Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Phony Scandals?

             The current administration is attempting to be dismissive regarding the various and numerous scandals that have enveloped them thus far, with more to come, I fear.

In a speech earlier this week the president attempted to blame Republicans for focusing on “an endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals.” This is a degree of chutzpah rarely seen even in the political circus commonly known as Washington D.C. Phony scandals? There’s nothing phony about them at all!

In case you haven’t been watching, here is a partial list of the current scandals plaguing the Obama leadership.

First, Benghazi. The egregious mishandling of this international incident in Libya was responsible for the death of our ambassador, Chris Stevens. He was brutalized and murdered in a well-orchestrated attack on our diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Included in this debacle was the willful refusal of support by our State Department which refused to come to the aid and defense of four Americans left to die. Despite this, former SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods put up a fearful fight, neutralizing some 100 of the Muslim radicals before being killed by a mortar round on their position.

Second, IRS. The Internal Revenue Service has stepped all over itself with reports revealing that it had targeted political groups applying for tax-exempt status for closer scrutiny based on that groups name or political theme. In particular, any political group using the term “Tea Party” in its name was automatically suspected and therefore targeted for harassment by the IRS. This included being denied a tax-exempt status. A probe was ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initially reported that there was a clear bias in refusing to work with conservative groups. This was later amended to say that some liberal-leaning groups had also been targeted for investigation, but the number was so low that in was hardly worth mentioning.

Third, NSA. The National Security Agency’s “warrantless wiretapping” has raised the ire of the American people because of its intrusiveness into the private lives and conversations of Americans without a warrant all under the rubric of collecting foreign intelligence in the war on terror. This secret activity has left many Americans seriously doubting the intentions of our own government and its various agencies. This matter is very complex and goes back to the former administration attempting to enact surveillance on al Qaeda operatives communicating by phone, email, and other electronic means so as to intercept any terrorist activity that could be brought further upon the American people. The Obama administration has continued this activity raising further concerns that “we the people” cannot trust our own government.

Fourth, the Justice Department. The chilling effect that has come from our own Justice Department’s activities while their investigations into the reporting habits of Associated Press members and, in particular, FOX News White House correspondent, James Rosen, should take your breath away.

Fifth, “Fast & Furious.” This program implemented by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) to sell guns to Mexican gangs and drug cartel members in an effort to trace these guns to the real bad guys would be laughable if it were not so deadly serious. It got out of control, causing the ATF to lose track of hundreds of guns. Just ask the family of murdered Border Agent Brian Terry. He was gunned down with one of these weapons.

There’s plenty more. The New Black Panthers’ intimidation of voters at polling sites. Solyndra receiving huge cash amounts to promote green energy only to fail miserably and go out of business. The GSA (Government Services Agency) went nuts spending ridiculous amounts of tax-payer money on conferences, gifts, entertainment and the like.

Sadly, there is a lot more that I have not listed. It seems this list grows longer by the day.

It is no secret that I am not a fan of this current administration. However, this is not a partisan problem. This sort of abuse and overreach from our government has been increasing for the past several decades. This ought to frighten every last one of you.

There is a solution: We the people must take responsibility for having voted these politicians and careerists into office. That means we can vote them out. But you have to get involved. Know what’s going on. Make a difference.

America needs you!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Doing the Right Thing

             Ever heard of Temar Boggs? Chris Garcia? How about Jocelyn Rojas?

I had to get this story from a British publication website, The Daily Mail. My daughter, Laura, told me about this heart-warming account of two teenaged boys doing the right thing.

On Thursday, July 18, five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas was playing in the front yard of her grandmother’s home in Lancaster Township, Pennsylvania. A man between the ages of 50-70 apparently snatched the girl from the yard and tossed her into a van he was driving. The child went missing for about two hours.

Temar Boggs, 15 years old, and his pal were riding their bikes when they saw the little girl in the van. Neither of the boys knew Jocelyn or her family. Their desire was to help the police and do the right thing. Thinking fast, the two boys gave chase, keeping an eye on the van as it was weaving in and out of traffic. After 15 minutes of tailing the van, the driver decided he didn’t like being followed by these boys, so he stopped the van long enough to push the little girl out before speeding off. Jocelyn immediately ran into Temar’s arms, telling him, “I need to see my mommy.” Temar had the good sense to take Jocelyn to the police station where she was quickly reunited with her family.

You may have already guessed that Temar is black, and that Chris is Hispanic. What were these boys doing when they heard the police report about a little girl having been abducted? They were helping an elderly lady move a couch! Wasn’t it potentially dangerous for them to follow this van? Might the driver have had a gun, or used the van to run into the boys? Yes on all counts.

Later on, Temar was being interviewed by the local news. This is what he said about the incident. "They [referring to Jocelyn’s family] were just saying that I was a hero, that I was a guardian angel, and that it was amazing that I was there and was able to find the girl," said Temar. "I'm just a normal person who did a thing that anybody else would do."

Well, Temar, whether or not anybody else would have done what you and Chris did, we’ll never know. The point is: you did the right thing at the right time. This little girl’s life was in serious danger. She was most likely facing a certain death after whatever abusive horrors might have been forced upon her; or she may have become a captive in this man’s home; or she may have been sold to the world-wide sex-slave industry.

The boys, Temar and Chris, saw the police and volunteers combing the neighborhood, knocking on doors, trying to locate little Jocelyn. Temar decided he had to do something. "We got all of our friends to go look for her. We made our own little search party," Boggs told reporters.

Today, less than a week after this abduction was foiled by these high school boys, Jocelyn is safely back with her family because two young men placed the value of one 5-year-old little girl above themselves.

The Bible says to consider others more important than yourself. That’s what Temar and Chris did. They even demonstrated the scriptural teaching of Jesus when he said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." That's what Temar and Chris were willing to do. On top of that, Temar said it was a blessing to be involved in rescuing Jocelyn. “I wasn’t scared, I was just [thinking], ‘Save the little girl; make sure she was okay.’”

Because of their decisive action which lead to the rescue of little Jocelyn, a fund has been set up where contributions may be made to assist these young men in obtaining a college degree. If you would like to help, please go to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/reward-the-heroes-scholarship-fund-temar-boggs-and-chris-garcia/contributions/new.  

Wouldn’t you like to see this story and others like it on the front page above the fold of your local newspaper? So would I.

God bless you Temar and Chris. And thanks for your courageous action.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Race to Grace

          While listening to Governor Mike Huckabee on his TV show, “Huckabee,” I was impressed with his opening monologue Sunday evening. He was speaking of the trial of George Zimmerman, the 29 year old Floridian who was accused of shooting to death 17 year old Trayvon Martin.

         It was disturbing to see so many people throw down the “race card” in this tragic situation. In our society today the media has failed to do its job in rooting out the truth in news stories. They instead, willfully chose sides in the Zimmerman/Martin altercation. Zimmerman was already tried and convicted by the news media and Hollywood before he was ever arrested for any supposed crime. The duplicity exhibited by the media is nothing short of criminal, and I hope that Zimmerman will have his lawyers go after those guilty of manipulating the 911 tapes in their attempt to paint Zimmerman as a racist.

         Equally disturbing is the failure to mention that Zimmerman is Latino. It’s true that he is half-white. Yet he is not referred to as a minority. Again the liberal media plays it the way they want, despite the fact that our president is half-white. The media portrayed this as a white-on-black crime. The New York Times said Zimmerman is a “white-Hispanic,” implying he’s really a white guy who had it in for blacks. Oddly enough, Aaron Hernandez, the New England Patriots tight-end, is currently under indictment over an acquaintance, a semi-pro football player who happens to be black. Like Zimmerman, Hernandez is also a white-Hispanic. Yet the media doesn’t touch it. They have not gone after Hernandez anywhere near the way they have Zimmerman.

         Is it any wonder that the “Fourth Estate,” as the media has been known, has virtually zero credibility with the American public?

         Mike Huckabee also pointed out that this is not so much a “race problem,” but a “grace problem.” In a world where we have so devalued life, and everyone seems to want to get in everyone else’s face, it is little wonder that there is so much distrust. And Hollywood is just as hypocritical in fostering hatred and violence through movies and television. When they are actually called on it, they plead innocent because they are only providing entertainment – and it’s “what the people want.” Please!

         Grace is a much needed characteristic if our society is going to survive this onslaught of suspicion, cynicism, and wariness. Grace has been defined as “the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin.” In other words, Grace is a work of God’s Spirit in the heart and life of an individual who recognizes their need for a transformation of the soul. This takes place frequently one-on-one between God and a person who cries out for help to be godly in their character and manner.

         There is also another time when this transformation takes place. That time is when the Holy Spirit of God moves in the hearts and the lives of entire communities, or people groups. Such occasions have occurred several times in our nation’s history. In these instances, people repent of their sin, return to their families, experience a change in attitude and disposition, and are literally “new” people. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away – the new has come.”

         When God’s Spirit moves this way, it has been called a Great Awakening. The first of these Great Awakenings took place in the 1730-40s. A preacher by the name of Jonathan Edwards was used by God to quicken the spirits of the early Americans in New England. Although Edwards was near-sighted and preached in a monotone voice, God caused such a revival to take place that when Edwards was preaching a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” the people in the church cried out in fear as they believed they saw the very church floor split open and the fires of hell crackling below. This began a revival which paved the spiritual path for our fledgling nation, incorporating Holy Scripture into the warp and woof of our Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence. Our entire nation was established on the basis of God’s work in lives both individually and corporately. That’s called Grace!

         The six-woman jury found George Zimmerman “not guilty.” The judicial system, with its imperfections, did its job, regardless of the outcome. Grace would be to celebrate a system where we are tried in a court of law and judged by a jury of our peers. And then to thank God for an orderly means of pursuing justice.

         Can we get along? Yes. But there needs to be a work of grace. Have you experienced God’s grace in your heart and life?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dem Bums

               Baseball may not be the “Sport of Kings,” or the rough and tumble of American football, or the athletic artistry of basketball, but it yet remains America’s Pastime. The definition for pastime is “something that serves to make time pass agreeably; a pleasant means of amusement, recreation, or sport.” That’s a fair description of baseball.

The All-Star Break is about to take place which is roughly the half-way point in the baseball season. The All-Star Game is also called the “Midsummer Classic.” It is held every year, giving the fans an opportunity to pick the best players by vote for both the National League and the American League. The first All-Star Game was held in 1933. The current record of wins for each league is 43 for the National League and 38 for the American League. There has been one tie, and once in 1945 the All-Star Game was cancelled because of WWII. For those of you more astute, you did the math and figured that this would be the 81st year, so how come there have been 81 games won between the two leagues, plus the tie and the missed game – something does not add up. What makes this whole thing cockeyed is that from 1959-62 they played two All-Star Games a year, and you can easily see how this really gets squirrely.

As a kid growing up just outside of New York City (Milford, Connecticut; Ridgewood, New Jersey; Mount Kisco, New York), I was a loyal Brooklyn Dodgers fan. The best part was that the Dodgers finally overcame their arch-enemy, the dreaded New York Yankees, winning the 1955 World Series Title.

The Dodgers acquired their name because of the congestion of street cars (trolleys) that traversed the borough of Brooklyn in the late 1800s. In fact, anyone from Brooklyn was called “a dodger.” The team first took the name the Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers. The name was soon shortened to simply the Dodgers. Another nickname for this baseball team, or clubs as they were called in the early days of baseball, was “the Bums.” It’s not certain where this name came from, but English author, Charles Dickens had written a novel about a boy named Oliver who lived on the streets, and was befriended by a street-wise character known as the “Artful Dodger.” Such a person would have been thought of as a bum – thus, the Dodgers were lovingly called “dem bums.”
 

Branch Rickey
Dodgers GM
“For most of the first half of the 20th century, no Major League Baseball team employed a black player. A parallel system of Negro Leagues developed, but most of the Negro League players were denied a chance to prove their skill before a national audience. Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play Major League baseball in the 20th Century when he played his first major league game on April 15, 1947 as a member of the Dodgers. Robinson's entry into the league was mainly due to General Manager Branch Rickey's efforts. The deeply religious Rickey's motivation appears to have been primarily moral, although business considerations were also present. Rickey was a member of the Methodist Church, the antecedent denomination to the United Methodist Church of today, which was a strong advocate for social justice and active later in the Civil Rights Movement.”
Jackie Robinson with Branch Rickey 1947
signing his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers


The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants both decided to leave New York following the 1957 season. The Dodgers made their new home in Los Angeles, and the Giants made their new home in San Francisco.

I was 9 years old when this took place. I remember being stunned that the Dodgers, my team, was leaving for . . . California? We who lived back East in what is known as New England firmly believed that the Golden State was already so messed up that you all were going to disappear into the Pacific Ocean! We even had geological proof! It was predicted that in 1965 half the state of California would be sheared off by massive earthquake activity, making waterfront property available as far east as Nevada.

I couldn’t imagine my Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. I mean, it just wasn’t right. Distraught as I was, I remember asking my step father, “Can they really move to California?” His answer was hard to bear. “Yes, they can,” he said. I felt such a sense of betrayal! How could I support a team that was now going to be 3000 miles away?

That change affected my life in 1958, coupled with our family’s move to Paris, France in 1960, right in the middle of my best Little League season ever. I was undefeated as a pitcher. My claim to fame! I pitched a 2-hitter one evening which was announced over the local radio station.

Well, I quickly learned that they not only do not play baseball in France (and then Norway ’61-’63), but they didn’t even know what it was. My budding career in baseball came to a screeching halt.

Ah! What might have been. Alas and alack!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Precious Ones

             Today I spent most of my Monday with Alyssa, my five-and-a-half year old granddaughter. Since she lives less than a mile from us we get to see her quite a bit more than our other grandkids that live twenty-five minutes away in Turlock and Oakdale.

I have been feeding hummingbirds in our yard for years. Alyssa often helps me in this task. We put on a big pot of water, bringing it to a boil to remove the impurities which are harmful to these tiny little feathered wonders. We then add the sugar with a few drops of red food coloring. The food coloring serves two purposes: First, it attracts the hummingbirds to the liquid sustenance, and second, it allows me to look out the window and determine if the feeders need to be refilled.

Among the numerous rituals we share together, making the bird food and then filling the glass feeders is one of our favorites. The other morning as we were pulling out all the ingredients for making pancakes, I turned to Alyssa and asked her a question. “Alyssa? Which should we do first? Feed the birds, or feed ourselves?” She certainly did not disappoint me with her answer. She spoke right up and said, “Feed the birds!” “You’re absolutely right!” I declared. “Let’s go feed the birds.” So off we went to the garage where we keep the plastic jugs of solution in a spare refrigerator. We dutifully filled both feeders which hold four cups each. This lasts between a day-and-a-half to two days. I’ve counted as many as 15 hummingbirds around just one feeder. After filling the containers Alyssa and I always yell, “Come and eat, birds!”

When possible our other five-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyne, will be there with Alyssa, so we double the pleasure and fun. But this morning I only had Alyssa. My wife had left for work, and our house guest, Eric, was sitting in the living room. I told Alyssa to go get her “steps.” This is the two-step step ladder we use in the kitchen to reach those items on the upper shelves. For my two precious little granddaughters it is used by them to help me make cookies, waffles, and pancakes. Alyssa then began to pull out all the needed ingredients: primarily flour, sugar, eggs. The first five pancakes to come off the griddle go directly to Alyssa where she then uses my cookie cutter collection to cut the hotcakes into patterns of her choosing. She cut one for Eric that is a seal. Then she made two for me: a golf flag, (usually called a pin), and a heart shape. When I saw them on my plate I identified them out loud. I said, “How cool, Alyssa! A golf pin! And a heart!” Without looking up from cutting more pancakes, she said, “That’s because I love you, granddaddy.” I ask you: Is there anything more precious than the open, unabashed expression of love from a five-year-old? I dared not speak at that moment knowing I might tear up, so I simply walked over to her and gave her a kiss.

Just before we sat down to our meal, I told Alyssa, “You’re my best helper!” She smiled and said, “Yeah, I am, except when Brookie’s here, then we’re both your best helpers.” I couldn’t argue with that!

After consuming nearly all the pancakes, I was cleaning up the kitchen while Alyssa and Eric were having a conversation on the couch. I went out to the garage for a moment, and as I came back in I overheard Alyssa tell Eric, “When I go to heaven I’m going to see my grandma.” Mary, my son-in-law Ken’s mother, passed away a couple of years ago. Alyssa still talks about her, so this did not altogether surprise me. It was just in the very matter-of-fact manner in which she stated her plans to one day see Grandma Mary again. I loved it!

I have been blessed in my life in so many ways. But having the love of a grandchild is such a gift that it is unmatched by anything else I’ve experienced in life. And I’m the guy who used to make light of the fuss some folks made over their grandkids. I would snicker when reading the license plate frame which states, “My grandkids are cuter than yours!” Alyssa was our first grandbaby, so I confess that I was totally smitten the moment I laid eyes on her. I have let it be known to our two daughters and their husbands that more grandbabies was just fine by me! I’m a convert!

The Bible emphasizes that life is fleeting. It is so fleeting that it seems to pick up steam as the months and years slip by. I’m like the San Francisco trolley car conductor who is always applying the brakes on the hills of the City by the Bay. I also acknowledge the truth of the old adage, “Time waits for no man.”  

So with my faith firmly established in Jesus my Savior, and the assurance of eternity in God’s glorious heaven, I take comfort in the fact that my grandkids know that heaven is the goal. And I will see these precious ones again. What could be better?

Psalm for the Day