Marines.Together We Served

Monday, June 19, 2017

Religious Liberty Rescued

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 June 2017
www.chuckroots.com

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.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Knights in Shining Armor

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
12 June 2017
www.chuckroots.com

Knights in Shining Armor

Well, not really. But I thought I might catch your attention with this title. However, the knights part is correct, whereas the shining armor part is up for debate.

The expression “knight in shining armor” has historically implied an upright, valorous and virtuous man who goes around rescuing maidens in distress. On a more intimate level, women often are looking for a husband who will be their “knight in shining armor”.  

This week’s missive toys with this idea of knights, but I’m coming at it from an entirely different perspective.

As most of you who have been reading my column know, I enjoy singing. And one of my hobbies is singing Barbershop 4-Part Harmony. I’m a member in the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) which is an international organization specifically focused on this uniquely American music form we know as “Barbershop Music”. The Society has grown to the point that Barbershop Music has spread throughout the world. Other countries that are currently singing barbershop are Great Britain, Holland, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific Islands, South Africa, and more! To see what I’m talking about, go on YouTube and type in Barbershop Chorus Champions. Then listen to your hearts delight. Do the same with Barbershop Quartet Champions. But be careful! This can be addictive.

I actually am a member of three barbershop choruses. I’m active with Voices of California (VoCal, for short, 75 men) out of Sacramento, and the Golden Valley Chorus (GVC, 25 men) in Modesto. The third chorus is the Alexandria Harmonizers in Washington, D.C. My nephew, Josh Roots, is active with this chorus which boasts 125 men.

Each year choruses and quartets compete at various events in their districts to move up the competition ladder. If they are good enough, they earn the right to compete on the grand stage at the annual International Convention. This year the convention is being held in Las Vegas at Bally’s (July 4-9). The Voices of California (VoCal) will be heading for Vegas where we will compete against other big choruses, as well as the overall title of Gold Medal Chorus Champion for 2017. This will be my first time competing at an International.

So, last Saturday VoCal had an extra rehearsal in preparation for our big opportunity in Vegas. We spent four hours going over the two songs we’re required to perform, which includes a fair amount of choreography. We spent all four hours on our feet with only a ten-minute break. As you might surmise, we’re committed to this event!

The theme of our performance package is Knights of the Round Table. A package typically has an “up tune”, and a ballad. Our up tune is, ”The EPIC Knight Medley”, followed by the ballad, “If Ever I Would Leave You”. The Medley is a spoof on Knights of the Round Table, harkening back to the swashbuckling days of the Middle Ages in England with King Arthur and his knights. The EPIC Knight Medley, using known tunes, uses entirely different wording in order to stay true to the Knights theme. And should you be concerned that there might be copyright violations, rest assured: We are diligent in acquiring the needed permission.

The parody on the tunes we use for our Medley are: “Knights of the Round Table.” A classic line from this song is, “We dine while here in Camelot. We eat ham and jam and spam a lot!” We then bridge into the tune, “So Long Mother”, only the wording is, “Oh, Guinevere a little tear is gleaming in your eye. Your knights are all assembled, off to war where we may die!” Then we roll into “Just in Time”, only we sing, “It’s jousting time. Hooray it’s jousting time! Those pointy sticks are primed. Let’s have a show!” The next tune is the classic “Chariots of Fire” followed by “I Could Have Danced All Night”. We sing, “I could have lanced four knights, I could have lanced five knights and still have lanced some more!” Next up is the tune, “Bright Was The Night”. It’s changed to sound very much like the original, but instead, we sing, “This knight’s not bright! His head’s not right”. And then we end the up tune with “I Love A Parade”. But we sing, “Oh, I love a crusade!” One line in this part goes like this, “I love a crusade! The Bubonic plague, the loss of a leg or maybe a thumb, a Thumb! We’re off on a crusade!”

Remember what I said earlier. This is a spoof, a lampooning of knights as they prepare to go off on crusades.

The ballad, “If Ever I Would Leave You”, is sung straight, and is intended to illicit emotion as the character of the knight leaves his love behind while he rides off into an uncertain future.

All seventy-five of us are dressed in period costume. Originally, I was one of the townspeople, and my singing position was strictly on the risers. Last week I was informed that I would now be one of the soldiers which requires coming off the risers and doing a lot of foot and hand movements all performed on the stage along with other soldiers and knights.

I wish you could be in Vegas to see us perform. But one thing you can be certain of: I will be writing an article (or possibly two) about the experience. Isaura will be accompanying me, so we’re going to have a blast!

Monday, June 05, 2017

A Weekend Jaunt

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
5 June 2017
www.chuckroots.com

A Weekend Jaunt

          By definition, a jaunt is usually understood to mean a short journey meant for pleasure. Thus, jaunt is the exact word I would use for this article.

          This weekend foray came about after we learned of a friend’s illness in El Cajon (ka–hone) which is just east of San Diego. Gary has been struggling with a debilitating sickness for some number of months, and is currently in a nursing facility. Isaura and I looked at our calendars and decided this past Friday thru Sunday would work best for us to make a drive to see Gary.

          Isaura reminded me that some dear friends we have known since before we were married had just moved back to Azusa (near Pasadena) from their home in Cincinnati, Ohio where they have lived the last twenty-two years. I used to sing in a Gospel group with Ed and Dolly when we all lived in San Jose. We called ourselves, The Redeemed. We absolutely had a blast traveling around the Bay Area and Central Valley of California singing at a plethora of events and venues.

          On Friday after playing a round of golf with my friends at Spring Creek, Isaura and I hopped in the car and headed for our rendezvous with Ed and Dolly, arriving in time for dinner. Ed’s dad (also goes by Ed) joined the four of us at a Mexican restaurant in Azusa called, Max’s. We sat around stuffing ourselves with massive portions of food and drink. I have never seen such serving sizes, literally covering the entire platter. And the drink mugs were more like the size of a beer stein. I could not finish my meal!

          We spent a delightful evening with our friends, with Ed pulling out his six-string guitar and leading us in singing a couple of the songs we used to do. We finished up with, I’ll Fly Away! After a restful night in their guest room, we had breakfast in the kitchen before Isaura and I headed for San Diego. It was such a joy to catch up with these friends whom we have not seen in at least a half-dozen years.

          Another part of our trip while in southern California was to visit with our niece, Emily. She is the daughter of Isaura’s youngest sister, Judy and her husband Greg. Emily is now working in San Diego and is dating, Alex, an active duty Marine who is stationed at Camp Pendleton. We met them for lunch on Saturday at Seaport Village, which is a fun place to visit. There are numerous stores and shops of various kinds all along the waterfront. One of our favorite restaurants there is the Greek Islands, known for its great Mediterranean style food. Of course, I was curious about Alex. I was very impressed with him. The four of us talked over our food for a couple of hours, learning that Alex has been in the Marine Corps for eight years, and has every intention of making this his career. Before we left Emily and Alex in the parking lot, we took the obligatory pictures which the rest of the family was dying to see.

          Next stop was a visit to Gary in the nursing home. He was in fine spirits even though he has a trache which certainly limits communication. However, I learned they have a device now that allows the person with the trache to still be able to speak, and it was surprisingly clear. Gary also spent twenty-five years in the National Guard, so we have a military connection as well. We chatted with him for a time, and then I read a number of passages to him from the Scriptures. I then anointed his forehead with oil followed by prayer from Isaura and me. It was, indeed, a special moment!

          After saying goodbye to Gary, we drove to Camp Pendleton where we were booked in the Inns of the Corps lodging for Saturday night. But first we stopped in the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX). This is one of Isaura’s favorite things to do when we visit any military base. There are a lot of good deals and no sales tax! I usually wander over to the sporting goods to see what they have in golf equipment. Aha! To my great delight, I found a putter I had wanted, and it was the last one. It cost all of $25.00! I snagged it right quick and will have an opportunity to try it out this Wednesday morning.

          While stationed at Camp Pendleton in the mid-80s, we had found two favorite restaurants which we always try to patronize when we are in the area. So we drove to the Armenian Café which serves the best lemon soup you’ll ever have. To our great shock and dismay, the building was gone! The area was encircled with construction barriers, but nothing to indicate what had happened. So we drove two blocks over to the Vera Cruz Fish House, which also was vacated and a new sign indicating who the new business was to be. Both of these places are wildly popular, so we were stunned, to say the least. I had the phone numbers for both in my phone, so I called. The Armenian Café is under totally new construction and will open again, however the date is unknown. As for the Fish House, it is in a new location. All is right with the world again!

          I’ve been asked if I miss the military life, and my answer is always, no. Thirty-four years was enough. But as Isaura and I stood outside the Ward Lodge at Mainside on Camp Pendleton this morning, I looked at her and said, “This is what I miss.” There is a quietness on a military base that is very calming. You can almost feel it. I explained what I meant, and she agreed.

          Our drive back to northern California was uneventful. But it did include a stop at our youngest daughter’s home in Turlock for a birthday party for granddaughter, Brooklyne who is nine.

           It was truly a weekend jaunt, full of delight!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Soldier's Reflections

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
29 MAY 2017
www.chuckroots.com

A Soldier’s Reflections

          Memorial Day is now passed. As Americans, we celebrate this special day each May acknowledging the sacrifice of patriots who placed their lives in harm’s way so you and I could live in peace and freedom.

          So, all of this attention on the price of freedom and the visit to a special Memorial Day service at a local cemetery got me to thinking. Browsing through my shelves of books on the Civil War, I ran across one particular volume about Charles W. Sherman, a soldier with the 12th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. The book is the compilation of letters (160 in all) that Private Sherman wrote home to his wife, Virtue, during his two years of military service. Entitled, Letters to Virtue, the book is subtitled, A Civil War Journey of Courage, Faith, and Love.

          Charles Sherman is truly and American story! He was born in England in 1828, immigrating to the United States in 1838 with his family. In 1848, Charles married Virtue James, also an immigrant from England. They had five children. He seems to have been something of a Jack-of-all-trades, working first as a harness maker in Connecticut as recorded in the census of 1850, then as a carpenter in Webster, Massachusetts in the census of 1860.

          The Civil War began in 1861, requiring men to leave their families and their vocations to serve their country in order to preserve the Union. In January of 1862, at age 33, Charles Sherman enlisted in the 12th Connecticut. He must not have had much of an education as his letters reflect poor spelling and grammar usage. However, his ability to express what was important to him comes through with clarity. You see, “Charles enlisted because of his strong belief in the principles of his adopted country as well as his firm opposition to slavery.”

          It is a fascinating journey to catch glimpses of a soldier’s life during the most arduous of wartime challenges. His unit left Connecticut, traveling to Louisiana, then to Virginia, before finally returning to Connecticut at war’s end. He is quick to express his love for his wife and five children in each of his many letters. His graphic descriptions of combat and its horrors are not enjoyable reading, but he is frank and honest in his assessment of their conditions and the combat they are frequently engaged in.

          In his last letter home, dated October 15, 1864, Cedar Creek, Virginia (The Battle of Cedar Creek), he shares a thought that must have been troubling him for quite some time. Describing preparations for battle, he writes, “It is not fear, but a sad feeling when you see the skirmishers deploy into line, and the regiments unfold themselves into a line of battle.” He further describes the cacophony of battle. “When the thunder of the artillery comes upon you, you forget everything else and look out for the shells that come screaming toward you, not that you can dodge anything, but you want to see where they are coming from.”

          He conveys the relief in returning to camp, saying, “A man feels better in going away from danger than in going to it.” I can vouch for that!

          But it was this expressed thought that captured my attention, and his reluctant acceptance of war’s horrific devastation, regardless of who wins and who loses. He wrote, “I do wish this cruel war would come to an end, for this going about to kill one another has an unchristian look to me, when you come to look at it in that light, but it has to be done, I suppose.”

          On October 23, 1864, Sergeant Edward S. Larkum wrote a letter to Charles’ father. “Dear Sir, It devolves on me as a tentmate of your son to line (write) the sad news of his death, which occurred in terrible battle of the 19th of the present month. As a soldier, he was much respected. He was courteous alike to everyone and there was not a man in his regiment who did not respect him. He was killed in the foremost rank, bravely fighting for his country which he thought so much of. . . . Any information that I can give will be gladly attended to, and if I can be of any benefit to you in any other way, willingly will my services be offered and gladly will I pay the last tribute to him who was so brave and so kind.”

          Corporal Charles Sherman joined the ranks of the fallen, but whose shed blood has helped to insure a future for all Americans, whether native born, or naturalized citizen.

          God bless America!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My President

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
22 MAY 2017
www.chuckroots.com

My President

On January 20 of this year, Donald John Trump became the 45th President of the United States. This is not news, I know, but the way some folks are behaving, you’d think it was.

President Trump may not have been your choice for president. He may not be in your political party. Heck, he wasn’t my choice either. As a Conservative, I was definitely voting for a Republican. But of the seventeen candidates who threw their hats in the ring to be the Republican nominee, Mr. Trump was number seventeen for me. As I felt then, and still feel now, he is brash, arrogant, unduly critical of those who do not side with him, and generally boorish in his behavior. And, yes, I voted for him.

But, an election was held last November and Donald J. Trump won. He is now my president. Period.

Listen, I remember only too well watching the returns on TV in the 1992 election. I was stationed in Rota, Spain at that time. On Election Night Isaura and I decided to call it a night since we were many hours ahead of the polls closing in the States. We were hopeful that George H. W. Bush might pull off a victory and serve a second term. We were sorely disappointed to find out the next morning that William Jefferson Clinton was our new Commander in Chief. Same thing occurred with the election of Barack Hussain Obama. Did I throw a hissy fit and publicly declare that the new president was not my president? No! Of course not. To be honest, that thought never crossed my mind. In fact, such a thought to me is absurd.

We are Americans. Which means we are a free people. We enjoy liberties others around the world can’t even fathom. So as imperfect as we are, I still trust the system of government we have. This means in an open and free election I willingly accept the will of the American people in their choice for president, and most importantly, even if I disagree with the outcome.

As I watched the President make an historic speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia over the weekend, I got to thinking: “How is it that this man is honored by a foreign government that has been openly opposed to the freedoms and liberties enjoyed by all Americans?” This is, after all, the home of Islam. Saudi Arabia was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11. If you watched the news about this trip at all, you saw how the Saud royal family received the President and his entourage, including a ravishing, eye-popping First Lady, Melania Trump. The royal carpet was literally rolled out to the stairway of Air Force One. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud personally greeted President Trump as he deplaned, something he never did for President Obama. Later that evening at a royal dinner, the king presented President Trump with the highest civilian award known as the Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud medal.

Later in the evening, President Trump was asked to address the heads of state from some fifty different Islamic countries. Our president was absolutely brilliant! In a gracious and humble manner, he made it clear that neither he nor the American people had any interest in changing the culture and beliefs of the Saudi people. This is one of his opening statements, [America’s] vision is one of peace, security, and prosperity—in this region, and in the world. Our goal is a coalition of nations who share the aim of stamping out extremism and providing our children a hopeful future that does honour to God.” What he did say, and with a wonderful sense of historic and religious sensitivity, was that the Saudis, and all other Islamic nations, must drive out the terrorists in order for there to be peace.

I encourage every reader of my column to take the time to read the transcript of the President’s speech in Saudi Arabia. You can pull it up easily on the Internet. The speech was forceful, yet respectful. I will close with these remarks made by our President in his speech as he addressed the terrorist problem head-on.

“Every time a terrorist murders an innocent person, and falsely invokes the name of God, it should be an insult to every person of faith. Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

“If we do not act against this organised terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism's devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered.

“If we do not stand in uniform condemnation of this killing – then not only will we be judged by our people, not only will we be judged by history, but we will be judged by God.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilisations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it. This is a battle between Good and Evil.”


Now THAT’S my President!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Value of a Smile

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
15 MAY 2017
www.chuckroots.com

The Value of a Smile

One of the things that makes us authentically human is a smile. A smile says so very much through that one simple act. And every single person needs this reminder every day.

A smile, as defined by Webster’s Dictionary, says the act of smiling is “to make the corners of the mouth turn up in an expression that shows happiness, amusement, pleasure, affection, etc. Also, to bestow approval; and to appear pleasant or agreeable.” Ah! But there is so much more to it than that.

With the giving of a smile, there is an approval that is transmitted from one person to the other. And only if for a brief moment, a slight nod of acceptance by the recipient of the initial smile, with a return smile, secures the transaction.

It is said that it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown. Is it true? I checked it out on the Internet. Here’s what I found out on, Cecil’s Storehouse of Human Knowledge. Apparently, Cecil Adams contacted a doctor David H. Song, MD, FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons), plastic surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Dr. Song, among other things, reconstructs faces.

Now, for your educational benefit, here are the findings presented by Dr. Song. The first listing is for the muscles involved in smiling. The second is for the muscles required in frowning, or what is also known as a scowl. This is fun!

Muscles involved in a "zygomatic" (i.e., genuine) smile:

Zygomaticus major and minor. These muscles pull up the corners of the mouth. They're bilateral (one set on either side of the face). Total number of muscles: 4.

Orbicularis oculi. One of these muscles encircles each eye and causes crinkling. Total: 2.

Levator labii superioris. Pulls up corner of lip and nose. Bilateral. Total: 2.

Levator anguli oris. Also helps elevate angle of mouth. Bilateral. Total: 2.

Risorius. Pulls corner of mouth to the side. Bilateral. Total: 2. Grand total for smiling: 12.

Principal muscles involved in a frown:

Orbicularis oculi (again). Total: 2.

Platysma. Pulls down lips and wrinkles skin of lower face. Bilateral (though joined at midline). Total: 2.

Corrugator supercilii (bilateral) and procerus (unilateral). Furrow brow. Total: 3.

Orbicularis oris. Encircles mouth; purses lips. Unilateral. Total: 1.

Mentalis. Depresses lower lip. Unilateral. Total: 1.

Depressor anguli oris. Pulls corner of mouth down. Bilateral. Total: 2. Grand total for frowning: 11.

“Despite the fact that smiling uses more muscles (12, to 11 in frowning), Dr. Song believes it takes less effort than frowning — people tend to smile more frequently, so the relevant muscles are in better shape. You may feel this conclusion assumes a rosier view of the human condition than the facts warrant, but I defer to the doctor. Incidentally, a superficial, homecoming-queen smile requires little more than the two risorius muscles. So, if your goal in expressing emotion is really to minimize effort, go for insincere.” (Cecil Adams)

I’m betting that as you read the list of muscles required for smiling and frowning you were attempting to try those muscles to see if this was true. Be honest! You really did move your mouth around, making your lips either curve up or down, right? I know I did!

I found this whole list amusing, if for no other reason than it should cause us all to recognize the importance of smiling every day. So, regardless of how many muscles it takes to produce that much pleasantness, make the effort. Lord knows, our world needs more genuine smiles!

Here are six direct benefits to smiling: 1. Lowers blood pressure, 2. Creates a better mood (especially for bad days), 3. Relieves stress, 4. Strengthens the immune system, 5. Lessons pain, and 6. Smiling is contagious.

Finally, take note of these three verses from the book of Proverbs: 1. A cheerful look brings joy to the heart (Prov 15:30), 2. A joyful heart is good medicine (Prov 17:22), and 3. A glad heart makes a happy face (Prov 15:13).

Or, as the old Merry Melodies cartoon and song said, “Smile, Darn ya, Smile!”

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I'm Cleaning Up

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
08 MAY 2017
www.chuckroots.com

I’m Cleaning Up

Like many of you, I have an interest in many things, most of which have no resemblance to each other.

A few weeks ago, while working at my daughter’s store, Rustic Roots, in Turlock, a lady and her husband came in to shop. I began to chit-chat with them as I so often do with many of our customers, and discovered this lady makes her own soap. This immediately captured my attention, as I have had an interest in learning to make soap for the past several years. I’ve done a lot of study and research on soap-making over the Internet, but hadn’t met someone I could really learn from, and this lady seemed to be just what I was looking for.

We talked for a while, with me explaining why I wanted to learn to make soap. Since Jenny’s store is a small “mom & pop” operation, I have thought for some time that it would be fun to have special bars of soap for sale made with the Rustic Roots logo imprinted on each bar. Mary Anne offered to show me how! I jumped at the chance.

The date we set for making a batch of homemade soap was Monday, May 1st. I told Isaura about this opportunity and she thought it was great. But when she heard we were going to make it on Monday the 1st of May, she said, “Can I come? I’d love to learn!” I responded, “Of course!”

We met Mary Anne at the store at 8:30am on the appointed day. She brought all the physical items we would need along with some of the ingredients, and we brought all the rest of the necessary ingredients. We used a room in the back of the store that Jenny uses to hold her bi-monthly painting classes for those who want to learn how to paint furniture with the vintage/stressed looked that is so popular today.

So, with everything laid out, we began the process of making our very first batch of soap. First up on the things to do was mixing lye with oil. I have never worked with lye, but I know it can be very dangerous if mishandled. Once it is mixed with water it heats up to nearly a boiling temperature. The chemical reaction between the lye and water is instantaneous, but before using it with any other ingredients, it must be allowed to cool down to 100 degrees which takes about an hour.

My one and only experience with lye was while I was in the Marine Corps. It was 1972, and I was assigned to an EA6A squadron at Cubi Point in the Philippines. Subic Bay Naval Base was next door to Cubi Point. Subic had a football team which I played for. It was made up of sailors and Marines. We played against Air Force teams from Clark Air Force Base (the Philippines), and also against Yokosuka Naval Base, and Yokota Air Force Base, both in Japan. One of the teams we played had just lined their field in the white chalk you typically see on football fields everywhere. But there was one problem! The groundskeepers accidentally used bags of lye, believing it to be chalk. As the game was played more and more of the players were complaining about a burning sensation under their pads. As the chalk was rubbed into uniforms and skin, it was mixed with sweaty bodies creating the right conditions for some serious burns. It was so severe that a number of our black teammates had large swatches of skin burned so brutally that the black pigmentation was gone, leaving the pinkest pink skin you’ll ever see. I don’t know if their coloring ever returned in those areas, but I learned then and there to be very careful with lye!

Back to the soap. The next step was to mix the oils and bring this to a boil. This too, would be allowed to cool to 100 degrees. Once these two “hot” items had cooled sufficiently, they were mixed with an electric hand-mixer, bringing the lye/oil mixture to the consistency of pudding. The process from that point is fairly simple and straight forward. We set out the soap molds to receive the mixture, but first we had to measure in separate bowls the amount of the soap mix needed to fill the molds to be used. Since I was experimenting, I wanted to make three different “loaves” of soap with different fragrances. To accomplish this, you would add your fragrances, thoroughly stirring this into the batter. We, of course, made one with a lemon fragrance, which was Isaura’s choice. The other two loaves were my choice. One was cinnamon, and the other was Pappy’s Lemon Spice. I have wanted to make soap that has an aroma that men would like. In other words: Manly Soap! If I can figure out how to make fragrances of Engine Oil, or Gun Powder, or even Old Baseball Gloves, I’ll be happy! My neighbor, Dave, has already said he wants one of the Pappy’s bars!

The three loaves are now cut into bars and setting for four weeks to “cure.” That is, they harden, and therefore are less likely to dissolve quickly.

Oh, yeah! Almost forgot. I ordered a special mold which was shipped from Poland. In every detail, it’s cast in the shape of a Hand Grenade! Is that beautiful, or what! I’m going to have to create a camouflage color for this soap, then add to it the Gun Powder fragrance.

I think I’ll name it, Savon de Grenade! (French for “Soap Grenade”). That would be the bomb!

Monday, May 01, 2017

That Little White Ball

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
01 MAY 2017
www.chuckroots.com

That Little White Ball

               Ever since my step father introduced me to the game of golf at the age of ten, I have found myself seduced by this benign game. Ah! But therein lies the problem! This so-called “Gentlemen’s Game” is the very definition of deception and treachery. This game, in all its apparent innocence, is alluring, shamelessly humiliating the strongest of men.

          I know that golf is just as infectious to women as it is to men. One of the greatest women golfers ever to play the game was Babe Didrikson Zaharias. This lady was a world class athlete and Olympic star, winning two gold medals (80 meter hurdles, and the Javelin throw) and one silver (high jump) in track and field during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her talents were endless. She was an All-American in basketball. She also played organized baseball and softball, and was an expert diver, roller-skater, and bowler. She was voted “Female Athlete of the Year” by the Associated Press six times from 1932 to 1954. She may well have won it more times had she not developed colon cancer. Despite this debilitating illness, she continued to play golf. A month after surgery and wearing a colostomy bag, she won her 10th and final major championship. She was a founding member of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association).

          Some of the quotes by Babe Zaharias shed light on her view of golf. “That little white ball won’t move until you hit it, and there’s nothing you can do after it has gone.” How true. “Golf is a game of coordination, rhythm, and grace; women have these to a high degree.” No argument from me. Men, with a golf club in hand, often look like Neanderthals attempting to kill their dinner! “Practice, which some regard as a chore, should be approached as just about the most pleasant recreation ever devised.” I must admit, I much prefer to play than endlessly hit practice shots on the range. “It’s not just enough to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and really let the ball have it.” I had to chuckle at this one! And this last quote sums up the effect golf has on so many of us. “I played many sports, but when that golf bug hit me, it was permanent.”

          So, two weeks ago my brother, John, made his way to California from his home in Virginia to join me in playing golf for seven days. Even though he is 73 and I am 68, there are not enough hours in the day to play too much golf. In our lexicon of golfing vernacular, there is no such thing as “too much golf.”

          I picked John up at the Oakland International Airport on Tuesday evening. Wednesday morning we were teeing it up at 7:30 with my golfing buddies at Spring Creek. After that round we had lunch before our next round, which was the “After Taxes Tournament.” The next morning we joined our friend and fellow golf enthusiast, Hank, at the Turlock G&CC for two more rounds. Then on Friday John and I played with my buddies again to start the day, followed by two more rounds to close out a 54 hole day. On Saturday we played one round in the morning. There was a family wedding down in the Fresno area late that afternoon so we weren’t able to tee it up again until early Sunday afternoon where we were joined by Hank, and our cousin Jimmy Lake, who drove down from his home in Nampa, Idaho to join us. He’s still a heck of a good player at 79! On Monday, John, Jimmy and I drove to Fresno to play a round with our nephew, Ryan, at the Riverside Golf Course. In the afternoon, we drove to Chowchilla where we played another round at the Pheasant Run Golf Course. I wrote an article about this course when I was doing some free-lance writing for a golf magazine about twenty years ago right after the course opened.

          On Tuesday, our last day before John flew back to the East Coast, we played two more rounds at Spring Creek. All told, we played 234 holes of golf in seven days which translates to 13 rounds. We had a blast! I guess you could say we were hit by the golf bug when we were kids. Pop, our step father, got us started, and it sure has been fun.

          Several people have asked if we were tired after playing so much golf. The answer is a simple, No! In fact, the more we played during the seven days together, the better we played.

          This mild looking game will deceive you. In closing, and borrowing a phrase from Country and Western singers, here’s my advice: “Mommas, don’t let your babies grow up to be golfers!”

Sunday, April 23, 2017

One Nation, Under God

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
24 April 2017
www.chuckroots.com

One Nation, Under God

               This past Thursday Isaura and I attended the San Joaquin County 26th Annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast as guests of Susan Vander Schaaf. This event brings together the leadership of the entirety of San Joaquin County. Having attended a number of times in the past, I am always heartened by the emphasis on prayer for those in leadership across our great land, right down to local public officials and first responders.

          This gathering of concerned citizens brings in several hundred people on a Thursday at 6:00am where prayer is the primary focus. There is always a featured speaker, and this year was no different. Joshua Charles is a concert pianist, a best-selling author, an accomplished historian, and is earning his law degree at the Regent University School of Law. “In his book, The World’s Most Important Book, Joshua examines how the Bible has greatly impacted many areas of human life, from art, to music, to government, healthcare, and works of compassion. No book (referring to the Bible) has exerted greater influence.” (taken from the program pamphlet). He has authored a second book, entitled, Liberty’s Secrets: The Lost Wisdom of America’s Founders. I picked up a copy of this book, and am anxious to get started on it, especially because Joshua Charles has done a thorough job of researching his topic as evidenced by the talk he gave. And this man is only twenty-nine years old!

          Apart from the keynote speaker, there was a corporate prayer printed in our program, which was actually a responsorial prayer, led by Ron Van De Pol, president and CEO at Van De Pol Enterprises, Inc., (Stockton, CA), and is also the Vice President of Alliance Petroleum Corporation.

          Having been asked to lead in such prayers myself in the past, I was particularly taken by the opening section of the prayer which minces no words as to the condition of the human race and its not so glorious relationship with the Living God.

“We are flawed people, but know you love us unconditionally and your mercy endures forever. Within the span of a few decades, You have been removed from the schoolhouse, the courthouse, and the marketplace. On our watch, the mention of Your name and those who openly serve You are no longer welcomed in a nation that once revered your Holy Word (the Bible). We have forsaken You and ignored the wisdom and warnings of those You have sent to establish the only nation in world history founded on the principle that ‘God created all men equal,’ free, and with rights no man could take away.”

Those of us in the audience would then respond with, “LORD, hear our prayer.” Please understand, that at the end of this first reading I was uncomfortable joining in with others in asking the Lord to hear our prayer! Think about it! Is it not true that there is a wholesale attempt throughout our nation to eliminate God from the schoolhouse, the courthouse, and the marketplace? Christians and Jews in the United States of America are being harassed and attacked both verbally and physically. Love of God and Country has become taboo in the hallowed halls of academia, the very institutions where the expression of belief and thought should be encouraged and celebrated; not ridiculed, demonized, and besmirched.

The report of religious violations taken from an article in 2012, lists the following as some of the cases reported where Christians and Jews are having their faith criticized and stifled by those in authority.

·        A federal judge threatened “incarceration” to a high school valedictorian unless she removed references to Jesus from her graduation speech.

·        City officials prohibited senior citizens from praying over their meals, listening to religious messages, or singing gospel songs at a senior activities center.

·        A public school official physically lifted an elementary school student from his seat and reprimanded him in front of his classmates for praying over his lunch.

·        Following U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ policies, a federal government official sought to censor a pastor’s prayer, eliminating references to Jesus, during a Memorial Day ceremony honoring veterans at a national cemetery.

·        Public school officials prohibited students from handing out gifts because they contained religious messages.

·        A public school official prevented a student from handing out flyers inviting her classmates to an event at her church.

·        A public university’s law school banned a Christian organization because it required its officers to adhere to a statement of faith that the university disagreed with.

·        The U.S. Department of Justice argued before the Supreme Court that the federal government can tell churches and synagogues which pastors and rabbis it can hire and fire.

·        The State of Texas sought to approve and regulate what religious seminaries can teach.

·        Through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, the federal government is forcing religious organizations to provide insurance for birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in direct violation of their religious beliefs.

·        The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs banned the mention of God from veterans’ funerals, overriding the wishes of the deceased’s families.

·        A federal judge held that prayers before a state House of Representatives could be to Allah but not to Jesus.

       This is no cry of “Wolf!” where there is no wolf. This is a cry for sanity where secularists and progressives are destroying our nation. God, please forgive us, and help us return to being one nation, under God!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pancakes, Please!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
17 April 2017
www.chuckroots.com

Pancakes, Please!

               It has been a while since I wrote about my grandkids. They are growing like weeds and bring more joy and happiness to my wife and me every day. Having spent many years in the military moving from base to base around the world, we are very aware that many families do not enjoy the blessing of having grandchildren close by.

          For us, nine-year-old Alyssa lives three miles away, and nine-year-old Brooklyne and five-year-old Colson live twenty-five miles away. We couldn’t be happier being so close and so involved in their lives.

          Thursday Isaura was doing her weekly stint of taking care of Brook and Colson. She usually does this on Fridays, looking after Colson during the day (he begins school this fall), and then picking up his sister from school in the afternoon. As for Alyssa, either Isaura or I pick her up Monday-Thursday since she attends school less than two miles from our home.

          Since this was Easter weekend with no school on Friday, we had all three grandkids from Thursday afternoon through Saturday evening.

          As expected the kids were wound up pretty tight since they were spending the night at Meema and Granddaddy’s! Thursday evening, we watched a Veggie Tales DVD about Easter, then it was off to bed. They love to sleep in the loft (a.k.a., my Man Cave). The girls share the blow-up mattress, and Colson gets the hide-a-bed. As I often do, I read to them. I chose “Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims,” one of the Rush Revere Series written about American history by Rush Limbaugh. I read two chapters before they all finally drifted off to dreamland.

I’m up early on Fridays to join my golfing buddies for a round at Spring Creek, so when I came home later in the morning I found Meema elbow-deep in making Portuguese Sweet Bread with the kids. This is a custom she brought with her from the old country, and is passing it along to our progeny. If you haven’t tasted this bread, you’ve missed out. Part of the Easter tradition is to bake the bread by placing a whole egg (representing life) on top of the bread dough and then baking it in the oven. The kids were having great fun kneading the dough with flour and sticky dough all over the kitchen counter and floor. But the end result is certainly worth it.

On Friday evening, we went to the Good Friday service at the Ripon Free Methodist Church with the kids in tow. We visited with folks outside following the service, allowing the young ones to run around on the grass for a while before hauling everyone home. Once safely ensconced in our house, I made popcorn for everyone. I do it the old-fashioned way by popping the kernels on the stove. Then we settled down to watch the beginning of the movie series entitled, “Anne of Green Gables.” All three kids loved it and didn’t want it to end. As we put them to bed, I once again read to them from Rush Revere, and they were out cold before I finished one chapter!

Saturday morning, we roused the kids in time to make it to the Easter Egg Hunt in Escalon. It was fun watching the dozens of children racing around the playground looking for eggs in the grass. On the drive back home, I asked the kids which they wanted me to make for brunch: waffles or pancakes? In unison from the back seat came, “Pancakes, please!” Admittedly, I am a purist when it comes to baking, which means I cook from scratch, having learned to do so from my grandmother.

Now, normally the kids would help me make the batter for the pancakes along with cooking the bacon, but this day they were more interested in continuing to watch Anne of Green Gables. If you haven’t ever watched this series, I recommend it, especially for your grandkids. It is entertaining, plus it re-enforces values that have seemingly been lost in out American culture. The topic of forgiveness is a strong theme throughout, along with courtesy, manners, respect, friendship, perseverance, and many other virtues and values not emphasized in today’s Hollywood fare. And if it is portrayed, it is usually mocked.

After consuming lots of pancakes, it was time to break out the packages of egg dye for the kids to have fun coloring the dozen or more eggs Meema had boiled for them. We had lots of giggles and laughs creating eggs of different colors, and adding glitter to some, and stickers to others. But what a mess! I still have glitter on my forearms!

All of this reminded me of what the Bible says about grandchildren. In Genesis 31:55, it says, “Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them.” Later on, Solomon would write this about grandchildren: “Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.” Ah! How true!

Isaura and I have been so very blessed by God with our two precious daughters, their stalwart husbands, and our delightful grandchildren.

Now, this all makes me wonder if at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Heaven, Jesus will also be serving pancakes!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
10 April 2017
www.chuckroots.com

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

               The year was 1988 when a song written by Bobby McFerrin hit the airwaves, entitled, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” This light-hearted, toe-tapping tune was an instant hit. T-shirts were worn with the song’s title and slogan emblazoned for all to see. Though the song was catchy, I never paid attention to the lyrics before.

          Worrying seems to be a part of the universal human condition. I have known far too many people, some in my own family, who firmly believe that the act of worry is their right. That they were born to worry. A wayward child, a lost job, needing a new car, a failing marriage, and so on creates an environment in the soul that is ripe for worry.

          The first verse in the song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” is profound in its understanding of our human dilemma. “In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double.” That line sums up the problem of worry: when you worry about someone or something, you are unable to help that person, that problem, or yourself. All the fussing and hand-wringing in the world does not alter the problem one iota. Truth be told – worry makes things worse. As the song says, worry causes your trouble to double!

          As a pastor, I often found myself addressing this stumbling block in the lives of many people who profess to know and love Jesus. The compulsion to worry is a faith killer. What do I mean by that? Worry stabs at the heart of trust. Too often we chuckle at the person who always worries about something. There are even those who would create something to worry about, if necessary!

          This is not intended to have some sort of Pollyannaish approach to life. Instead, I have learned to turn every care, concern, trouble, and worry over to the One who can thoroughly handle that which plagues me.

          Let’s take a look at why worry is a faith killer. God created us to be in relationship with him. Any relationship we have demands a certain degree of trust. I trust that the clerk at the store is charging me the right prices when I buy my groceries. I trust that the gasoline I put in my car has been processed properly. I trust the elevator company in the high-rise will run as designed, safely transporting me to my desired floor. I trust the pilot to fly the plane safely to my desired destination. I even have to trust other drivers to obey the traffic laws.

          So, let me use an apologetic approach to this argument. Since I believe that God loves me, and that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die for my sins, then I am fully accepting that my life is completely in his hands. It then stands to reason that I should be able to fully trust God with my life and everything that takes place throughout my life. God has made it very clear in his word, the Bible, that I am to trust him implicitly in all things, and any act of worry on my part is a red flag announcing that I don’t really trust God to handle my problem.

          Lest you think this is overly simplistic, I would then challenge you to prove the Bible says it’s okay for you to worry. Since that is not possible, let me tell you what the Bible says about not worrying.

          In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

          The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi (Greece), these words about their many anxieties and worries. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

          Worry is an all-out attack on your heart and mind, make no mistake about it. When you find yourself falling into the worry-trap, turn it all over to Jesus. Worry is a burden you were never designed to carry. Jesus can handle any and all problems you have.

          And have a wonderful Easter week! Jesus is Risen! After all, he defeated sin and death. My troubles are puny by comparison. No more worries!

Monday, April 03, 2017

Shop Till You Drop

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
3 April 2017
www.chuckroots.com

Shop Till You Drop

               Yes, I know it’s a hackneyed expression, but it was certainly true on this day. As I have mentioned in previous articles, my youngest daughter, Jenny Roots Sousa, owns a store in Turlock by the name of Rustic Roots. She opened for business nearly four years ago and has been very busy ever since.

          Her particular expertise is painting used or antique furniture to give it the popular “vintage” look, or what is commonly called “shabby chic.” Admittedly, I was a reluctant convert to this style, coming from the old school that says you don’t paint wooden furniture: you sand it, stain it, then Verathane it. Bring out the beauty of the grain! That’s the ticket! Ah, but that is not what is “in” today, or so I’m told.

          Being retired now for three years, I have been working Jenny’s store on Mondays. I make the 25-mile-drive to Turlock and spend the day greeting customers, helping answer questions, and finalizing the sales. It’s loads of fun and keeps me entertained on a day when the golf course is closed. When I report for work each Monday, I see a different store because a number of the furniture pieces from the previous week are sold and gone, only to be replaced by recent additions.

          With a constant turn-over of merchandise, Jenny must make buying trips to large flea market type places where she can select the items she wants to “re-create” with her unique artistic flair. On the first Sunday of each month there is a huge display of dealers’ wares at the old Naval Station in Alameda. There are acres of ground covered with row upon row of various items that store owners and vendors, such as Jenny, can acquire the needed items for their store. Then on the second Sunday of the month, there is another huge sale up in Sacramento.

          So, this past Sunday Jenny picked me up at 7:00am for the drive to Alameda in her pick-up truck. In anticipation of a long day of browsing through innumerable displays of wares under what promised to be a warm, sunny day, we were well equipped with coffee and water. The hour-plus drive into the East Bay of San Francisco (i.e., Oakland and Alameda) was uneventful. However, not having driven through this area in several years, both Jenny and I were shocked at how rundown the area had become. Homeless folks were everywhere living in abject squalor that reminded me of the many trashy areas I had witnessed throughout many third world countries. Add to that the ruination of the infrastructure made us feel that no roads or bridges in the Bay Area were safe. I have lived in or near the San Francisco Bay since 1969, yet this is the first time I felt that major population areas of the Bay were deteriorating to the point of total ruin. The state has not done the job of maintenance and upkeep of our primary means of travel. Hey! Sacramento! Wake up!

          So, back to shopping at the flea market. We paid the required nominal fee to enter, then rented a couple of oversized grocery carts and began the up-and-down, and back-and-forth crisscrossing of the various merchants’ stalls. Slowly at first, we bought a few items, but then, as we warmed to our purpose for being there, Jenny began to grab quite a few items so that after five hours we figured we had enough items to fill both the back of the pick-up and the extended cab. With a number of large furniture items, along with complimentary pieces that give the store its own charm, we began the challenge of packing all of this into the truck. With a fistful of bungee straps and rubber stretch cords, we began securing all of the pieces for the 70-mile drive back to the Valley. We were both ready to call it a day!

          As we drove out of the parking area to head for the exit from the former naval base, I suggested that Jenny drive up the road that ran alongside the old aircraft hangers so I could point out the hanger of the squadron where I had served after returning from Vietnam. The squadron was VMA 133, made up of T-A4s, the “T” signifying “Training” aircraft. In fact, at the former main gate entrance is mounted for display purposes “Old 00” (referred to affectionately as “Double-Nuts”). Having been an aviation electrician, I served in Maintenance Control where all work done on any aircraft is assigned. Looking upon this now unkempt former military base, I sighed and thought, “You know you’re getting old when the airplanes you used to work on are now on static display!”

          Before driving off the island of Alameda, I asked Jenny if she’d like to see where I used to live. She readily said yes, so I pointed her toward the west side of the island and onto Central Avenue and the cottage I lived in for a year-and-a-half from January of ’73 to August of ’74. The rent on this cute little cottage was $85/month back then. And as a sergeant E5 I was bringing in $470/month which included BAQ (Basic Allowance for Quarters) and COMRATS (Commuted Rations).  Sadly, the housing in the area is rather run down, but it was fun to show Jenny where I lived two years before I met her mother.

          It was a fun day and a sheer delight to spend it with my daughter, sharing past memories and thoughts from a time that now seems so very long ago.

Yet I am blessed beyond measure and consider my life all joy, for the Lord has been so very good to me. To God be the glory!

Psalm for the Day