Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

So much to write about and so little space.....ha ha.

December 21.  Our 39th Wedding Anniversary.

Sondra and I celebrated another anniversary, this one being our 39th.  Yes, we were married at the end of 1971.  We were so young and in love.

David's wife, Meche, flew in from Mexico and got in around midnight after we went to the movies and dinner.  They had reservations at the Hyatt at Ontario Mills for three nights, so they went directly there when she arrived.

December 22.  Seeing the Christmas Lights in the Area.

We already had our Christmas tree up, but we wanted to wait until Meche arrived to put all the trim on -- the lights, the red beads, the many ornaments.  Sondra loves to remember how each ornament made its way to our tree, as a great many of them were made by our kids as they grew up in elementary school.  Other ornaments were brought over from Germany as we lived there in 1972-1973 while I was stationed at Bad Kreuznach, near Mainz and about an hour from Frankfurt.

When it got dark on Wednesday, December 22, we went to see the display of lights on homes in the West County area just below the mountains around here.  Roger and Julie and daughter Jennifer, Shawn and Crystal and little Bailey, David and Meche, along with myself and Sondra enjoyed the night together.

December 23.  A Day at Disneyland.

Crystal asked us to set aside Thursday, December 23, for a special day that she was planning for me and Sondra, with David and Meche also asked to be a part of this.  Crystal kept it a secret, so when we arrived at her house that morning, she gave us all tickets to Disneyland for the day.  It was part of her Christmas present to all of us. 

What a great day we had.  It was both adventurous and relaxing, if that makes sense.  We were in no hurry, and we just enjoyed being together and watching Bailey have a wonderful time.  Because David and I have had trouble lately with walking long distances, we were given the option to use rented motorized scooters.  At first I was tentative, but after we got them and started using them, they were actually of great use and great fun!  Shawn and Crystal brought their fifth-wheel trailer, and at the end of the day we sat inside and ate our dinner before heading home.

December 24.  Christmas Eve Service at Church.

On the night of Friday, December 24, I led our church in a Christmas Eve worship service.  We sang Christmas carols along with the reading of the nativity story from the gospels of Luke and Matthew.  I gave a short devotional message retelling the narrative of the birth of Christ and what it means to us as believers, and then we sang "Silent Night" to close out the service.  Afterwards, one of the young men in our church put on a Santa suit to help the children further enjoy the night.  Sondra fixed an enchilada supper for our family to eat as we came home after the service.

December 25.  Christmas Day.

What a special day in celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Christmas really becomes special when we can spend time with family and our loved ones.  At our house, we had Evan and Callie, Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, David and Meche, Alden, with me and Sondra making a total of nine for the day.  We opened our gifts in turn, so that we could enjoy the gifts that everyone else received.  Then, we had a huge Christmas meal of ham, mashed potatoes, corn, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, rolls and dessert.  What a feast!

I'll just share how blessed I was.  My kids got together and bought me a Kindle e-book reader.  I was thrilled.  (I have already downloaded several things for my Kindle -- the Bible, a whole Bible commentary set, a book by Martin Luther, and then a book called The Confession by one of my favorite authors John Grisham.)  I also got a pro Popcorn Maker, some other hardback books and CDs, some polo shirts along with some special Charger shirts, a digital photo frame and a "I Love Papa" picture frame (in which I will put a photo of all my children sitting with me in Oklahoma), a watch and some socks!

December 26.  A Day to Worship at Church.

Today was the last Sunday of the year for us to worship together as a church body.  This year has come and gone so quickly.  So much has happened in all of our lives.  Some things wonderful and full of joy, some things sad and full of sorrow.  But, through it all, God gave us strength and power to perservere with hope and peace and satisfaction in his great plan of the ages.

It was some kind of week.  I would not have traded this week for anything.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday was Tuesday, December 21.

On Tuesday, December 21, 1971, Sondra and I were married in Bakersfield, California, on a dusty, windy, wintry evening.  I had driven back home three days earlier from Ft. Benning, Georgia.  I had just finished NCO School and Airborne School in my Army training and was taking Christmas leave to get married.

So, yesterday to the very day (Tuesday), was our 39th anniversary.  I bought Sondra some flowers, candy and a card.  We went to the movies and saw "The Tourist," an action movie with the majority of the plot taking place in Venice, Italy.  Sondra and I spent some time in Venice after I was stationed in Germany in 1973.  After the movie, I took her to a very upscale quaint restaurant, the Sycamore Inn, which has been around since 1868!  We both had a wonderful filet mignon steak dinner.

Today, David and Meche came over to help "trim the tree."  We had waited until Meche arrived from Mexico to decorate our Christmas tree.  The tradition in Mexico is different from ours, and Meche had never had a Christmas tree nor had she ever decorated one.  So, this was a first for her.  It was a fun time.

Then, this evening we went to see the beautiful Christmas lights on the homes in Alta Loma, specifically where Sapphire and Thoroughbred Avenues come together.  It is so well-known and famous, that the police have cruisers and barriers to control the traffic down the streets of this area.  We made it a family affair, with me and Sondra, David and Meche, Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, as well as Roger and Julie and Jennifer.

We are certainly enjoying this time of year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wonderful Family Time

What a special weekend this was!

On Friday afternoon at 2 pm, the mid-term graduation ceremonies were held for California Baptist University in Riverside.  Our niece Jennifer (Roger and Julie's oldest) walked the stage and received her diploma.  We were so proud of her.
Jennifer at CBU graduation ceremony.

Julie, Daniel, Roger, Melissa, Jennifer

Immediately after the graduation, we took off for Bakersfield in the rain.  It has rained for several days straight, but luckily it has been a slow steady rain and not the torrential type.  Alden rode with us, as we were heading for a Langdon family Christmas get-together at the home of Sondra's brother (Danny Langdon) and his family.  Friday night, Sondra and I stayed at the Sheraton in  Bakersfield, having contracted a special low price through the internet.

On Saturday, we ate and laughed and played table games and spent time chatting and taking pictures with all the Langdon side who could make it.  There was one spouse and several adult children who could not make it because of work, distance and time.  But, it was a very wonderful and special day for all who were there.

Seated:  Danny Langdon, Alice Langdon Kenney, Sondra Langdon Greenwalt, Alden Langdon
Sitting on floor:  Sharon Langdon Deffense

Getting food and then sitting down to eat a great meal together.

The exchange of gifts was fun, and here is Evan opening his gift first.

There was time for table games and hilarious laughter.

Alden Langdon.  His two adult kids live in Idaho now.

Sondra and Galen.

Evan and Callie.

Shawn, Crystal and Bailey.

Sharon, Sarah and Michel Deffense.
(Their other three adult children could not make the trip.)

Alice and her two boys, daughter-in-law and three grandkids total.
(Alice's husband Tobey had to work all day.)

Danny and Marci and their two kids (plus a dog and daughter's boyfriend).

Alden, Sondra and I left a little after 10 pm, heading back home so I could be back to preach today (Sunday).  We arrived home sometime after 1 am (still raining) but made it safe and sound through it all.

This morning's worship hour was filled with testimonies as I host a "Happy Dollar Testimony Time" every once in a while, and we did exactly that today.  People have such moving stories to share about God's goodness, and it is a treat for the whole congregation to hear from some who seem to be so quiet most of the time.  I preached on the journey of Joseph and Mary, as they had to do the right thing in obedience to the laws of the land concerning taxation and census.  I spoke of what the journey of life holds, if we allow God to open doors of ministry opportunity.  I closed with the need for us all to accept the miracle of God's love given to us in Jesus Christ, just as the shepherds did as they heard the chorus of angels and then went to see that great miracle first-hand.  We too must experience it first-hand.

Following the service, several of us quietly took food baskets and gifts to some families in the church who needed a special touch of God's love at this time of year.  What a huge blessing we received as we saw tears of joy and thanks as we delivered these gifts.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Langdon Side of the Family

Sondra's side of the family (the Langdon clan) is gathering together this weekend in Bakersfield to celebrate the Christmas season with a meal and sharing of gifts.

Sondra's father and mother are no longer living, so the siblings try to find a time to have family get-togethers for some of the holidays during the year.  It is rather difficult, as all our families have adult children spread out over the country and even overseas.  The difficulty is compounded by the added fact of the differences in schedules of work and travel for everyone involved when we try to plan something together.  Anyway, we found a day this year that works the best.

This year, we are going to go to Sondra's youngest brother's home in Bakersfield for Christmas family time.  All the brothers and sisters will be there (from oldest to youngest):  Alden, Sondra, Sharon, Alice and Danny.  Some of the children (all of whom are adults now) will be able to come, so they will have a great time being with their cousins.  Evan and Callie, along with Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, will be there.

We will spend tomorrow (Saturday, December 18) together, and then Sondra and I will return as I will be preaching Sunday at church.

However, we leave today.  Sondra is working this morning, and we (that is, me and Alden) will pick her up around 1 pm.  Today is also graduation day for our niece Jennifer (Roger and Julie's daughter).  She graduates from California Baptist University, and her graduation ceremony is at 2 pm.  We will go immediately to the graduation, and after attending that we will then head out to Bakersfield.  There is rain in the forecast, so we hope we make it safely through the mountain pass of the Grapevine (Gorman and Frazier Park area) because of the threat of snow on the interstate highway.

Because we will need a place to stay tonight in Bakersfield, I went on Priceline last night and bid on 4-star hotel accomodations and got the Four Seasons Sheraton Hotel for $37.  I was happy with that!

On another happy note, I took my Chrysler Sebring to another mechanic yesterday to work on the engine.  He hopes he doesn't have to do too much to get it going.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Monday Again

Wow, the weekends are packed with activity and it is now Monday again already.

We got our Christmas tree last week and have set it up in the stand, but we are waiting for Meche to come to help decorate.  David and Meche never had a Christmas tree in Mexico, as it is not the usual custom there like it is here.  Sondra will put lights on the tree right now in anticipation of fully decorating next week when Meche arrives.

Last Saturday, Sondra spent the whole day shopping, trying to find every bargain out there.  She loves to roam the stores and find great deals.  However, she walked too much and her left ankle gave her excruciating pain at the end of the day.  She actually had to pull out her crutches from the closet so she could walk around that evening.

Sunday was memorable.  What a special time of worship we had at church.  On Saturday we had a group that went down to our mission church in Mexico just across the border in Tijuana, so several gave a report during the church service yesterday morning.  They showed photos of more than 400 children and 150 adults who came for preaching and singing.  This was our annual trip to distribute clothing, food and Christmas gifts.

During our worship hour yesterday, we had two testimonies as well.  Beifei Edwards has just returned from China on a mission trip and shared what God did in her life as she served with a team from a sister church here in our Association.

Then, a man named Joe Lick shared his life story of salvation and call to ministry.  Pastor Joe is starting a new church plant in the downtown area of Riverside, starting with a home Bible study first.  He is also beginning a student ministry at Riverside Community College, as well as participating with us as a Teaching Pastor for our homeless ministry each Thursday afternoon at Fairmount Park.

By the time all these exciting testimonies were shared, I had about 10 minutes left to preach.  But, yes, I can do that...and I probably preached about 15 minutes.  My message was about the announcement to Joseph concerning the birth of Jesus to his intended bride Mary.  Because they were not yet married and she was already with child, this presented a challenge of faith to Joseph.  He rose to the situation, trusting the Lord's plan for their lives.

The sermon, then, followed the four C's below:

1.  In life, the CRISIS of a situation...
2.  ...shows the CHARACTER of a man (or woman)...
3.  ...whereby the COMFORT of God by divine revelation and purpose...
4. brought about by COMPLETENESS of faith and obedience in God.

I spent a some time on the topic of character.  Someone once said, "If I take care of my character, then my reputation will take care of itself."

Here is a quote from William Hershey Davis:
Reputation is what you are supposed to be.
          Character is what you are.
Reputation is what you have when you come to a new community.
          Character is what you have when you go away.
Reputation is made in a moment.
          Character is built in a lifetime.
Reputation grows like a mushroom.
          Character grows like an oak.
Your reputation is learned in an hour.
          Your character does not come to light for a year.
A single newspaper report gives your reputation.
          A life of toil gives you your character.
Reputation makes you rich or makes you poor.
          Character makes you happy or makes you miserable.
Your reputation is what men think you are.
          Your character is what God knows you to be.

Two final quotes about living for the Lord:

1.  "We can get too busy for God that we forget to take time with God."
2.  "Don't ask God what the next step is until you have been obedient in all the things that he has called you to do already."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friends from Days Gone By

I was blessed to receive gifts of care bags full of toiletries and other items for our Homeless Ministry from Chino Valley Christian School on Wednesday morning.  The man from Channel 9 news station in Los Angeles finished the filming and editing and submitted it to the station for airing.  It was to be aired during the normal newscasts of both Channel 2 (CBS affiliate that most of Southern California from San Diego to Bakersfield have access to) and Channel 9 (independent station that is a "sister channel" of Channel 2).

On Thursday morning just before 12 noon, I got a call that this news piece was to be run that day (Thursday) at noon on Channel 9 and at 5 pm on Channel 2.  I set my DVR to record both.  I watched them both later.  There I was, receiving the donations and being interviewed on the news of the day.  Quite exciting.  Crystal and Shawn recorded it also at their house, and when they showed it to Bailey that evening she was transfixed and wanted to see it repeatedly.  Crystal said they showed it about 8 straight times in the next five minutes.  Bailey would point to the TV screen when I was on and say, "Papa.....papa.....papa..." as she knows me by the name of Papa G.

Also, I received an email from a friend that I had come to know while working at the Census Bureau in Riverside this past year.  He said he was watching the news and saw me!  He had to write and let me know.

Last night, we went to dinner at Cuca's Mexican Restaurant here in Rialto.  Some friends from the 1970s were in town.  Hayden McClung was an English professor at California Baptist College (now University) in Riverside for many years, with his special interest and study of Mark Twain.  Hayden and his wife (Lee) are in the area for the weekend, and they wanted to see my brother David.  David graduated from CBC with a degree in English, with some of that pursuit due to Hayden.

Since most of us Greenwalts attended Cal Baptist in the ensuing years, almost all of us had Mr. McClung at one time or another in his teaching career there.  Because of that, he and his wife have become wonderful friends over these many years.  In fact, our nephew and his wife (David and Charity) named their first child Hayden.

The McClungs are retired and now live in Prescott, Arizona, where he serves in a church as Associate Pastor.  Hayden served as pastor of several churches in the Riverside area while on staff at CBC.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Presentation by CVCS

This morning I got up early to head to the church to pick up two men who are vitally involved and in charge of our homeless feeding ministry at Fairmount Park near downtown Riverside.  I picked up "Big Jim" Ward and Wayne Peters to accompany me to the Chino Valley Christian School for their annual Christmas chapel service.

Some weeks back, the school asked me if they could present our church with donations for the homeless.  Of course, I agreed.  The students then voluntarily filled one-gallon plastic bags with all kinds of toiletry items (soap, toothpaste, shaving kit items, shampoo and such) as well as small Bibles and small personal gifts.  When I was on my trip a few weeks ago, I even got a call from the school telling me that Channel 9 news station in Los Angeles was coming out to film this presentation as a human interest story for the news of the day.

So, this morning we arrived at the school, had pictures taken of me with the school council and talked to the Channel 9 news reporter.

The chapel was exciting and humbling.  They thanked me for the opportunity to partner with us in our mission ministry.  In addition, a gift was presented to me by the principal of the school.  We received over 125 bags and small blankets to give out at our Christmas feeding on Thursday, December 23.  What a blessing!

Both the school principal and I were interviewed and the story may be on the Channel 9 (as well as the Channel 2 sister station) newscasts this evening.  But that is not the important thing.  The important thing is this -- it is always amazing to see how God provides for ministry needs at the right time through our network of friendships and relationships of Christian life.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is an important day in our American history.  Lives were lost as enemy planes came diving out of the sky at Pearl Harbor.  It drew us into the Second World War of this past century.  Freedom does have a price, as many lives were given in the war around the world.  It reminds us of a great spiritual truth, that eternal freedom has a price and Jesus paid it for us.

Sunday was a wonderful day at church.  The worship hour seemed blessed, and after the worship hour I had the opportunity to lead a young lady to saving faith in Jesus.

In my sermon, I spoke about our need as Christians to be committed just as the knights of long ago.  Prior the ceremony of knighthood, as it was formalized under George I in 1725, the knight-to-be participated in a vigil of fasting, prayer and bathing.  The individual then gave up old clothes for new that symbolized purity and a commitment to put the past behind for the challenge of the future.  The knight was called to live a life of service, sacrifice in reverence to God and a purity of heart.

Here is a quote that includes the call to knighthood included a vow of allegiance and a call to holiness: 

"Brother, the King our Sovereign Lord wills it that you take up this high and worshipful order, which as a knight I declare to you certain points that belong to this high order of knighthood.  You shall love God above all things, be steadfast in faith, sustain the church, and be true to your Sovereign Lord.  Be true to your word and promises, be secure in this.  Also, you shall sustain widows in their rights, anytime they require you, maidens in their virginity, helping them and succorring them in your good that they not be misgoverned for their own faults.  You shall sit in no place where an evil judgement should be wrongfully given, to anybody, according to your knowledge.  You shall suffer no murderers, nor extortions of the people withing the Country where you dwell, but with your power you shall put them into the hands of justice, that they be punished as the King's Law require."

This requires humility, holy living and depth of commitment.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Trivia Facts About Trip

I finally did all the computations for our trip back to Oklahoma and Missouri.  I kept all my receipts and noted all the mileage numbers each time I stopped for gas.

We rented a new Kia Forte from Alamo for $16 a day, which was about $224 for two weeks.  We rent to help keep the mileage low on our personal autos, and it also gives peace of mind about car breakdowns and such.  It is worth it for us.

Here is a picture of the car we rented.

We traveled 3961.9 miles total.
We used 120.65 gallons of gas.
We paid $320.63 for gas on the trip.
We paid an average of $2.66 per gallon.
Our average MPG (miles per gallon) was 32.8.

The cheapest places to buy gas were:
     Flying J fuel stop in Kingman, AZ -        $2.59
     Toot-N-Totum gas station in Amarillo, TX -      $2.64
     OnCueExpress gas station in Oklahoma City, OK -      $2.48
     Flying J fuel stop in Joplin, MO -      $2.49

That's it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Trip to the Emergency Room

Yesterday (Wednesday), I was feeling very fatigued and slow about the day. I thought I was just very tired from the combination of these last couple of weeks -- our trip to Oklahoma and Missouri and back, a big day at church on Sunday with an ordination service, birthday dinner and excitement with Alden on Monday evening, and then catching up on things around here and visits with church folk on Tuesday.

I did not feel there was any cause to worry, but I still did not feel well enough to be at church last night (Wednesday) and called to notify several. We were going to take the evening to have everyone come to help decorate the sanctuary with our Christmas tree and other pretty room decorations. Sondra went early and helped get some of the decorations and work organized and then came home quickly.

She informed me that she was taking me to the ER to be examined, as she and Crystal had talked and Crystal was quite concerned about some of the symptoms I was experiencing. My ankles have swollen and remained swollen since the trip, I have experienced some shortness of breath, I was quite fatigued, all this along with a high blood pressure reading.

So, at about 8 pm last night I arrived at the ER of the VA hospital at Loma Linda nearby. Because of my heart issues (open heart surgery and triple bypass last year in February) they gave me priority. After hearing my symptoms, they did the usual things such as blood pressure, oxygen percentage and temperature. Just before that, the first thing they did was an EKG there in the ER. Then, they took some blood samples to be run quickly upstairs in the lab. They even sent me up to have a couple of chest X-rays.

After waiting just a little while, they took me into a room to wait for results. About an hour later, they confirmed a diagnosis of CHF (congestive heart failure) in which the heart cannot push all the liquids out of the body (causing swelling in the lower extremities and fluids in the lungs) without some help from medications. So, they gave me some furosemide (lasix or "water pills") to help process the fluids from the body.

They told me they would release me to go home after I had begun to pee several times, to make sure all was working right with the IV of lasix. Almost immediately (probably within 10 minutes), I was starting my run to relieve myself. After three trips to the bathroom every fifteen minutes and a talk from the doctor, I was released to go home. The male nurse asked me, "How far do you have to drive to get home?" I told him that I live in Rialto, some 15 minutes away and he said, "Good." I drove home very quickly because that stuff works good ha ha!

They released me around midnight and I stayed up much of the night here at home, making quick trips to the bathroom because my body needs to get used to this lasix "stuff."

This morning I am taking it easy and taking my next lasix pill. We will see what happens today! Anyway, I am doing fine and resting and will be just fine. Thanks to all who found out early and were praying.

Oh, by the way, I won the bet with Sondra, as 90 percent (of those who returned my email) said they read my blog! Sondra says I cheated because I sent an email with the call to read my blog...she still maintains that no one will read it on their own without an email. Yeah, I know, she is probably right but I will not concede!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Bet Between Me and Sondra

I find it relaxing and enjoyable to write this blog every so often.  Sondra says no one reads it, so why bother?

I told her many read it from time to time, so it is worthwhile.  Mainly for me, I guess.  Anyway, here's our bet.  Sondra says that hardly anyone will read it because it is so long and exhaustive (she really didn't use those words, so I am paraphrasing quite loosely.....ha ha).  She said, "When you wrote emails before, they would write little notes back and I enjoyed those so much."

So, here's my challenge to you who are reading this.  Actually, it's a dare.  I "double dare you" to read my blog that gives details and photos of our last couple of weeks.

Then, write me an email at.....    .....and prove Sondra wrong!  Show her you care!  Let us know how your Thanksgiving holidays were spent.

I dare you.  I double-dare you.  Thanks.

Alden's Birthday

Yesterday was a unique and happy day.  It was the birthday of two very special people to us.

First, our grand-daughter Kylee Greenwalt is special to us naturally.  Kylee turned 8 years old in Oklahoma.  We called her and she had asked her parents (Jason and Shelly) to take her to the Red Lobster there in Shawnee.  And, as you may have read in a previous blog, we celebrated her birthday early while we were back in Shawnee on our Thanksgiving vacation trip.

Second, Sondra's older brother Alden is quite special to us as well.  Alden moved to Rialto this year and lives just a couple of miles from us in a Senior Adult apartment complex downtown.  Yesterday, he turned 59 years old.  We went over to Denny's so he could enjoy a free breakfast to start the day.  He had some appointments at the VA Hospital in Loma Linda and we dropped him off there after breakfast.

We told him we would take him to dinner.  Guess where he wanted to go?  Yes, you are right.  He said, "Red Lobster."  They had a special of steak and lobster, and he was looking forward to it.

He also requested a cherry cobbler (not pie), and Sondra spent part of the day putting that together.  She has made many peach and berry cobblers, but never a cherry cobbler.  This was a first.  Well, it turned out delicious and we came home after dinner and enjoyed warm cobbler and ice cream!  Before taking him back home, we gave him birthday cards and a birthday present - a boxed set of pots and pans for his new apartment.

Ordination Sunday

It was a Sunday that we will not soon forget.  God was present in a mighty way, as his Spirit filled our little place of worship.  It was a Sunday set aside for an ordination during the worship service.

This past Sunday, November 28, we ordained Darrell Smith to the gospel ministry.

It is a usual practice to have the candidate for ordination share his beliefs, his salvation experience and call to ministry before an ordination council behind closed doors.  Thus, if any questions arise as to the necessity to continue the ordination process before the church, it is done in a private setting and causes no embarrassment.

I don't do it the normal way at The Vision Plus Church here.  I always spend so much time in talking and "grilling" those who are ready for ordination that I am confident in their readiness to stand before the church body as a whole.  So, on this past Sunday morning during the worship hour, we took time to question Darrell Smith openly and at length and to listen to him as he shared his life and understanding of the Scriptures.  It was quite evident through his testimony that God has called him specifically to prison ministry.  It was a blessed time, as many would comment to me later.

Family and friends were there for the special day.

As a reflection on life and how God brings things to fruition along the way, I have always wondered (and enjoyed) how God would use the various work stations of my life.  As I look back at my time at Coronado Stone, it has become more clear why God put me there for those few years.  Someone even made the comment this Sunday about how many from Coronado Stone have been ordained in the last five years.  There have been five who worked there that we have ordained to the gospel ministry - George Nelson, Jim Lunak, Ed McDowell, Michael Dotson and now Darrell Smith.  It is always amazing to see how God uses our relationships and friendships and workplaces to bring about his plan for the ages.

As a sidelight and then another highlight to the wonderful morning, Sondra and her brother Alden were to follow me for lunch after church.  We called my brother David, as he had attended church in Fontana where Roger is one of the lead pastors there.  We arranged to have David meet us at Cuca's Mexican restaurant in Rialto to eat, with Roger and Julie and family (Jennifer, Daniel and his friend from college) coming along as well for a fun gathering.  (Roger's daughter Melissa attends another church in the area and was not able to join us for lunch.)

As I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, I saw Greg Freeman and some of his business associates walking in.  We had a table set up for us all, as we decided to make it one big lunch group.  All totaled, there were eleven of us ready for a good Mexican dinner. 

As we sat down, some friends from the past were being seated immediately at the table next to us.  The Gonzalez family saw us and we greeted each other and caught up on family news quickly.

In the early 1970s the Gonzalez family was part of the First Southern Baptist Church of Rialto, where Sondra and I attended as a young married couple.  It was the church I first worked as a volunteer youth minister, and the church where I was licensed to preach.  The Gonzalez family was special and close, as Cesar (the dad) won the California Lottery in the late 1980s and asked me to be on his board of directors for a non-profit organization he founded to use his money to further the gospel in Southern California and Baja California.  Cesar also worked at Kaiser Steel during the years I was employed there.  In addition, his sister-in-law was married at the Rialto church and this lady's husband reminded me Sunday that I sang at their wedding 36 years ago to the day!  Cesar passed away last year due to cancer, but our hearts are still bound together through the years as we see each other from time to time.  Sunday, it was like a homecoming day at Cuca's!

We had a wonderful time of eating and sharing with all at both tables.  And, to top it off, Greg's business friend ( a man named Danny) was a loving and generous man.  He gave his credit card to the waiter prior to ordering and said, "I'll pay for all this table."  I went home that afternoon feeling so blessed and happy.  God is so good.

One final note:  I am a huge San Diego Chargers football team fan!  The Chargers punished the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, so I went to bed very happy that night.  I know this doesn't sound very spiritual, but my loyalty to San Diego stems from my years of growing up there.