Saturday, October 31, 2009


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.


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).