Marines.Together We Served

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa as a Kid

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
25 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

Santa as a Kid

I trust you all had a blessed and Merry Christmas! Our family got together several times during the month of December, each time having lots of fun and laughter.

On Saturday afternoon we were sitting around the living room chatting merrily away when our ten-year-old granddaughter Alyssa, asked if she could read some of the short stories she has been writing. Apparently, her fourth-grade teacher at Colony Oak Elementary has been working with the kids on their writing skills. Not just composition, but the formation of thought, development of ideas, along with sentence structure and expanded vocabulary.

Intrigued, we six adults in the room encouraged her by all means to read her stories. The favorite story is one entitled, Santa as a Kid. We all laughed at this twist on the Christmas character so readily recognized. I asked Alyssa if I might share it with my friends who read my weekly Roots in Ripon column. She happily agreed. I made only a few punctuation changes. Otherwise, this is exactly how Alyssa wrote her story.

Santa as a Kid

Everyone has to be a kid once in their life. This is about Santa as a kid. You probably don’t think much about it because in all the stories he is a jolly old guy. He is actually Santa the 15th, so when he was little he liked to play games.

Video games were just coming out and Santa the 15th wanted to play some of the games that came out. So, Mrs. Claus took him to a store and bought some games. She told him he had to promise to not be on it all the time. When they got back home they put it together and Santa 15th started to play on it right away. Time passed so quickly it felt like morning a couple minutes ago. Now it is nighttime. Mrs. Claus called upstairs to Santa 15th for dinner. He said he would be a few minutes, but he took two hours! So, Mrs. Claus came storming up the stairs and burst into his room. “That is enough playing games for today!” she yelled. 

So, he went downstairs slowly and ate his dinner slowly, and went back upstairs to brush his teeth and go to bed. Mrs. Claus told him to go straight to bed, and he said he would. A few hours later when everyone went to bed, Santa 15th got up and started to play video games until morning and Mrs. Claus had a fit. She threatened Santa 15th to take away his video games, and she did as she said she would.

A few years later he was a teen and moved out, then got video games and sat on his couch all day eating cookies, pizza, and milk while playing video games. And that is how there became a fat Santa. Santa 15th has a kid now – and he plays video games! 

The End

The gist of the story is a swipe at the never-ending challenge parents (and grandparents) face daily these days with children who are consumed with playing games on their cell phones, iPads and iPods.

We’ve all seen it. A group of kids sitting around, each engrossed in their own electronic device, oblivious of their friends sitting right next to them. Teachers have difficulty with kids texting their classmates during school hours. And according to statistics, too many car accidents are being attributed to teens and adults tapping away on their cell phones while rolling down the highway at 65 mph or greater. I’ve seen a man and woman seated in a nice restaurant, each pecking away, connecting with someone unseen, while ignoring the one right in front of them.

I was both amused and proud of Alyssa for tackling a current social dilemma, while at the same time giving it a humorous story line.

Funny! I always wondered how Santa got so fat!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Best of Times

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
18 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

The Best of Times

Amidst all of life’s many twists and turns, the question is often in the forefront of my mind, “Is this a good time to be alive?”

As one who enjoys history, I find myself reflecting on earlier times, wondering if I might have enjoyed living in a different time, or a different era of history. Of course, I’ll never know, but I’ve heard people say with a certain whimsical lament, “I was born a century too late.”

So, while spending this past weekend in Monterey/Carmel celebrating my wife’s 65th birthday, I saw a variation on Charles Dickins’ quote from his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Surely Dickens must have wrestled with the same idea that there were better times to have lived, and there were certainly worst times to have lived. Sometimes, depending on your own perspective of events, you can see truth in both the opposing views: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Frequently I will hear Christians verbally wish for the return of Jesus right now because things seem to be so bad in the world today. I will often ask this person if they think the world’s condition has deteriorated to the point that it has never been this bad in the past. I’ve never had anyone say yes to this. A short review of the Bible and the awful situations that the Jews, and later the Christians, found themselves in can be quite enlightening. Even secular history has pointed out the horrors visited upon those of faith who have been targeted for persecution and annihilation.

You see, what may be the best time in the world to be alive for you, may, conversely be the worst time for someone else, whether a neighbor next door, or an unknown inhabitant of a land on the far side of the world.

One of the true ironies visited upon this world is the spectacular event that occurred two thousand years ago with the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior. He came as promised, for so the ancient prophets recorded in the Old Testament, hundreds, yea, thousands of years before. This event took place in the little burg of Bethlehem, located a scant five miles from Jerusalem.

The irony I refer to is the spectacular joy expressed by a choir of angels announcing the birth of Jesus, while at the same time King Herod, the King of the Jews, was doing everything in his power to find this baby and have him killed. When a king or ruler feels threatened, they will naturally revert to violence in order to prop themselves up and to maintain control of their power.

As a Christian, I am aware of the paradox within my faith. On the one hand, I rejoice and celebrate in the birth of Jesus in all of his innocence. On the other hand, I also celebrate in the death of Jesus at Easter, despite the fact that he was gruesomely abused by his executioners and hung on a cross, a means of execution reserved for the worst of criminals. And what had he done to warrant this hideous treatment? He willingly came to demonstrate God’s love for this fallen race of man.

The absurdity of life challenges us to decide for ourselves: Is this the best of times? Or is it the worst of times?

Because of Jesus and his sacrificial death for me, life is always the best of times, despite the worst of times that come as a result of simply living.

Disappointment, heartache, rejection, death, all are part of life’s experience. But because of the birth of Jesus on that first Christmas day two thousand years ago, and his later death and resurrection, I have his promise that he will take me home one day to glory to be with him forever.

Perhaps heaven’s portal will boldly state, “Within these golden gates you can only experience the very best of times for all eternity.”

Merry Christmas! Hallelujah! Jesus has come!

Monday, December 11, 2017

He Won't Fight!

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
11 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

He Won’t Fight!

Recently, I wrote an article about General Robert E. Lee, commanding officer of the Confederate Army during our American Civil War. Lee very nearly pulled off the upset of American history by outmaneuvering the apparently hapless Union generals called upon by President Abraham Lincoln to carry the fight to the outnumbered Southern forces. By most historical accounts, the Civil War should have been over in a matter of months, not the four long years and 700 thousand deaths it extolled from a war-weary nation.

My sister Joy, came over for Thanksgiving last month, bringing me a couple of magazines she ran across that she knew I would treasure. As a Civil War buff, I have accumulated over the years a small library of books, magazines and other items pertaining to this horrific war. The two magazines Joy acquired for me are both copies of The Civil War Times: one dated August 1968, and the other August 1962. A section in the 1962 edition focused on the centennial edition of the Battle of Antietam. The summer months of 1862 are considered the high summer of the Confederacy. Never again would the cause of the South and her fight for independence come as close to success as it did under the leadership of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, and other notable Southern generals.

Historians argue over the ineptness of Union (or Northern) military leaders. In my research, I have found two primary reasons for the Union army failing repeatedly to secure major victories in the early stages of the war. First, the Northern forces were not defending their homeland against an aggressor the same way the Southern forces were. This is one of the reasons the war was referred to by southerners as the “War of Northern Aggression.”

Second, the Union general selected to head the Army of the Potomac (later to be called the Union army) was not willing to fight. General George B. McClellan, like his counterpart of the Confederate army, General Robert E. Lee, was second in his class at West Point. And like Lee, McClellan was a military engineer. He never commanded troops in the field against an enemy until the Civil War. And this was his undoing.

McClellan, referred to as “Little Mac”, attended West Point from 1842-46. Shortly after graduation he was assigned to fight in the Mexican-American War. It was during this time that he contracted what he called his, “Mexican disease,” better known to us today as, “Montezuma’s Revenge.”

McClellan was viewed as an up-and-comer as a military officer, serving successfully in every command during his eleven years of service. During his time in the army, he used his fluency in French to publish a manual on bayonet tactics that he had translated from the original French. He also wrote a manual on cavalry tactics based upon Russian cavalry regulations. The Army also adopted McClellan’s design for a cavalry saddle, known as the McClellan Saddle. It became standard issue for as long as the Army had a cavalry, and is still used today in ceremonial events.

Little Mac resigned his commission from the Army in 1857. He was married to Mary Ellen Marcy in New York City in 1860. During this time, he was the chief engineer and vice president of the Illinois Central Railroad, and then president of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad.

Civilian life simply did not suit him. He continued to study battlefield tactics which bolstered his adeptness at training and preparing soldiers for combat when he rejoined the Army. Prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, McClellan decided to try his hand at politics. He supported the Democrat Party’s presidential candidate, Stephen A. Douglas in the 1860 election. Later, he would run for president as a Democrat in 1864, in hopes of defeating President Lincoln. He re-entered the Army in the spring of 1861.

One of McClellan’s shortcomings was his impatience and impertinence toward those who were his superiors. He was referred to in the press as a “Young Napoleon.” He valued only career military men, showing utter disdain for volunteers. He often refused to obey political and military leaders, a tactic that would put him at odds with President Lincoln early in the war. He snubbed and insulted Lincoln, referring to him as “nothing more than a well-meaning baboon.”

Oddly enough, McClellan did not come from the abolitionist point of view, as did many of his fellow officers in the Union Army. He believed the South should be allowed to practice slavery if that was their choice. He was vehemently opposed to federal interference in slavery. But he was just as opposed to states seceding from the Union.

But his unwillingness to commit troops in the field, always believing that Lee had superior numbers, caused him to be viewed as an inept battlefield commander. Sadly, he spent the remainder of his life attempting to rewrite his legacy. He died in 1885.

Lincoln’s frustration with McClellan could be summed up in this phrase: “He won’t fight!” General Ulysses S. Grant referred to Little Mac as “one of the great enigmas of the war.”

General George B. McClellan simply did not have the heart of a warrior. And that cost the lives of countless men, both for the North and the South.

Monday, December 04, 2017

All About Christmas

Roots in Ripon
Chuck Roots
4 December 2017
The Ripon Bulletin

All About Christmas

Yes, it’s the Advent Season where all things Christmas are on full display. Decorations have been set up in stores for quite a few weeks. Plus, the advertising has focused on what you can get for that special someone. Not to mention office parties and large gatherings to celebrate Christmas and so on.

This past weekend I was the guest speaker/preacher for a church in San Jose. It just so happens that this church is where Isaura and I were married forty-one-and-a-half years ago. It is also where I began my pastoral ministry as youth minister back in 1980 shortly after completing my master’s degree at seminary.

          It has been 36 years since I was last there, so returning was exciting, to say the least. Who was still there that we would know? Who had either moved on, or passed on, was another question Isaura and I wondered about. In fact, as we were driving down to San Jose later on Saturday, I commented aloud about two teenagers I had had the privilege of leading to faith in Christ in 1981. I remembered Pam’s name because she was a senior at Willow Glen High School across the street from the church. But, for the life of me, I could not remember the boy’s name.

One of the high school teachers contacted me asking if I would speak to her Sociology class, explaining the Christian view of Family & Marriage. Pam was in the first class I spoke to. Her boyfriend was attending another school.

          After the class, Pam approached me with questions about the Christian faith. I made an appointment to meet with her in my office. She asked if she could bring her boyfriend. “You bet!” I said. As we sat and talked, it was clear to me that Pam was ready to ask Jesus into her heart. I looked at the boyfriend and asked if he wanted to accept Christ as his Savior, too. He said yes.

          Back to the present. The church was having a catered dinner as part of their Missions Auction, and I was to be the guest speaker. I shared a couple of the Christmases that stood out in my life. I spoke of how I had come to know Christ as my Savior as a twenty-four-year-old sergeant in the Marine Corps in Vietnam on September 8, 1972. I returned home to my parents a week before Christmas. My sister Joy, was there, along with our grandmother, Bambi, and my brother John, who had flown out from his home in Louisiana. My first night home we all sat up talking and catching up until the wee hours of the morning. I was the last to finally call it a night. I was just so hyped up about being home with my family! Instead of going to my room to sleep in my bed, I grabbed several blankets and a pillow and plopped them down in front of the Christmas tree in the living room with a fire in the fireplace. I stretched out with my hands behind my head and just soaked in the reality that I was home. And best of all, I finally could celebrate Christmas for its true meaning: God loves us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die for us so we could have eternal life in Him. Wow!

          The other memorable Christmas I shared was one where I was not home. In the mid-1980s I was assigned as the command chaplain to the USS White Plains (AFS4). As a supply ship we were always at sea. In 1987, we were in the Indian Ocean heading for the island of Diego Garcia which is about 1200 miles south of India. We have a small naval base there, so we pulled in on December 23. That evening, the USO put on a show in one of the warehouses on the pier. This was one of Bob Hope’s last tours with the USO. Lee Greenwood of “God Bless the USA!” fame, was also part of the entertainment. What a treat!

          Since we still communicated the old-fashioned way back then, I had written a letter to Isaura back in Guam that I would call her on Christmas Eve from Diego Garcia, or D-Gar as we called it. There was a small building with a bank of telephones for sailors to call home. It wasn’t cheap! For fifteen minutes it cost me $50.00! But it was certainly worth it!

          I paid the money, then placed the call. The way this works is, there is a meter on the phone that begins at fifteen minutes and ticks backwards until your time is up. When the phone rang, Laura, our oldest, who was nine, grabbed the phone. She said, “Hello?” I replied, “Hi Baby!” She screamed, “Daddy!” My emotions kicked in at that point, effectively shutting off my ability to speak. Then I hear Isaura on the phone say, “Hi Honey!” I wanted desperately to say something, but my throat was not cooperating. All the while I’m watching this stupid meter count down the amount of time I have left. I managed to squeak out, “Give me a minute.” I gathered myself enough to have a wonderful conversation with her and also to speak to our youngest, Jenny, who was then 6. I missed them all so much!

          So, back to my speaking engagement last weekend. I was to preach Sunday morning, so Isaura and I arrived early and sat in the sanctuary listening to the worship team practice. They took a break just before the service was to begin, at which point one of the men from the worship team walked over to introduce himself. He appeared to be middle-aged. I stood to shake hands, only to hear him say, “I’m Richard. I don’t know if you remember me or not.” I told him that I did not. He said, “I was dating Pam back then.” Well blow me over! This 17-year-old I had led to Christ in my office is now a 53-year-old husband and father, playing guitar with the church worship team!

          This Christmas Season has begun wonderfully for me! I trust it will be equally exciting for you, as well!