Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Book's Cover

Being the avid reader that I am, I always get excited when I find an author who peaks my interest by writing a solid piece of literary work. In recent months I found just such a writer. Or, I should say, writers. The writers I’m referring to are a husband/wife team: Bodie & Brock Thoene (pronounced Tay-nee), and their sons, Jake and Luke.

A few years ago I was attending the annual Father/Daughter Retreat at Hume Lake Christian Camp with my girls. One of our more enjoyable activities on these weekends is browsing through the gift shop. In the back is a book section, so I always wind up in there. I saw a book written by Jack Thoene, a name in Christian writing that I was unfamiliar with. The title of the book caught my interest: Shaiton’s Fire. The name Shaiton sure sounded a lot like Satan, so I read the back cover where it gives a brief synopsis of the book. It read, “A spark… a chain reaction… and the fire of terrorism explodes in America again.” Intrigued, I made the purchase. I was totally captivated by the story to the degree that my girls went back to the store before we left and bought the second in the series for me, Firefly Blue. There are three in this series all having to do with counter-terrorism ala Tom Clancy. The clear difference is the apparent emphasis on certain characters in the book holding strongly to their Christian beliefs and values. It has all the intrigue and suspense you could ever want, along with the reality of life and death surrounding the characters, be they good guys or bad guys.

Fast forward to late last year and you will find me in a local Christian bookstore. As is my habit, I was snooping through all sorts of books and topics when my eye caught a book cover and title I would never have guessed would be in a Christian bookstore. The book cover had a dark grey-black picture of a cowboy who looked like he was all business. The copper lettering on the cover said, Legends of the West. Now that got my attention! I love tales of the old west almost as much as the Civil War era. This was the fourth and latest volume on Legends of the West. Each volume has three stories written by Bodie and Brock Thoene. I looked for volumes one through three but to no avail. So when I went to the counter to check out, I asked the clerk about the first three volumes. He said they didn’t have them, but he could order them. I put in the order without hesitation because I knew these folks could write. I was not disappointed.

Bodie and Brock have written more than forty-five books of historical fiction. They are incredible in their research of times, places and people. You have the sense that you are living with the people they write about. This couple first gained professional recognition while working as writers with John Wayne’s Batjac Productions. They enjoyed a close friendship with “The Duke,” and write about this in several of their books, particularly at the beginning of the Legends volumes. As people who are committed to their Christian faith, they share some very insightful and touching discussions they had with John Wayne about faith and a belief in Jesus.

Since finishing the Legends, I began another of their many series, The A.D. Chronicles. This series currently has eight books, all having to do with the time of Christ. The setting is Israel with all the turmoil of Roman troops occupying the Holy Land, warring Jewish factions, political backstabbing, internecine feuds and assassinations, and how the main characters get caught up in the mess. They long for a deliverer. I’m reading the first in this series entitled, First Light. I had to drop by the medical clinic this morning for a blood workup, so took my book with me to read while I waited. A young mother of four came in with her brood following behind, and seated themselves across from me. She noticed the book in my hands, smiled with the understanding that I was starting this series, and said, “That is a fantastic series!”

There are a couple of more series I’m looking forward to reading called, The Zion Covenant, and The Zion Chronicles. Due to the meticulous research by the Thoene’s, these two series are recognized by the American Library Association, as well as Zionist libraries around the world, as classic historical novels and are used to teach history in college classrooms.

With the winter months upon us, now would be a good time to begin your journey into the world of the Thoene’s!

Enjoy the adventure!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Including the Kitchen

My wife and I returned last weekend from a much needed ten day vacation to Virginia. Besides the need for both of us to take a break, we traveled to Virginia to celebrate the 40th Wedding Anniversary of my brother, John, and his wife, Lynne. Their anniversary was actually December 30th, but their friends decided to have a surprise party for them at their home on Saturday January 3rd.

So, on New Year’s Eve night, instead of spending the evening with friends to usher in 2009, Isaura and I were packing for the trip. In fact, Isaura crashed about eleven because we had to leave for the Oakland Airport at 6:30 the next morning. I was still up puttering around when the clock struck midnight. I walked over to the bed and gently kissed my wife, wishing her a Happy New Year. She mumbled something unintelligible and went back to sleep. I smiled and went back to my packing.

Our daughter, Laura, and her fiancĂ©, Ken, drove us to the airport the next morning. We had timed everything perfectly – until the announcement that our plane was fogged in down at Long Beach, causing us to be a bit over two hours late taking off. My nephew, Josh, and his girlfriend, Amy, picked us up at Dulles International outside of DC and took us to Lynne’s home. Lynne is a wonderful friend of my brother and sister-in-law’s and was the primary instigator, perpetrator, and motivator in getting this surprise party up and running. Lynne has a wonderful cabin on her property which she allowed Isaura and me to use for the entire ten days. It was a wonderful blessing!

My sister Joy, from Fresno, also flew in on the 1st of January, but she stayed in the big house with Lynne along with another house guest or three.

On Saturday we met with about twenty-five of John and Lynne’s friends at yet another friend’s home where we car-pooled it to my brother’s home. They had no idea we were coming, so you can imagine their surprise when they were ushered to the front door by son, Josh, and daughter, Abi. My mom has been visiting there since Thanksgiving and was in on the surprise. The look on John and Lynne’s faces was priceless when they saw all these friends gathered in their front yard holding a banner that read, “Happy 40th Wedding Anniversary!” Joy, Isaura and I were hiding behind some vehicles until they had walked outside. Then we showed ourselves, adding to the surprise. The rest of the day was spent eating copious amounts of food and quaffing various beverages while keeping one eye on the NFL play-off games.

But let me tell you what Isaura and I did the day before on January 2nd. A friend of mine, Dan, works in the White House. I had previously arranged for us to meet him for lunch at a local eatery just a stone’s throw from the White House. To our surprise, instead of eating there, Dan ushered us out of the restaurant and over to the White House grounds. Dan works in the Administration Department which is located in the Eisenhower Building. Once inside, Dan introduced us to a number of very interesting people who, like Dan, are not politically appointed, but are hired to perform essential administrative duties requiring no political affiliation.

Dan took us to the White House Cafeteria where we grabbed some food to take back to his office. As we ate our food, getting caught up on what each has been doing, I found myself amused at being in the midst of where so much activity takes place behind the scenes of our government. When we finished eating, Dan walked us around the building pointing out various government offices and introducing us to even more folks.

I was beginning to think that we’d taken enough of Dan’s time, so began to give the indications that we needed to leave. After all, this was an historic inaugural, besides the normal transition of power. It was at this point that Dan said, “I want you to meet some people.” So he led the way out of the Eisenhower Building, crossing the driveway, and entering the West Wing! This was a first for both Isaura and me. We’d previously made tours of the White House, but that was years before. And those tours didn’t include the West Wing. Once inside we saw the dining room in all of its presidential finery. We also saw a door marked, Situation Room. But the most fun was walking into the kitchen and meeting the folks who cook for the president and his staff.

The reason this was so special is that the folks who work in the kitchen (cooks, stewards, etc) are all active duty Navy (Go Navy! Beat Army!). What a treat to meet those who do all the food preparation for the president and his staff. They could not have been more gracious, taking the time to talk with us, answering the same questions I’m sure they are asked all the time. It was loads of fun!

As we prepared to bid farewell to these fine Navy folks, they presented us with one of the White House menus. Some of the fare offered was, Roasted Mediterranean Sandwich, Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad, Southern BBQ Platter, West Wing Burger, and the White House Signature Steak Lone Star Cowboy! I asked them if they would all sign the menu for us, which they did. It now sits among my other special artifacts which I have been fortunate enough to acquire over the years.

Once we said goodbye to Dan, thanking him for his generosity and time, we exited the security gate and walked up and down Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. There were countless numbers of workmen setting up bleachers and other scaffolding in preparation for the Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

Isaura and I agreed it was a great experience and a rare treat to see all of this busy activity for so momentous an occasion. But we’re just as glad to watch it on TV from our home in Ripon, California! And as I watch Mr. Obama take the Oath of Office, I will be thinking of the Navy folks a short one hundred yards or so away in the kitchen preparing meals for the new White House occupant.

Is this a great country, or what!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When It's All Said and Done

I’m grateful for those who protect our freedoms. You are probably thinking that I’m referring to our military. Yes, of course, I have the greatest respect for them and the way they perform their jobs. But I’m actually thinking of one particular person. That would be our out-going president, George W. Bush.

Whatever your political persuasion might be, it simply cannot be denied that following 9-11 we have not had another incident of terrorist attack on American soil. As of this writing, that’s 2,667 days!

Think back with me. Remember how we all sat around utterly stunned on 9-11? We simply could not believe we’d been so viciously attacked. Nor was there any viable reason for it. And remember how we were all convinced that more such attacks were imminent? I was one of those. I thought for sure we’d be hit continuously for a period of days if not weeks. Remember how the airline industry nearly went belly-up because no one wanted to get on an airplane? We wondered if our railroads would also be hit. Perhaps bombs set off on our highways. Do you also remember how President Bush addressed the nation, the world, and the terrorists who did this to us, and laid down the law? Was there any doubt in your mind that he meant business?

As for legacies, a person’s best legacy should always be that they did what was right. When it comes time for those who write the legacies of our leaders, the overriding legacy for our 43rd President should be that he kept America safe from terrorists following 9-11. This legacy of safety was handed to his successor, who in turn, should strive to maintain the same policy.

Don’t be mistaken. I’m not suggesting that President Bush be made a saint, or canonized, or even placed on Mount Rushmore along with the current residents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. There are numerous aspects of President Bush’s policies that I did not agree with; positions he took which disappointed me; and opportunities he had to speak to the American people about what he was doing, yet did not do so. I would liked to have seen him use the “bully pulpit” more frequently.

That being said, you and I are safe in our homes and jobs today because this president stood up to the terrorists, did the hard work, and made us safe. We actually felt safer, even though we were only too aware that at any time another terrorist attack could be forthcoming.

Some in our nation have accused the president of master-minding this heinous attack of 9-11. Are you kidding? Not only does this stretch the bounds of credulity, it simply would be impossible to pull off without a whole lot of people knowing about it and then keeping their mouths shut to boot! I’ve read all the supposed conspiracy theories and have dismissed them for the poppycock that it is.

So as President George W. Bush says farewell to Washington DC, and retires to his home in Texas, we should all be grateful for the courageous stand this man took at a time of national crisis. He did not slink back from these evil-doers, nor did he try to make nice with them. He understood exactly what they had in mind. He also understood what would get their attention. That’s where our military men and women come in. There’s nothing like a good punch in the nose to get the bad guy’s attention!

When it is all said and done, we have been well served by this president when it comes to national security and protection from enemies bent on our destruction. It will be interesting to see how the new administration handles the war on terrorism. I know what has been said. But there’s a world of difference between what is said at the moment that will get people to vote for you, and the reality of decision-making in facing down America’s enemies.

Thank you, Mr. President. You have served the American people well. May God bless you and Mrs. Bush as you enjoy a rest from your labors.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

In Defense of Rick Warren

Perhaps you’ve noticed in recent days the criticism and verbal attacks leveled at Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in Southern California. What’s all the ruckus about? Well, after the interviews Pastor Warren did last spring with then-presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama, on the one hand Pastor Warren was roundly criticized for not asking tougher questions of the candidates; and on the other he was chastised for being too soft in his questions.

Now it seems, Pastor Warren has stepped in it again. Some folks are all in a twit because president-elect, Barak Obama, has invited Pastor Warren to offer the invocation at the inaugural on January 20th. The Lefties, and Righties, and the Self-Righteous have raised their ugly heads spewing venom at Pastor Warren for accepting this invitation.

In light of the unwarranted criticism leveled at this minister, I would like to offer a defense if you will.

I first became aware of Rick Warren’s ministry in the early 90s when he was being compared to Pastor Bill Hybels of the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. Since then I’ve read several of Pastor Warren’s books. They are very solid in their biblical content. The church I pastor has also used his highly popular “40 Days of Purpose” program. I have watched Pastor Warren on television and have been impressed with the manner in which he explains the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. During the period of time when I was called back to active duty in 2002, I made it a point to visit the Saddleback Church since it was only a relatively short distance from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Both times I attended services, the message by Pastor Warren was right on the money. Despite the church’s huge size, I was greeted and made to feel welcome from the parking lot attendants to the after service coffee shop servers.

In case you missed it, FOX News had a special program on Christmas Eve. They set aside three hours of programming for the celebration of Christmas. One of those hours was the service held at Saddleback with Pastor Warren preaching a message of Christ and the hope that his life brings to our sin-fallen world.

Some will say if Pastor Warren is so strong an Evangelical Christian, why would he accept the invitation of President-elect Obama to pray at the inauguration? Because an invocation is a prayer that invites God to be present in the proceedings. It is not a prayer of support for the new administration’s policies and plans, or for any particular person in the administration. Instead, the prayer is offered where the person offering the prayer is beseeching God to exert his will in the affairs of men. It is also a prayer in which the person praying prays that those in leadership will have an ear to hear how the Lord would want them to lead. Could there be any greater honor than to be asked to pray for the nation and its leaders as a new administration takes the mantle of responsibility for all Americans? The invoker, in this case Pastor Warren, is speaking directly to God. Men and women who are watching and listening may eaves-drop on the prayer, but the prayer is not directed to them.

Does Pastor Warren agree with everything President-elect Obama believes? Certainly not! On the most critical of issues – life, Pastor Warren is clearly in favor of preserving life from conception forward. President-elect Obama holds to the opposing view, fully supporting a woman’s right to choose, and even signing legislation allowing a baby who has survived an abortion to be allowed to die.

Offering the invocation at the presidential inaugural is an honor that any person of the cloth should welcome regardless of politics. It is a golden opportunity for Pastor Warren to speak to God about America. It’s a free country. You’re welcome to eaves-drop on the invocation. Somehow, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with what you hear.