Because He lives!

Some years ago I attended the funeral of a beloved student whose grief stricken parents had no religion to turn to. A religious service was quickly organized, but I have not forgotten the feeling of awful and utter desolation accompanying the parents in their moment of unimaginable grief. Where was their boy? Were they never to see him again? Consider the following poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson:

“Flow down, cold rivulet, to the sea,
Thy tribute wave deliver:
No more by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.
Flow, softly flow, by lawn and lea,
A rivulet then a river:
Nowhere by thee my steps shall be
For ever and for ever.
But here will sigh thine alder tree
And here thine aspen shiver;
And here by thee will hum the bee,
For ever and for ever.
A thousand suns will stream on thee,
A thousand moons will quiver;
But not by thee my steps shall be,
For ever and for ever.”

We hear Tennyson expressing a desire to live forever, like the rivulet which becomes a river and flows into the sea, to stay eternally. But, he opines mournfully, such applies only to nature, and as to man, “…not by thee my steps shall be”.
We live in a time when more than ever, skeptics abound. In truth, when tragedy strikes, all would with Tennyson, desire to live forever. In u
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”

Life then, is eternal! It did not begin here, nor shall it end at that time we call “death”. Indeed, the Lord declared unto Jeremiah, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)
In the book “God and My Neighbor,” the author, Robert Blatchford vigorously attacked the thought of life after death. He loudly proclaimed, “I claim to have proved everything I set out to prove so fully and decisively that no Christian, however great or able he may be, can answer my arguments or shake my case.” There came the moment when his arguments were shattered, and, like Tennyson, he began to desire hopefully for more. How came the change? His wife died! He was crushed, and after viewing her still body, with heart a breaking he related to a friend: “It is she, and yet it is not she. Everything is changed. Something that was there before is taken away. She is not the same. What can be gone if it be not the soul?” Speaking of the experience later, he said “Death is not what some people imagine. It is only like going into another room. In that other room we shall find … the dear women and men and the sweet children we have loved and lost.”
I testify then, of the validity of the promise, “I am the resurrection, and the life…he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live…” (John 11:25–26) Of Him who so promised, I declare that He lives! Death is not the end, but rather, a very real beginning to life, even life forevermore; that which emanates from Him, even that Holy Being who declared in the beginning, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39) He lives, and because He lives, we too shall live when this life is through. Of this I bear my sacred witness, in His name, even Jesus Christ, amen.

Forgive, That We Might Be Forgiven


I awoke very early one morning pondering over the things I had not been able to forgive. I mentally recounted some of them. There was the teacher who terrified and bullied me when I was a little child. That was most difficult to forgive, for I remembered the tears it brought to my gentle mother. There were later the hurtful words from a school administrator. And there was the beating I received from two male teachers in a dark room long after school was out, under the guise of corporal punishment. When I grew to young manhood and was more than able, I longed for the day I might meet the two together in a dark alley, for I wanted to extract revenge.

There came to me that early morning the words of the Savior, “Ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (1)

Ought I not to forgive finally? There had been so many wonderful and loving teachers and benefactors in my life, so why should I let these stand out? Yes, for the word of the Lord is clear: “ But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (2) Mine were so many, grievously vexing the Lord!

As I considered my life and reviewed each of my own grievous failings, I discovered that for each of these minor acts against me, I could find a much greater flaw in mine own life! There was a counter balance, and more! I was in deficit, for the Lord had been surpassing merciful unto me! Who was I not to forgive? Who was I to hold out?

“Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted that I may heal you?” (3)

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy; and my burden is light.” (4)

O Beloved and Divine Redeemer, Thou, the Savior of my soul, shall I not love Thee forever? Yea, I shall love Thee forever, and yet it shall not be enough!

(1) Doctrine & Covenants 64: 9-10 (2) Matthew 6:15 (3) 3 Nephi 9: 13 (4) Matthew 11: 28-30

Divine Redeemer

Jesus The Christ

Then came the moment when Jesus spake to the Twelve, saying, “Behold, the hour…is now come…” (1) Long before the foundation of the earth He had entered into covenant with the Father that He would come forth and redeem all mankind, (2) and now the awful hour had come when He would say in his grief, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death…and He…fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (3)

How grateful I shall ever be that He partook of the bitter cup, and did not shrink! For what He has done for me, words do not suffice. I love Him with all the power of my being. My Lord and my God, Thou, the Redeemer of my soul! I shall love Thee forever, and yet it shall not be enough!

(1) John 16: 32
(2) Moses 4: 1, 2; Abraham 3: 27 (Pearl of Great Price)
(3) Matthew 26: 38, 39

That Which I Revere

I revere the Constitution of these United States. I pay homage to the Founding Fathers of this great nation. With eyes wide open I recognize this country as the greatest nation upon the face of the earth.The great God of Heaven has willed it so, and will allow it to be free as long as we worship the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ.

I declare that the majority of the citizens of this nation are blind to what they have, nor shall they fully understand until the day come when they have nigh lost their freedoms. The assassination of law enforcement officials is but a beginning, and if tolerated by a public bent upon pleasing a minority of badly misguided malcontents, such bodes ill for this free society.

Of them to whom I pay homage, the Founding Fathers, J. Reuben Clark, former United States Ambassador to Mexico, and a prominent church leader, stated, “They (the Founding Fathers)were not backwoodsmen from far-off frontiers, not one of them. … There has not been another such group of men in all [the 200 years of our American history that even challenged the supremacy of this group.” We have need of such men and women in high office today, persons of integrity that cannot be shaken by political persuasion or whimsy.

We must adhere to and stand by the Constitution. Sadly, the rights and freedoms it guarantees are understood by few. I believe that the Lord has placed His stamp of approval on the Constitution with these words “I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.” (D&C 101:80)

I love this nation, and have served her in the military and in law enforcement. I am one of those who chokes up when Old Glory passes by. I am an American.

The Flag, and Hearts Abreaking

In 1951, when I was six, I was sitting between my father and my Uncle Jim Lopez in my uncle’s new car. My mother and my siblings were in the back seat, and we were on the way to Houston. Uncle Jimmy was doing 80 mph when the state trooper pulled him over. At a time when the entire Texas Highway Patrol was Anglo, that trooper treated Uncle Jimmy with respect. Instead of ticketing him, that trooper shook my uncle’s hand and bid him safe journey.

You see, the Korean War was in full force, and Uncle Jimmy was in uniform.
I shall ever remember a trip to the area of New Port News Virginia in 1953. My Uncle Eddie Flaherty and my father, both veterans of World War II, took us there. I was overwhelmed by sight, for as far as I could see, out in the harbor and out into the sea, hundreds of American ships of war. And on the land for as far as one could see, were war planes in salvage, miles and miles, and tens of thousands of them. America was indeed the mightiest nation on the face of the earth!

In Falls Church, Virginia, where Uncle Eddie and Aunt Mary had bought a home, one felt the pride that was being felt all over the country. Their home at 1202 Westmoreland was but one of the hundreds of thousands being built to house the veterans of World War II and Korea. The men who had fought those wars felt they could do anything, and America was great because of their sacrifices.

What would Uncle Eddie, wounded on Utah Beach, say of those who burn the nation’s colors to protest the election of a President? What say those returning wounded and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan? What say those who gather up the remains of their loved ones killed in action? Those who burn the Flag trample upon the memory of those who have sanctified it with their blood and their very lives.

The Lord cannot be pleased in such actions, for theirs is the sin of ingratitude. Let us instead, whatever our political affiliation, look forward confidently, putting our trust in our God, and remember that the Flag symbolizes the sacrifice of those who gave their all in behalf of their beloved country.

The Flag represents the grief and the tears and the broken hearts of parents who will never again in this life see a beloved child again, and of the spouse who will never again hold her beloved husband. It symbolizes the sobs of children who have loved and lost a beloved father. Yes, our Flag symbolizes broken hearts. Seen in that light, we can be sure that the Lord is not pleased in its desecration.

“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life! America! America! God shed His grace on thee.”

A Vote for the Constitution

I am no supporter of Donald Trump, but with reluctance have come to the decision that I must vote for him, and not for some third party candidate which would only serve to elect the opposing candidate.

My reasons are as follows, simply put, that all might understand. I am a lover of the United States Constitution. The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws and decides if laws violate the Constitution. The judicial branch is made up of the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts. The judges in each are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Should Hillary Clinton be elected, her impact on the judicial branch and the United States Constitution would be surpassing destructive. At present there is one vacancy in the Supreme Court, but due to the advancing age of the current justices, in the next few years there will be as many as four more vacancies.

So it is that at this moment, in casting my vote for the President of the United States, I will be voting not only for that Supreme Court Justice, but for other vacancies and pending vacancies in the federal judiciary as well. There are presently 12 Courts of Appeal justices vacating, and 75 US District Court judges vacating. 14 of these will have vacated before President Obama steps down.

At stake are such areas as national health care, national security, abortion, gun rights. Attacks on freedom of religion and on the family as an institution will increase.

I believe the Constitution to be a sacred document, ordained of God for the good of all mankind. We have seen the names of the jurists Mr. Trump will be appointing to fill judicial vacancies. I am satisfied that they are good and honest men, of the highest ideals. We can expect in them men who will interpret the Constitution, and not disregard the original intent and meaning of those who framed it.

I will vote for no third party candidate, which will only serve to defeat that which I have stated above, and change our country as we now know it in a devastating way.

The Death of Officer Guadalupe Martinez, SAPD

I was twenty five years old, and in my fourth year with the Austin Police Department that morning in 1971. I was working the day shift, and had stopped my unit on Waller Street just north of E.1st Street, when a truck pulled up behind my unit. I watched in my rear view mirror as a middle aged Mexican man got out of what I seem to remember was a truck carrying produce, and approached my unit. He wanted to talk. For the next half hour and more, I listened as that broken hearted man quietly unburdened his feelings. He had seen me before, and had sought me out for the opportunity to talk with me, because I reminded him of his son, San Antonio Police Officer Jose Guadalupe Martinez, whom he terribly missed. When one is twenty five years old, he does not comprehend the need of a father who has lost a son to want to bond with someone who reminds him of that son. When we parted company that morning, he embraced me, leaving me with the parting words, “Cuidate mi hijo!” (“Take care of yourself, my son!) I carried his son’s picture in my wallet for many years. Each time the father came to Austin, he sought me out, for in me he thought to see his son. He is surely gone now, united with a son he loved dearly. I have thought often of that broken hearted father. Oh, that I had known how to console him!

That evening in September 1970, Officer Guadalupe Martinez and his back up, Officer James Servantez, didn’t want to hurt the old man. Would he please put the gun away before he hurt someone? No, they didn’t want to hurt him, but the situation was rife with danger for themselves. As yet, neither Martinez nor Servantez had drawn their weapons, hoping to talk down what was a very tense and dangerous situation. The man had a pistol in his hand, and was holding another man. The officers were out in the open and exposed, away from their units and cover. Going for their weapons would set him off.

Where possible, officers of my era tended to go for their weapons only as a last resort. My brother in law, Raul Pacheco, was riding with me one afternoon in 1970 when in answering a disturbance call I walked smack dab into a situation where a man was holding a deer rifle, which he then pointed at me. I remember Raul taking cover behind a telephone post, very sure he was going to see me get blown away. Looking back on it today, it scares me too, but in that moment, I didn’t have time to get scared. Go for my gun? It would have gotten me killed. One must understand that a .357 Magnum is seriously outmatched by a 30-06. We didn’t have protective vests in those days, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Protective vests don’t stop 30-06 rounds. I talked the man into putting the rifle down. Raul hasn’t gotten over it yet, but it worked for me. Tragically, it doesn’t always work out that way. It didn’t work for Officers Martinez and Servantez.

Officer Martinez had been dispatched to the corner of Chupaderas and Santiago Streets that evening in September, on what appeared to be a minor disturbance, that of a man breaking bottles in the street. As those things go, matters can quickly escalate, into another situation an officer is generally unprepared for, with not the time to mentally prepare himself. While Martinez was talking to the man who had broken the bottles, his attention was called to something far more serious, not far from where he stood on the street, at 1201 Santiago. At 1201 Santiago lived Jose Alfaro, and this Jose Alfaro, with pistol in hand, was arguing with a Mr. Garcia. Mr. Garcia’s mother lived at the house with Alfaro.

Officer Martinez turned from the man he was talking to and began walking toward 1201 Santiago. At this moment, his back up, Officer James Servantez, drove up and exited his vehicle. Matters began heading south the moment Alfaro shot Garcia in the shoulder. Now here are Officers Martinez and Servantez in the street, exposed with no cover. Without drawing their weapons, they ordered Alfaro to put his weapon down. Instead, Alfaro pointed his weapon at Officer Servantez, and posed the chilling question, ”Do you want me to get you too?”

There was no way out of this except one of them get shot, and perhaps both. I have known of officers who gave up in similar circumstances, dying without ever firing a shot. These officers went for their weapons, with Martinez taking the lead. Someone had to make the first move and be the bait, knowing almost of a certainty that he was going to get shot, and Martinez assumed that role. He pulled and fired, and given the limited light, his rounds would have naturally gone high. He missed, and as he turned to look for cover, one of Alfaro’s bullets caught him in the back of the head. With Alfaro thus distracted by Officer Martinez’s courageous action, Officer Servantez was able to adjust himself and engage him. Turning from Officer Martinez, but now under pressure, Alfaro got off three more rounds, missing Officer Servantez, who emptied his weapon, killing him.

Those who manage these matters from the safety of their arm chair may suppose that gunfights work out as they do in the movies. They cannot understand that this tragedy played out as they usually do in real life. They are usually close distance, and almost always there are more misses than hits, because of the savage intensity and awful violence of the moment, and the dreadful knowledge that someone is going to die.

It has always been so. The evening of October 11, 1918, legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was one of a group of Rangers and lawmen who laid an ambush for Encarnacion Garcia, allegedly the murderer of Ranger Joe Shaw four months earlier. Hamer unloaded 15 rounds from his automatic rifle, and Cameron County Sheriff W. T. Vann unloaded his shotgun. After all that shooting, Garcia was hit but twice to the body, and a wound to his hand. Garcia got off only one round, but that round killed Ranger Sergeant Delbert Timberlake, who had earlier told Hamer that, “I’ll be cashing it in tonight.” Gun fighting is a brutal and deadly business.

Although only twenty three years of age, and with but one year on the force, Officer Guadalupe Martinez was no stranger to violence, for he had recently returned from Vietnam, where he served as a Lance Corporal with the United States Marines Corps. One shoots, one moves, one seeks cover. He would have learned this in the Corps. It was evening, and light was scarce. With the sort of concern that officers have for one another, Martinez willingly turned Alfaro’s attention to himself, by going first for his weapon to engage Alfaro, who had just shot one man, and whose pistol was aimed at his partner, but now would be turned on him. He would have realized that the moment he went for his weapon, his chances for survival were slim, but would possibly ensure Alfaro’s survival. This courageous and totally unselfish distraction provided Officer Servantez with the opportunity to take Alfaro out. Truly, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Few there be who knew, and few that so much as cared, that on a Friday evening, on the 4th of September, 1970, twenty three year old San Antonio Police Officer Jose Guadalupe Martinez, a clean cut former Marine and Viet Nam vet who had already served his country in a foreign war, for a nation that little appreciated his service, came home to pay the ultimate sacrifice, laying down his life for the citizens of San Antonio.

How Can I Make a Difference?


Today in a world filled with heart rending scenes of violence upon the innocent, more than ever we need ask ourselves in the soberest tones, “how can I make a difference?” The answer lies in another question, oft repeated in a frivolous manner, but most meaningful if asked with real intent: “what would Jesus do?”

My mother, upon the death of her own mother, went to work in a nursing home, because there she could serve others in memory of her own beloved parents. One day a new patient was brought to the home. He recognized mother as the little neighbor girl now grown up. As a child, mother and her siblings would walk to school a long distance in the cold. That distance would have been considerably shortened had this neighbor allowed the children to cross his farm property. His refusal caused them to have to walk a long distance around his property. Now, many years later, he was very elderly and an invalid, and literally at my mother’s mercy. “Do you know who I am?” he asked her. “Yes,” she replied. “You are my patient.” So loving and tender was her care that at his request she became his special caretaker for the remainder of his life.

Each of us recognizes those moments in our lives when the Lord has carried us. For such we are grateful. But ingratitude would be in those moments when, seeing another in need, we fail to do for him or her what Jesus would do were He in our place. Yes, we may make great pretense about how we love Jesus, but our words are indeed hollow if we fail to apply balm upon the wounds of another in need.

Many years ago I asked a man I much admired what I could do as a leader to make a difference. He looked at me intently, and then said quietly. “Love the people, Chris. Love them and serve them.” Such was his life and impact on others that I knew without doubting that he followed his own counsel. We will discover that when we involve ourselves in the service of others, our own cares and burdens will be lightened.

As the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry were drawing to a close, He gave the following parable which I quote in part: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me…” (Matthew 25: 34-36)

Following that prescription, we will remember those less fortunate than ourselves. Many of us recall the sweet story of the very plain young lady in a Utah high school who was taunted and bullied because of her looks. The school’s very popular football quarterback made it his mission to befriend her, and the rest of the team followed suit. They escorted her to class, they sat with her at lunch, they made her day, and they made her life! It changed the lives of the benefactors as well. That was, for those young men, the Lord’s service at its heroic best, worthy of emulation, as well as the Savior’s eventual praise one day: “inasmuch ye have done it unto the least of these…ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Enlightenment via District of Columbia vs Heller

We live in a time when the majority of the people of this land have little or no understanding of the Constitution. What they do not understand they cannot appreciate, and are thus in danger of losing precious freedoms granted to them by the God of this land, who is Jesus Christ, even the Author of that sacred document.

In early 2008 a Washington D.C. special policeman named Heller applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home. The district refused. The result was the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v Keller, argued 18 March 2008. A few points made by the Court: Hunting, although a legitimate purpose for firearms, is not its primary purpose. The Court stated that “the core lawful purpose of the 2nd Amendment is self defense.” Further, although gun violence is a problem to be taken seriously, “the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.” The Court explained that in order to keep the nation free, the people need arms, for “When the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.” Further, the Court explained that the Founders noted “that history showed that the way tyrants had eliminated a militia consisting of all the able bodied men was not by banning the militia, but simply by taking away the people’s arms, enabling a select militia or standing army to suppress political opponents.” The Court’s criteria for weapons includes weapons in popular and widespread use “that are overwhelmingly chosen by American society.”

We would do well to verse ourselves on, and seek to understand the Constitution. We note that the Founders gave the 2nd Amendment a priority of sorts, demonstrating its importance by placing it where It would defend the other enumerated rights.

Where does the federal government and the chief executive get any power to assume to regulate firearms? Understand the Constitution! The Second, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments express limitations on federal power. From the Tenth Amendment we learn that the federal government (and the chief executive) possesses only those powers delegated to it by the United States Constitution. All remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people.

Understand the Constitution and stand by it. Hence the importance of looking closely at candidates for leadership. If that candidate, by his words or actions demonstrates an inclination to trample that sacred document, we need be aware.

In the words of James Madison: ” the Constitution is a bill of powers, the great residium being the rights of the people.”

America, exceptional like unto no other

ATT00064There is no country on the face of the earth like these United States of America. Indeed it is a most exceptional country, else why do the people of all nations flow unto it, like metal shavings to a magnet? One cannot begin to plumb the depths of the reasons for her exceptionalism, but we may begin by reviewing the history of the Puritans sailing from England to America in 1630. They were seeking freedom from oppression, and theirs was the faith of a people who covenanted with God, believing that only through Him would come their deliverance, even as He had delivered ancient Israel. And where, but from this most exceptional country, would come forth in words and in practice the inspired declaration, that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth?” (1) We ought never, not ever, apologize for America’s role in the world, and we above all peoples on the face of the earth ought rejoice in our Judeo Christian foundations, for the God of this land is Jesus Christ, and there is no other! It behooves each of us then as individuals to repent of our sins, and look to Him for our deliverance.
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.” (2)

(1) Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
(2) Psalms 121