Marines.Together We Served

Monday, July 31, 2006

Manly Myths

For several decades now we have been subjected to a new societal philosophy regarding men. It started about the same time we began to lose our reverence of heroic figures.

Allow me to visit some of the manly myths many of us grew up with.
  • Real Men Don’t Cry – Here’s a classic if ever there was one. Young boys of my generation (Boomers) were taught that real men don’t cry. My own emotional makeup leans toward the sensitive side. In fact, I tear up pretty quickly. Just ask my congregation! Get me started on how much God loves me and I turn to mush.
  • Real Men Can Hold Their Liquor – The exact definition of what “holding your liquor” means is up to individual interpretation. In general, it means you can still conduct yourself in a reasonably sober fashion even though you’ve attempted to personally keep Jack Daniels in business. You’re the only one who believes he’s still functioning well, while everyone else knows you’re blitzed.
  • Real Men Drink the Other Guy Under the Table – This is cousin to “holding your liquor.” If a man can drink the other guy under the table, then the other guy is not a real man. Interpretation: There can only be one real man. This is a scene often used by Hollywood. Even “Real Women” in the movies can drink men under the table. God help us!
  • Real Men are Tough – Translation: I can beat you up. When we were little boys we’d proudly declare that our dad could beat up your dad. But because we men are often not too sure how we’d do in a real knock-down, drag-out altercation, we engage in more controlled manly endeavors. Football and wrestling come to mind. Even basketball – the “non-contact” sport. If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale. Golf has even become muscular. Tiger Woods pumps iron!
  • Real Men Don’t Speak Very Much – Men are supposed to walk through life communicating little except by pointing, nodding, or grunting. Fists, weapons, and various other Neanderthal methods are how real men make their way through life. When it comes to speaking to women, especially one’s wife, the communication skills drop precipitously.
  • Real Men Swear Like a Sailor – Pardon me, but this is another of those really stupid thoughts that some men will actually allow themselves to believe it. This insidious habit can, at the very least, embarrass, and at worst, bring humiliation and rejection. But there’s an element of pride in being able to string together the vilest of these invectives. Hollywood seems to think that a movie today cannot possibly be interesting without peppering the speech with the most objectionable of expletives. Once again, women are in on it too.
  • Real Men Have Hair – Where exactly the hair is on the anatomy is irrelevant: Just so long as a man can boast of hair. Most noticeably it will be the hair on the head. If that is lacking, then it’s hair on the face. If that is difficult to grow, then it’s hair on the chest – always a crowd pleaser! The hair on the back of the hands is supposed to be manly, though I’ve never figured out why. Another display of manliness is body hair – the kind that grows on the shoulders and down the back. These guys like to go out in public with tank tops. Yech! Last, but hardly least – in fact, this one is the real stunner of perceived manliness – and that would be hair in the private area. The desired effect, by implication, is virility. Locker rooms can be very unnerving for some who are insecure in their manhood!
  • Real Men Are Free Spenders – This is generally true. However, Dutchmen are excluded in this. A man never wants to reveal or admit he cannot afford to pay the tab, or leave a generous tip. Even if he has spent half the rent money to buy a round for his friends at the local watering hole, it is worth it to him. That he has to then face his wife when he goes home – well, that’s just part of the price you pay to maintain your manhood in the eyes of your friends.

I trust you’ve enjoyed a chuckle reading these manly myths. For years I struggled with views and attitudes of supposed manliness. But here’s the question: If these ideas of manhood listed above are false, then what is a real man?

When I gave my life to Christ as a 24 year old sergeant in the Marine Corps, I needed to have my faulty perception of manliness revamped. I was awestruck by the life of Christ written in the Gospels. Then I read Paul’s word picture of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11. Consider this: Jesus, though in very nature God: 1) made himself nothing; 2) taking the very nature of a servant; 3) humbled himself; 4) becoming obedient to death.

So, what was the outcome of this? “God exalted him to the highest place.”

Men, if you will submit to the Lord, he will conform you into the image of a real man. This also sets us free from the many false images of manliness.

Warning! This transformation will not only change you, but your family, your community, and your view of the world.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Born Again

Last week I was on a trip to New Orleans where headquarters for the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing is located. I was staying in the Landmark Hotel, located near the Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Seated in my rental car, I was mentally going over the route to the Naval Support Activity. Cruising along Interstate 10, working my way over to the east side of New Orleans, I was flipping through the radio stations. As you might expect there is quite a selection to choose from. I was looking for some local talk show to catch up on the local issues and happenings in New Orleans. They are in the Hurricane Season which has put everyone on a state of alert after last year’s devastation. Plus, there has been the recent reelection of the controversial mayor of the Big Easy, Ray Nagin. I finally settled on a station that caught my attention because of the topic “Born Again.” No, this was not on one of the many religious stations in the New Orleans market. By the station’s own description, they are conservative and secular.

What caught my attention was the program host talking about the term “born again.” “This might be interesting,” I thought. A caller was on the line who was obviously a Christian because he was attempting to explain to the radio host what the term “born again” means. I quickly deduced that two things were happening: 1) The caller was valiantly giving his best effort to define both the meaning and experience of being born again, and 2) The host was not the least bit interested in giving his caller the opportunity, but instead made disparaging remarks about the “religious right,” and specifically the term “born again.” I listened to this for a few minutes before moving on to another station, but here’s some of what I heard from the host: The term Born Again is simply a tool used by religionists to make other people feel religiously inferior. And, using this term is nonsense because either you believe or you don’t, according to the host.

For a brief moment I considered placing a call to the radio program, but figured the host wouldn’t be any more interested in hearing what I had to say than he was his current caller. That’s assuming I even managed to get through. Not to mention I was in the car driving through a city where you need to always be paying attention. So, instead, I have decided to share my thoughts with you.

The first thing I would want to share is this: the term “born again” is not something religionists fabricated for personal use in attempts to convert people to the Christian faith. Many of you remember the 1976 presidential election when then Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter referred to himself as a “Born Again” Christian. I remember how that was received in the media! The jokes and snide remarks were everywhere. In an effort to present himself as being a human who wrestles with life issues, he commented that he had at times lusted. Well, this merely added more fodder to the media frenzy!

The second, and most important thing I would say about the term “born again” is that Jesus himself used this term. It first appears when Jesus has a visit from a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus says to him, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Understandably, Nicodemus is confused and says so. He mumbles something about the impossibility of a man entering his mother’s womb a second time to be born. Jesus says, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the spirit is spirit.” In other words, don’t confuse the two – something the radio host I was listening to failed to acknowledge.

Being born again is something that God brings about in a person’s life when they have arrived at the point where they understand that they can do absolutely nothing to save themselves from their sin nature, and that the only way they can ever get to heaven is if God makes the way. Enter: Jesus – God’s Perfect answer.

You see, because Jesus is divine, he alone is capable of preparing me for heaven. In my sinful condition I do not qualify for heaven. So when I submit to Jesus I allow him to make the necessary changes in my life. Further, I understand that it is only through him that I am made suitable for heaven. This is what it means to be born again – my heart changed by God’s hand.

This also explains why those who have had this experience want others to have the same experience. It is truly life-changing.

Monday, July 17, 2006

In Defense of Israel

You pick your times to fight.

That’s a maxim I was taught growing up. Not every slight, insult or threat is worth going to the mat for. However, there are certainly times in life when you need to say, “Enough!”

Israel once again finds itself beset by enemies that want their small eastern Mediterranean seacoast nation eliminated. The enemies of Israel will settle for nothing less than the extermination of the Jewish race. If you question this, then you have no knowledge of history. Just in the past few weeks alone, we’ve been subjected to rantings by the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This “Head of State” publicly stated that the Holocaust never occurred. He avows that six million Jews were never eliminated in the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Treblinka. Then, as if this foolishness was not enough, he declared that it was his intention to eliminate the Jewish State. Do you see the inconsistency in this statement? He denies the Holocaust, yet he wants all Jews dead.

It should be noted that there are fifty-seven Holocaust Memorials around the world, twenty-three of which are in the United States. Add to that the personal experience of no less a worthy than General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II. He recorded his own reactions after visiting the death camps. “I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency...I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.”

So it should come as no surprise that Iran, along with Syria, is fomenting this conflict. Six years ago Israel was encouraged to leave southern Lebanon alone, assured by the United Nations that the Lebanese government would see to it that the radical Islamic group, Hezbollah, would be disarmed, and therefore no longer a threat to Israel. Because the Lebanese government never dealt with Hezbollah, this terror group has been free to harass Israel with impunity.

Take a look at your world map and count the number of countries that border Israel: Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with Saudi Arabia a stones throw across the Gulf of Aqaba. Now, name one country in that group that is not committed to the destruction and ultimate annihilation of the Jewish State. Can’t name one, can you?

As a nation formed under UN mandate in 1948, Israel has had to fight for its existence ever since. There was the “Six-Day War” in 1967; followed by the “Yom Kippur War” in 1973. What this current war will be called in the annals of history is yet to be determined.

Israel is the 6th strongest military power in the world. Thus, it is laughable, if it were not so tragic, to hear other heads of state from the G8 Conference call for Israel to not use excessive force in responding to the attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas. Excuse me, but these world leaders calling for calm should be grateful that Israel has not unleashed the full fury of their military might. And they may yet – and could you blame them? Suppose you had to wake up every day with someone pointing a gun at your head, I guarantee you’d be fed up pretty quickly, especially if you had the means to take care of this nemesis. You can only be provoked so long before you take action. Israel has picked her time to fight. They also know they will get little sympathy and virtually no support from the world community, apart from the United States. They will do what they need to do in order to protect their people and survive. If you want to experience peace with an enemy, you hit them so hard and fast that it will be a long time before they ever consider trying to hurt you again.

Where will this all end? Are we looking at World War III? Is the Battle of Armageddon just around the corner? Time will tell.

Israel is facing her enemies in a way reminiscent of David facing Goliath – only this time David is muscular and robust, carrying a whole lot more than a slingshot. I would not be surprised if Israel effectively wipes out the Hezbollah and Hamas, and even goes after Iran’s strategic sites. At the very least it would certainly be a welcome help in the ongoing war on terrorism.

In the midst of this war I am reminded in the Bible to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

I invite you to join me.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Family Time

It must be in our genetic code.

While on vacation, eating copious amounts of food is the order of the day. When the Roots side of the family gathers on these annual vacations to Maine, we often eat out at such places as Chase’s, a wonderful little restaurant in Winter Harbor where they serve blueberry pancakes. Maine blueberries are an epicurean delight! Another favorite eating establishment is Dennett’s Wharf in Castine where seafood is the main fare. Castine is a wonderfully quaint New England village with a calm harbor, much favored by sailing men in the early days of our country. British forces occupied this port during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Today, the Maine Maritime Academy is the primary industry for this historic location.

But it’s the cooking we do back at the cabin in Corea that is the most fun. Here’s a sampling of what has been baked by various family members.

My brother, John, is an excellent baker. His specialty is homemade pies. For his apple pies he uses two types of apples, Braeburn and Granny Smith. Today, he’s planning to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie – one of my favorites. Rhubarb, for those of you who are unfamiliar with this marvelous vegetable creation, is a tasty treat when cooked in pies. My grandmother used to bake rhubarb pie when I was a kid. It grew in our garden in New York. Besides the pies, John also whipped up a batch of Toll House chocolate chip cookies, and a batch of oatmeal raisin. Yum!

Sister, Joy, jumped in to the baking venue by producing some of the best peanut butter cookies you’ve ever tasted. The common lament that evening was, “You only made one batch?” Her secret? “I always put a lot more peanut butter into the recipe than is asked for,” she said.

Isaura got into the mix (pardon the pun!) when she made chocolate bread pudding with a German chocolate sauce. Man, was that good!

Yours truly had his hand in a few things as well. I made my “Killer Pancakes,” so named by my sister-in-law Maggie. Only this time I added fresh blueberries which really went over big. Joy’s six-year-old granddaughter, Bethany, helped me with the pancakes. We made personalized pancakes where you dribble some batter on the griddle in the shape of the person’s first name initial. For Bethany it would be a B, only backwards, so when you pour batter over the letter, and flip the pancake, you see the initial correctly. Kids and adults, love it! In addition, John’s wife, Lynne, asked me to make my oatmeal pancakes which she had enjoyed from a previous vacation. But the all time favorite was the popovers I made twice during our stay here in Corea, Maine. The aroma of these tasty treats is worth the time involved to make them. Family members would be standing with plate in hand to get one hot out of the oven. Those not already up, would be awakened by the smell. This is a recipe I picked up from the chef at the Cliff House in San Francisco in early June while Isaura and I were celebrating our 30th Anniversary. A specialty of this world famous restaurant is their popovers. Joy’s daughter, Holly, has worked at the Cliff House for years. So when word got around that Holly’s aunt and uncle were there for Sunday brunch, several of the staff, including the chef, stopped by to say hello. Figuring I was asking the impossible, I inquired of the chef if I might have the recipe for the popovers. To my delight and amazement, he said, “Sure! Let me get it for you.” A couple of minutes later he handed me a printed copy of the recipe. What I held in my hands was gold!

Vacations with family are special times, and eating is just one part of the whole experience. Sort of reminds me of the Psalmist declaring, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

Because I know you are all such wonderful folks, I’ll gladly share this popover recipe with you (It’s also available on the restaurant web site!). May it be as enjoyable a time for you and your family as it has been for mine. Eat one for me!
The Cliff House POPOVERS (by Kevin Weber) Prepares 36
1 Qt flour
1 Qt milk
10 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
¼ cup salad oil
Combine eggs, salt, and sugar in mixing bowl. Blend well on medium speed. Add milk and mix well. Lower the speed and add the flour. Mix thoroughly, scraping the sides as needed. Add salad oil and mix for about 20 seconds. *Chill batter up to two days ahead before baking if desired.
Pour mixture into well greased and oiled popover pans filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. If you have a convection oven, lower heat by 25 degrees and cook for 35 minutes. Popovers are done when the yellow egg color of the batter turns an even brown. DO NOT OPEN the oven too early or the popovers will collapse.
IMPORTANT! To properly season the popover pans, preheat the pan in the hot oven. When you are ready to bake the popovers, simply brush the inside of the cups with a mixture of ¼ cup flour and ¼ cup of (cottonseed) oil. Now you’re ready to fill each cup 2/3 full. This helps the popover to rise evenly.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Bland Blessing

Last Sunday morning I wanted to attend a church that had an early service because my Sister Joy and I needed to drive from Connecticut to New Jersey in the early afternoon to attend the funeral of a long time family friend.

I discovered a number of interesting tidbits in my search for a church to attend. First, very few churches have an early Sunday morning service. Second, not all the information listed in the Yellow Pages is up to date. Third, many churches leave no information about their church services on the church answering machine. Fourth, churches are not easily identified by their name. For instance, if I saw New Life Fellowship listed the name would tell me nothing about the church other than they’ve come up with a contemporary name. Now, don’t get me wrong. That’s a fine name – but it doesn’t let me know who you are as a church and what you might believe.

On this Sunday I really wanted to be blessed. Let me restate that: I needed to be blessed. I don’t often get to sit in a church service and hear good solid preaching. So, not being familiar with the churches in Danbury, and for the reasons listed above, I just picked one that seemed to be solid. I punched the address of the church into the TomTom (a global positioning system, GPS) I’d purchased for Isaura as a Christmas gift last year, and drove to the church. I walked into the New Hope Baptist Church shortly after the service had started. I was pleasantly surprised to realize I’d walked into a black worship service. I knew right away I was in for a treat. And, I was prepared to be blessed. The announcements were just finishing, so I walked down to the third pew from the front and sat down. The worship leader then asked if there were any guests and would they stand and tell where they were from. So I stood and said, “I’m Pastor Chuck Roots of the Ripon Free Methodist Church in California.” This was greeted with warm applause. During the greeting time which followed, the lady leading the worship, Rev Minnie Bland, invited me to sit on the platform, a customary courtesy which many churches extend to fellow ministers. I accepted Rev Bland’s invitation to sit on the platform and had a wonderful time.

They had an all-male choir led by a small ensemble made up of a keyboard, electric guitar, piano, and drums. These guys could sing and play! The guest preacher was from North Carolina and was in fine form. Following the sermon they had the offering. Once the offering was collected Rev Bland leaned over and asked me to give the closing prayer. After the service, Miss Minnie asked me how I came to attend their church. I explained to her my trials and tribulations in locating a church to attend at so early an hour. She smiled sweetly and asked if I would I come back next time I was in Danbury and possibly preach? “Sure,” I said. “I’d love to.”

It was in 1991 that I was stationed in Rota, Spain. There I met Chaplain Rick Wilkins. Rick had started a black gospel service which was very well attended despite being held on Sunday afternoons at 2 pm. Though the congregation was predominantly black, my family and I chose to attend this worship service. Rick invited me to share the preaching responsibilities, which I gladly did, having more blessings than I could possibly recount for you. Rick and I traded weeks, so the Sunday I was not preaching I would sing with the choir. As is tradition, the choir was dressed in robes. I love to sing, so I couldn’t wait to sing with them on those Sundays. At first I was the only white face in the choir, but it didn’t matter. It was a blessing just to sing with such exuberant folks. My spirit was always lifted. Gradually more folks of non-descript color (read: white) began attending the services. Many eventually got involved in the choir. My! What a time we had!

Perhaps next summer I’ll vacation for a few days in Danbury with my wife’s relatives and see if Rev Minnie Bland will indeed have me come and preach.

This all reminds me that the Bible says there will be folks in heaven gathered around the throne of God, “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Jesus).”

The Rev Minnie Bland, by her simple invitation to sit on the platform, could not have known the flood of memories I would experience.

I was truly blessed!