certainly seems to be a greater divide between Conservatives and Liberals
today. But I’ve always tried to have fun with the differences. Though less and
less humor is focused on philosophical, political and theological differences
regardless of where you stand in the continuum of Far Left to Far Right.
of wise counsel were given to me by my step father when I was a child. He said,
“Don’t take yourself too seriously.” Because I tend to take myself and
everything else too seriously, this was important for me to hear.
my time in the Navy Chaplain Corps (1983-2008) I was selected to attend
post-graduate school. This means you attend a school of higher learning to
study at the doctoral level for one year. My field of academic endeavor was
Pastoral Counseling. The school was the School of Theology at Claremont (STC), in
a suburb of Los Angeles. I had a wonderful time that year (1990-91)! Several
moments stand out as I reflect back. Allow me to share them with you.
to the school year beginning, I was asked to speak at a conference of my
denomination in L.A. I shared how I was tickled to have been selected to attend
post-grad school at STC. After my talk I was approached by a number of church
members telling me that they would be praying for me while I was at STC. I
noticed that many of them appeared to be very concerned for me. STC is known to
be a very liberal school in every way possible. I chose to attend there because
it had the highest academic rating nationally. So I divined that these dear friends
in Christ were concerned that I might somehow wind up being influenced, and
thus change my views to conform to the liberal view of Christianity. I laughed at
the absurdity (they obviously didn’t know me). I challenged them to pray for
the school because I intended to proclaim Jesus there!
August of 1990, Iraq had invaded Kuwait, you may remember. The United States
then geared up for war. The faculty, staff and many students of STC decided to
engage in a protest march. Well, I wanted none of that, so I decided that since
I was on active duty while attending this institution of higher learning I
would wear my uniform to school one day a week throughout my year there. My
purpose in doing this was to visually remind them that American men and women
were putting themselves in harm’s way so all of us could live in liberty and
freedom. No one ever said anything, but I definitely upset their sensibilities.
incident that is etched in my mind was during a class discussion on various
theological conundrums. All the students were sitting in a circle of chairs. I
was warming up to my subject, waxing eloquent to my fellow doctoral students. I
was on a roll! One gal was sitting directly across from me with her arms folded
across her chest, glaring at me. I had no idea what was troubling her. When I
finished she spoke right up, stating in no uncertain terms, “It really offends
me that you refer to God as he!” I blinked a couple of times, collecting myself
for a response. I smiled (further infuriating her) and said, “I’m sorry if my
reference to God in the male gender offends you. However, I have it on very
good authority that God sees himself as male. No less of an authority than
Jesus himself said in Matthew 6, ‘When you pray, pray in this manner: ‘Our
Father who is in heaven . . .’ If Jesus had said, Our Mother, then you would
have no argument from me. But he didn’t say Our Mother – he said Our Father.”
She had no comeback which ended the discussion. I later had an opportunity to
minister to her through some personal hurt she experienced in a relationship.
the end of the school year (in another class) each student was required to give
a ten minute synopsis of their term research paper. On the day I was to give my
talk, sitting there waiting my turn, I spoke to the Lord and asked him to help
me get through to these students who viewed me as an alien from some far
distant galaxy. I often felt that they looked at me like I was a science lab
project. “Oooh, look! It’s a conservative! I wonder what type of species he
is?” It was now my turn, so I stood up, smiled at the class, and said, “It may
surprise you to know that I’m more liberal than you would imagine. However, I
am far more conservative than you’d ever want me to be!” The class burst out
laughing uproariously. I glanced over at the professor. She was laughing so
hard I thought she might fall out of her chair. It broke the ice, and I was
able to present my talk to a most receptive and transformed audience.
yes, I completed my doctorate from STC. I had a great time doing it, too!
Memorial Day reminds me most of why the United States of America is such a
a young child I was intrigued by the military service of my step father,
Charles Garratt. When World War Two broke out he was married, living in New
York City where he drove a Wheaties truck. As so many men did at that time, he
attempted to join the military to fight against Imperialist Japan and/or the
hated German Third Reich. He wanted to be a Navy fighter pilot. Only one
problem: On his test flight to see if he qualified to be a pilot he
demonstrated a frightening lack of depth perception, a condition that immediately
disqualified him from flying. They thanked him and sent him on his way.
he decided to see if the Marines would have him. He met their standards, which
I believe may have been nothing more than to demonstrate that he had a pulse. Growing
up he had been a first rate athlete, excelling in football. He had been the
captain of his high school football team in Concord, Massachusetts in the late
1920s. He received a scholarship to play for the University of Alabama (“Roll
Tide!”) where he played on the same team with the future legendary “Bear”
Bryant. My step father kept in good physical condition his whole life, so even
though he was 31 years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, he had no
problem with the rigors and demands of boot camp. He married my mother ten
years after the end of the war.
gained a valued respect and appreciation for the United States from him, because
of his willingness to volunteer to serve in a war he could have legally and
legitimately have avoided. His age and his marital status could easily have
exempted him. In fact, while in boot camp with 17 and 18 year olds, he was
affectionately referred to as “Gramps.”
my step father chose to serve as a Marine, the toughest branch of service, also
impressed me. I decided early on that I wanted follow in his footsteps. My older
brother, John, also must have thought the same thing because both of us
enlisted in the Marines, each serving a tour in Vietnam. Oddly enough, we never
discussed joining the Marines with each other.
the years growing up in New England, I recall those special days like Memorial
Day, the 4th of July, and Veterans Day when parades and special
recognitions were given to our veterans. There were, of course, many WWII vets,
and still quite a few WWI vets. There may well have been some Spanish American
War soldiers in those parades down Main Street with American flags all aflutter
in the breeze, marching to lively martial music. And I know that the last
surviving veteran of the Civil War died in 1956 when I was eight.
can still see in my mind’s eye the veterans from the American Legion and
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), wearing their fore-and-aft caps. These were the
men who left their jobs, their homes and families, to take up arms to face a
fierce enemy who was determined to destroy our freedoms and our beloved
country. But these world enemies that our men faced, Japan and Germany, mistakenly
misjudged the will and the determination of the American fighting man.
why has the American military person been so ready to take up arms against an aggressor?
Simple: Freedom. Our men and women in uniform are, and have always been, ready
to fight for the freedoms the rest of us have enjoyed with hardly a ripple
while going about our daily routines.
a Navy chaplain it has been my sad duty and privileged honor to lay to rest
numerous men and women whose mortal remains are resting in small town graveyards
to massive national cemeteries. Their lives were cut short by war so your and
my life could continue unabated.
take time this Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, and visit the grave of a veteran
from your family or friend. If you don’t know a military person who now lies
entombed in the ground, then attend a Memorial Day Service at your local
cemetery, and join others in giving thanks to God for those who were willing to
stand in the gap and keep the wolf from the door.
and I can sleep peacefully at night because rough men do the hard work of guarding
our freedoms and keeping us safe.
so often I feel compelled to write about a certain topic that is near and dear
to my heart. That topic would be the proper display and care of the American
I drive through my community and surrounding areas, I take great pride in the
number of businesses and homes that display our flag. It is, in a word, the
greatest symbol of freedom the world has ever known. People from other
countries are still risking everything to make their way to our shores because
it is known world-wide that opportunity to make a wonderful life for them and
their family is still very possible in the United States of America.
American flag is called by many names, or nicknames, if you will. Some of them
are: Old Glory; the Stars & Stripes; Colors (military term); the National
Emblem; the Star Spangled Banner; and the Red, White and Blue.
the best known name used for the flag is Old Glory. There’s quite an
interesting story associated with the naming of the flag. In the early part of
the 1800s, a ship captain of a commercial vessel, William Driver, was given a
gift by his mother of a handmade American flag with the blue field boasting 24
stars, and the 13 alternating red and white stripes. Driver flew the flag on
all his voyages, finally retiring in 1837, and settling in Nashville, Tennessee
where he proudly flew his flag on all national holidays.
the Civil War broke out in 1861, Driver asked some neighbor ladies to sew his
beloved flag into a comforter, thus hiding it from the Confederates who were in
control of Tennessee, searching to destroy anything that had to do with the
United States and the Union Army. He chose not to ask his mother or other
family members to undertake this task of hiding the flag. Exactly why, no one
knows. I suspect it had to do with not wanting his family to reveal its
whereabouts should they be pressed to give up the information.
the war was over, Driver brought out his flag whereupon it was selected to be
flown atop the spire of the state capitol building. The Ohio 6th
Infantry was on hand to witness this event. Caught up in the moment, the famed
unit adopted Old Glory as their motto. Newspapers printed the story referring
to the flag, just as Captain Driver had done for so many years, as Old Glory.
Americans all across the land quickly adopted the new name for the national
Today, flags are used to represent
countries, states, schools, and organizations. Flags incorporate the history
and ideals of an organization or country through symbolism. For you logophiles,
you lovers of words, here’s one for you: Vexillology. This mouthful means the
“study of flags.” You’re sure to have fun testing your friends at work and
school with this word!
Back to the point of this article
today: We’re coming up on Memorial Day, (a specific day we remember those
military members who have died serving our country) which is recognized this
year on Monday, May 25. Then there’s Flag Day on Sunday, June 14. This is a
time for all Americans to show their love of country and patriotic fervor by
flying Old Glory from homes and businesses. And of course, there is our
Independence Day, Saturday, July 4. All of these days are made-to-order for
flying the flag.
But the love of country and the
surge of patriotism will not mean very much unless the flag is properly
displayed and cared for. I see far too many American flags displayed in front
of homes, as well as businesses and government buildings, which are in a
pathetic condition. Besides being ripped and torn, worn and frayed, the colors
have faded due to constant exposure to the elements, particularly the intense
sun we receive in the Central Valley of California. The bright red stripes are
faded to a dull pink; the blue field is a dingy grey; and the white stars, and alternating
white stripes, are a dirty beige.
I love to see Old Glory flying
throughout our town, and across the nation. But, please, if you are going to
fly the flag, be responsible enough to have it replaced so it never
deteriorates into a condition that is embarrassing.
Take a moment to stop and look at
the flag flying in front of your home. And then look at the one flying at your
place of work. The flags we fly typically from our homes cost about $25-$30
dollars at any hardware store. Flags flown from businesses will run from
$150-$200 and can be purchased or ordered from a flag store.
My suggestion is to purchase two
flags. This way you always have a replacement flag on hand. A flag will begin
to lose its luster and crispness after about six months. So replace the flag
every six months. It’s the cost of lunch for two for you folks with flags
flying from your home. For business folks, write the cost of two flags into
your annual budget just as you would any other business operation expense.
I’m proud to be an American! I
want my flag to reflect that pride, don’t you?
Old Glory! Long may she wave!
week my wife and I were graciously invited by our friend, Susan Vander Schaaf (like:
scoff), to attend the San Joaquin County Leadership Prayer Breakfast. Leaders
from various parts of our county were in attendance for a full-blown breakfast
in the basketball gym of the University of the Pacific (UOP) in Stockton. There
were county supervisors, mayors, city council members, church leaders; there
were the presidents and CEOs of businesses and leaders of our community
covering a wide spectrum, all gathered for one purpose – to seek the heart of
God in prayer.
short history was written on the back of our program which explained the
background for this gathering of community leaders. It reads, “In 1953, the International Christian Leadership
Group first sponsored the First Annual Presidential Prayer Breakfast, or
National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Every year this event brings men
and women together to seek Divine guidance for our leadership and to reaffirm
our faith. Communities throughout the nation have followed this tradition by
establishing their own Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast or Leadership Prayer Breakfast.
Over twenty years ago, Stockton began its own Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. In
1995, the name of the event was changed to “The San Joaquin County Leadership
Prayer Breakfast” to more properly reflect the extent of its outreach.”
can assure you that this prayer breakfast was not for the faint of heart! It started
at 6:45 with a sumptuous meal served buffet style. In this environment there
was an energy that was virtually palpable, only with a growing sense of
expectation. Animated conversations were taking place at the multitude of
tables set up all over the gym floor. A stage was set up for the emcee and
various other dignitaries. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen was our Master of
Ceremonies. We opened in prayer, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the
singing of the National Anthem. What a wonderful start!
followed various community members offering prayer specifically for business, agricultural
and civic leaders; for military leaders, troops, law enforcement, fire service
and their families; for clergy and staff; and for schools, families, and the
impoverished. But there was one corporate responsorial prayer offered that, to
me (and a lot of others), was the highlight of our time together. We were lead
in this prayer by Dr. Stacy McAfee, Associate Vice President for External
Relations at UOP. I spoke with her after the breakfast and told her how much I
appreciated this prayer. The opening part of the prayer began like this: “Heavenly Father, we are human, and struggle
at times to obey your commandments when it is easy to ignore them. As community
leaders we humble ourselves today and ask first for your forgiveness for our
transgressions as we forgive those who transgress against us. Humble our hearts
as we pray for our nation’s Leaders, Families, Neighbors and ourselves with
fervor and sincerity. Lord, we thank you for wisdom, understanding, and for
your Holy Word. Bless us with courage, strength, and boldness to be agents of
change you have called and ordained us to be.” The assembled responded
with, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
keynote speaker for our breakfast was Hercules! Well, not really, but the man
who played the character of Hercules in the hit TV show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, ran for seven seasons. I was very
interested in hearing what Kevin Sorbo had to share. I don’t think I ever
watched one of the Hercules programs, but I certainly recognized his face. And
Isaura and I did watch the movie he was in, God’s
Not Dead! where he plays a very convincing college professor who is an
avowed atheist. It was wonderfully done and I highly recommend it. In chatting
with him during the book signing, he said he believes the best of the movies
about faith that he’s done is What If.
We’ll be watching it soon, you can be sure of that!
being a highly successful actor, he is also a director, producer, and author. I
had heard some time back that Kevin had become gravely ill, never realizing
just how close to death he came until I listened that morning to his story. I
could not begin to do it justice in the space I have, but you can read it in
his recently released book, True
Strength: My journey from Hercules to mere mortal and how nearly dying saved my
to Kevin share his story, particularly how his near death experience following
numerous strokes brought him to faith in Jesus, I was struck by how
down-to-earth he was in sharing his struggles. He is humble about the entire ordeal
but isn’t hesitant to share it with you.
pick up a copy of his book, and watch the two movies I mentioned. You’ll be