ohio Valley and into the mid-west where she would gaze upon “amber waves of grain and fruited plain” as far as the eye could see. And of course there would be the “purple mountain majesties” in Colorado.

Ah, but it is the third verse that I am drawn to! “O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife. Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life! America! America! May God thy gold refine till all success be nobleness and every gain divine!” Here was a woman born in the heart of New England where the Revolutionary War had begun. The “shot heard ’round the world” was fired at the Battle of Bunker Hill in Concord, Massachusetts in 1775. She was born eighty-four years later a few miles away in Falmouth. She would have been six years old when the Civil War ended. No doubt she grew up hearing of the many battles fought in defense of the Union as veterans sat around the cracker barrel at the country store, or met in the parlors of the homes of friends and family reliving the shot and shell of the hell we call the Civil War. The names of local men who performed heroic deeds would have been known to every school child. Though quite old by the time Miss Bates would have heard the stories, there would have been some residents who were still alive who had fought alongside of George Washington during the Revolution (1775-83). Or who had repelled the British a second time in the War of 1812. And even the Mexican-American War (1846-48) would have produced many veterans from New England. The phrase, “May God thy gold refine,” most likely is a tribute to the sacrificial quality of character found in the men who fought for freedom. They were living proof of the Bible verse, John 15:13, that says “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Katharine Lee Bates was so beloved an American that, though she had many accolades bestowed upon her in her lifetime, she would have been most pleased in knowing that two schools were subsequently named after her: one in Wellesley, and a second in Colorado Springs – from shining sea, to purple mountain majesties. And it all started with a poem written about the majestic grandeur of Pikes Peak!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Most Important Branch

Part of our American History class along with Civics explains that there are three branches to our government. I would argue that there is a fourth: We the People.

The three branches of our government are the Executive Branch which is the primary domain of the president. The second is the Legislative Branch – the law makers who occupy both houses of Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The third is the Judicial Branch – the highest court in the land – the Supreme Court, made up of the nine Supreme Court Justices. The intent of the Founding Fathers was to create three equal but separate branches of government so that there would be a balance of power. Each in its way keeps the other two in check.
Some will argue that there is another member in this triumvirate of power - the Press. Since the Constitution declares in the First Amendment that there is to be no “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,” this branch of society was to become the watchdog of our government. It is often referred to as the Fourth Estate, a term coined by British Parliamentarian, Sir Edmund Burke, in a speech given before the House of Commons in 1792 in which he defended the idea of allowing the press to cover the proceedings of government. The press is to remain neutral; a position that seems to be far removed from reality today. Not so long ago the unwritten policy of the press held public officials in high regard. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken with polio as an adult, requiring the use of canes, and later, a wheel chair. The media was careful to avoid taking pictures of FDR in his wheel chair or using his canes. A generation later the various sexual dalliances and peccadilloes of President Jack Kennedy were fair game around the water coolers in the press rooms of America, but stories were discreetly not published by the Main Stream Media (MSM) until long after his assassination in 1963. Today’s media is different. They either side with a certain political party in philosophy and ideology, thereby writing stories in a sycophantic manner portraying the party and its members as being as pure as the wind-driven snow, or mercilessly excoriating the opposition party at every turn, lambasting them as spawn of the devil. All sense of objective decorum in the press is sadly, gone. But the press is not the Fourth Branch of government I was referring to at the beginning of this article.

Unlike the press which has abdicated its role, “we the people” are now very much alive. We are the Fourth Branch of government. As such, we have the power to cast a vote.

I cannot remember a time in my nearly sixty-two years when I have seen the populace of America awaken to the needs of the hour. The two major political parties have grown increasingly detached from average Americans, proving time and again that they are tone deaf when it comes to what “we the people” believe is important.

In recent days a national grass-roots movement has emerged on the scene that is beginning to even penetrate the hard-shelled cocoon in Washington, DC. The “Tea Partiers,” or the “Tea-Baggers,” have been assembling all across the land, portraying a mish-mash of political thinking from every sector of society, but all simply wanting to have their elected representatives listen to them. And the message from these Tea-Baggers is loud and clear: if these egotistical, pampered, overpaid politicos refuse to pay attention to the demands of “we the people,” then they will be unceremoniously dumped this November.

Who are these Tea-Baggers? They are Democrats, Republicans, Green Peacers, Libertarians, and every other stripe of politically disgruntled, ticked-off, frustrated, disenfranchised, peeved, and generally angry citizenry that is tired of being misrepresented and ignored by the folks who run the country.

I often hear people say that “we the people” had fallen asleep, failing to pay attention to what was going on in the hallowed halls of our nation’s capital. I suppose that argument could be made. However, I believe that “we the people” elected our representatives in good faith, believing they would go to Washington to serve their constituency back home with dignity and sound reasoning. In the meantime, “we the people” went on about our lives, never imagining that the same government we thought had our best interests at heart was slowing eroding the foundation of our nation, while also chopping away at the trunk of the tree of Liberty.

No more. “We the people” are awake now. We are watching, and we are listening, and we are speaking out. “We the people” have the power to vote – and this November we’re going to rock your world!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Child's Gift

Recently I heard a very heartwarming account of a young child in our church who decided to have a rather unusual birthday celebration.

Morgan was coming up on her seventh birthday. Her mom was faced with a dilemma. It’s not the sort of dilemma most parents are willing to address, but Morgan’s mom decided it was time for action. The decision may well be a model for other parents to consider.

Morgan is one of those little girls that has the ability to steal your heart just by looking at you. As her pastor, I look forward to this slight little body that discreetly sidles up to you during our greeting time Sunday mornings. You know she’s there not because she demands your attention, but because she puts her little arms around your leg just firmly enough to let you know. That’s the moment I excuse myself from the person I’m greeting, kneel down and get one of those big Morgan hugs.

So Morgan’s mom, Clare, had a little chat with her about her upcoming birthday party. You see, Morgan has kept all of her toys in nearly pristine condition since she was a toddler. Clare told Morgan she would need to get rid of some of her toys because there simply was no more room for anymore. Besides, there were lots of children who did not have such wonderful toys. Morgan would have to choose which ones to part with. After thinking it over she decided she just couldn’t part with any of her toys. So mother and child struck a deal – How about we ask the children invited to her party to bring a book which could then be given to a child who had no books? Morgan thought that was a great idea.

Clare contacted my wife, Isaura, to tell her of this birthday plan. My wife has been working for Agape Villages Foster Family Agency for over ten years, so she is well aware that one of the needs for these foster children is good reading material. Would Agape be interested in receiving some books from Morgan’s birthday? You bet!

The special day for Morgan arrived and just over 200 books came in! Morgan was so excited because she knew these books were going to benefit children who did not have nearly the things she had. I had the privilege of transferring the books from Morgan to Agape. The folks at the Agape office in Manteca have since written several notes to Morgan thanking her for such a wonderful birthday present. Morgan was thrilled.

Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that Morgan would be such a giving child. Both her grandfathers are pastors. Her father, Gordon, is one of Ripon’s finest. And mom Clare served as a U.S. Marine.

In an age of consumerism, many of us have given up on teaching our children the value of things. Sharing seems to be a lost art. But, let me ask you: Where do such character traits start? In the home! It is in the home where the first steps are taken to teach your child that there are things greater than the self. It is in the home where a child learns firsthand from parents how to treat others. It is in the home where a child is taught how to share and to give without resentment. It is in the home where a child learns first how to love others above self. It is in the home where the hope of a nation is born.

How about you? How can you make a difference in your part of the world? You may not collect books from birthday-goers, but you can come up with something creative. Regardless of your age, you can still reflect and teach the values and ideals that have made America great. Do you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbor kids? Get involved with them! Teach them that character does matter. That morals are critical to any society. That faith in God is essential in knowing who we are and why we’re here. Start today.

Thank you, Morgan, Clare and Gordon for this reminder of what’s important in life. May yours be an example that stirs hearts to action and catches on all across this great land!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

LOL! A Reprise

The Global Warming fiasco continues to unravel by the hour. The reason for my continuing from last week on this topic is that I have found more stories on Global Warming than I could have ever imagined. And I continue to laugh out loud!

Just so there is no misunderstanding, if for a moment I believed man was responsible for causing the world to warm (or cool) unnaturally, I’d be the first to raise a word of caution. I, like you and everyone else, want to preserve this world for my grandchildren and their families after them. There is also a biblical mandate for our fallen human race. God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth." (Genesis 1:26) Man is not an accident of nature, nor is he an interloper in coexisting with the rest of the animal kingdom. Truth be told, God placed a tremendous responsibility on man by assigning him to be the caretaker of planet Earth. God has not rescinded that responsibility.
So, one of the headlines today said, “UN Weather Meeting Agrees To Refine Climate Data.” Have the Global Warmers pulled in their horns? No. Here’s what is written in the first paragraph of the article. “World weather agencies have agreed to collect more precise temperature data to improve climate change science, officials said Wednesday, as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged environment ministers to reject efforts by skeptics to derail a global climate deal.”

Other headlines over the past two weeks, are, “Climate-Change Debate Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze,” “Global Warming Skeptics Lambaste Plan to Increase Funding For Climate Change Research,” “U.N. Climate Panel Admits Dutch Sea Level Flaw,” “Utah Delivers Vote of No Confidence for ‘Climate Alarmists’,” “Global Warming Debate Heats Up In Wake of Record Snowstorms,” “Lake Erie Frozen Over: First Time in 14 Years,” “Top U.N. Climate Official Yvo de Boer Resigning,” “New Climate Agency Head Tried to Suppress Data, Critics Charge,” “Climategate Meets The Law: Senator Inhofe to Ask For DOJ Investigation,” and, “Climategate: The World’s Biggest Story, Everywhere But Here.”

This last article really caught my attention! It was very revealing as to what our media in the U.S. is not reporting. “It’s been called the ‘biggest scientific scandal in history.’ It has everything to earn Pulitzer consideration: lies and misconduct in high places, political implications, even massive financial transactions that may or may not be legitimate or even legal. It’s big news . . . as long as you read the (London) Telegraph, the Guardian, the London Times, or even major Indian papers. It’s no news at all if you read the U.S. mainstream media.” Ouch!

So, “the world’s biggest story” is virtually ignored by our media. What has happened to our 4th Estate (Journalism)? These knights of the press were once responsible for keeping the three branches of government in check by a determined doggedness in getting to the bottom of stories and issues. Such once noble efforts now would seem to be a part of the past. Where are those who would settle for nothing but truth in reporting? A story such as Climategate should be red meat for reporters!

Even the Dallas/Fort Worth area has recorded a new record in snowfall this winter. But it is our nation’s capital that is most interesting when it comes to snowfall. “Back in September 2008, environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. wrote an article (“RFK Jr. Said Global Warming Means No Snow in D.C.”) raising the alarm about global warming and the resultant lack of winter weather in Washington, D.C.” Last December 21, the Washington Examiner’s Online Opinion Editor, David Freddoso, wrote, “Having shoveled my walk five times in the midst of this past weekend’s extreme cold and blizzard, I think perhaps RFK Jr. should leave weather analysis to the meteorologists instead of trying to attribute every global phenomenon to anthropogenic climate change.” Dulles Airport located just outside of D.C. set a new record for snowfall at 72 inches (Yup, that’s 6 feet!). At one point during the most recent storm the snowplows were recalled from plowing the streets of D.C. Too much snow! LOL!

But my favorite story is about the city of Moscow. This is classic! A report came out last October 16 with this headline: “Moscow Mayor Promises A Winter Without Snow.” Say what? That’s what the man said. “Pigs still can’t fly, but this winter, the mayor of Moscow promises to keep it from snowing. For just a few million dollars, the mayor’s office will hire the Russian Air Force to spray a fine chemical mist over the clouds before they reach the capital, forcing them (the clouds, that is) to dump their snow outside the city. Authorities say this will be a boon for Moscow which is typically covered with a blanket of snow from November to March. Road crews won’t need to constantly clear the streets, and the traffic – and quality of life – will undoubtedly improve.” Really? So, what exactly happened? The title of this BBC article on February 22nd should tell you all you need to know, “Record Snowfall Blankets Moscow.” Here are a few remarks taken from the article: “Thousands of snow-clearing machines have been working to dig the Russian capital, Moscow, out of a record-breaking fall of 63cm (nearly 25 inches).” The previous record was set in 1966. “Drivers were asked to leave their cars at home. In all, about 15,000 snow-clearing machines were deployed in the city of about 10.5 million people, backed by 8,500 dump trucks and about 5,500 street-sweeping personnel.” LOL!
In the future I will really have to work on not laughing out loud when I hear another story about global warming. But should I fail to control myself, you’ll understand!

Psalm for the Day