Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


              The world is full of spectacular scenic vistas and marvels of God’s creativity. Last week Isaura and I drove to Carefree, Arizona where I was to officiate a wedding for a Marine friend and his bride. Since we were going to be in the neighborhood, so to speak, my wife and I decided to take in some sight-seeing. Neither of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, so we made plans to take in this famous American landmark.

The wedding and the festivities associated with this special day was very enjoyable. After a pleasant brunch Isaura and I left Carefree on Sunday, driving north to the Sedona area some two hours away. Sedona was named after Sedona Arabelle Miller Schnebly (1877–1950), the wife of Theodore Carlton Schnebly, the city's first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness.

The beauty of the orange-red rocks to be appreciated has to be seen up-close and personal. This is a very popular area but even if all you do is drive along Highway 89, you will be stunned by the magnificent red sandstone walls of rock which rise from the ground like so many monolithic creatures. I thought to myself, “How could the Grand Canyon be any more spectacular than these red rock cliffs in Sedona?”

We still had two hours of driving before we would arrive at the Best Western Hotel in the city of Grand Canyon. We’ve stayed in many Best Westerns over the years, but this one was absolutely plush! And the price was very reasonable.

After a good night’s sleep, we grabbed a bite from the very well stocked Continental Breakfast. Our tour was with Pink Jeep Tours on Monday morning. And yes, the jeeps and mini-buses are all painted a shocking pink! Our guide/driver, Kyle, for the three-hour tour was delightful. I took notes so I could share the fun of this trip. The rest of the article is taken from those notes.

The morning for our tour was a beautiful, clear day. Blue sky and a smattering of snow from a previous snowfall awaited us when we opened our hotel room curtains. The temperature was a balmy 40 degrees. I mention this because Kyle told us that had we been there the week before we would have had entirely different weather. The temperature then was -19. That’s right! Minus 19!

We were able to drive right up to the gate of the Grand Canyon National Park. Again this seemed unimportant until Kyle explained that during the summer months you might have to wait in a line of cars and tour buses for an hour or more just to get into the park. The average number of visitors to the Grand Canyon annually is five million, most of who come during the summer. He listed a number of wildlife that can be seen in the park: mule deer, elk, foxes, big-horned sheep, bald eagles, mountain lions, wild turkeys, the occasional black bear, and the ever-present ravens.

The elevation of the South Rim is 7,400 feet above sea level. The Colorado River meanders through the cavernous gorge that is the Grand Canyon, roughly one mile straight down from the rim. If, on the other hand, you wanted to walk down to the river from the rim, it would take seven miles to get to the bottom. In the summer, Kyle said the temperature down at the river reaches 115 degrees. Sadly, the Canyon is not without a disturbing statistic. There are between 15-40 people who die annually in the Grand Canyon. Some expire due to dehydration, while others accidentally fall, or use the Canyon to commit suicide.

There are pine nut trees and junipers all over the flat rimmed area. One interesting point is that the juniper’s age can be determined by the size of the tree. Every 11 inches in circumference equals one hundred years of growth, so says Kyle. From where we stood at the Desert View Tower we could see Navajo Mountain in Utah, something around 100 miles away. It is only possible to see this mountain during the winter months when the air is clear.

As we stood on the South Rim peering out over the vastness of the Canyon, I asked Kyle how long the Grand Canyon was. Personally I had no idea, but I wasn’t ready for his answer. “The Canyon is 268 river miles long,” he said. A river mile, he explained, measures every twist and turn the river makes. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is close to Las Vegas, Nevada, is another 1500 feet above the South Rim, making it nearly 9,000 in elevation.

We ended up at the Desert View Tower, a brick construction that was built in 1933 strictly as an observation tower situated on a prominent point overlooking the Canyon. Architect Mary Colter designed the tower which she then had built by hiring Hopi Indian laborers and artists. The brick was taken from ancient Indian structures that were in ruins in the 1930s, and built the 70-foot tower. It is a magnificent structure, rustic in design, but fabulous in its simplicity and purpose.

So if you’ve never been, and think you might want to go, check it out and make your plans. Kyle says the best time of year to go is in the months of September and October. But whenever you go, prepare to be amazed at God’s handiwork!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rights and Wrongs

           I have written on the topic of guns and so-called “gun control” before. Just last summer I addressed this problem yet again following the shooting that took place at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. The title for that August 1st article? “Guns Again!” So, now in the aftermath of the ghastly death of 20 school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the hysteria level is through the roof. Not only is there an attempt to control guns within the greater populace, but the move is to remove guns from “We the people” entirely.

          The amount of information on this topic is enough to “sink a battleship,” as the old saying goes. It is not my intent, therefore, to rehash what has already been written. I have personally read endless articles ad nauseam attempting to gain a reasonable balance on this subject, but the line of disagreement on this topic is literally breathtaking for its brashness and vitriol.

          No doubt you have read about guns being removed from the German people in the 1930s and the obligatory comparisons to America’s battle over gun control today. Then there are the stories about the removal of guns from the people of Australia. I have read articles about our Aussie friends that claim the rise in crime “Down Under” is frightening since guns have been outlawed; and at the same time I’ve read articles claiming that the rate of crime, particularly violent crime (read: guns), has been significantly reduced. Which do you believe? But is that even the question to ask?

          The arguments from both sides are frequently written so as to confuse the issue, or to appeal to the emotions, or to fall back on the ever popular “It’s for the children!” mantra.

          Allow me to cut to the chase.

          When the issue of gun control pops up it has more to do with those who ultimately control the guns. In the case of Germany as mentioned earlier, it was decided by the Hitler regime that only certain people and groups would be allowed to have guns. This placed every other German citizen at the mercy of the ones who controlled guns.

          In America today there are hundreds upon hundreds of state and federal gun control laws. It is virtually impossible to enforce these laws, yet every time we have another senseless shooting that staggers our senses, our politicians quickly jump on the need for stricter gun control. This obviously plays well with those who are fearful of violence. So they are willing to surrender Constitutional rights for the smoke-screen of gun safety.

          Just a couple of weeks ago a man broke into a home where a mother and her twin nine-year olds were enjoying the comforts of their home. The mother heard the bad guy knocking on the door at one o’clock. Something did not seem right to this lady, so she ushered her kids into a closet where there was a crawl space for them to hide. She took up her defensive position in the closet, brandishing a pistol she had been trained to use, and waited. When the bad guy opened the closet door she started banging away – Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop! All six rounds. The perpetrator was hit five times in the face and neck, falling to the floor. She grabbed her kids and ran to a neighbor’s home. The guy, surviving the flurry of bullets, was shortly picked up by the police. What might have happened if this lady did not know how to use a gun? We read about those stories all the time. Certainly a person should be allowed to defend themselves against personal attack. But there’s more.

The question then is about rights. It has been said that the 2nd Amendment does not give us the right to bear arms, because rights can only come from God.

Guns were first made in 12th Century China. So it was several centuries later that guns were a problem in England. The king, James the II, fearful of his enemies, decided that Protestants should not be allowed to have guns. An English law, the 1689 Bill of Rights, changed all that. “Subjects, which are Protestants, may have Arms for their Defense.”

          The issue is one of taking the necessary steps to protect oneself from an overbearing, intrusive and unjust government. Because our Founding Fathers in America, most of who came from England, remembered well the problem of gun control in Jolly Old England, made sure those same provisions were implemented in the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment reads, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” To infringe means “to encroach upon in a way that violates law or the rights of another.”

          My point is this: When the government attempts to subvert the Constitution by violating those Amendments which were intended for the protection of “We the people,” then we cannot remain silent.

          I, along with my fellow countrymen, have the Constitutional right to protect and defend.

          More on this soon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mr. Lincoln's Language

               In last week’s article, Civil War Reflections, I mentioned that I would address an issue that has been raised about the cursing that has been included in the recently released movie, “Lincoln.” Quite a bit of ink has been used in the debate over the historicity of profanity being used by President Lincoln and those around him. Depending on the individual Lincoln historian, will determine their take on how much accuracy there is in the 16th President’s use of, and tolerance for “cussin’.”

It is true that Lincoln was known to enjoy telling some off-colored jokes occasionally, and he even used curse words when his temper was riled. But as a rule the president was very opposed to the use of profanity particularly in normal conversation. He was known to have corrected his generals for using such language without reason. Officers were subject to courts-martial if they were found guilty of using foul language. Enlisted men would have their pay docked for the same offense.

So, then, did all of this mean that there was virtually no swearing during the Civil War period (1861-65)? Of course not! It was a problem then as it is now, only then there was more of a civility and courtesy, particularly in the presence of women and children that we have lost in today’s society. Letters written home by soldiers during the Civil War often referred to the vices of their fellow soldiers, the greatest of these being, gambling, cussing, and whoring. One soldier commented that army camp life was a real test for the Christian because of all the bad habits that were so openly flaunted.

One of the words used a few times in the Lincoln movie was the repugnant F-word. Though this word was in use at the time in America, its origins are purportedly from England. The word had not become that familiar to the American form of English, nor did it carry the full meaning of the word in all of its vulgarity as it does today. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Lincoln used it, though we cannot be certain.

It can be fairly stated that Lincoln’s command of the English language is without question, and most notably demonstrated when he penned the Gettysburg Address while traveling by train to that noble, historic site to help commemorate a cemetery for the Union soldiers who fell in battle there. One of the ironies of this ceremony at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is that another individual was chosen as the guest speaker, and not the president! Edward Everett, member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts, had a colorful career in public service. He was a member of the Whig Party, served as U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, the 15th Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, and United States Secretary of State. He also taught at Harvard University and served as president of Harvard. Mr. Everett spoke at Gettysburg for two hours prior to Lincoln. He later wrote the president, expressing his admiration for the Gettysburg Address by stating, "I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."

Another of Lincoln’s masterful works was his Emancipation Proclamation, a speech which was crucial in opening the door for slaves to be free. On a web site about the Emancipation Proclamation I found this bit of insight: On September 22, 1863, soon after the Union victory at Antietam, President Lincoln issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave, it was an important turning point in the war, transforming the fight to preserve the nation into a battle for human freedom (

My favorite “Lincoln Language” is his letters to the families of fallen soldiers. The following letter to a Mrs. Bates, exemplifies the president’s heart and compassion for those grieving for their loved ones. There is no greater challenge for a commander of troops, or the Commander-in-Chief, than to have to write a letter to a family regarding the death of their child/loved one.

Executive Mansion, Washington, Nov. 21, 1864

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln

Little wonder that Abraham Lincoln was, and is, still so loved and revered by Americans.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Civil War Reflections

             Those of you who have been reading my column during the past ten years know that I have a particular love and interest in our American Civil War. My fascination with this period in our nation’s history is due to my love of history in general, and because of my own family’s involvement in this “War of Northern Aggression,” as my southern relatives regarded this intrusion into their lives.

My great-grandfather, the Reverend Daniel Thatcher Lake, was in his mid-30s when he enlisted in support of the Confederacy. He was a member of Whitfield’s Legion, Patterson’s Brigade, formed in East Texas where he pastored a church. One of my great delights is to have in my possession his original handwritten memoirs. This document is priceless to our family as it covers his entire life (1828-1891), but more importantly, he delves into his participation in the Civil War. His actual time served was less than a year due to war injuries which were severe enough for him to be discharged, whereupon he returned home to Texas.

I also have his “spectacles,” or reading glasses which he used later in his life. When I first received these from his granddaughter, about twenty years ago, I took them to my optometrist in Turlock. He was fascinated with them and immediately checked them out to determine the quality of the magnification. They were most likely made around the 1870-80 time period. He was so impressed with the quality that he jokingly said he could personally use them as a backup pair!

One other item I cherish is my great grandfather’s saddlebag hymnbook he used in his circuit riding ministry throughout East Texas. It is such family items as this which I began to acquire about twenty-five years ago that piqued my interest in our own personal family history.

I often enjoy sitting down to read from several of my Civil War books that tell about the many odd, strange, and unusual aspects of the War Between the States. I can spend countless hours immersed in this part of our history.

Let me give you an idea of what I mean. How many names can you remember that are used in referring to the Civil War? In fact, the term, Civil War, was used during the war and subsequently by both sides in the conflict. It is the term most often used today. Here’s as complete a list of the names for the war as I have been able to compile. 1. The Civil War, 2. The War Between the States (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the term, with some embellishment, “The Four-Year War Between the States”), 3. The War of Secession (Union troops frequently referred to their Confederate counterparts as “Secesh,” used as a pejorative), 4. The War of Northern Aggression, 5. The War of Southern Aggression, 6. The War for the Union, 7. The Second American Revolution, 8. The War of the Rebellion, 9. The War for Southern Independence (a poem written in the South referred to the war as, “The Third War for Independence,” the first being the American Revolution of 1776, the second being the War of 1812), 10. The American Civil War, 11. The U.S. Civil War (#s 10 & 11 used by foreign publications), 12. The Confederate War, 13. Mr. Lincoln’s War (referring to President Abraham Lincoln), 14. Mr. Davis’s War (referring to the president of the newly formed Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis), 15. The War Against Slavery, 16. The Anti-Slavery War, 17. The Late Unpleasantness, 18. The Recent Unpleasantness, 19. The Great Rebellion, 20. The Freedom War, used by blacks to emphasize the reason for, and the results of, the Civil War.

Let me finish my musings on Civil War reflections by speaking directly of President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Early in the Civil War he traveled to visit one of the Union camps under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside. Mr. Lincoln was proud of his 6’4” size (although tall even by today’s standards, it is far from unusual) and always made it a point to see if there was another man who was as tall, or taller, than he. No sooner had the president arrived in camp than he spied out a strapping young man whom he quickly beckoned to stand beside him. “Turn around, young fellow,” he is alleged to have said, “and put your back against mine while I take off my hat.” Lincoln was nearly seven feet tall when wearing his top hat! As it turned out, Mahlon Shaaber, the young fellow in question, measured in at 6’6½”.

On another occasion late in the war, the president was traveling aboard a Navy ship on his way to visit other commands. It was the honor of the USS Malvern to transport their Commander in Chief. So, the captain of the ship instructed the ship’s chief carpenter with the task of reconfiguring one of the bunks so as to add an additional foot to its length, thus accommodating the comfort of the president while sleeping on board.

Next month is President’s Day, although for those my age and older, we remember when we recognized President Abe Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and then President George Washington’s birthday (February 22). These two men were of exemplary character, holding firmly to a strong ethical code and moral underpinning, uniquely qualifying them to be leaders of our fledgling nation.

In my column for next Wednesday I will look further into the character of Mr. Lincoln. It is my understanding that the recently released full-length motion picture, “Lincoln,” has a fair amount of swearing in it, even using the foulest of words. I’ve been told the character of Lincoln actually uses this word himself in the movie. This would qualify as “historical revisionism” at its worst. First-hand accounts of Mr. Lincoln recorded in history books reveal something altogether different.

See you next week!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Yes You Can!

             Yes you can!

As you read this article I want you to remember this statement: “Yes you can!”

What am I talking about? Simple. I want you to make a decision for the New Year to begin by committing to memory Bible verses each week. I can hear you now: “I can’t do it. I’m no good at memorizing.”

Yes you can!

Each of you has learned to memorize your phone number, mailing address for home and work, dates of importance, the names of friends, neighbors and co-workers, certain channels of your favorite TV shows, etc. Yes you can!

       Why go to the bother of memorizing Bible verses? The first and best reason is because it honors God. That’s a wonderful way to begin 2013, don’t you agree? In fact, the first verse you may want to work on is Psalm 119:11. “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” God’s Word is an invaluable gift to us. Commit it by heart to your heart.

Another reason to memorize is it helps you to think the way Jesus thinks. One of the difficulties in living for the Lord is that we don’t know how to quite get past thinking from a godless, worldly perspective. Such thought patterns are usually well ingrained, and we have become accustomed to justifying such thoughts because it’s too hard to change. Remember! Yes you can! In Isaiah 55:8-11, God says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,  so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

       Still another reason to make the effort to learn God’s Word by heart is the door it opens for you when you pray. When you know Bible verses by heart, the Lord will bring those verses to your mind when you are praying. It gives you something to focus on. For instance, you may be concerned about a single mom on your block with three kids and she’s working two jobs. “Lord, is there something I can do for her?” you pray. And then the Lord brings to your memory a verse from James 1:27.  “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” God is directing you as his agent to take action. Either personally to provide something for this family, or to arrange for others to help out.

Yes you can!

Another reason is when you have the Word memorized you are often able to offer a word of encouragement to someone. Perhaps a friend or family member has just been laid off and they are feeling discouraged. You could share this word of promise from God’s Word from Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Most importantly, God’s Word is described as being “living and active.” These are not merely words written on a piece of paper. Anyone can do that! But God has gone to extraordinary lengths to insure that you and I have his Word. It gives life to our very soul! In Hebrews 4:12-13, we read, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

I live right down the street from Blue Diamond Almond Company. Their slogan is, “A can a week is all we ask.” So as you look into 2013, decide right now that you will begin committing to memory God’s Word. “A verse a week is all God asks.” Try it, you’ll like it!

Yes you can!