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:,
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.