Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jesus loves ALL the little children, and we should do likewise

It’s north of 50 years ago, but I distinctly remember attending Vacation Bible School as a pre-schooler at the United Methodist Church on the corner of First East and Utah Avenue in Tooele.
My Aunt Anna attended there and my parents figured that any religious influences would benefit me and hopefully make their special challenge of raising me lighter.
In addition to being handed a blue raspberry Popsicle on the last day of the week, lodged in my memory bank are the words from the now politically incorrect song “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”
Jesus loves the little children
All little children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world
            The message is simple and clear, but the meaning penetrates deeper than the words.
            Since the only One to live a perfect life loves all children, it stands to reason that we should do the same. Obviously this extends far beyond skin color.
            When we love “all little children of the world,” we accept people for who they are and build upon their individual strengths. This becomes relatively easy when people look, act and think like we do.
            However, when we meet people of a different skin color, religion, political leanings or sexual orientation, do we give them the same number of marbles as those who walk, talk and resemble us?
            Although Tooele is a far cry from cosmopolitan, I count myself richly blessed for growing up in a town where my friends came from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds.
I cling to the memories of listening to Hank Pannunzio’s dad and uncles converse in Italian at their Newtown gas station. Two of the people I confided in high school to - Bob Martinez and Tina Lopez - remain close friends today.
I am grateful that my sports reporting dad covered Willie Fisher, Leo Gibby and Danny Frazier the same as he wrote about Wes Vorwaller, Steve Pratt and Bob Stringham.
Although I did not appreciate it at the time, I am indebted to my dad for taking me to the wood shed after flaunting an ethnic slur at the dinner table as a junior high kid.
Unfortunately, those lessons failed to penetrate into my soul as deeply as they should have when discussing those of a different sexual orientation.
I’m ashamed of my hurtful words spoken in years gone by against people that I teased, harassed, gossiped about and judged far too harshly. I’m grateful for their forgiveness of me for my sophomoric remarks.
Fortunately, my feelings have changed dramatically over the years, specifically in the past few decades as our society has addressed this issue more openly.
My change in perspective, attitude and eventually heart came primarily from two directions: I accepted and became friends with those of a different sexual orientation and I ceased making judgments that are best reserved for the Almighty One.
Simply stated, I try to apply the teachings of the Savior that I learned not so long ago: “Jesus loves the little children; ALL little children of the world.”
Peace, love and all that Jazz.
(Roberts previously served as an LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.)


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We'll all miss Ken Christensen's love of life

The Big Ugly C often randomly selects its victims. Obviously sometimes we can thwart that vicious enemy with good health and wise lifestyle choices.   However, this past week cancer indiscriminately claimed an icon of fitness and one of Tooele’s finest.
Ken Christensen succumbed to an aggressive melanoma cancer Thursday after a courageous four-month battle.
Ken was in peak physical condition throughout his life.  He was a fixture in the early morning hours at Pratt Aquatic Center. He was not one to casually swim a few laps and call it a morning.
He worked out and worked out hard. Day in and day out he tackled repeats of various distances before the sun rose over the Oquirrhs. At last glance he had racked up 1,337 miles at the aquatic center. That's from Tooele to Los Angeles and back.
Ken’s personality radiated. Whether you were a familiar face from years gone by or a complete stranger, Ken greeted you with a firm grip, broad smile and a sincere interest.  He loved people and people loved him.
His greatest loves were his Savior and his family.
Barbara and Ron Christensen raised Ken on Tooele’s Capri Circle.  As a youth Ken was seldom seen without his brother Scott, only 11 months his senior. Family lore says Scott started things and then Ken would get injured by what Scott started.
He was the life of every party and if there wasn’t party, Ken started one.
I distinctly remember Ken and Scott as grade schoolers sitting on the cement floor of the old Tooele Memorial Swim Pool in their Speedos. They could stick both big toes in their mouths and rock back and forth to the laughter and gawking of everyone in the lobby. Now that’s a unique talent. Ed Sullivan missed the boat by not featuring those two.
He played baseball for Sheik Matekel’s Christensen and Griffith baseball teams and later served as a co-captain and standout swimmer for Tooele High School under the direction of Coach Mel Roberts.
Somewhere in his teenage years, he was tagged with the nickname “Mouth.” I believe his closest friends in Coach Leigh Pratt's Explorer Scouts slapped that moniker on him. 
Ken shared his opinions about most everything with anyone who would listen. His voice projected clearly and distinctly.
As a leader in the LDS Church, Ken always placed people first. He anxiously accepted assignments and faithfully served in four stake presidencies before reaching the age of 50.
I loved listening to Ken speak from the pulpit. He had a knack for bringing life to a “ho-hum, here we go again” meeting. I heard him give dozens and dozens of talks over the years. He never used notes and almost always displayed unconventional props to illustrate gospel principles.
Barbara, all of us thank you and Ron for raising such an outstanding son.
Scott, Mark, Sherry and Tracy, we will miss your brother’s laughter, love and gentle kindness toward all people.
Sharie, you know better than anyone of Ken’s countless qualities. There is none better.
Karie, Brooke, Shellie and Paige, your dad made deep, positive impressions on countless people. You remain in our thoughts and our prayers at this difficult time.
Good-bye Ken. Thanks for enriching all of our lives. We will always remember the special ray of sunshine you brought into our lives whenever your greeted us. Your contagious smile and love of life are imbedded in our hearts forever.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Runner World's Cover Girl shares transcon journey with Tooele County

Christina and "Thor" 
crossing Utah's West Desert
There are bucket lists, and then there is Christina Lee’s bucket list. The 23-year old spent four days running across Tooele County two weeks ago.
            She covered nearly 25 miles each day running from Lake Point to Wendover while pushing her 70-pound support stroller dubbed “Thor” on I-80.  
            But her West Desert journey serves as a small fraction of Christina’s ultimate quest to run 3,100 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  Lee began in early July and plans on completing the journey Dec. 6.
            “Run Across America” is the third of 20 hand-printed line items on her personal bucket list. That’s right. Four time zones, 11 states and countless dots on the map in an effort to raise $100,000 for the Navy SEALS Foundation.
Now this is a serious bucket list

The Navy SEAL Foundation provides immediate and ongoing support and assistance to the Naval Special Warfare Community and its families.
            “You have to know and understand who you are raising the money for,” says the energetic runner heading toward her home in San Jose. “A bake sale just isn’t going to cut it.”
            Christina continues her efforts toward the century watermark with over $25,000 contributed to her cause. She hopes her exposure on the front cover of the December issue of Runner’s World magazine will push her closer to that goal. 
            She explains how families of Navy SEAL soldiers are unable to proudly display bumper stickers and wave flags of the special operations force that their husbands, sons and brothers serve in for obvious security reasons.
            “Since there is really no ‘safety net’ for those families, they definitely need all our support,” she says.
            The foundation supports SEAL families in a wide range of services including gaps in insurance coverage, burial costs, flight assistance, children holiday events, tragedy assistance, professional counseling and scholarships for surviving children.
            Every dollar contributed for the Lee’s cause goes directly to the foundation. Her personal savings and family assistance supports her 5-month cross-country quest.
            Christina, who tackles this massive mission without a support crew, expresses gratitude for Tooele Running Club members who have buoyed her up in western Utah.
            “Tooele is simultaneously the cat's meow and the bee's knee. The folks here are the kindest, most warmhearted people I could ever hope to meet and they routinely go out of their way to help me. A transcon runner couldn't ask for a better state than Utah,” she says.
            Tooele Running Club members who met, visited, ran, fed and housed Lee mutually share those feelings.
            About 15 club members greeted her in the Lake Point Comfort Inn parking lot on their “Run Christine Out of Town” run.
            Rick Spence, Tooele, ran with Christina in Salt Lake County and the following Saturday in the Lake Point-Stansbury area.
            “Whether in her enthusiasm every time she sees a horse or how excited she gets when she finds the perfect tumbleweed, Christina is the ideal example of someone who finds fun in the journey,” Rapid Rick says.
            Aaron Spilker of Stansbury Park who completed an Ironman Triathlon in June says, “Christina is the epitome of inspiration. I was astounded to learn that not only is she running unsupported, she and her family are footing the bill.”
            Aaron ran with Christina for a few hours on the eastern edge of the West Desert. He and his wife, Joey, also helped arrange housing, food and transportation so Christina avoided overnight camping on the Salt Flats.
            “I was stunned when she thanked us. Joey and I were the ones being blessed by the experience,” Spilker added.
Christina takes an evening break 
in Stansbury Park, Utah.

      Christina says her biggest challenges are mental, not physical. “You get through the aches, pains and soreness.”
            But the mental stress of thinking about the logistics of housing, food and handling the mechanics of stroller repairs can be burdensome. “Just thinking about if there will be a room available in a hotel and things like often weighs on me.”
            Christina has faced her fair share of physical challenges. “The most challenging was a snow storm in the mountains of Wyoming at 7,000 feet above sea level. It was a bone-chilling storm that went right through me. When that happened, I packed it in for the day after only 13 miles.”
While crossing the plains of Iowa, a wheel on her support stroller popped and she was forced to carry “Thor” 17 miles. “And it’s about two-thirds my body weight.”
          “Nothing seems to get in her way as she pushes through all of the challenges,” says Tracy Schaffer of Stansbury Park.
“As I thought about Christina throughout the day I realized how strong a person can be if only they set their mind to it,” she added. Tracy made additional housing contacts with people in Elko for Christina. 
            Christina left the East Coast packing bachelor’s degrees from New  York University and Stevens in computer science and mechanical engineering with an emphasis robotics. She earned them simultaneously at the two universities.
            The long, lean running machine was told as a youth that she was a slow runner. However, she competed on her high school soccer and cross country teams and and has completed five marathons. 
            “I may be a little above average for a marathoner,” she modestly says. "I have yet to break four hours."
            She now is better than halfway across the 400-mile Nevada stretch from Wendover to Reno. Next week she climbs the Sierra Nevada Mountains over Donner's Pass. Then it is down the home stretch to the San Francisco Bay area where she plans to wrap up her journey on Dec. 6.
            “I love life and I love living,” she says. “It’s really just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.”

            For additional details about Christina Lee’s Run Across America go to  or

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Honoring our veterans

My dad and Grandpa Roberts (1919)

"From the day that I was born I've waved the flag
Philadelphia freedom took me knee-high to a man"
- Elton John/1975                    

For far too many years Veterans Day appeared simply as a calendar day that government workers got “off.” Few patriotic programs. Fewer parades. Minimal flag raising ceremonies. For most it was just a calendar date similar to Groundhog Day, Arbor Day and Columbus Day. 
Congress even tried to shift Veterans Day to a Monday between 1968 and 1978 in an effort to give us an additional three-day weekend. The idea failed miserably because of confusion and inconsistency.
But now Nov. 11, regardless of the day of the week, is annually designated as Veterans Day.
Fortunately great strides have been made toward properly honoring those who served in the armed forces and sacrificed their lives to preserve the liberties that we all enjoy.
The annual 11-11 at 11 tradition is now embedded in our community. Under the leadership of the local Elks – officially Benevolent Protective Order of the Elk #1673 – our veterans are honored with a patriotic program, breakfast and a time of reflection.
Tooele honors our veterans Tuesday at 11 a.m. in a patriotic program at the Dow-James building. Rep. Rebecca Lockhart, Speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, will address the veterans, their families, community leaders and the public.
An appreciation breakfast to thank our veterans is also being served prior to the program, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
The Tooele Applied Technology College holds a flag raising ceremony at 9 a.m. and Grantsville has an 11 a.m. ceremony planned.
Here’s a quick history lesson: The “War to End All Wars” officially concluded on June 28, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in France. However, fighting between Allied Forces and Germany ceased seven months earlier with an armistice that began on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
Presidents and Congress formally paid respect to the Great War veterans with various resolutions and orders over the next several years.  In 1938, Congress formally recognized Nov. 11 as Armistice Day and a legal holiday. “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” in 1954.
Although I never served in the military, my parents raised me to always show proper respect to the flag and honor those veterans who protected our freedoms.
As an impressionable youth at the height of the Vietnam War I remember hearing of Lyndsey Fonger, Rey Duffin, Victor Tafoya, Mike Mermejo and others who lost their lives in Southeast Asia.
Six days after my 18th birthday cease-fire agreements were formally signed to end the Vietnam War and the highly controversial draft concluded.
I’m grateful to those in Tooele who sweat all the details preparing programs honoring our veterans. If you are available to attend one of our local ceremonies, please do so.
If you are unable to do be there, place a small flag on the grave of a family member or friend who served in the military, reflect on the sacrifices made, or simply thank a veteran for defending and securing our freedoms and liberties.
Peace, love and all that Jazz.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation 
is not to utter words, but to live by them.” 
—John F. Kennedy