Marines.Together We Served

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Perfect Evening

Roots in Ripon
28 March 2016
Chuck Roots

A Perfect Evening

Every once in a while I like to plan something and then tell Isaura about it, but always well in advance just in case it doesn’t fit her schedule. A recent Thursday night was just one of those planned events.
Some weeks ago, I received an email from the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in San Francisco announcing a special event. The Naval Academy (a.k.a., Annapolis) Men’s Glee Club was going to be performing on March 18th in the evening, followed by an “Afterglow” at the Marines’ Memorial Club. The performance was to be held at Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal Church sitting atop a hill on California Street.
By the way, in case you are not familiar with the term “Afterglow,” it refers to “the comfortable feeling following a pleasant experience.” Those of us who sing barbershop harmony are all too familiar with this term, in particular because after we have a barbershop concert we always adjourn to a special place to enjoy more singing by the chorus and/or quartets that performed in the actual show. The atmosphere is relaxed, and allows folks to have personal interaction with the performers. Such, then, was the case with the Naval Academy Men’s Glee Club.
My wife and I have a particular fondness for this musical group because our nephew, Joshua Roots, sang with the Glee Club when he attended Annapolis. So we were really looking forward to this evening of musical entertainment.
Isaura suggested we plan to take our friend, Pat Martin, to which I readily agreed. Pat has been a wonderful friend from the time I first took over as senior pastor of the Ripon Free Methodist Church in 1998.
So the three of us headed to San Francisco for a memorable evening. Our first stop was in the East Bay for dinner at an Applebee’s. We allotted for this time in our plans, which still allowed us to get to the Grace Cathedral in time for the concert by the Glee Club. Traffic was more troublesome than expected so we rolled into the church parking garage right at 7:00 PM. Signs pointed to the church entrance making it very easy to enter the church right from the garage. But the moment we entered the hallway of the church I knew something wasn’t right. We saw no other people, nor did we hear any music, either instruments or voices. A map showing the layout of the church showed us where we were and where we needed to go. Fully confident we were in the wrong part of this large church, I headed us down another hallway. A janitor looked up in surprise, quickly commenting that the church was closed.
Well, I was not to be put off so easily. So I used my most officious voice to inform him that we were there for the Naval Academy Glee Club performance. He slowly shook his head back and forth, stating, “Not tonight it isn’t.” I’m sure he was amused by my perplexed look. He said, “I can show you on my calendar of events, if you like.” Certain that I was right I asked him if I could see it. He produced the document. Aha! There it was! I pointed it out on the sheet, to which he said, “Yes sir, but that’s tomorrow night.”
I stood there speechless. The realization hit me that I had entered the information for this evening’s events on the wrong date in my calendar. Sheepishly, I thanked the man. Then Isaura, Pat and I walked back into the garage. Once in the car, Isaura said, “That’s not like you.” I know she meant it as a positive, but I was thinking, “I must be getting old!” I had been on the phone with the Marines’ Memorial Club so many times over the past several weeks discussing the events of the evening, yet I totally missed the now glaring fact that I was on the wrong date!
There was only one way to assuage my bruised spirit and that was to stop somewhere for ice cream! We drove from the top of the hill on California Street down to Fisherman’s Wharf and the iconic Pier 39, making our way over to the Oakland/Bay Bridge, departing the scene of my faux pas and with my proverbial tail between my legs. Plus we were certainly going to get home much earlier than planned.
And as for the ice cream, we stopped at Cold Stone where I ordered my favorite. Make mine a serving of Sweet Cream ice cream with a healthy scoop of chocolate chips and an additional scoop of roasted almonds every time. Perfect! I was already beginning to forget about my evening’s blunder. After all, I was spending this time with my bride of nearly 40 years, and with our friend, Pat, topped off with ice cream! All of which makes for a marvelous evening.
About this point you’re wondering: “Well, did you go back for the concert and afterglow the next night?” Are you kidding? “No!” There’s only so much of San Francisco and the snarly Bay Area traffic I can endure. The ladies agreed.
I’m certain it was a great concert and all. But I’m equally certain the janitor at Grace Cathedral had another story to tell around the church! I’m sure he would have enjoyed knowing I am a retired pastor of the Free Methodist Church.

Phew! At least I dodged that bullet!

Monday, March 21, 2016

New 88s!

Roots in Ripon
21 March 2016
Chuck Roots

New 88s!

About this time last year those of us who are board members of the Ripon Arts League (RAL) agreed that a new piano was definitely needed for future RAL performances, and was, in fact, long overdue. The piano we’ve had for the past thirty-odd years (and showed it!) was in fact built in 1921. It had served us well. However, when our piano tuner said he no longer wished to tune the old gal because the pegs and tuning board were simply worn out, we knew we had to take action.
We put out the word to our RAL members that we were going to actively raise money for a new piano. We selected a brand new Yamaha Baby Grand (5 feet in length). The cost was a hefty eighteen grand. We gave ourselves a year to garner the funds. However, within less than six months we had raised twelve thousand. Shortly after, an anonymous donner presented us with a check for six thousand to complete the amount needed.
Wishing to express our thanks to those individuals who helped us reach our goal so quickly, we decided to have a “piano dedication.” We arranged for a private performance for anyone who had contributed toward the piano, whether it was $5.00, or $6,000.00. So we held the performance recently on a Sunday afternoon in the same facility we host our five yearly concerts – the Ripon High School multi-purpose room. Round tables and chairs were set out for the 150 or so guests. Each table had a covering, with a center piece displaying a piano motif. Cake and coffee was made available at the end of the concert. But it was the concert that was absolutely riveting.
This Sunday afternoon two-hour soiree began with the Gottschalks Music Center Concert Band of 35 members under the direction of Mr. Matt Cover performing the first half of the program. After a brief intermission, the second half highlighted the new midnight black Yamaha Baby Grand. Our guest pianist was Dr. John H. Hillebrandt who has been performing with the Modesto Symphony for many years, delighting audiences in over 500 performances.
Backed by the Gottschalk’s Concert Band, John launched into the classic George Gershwin, “Rhapsody in Blue.” This amazing musical piece certainly features the piano, allowing the pianist to put the 88 keys through their paces. The ebb and flow of the music fairly carries the listener to another realm in a wave of symphonic ecstasy. At the climatic conclusion the audience roared their approval punctuated by a standing ovation.
Folks stood around afterward with cake-on-a-plate and coffee discussing the veritable revelry of having heard not simply a new piano being dedicated, but a masterful performance by a masterful pianist. After all the band instruments were returned to their cases, and the new Yamaha Baby Grand was covered and secured in the adjoining room off stage, the shared feeling by those in attendance was that no one wanted the afternoon to end.
Since the president of the RAL, Kit Oase, was out of town, I, as vice president of the RAL, was asked to be the emcee for this event. Well, even though I grew up hearing my mother play almost daily on her “Living Room” Grand Piano, in thinking about it, I realized I knew next to nothing about pianos and their history. So, I put on my researchers hat (figuratively speaking) and had oodles of fun discovering interesting trivia about the piano.
I learned that the first piano made was in Padua, Italy in 1700 by Bartolomeo Cristofori. In fact, the first name for the piano was “un cimbalo di cipresso di piano e forte,” when translated, means, “a keyboard of cypress with loud and soft.” It was later shortened to pianoforte, or fortepiano, and then simply, piano. The last part of this article will be a description of exactly what produces the sound when a key is pressed on a piano. Though not written originally to be humorous, I found myself laughing out loud when I read it. Even with my fairly extensive musical background I had no idea what the writer of this piece was trying to say. I shared it with our audience, many of whom are very musically astute. As I read it, folks began chuckling to the point that when I finished, the audience was laughing out loud. Here it is:
When the key is struck, a chain reaction occurs to produce the sound. First, the key raises the wippen, which forces the jack against the hammer roller (or knuckle). The hammer roller then lifts the lever carrying the hammer. The key also raises the damper; and immediately after the hammer strikes the wire it falls back, allowing the wire to resonate. When the key is released the damper falls back onto the strings, stopping the wire from vibrating. The vibrating piano strings themselves are not very loud, but their vibrations are transmitted to a large soundboard that moves air and thus converts the energy to sound. The irregular shape and off-center placement of the bridge ensure that the soundboard vibrates strongly at all frequencies.”
I wish you could have joined us. It was a memorable evening.

If you’d enjoy hearing our new piano, simply join the RAL. The annual price is $30.00 which covers all five of our concerts. Call my cell phone (209) 604-1415, or text, or send me an email at, and I’ll be more than happy to see that you get signed up.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Being Wrong

Roots in Ripon
7 March 2016
Chuck Roots

Being Wrong

Every so often Isaura and I will see an advertisement for a movie that looks promising. Such was the case recently when a movie was released claiming to give the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection from a secular perspective – that being the story of a Roman who has his own strange encounter with the one that was known as “The Nazarene.”
Admittedly, I had reservations about this movie, even though it came highly recommended because the producers had also made “Heaven is for Real,” and “War Room,” both exceptionally well done movies about the Christian faith. But in seeing the previews for this new movie, “Risen,” I was skeptical. I can’t tell you why, other than it must have been something in the previews that didn’t click with me.
On Saturday we had lunch with friends in Tracy. On our way home Isaura saw a billboard advertising “Risen.” She turned to me and said, “We are free this afternoon. Let’s go see ‘Risen’!” How could I pass up a movie with my wife? So we headed for the AMC Theater in Manteca for the matinee showing of “Risen.”
The movie began with a man wandering in the wilderness. Flashbacks kept occurring to him which eventually became the entire movie. The man was formerly a Roman tribune. A tribune was one of six Roman officers in a legion, rotating with the other five tribunes in commanding the legion during the year. A legion was a military unit ranging from 3,000 to 6,000 men. Battle scenes with their horrific violence and gore filled the screen, leaving Isaura covering her eyes until the scene was over. I, on the other hand, was watching with a scrutinizing eye to see if the portrayal of the battles, tactics, and uniforms were close to accurate. I’m pleased to report that the producers did a good job.
Actor Joseph Fiennes played Clavius, the fictional Roman tribune. His initial encounter with Jesus was when he was reporting to Pontius Pilate following his most recent battle that day with rebellious Jews. Though dirty and bloodied, Clavius is ordered by Pilate to see to it that Jesus is indeed dead on the cross. He has no interest in performing this duty, yet he is a faithful soldier and will obey his orders. He finds Jesus and the two thieves hanging on their crosses. He has them properly dispatched according to the manner of such barbarity. He encounters the grief of the followers of Jesus, most notably Jesus’ mother, Mary. Just prior to Jesus being unceremoniously dumped into the paupers’ grave, Josephus and Nicodemus arrive to secure his body. The movie progresses with Clavius ordered to secure the very dead Jesus in Josephus’ tomb all the while causing him to constantly encounter the disciples and other Jesus followers. A interest in this crucified man begins to take hold in Clavius’ heart.
The movie follows the spiritual journey of this Roman warrior, Clavius, a believer in the Roman god, Mars, the god of war and agriculture. He wrestles with his own understanding of praying to Mars, juxtaposed to this idea of a risen Jewish savior. Finally, he leaves his position as a Roman tribune and decides to follow the disciples who are leaving Jerusalem to take the Gospel message to “Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
A scene toward the end shows Clavius sitting with the risen Jesus on a large rock overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus asks the Roman a poignant question: “What frightens you?” Hesitatingly, Clavius replies, “Being Wrong.”
I was struck by the honesty in this answer. Were all of Clavius’ beliefs, prayers and devotion to the Roman god Mars, wrong? No one, after all, wants to believe in something that is wrong. What’s the benefit in that? The hard part is admitting that you’ve been wrong – embarrassed in admitting to having followed a false teaching or wrong faith.  
The challenge for many who have embraced another belief, another faith, a different god, is giving up what they have believed to be true, and then embracing something new in Jesus, acknowledging that he is the one risen from the dead, the Savior of the world.
Over the years I have had many conversations with folks who hold back from accepting Jesus as their Savior and God simply because they cannot bring themselves to believe they were wrong “all these years”! It is in this vein that I believe Clavius is struggling in accepting that Jesus is truly risen from the dead, and therefore the true and living God. After all, it was placed on the fictional character Clavius’ shoulders the responsibility of assuring Pilate that the Nazarene was dead, buried, and his body being secured from the possibility of being stolen away by the disciples.
But an encounter with Jesus, fully alive, was transforming for the Roman. And that’s exactly what it was intended to be.  
See the movie.

And, let me ask you – have you met this Jesus?

Psalm for the Day