Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

One Gave All

I just came home from the funeral service for Corporal Michael D. Anderson of Modesto. This Marine was twenty-one years old when he was killed clearing bad guys out of buildings in Fallujah two weeks ago.

To my knowledge, this is the first service member killed in action in the Modesto area. Since I’ve been serving around the globe myself these last two years, I don’t know how true this is. However, if the turn-out for Mike’s funeral is an indication, I’d say this information is correct.

On Saturday, Christmas afternoon, I put on my Navy blue uniform and drove to Salas Funeral Home in Modesto. When I drove into the parking lot, I noticed a news crew interviewing someone out front. I walked inside to meet any family that might be present. I was told the father, Mike Sr., was being interviewed outside. I didn’t have long to wait before he came in. I expressed my condolences and appreciation for his son’s sacrifice and offered to help the family in any way I could. He asked me if I would share some words at the funeral service Monday morning. I was honored.

Driving home I couldn’t help but marvel at the courage of the family. It’s painful enough to have the responsibility of burying your son, but to also have his viewing on Christmas Day and the day after seems unbearable.

This morning I dressed once again in my Navy blues and made the ten-mile drive to Calvary Temple. I met with the pastors who would be officiating, and we made the necessary arrangements to be certain everything was covered. Turned out I would be sharing my remarks just before Pastor Joe Wright gave the message.

From where I sat at the base of the steps leading to the platform, I immediately noticed that the entire ground floor seating was filled. Calvary Temple is a big church. The service had a number of testimonials, scripture, prayer, and a video of Mike. When Pastor Joe had put the amen on his sermon, the people began the slow process of passing by the casket, greeting the family and others who had come to show their respects and honor this fallen Marine. There were, of course, Marines present in their Dress Blue uniform, and several Navy personnel, also in uniform. Units from the Modesto Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Stanislaus County Sheriffs, Modesto Fire Department, members of the Marine Corps Club of Stockton, and a number of other individuals representing a cross-section of military/law enforcement agencies. I was told there were some eighteen-hundred in attendance.

Pastor Joe invited me to ride with him in the funeral procession which would take us through a major part of Modesto before arriving at Lakewood Cemetery. As we drove out of the church parking lot, we followed immediately behind one of the two stretch-limousines carrying the family; I began to realize just how important this service was to our community. The limos were flying American flags from each side of the vehicles. The intersection where the church is located is one of the biggest in Modesto. Fire trucks with lights flashing were positioned in the intersection to block traffic for the funeral procession. As we drove through, the firemen, dressed in their fire-fighting gear, stood in a row and saluted. This took place at every major intersection we were required to pass through. Cars all along the route were pulled to the side of the road on both sides out of respect.

Once we pulled into the cemetery, we were led to the grave site by a riderless horse, with boots turned backwards in the stirrups, indicating a fallen warrior. Despite the cold, rainy conditions, several hundred people came to honor a young man who gave all.

This young man wanted to make a difference in the world. A difference that would last well beyond his earthly years. A difference that would speak volumes about honor, courage, and commitment. A difference that would resonate in the hearts of his family and loved ones down through the ages. By so doing, he leaves a legacy for those of us left behind to emulate.

Twenty years from now, ask an Iraqi about the gift of freedom they were given and there will be a look of awe pass over their face. They will speak in hushed, holy tones, recalling the bravery and courage of Americans who came to liberate them from the ravages of a maniacal dictator. They will pass on to their children and grandchildren the stories of foreigners, strangers, who came to their land to die for them so they could be free.

Standing on the beaches of Normandy in 1984, President Ronald Reagan said, “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it –that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest . . .We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”

Thank God for Corporal Michael Anderson, U.S. Marine Corps. He can never be forgotten, because he made a difference with his life.

Be proud, America. May God ever grant us such brave hearts to carry on the torch of freedom.

web link:

Monday, December 27, 2004

Funeral for Cpl Mike Anderson, USMC, at Calvary Temple, Modesto, California. Mike, Sr., the father, is on the left. I am in back, saluting. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Reason for the Season - A Reprise

The United States of America is arguably the most religiously tolerant nation in the world, probably in all of history. I would even venture to suggest that we are not only tolerant of all faiths; we encourage the free expression of those faiths.

I believe I can speak from a certain level of experience here. Having now served as a Navy chaplain for twenty-one years, I have had the distinct privilege of knowing ministers of a variety of religious faiths, several who are close friends. Within the Navy Chaplain Corps alone, there are represented a couple of hundred religious groups. Most are from various Protestant denominations (everything from Episcopalian to Four-Square Gospel), along with Roman Catholic priests (I even served with a priest from the Liberal Catholic Church. “Liberal” is a misnomer. They are far more conservative in theology and philosophy, following the teachings from the First Vatican Council, 1869-70), Jewish rabbis (Reformed and Conservative), those religious groups that are considered “cults” (Latter Day Saints, Christian Scientists, and other religions that have the trappings of Christianity, but misinterpret the faith on some major doctrinal point – such as the deity of Jesus Christ), in recent years we have added Muslim imams (the two I have met and spent some time with have been delightful people), and just a few months ago the Navy commissioned the first ever Buddhist priest (She is in my reserve unit – yes, I said “she.” And she is a former Marine! Oorah!).

As chaplains we serve in the military to represent our individual religious faith groups. We respect each other; share a collegiality; encourage one another in the performance of our ministries; and even call upon each other when that particular faith group requires a minister to provide services. Let me give you two examples: When I was the command chaplain on one of our Navy ships, and before we would sail from port for a long deployment, I would contact the Catholic priest on base to come and hold a pre-deployment Mass for the Catholic sailors, usually held in the hangar bay. Or last year when I was the command chaplain at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, East Africa, my chaplain boss at Marine Forces Pacific (MarForPac) in Hawaii informed me he was sending me a Jewish rabbi (Navy chaplain) to provide ministry to Jewish military personnel and civilian workers during the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yum Kippur. This is all a marvelously enriching experience, serving beside those that I would probably never see in a civilian setting, let alone befriend. Theologically, we are miles apart. However, our respect and friendship is not based upon religious assimilation.

Diversity is foundational to us as Americans. We are diverse in our politics, diverse in our religious expression, diverse in our culture, and diverse in our philosophies. This is normally a healthy situation. But in recent days we are experiencing an orchestrated attempt to remove religious expression, particularly Christianity, from the public sector. No Nativity Scenes, no Ten Commandments, no “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, no religious expressions allowed on t-shirts worn in school, no teaching of Creationism alongside Evolution as a world philosophy in our public schools, and no tolerance for open debate on such issues as: abortion, public prayer, abstinence, use of condoms, parental rights, homosexuality, alternative lifestyles, child discipline, or euthanasia. The list could go on.

America was founded upon the teachings of the Christian faith, using the Holy Bible as the cornerstone. Our laws are based upon the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule – Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Those who claim to be Christian, who live their faith, who have had an encounter with Jesus Christ, who have been “born-again,” are the most tolerant people I have ever known. Why do I say this? It’s quite simple, really. When you’ve been confronted with the claims of Christ, you quickly realize you are utterly incapable of changing yourself. If change in you is to ever occur, it must come from outside you. That’s where Jesus literally comes in. He does not force you to bow before him in homage, all the while glowering with a threatening countenance that veritably shouts, “Or else!” Instead, he asks you to allow him to change you, to invite him into your heart, to be the Lord of your life.

That simple truth is what Christmas represents. It is the reason for the season. And it is also why it scares so many people. Change of any kind is threatening. For most, to even consider being changed into a better person, a godly person, a humble person is frightening to the extreme.

Make no mistake – Jesus came to change you. And he will, if you let him.

Once you’ve experienced this change, you’ll truly have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Reason for the Season

This is Christmas. And there’s a reason for this season.

It appears today that using the name of God, or making reference to God in general, or the Christian faith, or the name of Jesus in particular, is considered to be taboo in our present cultural climate. It is thought to be most “un-PC like.”

Are there other events going on at the same time as Christmas? Sure. You’ve got the Winter Solstice (, normally recognized on the 21st of December (The Summer Solstice is the 21st of June). This is no religious event. Instead, it is recognition of the sun reaching its southernmost point. Man, being the spiritual creature that he is, will make a religion out of anything. Thus, revelry, often leading to debauchery, is the result of this “religious” experience. “Winter Solstice also known as Yule, Christmas, and Saturnalia, occurs in mid December. It celebrates the birth of the new Solar year and the beginning of Winter. The Goddess manifests as the Great Mother and the God as the Sun Child. The God also appears as Santa Claus and Old Man Winter. Colors are Red, Green, and White. This is a festival of inner renewal. Do magic for a more peaceful planet.” The primary dates are December 21st, the first day of winter, and January 1st, the beginning of the New Year.

In the Jewish religion, the festival of Hanukkah ( is an eight-day celebration which includes the lighting of the menorah for each night of the festival. This is in commemoration of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Maccabees following their victory over the Syrians under Antiochus IV. “The celebration also reaffirms the continuing struggle to live by God's commandments and to lead Jewish lives.” As you read this article, Hanukkah (December 7-15) is coming to a close for this year.

Then there’s the more recent development of Kwanzaa (1966). On a web site ( the following is a description of Kwanzaa: “Kwanzaa is a unique African American celebration with focus on the traditional African values of family, community responsibility, commerce, and self-improvement. Kwanzaa is neither political nor religious and despite some misconceptions, is not a substitute for Christmas. It is simply a time of reaffirming African-American people, their ancestors and culture.” The celebration lasts from December 26th through January 1st.

Celebrating one of these events is every person’s right. Just remember, if you want to celebrate Winter Solstice, it’s not a religious event. You’re simply recognizing the passage of time and seasons.

If Hanukkah is of interest to you, you may want to convert to Judaism since this celebration is a reaffirmation of being Jewish and living Jewish lives.

And Kwanzaa is for African Americans who wish to return to African traditions, but it is not religious in nature. Unless you are African American, this does not apply to you.

But Christmas “is a unique holiday, for it is both sacred and secular in nature: a Christian holy day commemorating the birth of the Christ Child, and a social and family holiday with family gatherings, gift giving, entertainment, and feasting.” This bit of information comes from:

It’s important to remember that Christmas has not always been recognized in America. The Pilgrim Fathers passed a law banning the celebration of Christmas and all other holidays. Only the Sabbath was to be honored.

In 1831, Louisiana and Arkansas were the first states to make Christmas a state holiday. By 1870, all states in the Union had passed a law recognizing Christmas as an official holiday.

Can the law be changed? Of course, but not likely. Would that stop people from celebrating Christmas? No. First, those who claim to be Christian will always recognize the birth of Jesus. Second, Christmas has become way too large an economic boon for retailers, wholesalers and economists to allow for it to be dismissed.

Despite the crass commercialization of Christmas, it remains the singular event of the season, not only in North America, but around the world. So why has this celebration attracted so much venom and vitriol lately? The short answer is: Jesus.

I’ll conclude this next week. Until then, have a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

October 15, 2003 - An evening soiree at the Catholic church in Djibouti City, Djibouti, Africa in honor of Pope John Paul II's twenty-five years as the pontiff. I am greeting the secretary to the Papal Nuncio. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Price of Freedom

There I was, flying the friendly skies last week, traveling to News Orleans and Las Vegas for military workshops. I know this sounds strange, but despite the reputations of these two cities, we actually have big military installations. Since I am working with the Marine Reserve, our Reserve Headquarters is in New Orleans, a.k.a., the “Crescent City.” Over in Las Vegas, we have a large Armed Forces Reserve Center across from Nellis Air Force Base. Seeing the opportunity to take advantage of attending two conferences back-to-back, I jumped on it.

Of course, attending such events, you are required to wear your uniform. In my case, I was wearing the Marine “C,” called “Charlies.” This is a comfortable working uniform consisting of dark winter-green trousers, and a short-sleeved khaki shirt. The fore-and-aft cover is green like the trousers, and the shoes are black.

I left home on Wednesday evening flying out of Sacramento (my airport of choice), arriving in New Orleans the next morning. I grabbed my rental car, drove to the Naval Support Activity and sat through two days of conferences. Flew out Friday night to Las Vegas, caught a couple of hours of sleep, and sat through another conference.

I had to leave the Vegas conference on Saturday a bit early to catch my flight home because our church was having its annual mission’s auction that night. My plan was to change into my civilian clothes once I arrived at the airport. However, I had to scrap that plan because yours truly had difficulty locating the rental return facility. So, when I arrived at the ticket counter, I had to put my bag in right away in order to make the flight.

The ticket agent asked me if I would be willing to sit in an exit row seat. I said that would be fine. Once on board, I strapped myself in and settled down with my book. The plane was not nearly full, so I even thought I might stretch out on the three seats in my row once we were airborne. Already deep into my current book, Battle Cry of Freedom (about the Civil War – can’t get enough of that subject!), I faintly heard a woman’s voice asking a question. It took a moment for me to realize that the woman’s voice I had heard was coming from one of the stewardesses, and she was talking directly to me. I apologized and asked her to repeat her question. She said, “Would you be interested in moving up to the first class cabin?? I said, “Sure. Thank you.”

Feeling conspicuous, wondering what other passengers might be thinking, I then remembered I was wearing my uniform. I again plopped into a seat, only this time in first class in the first row. As we began to roll toward the runway, both stewardesses (Janel and Nancy) seated themselves in their drop-down seats for the take-off. We chatted until we were at cruising altitude, at which point they busied themselves with providing snacks and beverages for the passengers.

Shortly into the flight we experienced a small amount of turbulence. This meant everyone needed to stay strapped in their seats, including the stewardesses. I thanked them again for their kind offer of asking me to sit in first class. Nancy explained that she has a soft spot for the military. She had a loved one who served in Vietnam. Just before deplaning, I promised to send each of them one of my Iraq military coins as a gift of thanks, and a reminder to pray for our men and women serving in harms way.

As if to emphasize the point, I was walking through the Sacramento airport when I spied two Marines in their dress blue uniforms. Not only is this the best looking uniform on planet earth, but these two Marines were standing stock still while being checked by airport security. I stopped to watch this evolution, trying not to laugh out loud. You see, the Marine “dress blue” uniform is festooned with brass buttons and a large brass buckle. The hand-held metal detectors must have been going off the chart! There these two warriors stood, patiently waiting while being “wanded.”

In the meantime, a young woman approached me wearing civilian clothes and asked if I was a Marine. I smiled and said that I used to be, but that I’m presently a Navy Chaplain serving with the Marines. As we chatted a bit, I discovered that she is in the Army Reserve, and her unit is heading to Iraq. She’s also a single mom. Her baby is one year old. She had flown to Sacramento to leave the child with the baby’s father. I asked her how long she was going to be overseas. With tears welling up in her eyes, she said her unit would be gone eighteen months! I reached out and gave her a hug, fighting back my own tears, offering a word of prayer.

It was about at this point the two Marines (one a Staff Sergeant and the other a Lance Corporal) were putting their shoes back on and exiting the security area. We shook hands and then engaged in some swapping of military tales, usually greatly embellished. I was sharing with them how amused I was watching them as they went through the metal detector. The Lance Corporal was laughing because the security guy kept waving the wand over his left leg, setting it off. He explained that he’d been wounded last year in Iraq and now has a permanent metal plate implanted in his leg. When I asked what the occasion was for them to be traveling in their dress uniform, they said they were returning from the funeral of one of their fallen comrades recently killed in Iraq.

Reflecting on those brief encounters, I realized once again that while I was traveling to attend yet more meetings, I am most fortunate, for my family is still intact and safe at home, I bear no life-long wounds from hostile enemy fire, and despite all the warfare the men in my family have participated in, not one has even been wounded.

Please remember in prayer this Christmas those who pay the price for our freedom.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

God Save the Queen

I was making a phone call this morning to one of our military bases to take care of some Navy business. The chaplain I reached had a distinct accent identifying him as an Englishman. Well, I couldn’t let that go by without a comment, so I asked him if he was here on the exchange program. He said he was. By explanation, the exchange program is when one of our chaplains trades places with a British chaplain for a year.

I began to reflect on my experiences serving with military chaplains of other nations. Last year when I was the command chaplain for Camp Commando in Kuwait, I met Ron Martin, a chaplain with the British Royal Marines. Ron is a Scotsman. We had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time together. He and his “mates” (Royal Marines) invited me to share dinner in their chow hall. British food being what it is, the British troops often tried to eat in the American chow halls. Serving alongside these British warriors made a lasting impression on me, driving home the fact that this War on Terrorism is affecting more than just Americans. The same young faces of these Royal Marines could just as easily be the faces on our own U.S Marines.

A few weeks later we had a most unfortunate incident take place. One of the recently arrived Royal Marines suffered from dehydration in the intense desert heat of Kuwait, collapsed, and shortly died. I visited with these British comrades-in-arms to share in their grief over losing one of their own. Before the body was to be shipped back home on a C-130 Transport, I was told they were going to have a brief funeral service at the airfield on the tarmac. I was invited by the senior British Chaplain in Kuwait, Stephen Ware, a Roman Catholic priest, to assist him in the ceremony. A special detail was provided to line the way into the rear cargo area of the aircraft. The priest and I stood by the back hatch. All those assembled maintained a solemn presence while awaiting the arrival of the casket containing the remains of the fallen Royal Marine in the back of at stake-bed lorry (British for “truck”). The honor guard marched in two lines in typical British military fashion – long-legged stride with arms swinging from the sides up to shoulder level and down slightly past the waist before swinging up to shoulder height again. The casket was slowly and carefully hoisted onto the shoulders of the honor guard and reverently marched to the rear of the plane. Once there, the casket was placed just inside the plane, at which point Father Ware began the eulogy. I then offered a prayer. When we had finished, the casket was pushed on rollers deeper into the belly of the aircraft where it was secured firmly for the long flight back to England.

As I watched this procedure, seeing this plain, ordinary casket sitting alone in the middle of this aircraft, I couldn’t help but reflect on the loss that the family of this young man would be experiencing. He, along with his mates, joined their American cousins in fighting against a band of terrorist thugs on the other side of the world. None could possibly know the outcome of such a decision. I remained standing in my place as they finally closed the back hatch. Reluctantly, I moved away from the plane as the engines began to turn. We stood together and watched as the plane slowly taxied to the runway and then lifted into the evening sky. I was struck by the fact that the body of this Royal Marine was the only “cargo” on this flight.

So, as you hurry about your various holiday activities, parties and shopping, be sure to pause frequently and offer a word of thanks to God for not only our American service members, but those thirty other nations that have joined us in the fight. Yes, you can sleep more securely because these warriors are doing the hard work.

And offer a prayer of thanks to God for the families of both the fallen, and the ones who continue to press hard against a ruthless enemy. This is a fight we must win.

God bless America. And God save the Queen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Reason for Thanksgiving

As a kid I used to wonder why turkey was only prepared during the holidays, Thanksgiving being the holiday of choice for the stuffed bird. Ham seemed to win out during Christmas.

I love turkey, especially the white meat. I guess traditions die slow, painful deaths, but at least today turkey is another food available all year round. Yeah! Even still, there is nothing quite like having the smells of turkey in the oven reminding me of the days when my senses were overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, smells, taste and feel of such glorious gluttony.

History records that the official day for Thanksgiving was established by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Our nation was in the midst of the worst war of our history, the Civil War. Attempting to somehow bring the nation together, the president authorized the fourth Thursday of November as a national holiday for Thanksgiving. Many states had recognized a day of Thanksgiving dating back to 1621 when our forefathers rejoiced at having endured their first harsh winter in America. They invited the Wampanoag, a local tribe, to join in the feast. Since these native Indians had assisted the colonists in planting, they shared the bounty together.

In 1789 our first president, George Washington, officially recognized Thanksgiving for our new nation.

I also remember how Christmas decorations and sales events appeared the day after Thanksgiving. But did you know that in 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving back one week to the third Thursday of November? This lasted for three years before it was returned to its present fourth Thursday. Why did FDR do this? Because he was trying to extend the Christmas shopping season. Some of you will remember that we were slowly emerging from the devastating Depression of 1929. It may appear to have been a blatant attempt at crass commercialism, but it seemed reasonable to the president, and you can hardly blame him for attempting to jump-start our sluggish economy. Of course, World War Two took care of the remaining effects of the Depression.

So I found myself asking the question, “Why have Thanksgiving at all?” I mean, what is the point of giving thanks? To whom? For what?

Well, you might be thinking that I’ve slipped a cog since I’m a preacher of the Gospel. Why would I ask such questions? Simple. The answer has everything to do with why any of us should recognize Thanksgiving.

The giving of thanks implies that there is someone to thank. True, you can express that thanks to some non-descript entity, or ethereal being, or some other deity of your own choosing. But by implication, giving thanks is personally, specifically directed to someone. For instance, if a friend takes me to lunch at my favorite Mexican Restaurant and picks up the tab, I would not then walk out on the sidewalk, lift my hands in the air and proclaim in a loud voice my thanks to whoever might be listening among the gods, or pedestrians passing by for that matter! My friend would no doubt look at me with grave concern for my current mental condition, while all the while wondering why I didn’t simply express my thanks directly to him.

Recognizing that God has blessed the land that produces the crops we harvest, a process many of us living in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley fail to remember, we should turn to Him and offer our thanks just as the Pilgrims did long ago. But more importantly, we should be thankful that God has ultimate control. Nothing takes him by surprise. The harvest may not be so good this year. We are to be thankful anyway. He knows what He’s doing and what He wants to accomplish in the affairs of our fallen race.

The Bible says in I Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to give thanks in all circumstances. This is an act of faith. It doesn’t mean you understand why your crop failed this year, or why an early storm wiped out your plans for a huge harvest. It doesn’t mean you know why your husband has left you for another woman, or why you blew an engine the month after the warranty expired. It doesn’t mean you can even begin to consol your best friend when she miscarried. And it doesn’t mean that God is not there simply because you don’t see Him, sense His presence, or hear His voice.

The reason there is a Thanksgiving is to acknowledge God’s presence despite how you feel, trusting Him regardless of your circumstances. He loves you and desires to draw you to Himself.

Try it. You’ll be glad you did. Oh, and don’t forget to thank Him!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Constitutional Amendment

I’m more than a little bit interested in the current clamor to repeal the United States Constitution’s position prohibiting foreign-born individuals from running for the highest position in the land – the President of the United States.

Of course, this is all a swirl because of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s meteoric rise in the world of politics through his ascendancy to the governorship of California. He emerged from a veritable menagerie of political hopefuls to defeat then Governor Gray Davis. By most accounts, “The Governator,” as he is affectionately called (a spin-off of the title for his successful trilogy of blockbuster movies, The Terminator), has performed in an exemplary fashion since taking office a year ago.

Schwarzenegger is considered to be a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. Curious then that he was faced almost immediately as governor with the out-of-control attempts by social engineers to force gay marriage upon the people of California who had already voted that this was unacceptable. How would the new governor handle this liberal social issue? To his credit, he backed the law.

Then there was the speech Schwarzenegger gave in support of President Bush’s reelection at the Republican National Convention. No argument. It was a real stem-winder! Think about it! Who else could have invoked the name of former President Richard Nixon and gotten away with it? He attributed his becoming a Republican to Nixon. He says shortly after arriving in the U.S. he couldn’t even speak English, but a German speaking friend he was staying with in 1968 translated the presidential debates between Senator Hubert Humphrey and former Vice-President Richard Nixon. Arnold said his reaction to Humphrey’s policy ideas sounded Socialistic, like what he’d left behind in Austria. But when he heard Nixon, he asked his friend what party Nixon represented. His friend said, “Republican.” Schwarzenegger responded, “Then I’m a Republican!” It brought the house down at the Convention.

Arnold could speak the name of Nixon and not be brutalized in the media, or even shunned by fellow-Republicans, because he was addressing the steps he had taken in the eventual process of becoming a solid American citizen. How do you attack that? So he stood on the platform of the Convention receiving the applause and adulation of his party.

Arnold’s popularity has taken on a new life with a concerted effort to bring about a change in the Constitution by modifying, or eliminating the “natural born citizen” clause. A political group has been formed solely for the purpose of overturning this clause. They are well organized, applying pressure on lawmakers to revisit amending the Constitution. They are currently involved in a bumper sticker campaign – “Amend for Arnold.”

You will hear a lot more on this in the months ahead, especially the closer we get to the presidential election of ‘08. Take a moment to read what the founding fathers wrote in Article 2, Section 1, Clause 5 of the United States Constitution:
"No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States."

It’s important to know what it would require for such an amendment. Constitutional amendments require passage by two-thirds of both the House and the Senate and then approval by three-fourths of the states. Since California is likely to make this amendment an issue, given that Arnold is our governor, and with the clout that California wields with 55 Electoral College votes, you can be sure that the rest of the nation is watching to see what the Golden State does.

Space does not allow for me to address the differing arguments on this amendment proposal, but I suspect we’ll be hearing a great deal from all quarters of the political spectrum. In fact, this discussion has already begun in earnest on the Internet and talk shows. This discussion will also have intense interest on the world scene. Imagine those immigrating to the U.S. armed with the knowledge that they could possibly become the most powerful person in the world!

I heard on a radio talk show today that the governor has asked that he not be made the issue for amending the Constitution. Good for him. We certainly do not want amendments made based on personality or popularity. I wonder how much momentum there would be to amend if there was no Arnold, who, besides being the governor of the most populated state in the Union with an income that ranks fifth in the world, has enormous star power from his body building days and Hollywood career.

And don’t forget this bit of information – Arnold is a Republican married to a Democrat. And not just any Democrat. Maria Shriver is a Kennedy. This amendment has all the makings of a real strong bid for Arnold to be allowed to run for the presidency in 2008. Mark my words.

I’ve not personally decided where I stand on this. I’m still researching what the founding fathers meant. But I ask you – Is this a great country, or what?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Chicken Little Died

The presidential election is over. Even hardened news junkies are glad to see this campaign season come to an end.

Reflecting on the rhetoric that has been used and abused the last two years, I’m reminded of the story of Chicken Little. You remember – the little chicken who saw something fall from the sky, made an illogical assumption, panicked, then ran around telling everyone that the sky was falling.

The following are some of the Chicken Little shriekings that we were subjected to during the campaign:

· President Bush talks to God. Oh horrors! Can you imagine, the most powerful man in the world actually says he talks to God! Interesting that a recent poll indicates seven out of ten Americans want their president to be religious. Keep praying, Mr. President!

· Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time. Really? Based upon what? And who attacked who anyway? Right now the bad guys are coming to us in Iraq, and dying in large numbers. Beats having to kill them in our own backyard.

· The tax break is for the wealthiest Americans. Uh, this is simply wrong. The wealthiest among us pay the majority of the taxes. If not, the burden on the middle class would be enormous and impossible. The poor are normally exempt. This is a crass attempt at fomenting class warfare.

· Minorities, particularly blacks, are discouraged from voting. Oh, I see. That’s why the president carried the Catholic vote. He garnered forty-two percent of the Hispanic vote. And twenty-four percent of the Jewish vote. The women’s vote? Huge. Blacks? Major shift for the president.

· The president is dividing the country. Now, hold on. Have you seen the voting results listed by county on the red and blue map of the United States? Amazing! The whole country looks RED (as in Republican). A record turn-out of voters, and the largest winning margin, taking almost every county in the country, and the country is divided? I think not.

· The rest of the world hates us. The truth is – they don’t. It wouldn’t matter if they did. Of greater importance is whether the rest of the world respects us. Ask yourself – “If the rest of the world hates us, why are so many people attempting to come to America?” Hmmmm?

· This administration will bring back the draft. This, too, is not true. It was actually two Democratic Congressmen who proposed this idea about two years ago. It was flatly rejected by the administration. Our “All Volunteer” military is doing just fine.

· The war in Iraq is about “blood for oil.” Sure it is. That’s why the prices of oil have steadily gone up since we took Iraq! The real story is that France, Russia and the United Nations will no longer be able to steal oil from Iraq. We still buy our oil from the countries of the Middle East – at fifty plus dollars a barrel!

The American people have spoken, and spoken loudly, in this election. Values, morals, and doing what is right is more important than placating European nations, pacifying terrorists, or molly-coddling the Liberal Left.

There will always be Chicken Little’s in the world, wailing that we are doomed. I see it entirely differently. I believe God has shown mercy to us by having a strong, God-fearing, resolute leader in the White House.

God has blessed America – again.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

An Encouraging Word

Encouragement is so vitally important in our lives. The effect it has on a person is impossible to measure, but it is clearly evident.

I don’t know if kids still sing, “Home on the Range,” but there is a line in the song that I always found peculiar. “O give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play. Where there seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.” I don’t know who wrote this song, but obviously he was aware of the power of encouragement.

What is the ratio of encouraging words to discouraging words in your life? Perhaps 10:1? 4:1? Or is it the other way around? 1:4? 1:10?

As a pastor, I visit a lot of people. I’m in there homes, I see them in church, I run into them around town. Most of the parents I know are very conscientious in the way they raise their children. But, others have fallen into the trap of using a negative approach to parenting. What I mean is, they are in a constant mode of correcting little Johnny. “Johnny, don’t touch that!” “Johnny, do you want a spanking?” “Johnny, your room is a mess. Clean it up.” “Johnny, can’t you do anything right?” “Johnny, you’ll never amount to anything.” “Johnny, you’re stupid.”

My wife, Isaura, works for a foster family agency, training adults to be foster parents. She loves her job! Unfortunately, most often the children they receive for placement in foster homes are terribly damaged emotionally and psychologically. Prior to working with foster families, Isaura worked in a group home for juvenile boys. These boys, some as young as ten or eleven, would be brought into the group home exhibiting hostility, anger and hatred. Typically, they couldn’t care less about anything or anyone. Let me put it like this: Many of these boys had committed crimes that would have placed them in prison had they been adults.

I remember Isaura telling me of one young teenage boy who was a “Skinhead.” Skinheads have bought into the racist vileness of Hitler’s Naziism. This young lad quickly discerned that my wife was a Christian, and proceeded to call her a foul name. Over the next number of weeks and months, she encouraged him every day. There was always something, however remote, that she could say to encourage him. One day she found him standing in front of the window, staring outside. She asked him if he was okay. He said he was. Then he said these words to her which will forever be in my heart. “If you had been my mother, I would never have had to come to a place like this.”

It is said that King Solomon of Israel was the wisest man to ever live. We certainly see some evidence of this in the Bible. One verse comes to mind, found in Proverbs 12 and verse 25. It says, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

Each year the month of October is Pastor Appreciation Month, a time in which church congregations have the opportunity to openly express their love and appreciation for their pastor. I have truly been blessed by the folks in my church, many who have gone out of their way to share encouraging words.

One family of nine, which includes seven children, two of which are adopted, gave me a plastic jar filled with post-it notes, thirty-one in all. I was instructed to take one out each day of the month and read it as a word of encouragement. What a priceless treasure! Allow me to share some of them with you.

This is from Daniel, the fourteen-year-old. “Thank you for being a good pastor.” Sixteen-year-old Nathan says, “I like the way you tie in stories in your messages.” Dustin, ten, wrote, “I like how you preach to us.” Jake, the eldest at nineteen, wrote, “Wow! What a singing voice you have.” The middle child, Andrew, twelve, says, “Dear Pastor Chuke (sic), I like how you give me hugs on Sunday.” Eleven-year-old Hannah writes, “Your teachings are really great.” Hannah’s twin, Rachel, writes, “Dear Pastor Chuck, Each time I see you on Sunday I can’t wait till after the sermon, thinking, ‘I’m going to give him a hug!’ But while I’m listening to you preach I can feel a little seed growing every day. And you and God put it there.”

I could go on sharing what the rest of the family wrote, but you get the idea. Do I need encouragement? Of course! And you can bet I’m going to keep every last one of these thirty-one notes.

Do your children hear encouraging words from you? How about the people you work with? Are they glad to have you in the office? Or the clerk at the store? Or the waitress who brings you coffee? Or your aging parent?

Today, decide to be an encourager. It’s lots more fun, and everyone benefits!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Your Vote Counts

Okay, the election is less than a week away. Probably many of you have voted already by using the absentee ballot. This is now a convenient option. I remember the time when you had to give a valid reason for using the absentee ballot. Well, my first opportunity to vote in an election was 1972. I voted absentee. My reason? I was in the Marine Corps stationed in Vietnam.

On election night, those of us living in the western states are subjected to all of the early returns which primarily address the votes tallied for the presidential race. Early predictions, based upon the percentage of votes received and the response from voters exiting the voting booth, often cause many of us out west to throw up our hands in disgust, saying, “Why bother to vote?” CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX have all predicted the likely winner.

Good question. If we already know the probable winner of the presidential race, why not stay home? Answer: Because there are a lot more issues at stake than the presidential election alone. It’s true that the presidential race receives all the attention. But many states are voting for the election, or reelection, of governors, senators, representatives and many local officials. There are also judges voted into office at the lower levels. I will admit that I did not take the election of judges very seriously when I first voted thirty-two years ago. But after seeing how judges have successfully changed law, often going counter to the wishes of the people, I’m much more conscientious in my choices for judgeships now.

In addition, there are many important ballot measures that each of us needs to be aware of in order to cast an informed, thoughtful vote. If we do not take an interest in these measures, those who may have a different view on the matter will determine its outcome. Your voice needs to be heard.

There are sixteen state measures on this year’s ballot. You may not believe it’s that important to vote once the presidential election is determined, but all these ballot measures will yet be decided. These are measures that often determine how much more money is going to be taken from us as taxpayers to pay for new programs. Some of these are good measures, some are not. So take the time to sit down and do your own homework. The two major political parties have these measures listed on their state web sites. The Republican Party web site ( lists all sixteen ballot measures on their home page. The Democratic Party web site ( lists all the measures, though you will need to search for it under the link “Election 2004.” Then follow the “Candidates and Propositions” link. Then click on the link, “Statewide Propositions.”

Here’s a little test. Are you, for example, aware that the two parties are taking opposite positions on eight of the sixteen issues? That in itself should get your attention. What issues might those be, you ask?

  • First, Prop 61 is the Children’s Hospital Project. The Dems support it, and the GOP is opposed. Do you know why?
  • How about Prop 63 – a measure seeking to levy a 1% tax on those with income over $1 million to finance Mental Health Services. Dems support – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 64 deals with Limits on Private Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition. Dems oppose – GOP support.
  • Prop 65 – Local Taxpayers & Public Safety Protection Act. Dems neutral – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 66 – Limitations on ‘Three Strikes’ Law. Dems support – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 69 – DNA Samples. Dems oppose – GOP support.
  • Prop 71 – Stem Cell Research. Dems support – GOP oppose.
  • Prop 72 – Health Care Coverage Requirements. Dems support – GOP oppose.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (a Democrat) is up for reelection. U.S. Representative Richard Pombo (a Republican), 11th District, is up for reelection. Plus, we have our own local elections to the Ripon City Council, and the Fire District.

Your vote counts!

Remember this. New Mexico’s five electoral votes went to Al Gore in 2000 by slightly more than 300 votes. That’s the size of a small neighborhood – and these five electoral votes are what may have determined the outcome.

So, be sure to vote this Tuesday, even if you think you know who won the presidency. It will affect all of us.

Voting is a privilege, and a right we have as citizens. And, it’s the right thing to do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Why the Electoral College?

Just what is the Electoral College anyway?

Recently, my youngest daughter and I were out shopping, followed by a most enjoyable dinner together at Frankie, Johnnie, and Luigi’s Too in Dublin. Great pizza! But I digress. She’s been working two jobs and chipping away at completing her college education for several years now. As we were spending the evening together we got around to politics, so she asked me about the Electoral College.

Well, I attempted to launch into an erudite explanation that would dazzle her with my multi-degreed brilliance. It readily became apparent that I could not effectively put into words the function and purpose of the Electoral College. I vaguely remember studying this important function of our government, but that was about a hundred years ago! I found myself mumbling helplessly, hoping for some divine enlightenment in my failing attempt to explain this part of our election system.

I decided I needed to bone up on this topic. Thus, you will be the beneficiaries of my research.

First, let’s ask the most important question. Is it the popular vote, or the Electoral College vote that elects the president? Answer: Both. Each state has an Electoral vote for each senator (every state has two senators). Then there’s an Electoral vote for every U.S. Representative (based upon state population census). Each major political party at its convention selects electors to match the number of senators and representatives. Whichever party garners the simple majority of the popular vote wins all of the Electoral votes for that state. (There are two exceptions: Maine and Nebraska). This is why, mathematically, a candidate could conceivably win the Electoral College vote, and lose the popular vote. Largely populated states, such as California and New York, could easily swing the number of popular votes in one candidate’s favor so that when you combine all the popular votes throughout the nation, the winner of the popular vote could lose the election – case in point – George W. Bush in 2000. In truth, the candidate for the Democratic Party, then Vice-President Al Gore, won the popular vote, and lost the election. The Republican candidate, then Governor George W. Bush, won the Electoral vote, and thus the election.

The founding fathers of this great nation understood the problems associated with a straight popular vote. The first danger is what we often experience in high school class elections – popularity. The most popular kids were elected to be president of the class, secretary, etc. A truly charismatic personality could come along and sway the electorate, winning overwhelmingly through popularity. This is even more telling today with the use of television. If a candidate is not photogenic, it will be an uphill battle.

The second danger is centered on shear numbers. The most populated areas of the country would determine who would be elected if it were only a popular vote. Though not a perfect system, the Electoral College does even the playing field somewhat so that smaller populated states (Wyoming, for example) still have their voice heard.

To emphasize the point, notice how much time the candidates are spending in what are called the “swing states.” These states are generally smaller in population, but since each Electoral vote counts, the candidates cannot afford to ignore them. These smaller states don’t have the clout in numbers, but they can be the tie breakers. They are players in the grand drama. This is why every vote actually does count. It’s not just some platitude we hear every four years during our national election. Again, consider the role Florida played in the 2000 election. Florida has 27 electoral votes. California has 55 – slightly more than twice as many. Yet Florida determined the winner. Truth be told, there were fewer votes separating the two candidates in New Mexico – the difference is that New Mexico didn’t have “hanging chads.”

My oldest daughter just phoned me informing me she had gone down to reregister to vote, since she moved about a month ago. She didn’t want to hear her dad get on her for failing to vote.

Remember: it’s a privilege. It’s also your responsibility as an American.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Red, White, and Pink?

A nation’s flag is intended to engender pride and respect, and to promote a sense of everything that’s right about a country and its values. Patriotism is an indefinable, intangible that is more felt, or known in the regions of the heart, than something reproducible.

Americans are arguably the biggest flag wavers in the entire world. In my travels across continents, I have seen the American flag fly from a variety of locations. Most notably, a sense of real excitement surges in the breast at the sight of the Stars & Stripes fluttering in the breeze proudly situated atop an American embassy. This was wonderfully portrayed in the movie, “Not Without My Daughter,” when the American woman, played by Sally Fields, and her on-screen daughter managed to escape from Iran. Their harrowing journey finally had them arriving in Turkey. As they wandered through the streets of this strange city, they suddenly glimpsed the fluttering of a large American flag behind a grove of trees. They had found the American Embassy!

Other notable moments when the flag has been proudly displayed are part of our American memory. Though most of us were not present for many of these events, our pride in our country gives us a feeling of actually having witnessed the event. How can we not feel the excitement of Francis Scott Key penning the words of the Star Spangled Banner while a prisoner on a British ship? We declare that inspired moment every time we sing our National Anthem. The whole song is about the flag still flying despite an awful barrage all night long. There she stood, tattered, torn, yet still flying proudly in defiance of her enemies.

Those of us who have served in the Marine Corps hold dear the magical moment when five Marines and one sailor raised the flag atop of Mount Suribachi on the blood-soaked island of Iwo Jima, February 1945. An excellent book to read on this event and the men who raised the flag is, “Flags of Our Fathers.”

Many of you will remember when American astronauts planted the American flag on the moon, July 1969, fulfilling President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to have a man on the moon within the decade. That was quite a feat, and was a welcome bit of news for us as Americans at that time, what with the Vietnam War, campus activism, inner-city race riots, free-love, drugs, and the list goes on. For a brief moment, at least, we could celebrate being Americans again.

After 9-11, the American flag was flying high and proud. We would see it on freeway overpasses; protruding from car windows on specially made plastic staffs to withstand the force of the wind; and flying from many homes in every neighborhood. My heart would swell with pride simply driving down the street. It is a time I will never forget.

But something has happened. Most of the flags no longer fly in front of homes. Those that are flying look run-down, tattered, and faded. Flags flown over businesses are typically torn, the white stripes have become a dingy gray, the blue field is purplish, and the red stripes are – pink!

The flag deserves to be treated with respect for it embodies the freedoms we share as citizens of the greatest country in the world.

I’ve done some checking. You can order an American flag on line for your home that will run you from $8.00 - $25.00. Flags flown over business establishments cost $150.00 - $180.00.

So, here’s my proposal. Write into your annual budget (for your business and /or family) the amount for a new flag to be purchased every year. This way you never have a disheveled flag. And keep this in mind: most American Legion Posts regularly conduct a dignified flag burning ceremony, often on Flag Day, June 14th. Contact your local American Legion Hall and inquire about the availability of this service.

My friends, take a moment to look closely at the flag that flies from your home or place of business. What do you see?

Do the right thing.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Choosing a President

I like driving cars with standard transmissions (That’s a “stick shift” for the automotive illiterates among you!). There’s something about going through the gears that is most satisfying, pushing the RPMs until you reach that top gear – then you’re cruisin’!

Presidential elections typically start out in the lower gears, finally reaching top gear, then cruising into the Home Stretch. That’s where we are right now. The first of the debates between the two candidates is over. We’re now just twenty-seven days from the election which will decide whether George W. Bush will continue as our president, or whether Senator John F. Kerry will be the new president. I can guarantee one thing – on Election Day the news pundits will still be saying, “It’s too close to call.”

I first became interested in presidential elections in 1960 when Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Richard M. Nixon were the candidates for their parties. Every election since, even the ones where a candidate would win decisively, the media would always say, “It’s too close to call.”

I often hear people say, “Gee, I don’t know yet which candidate I’ll vote for.” Let me tell you how I determine which of the candidates to vote for. It’s not very scientific. It’s not clever. It’s not even difficult to understand. Allow me to explain.

As a man, I believe the Bible gives instruction and guidance for life. Having committed my life to Christ, it is my pleasure to follow the Lord. My first responsibility is seeing to the safety and security of my family. This is uppermost in my thinking. Next, if my family is to be secure, I must see to it that my community is secure. For my community to be secure, my nation must be secure.
Should we be concerned about the economy, health care, Social Security, public education, adequate policing services, and the myriad of other national and state concerns? Yes, of course we should. But these issues become moot if we are not secure as a nation.

The war on terrorism is not going to end any time soon. Terrorists do not care about you at all. They are not satisfied with simply leaving you alone. Neville Chamberlain attempted this with Hitler’s Germany in the late 1930’s. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. These hateful extremists want to kill you and destroy everything you have and enjoy as a free people. To misunderstand this is to place yourself and everyone you care about at risk. No amount of reason, no attempts at placating these misguided fools, will be enough. If that could work, I’d be all for it.

Consider the nations that have been attacked by terrorists: The United States, France, Russia, Germany, Spain, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the list goes on. We have chosen to fight this war. Others have not. I’ll not soon forget the words spoken to me when I was visiting the bishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Djibouti, Africa. He said he was so grateful because, “the United States is the only nation willing to take the responsibility for battling the terrorists.”

So, I ask myself which candidate has the best plan for protecting my country? That plan then becomes the basis for protecting my community. And ultimately, this plan is useful in protecting my family. This becomes the linchpin for everything else.

Let me remind you of a quote from President Bush when he addressed the nation in November of 2001. He said, “Terrorists have no home in any faith. Evil has no holy days.” You see, these murderous thugs can only control people through intimidation and fear. At some point the world community will push back – hard! There will be no support anywhere for these ideological zealots.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear boxing promoter, Don King, speaking with such erudition during an interview. He was quite a sight to behold, wearing a star-spangled shirt, and holding two American flags. I wrote down a comment he made which sums up our current situation. He succinctly said, “Terrorism anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere.” He’s absolutely right.

This is why for me the decision on who I vote for is simple. I ask myself, “Who do I believe is going to do the best job of protecting our nation?”

It all comes back to my God-given responsibility to protect my family. So who am I voting for? Let’s just say the choice was easy, and I’ve made my decision.

How do you decide who to vote for?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Marriage Matters

Have you been paying attention to the ongoing debate over the Federal Marriage Amendment? If not, you need to become knowledgeable prior to Election Day, Tuesday, November 2nd.

Admittedly, I grow weary of the campaign banter each election year because it’s the sort of rhetoric offered to the body politic (that’s us) in hopes that in our gullibility we will endorse with our ballots policy that continues to erode our nation’s moral fiber. This year we are faced with a very important decision. Let me explain.

The Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) H.J. Res 56 is an attempt to return a sense of sanity to our national psyche. The amendment reads, “SECTION 1. Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any State, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.”

This “congressional resolution proposes an
amendment to the Constitution that would legally define marriage as the union between a man and a woman only”

To those of us coming from a traditional background this is a no-brainer. But don’t be fooled! There are plenty of folks in our society who want to change the way the family is viewed. Consider all the attempts to perform same-sex marriages in the past year.

How have we as a nation managed to find ourselves in this position? Why is there a need to define marriage anyway?

Allow me to propose that our current need to define marriage with precise language stems from a gradual slide down the slippery slope of moral decay. I watch very little television, and for good reason. I am sickened by Hollywood’s portrayal of what is normal. It began with the criticism of the traditional family. Programs such as, “Ozzie and Harriet,” and “Leave it to Beaver,” were maligned and castigated for being unrealistic. Let me tell you that I enjoyed these programs as a kid because of the way these family members cared for each other and treated each other with respect. What’s wrong with that? Compare that with, “The Simpson’s,” “The Osbourne’s,” and their ilk.

In particular, the male figure is typically cast in a most unflattering manner. No, that’s too kind. Let me rephrase that. Men, especially the husband/father figure, are portrayed as buffoons, dolts, sexually inept, bores, spineless, and in general, having no sense of personal identity or any grasp on what it means to be a man in society. We have been fed this image of men now for forty years.

Due to the growing concern over political correctness, we have become fearful of expressing our thoughts because of the ridicule we might receive from certain quarters. No one wants to be labeled as a homophobe, or gay-basher, or whatever other term might be used. That’s the problem faced in open and serious debate – it descends into name-calling, using libelous terms.

The need to define marriage is so that our society won’t fall into total abject immorality. By making it a Constitutional amendment, it makes it law. It’s a sad day when we need to make such a law, but if that’s what it takes to protect our culture, then so be it.

God did not make a mistake when he created a man and a woman. His design and purpose was for the opposite sexes to be attracted to each other. Read about it. It’s in His book.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Technologically Challenged

Boy, do I need help! It’s not easy to admit to this, but I have not managed to even get much beyond using a computer as a word processor.

Today’s world requires, nay, demands that we be “computer literate.” Okay, fine. I’m all too aware that those in their forties and up did not grow up with PCs. I still remember our first television with its nine inch screen. Then, wonder of wonders, along came color TV.

I knew this advancement into technology would continually change. What I didn’t realize was how much I was going to need to adapt to those changes.

Some of my friends still refuse to enter the world of personal computers (PCs). Some have only recently made the transition because they want to communicate with their grandkids, so they’ve even learned how to download photos to be sent as attachments.

In 1988 I was assigned to the Naval Communications Station on Rough and Ready Island in Stockton. I immediately became aware of the encroachment of technology when I saw the very large computer on the desk in my office. I reminded myself that this was, after all, a communications base. I was told that we could send messages to each other on the base through our computers and never leave our desk. I said, "What’s wrong with using the phone?” Seemed like a logical question. The look I received in return made me feel like a Neanderthal. Well, no matter. This base was so small that if I really needed to speak with someone, I could walk to their office in a matter of minutes. Problem solved, or so I thought. After all, I had an IBM Selectric typewriter, which at the time was the “cat’s meow.”

However, there was a nagging thought that would not leave me alone. People all around me were learning to use PCs. One day I received a phone call from the Navy Chief of Chaplains office in Washington, DC, informing me that I had been chosen to attend post-graduate school. This was very exciting news! I spent many hours researching the different schools I might attend. My top three were: Duke, Princeton, and Claremont. I soon discovered that they required all work to be done on a computer. Alas, I could no longer avoid the inevitable. I remember sitting at my desk, knowing I had to make the break. With a sigh, I reached under the desk, unplugged my beloved Selectric, lovingly carried it to my secretary and asked her to find it a good home. I then walked back to my desk, sat down and began searching for the computer’s on/off button.

Since then, I have had several computers, with the most recent purchase performing more like a word processor. It’s a Dell Inspiron 1150 Mobile Intel Pentium 4 Processor. So it would seem I’m right back where I started from! The only apparent difference is that this has many more bells and whistles than the computer I started with sixteen years ago. That’s why I need help. I think I’ll call my friend, Bruce. He’s a whiz at this stuff.

Now if I can only remember how to bring up his number on my cell phone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Back Home

Two years ago I knew I was going to be called back to active duty. As the Command Chaplain for the First Marine Expeditionary Force Augmentation Command Element (I MACE), it was just a matter of time.

When I reported to the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) Chaplain’s office at Camp Pendleton, California in November, 2002, no one knew what was to come. Readily apparent was the reality that the Marines were preparing for war in Iraq. All the Humvees, howitzers, and new 7-ton trucks were rolling off the base to San Diego for shipment to Kuwait where we were staging for our invasion of Iraq.

During those days in late ’02 and early ’03, we were planning for all possible contingencies, including serious losses should weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) be used against us. With such weapons, there are no longer “front lines” as we once understood that term.

Now that I’m home, I want to personally thank many of you for the wonderful words of encouragement you have offered to me during these last two years through cards, e-mails, and notes. I was also reminded Tuesday night that there were people praying for me all during my period of active duty. I was visiting the Golden Valley Chorus for the first time since I returned home, and was pleasantly surprised by several of these barbershoppers who told me they prayed for me every day.

The “Welcome Home Ceremony” at Stouffer Park on August 15th was simply overwhelming. What a wonderful gift to receive from the folks of Ripon. Family and friends made the trip to Ripon from all over Central California. My wife’s brother, Tony, traveled from Utah, and friends from Portland coordinated their trip to be here for that weekend.

As I have been getting around town to visit so many of you, I can’t begin to tell you how good it is to be back home. Ripon is a wonderful town! I stopped by the Police Department last week to pay a call on Chief Dick Bull. Before leaving two years ago, I was serving as the chaplain for the department. I saw so many of the same officers I’d known previously, plus some new faces. Everyone was so kind to me. It’s good to be back as their chaplain again.

I dropped in to see Sharon Buzzini in her shop, Fabulous Finds, on Main Street. George, and son Tim, welcomed me back to the Jack Tone Golf Course. Of course, I stopped in to see Russ Owen at REO Espresso, admiring his wall commemorating our men and women in uniform. I always enjoy chatting with the regulars that hang out there. It’s always a pleasure to get a hair cut at George Rocha’s shop. I stopped in at Schemper’s Ace Hardware to pick up a few items, and was comforted to see the same folks still working there.

Over the years, I’ve met folks who grew up in small towns and couldn’t wait to get away. Too bad. The major complaint in growing up in a small town is that everyone knows your business. I respond by saying, “If you’re not doing something you’d be ashamed of, what’s the problem?”

Thomas Wolfe, the writer, said, “You can’t go back home again.” Well, I’m back home, and Ripon is still the great town it has always been. I’ll be looking for you.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

9-11 Revisited

Three years ago, almost to the day, the United States of America was attacked by terrorists – terrorists who care nothing about human life and freedom.

I was invited to speak the other evening to the men and women of the Marine Corps Club of Stockton. These are former Marines who have seen more than their share of war; many are veterans of World War Two, as well as Korea and Vietnam. Several of the WWII Marines made the island landing on Iwo Jima, February 1945. The cost in human life was six thousand Marines just to secure the beach in those first four days. Only then could they begin the slow process of routing out the entrenched Japanese soldiers who were sworn to die defending the island.

This, too, was a war brought upon us that was not of our choosing. Americans are a peaceful people. Historically, we have leaned toward being isolationistic – that is to say, we’re content to live and let live. This has been seen as weakness by those who have attempted to strike at us. Usually, we are stunned that anyone would want to harm us when we haven’t done anything to others. Our wealth as a nation is shared throughout the world. Let any devastation take place outside of the U.S. and we’re there to offer assistance with food, clothing and lodging, along with medical aid. Funny, I don’t seem to recall any countries offering to assist us when we’ve been hit with hurricanes, earthquakes, or any other natural disasters. Nor would we ask for help. We have learned to take care of ourselves.

Woe to those who mistakenly believe we are weak, and therefore, an easy target for their terror. It’s true that we are an easy target. The reason for this, is that we are a free and open society. We like it that way. We don’t have guards searching people entering and leaving our cities and states. As a response to 9-11, we have, rightly so, placed security guards in our airports. I travel quite a bit and welcome the time needed to process through the security lines. Of course, I would prefer that we did not need this inconvenience, but the terrorists brought this on us.

It’s important to remember that we have not been attacked on U.S. soil again since 9-11. I suspect that our Homeland Security is working far better than the media would lead us to believe. There is not one freedom-loving American who would ever want to see us attacked again. So, those serving in the FBI, CIA, and other agencies are diligently working to prevent any such future attack. We’ll probably never know of the attempts to harm us that were thwarted because of the hard work performed by these patriots on our behalf.

In an attempt to keep the wolf from the door, the men and women of our armed forces and Homeland security are standing in the gap. They’re proud to do so.

Think about it – has your life really been affected by 9-11? This Saturday, take a few minutes to pray and thank God for those who are willing to keep us safe, allowing you and me to continue to live our lives in freedom.

Make no mistake – we will win this war on terrorism.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Right to Vote

I continue to be amazed at the number of people who do not exercise their right to vote.

As citizens of the United States of America, we are unique in the annals of world history in that we are a nation which empowers the populace to determine who shall be their leaders. As a free people, we have the right to be involved in the process of who governs us as “we the people.”

Following the Revolutionary War, also referred to as the War for Independence, our founding fathers determined that we the people needed to have sound principles recorded in documents outlining the rights each person would have as a citizen of America.

It has been said that the most important right we have is the right to vote. Why? Because this is the sole means by which we can insure our freedoms. All the other rights stem from the right to vote.

In the course of our nation’s history, there have been struggles to insure that this right is enjoyed by all citizens.

There have been four changes to the right to vote. First, because of the Civil War and the subsequent abolishment of slavery, the opportunity to vote was now accorded to those previously left out of the process. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” — Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1870).

Second, the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote; finally eliminating the gender biased voting system originally established. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” — Nineteenth Amendment (1920).

Third, it was determined that citizens should not have to pay to vote. This “poll tax” was now illegal. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election . . . shall not be denied or abridged . . . by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.” — Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964).

And fourth, there was the change enacted that lowered the age a person could vote. “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age.” — Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971).

We would do well to remember that many of our military members down through the years have fought and died so you and I could continue to live as a free people, exercising one of the greatest gifts offered to man – the right to determine who will be our leaders.

If you have moved recently, or turned eighteen, or have become a naturalized citizen, contact your Registrar of Voters. For those in the County of San Joaquin, use the following information: Debbie Hench, Registrar of Voters, 212 North San Joaquin Street, Stockton, CA 95201, P O Box 810, Stockton, CA 95201-0810, (209) 468-2890, (209) 468-2889 Fax, Hours 8:00am - 5:00pm, E-mail:, Website:

Let your voice be heard. Exercise your right to vote. Do it today!