Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy New Year

There are still a few days left in 2009, but I wanted to have one last blog to say "Happy New Year."

This past year has been a full year, one of transitions and changes for me and Sondra.  In February I suffered a heart attack, had three-way bypass heart surgery and was forced to be in the hospital for 25 days straight.  In the Spring Sondra continued to see doctors concerning her left foot and ankle, as it was deteriorating from an injury many years ago.  There is no cartilage left and extreme pain shoots through her foot.  With a tempting offer for retirement from the district because of the state's economy and budget, she took early retirement from her teaching job.  The amount of income dropped dramatically in our household due to that, but we know without any doubt at all that it was the right decision for her health and for the timing.  Our church is doing well in ministry ways, but the finances of the church have followed the path of the current economy of the nation.  And that is not a reflection on the spirituality of our people in the church.  It is just a fact of life, that the economy of society affects the economy of the church budget.  Because of that, I am not taking a salary from the church.

That's why we are faced with many challenges and transitions.  And it does not defeat us nor does it hinder our faith in God.  It only increases our trust.  God has never failed us, has never abandoned us and has never allowed harm to us.  We are ever amazed at how he meets every need.

One of the highlights of the year was our vacation and trip to the annual PowWow of my Potawatomi tribe in Oklahoma, and then our trip to Tennessee, and then to Boston and the New England area.  It was a trip that Sondra had been wanting to do all her life, to go to the places where the Pilgrims landed and see the history of our nation through the places to see in Boston and surrounding areas.  It was fun watching Sondra enjoy the moments as she was taking it all in.

I am certainly looking ahead to a wonderful New Year.  I welcome the year 2010.  I am excited about what this next year holds.  I hope you do too.  Happy New Year to you.  Be blessed and know "the peace that passes all understanding."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quick Trip to Oklahoma

This was quite an interesting development this week.  My friend, Jim Murcray, had asked me many months ago during this past year if I would help him drive a UHaul moving truck back to Tennessee.  He and his wife had decided to move there when she retired this past summer.  But the plans we make do not always come to pass, as Jim is no longer with us.  His passing came as a shock, with no warning prior to being admitted to the hospital.  But we, the living, have to move on, no matter how hard and sad that is.

So, his wife (Patricia) is making a move to Midwest City, a town adjacent to Oklahoma City.  It is a good thing for her to do as it does not have to be a permanent step right now.  It gives her time to be with family (her "adopted" daughter Kristin) there and for her to have a time to heal and renew.

She and her son Teddy (who lives in Tennessee) both drove moving trucks with household goods last week from California to Oklahoma.  There was still another truckload that needed to be moved.  So, in accordance with my promise to Jim some months back, I offered my services again to help.  I checked around and a four-door big-engine F-150 Ford pickup truck has been provided for me to do this, free of charge.  I was also given a 6x12 foot trailer to use, rented at UHaul at someone else's cost.  Patricia did not need any further expenses at this point, so I asked around.  God provided is an amazing way and this provision of transport is truly awesome.

After church today, I got the pickup truck, went and had the trailer put on.  Got four guys from the parolee Sober Living Program (that I am director of) to help load the truck and trailer, along with some other help.  Came home to pack and get ready for the trip now.

Oh, one more thing.  Patricia also needs her PT Cruiser car driven back there.

So, here's the plan.  I am driving the pickup with trailer, and Sondra will drive the PT Cruiser.  We will leave early tomorrow morning (Monday) and go as far as we can until we cannot drive any further for the day.  We are tired from today and this past week, so we will take it easy and try to be very safe and careful.

Apparently, there is to be another snow storm coming to Texas and Oklahoma on Tuesday.  We are driving the southern route (I-10 to I-20 and then up I-35) to miss as much bad weather as possible.  We hope to have arrived in either Oklahoma City or Shawnee, and settled down when the brunt of the storm hits.

We will spend a couple of days with family and then head back.  Indeed, it will be a quick trip, but well worth it to help a wonderful friend and then be able to take a little time to see mom, sister and brother-in-law (Marti and Bill), brother and sister-in-law (Noel and Janice), and our son and his family (Jason, Shelly, Jace and Kylee) who live there.

This may be my last blog post for this year, as 2009 fades into our memory bank.  Hope you have a great New Year's Eve, as you look forward to a wonderful and exciting New Year 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

This was an eventful Christmas for us.  All week we were looking forward to being with family and sharing time together.

On Christmas Eve, we had a late lunch with Evan, Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, here at the house.  It was so good.  Ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, yeast rolls, olives and dessert.  Sondra made a pecan pie, two coconut cream pies and a chocolate pie.

Then, we went to the church for our annual Candlelight Service.  The Christmas Eve service started at 6 pm and it was a joyous time of singing Christmas carols and sharing the gospel accounts in Luke and Matthew concerning the birth of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.  I also shared some poignant stories that tied in with the Biblical themes of faith, hope and love.  I gave a short devotional on light, that Jesus is the Light of the world that dispels darkness and sin and corruption and pain.  As we closed the service, we all had our candles lit and sang "Silent Night" a capella as the lights were dimmed out in the auditorium.  All the light we had was by candles and all the singing solely by voices.  It was a wonderful time of reflection and celebration.

On Christmas morning, Sondra and I joined Evan at Shawn and Crystal's house in nearby Ontario.  There were many, many presents that we had piled up.  My guess is that 75 percent were for Bailey!  And that was so fun to watch.  Bailey is getting close to 9 months old, and her eyes of wonderment and curiosity were a delight to see.  It took quite a bit of time to open presents one by one, as we watched each person open a present by turn.  After opening gifts, we had a Mexican lunch with enchiladas and beans and rice.  Also, some banana pudding, vanilla pudding on nut crust and leftover pecan and chocolate pies.

We went home thoroughly happy and tired!  Our love for each other was magnified by our love for Jesus!

Have You Seen These?

The first photo is our wedding picture, December 21, 1971.
The second photo is yesterday, Christmas Day, December 25, 2009.
Have we changed any at all?




Tuesday, December 22, 2009

38 Years is 13,879 Days (including Leap Year days)

Yesterday, Sondra and I celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary.  On December 21, 1971, we were married on a Tuesday night in Bakersfield, California.  It had been a windy, dusty day.  The church was full.  I was on leave from training and assignment at Ft. Benning, Georgia, having been drafted into the US Army in March of that year.  After our honeymoon in Las Vegas, we drove back to Georgia with hardly anything in the UHaul trailer behind the Chevy Vega car we owned.

That was 38 years ago.  It has been a tremendous journey through the years.  Schooling, children, jobs, churches, teaching and all.

This past Saturday, I wanted to get a jump on the anniversary timing by making a weekend of it.  So I went and bought a card, a flower arrangement of roses and other assorted flowers, and a box of chocolates.  Without her knowing, I also went to the box office of the California Theater of the Performing Arts and purchased tickets to see "Riverdance," an exciting show of Irish music, song and dance that has been on stage for some time now. 

"Riverdance" was absolutely fabulous.  The tap dancing was amazing to watch and enjoy.  After the show, we went to Corky's (an all-night diner in Rancho Cucamonga) to eat a light dinner before heading home.

On Monday, I had planned a lunch at the Old World German Restaurant in Huntington Beach on the coast.  However, as I made one last check of times of operation, the web site revealed that they are closed on Mondays.  So, I had to check on other restaurants that had German fare in the Los Angeles area.  Most of you know that I was stationed in Germany in 1972-1973 with the Army, and Sondra came there to live while I was assigned to the Headquarters 8th Infantry Division (Airborne) as I had completed the Airborne School at Ft. Benning.  So, while there we developed a love for certain German foods, specifically Jaegerschnitzel (breaded veal cutlet with a mushroom sauce) and Gulaschsuppe (a wonderful blend of beef and potatoes cooked as a spicy soup).

We ended up on Sepulveda Boulevard near the Los Angeles Airport at a place called Chalet Edelweiss.  Not the greatest of ambience, but the food was delicious with good lunch prices.  No gulaschsuppe, but the schnitzel was good.

Driving home, we decided to go to the movies.  We went to the AMC theaters in the Ontario Mills shopping mall and saw the movie "Armored."  Lots of action, a fairly decent story line of courage and family closeness.  After that, we actually stayed to see another movie as well, as it was not yet too late in the day for another show.  So, we stayed and watched "Invictus," the story of Nelson Mandela's leadership early in his presidency of South Africa.  His use of a rugby team and its destiny helped shape the nation's understanding of change and acceptance.

The evening was just beginning, so we went to the Black Angus restaurant for dinner.  Absolutely awesome.  They had a chef special for $20.99.....steak, lobster and shrimp.  With baked potato and salad.  It was a great meal and a super way to end the day.

Thirty-eight years.  Sondra gave me a card that read (in part) that she was looking forward to the next 38!  We will be quite old by then, but who knows?

These have been 38 good years of life together.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Busy December Already


Last night we finally got our Christmas tree decorated. We got a 7 foot Spruce Pine, and I love the smell of pine needles. We do it the old-fashioned way, with twinkling lights and red beads and old ornaments made and bought over the years.  Did you notice that there are no presents under the tree?  We are still waiting for you to send them to us.....ha!  Seriously, it was fun to see it completed, as we had bought the tree last week and just didn't take the time until last night.  It makes the house so festive.

On another note, the 2010 Census for the U.S. will soon be taken.  Last week, a field worker for the Census came by our church to inquire about using our facilities for census training.  We agreed, as we want to be useful to the community in more ways than just church worship.  We want to use our buildings effectively to minister in every way possible. 

So, as the field worker explained the process, I also asked about hiring possibilities for census takers.  I am personally interested, as the church does not have the funds to pay me a salary at this time.  He gave me all the information about testing for both census takers and supervisors.  So, yesterday (Monday) morning I took the supervisor test and passed (because they correct the tests immediately and tell you your score!).  Next week, I take the next test to be qualified to work for the Census Bureau.  If you are interested or know of someone who might be looking for temporary work with the U.S. Census in their area, have them call 1-866-861-2010.

Yesterday afternoon, my brother David called from the Texas facility where he will be until June of next year (2010).  He is in good spirits, as he looks at the next 6 months going by quickly and finally getting out.  It cannot come soon enough for all of us!

Then, yesterday evening we went to dinner with a couple from the church.  They invited us to join them at the Red Lobster nearby.  What a sumptious meal.  We had lobster, with skewered shrimp and fried shrimp.  Then afterwards, the lady went to their car and brought me out a store-bought coconut cream pie (because she knows that is one of my favorites!).  It was a lovely evening with good friends and conversation.

Just a note about Sunday.  We had a group of church members (from children to adult) give a presentation with the Christmas theme, celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I gave a short message on "joy" from the Luke 2 account of Jesus' birth.  During the altar call, a man and his girlfriend came forward to accept Jesus for salvation.  I had the wonderful joy and pleasure of leading them separately and individually in the sinner's prayer.  It was an exciting and emotional time.

On Sunday afternoon, I took a member of the church (who was recently ordained) to a church in Los Angeles where he was scheduled to speak to a recovery group.  We were only a block away from the church there when we noticed that my car was overheating.  We made it the last block and parked to let the engine cool before checking it out.  Well, the pressure cap was broken and blew off and sprayed me with very warm coolant water.  I was not hurt, but I was certainly thankful because it could have burned me severely under different circumstances.  Got a new radiator cap and drove home immediately, just to make sure I got home before dark.  I hate car trouble!  But I was safe and made it home safe.  All is good now.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Poetry Thoughts by Sister Marti

When is the last time you tried to write poetry?  Grade school?  College?  Probably a long time ago, right?  It is probably a good exercise and discipline to continue as we grow older.  Our wisdom sounds so much better when written in verse, rather than prose.

This is from my sister Marti's blog at:
     http://churchmouse48.blogspot.com/,
but from my title above it sounds like writings from a nun.  No worry.  It's just my big sister that I am giving some credit for poetic verse that came to her.  My sister wrote the following poem.  She asked for other verses, if we could come up with any, so my feeble attempt follows.  Marti is truly gifted in sharing her thoughts in words.  And, above all, she is my favorite sister!  (Did I tell you that she is my only sister?)

Christmas Poem by Marti Roberts

(I woke up this morning with the words of a poem going around in my head. I have written three verses, and maybe I will be inspired to write another verse soon. This is a Christmas poem for those I love who don't live near. If you have a verse to add, send it to me.  -----Marti)

My heart doesn't know inches or miles,
It doesn't know distance,  Only your smile.

My heart doesn't know minutes or hours,
It doesn't know time,  Only love's powers.


My heart doesn't know silver or gold,
It doesn't know wealth,  Only hugs that enfold.


My heart doesn't know lots of stuff,
It doesn't know reason,  Only faith - that's enough.

          (I just thought of this verse while typing. Smile!)

That's from Marti.

OK, now this is mine.  Those lines above are Marti's, and the ones below are mine.  These are the lines I came up with:

My heart doesn't know glory or fame,
It doesn't know ego,  Only a humble name.

My heart doesn't know beauty or even a scarred face,
It doesn't know appearance,  Only the inward place.

My heart doesn't know music or art,
It doesn't know the classics,  Only the hurt when we're apart.

My heart doesn't know when to start or to quit,
It doesn't know time constraints,  Only how to be passionate.

My heart doesn't know the depths of Sister Marti,
But now I must quit,  Because it's time to chow down and party. 
                 (This is not very spiritual, huh?)

Well, that was fun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Very Rainy Monday

It was a very soggy and wet day yesterday.  The temperature dropped down in the 40s and stayed that way all day.  We are not used to that here, because we live in "sunny" Southern California.  But we need the rain, and I welcome the cold weather as well.

Sondra and I had no pressing nor urgent business to attend to, so we went out for a late breakfast.  After breakfast, we went to an early matinee.  The AMC theater near us has a special rate before noon, with a price of $6 rather than the evening price of $11.  We went and watched The Blind Side, with Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw.

An amazing movie, with emotional and spiritual overtones.  It showed the compassionate side of a Christian family, as the well as the dark and ugly side of Christian people who still hold on to petty biases and ungodly prejudices.  That is the reality of our world, and it is my task as a faithful believer to stand up to the wrongs of the Christian community at large, to hold high the standard of truth and righteousness.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched a video promo by a humanist named Greg Epstein, author of his new book entitled Good without God.  At the end of his one-sided discussion, I was left with the feeling that humanists want all the good that the Bible calls us to be and do, but then they want to take God out of the equation.  So, to be blunt, they want society to be good without a basis for good.  If I am a humanist, if I am an atheist, if I am an agnostic, why would I want to be good?  Where do I get that from?

To be honest, good is a relative term if we leave God out of it.  Who then defines it?  One person will tell you it is treating others with respect.  Another person will tell you it is helping others (which you can do without respecting them).  Another will tell you that good is the activity of not hurting others.  But who sets the standard for that?  Me?  You?  The guy next door?  The lady who sells herself on the street?  The teenager selling drugs on the corner?  Who? 

So, you see, the "good" that some seek is society-based at best and self-serving at worst.  That means I, if I were an individual humanist, I get to set my own standard for good.  Nobody is in charge of me but me.

Do I get goodness from within?  I think not.  I have too many fallible ways on my own.  Do I get it from others?  I think not.  Look at any society left to its own devices without God.  Total chaos and anarchy result.  That is just human nature.  The greed and lust for power takes over.  The Bible continues to tell us that there is no one who is "good."  Sin has corrupted our nature.  We need God.

Why did you even watch that video, then, Galen?  I am so glad you asked.  Because I have a friend (of the humanist persuasion) that I desperately care about who continues a discussion with me about spiritual things.  He, in his own way, asked me to watch that short video.  I wonder and want to know about his mindset and thoughts about these deeper things of life, about how he sees things logically and intellectually.  To see if he can show me where the Bible is no longer relevant.  It's the challenge, and I love a great challenge.

I need to know why there are those who are so anti-religious.  Because, to tell you the truth, I am anti-religious too.  I am a believer in Jesus Christ, the son of God, the messiah who came and whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.  He is the only one who can forgive my sins and rotten nature, and who can give me everlasting life in a holy place called heaven.  And so, it is about Jesus and not about a religion.  Jesus came not to establish a religion but to bring us back into relationship with an awesome Father in heaven who cares for his own.  I am one of God's children through faith, and I want that to be the joy of others as well.

That is why I am anti-religious!  I am pro-Jesus!  I don't want to be good, I want to be righteous.  You can't be righteous without God.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Early December

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Christmas is just around the corner.  This month is full of excitement and activity.

This past week was a week of mixed emotions again.  We held a private service for the interment of the ashes of my good friend Jim Murcray.  It was a struggle for me to get through it with no emotional breakdown.  Tears flow easily when a bond of friendship and love is so strong.  But I know I shall see him by and by, in that great place called heaven.  So, with mixed feelings of sadness and celebration, we once more said farewell on this side of the great divide called death.

Then, I got extremely sick on Thursday.  I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say I did not stray too far from the loo (if you don't know what that is, look it up...ha!).  I didn't want to get Sondra sick, so that night I slept in the living room on the couch.  Added to that was the fact that we continuously sprayed Lysol around every room I walked through.  Fortunately, my sickness only lasted 24 hours.

But try as we might to keep Sondra from catching any bug that I had, it was certainly a valiant effort but it had no positive results.  Sondra got sick on Saturday afternoon with much more severe symptoms than mine.  However, they only lasted about 18 hours.  She missed church this morning to make sure all was well.

Yesterday morning, before the bug hit her, she went out and bought a beautiful Douglas Fir tree for the house.  It is not decorated, with all that went on, but it shall soon be a tree that we will delight in for the next several weeks.

Yesterday morning (Saturday), I went to a scheduled meeting for the Alumni Board of California Baptist University in Riverside.  I am a graduate of CBU and have been elected Chairman of the Homecoming Committee for 2010.  Because of that role, I am serving on the Alumni Board as well for the school.  After the meeting, a wonderful woman who has been part of the staff and administration for the school for as long as anyone can remember, told me she had something for me.  She went to her office and came back with a Bible that had belonged to a Cal Baptist biblical studies professor that passed away some years ago.  She gave me a Bible that was written in, marked in and underlined by this great man of God, Dr. Olie T. Brown.  What a blessing.  It was a touching gesture and gift of love.  Thank you, Wanda Price!

Today was a wonderful day of worship.  A young man, former drug addict and a current parolee from the state prison system, was baptized as he found true purpose and meaning to life in Jesus.  He is even finding the strength to give up cigarettes in the last couple of days, and he is excited about this new found faith and ability to meet challenges of life.

There is much to do this week, so I must get about the business of rest and sleep.  I hope you are enjoying the peace and goodness of a God who meets the eternal needs of the heart.

Friday, November 27, 2009

List of Ten Plus Thanksgiving Photos

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with all our kids (and grandkid) who live here in California.

One fun development, though, was receiving some emails from our nine-year old grandson Jace who lives in Oklahoma.  He has just acquired an email address a couple of days ago and wrote his first email to me.  We exchanged several emails through the past days, and in one of them we talked about the meaning of Thanksgiving.  I specifically asked him if he would send me a list of ten things that he is thankful for.

Here is Jace's list:
1.  Jesus dying on the cross
2.  Thanksgiving
3.  Christmas
4.  Easter
5.  life
6.  food
7.  water
8.  air
9.  shelter
10. family and friends

I wish everyone had a list like that to share with others.  I truly am blessed to have joy in this life and joy even beyond into eternal life.  My grandson has that joy too!

Here is a picture of Jace and Kylee (our grandchildren in Shawnee, Oklahoma) taken yesterday.
          

Crystal, Bailey (7 months), and Shawn


Evan holding Bailey


Sondra and Me


One last comment and I'm done for now.  Jace even joined my Blog "follower" list and posted his photo too.  His dad (Jason) is teaching him quite a bit about computers and such.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day

There are many reasons that I love about Thanksgiving Day, not the least of which is the wonderful meal as we gather together to eat.

It is early on Thanksgiving right now, and the aroma that fills our house is breathtaking.  The pumpkin pies, a pecan pie, a lemon meringue pie, a chocolate crunch dessert.  The leftover pie dough was given a dust of sugar and cinnamon, cut and rolled into little cinnamon rings for treats.  The turkey has thawed and now set into the oven to cook for hours.  The dressing and all the trimmings are to be finished and ready by one o'clock.

Add to that, the fact that Evan and Crystal and Shawn and little Bailey, will all be here for a time of celebration and food.

But this day is much more than food.  It is much more than family members present.  Yes, it is about family and food, to be sure.  But that must not be the primary consideration.  It is a day to be reminded of the goodness of our God.  We have so much to be grateful for.  In spite of our lousy finances, in spite of some tough health issues, in spite of any poor weather, in spite of some dysfunctional friends.......in spite of all things considered, we are most blessed.

Here is a poem that I read recently.  It sums up our need to endure all things and carry a thankful spirit.

                                       I Now Give Thanks

For every hill I've had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat.

     My heart sings but a grateful song,
     These were the things that made me strong!

For all the heartaches and the tears,
For all the anguish and the pain,
For gloomy days and fruitless years,
And for the hopes that lived in vain.

     I do give thanks, for now I know,
     These were the things that helped me grow!

'Tis not the softer things of life,
Which stimulate man's will to strive,
But bleak adversity and strife,
Do most to keep man's will alive.

     O'er rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
     But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.

I remember reading a story that illustrates our need to show a grateful heart.  The story talks about two angels who are sent to earth with baskets.  One angel has a basket in which he is to collect the petitions and requests and then return to heaven.  The other angel is to collect all the prayers of thanks and then return to heaven.  The two angels carry out their mission, come back to sit down together and discuss the results.  The angel with petitions has a basket that is full and overflowing.  The basket of the other angel is almost empty.  In fact, there was only a handful of thanksgiving prayers to show.  How sad that heaven is pounded with needs and desires and begging for God's divine intervention, but then rarely receives the joyful words of thanksgiving and gratefulness!
 
That may hit home to many of us.  So, let us do as the old hymn challenges us to do:  "Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings, see what God hath done!"
 
Thanks you, Jesus.  Above all, we are given eternal life through You.  We are blessed beyond measure.  What a wonderful Thanksgiving we can enjoy because of Your great love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Humanist Movement

Thanksgiving Day is just a few days away, but Christmas is already an overwhelming focus of advertising and discussion in the media.

In light of that, I just read about the Humanist push for godless holidays.  Since the word "Christ" is in Christmas and because we celebrate the birth of Christ, I assume that this is one of the Humanist's biggest holidays to protest.

In an article I just saw, it describes Humanism as a philosophy that says people don't need the framework of an organized religion or belief in a supernatural deity to live morally.  Humanists believe people should lead their lives in a way that benefits society at large.

That really sounds like a philosophy (using their term) that comes from the mouth of "Christ" Jesus.  Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  It seems as though the Humanists have stolen a part of the Bible to meet their agenda because that "benefits society at large."  I don't hear them say, "Oh, yes, we agree with Jesus on this."  No way.  There is no room for Jesus in their doctrinal stance.

And, to be truthful, they do have a doctrine of belief.  That's what makes a Humanist who he/she is.  Without that, it becomes a chaos of thoughts and motives and feelings.  There must be a core system, and that becomes doctrine.  It is what a person stands for.  However, they deny that Christians should have such a doctrinal belief system, because it does not match theirs.

I am trying to understand the word "tolerance" in our society today as well.  Most atheists and humanists that gather at conferences seem to be intolerant of the Christian faith.  They are perfectly content to tear down the faith systems of those who are believers in Jesus Christ.  We as Christians are slammed by atheists if we will not tolerate their ideology.  That seems a bit hypocritical, as they are not willing to tolerate our beliefs and convictions as we live them out daily.

The humanist movement also declares that it is perfectly acceptable for their followers to gain adherents and followers.  But they will castigate the Christians for "proselytizing" and calling converts to faith.  Again, a major hypocrisy in the humanist ideals.

Lastly, to come back around to Thanksgiving and Christmas, why do the Humanists even bother to celebrate the holidays?  Why not just ignore them?  We as Christians do not celebrate the "holy days" of other faith systems.  We are proud to take part in the worship and praise of an annual event to mark a time of remembrance concerning our spiritual heritage.  Even when the Israelites made their journeys, they took time to mark the time of such important events as were meaningful for their faith.

We come from the same stock of faith.  Therefore, we take time to celebrate because of a holy and loving God who has blessed us and who came in the flesh to save us.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are wonderful times to be reminded of who God is and what he has done.

So, to all who are not of the Christian persuasion, I would laughinly say, "Go, make up your own holiday or time of remembrance or whatever." Why do you insist on making us change ours? Get your own!

I am sad for those who do not have the same hope and joy for their eternity.  I want them to know of the love I have experienced.  I want them to know the Savior that makes life worth living.  I want them to know I love them and challenge them to search diligently for the truth that Scripture gives.

I do not sit on a holy throne with all the knowledge that is necessary for everyone.  I only have enough understanding and faith for me.  I want others to have it as well.

May you know who God is and how much he blesses you and loves you in this time of Thanksgiving season and then through the wonderful days of the Christmas season.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ending and Beginning

This was quite a different kind of week and weekend for me.

Last Monday, my best friend Jim Murcray passed on to glory.  The whole week was taken up with being with the family and making arrangements and plans for a Saturday memorial service.  Also, during the week I met with a man in our church (Michael Dotson) whose ordination would be on Sunday.

In the last few days, I have received several cards in the mail that shared the thoughfulness and comfort from those who knew that I would be hurting inside.  And I want to thank those who did, and they know who they are.  I also received dozens of notes by email from those who gave me words of encouragement and love at this time.  Those were very touching and meaningful words from everyone, whether by personal visit or phone or card or email.  Just the touch from someone in that way is powerful and precious.

This past weekend showed me again that God's plan for the ages embraces the cycle of life.  We held a celebration service on Saturday to memorialize the end of a pastor's earthly life, and then on Sunday morning held a worship celebration of Thanksgiving leading into the Sunday afternoon celebration of an Ordination Service signaling the beginning of a minister's life of service for the sake of the gospel.

The ending of Pastor Jim Murcray's earthly ministry and then the beginning of Pastor Mike Dotson's earthly ministry.  With a worship service in between that focused on our blessings and our thankfulness to a holy God who is in charge of all.  Very powerful to see through a sense of heaven's plan, a kind of a divine order and choreography by the author of all history, even the Lord Jesus Christ who sits on his throne.

We have a small church building, but we put up every chair we could in the sanctuary auditorium on Saturday.  There was seating for about 212, and almost every seat was taken.  Our count was 205 for the memorial service.  It was truly a time of celebration and worship, recounting the life of a wonderful servant of Jesus.  There are no words to really express the wonder of the moment as we gathered together for a time of good-bye to such a one who was loved by so many.  Jim Murcray touched so many lives and had an impact on more than we will ever know.

During our Sunday morning service, I preached on the Biblical account of the healing of 10 lepers by Jesus.  Only one came back to thank Jesus.  My message focused on two parts.  First, what keeps us from giving thanks to God.  Second, the necessity and importance of showing and verbalizing our thanks to God.  Prior to the sermon, I led the congregation as they shared in a short time of testimonies.  What a thrill to hear and know about God's movement and blessings in the lives of those around us.

And, finally, at 1 o'clock Sunday afternoon we gathered again at the church to ordain Mike Dotson.  An ordination service is always such a high and holy time of setting aside an individual that has surrendered to the call of God to serve for a lifetime of ministry.  This day was no different.  It was a wonderful time to sense the Lord's presence and to rejoice in what God will do in the future.

I am always amazed at some who deny the power and movement of God in our world.  This past weekend just showed again the goodness and grace of the Almighty.  It is more than evident as I grow older, and I see more proof than would be ever necessary to sing God's praises and trust in him by faith for all eternity.

In the spirit of this Thanksgiving season, I must proclaim to all that I am blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Good-Bye For Now, My Friend

Yesterday, I was in the ICU room with a few family members as my good friend, Jim Murcray, breathed his last breath here on earth.  For 27 straight days, he fought valiantly.  He was a fighter, that's for sure.  And finally he won.  He is now in the very presence of a holy and loving God.  He was won the greatest victory of all, the final victory that the Lord promises to his own.

I met Jim in my first year of California Baptist College in Riverside in September of 1968.  We became fast friends, even from the beginning.  Later, we again were in school together, this time at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in the Bay Area.  We studied together, worked secular jobs together, spent family time together.  We both did church starts at the same time, with me in Hercules and Jim in Danville.  We talked much about our ministries and dreams, feeling the same things about the ups and downs of new church planting.

Later on, we preached revival services for each other, as we pastored in various churches and cities.  We attended many conferences and conventions together, specifically Pastors Retreats once a year.  Then, after serving as a Director of Missions in northern California, he felt a calling to serve churches that were plateaued and declining, churches that really were dead or dying in terms of attendance, membership and vision.  Jim asked me to help him in consulting with churches, and we did many a road trip together.

At one point, he began working for Coronado Stone Products in Fontana, and he submitted my name for a position.  He and I worked there together until he moved on.  When he was fully involved with the Calimesa Chamber of Commerce, he started an internet radio station for them.  Included were some slots for preaching, and he and I did some radio messages to be sent out all over the world by internet.

Jim's major impact on my ministry and life was in October 2000.  Through his Vision Plus Recovery ministry to churches, we were offered the opportunity to start a new church work in the Glen Avon part of Riverside county.  On the first Sunday of January 2001, Jim was the co-founder with me in starting The Vision Plus Church.  Jim was the main force in bringing this to pass, but he was called the next month to meet with church leaders in American Samoa, using his materials and experience to help the Baptist churches there.

I always kidded Jim about leaving me "high and dry" with a brand new ministry start while he went to the South Pacific and "suffered for Jesus" on a beautiful island far away.  But, it was all in God's amazing plan, and it was an awesome blessing for us to serve together in ministry for so many years, our lives intertwined in incredible ways.

Jim was indeed a close and intimate friend.  We had no secrets.  In many ways, he was my pastor and I was his pastor.  We felt like brothers who could talk about anything, both big and small.  We had known each other for 41 years, attending weddings and funerals together, watching our kids grow up, and sharing all the challenges we had in common.  He had such a way with telling stories and jokes, he had that distinctive voice, and he always had a smile that just brought a ray of sunshine into any situation.  He had a serious side but also such a wonderful sense of humor for balance.

What a blessing to have had such a friend.  How I will miss him.  Good-bye for now, my good friend.  James Leroy Murcray Jim Jimmy (as he used to call himself, using all five names in sequence), you were the best!  I will see you on the other side.


Jim and wife Patricia at her retirement reception in May 2009.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friendship and Family

My friend Jim Murcray is still fighting for his life.  He has been in ICU for over three weeks now, as today is Day 25.  We have been in the waiting room with family and friends every single day, with brief visits into the room to talk out loud to Jim even though he does not respond.

I just want to express how wonderful it is to receive notes of love and encouragement throughout these days.  Many people do not have a network of friends and loved ones who will verbally affirm them in times of crisis.  And that is sad.

As I have sat in the small ICU waiting room of the Kaiser Riverside hospital, I have seen dozens of individuals who have come in because of an emergency now happening in the lives of their family members.  Some are devastated and feel there is no hope.  Some are lonely and frightened.  Some are brave but unemotional.  Some are strong and hopeful.

God has given an open door for me to talk with many during these days.  How amazing it has been to be able to share love, compassion and prayer with those we have only known for a few brief moments. 

It continues to point out that humanity is hurting everywhere, while the church sits idly by.  So far, I can only recall one pastor who has come by to visit his church member in this time frame of almost a month.  Yes, there are chaplains that are there in the hospital.  But they cannot do it all.  And, may I humbly add (even as a pastor myself), there are some who do not look favorably upon a chaplain or pastor here in our secular state of California.  And, some would point out that it is the paid duty of a chaplain to have an agenda to say words of comfort to the hurting, which is not fair to the chaplains and pastors who genuinely have a heart for those in distress because of the love of Jesus.

But, the reality is that those who find themselves in crisis times of hurt and pain need someone they trust.  And, guess what?  Trust is not immediately felt with a stranger who comes in with a badge that says "Chaplain."  However, trust is built up immediately between individuals who are going through the same thing.  As we sit in the waiting room, we initiate conversation with those who come in.  We talk about the condition or reason that brought their loved ones in.  One thing leads to another, and a friendship has been established.  We have had small talk, chit chat, restaurant talk, family talk, church talk but, more importantly, talks that have depth and emotion.

We pray together, we hug together, we weep together.

I, as a pastor, cannot have that immediate rapport with some simply because I am a preacher.  They will only be drawn and find comfort in someone who is experiencing their kind of pain as well.  I thank God he has given me an open door of opportunity to give a witness of my hope and strength and love because of Jesus.

I am a missionary today.  I have been sent on mission to those in the ICU waiting room of Kaiser Riverside.

I am grateful for a host of friends and family who write and call and let me know they are part of this journey of seeing what God will do in the life of Jim Murcray.  Family and friends are so important.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rough Day for an Update

My friend Jim Murcray is not doing well at the moment.  Today is his 21st day in ICU.  Each day presents a different challenge, both to his medical condition and our ride on an emotional roller coaster.  It is only by the grace of God that we can hang on.  It is only by proven faith and Biblical truths that we can see that God is still in control.

It seems like time is standing still in my life.  Nothing else that is going on in the world matters.  We are focused and wrapped up in the cocoon of the ICU waiting room.  Nothing else is of much consequence, as we continue to see Jim fight one more day.

My church family has been so good.  They have stepped up to take care of the day to day things that need to be done.  A pastor friend preached for me this past Sunday.  I am rarely leaving the hospital, because of how critical the situation is.  In fact, Sondra and I slept in the ICU waiting room Saturday night with several others.

I received a book in the mail yesterday.  It is from a friend and has some interesting nuggets of truth from the author.  I am anxious to read more from it.  God is the author of all truth, and my goal is to find a Scriptural verse that is the foundation for each truth in that book.  Shouldn't be too hard!

Friday, November 6, 2009

What If You Are Wrong

I recently watched a YouTube video in which Richard Dawkins was asked very politely by a young lady (who I assume is a college student) at a university, "What if you're wrong?"  Dawkins is one of the most vocal and visible atheists who goes around the country expounding his views.  He is author of the book The God Delusion.  So, I too, ask you Richard Dawkins, what if you are wrong about Jesus and the need for eternal salvation through Him?

I was interested in Dawkin's response.

He never answered the question.  He deflected the question to make the questioner feel that she was a Christian simply because of the culture she grew up in.  That is Dawkins' first fallacy.  Christianity is a major influence for religious beliefs in America, to be sure, but being an American does not make a person follow Christianity.

In this same vein of thinking, he would equate Arabs always being Muslim, Asians being Buddhists, East Indians are Hindus, and so forth.  That takes away any free thinking of individuals in any society, if you agree with that line of thought.  I disagree, as I have traveled the world and have seen throngs who do not follow the religion of others in their society.

Dawkins also posed the question back to the questioner:  "And what if you're wrong?"  But because of the format of the forum, she was not given a chance to answer.  He wanted his question to hang in the air, to make it seem authoritative and unanswerable.  That does not work, as it shows a lack of willingness to hear a response that could potentially deflate his answers.

You see, the atheist has no answer that is satisfactory to one who looks at the question with honesty.  Dawkins answer left the impression of:  "So what if I'm wrong, because what if you're wrong too?"  It implies that it is okay to be wrong.  But that leaves out any consequences of being wrong.  What are the consequences of being wrong?  Look at the following, with that in mind.

If the atheist is right and there is no God, then he dies and loses nothing.
If the atheist is wrong about God and Jesus, then he dies and loses all in the eternity to come.

If the Christian is wrong and dies, he loses nothing.
If the Christian is right and dies, he loses nothing and gains everything that God has promised.

Do you see the difference?  The atheist can never win, but can only lose.  The Christian can never lose, but only stands to win.

In philosophical and theological terms, this is the greatest gamble for every human.  What does your faith system risk?  In secular terms, the atheist has a 50-50 chance of losing nothing.  The Christian has a zero percent chance of losing at all.  What kind of gamble are you willing to take in terms of eternity?  My mind is set, I have given Jesus my all and trust Him with my eternity.

The atheist will rarely admit that there is a chance that they are wrong.  They cannot answer the consequences of being wrong.  Atheism is philosophical, Christianity is experiential.  There is no comparison between the two.

This is nothing new.  The greatest of philosophers in ages past came up with this logic and belief analysis.  So, I will plant my life with the great saints of old.  Doubters and scoffers have come and gone, but God's Word stands the test.  God can fight his own battles, and he doesn't need my little mind to try and convince anyone.

I challenge anyone to prove to me there is no God.  Convince me.  Show me there is a better way to peace and joy and satisfaction in life without a belief in God.  Show me another way to live that calms the heart and gives final hope for eternity, other than living for Jesus.  Show me!  I challenge you.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Justice and Mercy

I just received a phone call from my brother David.  It was not the news we wanted to hear.  The federal parole board has denied his request for early release despite his record of time served and good behavior.  He will continue to reside in the federal facility in Big Spring, Texas, until June 5, 2010 (next year).

David sounded a little down, as one can expect.  But he was not surprised.  It seems that some decisions about situations are made up ahead of time, before anyone is brought forward for important conversation and discussion.  Some interpret rules and regulations as items set in stone, rather than fair guidelines that can be given some latitude and discretion.  The tone of the meeting was one of legal justice, not one of bringing about a way of reclaiming and rehabilitating a life for transition back into society based on 7 years of good time in incarceration.

Anyway, that was that.

It reminds me that God does not work that way.  There are certainties, that's for sure.  God has given his command to obey and serve according to his ways, including the Ten Commandments and such.  But, when we fail, when we make errors, when we sin, when we miss the mark of perfection.....that's when God's grace is sufficient and amazing.  We come to the Lord on his terms, and he is willing to forgive and make a way of reconciliation and redemption.  Justice is tempered with mercy.

That's awesome!

Note To Dan

This is a note to my friend Dan.  Yes, I would love to read that book.  If you can send it, my address is:

Galen Greenwalt
1569 N. Lilac Avenue
Rialto, CA  92376

For all of you other readers of this blog, you can use the above address to send money.  Ha!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween

Today is the big day of Halloween.  When I was a little kid, this was a very exciting day.  I love candy.  And to get a whole bag just for me was awesome.  I remember sitting down with my pile and trading candy with my brothers.  Marti, I don't remember trading with you!  Anyway, it was just a fun night trying to find the best house to get treats from.

There are some who do not want to celebrate Halloween because it has some devilish overtones.  That's okay if they don't want to play the cultural game of "trick or treat."  That's their right.  However, don't make me feel unspiritual for enjoying the season.  Don't make me feel like I am promoting a Satanic holiday.  I'm not.  It is the make-believe day of dressing up and enjoying the festivities.  I grew up going out on Halloween night, and I always knew the difference between fantasy and reality.  I was not celebrating an evil day, I was having a great time with friends and family.  And I think I turned out all right with my belief system and my love for Jesus.  (For some, that is debatable whether I turned out all right.....ha ha.)  Anyway, have a great day, no matter if you do "trick or treats" or not.

On a more serious note, my friend Jim Murcray is still unconscious due to heavy sedation.  This is his tenth day in ICU.  There seems to be incremental changes for the good, but he is not "out of the woods" yet.  We just feel God is doing a slow healing process and we must be patient.

It has given me opportunity to speak and share my faith with the patients in the next bed in Jim's room.  It is amazing how open different individuals can be when they are faced with death and dying in emergency situations.  That openness is God's opportunity to speak to many when faced with grave circumstances.  And sometimes, sad to say, that is the only time some will turn to a great and loving God who will give them peace for those moments.  I will not say that God always hears and heals, because he doesn't.  But he always, and I repeat always, listens and gives peace for the hard times to those who are receptive.

Concerning ministry, this past Thursday I spoke at the weekly Feeding of the Homeless at Fairmount Park.  In the open air, with a circle of about 50 homeless and destitute people, I preached on "consequences."  I talked about how our decisions and even the decisions of others bring consequences that we must live with or try to correct.  When I gave the invitation and prayed for decisions, there were five who came and stood by me to show their commitment to follow Christ for salvation and right living.  It was tremendous.

On a personal note,I went to the doctor at the VA Hospital this past week.  My blood pressure numbers were not good at all.  I did some blood work at the lab and they had me wait for results.  My cholesterol numbers are good, but they are very concerned about my blood pressure.  The head nurse gave me her "scare you to death" scenario about having another heart attack or having a stroke.  It worked.  I have started a more strict diet and exercise routine.  I don't like going to the hospital as a patient!

Lastly, this is for my friend Dan.  Dan, you mentioned a book some days ago that you picked up to read.  It had some great titles for chapters that really did seem to fit for inspirational sermon titles.  What was the name of that book, and how hard is it to find?  Thanks for any help.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Friend Jim Murcray

It is still amazing how life can change in a matter of moments.  One minute, life is on a normal course and then, everything changes.

Last week my good friend Jim Murcray went to Urgent Care due to extreme pain.  After some preliminary tests, he was rushed to Emergency and prepped for immediate surgery.  Jim had a perforated colon and toxic stool material had filled one side of his body for several days apparently.

Just a few hours later, Jim was wheeled away for life-threatening surgery.  Four hours later, the doctor came out with somber news.  The surgery went well, but the amount of infection was so great that Jim was given a 50-50 chance of survival.

He only opened his eyes the first morning after surgery.  For the next five days he was so heavily sedated he never opened his eyes again.  Finally, yesterday we got to see him open his eyes again but without any seeming recognition.  This morning he was not conscious again due to increased pain meds.

Jim and his wife Patty were scheduled to move to Tennessee in a few weeks.  In just one turn of events in health, their whole future is on hold.  No long-term decisions can be made.  Everything is done solely by getting through the next day.

This is one of the most basic Biblical truths.  We must live for today.  We have to enjoy and make each day count.  It is important to know that how we face every single day is a powerful statement of what we believe and what we are living for.

That is our greatest test of faith.  What belief system will guide our conversations and activities and relationships?  What do people see in us that gives them hope for today and eternity?  I hope it is Jesus.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Church Picnic

I usually don't blog within a few days of a previous one.  Most of the time I wait a week to sit down to review and reflect on what's been happening here.

However, yesterday was special.

Somehow, somewhere, the month of October has been designated Pastor Appreciation month.  So, one of the ladies in the church set up a plan to have Sunday, October 18 (yesterday), put on our church calendar as Pastor Appreciation Day.

In the last several years, we have had several men follow the call into ministry.  They have continued at their day jobs, but have stepped into the role of bivocational ministers.  One works with our outreach/visitation program, one coordinates our mission efforts (specifically to a church in Mexico), one is planting a new church in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth, and another is working with the youth.  So, there are several "lay pastors" serving in needed ministries who have taken it seriously and boldly.

So, during the morning worship hour yesterday, we were all presented with our favorite pie from Marie Callenders restaurant.  Mine was coconut cream, and yes it tasted good.  I had just a piece last night, and yes it was a big piece!

In addition, we were presented with special cards to remind us pastors how much we are loved.  I shared with the church family that it is a wonderful thing to be appreciated, because there are moments when we wonder if we are making an impact for the King of Glory in the way we should.  We pastors were greatly blessed yesterday!

As our Praise and Worship leader was out of town yesterday, I led music also.  We do mostly contemporary songs, so I decided to do only hymns for this service.  It included songs such as What A Friend We Have In Jesus, Leaning on the Everlasting Arms, and  How Great Thou Art.  I gave the background of the authors and context for each hymn as well.  Did you know that How Great Thou Art is the number one favorite in the United Kingdom, and is number two favorite hymn in the United States?  Amazing Grace is number one in the U.S.

Well, after church, we had an old-fashioned potluck lunch at the local park nearby.  Almost everyone showed up, and we had enough food to feed an army.  There were so many comments about the time of relaxed fellowship and time to share together.  It was a great time for our little congregation to have such fun in the Lord.  As an added blessing, as the picnic wound down to a close, I shared the plan of salvation with a man named Jeff.  After some soul-searching and admitted need for peace in life, he surrendered to the claims of Jesus for salvation and eternal life.  There's more to this story but I will save it for later.

Awesome!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ministry Can Be So Exhausting

For the past two days, I was with church friends and church members.  I want everyone to know that sometimes ministry is the most fun thing to do.  So, the title of this blog is a little deceiving!  It has merit, but not so much in the context you might take it.  Let me explain.

A pastor friend of mine serves a church in Anaheim.  His name is Abel Galvan.  I first met Abel when he was a student at California Baptist College (now University), and he was interested in serving as a Youth Minister.  I was pastoring the 29 Palms church at the time.  He didn't necessarily feel called to full-time ministry, but he loved the Lord and wanted to work with teenagers.  We immediately knew that he was to come to 29 Palms and serve, even though he lived on campus in Riverside.  He had a heart for Jesus, and it was evident as he worked with the youth group.

Some time later, I was called to pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in San Diego.  At the time, that church was without a youth leader.  I called Abel and asked him if he was looking for a place of ministry service, as he was not in a church position at that time.  We talked and fairly soon he was down in San Diego on staff with me again.

That summer, we had two college students come to our church for a week of ministry.  They were summer missionaries sent out with our denominational mission board for the United States.  One of the summer missionaries was a young girl named Jennifer from Tennessee.  There was some attraction and they began to correspond in the ensuing months.  To make a long story short, they are now married and have two wonderful children and serving the Lord in Southern California together.

That's why Abel jokingly blames me for everything going on now in his life.  I was the first to give him an opportunity to do ministry work.  I was his pastor who introduced his future wife to him.  I gave him his first place to serve as pastor, as he became Interim Pastor of the San Diego church when I moved back to Rialto to pastor in 1997.

On Thursday evening, I went with Abel and two of his church members to the Dodgers and Phillies playoff game.  It's the first playoff game I have ever attended and I love sports, so this was just plain fun with believers from another church!

Then, on Friday (yesterday) a church member from Vision Plus, "Big Jim" Ward, asked me and another couple fellows to join him for Vista Paint Day at the Santa Anita horse racing track.  Jim is a house painter by trade and goes to this event every year.  Many paint-related vendors have free gifts and samples for the ones who come, in addition to a big lunch and free prizes.

It was a warm day in the sun, and it was a relaxing time to spend with church members.  We only stayed for the first three races.  I bet $14 on seven horses for the three races.  I won with two tickets, but still ended up in the hole for $8.  All in all, it was a kick.  This was only the second time in my life I had been at a race track for horses.

"Big Jim" asked me a pointed question on the way home.  He said, "Is it alright to praise the Lord for winning at the race track?"  He came away with about $40 to the good when we left.  Two of his picks had actually come in first.  We were both beginners and just had fun picking by name or number or color or whatever.

I told Jim that, if we set aside a certain amount of money that does not take from our normal living expenses and needs, then it is money spent on entertainment.  If we set aside $40 to take someone out for a good dinner (and that's not very much these days), then that $40 was spent on enjoying life.  If I drive to San Diego to sit on the beach, and it cost $40 for gas there and back I have enjoyed a day looking at God's magnificent creation for $40.  It is a matter of intent, a matter of the heart.

We talked about those who have a compulsion to gamble, about those who use necessary expense money needed for daily life and use it to gamble.  We talked about those who have a desire to live on the edge, to experience a thrill and high by the risks involved in gambling.  There is certainly a difference in playing with a few dollars at the track for entertainment and having an addiction problem with gambling.

It was a great teaching moment and a great relief for him.  There are some who will criticize me and my viewpoint, because they want to put a guilt trip on anyone who gambles or plays the lottery or buys chance tickets or whatever.  There's enough guilt on so many things that need attention.  Having fun for a minute at the race track is not one of them.

So, the day was fabulous.  The fellowship with all of us there from the church was sweet.  The food was good, and the gathering of commercial painters was interesting and enjoyable.  The joy of us four from the church, just being together in that setting, was a time of ministry in the truest sense.

Boy, ministry can sure be exhausting!  And I love it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Evangelism and Excitement

Well, it's Monday morning again.  The weather has cooled off considerably.  And I am so thankful.  It was a long hot summer, and I do welcome any cold or rain or mist or fog now.

Last week was fun.  I took care of our grand-daughter Bailey all week, as Sondra was out of town.  It's amazing how much time and effort it takes to watch a little six-month old.  I napped when Bailey napped.  And that's the truth.

Sondra flew in this past Saturday evening late.  We went and got a bite to eat after she landed and so we didn't get home until almost midnight.

Yesterday was a busy day at church, and an interesting one.  An older couple attended and we began to ask their background.  They are from Iran, became Christians and because they have left their Muslim religion, they cannot return home.  The man said, "I am asking for political asylum here in American now."  We fail to realize how fortunate we are in our country to make decisions for Jesus and not have the suffering that befall others.  I also realize how much Christians take this liberty for granted.

I am so excited about other developments in our church.  Last Thursday, I did my church visitation in a home for Clean and Sober Living for women.  I had been invited to share with the House Manager about how to become a Christian.  She invited the others in the house to listen.  We all sat around a kitchen table and I presented the plan of salvation using the Bridge Illustration.  There were seven of us there.  At the end, I invited them all individually to tell me of their spiritual journey.  I asked them about their faith (or lack of faith) in Jesus and what they felt would happen after death.  Three of them made their commitment to Christ for salvation and the other three made commitments of rededication to the Lord.  What a night!

And then, on Saturday morning, I had an appointment to sit down with a high school young man as he had indicated he wanted to know more about how to become a Christian.  He is a world-class gymnast who may be competing next year in Poland for the World Championships.  His father is a man in my Clean and Sober Living program for parolees at Coronado Stone in Fontana.  This high school freshman boy lives with his grandmother close by and has been attending our church with his dad lately.  So, I sat down with Ryan and shared the gospel with him.  He was so open and ready to listen.  He prayed that morning to let Jesus be Lord and Savior.  What joy I have felt in these past few days.

Yesterday, at church, I preached on evangelism and the need to share our faith openly and boldly to as many as we can.  After my message, I opened the invitation time by asking those who were coming forward for salvation to stand on one side of the stage.  And then I asked for any five individuals to come forward and stand on the other side of the stage, if they would be willing to share the gospel with at least one person they did not know in this coming week.  I was asking them to witness to five people in five days.  Guess what?  Four people took the challenge and came forward.  What a blessing.

I have felt that God is calling us to be on mission and on fire.  The pursuit of RIOT (Revival In Our Time) is just the beginning stages of a major movement.  The new church start (The Vision Plus Church 2 of Chatsworth) had its second worship service yesterday afternoon.  A new attender from North Hollywood came.  Little by little, one by one, we will see a church blossom.

As you can see, I am amazed and overjoyed with what is happening lately.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sad News and Glad News

It has been a whirlwind weekend.

Last Friday afternoon, I received a phone call from my brother David who is incarcerated at the federal facility in Big Spring, Texas.  He was to have had a parole hearing on Monday, October 5.  It was postponed indefinitely for procedural reasons.  Apparently, the board did not have David's paperwork from California.  It is frustrating and aggravating, to say the least.  I will continue to pursue the assistance from my local Congressman Joe Baca.

Then, Friday evening I got a call from my brother Noel.  It was an emotional time of letting us know that his mother-in-law, Berthena Hill, had suffered an aneurysm that burst that evening and was not expected to live.  She passed away three hours later.  Berthena and her husband, Bailey, have been such special friends to me and Sondra.  They have treated us as one of their own.  Bailey was a deacon at my dad's church in Wasco, California, and they moved to Nixa, Missouri, in retirement.  Bailey, whenever we talk long-distance and he is ending the phone conversation, always says the same wonderful words, "Galen, have I told you how much I love you guys!"  My goodness, that touches the heart deeply.  And, Berthena was so loving and caring.  They have been to our home and have stayed with us several times.  We have stayed at their house in Missouri numerous times as well.  Berthena was such a great woman of faith, steadfastness and hospitality whenever we visited back there.

In my comments at my church on Sunday, I mentioned that when we die no one cares what we have or what part of town we live in.  Our friends will speak of how we loved them and cared for them in their times of need.  Berthena will be remembered fondly for her laughter and sparkle and unending love.

On this past Saturday afternoon after learning of Berthena's passing, I took Sondra to the airport to fly to Oklahoma City, where she picked up a rental car and then drove up to be with Noel and Janice.  Janice and Sondra have been special sisters-in-law for the many years they have been part of the Greenwalt clan.  I was glad Sondra could go and be there.

I stayed behind for my church ministry, but also for my weekly care during the day of my grand-daughter, with finances being a small of the equation.  On this past Sunday afternoon, our little church began a mission church in Chatsworth, a community in Los Angeles county known for its progressive and inviting nature to the porn industry.  We held the first worship service there in the Chamber of Commerce board room.  Such a huge population of unchurched people.  One of the men who has felt called to ministry and has been ordained in the last couple of years has taken the challenge and call to serve and build a congregation.  His name is George Nelson.  Pray for Pastor George as he looks eagerly and with excitement in this new venture of faith and obedience.  There were 18 in that first worship service.

My niece, Jennifer (Roger's oldest daughter), is a fourth-year student at California Baptist University in nearby Riverside.  She came Sunday and led the Praise and Worship singing time with her electronic keyboard at our church, and then she accompanied me (bringing a friend to help on guitar) to Chatsworth that evening to lead there as well.

Yesterday, a lady in the church called and said he had cooked a roast with potatoes for me, as she knew I would be "batching" it this week with Sondra gone.  Her husband met me at the church last night and I had a warm home-cooked meal to take home!  What a treat.  People are still loving and considerate in this day and age of selfishness and inward focus.  God is still at work, wanting to bring Revival In Our Time (RIOT).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not The Usual Monday



Yesterday, Sondra and I had some free time during the day to do anything we wanted.  A day to just relax or go somewhere different or whatever.  We went to breakfast rather late in the morning, enjoying the time and not rushing to do something necessary.

Last Christmas our Chevy Malibu died on us on our way to Oklahoma, and we have not had the money or the inclination or the necessary deal to get another car.

We have been considering buying a car lately, as you may have read in an earlier blog with our Cash for Clunkers fiasco.  Well, a long time ago we lived in 29 Palms, and Sondra made a deal over the phone for a Toyota van from Longo Toyota in El Monte (which is in Los Angeles county).  So, we mulled it over and thought we might make the same kind of deal for another car right now.

No such luck.  We didn't have the money and didn't want to dig ourselves a deep hole financially with a big car payment.  We pulled out of the Longo dealership.

Around the block was a Nissan dealership.  We had looked at Nissans earlier and had tried to make a deal.  To make a long story short, we ended up driving away with a 2007 Nissan Sentra that only had 23,000 miles.  The salesman named Javier and the finance manager named Hank put it all together.  To be honest, we saw God's intervention in the process at so many points.  It was amazing and hilarious and emotional, all at the same time.

So, there you see the car.  No, let me rephrase that.  There is Sondra's car.  I get to keep driving the Sebring convertible......ha ha.

Monday, September 28, 2009

From Chapel to the Rodeo

It was a fun week to be alive and living for the Lord.  Last Wedneday, I spoke at chapel for the Chino Valley Christian School for both (separately) the K-5th grade assembly and then the Preschoolers.  It is always interesting and encouraging to share with the grade school kids, but it sure is a challenge to speak to the preschoolers.  They have such a short attention span and need words that are on a very basic level.  Kind of like regular church.....ha ha.  Just kidding.  (You know I have a wonderful church fellowship, and this is a joke about other churches.....ha ha.)

That night I led a program by use of a DVD in our Wednesday church service.  It was a message by David Barton, president of WallBuilders.  His organization has thousands of original documents that preserve our history and show an undisputed depth of Christian influence and basis for the formation of America.  We are so blessed with such a heritage and it is being debunked and hidden in our history books in these modern times.

I was reading a friend's blog who challenges my belief system and perspective of American history.  This friend quotes Mark Twain, who wrote:  "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."  Well, who do you believe in the final analysis, Mark Twain or the God of the Bible?  That's the real test of faith.  Has Christianity shown full obedience and faithfulness to the God of the ages?  Surely not.  Just like I have not been perfect all of my life.  But the imperfection of my Christian walk (or of any other Christian) does not deny the reality of faith and perfection we know through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It's that simple.

Well, on Friday Sondra and I went out for a date night.  We went to see the movie "The Informant."  Long and boring to me.  If you see it, let me know what you think.  On Saturday morning, I went to an Alumni Board meeting at California Baptist University in nearby Riverside.  I was asked to give an update on our Homecoming Committee plans for next February.  Saturday night we went out and had dinner at Appleby's.  Afterwards, on the first corner we came to, heading for home, we saw a lady with a flat tire.  We followed her as she pulled over and helped change her tire.  It took about an hour because she had the wrong jack and we had to make adjustments to use it to make the car go higher.  Anyway, a friend was with us and he managed to get it all done.

Yesterday was a good day at church.  We are planning for some special events in October, specifically looking at Pastor Appreciation Day.  That is such a blessing and encouragement.  We have a great fellowship and congregation full of loving people.  Last night, a couple took me and Sondra (and a few others) to a nearby rodeo in San Bernardino.  The Sunday afternoon of dust and roping and riding and entertainment was such a great way to end the day.  I am blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Route 66 Rendezvous

It was a hot, humid weekend in the Inland Empire.  Temperatures are staying in the 100s all this week as well.

So, last Saturday, we left early in the morning to go over to San Bernardino (just 10 minutes away) for the annual Route 66 Rendezvous.  This weekend event is host to classic cars and any Corvettes as well.  There are Model Ts and '57 Chevys and '42 Willys Jeep in addition to '63 Ford Galaxies and such.  It is a walk down memory lane for many of us.  All cars entered have to be at least 25 years old and in running condition, naturally.

We looked at cars that we dreamed of owning, like a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray.  We looked at cars we thought were ugly, like a '62 Rambler.  We looked at cars that our parents had bought and that we rode in for long trips on vacation, like a '56 Chevy station wagon.

There was a huge section of the city blocked off so the cars could make their rounds and the crowds could see them pass by.  When they parked in designated areas, we could look under the hoods and admire the paint jobs and talk to owners.

We left around noon as it was beginning to warm up quickly.  My favorite part has always been the concession stands with the kettle corn and bratwursts and funnel cakes.  We did not stop this time for the treats and food.  Oh well, maybe next year!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bib Overalls

So many of my fans cried out loud and long for photos of me in my new denim bib overalls, the ones I was not able to wear into the federal correctional facility in Big Spring, Texas, to see David.  I had to go and find something that would not set off the metal detector.  So, here's a few special poses:




                         

There you go.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do You Love Your Bed?

We just got back from our trip to Oklahoma and Texas.  Do you ever go on a trip and stay in various beds, and then you come home and are so glad to be in your own bed?  That's what I felt last night.  It's good to go somewhere, but it's wonderful to come home too.  I slept very well last night in my own bed!

Sondra and I rented a PT Cruiser for our trip and had no troubles with it.  It is always a welcome relief to go on a road trip and not have a vehicle breakdown.  Amen!

Last week we spent time with mom.  She has recovered from her bout with pneumonia.  She was so insistent on seeing David upon her recovery that it was important for us to go see her, and then to take her to Texas.  She would have gotten on a bus by herself to go, if we had not taken her.

In addition, we got to spend a few days with our son Jason and his wife Shelly and our two grandkids, Jace and Kylee.  We picked Jace and Kylee up from school each afternoon and did something special with them.  One day, we took them (and my mom) to Pop's, the famous diner and gas station just north of Oklahoma City.  This place has hundreds and hundreds of the old soda drinks in bottles from the past.  I had a Nu-Grape and Sondra got a Nehi Orange, in addition to other root beers that were specialty blends.  It was a great time.

Then, off to Texas again.  After the first visit with David on Labor Day, mom and I went again last Saturday.  Actually, we left on Friday and arrived that evening.  There is a Hospitality House run by the Southern Baptist Church association there in Big Spring, Texas.  It gives free accomodation to anyone who is coming to visit an inmate there.  It was not fancy, naturally, but we each had separate rooms and they were clean and comfortable.  The bathrooms and showers were at the end of the hall, but that's okay with me.  The price was right!

I got in the visitation room on the first try!  We had a wonderful visit with David again.  We are looking forward to a federal hearing for him very soon.  At the end of the visit, various individuals (including David) looked outside and saw several inmates being taken to "the hole" as they were bleeding from a fight that just happened.  It was apparent that there might be a lockdown, as I found out when I questioned a guard as we left that afternoon.

So, that night, mom and I left for home (her home) in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We got in around midnight.  The next day, Sunday, I decided to go on my own and visit a small church just to see what they do.  I ended up at Son Rise Baptist Church in McLoud.  There were about 25 in attendance.  Much singing and very friendly.

That night, Sondra and I spent time with my sister and brother-in-law (Marti and Bill) and had a very relaxing evening.  It is fun to just sit around and talk, reminisce, joke, be serious and to enjoy the company of family.

Monday morning, Sondra and I left Oklahoma.  Arrived in Gallup, New Mexico, that evening and decided to get a room at the Microtel there.  Enjoyed the sleep, got up the next morning and drove home by way of 29 Palms.  Went to lunch with our "mom" Doris Robinson and arrived in Rialto about 6 pm yesterday.

Got up early this morning and did the 8 am Devotion Time at Coronado Stone.  Then I took a homeless couple, who had called earlier, to apply for an apartment in San Bernardino.  They are trying so hard to get back on their feet.  I will baptize them soon, and then perform their wedding.  Life is full of things that satisfy and bring joy!

By the way, I got gas in Texas and Oklahoma for $2.19 a gallon.  It was $2.99 at Costco today when I filled up here!  Wow.  Back to reality here, that's for sure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

That's My Story

You may hear this story from others.  But what you read here:  "That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it."

Sondra and I left from Rialto at 7:30 pm last Friday in a rental PT Cruiser, following Shawn and Crystal (and Bailey, of course) to Oklahoma.  One of Shawn's sisters is getting married this Saturday in the Tulsa area, and that was their reason for the trip.  Sondra and I were going for the purpose of taking my mother to Big Spring, Texas, to visit David.

On Sunday morning I was privileged to teach my mom's senior adult ladies Sunday School class.  We ate a quick lunch and then went to Marti's (my sister's) house in Tecumseh ten minutes away and climbed in her new Camry for the trip down to Texas.  We arrived in Abilene to spend the night in a hotel.  The next morning we had to get up very early to make it to Big Spring by 8 am.

That's when the fun began.

Standing in line, we heard others through conversation talk about the strict dress code.  We had read all the rules and regulations on the internet site, but they have not been updated.  Marti and Sondra had open toed shoes, which are not allowed.  I was wearing khaki shorts, and both shorts (that do not cover the knees) and khaki color are not allowed.

So, leaving mom in line to go ahead of us to the visitation room, Sondra and Marti and I headed to the closest and only Wal-Mart in the little town.  Sondra and Marti found some cheap canvas shoes.  They did not fit well, but it worked for the shoe needs.  I could not find any pants my size, but I did find some bib overalls that fit.  Bought them and put them on in the store.  Marti and Sondra were howling with laughter when they saw me.  I didn't think it was that funny at all.  Anyway, we left Wal-Mart on our adventure back to the prison.

We went back to the Federal Correctional Facility, all set to go through the line.  Not so.  Sondra and Marti had bras with underwire that didn't pass the metal detector test.  In addition, Marti's blouse had too much metal on the buttons on her sleeves.  I will just say that Sondra and Marti got their issues resolved in a few minutes by going into another room and changing things that they were wearing, even to the point of pulling out the wire in Sondra's bra with a staple remover.

For me, it was another failure to pass throught the metal detector.  The bib overalls had too many metal buttons and such.  I left again, and searched for another store to buy pants.  After driving down the main street, I noticed a Salvation Army store.  I pulled in and asked if they had pants my size.  Looking me up and down, the lady finally said "yes."  In fact, they were having a Labor Day sale. Everything you could put into a little plastic bag they furnished, they would let you buy it all for $5.  I found two pair of blue jeans, paid my $5 and put one pair on while there.  Then I headed back to the prison again.

Third time was a charm for me.  Mom and Marti and Sondra were sitting there with David.  He got up and came over and we hugged for a long time.  It was a good feeling to see him again.  He was looking good and in good spirits.  His conversation was full of fun and laughter, in spite of his lot in life there.  He looks at the good and positive in life, and that has kept him in good standing throughout his ordeals.  Even a three hour riot with bloodshed showed him how God protects.

His time of working in the kitchen is through, and he has finally been given a new assignment working as a teacher and tutor for inmates who are working on getting a GED in the education department.

It seems like things will finally happen, in relation to his federal hearing in Fort Worth that was supposed to happen many months ago.  I wrote to my local congressman a few weeks ago.  According to David's counselor and case worker there, that has "stirred up a hornet's nest."  A folder on the counselor's desk had  a big red  border all around, and on the front was printed the words "Congressional Inquiry."  That's a good thing, apparently.

It was just a great time of spending time with David, talking and laughing and being serious at various times.  It was an uplifting day for us all.

We left Big Spring, stopping in Fort Worth for dinner, and then on to Tecumseh to get my car.  Then home to mom's to go to bed around midnight.  All in all, a great day.

Sondra has made me promise to get rid of the bib overalls, but I am having other thoughts.  For anyone who sends me $20, I will send one autographed photo of me in those denim overalls!  Just kidding!

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Texas Trip

We have been frustrated with the judicial system in the case of our brother David, who is presently sitting in a federal facility in Big Spring, Texas.  After release from the California prison, he was held at the San Bernardino county jail waiting for the transfer to a federal prison.  Six months he sat waiting.  Finally, he was sent to Oklahoma City for clearing, and then was sent to Big Spring this past April.  I tried calling various correctional contacts found in government web sites, all to no avail.  Finally, I wrote a letter to my congressman in my district, and at first felt nothing was going to be done.  I had even hand-carried this letter to the congressman's office.  After several phone calls from a congressional aide and some conversation about the lack of action on the government's part and an email that I wrote back venting my emotions, something is finally happening.

I got a call from my brother Noel, who had been contacted by David.  (David tried to call me but my telephone system will not accept collect calls right now.)  David said that my letter to the congressman has done something to stir things up.  A congressional inquiry has been launched, and David's counselor at the facility said he most definitely will be getting a hearing.  We hope it is soon, but we can be pleased that something is in the works.

My mother is anxious to visit David, as we all are, but the timing just has not worked out for any of us kids to take her to Texas for the visit because of our work and schedules.  Well, Sondra and I are leaving this Friday to go to Shawnee and then to Texas (with mom in tow).  We are trusting that all works out.  It may be possible for my brother Noel and sister Marti and husband Bill to go as well.  We hope everything works out for all this.

Life is busy around here too.  Sondra is teaching as an Intervention Specialist (small group tutoring) to Kindergarten children at risk in their educational learning process.  She works three days a week (T-W-Th) for 3 hours each day.  It is relatively stress free and rather enjoyable.  During that time, I do daycare (babysit) with my little grand-daughter Bailey until Sondra returns home from school.

Last Tuesday, we had a memorial service for a dear friend and member of the church, Lynda Naumann.  What a precious soul and one who truly loved people.  She was generous with her time, her talents and her finances at different times.  Born into a Jewish family many years ago, she became born again about 35 years ago and was a strong woman who knew what she believed.

Last night at church, I led a Bible study on who Jesus is.  It is central that we understand and know how to communicate to others who Jesus is.  He (Jesus) is the cornerstone of our faith.  In the study, we discussed what other religious belief systems say about Jesus.  I looked at those in the study and said, "Who is Jesus to you?"  That is the most important question of life that we must answer.

I am so blessed with the opportunity to share my faith in so many ways and to so many people.  I am humbled that I can serve such an amazing and awesome God to build the Kingdom for the sake of eternity.