Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day 2010.  It is important that we remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedoms.  Yesterday, at church, we paused and took time to give thanks to the ones who have gone before us in the battles fought over the years.  And then, I reminded the congregation that Jesus paid the ultimate price for our freedom from sin by giving his life for our salvation and eternal life.

Last Saturday, Sondra and I spent the day cleaning, taking stuff to storage and the trash, setting up and other errands to get the other spare bedroom ready for my brother David when he is released this Friday morning from the Rubidoux Re-entry House.  This spare bedroom has been used as Sondra's "office" when she was teaching full-time, so there was much educational material and books and classroom "extras" in piles and stacks.  It is exciting as the day approaches.  Saturday afternoon, I went to visit David and talk about the upcoming days.  David interviews again on Tuesday at Coronado Stone, and has his "driving test" at DMV on Thursday afternoon.  Meche (his wife who still lives in Chiapas, Mexico, in the house they bought) will arrive Thursday evening.

Yesterday (Sunday), we had the Ridings Family from Lancaster, California, come and present a concert.  The dad, his 13 year old daughter and 12 year old son sang both contemporary and gospel songs, as well as share testimony and Scripture.  They blessed us, and they said how blessed they felt as they shared with our church.

After church, Sondra and I went by Panda Express to get some fast-food Chinese to take and eat with David at the transition house in Rubidoux.  We got it all - Kung Pao chicken, honey walnut shrimp, broccoli beef, mushroom chicken, fried rice and chow mein, orange chicken, barbecue beef, egg rolls, spicy chicken, egg drop soup and fortune cookies!  We had a feast and enjoyed it all.

After that, I needed my Sunday afternoon Baptist nap!  Slept a few hours in the living room, with the TV on the NASCAR race.  In the early evening, Sondra suggested a Sunday drive to relax, so we jumped into the Chrysler Sebring convertible, put the top down and drove a short while knowing that we would end up at the Dairy Queen for a treat.  Sondra and I split a chicken dinner and then we had those tasty ice cream cones.  What a way to end the day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

It's Friday Before Memorial Day

It's Friday morning of Memorial Day weekend.  This week went fast.  I am working 3am to 11:30am each day now.  Yesterday I slept quite a bit when I got home as my lack of sleep was catching up with me.

Last Monday, I took my brother David over to Coronado for a job interview.  It was lengthy and they have asked him to come back next Tuesday for another interview, this time with the owner and also the Vice-President of the company.  It looks promising but one never knows.

As David leaves the Transition House each time, he is able to "check out" his cell phone to use to call the House to acknowledge that he arrived at his destination.  He is to call in every two hours and once more when he is heading back to the House.  Monday was the first time David has ever held a cell phone in his hands and therefore the first time he ever used one!

I asked David to get permission to go out on Wednesday afternoon to the DMV to get either an ID card or his driver's license.  He actually got both - the ID card is free for those over 62 years of age, and he took the written test (and passed) for the license.  He is to go next week for the driving test, so right now he has a Driver Permit.  That was exhausting (3 hours at DMV) but exciting!

Our niece Keri had her baby this past Monday, a little boy they named Isaiah Lee Sheckler.  He weighed in a 8 lbs 15 oz, a big boy indeed.

My brother Noel had a slight stroke but is now home and doing OK.  The mild stroke did not affect his motor skills, but rather hit his mental processing.  When the stroke occurred, he became somewhat confused and could not think quickly or accurately.

We are spending this weekend getting the room set up for David and Meche, as she will be here for a week when he gets out.

That's all for now.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Much Prayer Needed

Nothing surprises us anymore.  This morning, we thought it was all set up for my brother David to attend church with us.  He was told this past week that he was to leave the Transition House at 10 am (even though that is the starting time of our worship hour) and be home by 12:30 pm.  Well, he signed a paper about this outing without reading it.  The paper said he had to leave at 9:30 am to go to church.  So when Sondra went to pick him up, he was denied the privilege of attending because he was too late to go.  Yes, we are all upset but not shocked.  The "system" is not about helping individuals reintegrate successfully.  But that's another story entirely.  After church, we went to Baker's hamburger stand and got double burgers, fries, tacos and combination burrito to share.  We took all this to David's abode, ate and spent about an hour this afternoon with him.  He is still in good spirits, especially after receiving his first check from Social Security that had been delivered to our house.  Pray for his situation to be more affirming.

We got a couple of calls these past few days about my brother Noel, who lives in Springfield, Missouri.  He went to the doctor yesterday (Saturday) feeling extremely weak and faint.  He was admitted to the hospital, where they ran tests and determined that he indeed suffered a mild stroke.  They are keeping him overnight again and will run more tests to see what triggered his stroke.  He seems to be doing OK, as we have talked to Janice and received texts from Stephen.  Pray for Noel's health concerns.

I called mom before church to let her know that we (thought) were going to pick David up for church, and that she could expect a phone call from him after church.  During the conversation, she admitted that she has not felt good and possibly will not be able to fly out to see David next month.  She has been in pain with the cellulitis and is having to keep her feet elevated much of the day.  Pray for her.

My niece Keri will be going to the doctor there in the Chicago area tomorrow morning (Monday) as they have planned to induce labor.  She is experiencing some difficulty with this pregnancy in these last days, as there is too much fluid which can be a sign of a baby being born with disabilities.  Keri and husband Kevin are strong believers and trust God in all things, and they have determined to find the joy of life in whatever condition the baby has or does not have.  Pray for Keri and the baby.

My nephew Kirk (Keri's brother) just sent an email from Haiti.  He is there from May 16 through May 24.  Pray for his mission work and preaching of the Gospel there.

Sondra's brother, Alden, is fasting and drinking yukky liquids today.  He is to have a scheduled colonoscopy tomorrow.  Pray that his results will show him to be cancer free.

I go in tomorrow morning at 3 am for work again.  I am still somewhat tired.  Pray for me to get rest and to maintain strength through the week.

Lastly, pray for yourself to be strong in the Lord!  It is a challenging world and we must be faithful to the end.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It's Friday Night and I'm Tired

It has been a crazy schedule this week at work.  I had been working day shift, but because of the workload I switched to a "very early" morning shift, beginning at 3 am and getting off at 11:30 am.  That was because of down time on the computer system nationwide.  Well, we were told the computer system would be up 24 hours, so I worked the "graveyard shift" of 12 midnight to 8:30 am for a couple of days.  That didn't work out, as the systems couldn't handle the load.  So, back to 3 am start.

Again, I will be working tomorrow (Saturday) for 8 hours overtime, only this time a late start (ha ha) beginning at 4 am.  This was my first full week at the OOS position (see last blog) for the Census.  I am enjoying this work.  I continue to have meaningful conversations with others about life and my work as a pastor.  Several have commented that they want to come and attend my church sometime soon.

Sondra's brother (Alden) has recuperated again from another bout with chest congestion and bronchial issues.  He is continuing to improve in so many ways, especially in his outlook on life now.  He is a happy person again, and for that we are grateful.

My brother David is looking forward to the weeks ahead, with the release date of June 5.  I was told to watch for a package that was being sent to my house for David.  On Wednesday, two packages arrived.  There were items from mom, my sister Marti and mom's Sunday School class.  Mom lives in Shawnee but attends a church in the next town of Tecumseh.  The boxes contained all sorts of items, ranging from personal toiletry stuff and writing materials and towels and goodies and, most notably, a Bible with his name imprinted on the cover.  I also took him an electric beard trimmer.  Roger was to take him some shoes, and I bought him a few more shirts and pants and shoes as well.

David is able to leave the Federal Re-entry Transition house for only certain reasons.  He will be able to attend church with us this coming Sunday, but will only be allowed out of the house for a specified time limit (worship service only).  He is now eligible to go to various places to look for work and employment, if he chooses to find a job when he is released.  (He has been approved to receive his Social Security pension at the beginning of the month.)  I have set up an appointment for him to have an interview with Coronado Stone in Fontana on Monday afternoon.  That will be interesting!

I work tomorrow morning (4am-noon), and then I will run over to see David for a little while (visiting hours are from 9am - 5 pm).  I will need to go home and sleep and then get ready for church responsibilities.  This Sunday, we are having a gospel quartet group sing and one of my assistant pastors (Jim Lunak) preach.

The real crisis this week was Wednesday with Sondra.  She went to our local 24 Hour Fitness Center to work out in the morning.  She put her bag of clothes and makeup in a locker, without a lock (as she usually does).  But, this time, she forgot and dropped her keys in the gym bag as well.  Yep, you guessed it.  Her bag was stolen with her whole set of keys and membership card that had a copy of her driver's license attached.  So, whoever stole it had our address, the keys to her car and the keys to our house.  That was scary.

The police were called and management was to review the videotapes of that day.  We had the locks changed on the house, and Sondra took the car in to the local Nissan dealership to have the whole car re-keyed and the electronic key reset.  It was going to cost over $1,100, and the car was to be ready today.  But, of all things, Sondra got a call that her keys had been returned (but not her bag, but who cares).  She quickly called the Nissan dealer, and (some would call a coincidence and some a movement of God's hand in the situation) she was told that the parts had been sent to Tennesse and the car had not been re-keyed.

Can you believe that?  God orchestrated that the parts would not arrive in time, and therefore we were spared an expense of over $1000!  God is awesome!  Sondra and I went to Dickey's BBQ to eat and celebrate tonight.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Early Morning Shift

I just woke up from a deep slumber a few minutes ago.  It is 3 pm in the afternoon!

Starting today (Monday), I am officially an OOSFO in the Riverside Census office.  OOSFO stands for Operations Office Supervisor for Field Operations.  My shift this week (and possibly a little longer) is from 3am to 11:30am each day, Monday through Friday.  Today was my first day on that shift!  I didn't know if it would be hard to get up at 2am and drive to work, but it wasn't as bad as I thought.  I may actually get to like it, as it allows me some time for errands and such during the day's business hours.

I felt honored by the head manager of the office.  His title is LCOM (Local Census Office Manager).  He and I talked briefly this morning and he gave me some words of "praise" for my work there and his appreciation of me as part of the "team."  I told him that he was part of my sermon yesterday, as I illustrated the point of salvation and knowing that we will be in heaven one day.  I shared that, at work, I was given a new name (OOSFO).  With that, I was given three things:  (1) a key, (2) a code for the alarm system and (3) the phone number of the LCOM who can fix all things and has full control.  The correlation is this:  When we give God our heart for salvation and eternal life, we receive a new name ("child of God").  We are given a "key," a way to enter into the presence of our God that we call faith.  Faith is given to us by our Father in heaven to trust him more.  Then, we are given a "code" that brings safety from all alarm that would harm, and that code is simply "Jesus is Lord."  Calling on Jesus to be Lord at all times brings comfort and peace.  Lastly, our "phone number" to the God of eternity is prayer.  We can pray and know with confidence that God is in full control and is able to intervene in ways that glorify him.

Concerning David (my brother), I went to see him Saturday morning.  Sondra and my brother Roger visited as well.  I had to work on Saturday at the Census office, so Sondra and I only visited for about an hour.  Roger had brought Panera sandwiches and soup for us to eat.  On Sunday afternoon, I went back and spent another hour of visiting.  These are special times just to sit and chat, sometimes about nothing earth-shattering but just about life and such.

Friday I took the day off from work to be with Sondra.  She had a colonoscopy at Kaiser and was pronounced cancer-free and polyp-free.  She was given Demarol and Vicadin for pain and she was quite the talker when she came to.  She repeated her stories about five times each.  She was really quite funny.

Sunday was a wonderful day at church.  I again took time for a "happy dollar" testimony time during the worship hour.  I put a basket on a chair at the altar and asked members to come forward with any denomination of dollar bills.  With that, they openly came forward and shared their hearts and testimonies and joy in the Lord.  We took about 20 minutes so I dispensed with the rest of singing to have time for the sermon.

After church, we had an awesome lunch.  Sondra had invited several over so the table was crowded with people and food, and we had a great time of fellowship.  My nephew David and his wife Charity were here, with their kids (Hayden and the little twins).  A couple named Ken and Beifei (from China) were here, along with Mike Dotson (one of our newly ordained men who has started a home Bible study).  Of course, there was me and Sondra and her brother Alden, but in addition we had grand-daughter Bailey with us too.  We took care of her for the day.

My last comment is about the change in society's view of church buildings.  Not too many years ago, no one would dare think about breaking into a church or destroying church property or painting graffiti on church walls.  Well, this past Thursday morning in the wee hours, our church was "tagged" by gangs in the area.  Fortunately, we have men who take charge and will not let it stay on long.  Immediately, two men who are good at construction and painting for a living went to Home Depot and got paint.  They returned and had the graffiti covered within hours.  God is amazing to bring wonderful individuals who have the time, energy, money, desire and willingness to do things quickly to discourage other tagging.  It brought joy to our hearts to see the church building ready for the world to see!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Evan's Birthday and the Oklahoma Tornado

Wednesday, May 12, Evan celebrated his 33rd birthday.  Thirty-three years ago, I was sitting in a waiting room at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana as Sondra gave birth.  Evan has been a source of joy and fun for these many years.  Last night he wanted to eat at P.F. Chang's so we met there for his birthday dinner.  There were seven adults and one baby:  Evan and Callie, Crystal and Shawn (and Bailey), plus me and Sondra and her brother Alden.  It was a fun time, with the portions ordered large enough for us all to try some of each platter even though we all ordered a separate dish for entree.  It made it more special as Evan was given his birthday cards and gifts there too.

Evan is preparing to leave this morning (Thursday) for a company trip to the state of Washington for his work.  He will be driving a company truck with trailer that hauls the mobile steel processing machinery that he runs.  In the past, they would send two workers on this kind of trip, but with the economy and cost-cutting measures they are only sending one person (Evan).

I called both Marti and mom yesterday morning.  I wanted to get the latest update on their tornado experience.  Marti said their house in Tecumseah was not touched, nor was anything in the yard damaged.  They lost power for over a day.  Just three blocks away, houses were destroyed and splintered.  It seems the tornado's path was Highway 9 from Norman through Tecumseh to Seminole.  She and Bill saw first-hand the awesome power of a tornado's movement on land, as they drove around later.  Their church is doing some personal assistance to those whose lives have been greatly affected.

Mom lives in Potawatomi senior housing in Shawnee and did not even experience power outage.  She was able to see the destruction as reported on the news immediately.  One of her best friends from church (a lady named Shirley) had her house completely destroyed by the fury of the winds and hail the size of softballs.  The church mom attends in Tecumseh had all its windows blown out, except for the stained glass windows in the sanctuary.  The bus barn for the Tecumseh school district was in the path and 19 buses had their windows blown out and schools were closed for damage as well as bus repairs.

Jason and Shelly had little damage, but had some friends whose house was totally demolished.  When I talked to little Kylee on the phone the night of the tornado, their power was out.  When I asked her what it was like, she said, "It's pitch black here."  I said, "When you put your hand in front of your face, can you see your fingers?"  She replied, "Nope."  Their power is back on now and they are trying to help friends who were affected.

Sondra is doing well with her tutoring work.  Her extra class of teaching English to Spanish-speaking parents of school children is completed.  She goes in tomorrow for a colon screening procedure at Kaiser, just a routine exam.  She has taken care of Bailey quite a bit this week, as Bailey has had an ear infection.

As for me, the Census job is keeping me busy.  With my promotion to OOS (Operations Office Supervisor), I have been asked to work a different shift to assist the production output.  Today and tomorrow, I work the afternoon shift (basically 4 pm to midnight).  Because of the workload of processing paperwork, we may go to three shifts.  If so, I have volunteered to be assigned the 4am - noon shift.  All of this impacts my time for church work, and many of the men we have ordained in the past years will be doing some of the Wednesday Bible studies and other ministry tasks.  God has prepared quite a few to be of great help in this time of my ministry when I need to work a temporary secular job at the U.S. Census Bureau office.

As the unofficial chaplain of Coronado Stone, I have been asked to counsel and spend time with a couple who both work there in Fontana at the manufacturing plant.  They are my friends from when I was working there as Human Resources manager quite a few years ago.  The wife is dealing with the time of life when her mom has been sent from a hospital to a rehab center, with the diagnosis that her mom will not live much longer.  This wife is also helping her husband deal with a life-threatening disease these past couple of years.  They have four children, ages 3 to 16.  They had Sondra and me over for dinner last Tuesday evening so we could talk about things that will be faced in the days ahead.

God still supplies all our needs and gives us strength to meet any challenges and hurts in life.  I can attest to that personally.  What a marvelous God who made us, sustains us and awaits us to an eternal home with him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Yesterday (Mother's Day) was a fun and wonderful day.

The morning worship at church was such a time of celebration and excitement.  As usual, we had presentations for all the mothers who were present.  The children were asked to take small bags of gifts to each mom, and then they were asked to present gifts to moms other than their own mother.  That was really special.  There were some special guests and visitors who came, and they shared how blessed they were to be there.

After church, we went to Claim Jumper for lunch.  Yes, it was a long wait but worth the time.  It was a festive spirit in the air as everyone was in a happy mood for Mother's Day.  Evan and Callie, Shawn and Crystal and Bailey, and Sondra and I sat at a table to eat a very tasty meal.  The food seemed better than usual, so we thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon together.

The Claim Jumper we ate at was next door to a Wal-Mart, so we ducked in real quick to get a few items for my brother David.  He had told us that he needed a laundry bag, some laundry soap and some Brylcreem for his hair.  I didn't know that they even sold Brylcreem still ("a little dab will do you"), because I remembered it from my younger days.  Guess what?  They still sell it.  For you that don't know about it, it is a man's hair lotion, not a gel like today's products.

After lunch and shopping, Evan reminded us that he had a softball game at 3 pm.  He asked us to go to the game.  We were hoping to get a needed nap and some rest at home, but we wanted to see him play so we went to the Big League Dreams field next to Jurupa Valley High School (not too far from our church).  We got there a little late, as the game had already started.  So far, he was hitless in two at-bats.  After we got there, he got two straight hits when he came up to bat.  I told him we were his good-luck charm!

After the game, we went to the Rubidoux Transition House to take the items to David.  I asked if I could take a quick picture of him to send to family members (actually playing on their emotions by mentioning that our mother is almost 87 years old and lives in Oklahoma).  They agreed so I will include a photo of David for you to see.  I also ran to the store and bought him a pre-paid phone card to help with his calls.  He cannot use a cell phone in the house, but he can use one when he has the privilege of being outside the house after a couple of weeks.

Then we went home and I fell asleep watching a ball game.  I was awakened when company came over.  The landlord (our good friend from Rialto church days in the 1970s) needed to come over and deal with a "bee situation" in one of the back walls of the house.  K.L. Freeman and his wife and oldest son (Greg) also went with us to the local Farmer Boys restaurant for a quick snack before dealing with the bees.

It was a long and enjoyable day with family and friends and good memories.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

David Greenwalt in California

My brother David finally made it to California.  He has been incarcerated in the Big Spring, Texas, federal facility for over a year.  He is scheduled to be released from full federal custody in four weeks (June 5, to be exact).  His trip on a Greyhound bus was full of horror stories about the ride and the stops and lack of sleep for close to 30 hours.

I took him some clothes, toiletries and shower shoes last night.  He called and asked if we could bring some of those things by.  We were so glad to be able to do it for him.  He is in a Re-Entry House in a town close by.  This "halfway house" is close to our church as well.  I tried to visit him today, but we have to fill out paperwork and be approved.  So, probably next week we will go inside the house to visit.  We (me and Sondra) spent about 10 minutes talking to him this afternoon in a small entryway to the house.

David said there is a man there at the Rubidoux house that he was with in San Bernardino county jail prior to being sent to Texas.  This man said he wants to attend my church with David when they both have weekend privileges in a couple of weeks.

I had to work today.  We are being swamped with paperwork at the Census headquarters in Riverside.  It still is fascinating work, and I got 8 hours overtime today.  On Monday, May 17, I will start my new OOS (Operations Office Supervisor) position for the Field Operations section of our headquarters.

Tomorrow, we will celebrater Mother's Day at church with presentations and a focus on moms.  After church, we will go to dinner at Claim Jumper with our kids (and grand-daughter) who live near us.  We may take care of Bailey tomorrow afternoon after lunch too!

Hope you have a great Sunday, wherever you are!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Crystal's Birthday and Church Ordination

On April 30, 1979, we were at a hospital in Greenbrae (near San Francisco) for the birth of a baby.  We did not know if it would be a boy or girl.  We already had two boys, Jason (four and a half years old at the time) and Evan (almost two years old).  Secretly, we knew we wanted a girl.  But, as we always say, we will be happy with a boy if that's what God would give to us.  So it was especially sweet to see a baby girl born that day.  That was the first day of Crystal's life.  I was attending Golden Gate Seminary at the time.  We have enjoyed her so much and are proud of her in her journey of life.

This past Friday we drove down to San Diego to help Crystal celebrate her birthday.  Crystal wanted to eat at Tio Leo's for her birthday dinner, so Sondra and I met them there by driving there after work.

We just enjoyed the city and taking it easy, shopping and driving around.  We took care of Bailey Friday night and Saturday night, giving Shawn and Crystal some extra sleep each morning!  We had fun with Bailey, naturally.  Evan and Callie drove down Saturday afternoon and spent time with us as well.

Sondra and I (and Bailey) drove up early this morning (leaving at 7 am) from San Diego to drive straight to church.  Today was an awesome day in the life of The Vision Plus Church.  We ordained a young man named Jacob Stoutenburg, a student at Cal Baptist who just graduated yesterday (Saturday).  His family from Oregon was here, and his dad (previously a pastor of several Baptist churches) preached.  It was a very special and moving time for us as the body of Christ here.

In my personal life at work, the co-worker who is a former atheist (now Christian who loves Jesus with all his heart) told me he will be at my church next Sunday!  He could not attend today because of a previous commitment.  Wow, I am excited to see how God uses him as he shares his testimony in the weeks to come.

As I wrote previously, I have accepted a position in a supervisory capacity and it will take effect in two weeks.  It is interesting to have some acknowledge my promotion as they come by and congratulate me.  What an affirmation in the workplace!