Marines.Together We Served

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Let's Celebrate!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
6 August 2018

Let’s Celebrate!

          One of the prime focal points we find in the Bible is the intentional act of engaging in celebration. This means we are to participate in celebrating every aspect of life as God has ordained it.

          We often run into difficulty when life rolls us up in troubles of every kind. We lose perspective on our lives and how Jesus wants us to walk with him. We focus on the problem, the fear, the loss, the pain, or any other difficulty you would like to add. I would recommend you take some time to look through the Bible and see what it says about rejoicing. It will challenge you, trust me!

          In Philippians 4 we are admonished by the Apostle Paul, who was no stranger to physical ailments, beatings, stonings, ship wreck, and the like, to, “Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice!”

          As a minister and chaplain for forty years, I have witnessed the attitudes of Christians who had failed to connect with rejoicing. It was so clear that those who made it a point of rejoicing, especially in the hard times, had a completely different temperament than those who found it difficult to live out the command to rejoice.

          This attitude of rejoicing is never more critical than when the death of a loved one, or close friend occurs. On August 27th, my mother-in-law, Alda Cabral, passed away at age 85. For the past number of years, she has been dealing with a number of physical ailments. Her body had finally given up.

          Last Friday we held the funeral service for her at a church in her town of Los Banos, California, about 55 miles from our home. As the six siblings discussed the plans for a proper send off, it was emphasized that because their mom had accepted Jesus as her Savior, the service was to be a celebration!

          A real cute story best depicts this need to celebrate through rejoicing. The secretary of this church, whose name is Jen, was wonderful, as well as graciously patient in helping pull everything together. The youngest of the siblings is Judy, and this is her church. My mother-in-law attended a Portuguese church which was some distance away. Jen’s four-year-old daughter Alice, noticed a sadness about Miss Judy. She said to her mother, “Why is Miss Judy sad?” Her mother replied, “Miss Judy is sad because her mom has died.” To which Alice said, “Do you mean she has moved to heaven! Oh! She’s happy in heaven! I’m going to move to heaven too, but not today.” Out of the mouths of babes!

          When I am the minister responsible for a funeral I always focus on the joyfulness, the celebration of the occasion. When I know the person that has died was a Christian, having accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, it is much easier to celebrate. When I officiate over a funeral where I am unsure of the person’s eternal standing with God, it becomes exponentially more difficult.

          Since my wife and her family emigrated to the United States fifty-two years ago, the weddings and funerals I’m involved with are always bilingual. The Portuguese pastor, Eugenio Piacentini, and I have performed a total of six weddings/funerals jointly over the years. I will speak a few words in English, then pause while he translates into Portuguese. He’s very good, so we move along quite well. At times I get a bit lively in my delivery, but Eugenio comes right out with the same energy in Portuguese. A number of folks told us after the service that we should take our duo on the road! We enjoyed a laugh over that.

          Three of the daughters and two granddaughters each wrote a eulogy which they asked me to read for them. I enjoyed this part because there were lots of fun remembrances shared by all of them. There was laughter in the telling of these stories which has an amazingly positive effect on the whole ceremony. Maggie, one of the four daughters, had written how much her mom loved to shop at Gottchalks. Early on after settling in America, Maggie would go shopping at Gottchalks with her mom. Maggie was able to speak English well enough, whereas my mother-in-law never quite got the hang of it. But Alda loved to barter. She told Maggie, “I want to barter with this sales girl.” Maggie responded, “Mom, you can’t do that! That was fine in the old country, but this is a large corporation!” Her mom was not deterred, and still attempted to barter price with the sales girl.

          Later at the committal service graveside, I asked the question in my best stentorian voice, “Where is Alda Cabral? Has anyone seen her? No?” I then went on to explain that according to Scripture, Alda is in heaven. And that is cause for great rejoicing!

          Jesus makes this promise to all believers in John 14, “In my Father’s House are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

          That is cause for great rejoicing, and eternal praise and celebration! Four-year-old Alice has that all figured out. Do you?

Monday, July 23, 2018

I'm Back

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
23 July 2018

I’m Back

          Many of you have contacted me over the past three months to inquire about my weekly column, Roots in Ripon. In mid-April I decided to take a break from writing the articles since my brother, John, was coming out from Virginia for a visit and a lot of golf. This included a jaunt to Nampa, Idaho to connect with out cousin Jimmy. I wanted to enjoy the time with them without the ever-encroaching demand of another article.

          However, the primary reason for not writing my articles had to do with the newspaper that was carrying my column. For a not-yet-explained reason, despite my numerous inquiries, the paper made it plain to me that they wanted me gone. For 15 years I have written this column, first for the Ripon Record, which folded in 2015, and then with the Manteca Bulletin for two years. During those fifteen years I never once failed to submit an article. This included my two years being recalled for the Iraq War, flying over the Pacific, Atlantic and most major continents. I served at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton (California); Camp Commando, Kuwait; I MEF Headquarters, Babylon, Iraq; and Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa.

          In the current environment of our nation, I’m led to believe that my conservative views politically, and my religious views as an Evangelical Christian, are no longer welcomed within the print media, or few other places for that matter. I am dismayed by this as it is clearly a sign of the times. Not so many years back, we could have healthy debates and dialogue, engaging in the give-and-take of differing points of view, yet coming away as friends despite our differences. Not so today! The attitude seems to be, “If you don’t agree with me, then you’re the enemy!”

          Think about it! Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, was having a quiet dinner a few weeks ago with her husband and extended family in a local restaurant. Because she works directly with and for President Trump, Sarah was told she was not welcome in the restaurant, The Red Hen. She and her husband left, driving home. The rest of the family adjourned to another restaurant across the street. They were followed by staff of the Red Hen and harassed there as well!

          Pam Bondi, Florida’s Attorney General, was confronted by several belligerent men while she and her boyfriend were attempting to enter a movie theater. This was an effort to intimidate. These goons taunted her boyfriend, calling him out to defend her. This went on for several minutes, with the men even spitting on her because she is politically conservative and is a Trump supporter. The foul language they used was revolting.

          Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was having a working dinner with her staff at a Washington, DC Mexican Restaurant. A band of protestors heckled her for her supposed position on illegal immigration.

          Then there was the seventeen-year-old kid who was approached in a fast-food restaurant by a middle-aged man who ripped the kids red MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat off his head, and then threw the contents of his soda cup in the kids face. The man walked away taunting the kid and stealing his hat. The good news is, someone videoed the encounter, so when it went viral, his bosses at the bar where he works as a bartender, fired him.

          Congresswoman Maxine Waters, has been on a rant, publicly calling for her constituents in her Los Angeles district to harass, harangue, and in every way confront and badger anyone who voted for or supports President Trump. She exhorted these followers to surround the homes of these Conservatives, chanting and creating havoc so they could not get any sleep. In essence, there is no place in her world for those with differing views.

          Civil Discourse seems to be a thing of the past. The rudeness and abusiveness of those who think differently makes the possibility of the old saying, “ Let’s agree to disagree,” no longer viable. In the 1980s during the eight years of the presidency of Ronald Reagan, it was well known that he and Tip O’Neil, 47th Speaker of the House of Representatives, though on different sides of the fence politically, nonetheless, were good friends, often getting together in the evening to share a drink.

          I am reminded of what the Bible says about our speech and the power of the tongue. One of my favorite translations of the Bible is called, The Message. It is quite contemporary in its use of the language. Speaking of the dangers of that funny little muscle that lives tucked away in our mouths – the tongue – James writes, “This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue – it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!”

We are admonished by Paul in his letter to the church in Colossae to “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them up.”

Let’s agree to push back against the viciousness that permeates today’s discourse. Let’s do it God’s way. Be gracious and civil. King David perhaps said it best in Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”

Monday, April 09, 2018

I'll Take Heaven

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
9 April 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

I’ll Take Heaven

My topic today is something I never imagined I would write about if I had not watched the news and read the published accounts of what took place.

The question then is, “What exactly happened?” This is where it gets a little bit murky. I’m talking about the recent news story attributing to Pope Francis remarks he allegedly made in which he appears to suggest that Hell does not really exist. As you might surmise, battle lines have been drawn over the issue of where the Pope stands concerning the existence of Hell.

Well, whether he said those exact words, or implied Hell does not exist, is something for each person to decide for themselves. I am not attempting to defend or be critical of the Pope. He made remarks to a journalist who is a long-time friend of his in an interview last month. It is important to note that this Italian journalist is an avowed atheist (there is no God), and does not take notes, nor use recording devices in his interviews.

However, from other interviews and comments the Pope has made over the years it seems as though he has theological leanings that do not always square with the Bible, or with Catholic doctrine. From what is reported the Pontiff has said that those who earnestly seek God with a whole heart will enjoy His presence in Heaven forever. On the other hand, those who are outside of the faith will disappear. They will not suffer the torments of Hell for eternity. They will no longer exist.

Such a position has a name within theological circles. It’s called Annihilationism (also known as extinctionism, or destructionism). The soul of the person who has rejected God in Christ will be judged at the Final Judgement. When it is determined that the person being judged has rejected God, then that person will pass into a condition where they no longer exist.

The position of annihilationism may bring a modicum of comfort to those who fear for the eternal loss of a loved one by suggesting they no longer exist. It is difficult to fathom, and painful to imagine a loved one suffering in Hell for eternity, I grant you that. But, if the Bible is correct and true, and is God’s holy word, then my discomfort with an endless eternity of suffering for those who are lost, is moot.

This brings out another problem within the broader church worldwide today. Too often unpopular doctrine firmly based upon biblical teaching, is ignored or replaced with a new doctrine which carries little or no biblical support.

For instance, it is popular today to suggest that all religions, faiths, doctrines, creeds, and so forth are as valid as any other. The popular bumper sticker COEXIST is printed in such a way as to use symbols from various world religions and beliefs to infer that we should all just be able to get over our differences and get along. That sounds wonderful on the surface, but totally impracticable in its implementation. A cursory review of the texts deemed holy by any of these beliefs will quickly identify the fly-in-the-ointment, so to speak. Islam, which is bent on world domination, cannot and does not want to get along with anybody, especially Christians and Jews. The very first chapter (Surah 1) of the Koran (Qur’an, if you like), attacks Christians and Jews, claiming that Allah is angry with them. That would be a little bit difficult to ignore, don’t you think?

Whether the Pope said Hell does not exist, or implied it, or didn’t make any such comment, is irrelevant in the final analysis. True, to faithful Catholics he is the Vicar of Christ, the bodily representation of Christ on earth. This would then beg the question: If he is the representation of Christ on earth, would he not be in error to go against two thousand years of Christian doctrine by asserting that lost souls merely disappear, and not suffer for eternity? The Bible is crystal clear on several points. First, there really is a Hell. Second, the ruler of this dreadful place is Satan, the devil. Third, Jesus warns of Hell throughout his three plus years of earthly ministry. Fourth, the Apostle John wrote the final book in the Bible, Revelation. You cannot escape the reality of Hell reading through the twenty-two chapters of this hair-raising epistle.

Someone might say, “Well, I don’t believe in the Bible.” Fine. Then what do you believe in? And what is that belief based on? You see, I accept the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. That he loved me and died on a cross for my sins so that I might know him personally, experience his forgiveness, and live with him for eternity in Heaven. That’s why the message of the Bible, the Gospel, is referred to as Good News!

Another reason I believe what the Bible says is that Jesus rose from the dead. Anyone who can do that has my attention! And I figure he ought to know. If he says there’s a Hell, then there’s a Hell.

Someone might want to imply that I surely grew up in an environment where the Bible was used to make me fearful and cower under the thunderous preaching of the fire-breathing preachers. Nope! Not my experience. In fact, my brother, sister and I grew up in a very liberal environment. Church? To be decided when we were older. Playboy magazine was on the coffee table. Conversation in the home and around the dinner table ran the gamut of topics.

I accepted Jesus as my Savior at twenty-four. You see, for me, Heaven seemed a much better place to spend eternity.  

Monday, April 02, 2018

An Extraordinary Gift

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
2 April 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

An Extraordinary Gift

It came from out of nowhere. The fragility of life, with its many twists and turns, at times flowing along with unannounced, undemanding companionship, while at other times crashing into the calm waters of our existence in a totally disruptive, petulant manner, forcing the unsuspecting person to take notice of the immediacy of an insistent problem that must be addressed, regardless of the person’s pedigree, status, or station in life.

Sometime in the 1990s, as I recall, we became aware of our niece’s health being compromised by the onset of diabetes. Abi was in her teenage years, only to discover that she was now medically classified as a brittle diabetic. Over the next several decades she ran the gauntlet of sugar spikes, constant finger pricks, trips to the ER, all the while coming to grips with the reality that this failure of her body to produce the necessary amounts of insulin would most likely end badly for her.

Last November her kidneys reached the end of their usefulness, forcing her to enter into an aggressive program of dialysis treatments. In the meantime, the medical staff said she would need a new kidney and a new pancreas. Her name was entered on the waiting list in hopeful anticipation that parts would be available. It became a wait-and-see game, only this game was deadly serious.

A few weeks ago, our family was notified that a donor was available to give her a kidney. We were excited and relieved. A kidney meant hope, and possibly buying time until a pancreas donor could be had. The surgery was scheduled for April 10. Shortly after this announcement, the surgery was cancelled. Abi valiantly continued showing up for work, only the dialysis treatments and general fatigue of her body’s battle left her drained.

Then last Tuesday evening, Abi received a call from the hospital announcing that they had a deceased 20-year-old, the victim of a homicide, and that she needed to come in right away. My brother drove her to the hospital where she was prepped for the surgery the next day. The pancreas and kidney transplant took five hours and was a total success. The medical team that has been working with Abi could hardly contain their joy, even commenting, medically speaking, that Abi had hit the lottery.

As of this writing, Abi is doing wonderfully well. The day following the surgery they had her up and walking around the ward. The kidney is functioning beautifully, relieving her of the need for any more dialysis treatments. Add to that, the report from the doctors declares that the pancreas is pumping out insulin, causing the doctors to affirm that Abi is no longer a diabetic!

Over the next few weeks Abi will need to give her body plenty of time to recover from this invasive surgery. The company she works for has been very supportive of her during this ordeal and is holding her job for her until she is well enough to return.

Among the many amazing facets throughout this ordeal is that Abi was actually third on the list for organ transplant. However, because she was needing a double-transplant, she was moved to the top of the list. The medical rationale for this decision is based upon a donor who could provide both needed organs. The body has a much better chance of accepting the new organs if they are from the same donor. A kidney could be donated by a live donor, but a pancreas meant that someone would have to die.

We do not know who the deceased donor is, and probably never will know, but this extraordinary gift has meant that my niece will live. The family of this donor is grieving the loss of their loved one. They were willing to make a decision to allow their child’s organs to be used by others. As I understand it, besides the pancreas and kidney received by Abi, the other kidney was donated to another recipient, and still another person received the heart. All precious, life-saving gifts!

Obviously as a family we are overjoyed that Abi is no longer riding the edge of uncertainty regarding her enormous health issues. Many tears of relief and joy have been shed during this past week. Our church folks and friends have been faithfully praying for Abi and our family throughout this ordeal. Prior to the start of our Easter service Sunday morning, I was standing outside the front door of the church just reflecting on how grateful I am knowing Abi is enjoying a level of wellness she hasn’t experienced in a very long time. One of the ladies of the church was walking toward the door. Recognizing me, she asked, “How is Abi doing? I’ve been praying for her every day!” This was only the first of many who were asking about my niece. I must tell you that it touched me deeply, bringing tears of appreciation to my eyes for the faithful prayers of these fellow travelers.

As it was Easter Week, I couldn’t miss the similarity of what our family experienced and the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. For Abi to live, it was necessary that someone else die. And that’s the meaning of Easter. In order for you and me to live, Jesus needed to die. But the best news is, death could not hold him!

Hallelujah! He is risen!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Easter: Fact or Fiction?

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
26 March 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

Easter: Fact or Fiction?

If you are a regular reader of my column then you know that I am a professing Christian. To more precisely identify the type of Christian I am you would want to use words like: evangelical, born again, Bible-believing, Jesus follower.

So, it comes as no surprise that I firmly believe in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. And this weekend is the Christian celebration of Jesus’ sacrificial death on a Roman cross, followed by his miraculous resurrection from the dead.

Can such an event really be proven? This question is frequently asked, most frequently by skeptics, but also by those who want to know but really have no means of tracking down conclusive evidence.

Because our world for the past 200 years has focused in on science and the answers it frequently discovers about our world and the universe we live in, people have been conditioned to expect that proof for anything must be measured by some sort of testing under specific conditions measured in a laboratory. If that is your means of proving anything, then you already know that God, and the existence of God, cannot be measured in this way. He is not going to be reduced to a microscope’s magnification of germs captured between glass slides, or culture cells in a Petri dish. If the discovery of God was so easily reduced to scientific lab results, can you honestly say you’d be impressed with this God?

Let’s consider instead another means of establishing the existence of a thing. Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that studies the question of what it means to exist. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with questions of knowledge and the existence of the world, which includes ontology, cosmology, and epistemology. Such philosophical disciplines are exhausting and can often leave the inquirer more confused than before.

My purpose is to simply look at some of those arguments for the existence of God, followed logically by the life and ministry of Jesus.

One of the arguments for the existence for God is intelligent design. A useful analogy has often been used to explain the necessity for the existence of God. The analogy goes like this: “Just as a watch demands a watchmaker, so the Universe demands a God.” This is not a conclusive argument, but it does convey the basic thesis that the obvious order exhibited throughout our universe strains the credibility of disorder (Big Bang Theory) creating order.

Another argument for the existence of God is found in the hypothesis that an individual is entirely incapable of even thinking of God unless a sovereign God places such a thought in the mind of that individual, and therefore the whole human race.

One final argument for God’s existence is the argument from creation. Have you never stood in awe while soaking in the spectacular colors splashed across the horizon at sunset? Or stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon as the Colorado River meanders by a full mile below? Or been amazed by the design, function and usefulness of the thumb?

In more recent times, the discovery of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), “a self-replicating material which is present in nearly all living organisms as the main constituent of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.” Last summer my wife and I had our DNA tested. From a few drops of spittle, and nothing else, the researchers of my DNA knew exactly where my ancestors came from, and where they migrated in America. And this DNA which is impossible to see without powerful microscopes, contains all the information necessary for my existence.

The Bible asks the rhetorical question: “Is anything too difficult for God?” The answer is No. So, that means if God chose to bring about the salvation of sinful humans, and he wished to demonstrate the full force of his love for us, then would it not stand to reason that he would provide the means by which you and I could be saved?

God chose to pay the price himself. He was willing to sacrifice his own son, Jesus, to open the door for each and every person to receive his forgiveness, and with that, the promise of eternal life with him in heaven forever.

“But we don’t know that to be empirically true,” someone might argue. And I would agree. Neither you nor I saw Jesus during his earthly ministry. But we have written records of those who did see him. Many of these witnesses were so utterly convinced of his death and resurrection that they were willing to die in their firm belief.

Two thousand years of Christians have embraced Jesus Christ, many martyred for their faith in him. You see, those Christians all knew something special. Jesus is not dead. He is not in the tomb. He is alive! And that’s a fact!

When Mary and the other women came to the tomb of Jesus to anoint him in burial, they did not see him. An angel spoke these words of hope to them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen!”

He has risen indeed! Happy Easter!

Monday, March 19, 2018

An Act of Political Courage

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
19 March 2018
The Ripon Bulletin

An Act of Political Courage

As an amateur student of history, and in particular American History, I have always been amazed at the manner in which the United States of America came into existence. How were these colonialists of the seventeen hundred’s in what was known then simply as America, able to come together from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and form a more “perfect union”?

In the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, we read these enduring words: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence (British spelling of defense), promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
What I should like to point out in this Preamble is the focus on the wording. The Founding Fathers purposefully wrote a Constitution that was for all Americans and was intended to last into perpetuity. That means it’s as relevant today in providing America with a basis for rights and liberties as it was the day it was drafted in 1787.

Enjoying the comforts of a prosperous nation such as we have become, fogs the image of embattled patriots encamped against the most powerful monarch in the world at that time (King George III), and the most powerful army, the British Redcoats. Yet fully two-thirds of the colonists were preparing themselves to resist Britain, even if it meant war.

The Constitution was written for the American colonists, but it was also written to King George as a challenge that these colonists who had been mistreated and denigrated as second class British subjects, had had enough. That is not to say that all Americans were wanting to push back against the oppression of the British crown. Some were willing to grovel and fawn before the power of the rule of Britain.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his “Summary View of the Rights of British America” in 1774, these words of challenge that he knew full-well would be read by the king. “Let those flatter, who fear. It is not an American art form.” Americans do not, and will not, ever bow to a head of state, including our own. In fact, George Washington would not hear of being made King of America, as some petitioned. And he had the foresight to recommend for the presidency no more than two four-year terms.   

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The delegates from the original thirteen states set in motion the eventual undoing of slavery with these words, “All men are created equal.” To them, the truths that were self-evident, were truths ordained by God so that the entirety of the human race would recognize that all humans are of one family. To oppose such an understanding, or to treat others as lesser beings, is in direct contradiction to what God had declared in Holy Scripture.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” It’s at this point, these final words of the Declaration of Independence, that the signers on this hallowed document laid everything on the line. The year was 1776, and the Revolutionary War was already underway. In fact, the outcome was in serious doubt.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, all knew what they were getting into. If the colonists should lose the war, then they would be hung, shot, or otherwise dispatched from this earth. The best they could hope for was to be captured, returned to England for a trial and then executed in some hideous manner. The members of the 2nd Continental Congress had been arguing over many issues. Once the Declaration was finished and all agreed to sign it, a comment was made to Benjamin Franklin that they must all hang together in a show of unity. Is said that Franklin responded with this quip: “We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately.”

Though these men were of varying backgrounds, educational levels, even places of birth (some born in Britain, while most were born in America), and though they did not agree on all issues (slavery, for instance), they also realized if they had any chance to be free from the oppressive rule of Britain they must, at all cost, come together in unity. And they did!

The signers of the Declaration were not revealed until January of 1777, following General George Washington’s Christmas victory in the Battle of Trenton (NJ), and in early January, the Battle of Princeton (also NJ).

The Revolutionary War would last until 1783, but the die was cast. The army Washington commanded would indeed defeat the vaunted British crack troops, and America would be reborn as the United States of America, all because a few dozen patriots were willing to give up everything they had in life, including their own lives, to establish for the world the “land of the free, and the home of the brave!”