Marines.Together We Served

Monday, February 26, 2018

Well Done, Billy

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
26 February 2018
www.chuckroots.com
The Ripon Bulletin

Well Done, Billy

If ever there was a person to emulate, it would have been Billy Graham. This past week, Reverend Graham breathed his last on this side of heaven, leaving the cares of this mortal life behind at age 99.

There are few names that are known world-wide, but Billy Graham is among those few. His ministry has been, by any measure, phenomenal. His compassionate delivery of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to millions around the globe through his crusades are the stuff of legends.

Billy Graham was truly an inspiration to those of us who lived through the many decades of his ministry. Whether or not you believe in the Gospel which Billy Graham preached, it cannot be denied that he faithfully proclaimed the Good News right to the end of his life. There was nothing phony about him. He is the real deal.

How many people of every race, tongue, and tribe around the world have accepted Jesus as their Savior because of this man’s ministry? Year after year his Billy Graham Crusades filled stadiums and arenas around the world. At the end of each sermon, an invitation would be offered to anyone desiring to accept Jesus. Having attended a couple of crusades, and even working in one in San Jose in the early 1980s, I was impressed with the simplicity of his delivery, while at the same time the winsomeness of Christ was unmistakable in his appeal to sinners.

We Christians often get excited about what it will be like when we get to heaven. A verse from a song by a Christian singer known as Honeytree several decades ago rings in my mind. She wrote, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace! I wanna see my Savior’s face, ‘cause Heaven is a wonderful place! I wanna go there!” Well, Billy Graham must have experienced that wonderful reception when he stepped across that great divide between here and eternity. I suspect that after he has seen Jesus face-to-face for the first time, he will then begin the time of being greeted by those who accepted Jesus at his crusades. He may be busy for a while!

I never had any personal contact with Rev. Graham other than he walked within an arm’s length of where I was serving in the San Jose Crusade. My mother attended the Oakland Crusade in 1972 where she committed her life to Jesus. The Lord must have been working on both my mother and me at the same time. I was overseas then, totally unaware of my mother’s decision. A few months later I gave my life to Christ at a Christian Serviceman’s Center (the ministry known today as “Cadence”) in Yokosuka, Japan.

Over the years my wife, Isaura, has told me how when she and her family immigrated to the United States from the Azores, Portugal in 1966, she needed to learn to speak English so she could fit in in this new language and culture. She studied hard, picking up on the language quickly.

What amazed her was after only being in America six months, listening to Billy Graham on the radio or television, she found that his speech delivery was so basic that she could understand what he was saying, bringing her great comfort and hope as she acclimated to her new home in America.

Wanting to learn all I could about living for Jesus, I naturally looked to Billy Graham shortly after receiving Christ as my Savior. I learned some valuable lessons about his life which I still adhere to to this day. One of those is Billy would never meet with a woman who needed counseling with the door to his office closed. His secretary could always look in through the partially open door to confirm nothing untoward was taking place. This protected the reputations of both Mr. Graham and the woman. I have held to the same practice throughout my years of pastoral ministry and military chaplaincy.

Another stroke of wisdom which Billy insisted upon was during his many travels, he would often be staying in hotels. As he became increasingly popular world-wide the concern for someone wanting to sully his reputation would increase. So, before he would walk into his hotel room, his staff would check it out from top to bottom to ensure that there were no surprises which could wind up on the front page of the tabloids.

When it came to Scripture he would read through the Book of Psalms, the book of Proverbs, and the Four Gospels each month. This way he covers the vast array of life experiences as portrayed in the 150 Psalms; the wisdom found in the 31 chapters in Proverbs; and the life, ministry and words of Jesus in the combined 89 chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I have found this practice to be immensely helpful in my own life, and in ministering to others in their time of need. 

And then there’s this final action he insisted upon from the inception of his ministry in 1949. So as to be sure his ministry could never be proven to have mishandled funds in any way, he had the IRS audit the books of the Billy Graham Association every single year.

In my estimation, Billy Graham was without peer. We’re not likely to see someone like him again for quite some time, if ever.

And now he has heard God say to him over in glory, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your rest.”

Well done, indeed, Billy! Thank you for your faithfulness. See you in glory!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Norway in My Heart

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 February 2018
www.chuckroots.com
The Ripon Bulletin

Norway in My Heart

I have been deliberating with myself as to what topic I should address in this week’s article. There is the tragedy of yet another school shooting, this time in Florida, where a lone gun-toting teenager entered his former high school intent on mayhem and bloodshed. Believe me, this is a topic I could spend countless articles expounding, but my heart just isn’t in it right now.

There is the ever-pernicious Russian Collusion, raising its ugly head yet again with a report from the State Department indicting thirteen Russians and three Russian companies, charging them with attempting to influence the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election. Interestingly, the point was made that no Americans were involved in any collusion effort. This story was scrapped because it has become tiresome, with a media that is boorish in their frantic attempts to pin something, anything on this president in a strained effort to tear President Trump down.

Rather, the highlight of the week for me has been the Winter Olympics, held this year in Pyeongchang, South Korea. I am always fascinated by the dedication and toughness Olympic athletes demonstrate, whether in the Winter or Summer Games, spending countless hours training just for the opportunity to compete against others in your chosen discipline. I will say that I’m glad the two games have been rotated so that one of the games is held every two years instead of the old format where the Summer Olympics were quickly followed a few months later by the Winter Olympics. Then you had a four-year wait for this pattern to repeat itself.

Admittedly, I enjoy the Summer games to the Winter, but both are great to watch. Having spent two years in Norway in my early teens, I learned to appreciate some different sports than what was offered back in the U.S. The games that we played in Norway were primarily of the winter sport variety, such as cross-country skiing, ice hockey, slalom skiing, downhill racing, and speed skating. Many more winter sports have been added since the early ‘60s. Snow-boarding in a variety of forms is a big one.

So, I’m turning on the TV early in the week and already Norway has launched into a massive lead in the medals count. As of this writing, Norway has amassed 26 medals. In second place is Germany with 18 medals, followed by Canada with 16. The U.S. is presently in 6th place with 10 medals. Even South Korea has 6 medals, three of which are gold. That’s very exciting for the host country.

I am a member of the Overseas Brats which consists of kids of military families who at one point attended a Department of Defense school somewhere around the globe. For the past thirty years or so, many of the Brats have been gathering each year somewhere in the U.S. to have a reunion. Last fall it was in Huntsville, Alabama, which I wrote about in an article entitled, “Vikings Rule!” (www.chuckroots.com, September 25, 2017).

The school I attended in Norway was called the Oslo American School (OAS). Though one of the smallest schools in number, the kids from OAS always seem to outnumber the kids from schools elsewhere. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company at these reunions. And we keep in touch throughout the year, mostly by Internet.

So, when the Norwegians began to rack up the medals, we OASers began group texting each other, excited to cheer on our adopted country, Norway. It’s rather stunning to see Norway cleaning up in these winter games when they have a population of just over five million. Especially when you compare them to the United States, Russia, China, and Canada. But skiing and skating are more than winter games in Norway. It is a part of everyday life. I used to ski about a half-mile to the bus stop for school. I’d strap the skis to the side of the bus and ride the hour-and-a-half to school. I would pack my ice skates in my backpack so we could play ice hockey during lunch (I still have scars to prove it!). Parents would glide along on their skis with their toddler standing on the parent’s skis while being held up by the hand by the parent. Kids sometimes learned the balance of skiing before they learned the balance of walking.

The two most exciting events for me this week was watching the women’s cross-country relay ski race and the men’s as well. Both had the Norwegians lagging well behind the Russians, or the dreaded Swedes. In each race, the Norwegian athlete overcame the gap and raced to the finish line earning the gold medal.

I know it probably doesn’t mean anything to you. But to Brats who lived in this northern country for a time, it is special. We were lamenting in out texts that we wished we still had our wooden skis, or wooden ice hockey stick. OASer Steve Robinson reminded us that he took ski lessons from the 1960 Norwegian Olympic slalom champion, Tom Murstad. A lesson cost about $1.40!

Of course, we all want to see the United States do well in the Olympics, and there’s another week still to go. But there’s a soft spot in our hearts for the athletes of Norway. And there always will be.

OASer Maryl Ball Sellman summed it up best: “We have so many wonderful memories from Norway. I think that’s why we all get together every year, just to hold onto them.”

Amen, Maryl, amen!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Homage to Patrick Henry

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
12 February 2018
www.chuckroots.com
The Ripon Bulletin

Homage to Patrick Henry

School was a drudgery for me. I don’t mean the school itself. My teachers were very patient and helpful. The teachers I had throughout elementary, junior and senior high always dressed well. The men wore a coat and tie, and the ladies wore dresses or skirt/blouse combos. I wanted to like the subjects, such as math, science, English composition, and so on, but it was a continuous struggle for me to earn the barest of passing grades.

The one subject I always gravitated to was history. World history, Ancient history, American history – it didn’t matter. It was fascinating to me how others lived their lives and dealt with life’s challenges.

In particular, I loved American history, and still do to this day. Of special interest to me is the Revolutionary period from 1770-1790. This was the time of trial for an emerging nation faced with internal conflict and external threat from the parent nation, Great Britain, forcing the colonists to kowtow to the King of England and the pernicious offing’s of a self-absorbed monarchy . . . or else!

The colonists who were already settled in New England and the eastern seaboard enjoyed a thriving commercial venture with the parent nation, England. Tea, tobacco, and cotton were just a few of the products brought in or shipped out of the colonies. However, the government of England ignored the growing complaints from the slighted colonists who took umbrage to the fact that their attempts at being heard suffered a cold shoulder by a callous, uncaring monarchy. Instead, they were given short-shrift, often never giving audience to distant aggrieved loyal American subjects. Some historians suggest that as many as one third of the colonists were opposed to war with Britain.

These American colonists were faithful to the British crown, believing that their hard work and steadfast dedication as subjects to an ever-growing British influence world-wide would be to their benefit. Such wishful thinking was not to be.

Colonists struggled under the increasing taxation levied against them. In addition, they resented the heavy-handed manner imposed by a British military requiring by force the housing of troops in American homes against the will of the home owners. Further grievances included a deaf ear from the British parliament concerning a myriad of issues the colonists felt were wrongly imposed on them. Thus, the cry of “No Taxation without Representation” was given a voice. A forced religious acceptance (the Church of England), a free press, and a host of other protests were gaining traction within the American colonies.

So, on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood to speak at St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia. It is often listed as the “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!” speech. The British army and navy had amassed along the shoreline of Virginia. This was not a church service, or a meeting of the congregants. No, this was a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention, meeting in a church far away from the capital which was then Williamsburg. In so doing, the delegates hoped not to incite reprisals from the British Lieutenant Governor.

Patrick Henry listened to various speakers, all recommending supplication to the British crown. Henry had heard enough of this blather. He is literally disgusted with the quisling attitude of his fellow Americans colonists.

In the remainder of this article I will share snippets of Patrick Henry’s speech. It should genuinely stir a flow of patriotic blood coursing through your veins.

“MR. PRESIDENT: No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do, opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely, and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony . . . Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offence, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

“They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? . . . Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. There is a just God who presides over the destiny of nations . . . The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, 'Peace, Peace,' but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

          What a patriot!

Monday, February 05, 2018

Making Some Sushi

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
05 February 2018
www.chuckroots.com
The Ripon Bulletin

Making Some Sushi

The article I wrote last week ended with me attempting to use chop sticks for the first time in a Japanese home in Hiroshima, valiantly attacking a sticky rice ball in clear broth. Mr. Shaw Fuji, or Fuji-san as I called him, became a good friend. On those weekends that I had off, I would grab the train and spend the weekend at his home.

          His was a traditional Japanese home. He and I would sit cross-legged on a tatami mat with a table before us for drinks and food. I say it was a traditional home because Fuji-san’s wife was only seen when she brought in another heated bottle of sake (Japanese rice wine), or food. Otherwise, I never saw her. We would sit and have lengthy conversations about all sorts of topics, consuming quite a bit of sake. Sake is served hot, and goes down very smoothly.

          I discovered that he studied English solely in Japan. He never traveled to an English-speaking country, or attended an English-speaking school. He was proficient enough to be a teacher of English. His command of the English language was indeed admirable. I asked him one time what the Japanese thought about the United States having dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki to force an end to World War Two. He was thoughtful for a few moments, and then said, “We don’t talk about it, really. But, if we had had the bomb, we would have used it on you.”

Since he taught in a high school, from time-to-time I would meet some of his students. On one occasion he introduced me to two teenage girls from one of his classes. I smiled, shaking their hand, saying, “My name is Chuck-san.” Both girls immediately started tittering, looking from me to Fuji-san and back to me while holding their hand over their mouth (it’s considered impolite for them to show their teeth). This puzzled me, so I asked Fuji-san, “Why are they giggling?” He smiled and said, “Well, in Japanese, Chuck (or it’s equivalent sound) means zipper.” I’m not sure if I turned red at that point, but I suspect I did!

One evening Fuji-san said, “Let’s go to a sushi bar.” Sounded good to me, so we left the house and walked to the local sushi bar which I learned was a favorite of his. It was early in the evening, so we were the only customers at the time. We sat at the bar watching the chef put together a platter of sushi for the two of us. I was intrigued at the way the chef sliced and diced various sea food and vegetables for the fingers of rice on the platter (the finger of rice is an oblong, compacted mound of rice). The next thing I knew, the chef was beckoning me to join him behind the counter. Sounded good to me, so I jumped up and made my way around the counter. After scrubbing my hands at the sink, he handed me an apron which I put on and stood beside him where he taught me to make the rice fingers. He then showed me how to slice the different kinds of raw fish to go atop the rice, including sea weed. I was really getting into it when I heard the door open. Looking up I saw a Japanese couple standing there, awe-struck, staring at this white guy from America with a Marine high-and-tight haircut, making sushi. The expression on their faces was priceless! Unsure at first, they finally decided to come in and sit. They even ate the sushi I had prepared. That was a special moment for me!

Since I was unfamiliar with many of the customs of Japan, I learned an embarrassing lesson at the Fuji home. Wishing to take a bath, Fuji-san showed me where the tub was. After the house was quiet that evening, I stepped into the bathing room. I noticed an odd shaped tub full of hot water. I stuck a toe in to test just how hot it was. It was hot! Well, I figured that if these folks could take a really hot bath, then so could I. The warning signs went off in my head, and the good sense that God gave me was over-ruled by my declaring to no one but myself, that I’m a Marine, and I’m tough, and I can do this!

When I was done, I looked a lot liked a boiled lobster. I dried myself off, drained the tub and went to sleep on the tatami mat. The next morning Fuji-san came into the room smiling. He asked if I had slept well. I assured him that I had. He proceeded to inform me that the hot water I bathed in and then drained is their supply of hat water for use throughout the day. What I failed to realize was there was a pitcher for dipping the hot water and then pouring it over your body on the ceramic tile flooring. Then you soaped yourself down and rinsed with more hot water. The water would then run down to a drain at a low spot on the floor. I felt really foolish. I don’t know If I was still red from the hot bath the previous night, or I was just red from embarrassment, but it was a painful lesson.

It was about eight months later that I was back in Japan playing football for the Subic Bay Admirals (from Subic Bay Naval Base, the Philippines) when I walked into a Christian Servicemen’s Center in Yokosuka. I heard the Gospel presented in such a way that I simply knew I had to make my decision to trust Christ as my Savior that night.

I have always been amused with the realization that I was born and raised in the most Christian nation in the world, and yet I had spurned Christ and the Gospel. Yet at the age of twenty-four and a sergeant in the Marine Corps, I find myself accepting Jesus in perhaps the most closed nation to the Gospel in the world.
Many years later as a Navy chaplain I would return to Japan numerous times while the command chaplain of the supply ship, the USS White Plains (AFS4). More on that later.

Psalm for the Day