past week is one I’m not likely to forget.
year our church conference holds a retreat for the SCAMPS at Silver Spur
Christian Camp in Tuolumne, California. SCAMPS is an acronym for “Senior
Citizens Are Marvelous People.” To qualify you must be at least 55 years old,
or your spouse must be that age even if you are younger.
roll in from all over northern California, and more than a few do so in a motorhome
or some other RV. The rest of us stay in separate rooms within the campground.
Each year there is a special speaker, along with someone to lead us in singing
and worship. And like most retreats, we seem to be sitting down to a meal every
time we turn around.
this get-away (Monday evening through Thursday noon) we engage in a variety of
sessions and activities. Some of our oldest attenders are well into their
nineties! It is such a treat to be around these saints who, in most cases, have
been walking with the Lord for many decades. Just this morning I was seated at
breakfast with Dick, a man who had served in the Army during WWII. He asked me
if I’d ever heard of Officers’ Christian Fellowship (OCF). I assured him that I
certainly had. He then told me he was in on the original planning for OCF in
Washington, DC in 1943. It was originally founded as Officers’ Christian Union
(OCU), and later changed to OCF in 1972. He told me about the first president
of OCF, General Hayes Kroner, and his enthusiasm for bringing together Christian
officers from our different branches of the military for Bible study and fellowship.
In all of my 34 years in the military I had never met anyone who was part of
the founding of this group. What a blessing!
most of our sessions at SCAMPS I sat next to one of the sweetest ladies you’ll
ever meet. She is well into her 90s but still exhibits a real joy for life.
Laura was widowed a few years ago when her husband, Virgil, went home to be
with Jesus. He had been a pastor and conference superintendent in the southern
California area. What is so unique about Laura is that she makes you feel as
though you are the most important person in the world when you speak with her. And
she always has an encouraging word for you. What a joy to be with this godly
evening following our snack time, quite a few of us would sit around the dining
tables and play Mexican Train for the next few hours. I counted four games
going at the same time. What a blast we had!
the final night together, there is always a Talent Show. Folks from the various
Free Methodist churches in our conference cobble together some skit for the
entertainment of all the rest. These things are planned before we get to camp
because of the need for props and rehearsals. Well, those of us from the Ripon
Free Methodist church had decided we would do a skit where the men would
simulate performing an Olympic-style synchronized swim. We five hardy souls
donned our sleeveless T-shirts with FM (Free Methodist) emblazoned on the
front, swim trunks (no Speedos!), a woman’s shower cap, and swim goggles. We
marched in to the Olympic anthem, stood before the audience which was already
busting up, and then walked behind a three-foot-high blue tarp stretched across
the stage simulating water in a pool. We then began our various “synchronized”
moves. It includes diving moves to left and right, circle moves, and the one
that took the cake was when we laid down on the floor with our legs sticking up
in the air. We moved our legs around as though we were in the water, including
wiggling our feet! The whole skit couldn’t have lasted more than three minutes,
but it had folks laughing till some were nearly gasping for breath. Some
admitted later that their stomachs hurt. One lady told me she awoke at 3:00 in
the morning laughing thinking back on our skit.
next morning the folks from Ripon gathered around the breakfast table discussing
the success of the skit. I mentioned that we’d have to begin planning
immediately for next year because we have really raised the bar of expectation.
I think we’ve come up with a good one, but all I’m going to say is that it will
finally arrived back home late Thursday. I unpacked all my clothes and other
items I had stowed in my car. My wife informed me that our nearly five-year-old
granddaughter, Alyssa, would be spending the night. Sure enough, she showed up
at the front door with her mom about eight o’clock. We played for a while, and
then it was time for Alyssa to make popcorn with granddaddy. One of Alyssa’s
delights is to “steal” popcorn from my bowl, even though I prepare a bowl just
for her. I pretend like I don’t see her little hand sneaking into my bowl. She
laughs with total delight, thinking she has pulled a fast one on me. Just
before heading for bed, Alyssa noticed my swim goggles sitting on the kitchen
counter where I had placed them after coming home. She grabbed them and asked
her Meema (that’s her name for grandma), “Are these for granddaddy so he can
look for his golf balls?” Isaura found great humor in this remark and couldn’t
wait to tell me. The mental picture in my mind got me to chuckling. Isaura and
I laughed together at the perceptions of our little blessing called Alyssa.
was a great week, full of fun and laughter. It made me reflect on Proverbs
17:22, which says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”
your heart today? Have you had the medicine of a good laugh lately?
this is not about the hip-hop group Run
early September my wife and I drove to San Diego to attend and participate in a
friend’s retirement from the military. Steve is a Lieutenant Colonel in the
Marine Corps, starting out as an enlisted man in 1971. Over the years he
acquired his college degree and was accepted into the Marine officer program. Later
he earned a Ph.D. He accomplished a lot during those forty-one years.
location for the retirement ceremony was the courtyard of the museum at Marine
Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), San Diego. It was a beautiful day and a wonderful
time to reconnect with Marine officers I’ve served with over the years. I’ve
been retired from the military for four years, so I am, for all intents and
purposes, out of the loop. On this august occasion I was honored to be asked to
offer the Invocation.
went to MCRD in October of 1969 as a Marine recruit to begin boot camp training.
The Marine Corps has been training Marines at this base since 1919. The
memories of such an experience never leave you. There’s probably not one day
that goes by for all former enlisted Marines that something doesn’t cause you
to harken back to those days in boot camp. The image of a Drill Instructor (DI)
with the tell-tale “Smokey” (because it looks like the hat Smokey Bear wears,
but is officially known as the WWI campaign hat), still causes me to wonder if
I’ve done something wrong. It was 1984 before I ever returned to MCRD after
graduating from boot camp. When I returned, I was a commissioned officer,
serving as a Navy chaplain. As such I was senior to all DIs on the base, but it
didn’t matter! You never quite get over the intimidation these folks placed on
the way down to San Diego we stopped at Camp Pendleton where I was first
stationed as a chaplain in 1984. I needed a haircut, so we stopped by Mainside
to have “my ears lowered.” I now looked military again with a close-cropped “high-and-tight.”
on base at MCRD Isaura and I checked into the Transient Officers Quarters. It
is located on a small bay with perfectly manicured grass, colorful flowers, and
swaying palm trees. Our room was spacious and comfortable. Even though I
retired as a Navy captain (meaning the only ones senior to me are admirals and
generals), you still get a twinge while coming on the base where DIs ruled your
life for a few months. Isaura commented on how beautiful it was. I reminded her
that as a recruit I never saw this part of the base!
boot camp training you run everywhere. So, before Isaura and I left for home I
decided to go for a run on the base. I ran up toward headquarters, then around
to the building where the Marine Corps Band is located. This leads out to the
Parade Deck, a place where we marched as recruits in formation endlessly. I
stopped to take in the view of this magnificent rectangular area, with a huge
American flag (called the Holiday Flag) on the far side of the parade deck
centered for various ceremonies. It fluttered beautifully in the ever-present
breeze which comes in from the San Diego Bay. This being a Sunday morning there
were no platoons of recruits marching in formation where they learn the finer
points of “close-order drill.” But Sunday afternoon? They’d be back out there. There
is a reason why Marines know how to march!
wasn’t quite ready to leave this scene, so I looked over to my left and
marveled at the architectural structure of the commanding general’s office
building, all part of the base’s Spanish Revival Style (circa 1920) used
throughout the base. But none of us going through boot camp will ever forget
the mustard-yellow color of all of these buildings!
up my run again I swung a loop around the end of the parade deck where the
parking lot is and headed for the alcoved entrance separating the general’s
office from the base chapel. A number of recruits in their first week were heading
back to their barracks after church services. The reason I knew they were in
their first week is because they had there pant legs hanging straight down
instead of “bloused,” and they were wearing tennis shoes. Dressed in this way makes
you feel like a real dork. And you cannot wait until you are given permission
to wear your combat boots so you can then blouse your trousers. It may not seem
like a big deal, but trust me: It is! You want to at least look like a Marine.
And all the while you’re striving to prove you are worthy of being called a
continued my run until I arrived back at our room. I truly enjoyed those
moments of reflection, and particularly the run itself. Don’t get me wrong – I
do not, nor have I ever, enjoyed running. But this was different. This time I went
for a run because I wanted to – not because I had to.
parties do many strange things, but this seems especially so during a
presidential election year. And, boy, are we in the middle of a doozy!
I write this article we have already seen the conclusion of the Republican
National Convention (RNC), and we’re in the midst of the Democratic National
Convention (DNC). Since many of the goings-on mean very little to the vast
majority of us, I have been delving into some of the terms we hear each
election cycle, but know very little about them. In particular, what does
“platform” mean within the context of the conventions?
here’s what I’ve discovered. On the web site, wiki.answers.com, they provided
this answer to political platforms. “American
political parties are organized on a national, state, and local
basis. Every four years, the parties hold a national convention to nominate a
presidential and vice presidential candidate. They also meet to approve a party
platform of issues and positions upon which the candidates will run. A party
platform is a set of principles, goals, and strategies designed to address
pressing political issues.”
this definition it would appear that the leadership of each party works
diligently to establish pertinent issues and policy positions. Then it is
expected that the party candidates for president and vice president will comply
with this platform.
what was the platform established by the Republicans? First: Jefferson’s vision
of a “wise and frugal government” must be restored. Second: this platform
affirms that America has always been a place of grand dreams and even grander
realities; and so it will be again, if we return government to its proper role,
making it smaller and smarter. Third: we will lift the torch of freedom and
democracy to inspire all those who would be free. Fourth: we will always
support and cherish our men and women in uniform who defend our liberties with
their lives. And so the list of issues and ideas continues extensively.
Democratic Party has their platform as well. First: cutting waste, reducing the deficit, asking all
to pay their fair share. Second: all-of-the-above energy policy. Third: out-building and out-innovating the
rest of the world. Fourth: standing up for workers. Fifth: help small business.
And so the list goes on much like the Republican platform.
So what’s all the fuss about the Democratic Party
and their platform? Simple. There was one sentence carried over from the 2008
platform that said: “We need a government that
stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives
everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.” Using the
phrase “God-given” is what raised a ruckus. This is the only place in the
entire document where God is ever mentioned.
the silliness of this dust-up is the fact that Ohio Governor Ted Strickland was
the chairman for the Platform Drafting Committee. “Who’s Ted Strickland?” you ask.
Besides his role as governor, he is an ordained minister in the United
Methodist Church. Under his supervision both this phrase “God-given,” and the recognition
of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were removed from the Democratic Party
platform for 2012.
seeing an opportunity to embarrass the Democrats, made an issue of this
intentional removal of God and Jerusalem from the platform. It worked! Last
night during their convention, the DNC made a motion to reinstate God and
Jerusalem back into the platform. This would seem to be a rather simple and
perfunctory process, right? Not so fast!
Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, had the unenviable task of chairing the conference
last night. I’m sure he thought this would be a mindless procedural move and
then they could get on with the meatier parts of the evenings events.
Unfortunately, things did not work out that way. Using the parliamentary
process of “voice vote,” the proposal was read which would return the God
language and Jerusalem back into the platform. He told the delegates to vote “Aye”
for reinstating the original language, or “No” to keep the platform as is. There
was a loud chorus of Ayes, which I’m sure the good mayor figured would seal the
deal. But when the Nos were heard, it was every bit as loud as the Ayes – maybe
louder. The mayor hesitated. He began to declare that “the Ayes have it.” But he
stopped, realizing that would sound silly. So he asked the question again. And
again, the Ayes were very loud in favor of putting the God language back in.
And the Nos were again, very loud. The mayor stood there, uncertain as to what
to do next. He looked around for possible advice or help. An adviser told him
to go ahead with it, so he asked the question again. This is now the third
time! Same results. Visibly frustrated by this unforeseen glitch in the
proceedings, he made a decision which merely reflected what had already been
previously determined. He said, “In the opinion of the Chair, 2/3rds have voted
in the affirmative, the motion is adopted, and the platform has been amended.” What
followed was a rumble of Boos coming from the delegates throughout the
help but reflect on a passage of Scripture, (Psalm 2:1-6, The Message). “Why the big noise, nations?
Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, demagogues and delegates
meet for summit talks. The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: ‘Let’s get free of
God! Cast loose from Messiah!’ Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. At first
he’s amused at their presumption; then he gets good and angry. Furiously, he
shuts them up: ‘Don’t you know there’s a King in Zion? A coronation banquet is
spread for him on the holy summit.’”
Two things you should know: 1) God
is laughing at our foolishness in our vain attempts to be rid of him. 2) Zion
is another name for Jerusalem, which is where King Jesus will make his
residence when he returns.
Think about it! Where do you stand
in relation to God, and his Son, the King of Jerusalem?
What a ride this has been!
On Saturday, September 8, I will
be celebrating my spiritual birthday. It marks forty years since I first made
the decision to trust Christ as my Lord and Savior at a Christian Servicemen’s
Center in Yokosuka, Japan, 1972.
As I look back on that far away
time and place, I can’t help but marvel at all the Lord has allowed me to
experience in my walk with him. In my wildest dreams I could not have
envisioned the places Jesus would take me.
Through the remainder of this
article I will share my path in coming to faith in Christ, and also some of the
lessons I have learned. Some of these lessons I have had to learn more than
My parents grew up in east Texas
which is part of the geographic area in the United States known as the “Bible
Belt.” The Bible
Belt is an informal term for a region in the south-eastern and
south-central United States.
Following their marriage in 1933
it was to the northeastern section of the United States that my parents moved.
They settled in Connecticut just outside of New York City where my father
commuted to work. Not long after I was born in 1948 my parents were separated
and eventually divorced.
The first time I can remember ever
setting foot inside a church was when my mother remarried in 1955. I was not
quite seven years old. My understanding of church was limited. I knew nothing
of God or Jesus, salvation, sins, or the need to have those sins forgiven. My
brother John and I were taught to say our prayers every night, dutifully
kneeling by our beds with eyes closed, hands folded, reciting the standard
prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep . . . .” embarking on a litany of family
members most of whom I barely knew because they were in Texas. But this nightly
routine was as spiritual as we got.
From time to time our mother would
mention that it sure would be nice to have another minister in the family. John
and I figured there must have been someone like that back in the family tree,
but for two rambunctious kids it sounded like a death sentence, so we avoided
any such talk.
Our step father was interested in
church – specifically, Christian Science. He however, did not have the Bible
Belt background. Instead, he came from the Boston area where Christian Science
was founded. On those weekends when the folks talked about going to church John
and I would attempt to change their minds. Mostly I remember church being rather
odd and altogether boring. I had no idea what was going on or what I was
expected to do. Over time, church gradually dropped off our schedule
Strangely, throughout those years
growing up, I sensed something was not quite right in my life. I could not have
told you that at the time, but it was nagging at me. It was like something was
broken in me and I had no idea how to fix it. I had no answers. I kept it to
myself, though, since I didn’t know anyone who did have answers, or if there
were even any answers to be had.
The transformation occurred when I
was 24 years old and a sergeant in the Marines. I had been growing increasingly
frustrated by the way I was living my life. There seemed to be no purpose or
meaning. A song by Peggy Lee a couple of years earlier summed it up for me – “Is
That All There Is?”
On that night of September 8,
1972, I was in town with a couple of friends when we happened upon a Christian
Servicemen’s Center. I heard the gospel message presented clearly. God loved
me, Jesus died for me, and I needed to accept him into my life. For me this was
a no-brainer. I figured if God loved me enough to die for me, I could sure
trust him with my life. I gladly asked Jesus to come into my heart. I’ve never
once regretted that decision.
So, what have I learned in these
40 years as a Christian? Well, as a follower of Jesus I have learned several
critical things. First, Jesus always knows what’s best. Trust him, especially
when it doesn’t make sense. Second, study God’s Word, the Bible. Let it become
part of your very being. It will lift you up, particularly in those times when
life knocks you sideways. Third, spend time with Jesus as often as possible.
Daily is best. Talk to him – he’s listening. He will strengthen you. Fourth,
sin is like an addiction. It is very powerful. It takes no prisoners. Call on
the Lord. He will set you free. And because we are weak, we may need to have
him set us free often, even repeatedly. Fifth, Jesus promised he would never
leave you nor forsake you. I’m holding on to him with everything I’ve got.
Gospel writer, Andre Crouch, wrote
a song in the ‘70s called, “Through It All.” The chorus goes like this: “Through
it all, Through it all, I’ve learned to trust in Jesus. I’ve learned to trust
in God. Through it all, Through it all, I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.”
I have learned to trust in Jesus!